Once a musician, always a musician
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.