Madame Édouard Bolduc (Mary Travers), folk singer and songwriter (1894-1941)

Mary Travers (La Bolduc) was known across French Canada and the northeastern United States as a recording artist, performer and writer of popular folksongs. She performed under the name Madame Édouard Bolduc during the 1930s.

"The queen of Canadian folksingers"

The story of Mary Travers Bolduc is a rags-to-riches tale of a Quebec housewife who rose from impoverished obscurity to become a major 1930s recording phenomenon. This ordinary, traditional woman became a most extraordinary musical spokesperson for her time and her people, earning the title, "Queen of Canadian folksingers". A postage stamp was issued on the 100th anniversary of her birth (1994) as part of the Great Canadians series.

Mary Rose Anne Travers was born into subsistence-level poverty in the tiny Atlantic fishing village of Newport, Quebec, in Canada's Gaspé region. She was one of 6 children born to Lawrence Travers, an Anglophone of Irish heritage, and Adéline Cyr, a French-Canadian woman. There were also 6 other children in the household, from Lawrence's first marriage. Mary and her 11 siblings spoke English at home, but also spoke French fluently, in their regional dialect.

Mary briefly attended school, learning to read and write French, and studying her Catholic catechism. However, the strong, tall girl was needed to help her father hunt and cut wood, and to help her mother with household tasks. Her life, like that of most girls of her station, revolved around family and home.

The isolated villagers of Newport rarely travelled and had little knowledge of big cities or modern music. Lawrence was Mary's first and only music instructor, teaching her to play the traditional instruments found in most Quebec homes at the turn of the 20th century: fiddle, accordion, harmonica, spoons and Jew's harp (this name comes from "jaws-harp"). They played mostly traditional folk tunes and dances such as jigs, performed by memory and by ear, since the Travers family had no record player, piano or sheet music. Mary's repertoire consisted of Irish melodies from her father's heritage and French-Canadian folk tunes from her mother's sideshaping the distinctive style for which she later became famous. By the spring of 1908, Mary was playing accordion in the evenings at the lumberjack camp where she cooked for her father and the other woodcutters, and where entertainment consisted of the folk tunes and dances that the men performed themselves.

To ease the burden of feeding 12 children, each of Mary's siblings left home while in their early teens. In 1908, when Mary turned 13, her half-sister Mary-Ann, who was a maid in Montréal, arranged for Mary to join her. It was the younger girl's first experience of independence, of life outside Newport and of travel. Her first train journey took her out of her rural village of 1,500 people, to Montréal, with its 350,000 people.

Mary Travers began work as a domestic servant in the home of a Doctor Lesage, for $15 per month plus room and board. After a few years, she left for a better job in a textile factory. The new job required an arduous 11 hours a day, five and a half days a week, for $15 weekly.

Mary followed the pattern for a girl of her time, marrying when she was barely 20. She married Édouard Bolduc on August 17, 1914, and found herself pregnant almost continuously thereafter. Her first pregnancy ended in a stillbirth in 1915; Denise was born in July 1916, Jeannette in July 1917, Roger in August 1918, Marie-Adèle-Yvette-Lucienne in 1919, Réal-Arsène-Edouard in 1922 and Fernande-Marie-Ange in 1925.

Édouard's factory job did not pay much and his salary seemed less with each additional mouth to feed. Mary had ceased working in the factory, but sewed piecework at home to contribute to the family income. Still, their poverty was no different from what she had known in Newport.

The Bolducs, like other urban poor in the early 20th century, knew the hardship of inadequate living conditions. There was little medical attention and communicable diseases like scarlet fever, were still a scourge on the population. In the early 1900s, one in every four Canadian children was expected to die before reaching adulthood. Still, when her baby Roger died at ten months old, while Mary was pregnant again, it hit her hard. Jeannette too, died within two years. Mary also suffered a miscarriage and lost another infant born prematurely.

Édouard Bolduc had become a plumber, but had difficulty finding employment. In 1921, the Bolducs left Montréal for Springfield, Massachusetts, where they joined Édouard's sister and 10,000 other French-Canadian emigrants, all seeking prosperity. Édouard failed to find a job there and the following year they returned to Montréal. Another baby was born in 1922, and a daughter in March 1925. Mary also experienced several miscarriages, the last in 1929. Of 12 or 13 pregnancies, only 4 of the Bolduc children survived into adulthood.

Despite constant poverty, the Bolduc family was relatively happy. To amuse their friends and the children, Mary played traditional jigs, reels and lullabies, on the violin and harmonica. The Bolducs entertained friends from the Gaspé with "at-home" evenings of singing and music making. Many of these friends were amateur folk musicians who performed at the Monument-National with Conrad Gauthier's troupe, the Veillées du bon vieux temps (meaning "an evening with the good old days").

These contacts led to Madame Bolduc's being "discovered" when she was asked to fill in for an absent folk violinist. With Édouard out of work, she was happy for the opportunity to make a few dollars when Gauthier asked her to return. By 1928, she was regularly accompanying the troupe's singers on violin or Jew's harp; and later, she was featured as an instrumentalist and comic actress. The wife and mother who had once performed only in her living room thus became accustomed to an audience of hundreds.

Mary developed confidence as a performer, even in unfamiliar situations like her first broadcast with the Monument-National orchestra from radio station CKAC. One night, she ventured to sing a short folk-tune, and the audience demanded several encores. Folk-singer Ovila Légaré recommended her to the Compo Company's Roméo Beaudry, who was in charge of French-language recordings released on the Starr label. Beaudry promptly offered her a recording contract for four 78-rpm discs, at $25 per side.

The timing was right for Madame Bolduc to establish herself as a professional singer-songwriter. She would have been aware that show business was one of the few arenas in which a woman could earn the same amount as, or even more than, a man. (In the factory jobs she was qualified for, women were routinely paid less than their male counterparts.)

