Elzéar Hamel's voice made its way into homes of French-speaking record buyers not through song, but via the comic monologues he recorded for Columbia and His Master's Voice between 1916 and the late 1920s.
Born and schooled in Montréal, Hamel began acting at age seven with various amateur troupes. As an adult, he was a familiar figure on the Montréal stage, known especially for his roles in dramas, in which he often played villains. Beginning in 1898, he performed for the Théâtre des variétés, the first permanent professional French acting troupe in Montréal, and later for the Troupe du Théâtre national and the Théâtre canadien. He performed with numerous well-known Montréal actors, as well as stars of the Quebec musical stage, including Alexandre Desmarteaux. A local arts publication referred to Hamel as "The dramatic actor that all of Montreal applauds" (Le Passe-Temps, February 7, 1920). Hamel also toured Quebec and New England in the 1920s. He retired from the stage in 1931 and then turned to radio along with many of his contemporaries.
In a departure from his usual dramatic roles, Hamel recorded several dozen comic monologues, most of which featured the adventures of a traditional character known as "Ladébauche" (a drunkard or immoral person), a role that he had also performed on stage. Starting in 1916 with "Ladébauche au téléphone" ("Ladébauche on the phone"), he made a large number of comic recordings on the Columbia label. Sometime between 1924 and 1926, he recorded his monologues for the His Master's Voice 263000 series, which was devoted to French-Canadian recording artists. Later on he made a few recordings for Brunswick. Among Hamel's many recordings in the "Ladébauche" group are "Ladébauche, dompteur de lions" ("The lion-tamer"), and "Ladébauche, le rebouteux" ("The bone-setter"). Some of Hamel's recordings also featured the voices of the well-known French-Canadian actors, Alexandre Desmarteaux and Blanche Gauthier, among others
Selected recordings available
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- "Berliner Gram-o-phone Company". Encyclopedia of music in Canada. Edited by Helmut Kallmann et al. 2nd ed. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1992. xxxii, 1524 p. AMICUS 12048560
- Le Passe-temps. Vol. 26, no 649 (7 février 1920). AMICUS 11438895
- Prévost, Robert. - Que sont-ils devenus? - Montréal : Éditions Princeps, 1939. 123 p. AMICUS 4618239