Once a mu­si­cian, al­ways a mu­si­cian

Sherbrooke Record - - TALK - Coun­try Con­nec­tion Jessie Pel­letier

Key­board player and singer Louis Levesque is well-known by mu­sic fans and ap­pre­ci­ated by his peers. He has played with Jerry & Jo’anne and with the no­to­ri­ous band Big Foot. He has been, and still is, a crowd pleaser. His dex­ter­ity on the key­board along with his warm and strong vo­cals made him a huge as­set for all the bands he played with.

Levesque was born and raised in Sher­brooke un­til his fam­ily moved per­ma­nently to Lake Ma­gog just be­fore he started high school. Mu­sic truly was present and sig­nif­i­cant in the fam­ily res­i­dence.

“My fa­ther was in the fur­ni­ture business all his life, first at La Grange a Pierre and later Meubles chez Pierre. My mother raised four boys and one girl. My mother, be­ing a con­cert pi­anist, gave us the itch to learn a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment and pur­sue our ef­forts to suc­ceed. Liv­ing in the coun­try, not hav­ing many neigh­bors gave us time be­tween fall and early sum­mer to all start learn­ing to play dif­fer­ent in­stru­ments” Levesque shared. “I re­mem­ber af­ter sup­per, we had mu­sic nights. It was time we spent with our mother, play­ing in our liv­ing room. From Si­na­tra to The Bea­tles, we could play any­thing we wanted as long as we had the mu­sic sheets be­cause my mother could read notes as op­posed to us who played by ear.”

With time, Levesque and his older brother Michel de­cided to form a band. They in­vited a few friends over and this is the way it all started. It was a sum­mer thing only. His brother was study­ing at Bour­get Col­lege in Ri­gaud so he had to go back in the fall.

Levesque also has two younger broth­ers who are also mu­si­cians. Both of them played with dif­fer­ent lo­cal bands. Ray­mond is a drum­mer while Johnny plays pi­ano, trum­pet and drums.

Louis Levesque was mostly play­ing key­boards, but could also play on his brother’s gui­tar and he some­times fooled around with his younger brother’s drums. Up un­til now key­board re­mains his in­stru­ment of choice.

“I started get­ting more se­ri­ous about play­ing in the early 70s when I was asked to play with a wed­ding and party trio named the Jinks. I was still in school, play­ing mostly on Satur­day nights” he said of his de­but.

Then Levesque joined a rock band where he was in­tro­duced to Michel Fortier with whom he would later form a band. Shortly af­ter the first rock band he joined an­other band named Royal Male.

“Some of your read­ers might re­mem­ber that the first edi­tion of Royal Male in­cluded Michael Good­sell, Bob Bois­clair and Rick Bin­ney. Later on it would change and the band would be com­prised of Michael Good­sell, Rick Bin­ney, Mike Gib­bons, De­nis Jean­son and me” said the ac­com­plished mu­si­cian.

“I was also study­ing at Cham­plain Col­lege dur­ing that pe­riod. I joined Jerry & Jo’anne and toured all sum­mer of ’74. This was my big change to coun­try mu­sic. I was back play­ing rock with Royal Male in the fall and it lasted a cou­ple of years. The group broke up and I was back with Jerry & Jo’anne for an­other cou­ple of years” Levesque said.

Be­ing on the road is never easy for mu­si­cians. It seems glam­ourous and fun but it is above all a com­pelling ex­pe­ri­ence for those who keep do­ing it for years.

“Play­ing with Jerry & Jo’ann was a great op­por­tu­nity to travel all across Canada and col­lab­o­rat­ing on two of their al­bums recorded in Nashville was great. Not al­ways easy, but an over­all great ex­pe­ri­ence” he clar­i­fied.

Ac­cord­ing to Levesque, play­ing mu­sic on the road has been his school of life. “You had to man­age a business and fi­nances, face con­flicts, stage and stu­dio stress, work long hours, es­pe­cially when you had to travel all day, play at night and travel back af­ter the gig was over. Even when the weather was bad, it was like the old say­ing: The show must go on! We also needed to keep the reper­toire up­dated, which meant fre­quent prac­tices” stressed the tal­ented mu­si­cian.

He even­tu­ally joined the band Big Foot with Roger Good­sell, Jim Mann and Kenny Bra­bant. They played rock and com­mer­cial mu­sic and a tiny bit of coun­try.

A few years later the group be­came mainly a coun­try mu­sic band with leader Roger Good­sell along with his brother Michael. Over the years sev­eral other mu­si­cians came and went in­clud­ing Mark Stevens, Steve Pow­ers, Ted Hall, Garry Winslow, Paul Roger, and Gordy Smith.

“When I stopped play­ing on the road in the late 70s, I started work­ing for my fa­ther. Ten years later, my mother’s health was not too good so he sold the business and I de­cided to change my ca­reer and go into the fi­nan­cial field with my un­cle and cousin,” he said. “More than 30 years later, I still work in the same field. It’s a very chal­leng­ing job that I still en­joy.”

Levesque de­cided to take a break from mu­sic for a while but later with Michel Fortier formed a new group called “Ex­press”. Most mu­si­cians who have to tackle full time jobs and play­ing mu­sic on the week­end even­tu­ally have to take some time off to put things back on per­spec­tive, but mu­sic keeps call­ing them back.

“With Ex­press we recorded a French al­bum in which I wrote and co-wrote a few songs with Solange Brousseau and Jean Lussier. I re­ally en­joyed this. Af­ter the group broke up, I didn’t get too in­volved with bands, ex­cept for the oc­ca­sional jam or in­vi­ta­tion from lo­cal bands” he said.

Levesque added that it has been re­ally hard to keep a band to­gether in the last few years as there are fewer play­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, and the long hours to prac­tice a reper­toire doesn’t help the mo­ti­va­tion.

“I re­cently dusted off my in­stru­ments dur­ing the con­fine­ment pe­riod of the COVID-19 pan­demic. Af­ter watch­ing a few friends do­ing mu­sic videos on Face­book, I fig­ured, why not! So I did a few of my own in a Karaoke style. It was fun and peo­ple seem to have en­joyed them. Might do a few more in the months to come”

Levesque is for­ever grate­ful to have had the op­por­tu­nity to play with so many tal­ented lo­cal mu­si­cians.

“There is such a good friend­ship among coun­try mu­si­cians in the East­ern Town­ships. I would also like to thank all the peo­ple that sup­ported us. The best crowd in the world! They were great years. They were the best years!” he com­mented.

COURTESY

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