Madame Édouard Bolduc's first recording for Starr, in April 1929, was of the French folk song "Y'a longtemps que je couche par terre" ("I've been sleeping on the floor a long time"), and an instrumental reel. With these traditional selections, she announced her musical allegiances loud and clear. The recordings, today considered of historic interest, were commercial failures at the time, but since Madame Bolduc still needed material to fulfill her contract, she created the lyrics for the comic song that launched her to fame: "La cuisinière" ("the cook"). For the other side she recorded "Johnny Monfarleau", using an English folk song as a basis. She recorded these two songs in time for Christmas release. They became best sellers and earned her family $450. From that point, Madame Édouard Bolduc became a household name in French Canada.

The compositional process by which Madame Bolduc created "La cuisinière" and its companion pieces was simple: sitting at her kitchen table, she hummed a tune based on a folk-song or perhaps a jig or reel, then worked it out on the fiddle and improvised a simple accompanying poem of rhyming couplets, which she dictated to her daughter Denise. Since Madame Bolduc could not read or write music notation, she memorized and demonstrated the melodies she created. (See An Analysis of "La cuisinière".)

Building on the success of these recordings and an offer from Roméo Beaudry to record a double-sided 78-rpm disc every month, Madame Bolduc churned out numerous songs following the same successful formula. She adapted existing folk or popular tunes for the music and added her own comic words in realistic working-class French slang. She described characters and events with which her listeners, poor French-Canadians with traditional family values, could identify. Her songs had lively rhythms and a happy tone, and most featured comic vignettes and humorous working-class characters. A few were traditional instrumentals. Many recordings, such as "Ça va venir découragez-vous pas", feature her playing the harmonica between verses.

To distinguish her recordings from those of other folk musicians, Madame Bolduc began to add sung refrains built of vocables, or nonsense syllables, called in French "turlutes" and in English "mouth music." Mouth music, which was sung for dancers when no fiddle was available, was a tradition with her father and their Irish and Scottish neighbours in the Gaspé. "Les Maringouins" ("the mosquitoes"), provides an excellent example of her "turlutes".

Creating two songs per month was a challenge for Madame Bolduc. For fresh material she turned to current events, simultaneously discovering an opportunity to comment on unsatisfactory social conditions that "little people" like the Bolducs endured. (See Recording Career.)

Madame Bolduc's first public appearance as a headliner was at a costume ball at Lachute, Quebec, in November 1930. The audience reception surpassed her wildest dreams and she conceived the idea of a show that would focus on her own songs. She accepted a lucrative offer as the main act for a burlesque company at the Théâtre Arlequin de Québec in March 1931. This led to an offer by Juliette d'Argère (the comic known as Caroline) for a three-month tour of Quebec.

Madame Bolduc was a practical woman and she knew the value of an opportunity. Her husband was still unable to provide for their family, and the public wanted to see and hear the musician they began to refer to as "La Bolduc." (While today the title, "La Bolduc," is usually interpreted as a compliment, at the time, both fans and critics considered it a reference to her independent character. Mary herself considered the expression derogatory and wrote a forceful reply in the song "La Chanson du bavard"). Mary did not let her critics, false modesty or traditional gender-role expectations stop her. Just as she had seen the men in her native Gaspé do, Mary set out to work in order to support her family.

Madame Bolduc and Juliette d'Argère planned and organized their tour, and engaged a few performers to accompany them. Mary developed a formula that she kept to in later tours: herself as headliner, plus a piano player and comedians. The little troupe started out in May 1931 in Hull, Quebec for a week; they then travelled around west Quebec and Montréal, winding up in Sept-Îles. A few of the bigger towns had theatres, but often their stage was the Catholic parish hall or church basement.

Though Mary had good business instincts, she knew little about money beyond her household's needs. Within two years, her concert tours earned her what, in those desperate Depression times, must have seemed large sums. A music career had never been her dream, but she now found herself a star.

As a headliner, in 1932 she formed her own troupe, modelled on the others with which she had performed. She called it "La Troupe du bon vieux temps" ("the good old times troupe"). She engaged a director (first Jean Grimaldi and later Henri Rollin), and planned tours of Quebec and New England. Through the early and mid 1930s, Mary alternated concert tours around Quebec and environs, with time at home with her family. (See Concert Career)

As the 1930s wore on, La Bolduc's new records kept to the traditional French-Irish folk sound, resisting popular styles such as the sentimental ballads of Tin Pan Alley and the new sounds of jazz. Many listeners no longer wanted songs that reminded them of the hard times. Bolduc's records were not selling as well, but she still earned a steady income through concerts. She therefore continued to tour, although she felt the separation from her children and conflicts with her husband arose from the switch in their roles.

By 1936, Mary was so successful that she was able to hire a nanny to look after the children while she was on tour. She had already provided many luxuries that were out of reach for most people during the Depression, such as a new car in 1931, a cabinet-model radio and eventually a house of their own. When she was at home, however, she prided herself on being a good wife and mother.

Madame Édouard Bolduc's concert career abruptly ceased after a serious traffic accident in June 1937. Her troupe had performed in Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, and their car, driven by the tour director, Rollin, collided with another vehicle. Bolduc was seriously injured, with a broken leg, broken nose and a concussion. In hospital in Rimouski, doctors discovered a cancerous tumour. From that point on, poor health and frequent radiation treatments at Montréal's Radium Institute limited her musical activities.

Following the collision, Mary sued Rollin after her insurance company refused to cover the costs of the accident. She told the court she was unable to compose songs because of memory loss and inability to concentrate, arising from the concussion. Alarmingly, where she had always played from memory, she now mixed up song lyrics during performances.

The lawsuit continued through 1938, but did not go well because of Mary's old-fashioned habit of not depositing her earnings in the bank. This meant that she could not prove to the court what her income had been prior to the accident.

La Bolduc made no stage appearances for a full year, until summer 1938, and then only in and around Montréal. She rallied sufficiently to take part in a radio broadcast in January 1939 and to make her two final recordings (one about the accident) the next month. That year, the courts awarded her partial payment of $1,500. Mary Travers Bolduc succumbed to cancer on February 20, 1941, at the age of 46.

Madame Bolduc inspired such influential Quebec musicians as Clémence Desrochers and Luc Plamondon. Today, her songs continue to be studied as the unofficial chronicle of French-Canadian life during the Great Depression. La Bolduc's life and music have been featured in numerous books, recordings and even on screen. In fact, La Bolduc is more widely respected now than she was at the peak of her popularity. She is now mythologized as a representative of disadvantaged groups of the 1930s, in particular, women, Québécois and the unemployed.

La Bolduc's musical style -- natural, unsophisticated, unrehearsed -- was her own. She remained true to her French-Irish song heritage, despite criticism from many who found her song lyrics vulgar, her French ungrammatical and mispronounced, and her tunes unpolished and repetitive.

Despite her fame, Madame Bolduc was at heart a traditional woman who saw her most important role as that of wife and mother. In the roughly 100 songs she left behind, she also gave birth to something equally important and lasting: modern Quebec folk music. As the unofficial poet laureate of her people, this queen of Canadian folksingers gave the working men and women of Quebec their voice in song.

Recording career

Mary Bolduc's career as a recording artist began later, and was of much shorter duration, than the careers of many other recording stars. Indeed, for the first 30 years or so of her life, Bolduc never gave a thought to performing music for any other reason than an evening's entertainment at home. To her own great surprise, in late 1929, this uneducated amateur musician became an overnight recording success.

Mary Bolduc's talent and popularity with audiences at Montréal's Monument-National led to an offer from Roméo Beaudry of the Compo Company of Canada, a Montréal recording company, to make some recordings for them.

Her first three double-sided 78-rpm discs, made in 1929, were of traditional folk songs and none were successful. In December of the same year, she set her own comic poem "La cuisinière" to an existing folk tune and met her first success.

As the market for broadcast and recorded music expanded, and more families owned radios and record players (even the chronically impoverished Bolducs had a crystal radio set), radio stations and recording companies needed new musicians. Consequently, in January 1930, Mary was asked to record four more songs, and another nine by April of that year. By the end of the first year, she had recorded over 30 songs. She went on to record 84 songs between 1929 and 1939, most in the first few years.

Files from the Compo company show that the Montréal studio was using the newer electro-acoustic recording method with microphones, instead of the older acoustic horns, to capture the sound, and that Bolduc usually only recorded two takes. In several cases, different takes of a song were released over the years. For example, "Le Bonhomme et la Bonne Femme" exists in three different versions.


Between 1929 and 1930, Bolduc collaborated on at least 56 recordings, mostly unaccredited, with artists such as Juliette Béliveau, Eugène Daignault, Ovila Légaré, Alfred Montmarquette and Adélard St. Jean. In these sessions, Bolduc might sing, vocalize (turluté), or play the harmonica or Jew's harp. Bolduc can be heard with the accordionist, Montmarquette, on "Reel comique" and "Fantaisie écossaise" and with accomplished folk specialist Légaré on the September 1930 recording of "La Bastringue", as well as other songs.

​Some of Bolduc's earliest recordings were instrumental folk dances, which she performed on the fiddle or harmonica. Among these early instrumentals were the reels "La Gaspésienne" and "Gendre et Belle-mère". Bolduc's songs were also published in sheet music form. At first, they were priced at four for one dollar, but by the end of 1931 the price rose to three for one dollar.

Most of her recordings were comic songs, with lyrics composed by her and set to her own arrangements of folk or other popular melodies. Her harmonica playing was featured between verses. Her records were best known for the "turlutes" (mouth music or nonsense syllables), which became her trademark.

Mary Bolduc sang in French (although she occasionally inserted English phrases) and her records were marketed to the francophone population. Her audiences were French-speaking rural and small-town people with traditional values -- servants like "La cuisinière", factory workers, tradespersons and the unemployed. Her fan base extended well outside Quebec; many French-Canadian listeners in Ontario and Manitoba were among her fans, and people whose parents and grandparents played them at home remember her traditional recordings today. She also had a dedicated following among French speakers living in the United States, where her records were distributed by Columbia.

Mary Bolduc was one of several successful French folk musicians, male and female, making recordings in traditional styles. This trend was partially paralleled in the English music world by ballads like "Wreck of the Number Nine", Vernon Dalhart's recording that stayed on the best-seller list from 1928 to 1930. English-speaking audiences also bought merry selections such as Dalhart's recording of the drinking song "The Little Brown Jug", the tune of which Bolduc borrowed for "Les Cinq Jumelles" (about the Dionne quintuplets). However, the Canadian Music Trades Journal did not include Bolduc's best-selling records in their lists for 1930; and music magazines such as La Lyre and Le Canada musical concentrated on high-culture music, snubbing La Bolduc despite her popularity.

Bolduc's daughter Denise began to accompany her on the piano around 1935, and became a familiar figure in the Compo studios. Another daughter, Lucienne, recorded the song "L'Enfant volé". The Bolduc children's voices can also be heard on several recordings including Christmas and New Year's songs. On all the recordings where her participation was credited, Mary used her married name, Madame Édouard Bolduc, according to the norm. This honorific also added respectability to her comic records, which upper class Quebeckers regarded as common and vulgar.

By July 1932, the bottom had fallen out of the record market, as the economic crisis deepened. Starr's production plummeted from around 116 records in 1930, to less than 10 in 1933. Radio sets and talking motion pictures competed with records for customers' precious pennies. La Bolduc was one of Starr's few successful singers during the Depression: in large part, the label survived through her. However, her record sales declined after 1932. Her songs were too similar to one another, resisting the jazz and popular music that audiences were turning to. Bolduc was unable or unwilling to part with the formula she had established for herself.

In 1930, La Bolduc recorded 18 double-sided records (36 songs). The next year, she made an additional 10 records (20 songs). In 1935, with the Depression crushing the record companies, she made only a single recording. An additional four double-sided recordings were released in 1936, but she made no records at all in 1937 and 1938, partly due to illness. She made her last two records in 1939, including the autobiographical "Les Souffrances de mon accident" (originally entitled "Les Avocats"), still in the musical style that had made her famous. She is also known to have written around eight songs that she never recorded, including several chronicling current events.

Despite the relatively short duration of her professional career, La Bolduc seems to have made up for lost time posthumously. Her fame is now legendary and her songs continue to inspire young Quebec musicians looking to their roots. No doubt Mary Travers Bolduc would be astonished to learn that her traditional recordings are still being replicated through digital technology.

Concert career

Madame Édouard Bolduc was a superstar in French Canada in the 1930s, well before that phrase was coined. A traditional folk musician and songwriter, she went from being an unaccredited accompanist to being the star of her own travelling show and the toast of all Quebec.

Mary Bolduc began her stage career as a fiddler, performing traditional French-Canadian music with Conrad Gauthier's troupe, Veillées du bon vieux temps, at Montréal's Monument-National around 1927 or 1928. As she gained experience, she gradually moved to centre stage, and began writing and recording comic lyrics to fit traditional dance tunes. She had a few hit recordings, with Montreal's Compo Company, which led to an invitation to sing at Lachute, Quebec, in November of 1930.

Out of her experience at Lachute, where she beguiled the audience with her folk music, Bolduc conceived the idea of concerts that focused on her own songs. After April 1931, she ceased appearing with Gauthier's troupe and accepted a lucrative offer to perform with a burlesque company at the Théâtre Arlequin de Québec in March 1931 as the main attraction. This engagement quickly led to an offer by Juliette d'Argère (the comic known as Caroline) to sing with her company for a three-month tour of Quebec.

Bolduc found herself in a dilemma. As a performer, she was undoubtedly pleased that audiences wanted to hear her. As a traditional mother, she felt guilty about leaving her children behind while she travelled the province. Still, times were tough, and with her husband chronically out of work, she could not afford to pass up an opportunity to feed and clothe their family. Music was the only way she knew of earning a decent sum of money quickly. She decided to try the travelling show.

Madame Édouard Bolduc's first tour began in May 1931 in Hull, Quebec. The ensemble toured western Quebec and Montréal, and then turned east, to finish in Sept-Îles in July.

After the tour with d'Argère's group, Bolduc found fewer opportunities for writing and recording. At the height of the Great Depression, Montréal's Compo, like other recording companies, suffered severely from the economic crisis. Between July 1932 and March 1935, Bolduc made not a single recording.

During this time, Montréal audiences were treated mainly to high-profile performances by artists such as Vladimir Horowitz, Henrietta Schumann and Sergei Rachmaninoff. The Canadian Opera Company performed Roméo and Juliette in May 1931; and the McGill Operatic and Choral Society put on the Pirates of Penzance. Since she was not part of this classical music world, Bolduc needed to find a niche more suited to her brand of Irish-French folk music. During this hiatus from recording, she turned to personal appearances in small towns in Quebec and other French-speaking areas.

Drawing from the Conrad Gauthier model, she formed her own travelling troupe, calling it La Troupe du bon vieux temps ("the good old times troupe"). She gave the position of tour director to Jean Grimaldi, and they planned the shows, which were part vaudeville, part folk music. Rehearsals took place at the Bolduc home; there were few props, no sets and no microphones.

Denise Bolduc travelled with her mother, as pianist and comedienne; sometimes Édouard and their other daughter Lucienne participated too. At first, so that Mary and Denise could return home each evening, the tour concentrated their itinerary around Montréal, giving 50 shows between August and December 1932.

The act the audiences saw rarely varied. Mary Bolduc would open and close the show singing her newest songs, looking refined and respectable in a home-sewn long black silk dress and a long single strand of pearls. She was followed by ensemble numbers, folk songs, vaudeville and comedy sketches, all presented without microphones or amplifiers. Often there would be an amateur contest, for which Bolduc would donate a cash prize. (Her 1936 recording "Gédéon amateur" deals with the popularity of amateur hours on radio.) During intermissions, Mary sold a book of lyrics to her songs. She also favoured her audiences with her harmonica playing and with topical songs such as "Le Nouveau Gouvernement" ("the new government") and "Si je pouvais tenir Hitler" ("if I could get hold of Hitler"), which she never recorded. Each show gave the audience about two and a half hours of entertainment.

Bolduc recognized that many facets of society still looked down on a stage career as unfitting for a woman. In addition, it was rare for a woman to manage such a show. To counter hostile attitudes, Bolduc made sure to portray herself as a respectable married woman, always appearing under her married name, Madame Édouard Bolduc. As she continued to tour and record, she made every effort to include her family in her activities, as much because she wanted them with her as to avoid unwelcome gossip. Her husband participated in the 1932 and 1934 tours, and by 1935 her eldest daughter Denise became her piano accompanist.

The undertaking of concert tours was a heavy responsibility for Bolduc. She and Jean Grimaldi had to hire musicians and actors, arrange bookings, make and hang posters, and arrange publicity. She had to calculate and pay travelling expenses and musicians' salaries from the gate receipts. Admission for an adult was usually 50 cents, of which the parish or theatre received between 20 and 40 per cent (Bolduc often made donations to the churches' poor boxes, as well). Despite her lack of experience with financial management outside the home, Bolduc's first tour was a financial success. She received around $2,000, on top of the $500 to $1,000 royalty she received annually from recordings.

The tours were often challenging in other respects as well. Madame Bolduc and the musicians travelled everywhere by car, which the tour director drove, since Mary did not have a driver's licence. Their route often took them through harsh weather to rural villages on poorly maintained dirt roads. By September 1935, they were venturing as far as the French-speaking populations in Northern Ontario, with tours that year and later on to Kapuskasing and other remote locales.

Mary Bolduc's successes in Quebec led her, by autumn of 1933, to the idea of touring the French-speaking populations in the northeastern United States, where she and her husband had once lived. She organized the first of several concert tours of Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire, accompanied by Denise and Édouard Bolduc. They were away from April to June 1934. Franco-Americans loved the folk act, and Mary and her troupe returned to New England that fall, as well as in 1937 and 1939.

As Bolduc grew more experienced at managing her career, she became adventuresome. She took part in such publicity stunts as renting an airplane to fly over a village where she would be singing -- the aircraft trailing a banner that read "C'est La Bolduc qui passe" ("La Bolduc is going by"). Other firsts included singing, in February 1937, at a cabaret in Montréal and at a gala hosted by the mayor of Montréal.

In June 1937, the touring that had made La Bolduc a household name in French North America, brought about a precipitous halt to her career. Leaving a concert in Rivière-du-Loup and heading for the Saguenay and her native Gaspé, her car collided with another vehicle. Mary Bolduc was the most seriously injured and as she was being treated for broken bones and concussion, the doctors discovered cancer. Radiation treatments, the concussion and a slow physical recovery prevented the singer from resuming her concert schedule. Though limited in her musical activity after the accident, Bolduc capitalized on her bad luck by writing and recording new songs including the comic autobiographical song, "Les Souffrances de mon accident" ("the sufferings of my accident").

Mary Bolduc made a brief final tour to Abitibi, Quebec, in 1940, but was hampered by weakness, pain and memory lapses resulting from her concussion. In December of that year, she made appearances close to home in Montréal theatres, until she was hospitalized for the last time.

The concerts that began as a modest entrepreneurial venture had launched Mary Bolduc on a wildly successful career. Despite the depressed economy, lack of business experience and her responsibilities as a mother, she succeeded in finding a niche for her traditional music in the villages and rural areas of French Canada. The unlikely star "La Bolduc" achieved fame that far outlasted her concert career.

A musical mirror of Canada's heritage

The origins of Bolduc's tunes

Just as Mary Bolduc chronicled current events in her lyrics, she also mirrored the different musical influences found in the Quebec of her time. Features of the English, Irish and French musical traditions that she grew up with are mixed together to create her lively and distinctive form of quasi-traditional popular song.

A cursory listen to just about any of Bolduc's songs will reveal, even to unaccustomed listeners, how much her tunes owe to folk-dances such as reels. The reel, a type of folk or country dance music in a rapid 2/4 time, originated in Scotland and also became very popular in Ireland. Reels were usually performed on the fiddle; in Quebec, they were also performed on the harmonica. Bolduc was an accomplished performer on both of these instruments. In France, a similar custom exists of accompanying quadrille dances on the violin. The Virtual Gramophone website provides a traditional reel medley, recorded in 1919 by Albert Gerson, for comparison.

There is a simple explanation for these similarities: Bolduc did not "compose" melodies in the usual sense of the word. Many -- if not most -- of her songs employed existing melodies from folk songs or folk dances; for others, she began with a well-known melody and created her own variant. Some other songs were based on American popular tunes known to both Anglophones and Francophones in Canada.

Bolduc's lyrics are, however, of her own composition, although some -- like the tunes -- are parodies or adaptations of existing songs. This practice of borrowing existing tunes on which to place a new set of lyrics is an ancient and venerable one, common in British, French and North American song traditions. In Britain, the practice dates back to the English "broadside ballads" (songs printed on news-sheets) of the 1600s, and perhaps even earlier. In France, new songs were often sung to "timbres", or well-known melodies. As songs were passed on through oral tradition, people added their own texts, with regional stories or familiar local words and phrases, to tunes that they liked, thus giving the tune their own twist.

Bolduc's performance style also owes much to oral tradition. The significance of her reliance on fiddle and harmonica are discussed below. Her nasal vocal style is also traditional, as is her relaxed attitude toward pitch.

Borrowed melodies

"Johnny McFellow": The English song was the basis for Bolduc's early recording Johnny Monfarleau [MP3 1,420 KB].

"Yes! We Have No Bananas": This 1923 American popular song, by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn, was itself based on pre-existing songs. Part of the melody and text are heard in Bolduc's "Le Commerçant des rues" [MP3 1,675 KB].

"The Music Goes Round and Around": This American popular song was written in 1935 by Red Hodgson, Edward Farley and Michael Riley. The tune appeared in Bolduc's "Gédéon amateur" [MP3 1,563 KB] the following year.

"Red River Valley": This famous English-language tune comes from a traditional Canadian folk-song, which refers to Manitoba's Red River. Bolduc borrowed the tune for her song, "Les Belles-mères" [MP3 1,933 KB].

"Little Brown Jug": Bolduc's comic "Les Cinq Jumelles", about the Dionne quintuplets, is set to this famous tune about drinking, which was written in 1869 and popularized in North America around 1911.

"La Légende des flots bleus": This tune, written by Christiné and Dalbret, was the basis for "L'Enfant volé" [MP3 1,746 KB], about the Lindberg kidnapping, which Bolduc's daughter Lucienne recorded in her place.

Interesting features of Bolduc's songs


Language in Bolduc's songs reflects the fact that in her Gaspé home as well as in Montréal, French and English lived side by side. Her song lyrics are predominantly French, but often include a few words or lines in English. Her audiences would have easily understood these anglicisms, which mirrored their actual speech patterns. Bolduc was criticized for including anglicisms, when in fact this mixing of languages in song has been known for centuries. It is particularly observable in cultures like Canada's, where different linguistic groups coexist.

Some of the Bolduc songs which include English words and phrases are: "Les Cinq Jumelles"; "Roosevelt est un peu là" (which contains the English phrase, "We do our part)"; and "Chanson de la bourgeoise" (which contains "watchait," a French conjugation of an English verb).

Enumerative songs

Listing (or "enumerating") elements such as foods, tasks or a character's physical features, is a favourite technique of Bolduc's, probably as much for the comic and rhythmic value as for the traditional genre. Enumerative songs, which came to Quebec from France, form an important category in French-Canadian folk song.

Among the many songs by Bolduc that contain enumerative elements are "Je m'en vais au marché" [MP3 1,670 KB], "Si vous avez une fille qui veut se marier" [MP3 1,525 KB] and "La Servante" [MP3 1,784 KB].

Dialogue songs

Another traditional type of French folk song, the dialog song is often in the form of a conversation or debate between a woman and man. Mary Bolduc recorded a comic dialogue song with Ovila Légaré, entitled "Mademoiselle, dites-moi donc" [MP3 1,841 KB], in which a man and woman banter and flirta familiar and always popular comic theme.

Ballad form

Bolduc's practice of writing songs about current events dates back at least to the 1600s, when printers hired Irish and English poets to write songs on current events, which they then published in a newssheet format called a "broadside". These "broadside ballads" were usually meant to be sung to an existing well-known tune. Many of these ballads continue to be passed on through oral transmission and are still sung in North America. Commonly, first-person narration distinguishes the broadside ballad, with a typical introduction calling the listener's attention to the story that is about to be told (e.g., "Come all ye, listen to my story . . . ."). An example of this first-person introduction is found in Bolduc's song "La Chanson du bavard" [MP3 1,863 KB]) : "Écoutez mes bons amis, La chanson que je vas vous chanter…."

Songs relaying local anecdotes or historical events are also found in the traditional songs of France.

Turlutage (mouth music)

This was Bolduc's trademark, distinguishing her recordings from those of other folk musicians. The technique clearly marks her music as derived from Irish and Scottish heritage. "Turlutage" adapts an instrumental melody for vocal expression. The singer creates a refrain from vocables (or "nonsense syllables"), in a technique that dates back to the old ballads of the British Isles. Turlutage sounds a great deal like the "fa-la-la" or "hey diddly-diddly-dee" types of refrain one might associate with Irish or English songs. In Scottish music, it is called "mouth music". It is often improvised, similar to scat singing in jazz. Bolduc often used "turlutage" to replace the harmonica solo between sung verses, or vice versa. Her "turlutes" take place mostly in reels, like the "Reel turluté" [MP3 1,487 KB].


Surviving photographs of La Bolduc typically show her playing her harmonica, and this instrument certainly has pride of place in her recordings. The harmonica (in French, "musique à bouche") was and continues to be widely used by traditional folk musicians in Quebec (and by Cajun musicians in Louisiana), partly because of its portability, for dances such as reels and jigs. The harmonica is second only to the fiddle in importance among Quebec folk musicians. La Bolduc was known for her achievements on both instruments, which she learned by ear at the knee of her Irish father. The accordion completes the trio of traditional folk instruments featured in the recordings of La Bolduc.

A word on new influences

Many popular musicians, yesterday as well as today, have readily absorbed new musical influences to refresh the sound of their music. Madame Bolduc, however, did not venture far from her traditional Irish-French folk styles, despite waning audience interest and declining record sales. French "chansonnettes" (short songs), American jazz sounds and even country music from the American south, were ascending in popularity, but made few inroads into her repertoire. To our ears, therefore, her songs can sound musically unvaried and lacking in complexity. To Madame Bolduc and her faithful, however, the songs expressed an aspect of their heritage that stood on its own, without need of change.

An analysis of "la cuisinière"


The melodic structure of "La cuisinière" contains four musical phrases, totalling 16 bars. The first ("A" phrase) is four bars long and is immediately repeated, for a total of eight bars. There then follows a "B" phrase, also of four bars, and a "C" phrase of four bars, which repeats a motif from the "B" phrase. The instrumental refrain repeats these phrases, with variants, an octave higher. This AABC, 16-bar format is seen often in Canadian folk and popular songs. It would have structured the tunes sung in lumber camps in her native Gaspé.

Madame Bolduc's melody for "La cuisinière" is based on a folk tune known particularly in Acadia. It uses a pitch range of a ninth (an octave plus one note -- from A below middle C to B below treble C). This range is common in folk and popular songs. The tune uses intervals of a second, third, and fourth, with the only occurrence of a descending fifth, this being reserved for the refrain at "Hourra pour la cuisinière". Repeated notes and triadic outlines (e.g. do-mi-sol) feature prominently, as do brief repeated melodic motifs. The singer sometimes inserts passing notes and other small embellishments of an improvisational nature into different verses, a typical folk-singing practice.


This song presents a domestic servant's humorous encounters with suitors. Comic songs are a common category of the French and British folksong traditions. French comic songs in particular, tend to deal with rejected suitors.

"La cuisinière" has five verses -- each of four lines, including the refrain. The text is set syllabically and uses few if any sustained notes. Bolduc's text lines generally correspond on a one-to-one basis with the melodic phrases, again, a common feature of English folk-song.

The fourth and final line of each verse has interesting features of its own. It consists of a short, two-bar line of text followed by a two-bar refrain ("Hourra pour la cuisinière"). As well, an internal rhyme or assonance occurs on the concluding syllable of each short French phrase; e.g., in verse 3, "prendre un coup" rhymes with "trouver ça doux." These features provide an interesting contrast with the regularity of lines 1 to 3, and highlight the conclusion of the verse.


The refrain "Hourra pour la cuisinière" is repeated at the end of every verse. The harmonica phrases (which are themselves a repetition of the melody, played an octave higher) function as an instrumental refrain and also provide an instrumental introduction to the entire song.

Traditional features

"La cuisinière" borrows several notable features from both French and Irish-English song. Some aspects of the broadside ballads, which Bolduc would no doubt have heard as a girl, are present here. Both the lyrics and the music of the song follow a very regular structure, consisting of verses of four lines and a melody of eight bars repeated, totalling 16 bars of music. The text begins with an announcement in the first person from the narrator ("Je vais vous dire quelques mots ... "), similar to the traditional broadside introduction "O come ye listen to my story". From French folk-song tradition comes the use of enumeration, as well as assonance.


The rhyme scheme of "La cuisinière" generally consists of rhyming couplets (an aa/bb arrangement); although in the last verse, the last two lines no longer rhyme.


The song begins with a preparatory upbeat, which is characteristic of many Bolduc tunes. Although overall the rhythm is predictable and regular, occasionally the poet divides or repeats notes to accommodate extra syllables of text, thus creating small melodic variants from verse to verse. The addition of an extra measure of music in verse 1, line 4, to accommodate an extra-long phrase of text, is a noteworthy example.


The song is in 6/8 time, which is commonly used in folk songs. Note that Bolduc adds a measure of 3/8 to allow an upbeat at the beginning of the instrumental refrain.


The brisk tempo contributes to the light-hearted nature of the song.


Some points about the language used in this song are interesting. For example, the occurrence of the English word "flask" in verse 3; and the use of slang or regional pronunciations in French (e.g. "vas" for "vais"). Mixing of languages is seen often in Canadian songs, especially from areas such as Montréal, where people of different language groups mingle.

Ballads – A sung chronicle of current events in Quebec, 1930-1940

When Mary Travers Bolduc signed a recording contract that required her to write two songs per month, she turned to current events for inspiration to fill her quota. Raised in a musical culture in which ballads were the spontaneous expression of the emotions of the common people, she found it natural to continue this living tradition by creating her own songs and ballads. She soon found herself the spokesperson for working-class men and women in Quebec and French Canada. For listeners now, in the 21st century, her songs are windows on the shared opinions and experiences of working-class Quebeckers of the 1930s.

Most of La Bolduc's songs gave light-hearted treatment to serious subjects such as the economic deprivations of the Depression years. Audiences opened their arms and hearts to these songs because they allowed people to laugh at their own misfortunes and at everyday characters just like themselves. In songs like "Ça va venir découragez-vous pas", Bolduc spoke directly to the common people about their own experiences of hardship. Like the singer and her characters, her listeners had stood in the crowds watching King George VI, the R-100 dirigible and the solar eclipse, and they had shared in the excitement depicted in the lyrics.

In these songs, Madame Bolduc captured (for listeners then and now) the spirit, the joys and the frustrations of her people. In chronicling their history, she became one of Canada's first and best-known balladeers.

The following are some of Mary Travers Bolduc's songs about actual events:

"Ça va venir découragez-vous pas"; [MP3 1,598 KB] : A 1930 song about the economic collapse Canadians experienced in the Great Depression, referring to the newly elected government of Prime Minister R. B. Bennett. Recorded September 1930.

"Toujours l'R-100" [MP3 1,636 KB] : Commemorates the arrival at St-Hubert, Quebec of a lighter-than-air dirigible, at the end of its 79-hour transoceanic journey, August 1930.

"L'Enfant volé" : The kidnapping of the infant son of aviator Charles Lindberg was a huge news event in 1932. The music and lyrics of this song are in a very different style from the rest of Bolduc's repertoire, which has led some to suggest that Bolduc did not compose this song. Recorded May 1932.

"Les Américains" [MP3 1,507 KB]: This topical song refers to the United States prohibition against alcohol, and the Americans who travelled to Montréal in search of liquor. Recorded May 1932.

"Sans travail" [MP3 1,601 KB] : A July 1932 song about chronic, widespread unemployment during the Depression.

"As-tu vu l'éclipse?": The solar eclipse of August 31, 1932, the first in 300 years, attracted huge crowds and was preserved in this song, which was never recorded.

"Roosevelt est un peu là": As this song relates, Canadians were familiar with United States President Roosevelt's New Deal plan to salvage the economy from the depths of the Depression. Written around 1933 or 1934 Bolduc performed this song but did not record it.

"La Gaspésienne pure laine" [MP3 1,739 KB]: Inspired by the 400th anniversary celebrations, in 1934, of explorer Jacques Cartier's settlement of the Gaspé region of Quebec. Recorded March 1935.

"Les Cinq Jumelles" [MP3 1,466 KB] : This song memorialized the publicity circus that followed the birth of the famed Dionne Quintuplets, May 28, 1934, in Callander, Ontario. This record, made in March 1935, was one of La Bolduc's best sellers.

"Le Nouveau Gouvernement": This unrecorded song looks forward to an improved economy upon the 1936 election of the government of Maurice Duplessis in Quebec.

"La Visite royale": The Royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the mother of Queen Elizabeth II) in 1939 was cause for celebration. Bolduc, nearing the end of her illness, did not record this song either.

"Tout le monde a la grippe" [MP3 1,367 KB] : A song about an outbreak of influenza in February 1939.

"Si je pouvais tenir Hitler": Bolduc tells her listeners what she would like to do to Hitler. She wrote this song a few days after war was declared, but never recorded it.

Musical impact – An early chansonnière

In the late 1950s in Quebec, a new musical phenomenon arose. Young songwriters, called "chansonniers" (or the feminine, "chansonnières") were singing their own compositions in small nightclubs, accompanying themselves on guitar. Their original material was both socially motivated and folk music inspired; most of all it spoke to Quebec listeners about their experiences and dreams. The chansonniers and their fresh means of personal expression became an important musical movement.

While many music historians identify Félix Leclerc as the first chansonnier, others feel that Mary Bolduc was his forerunner. It is difficult to state definitively whether specific aspects in a given songwriter's repertoire stem from La Bolduc, or simply from a common oral tradition. Nevertheless, many features of La Bolduc's repertoire can be identified as having influenced the songs of the chansonniers and chansonnières, even if indirectly. One could say that Bolduc acted as a musical conduit, freeing the way for the chansonniers and chansonnières to develop their craft.

Tracing common factors from Bolduc to the chansonniers

As the first singer-songwriter star in Quebec, Bolduc's impact on later Quebeckers performing in popular music genres was significant. Although several other folk-influenced musicians were recording in the 1930s, such as Ovila Legaré, Bolduc was by far the best known. The fundamental features of La Bolduc's style are now common modes of expression in Quebec "chansons." Her close connection to Quebec's folk-music traditions was shared by many chansonniers, as was her penchant for humorous descriptions of daily life. The realism of her voice in her depictions of social conditions, and in her character satires, re-appears in the work of many later chansonniers, such as Robert Charlebois.

A similarity can also be found in the fact that La Bolduc and the later Québécois singer-songwriters both took on the role of spokesperson for their times. In the same way, the patriotism in Bolduc's songs such as "La Gaspésienne pure laine" would have been attractive to the new politically-aware generation of the 1960s. As the Quiet Revolution and its search for cultural identity gathered strength, Quebeckers felt a new assertiveness -- a quality that Bolduc and her music possessed in abundance. American music had been predominant since the First World War, but francophone listeners found in Bolduc one of their own, musically, in her use of French, in the experiences she related, and in the geography and events she sang about.

The use of colloquial French, for which some condemned La Bolduc, is now accepted as a rich and realistic element in the music of Gilles Vigneault, Clémence Desrochers and other chansonniers and chansonnières. Listen to Vigneault's songs; his language, like Bolduc's, is often commonplace slang and he delivers his lyrics quickly, running words together as Bolduc did.

In her social awareness and concern for her working-class neighbours, Bolduc foreshadowed the concerns expressed by followers of the urban folk movement and the Quiet Revolution many years after her death. Here again, a comparison with Gilles Vigneault points out similarities. Both songwriters featured working-class characters, such as Vigneault's carpenter protagonist in "Quand tu vas chez l'marchand," while Bolduc's real-life husband was a plumber. As well, both singers portray marital spats in a humorous but realistic way. Later, in the early 1990s, Bolduc's lyrics to "Ça va venir découragez-vous pas" became newly relevant when the recession put workers on the streets.

For Quebec women, Bolduc's song lyrics and her career itself bore a special significance. Bolduc's strong female characters, and the fact of her huge personal success, may have appealed to women like the chansonnière Pauline Julien, who embraced the women's movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

La Bolduc's successors

Despite the passage of years and the introduction of musical influences from around the globe, traces of La Bolduc's musical style can be clearly heard in the repertoire of the chansonniers and chansonnières. Among the Quebecois singer-songwriters and other musicians, who followed in La Bolduc's footsteps and were inspired by her approach, are (in approximate chronological order):

Roland (Le Soldat) Lebrun

This musical spokesman for the soldiers of the Second World War sang country music, in a simple style, to ordinary people with ordinary problems.

Félix Leclerc

Leclerc was the pioneer of the chansonnier movement in the 1950s. His work after 1970 featured social commentary. His style differed from Bolduc's in that his poetry contained a tragic vein and more imagery, but it still spoke to the people.

Oscar Thiffault

Thiffault was Bolduc's successor in the 1950s. Bolduc inspired his realist voice, humour and folk content.

Les Bozos

Les Bozos, also musical pioneers, were a collective of Quebec singer-songwriters who, following in Leclerc's footsteps in 1958, became well known as part of the chansonnier phenomenon.

André Gagnon

Affiliated with Les Bozos, Gagnon composed "Les Turluteries", a set of suites in the Baroque style, based on the "turlutes" (or mouth music) of La Bolduc.

Clémence Desrochers

This early chansonnière was a member of Les Bozos. Like Bolduc, she wrote lyrics in vernacular speech, sparing neither humour nor satire.

Gilles Vigneault

This poet began singing his work in 1960, and became a nationally and internationally celebrated chansonnier. His music is informed by the same folk songs Bolduc favoured. Unlike Bolduc, however, Vigneault did not sing the old tunes, but created new melodies and lyrics in the traditional style, adding updated instrumentation and carefully crafted arrangements. Although he draws from the French chanson and sentimental ballad, elements that hark back to the 1930s recordings of La Bolduc and her folk contemporaries are still easily identifiable. Another significant difference is that Vigneault's lyrics are the literate, refined poetry of a chansonnier, compared to Bolduc's homespun rhyming ditties.

Vigneault's song "Quand tu vas chez l'marchand" ("when you go shopping"), recorded in 1992, recalls many of La Bolduc's favourite folk themes and stylings a full 60 years later. "Quand tu vas chez l'marchand" is a comic song, in the same genre as Bolduc's repertoire. Vigneault humorously extols the dangers of credit (as does La Bolduc's "La Grocerie du coin", recorded in the Depression year of December 1930). Under the humorous anecdotes of both songs, there is a moral aimed at the average consumer -- beware of fast-talking merchants.

In true French folk-song tradition, Vigneault, like Bolduc, also plays with enumeration, listing consumer goods that can be bought on credit.

A sound close to that of La Bolduc's can also be heard in other Gilles Vigneault songs. For example, the folk-dance rhythms of Vigneault's childhood (and Bolduc's) are clear in the songs "Tam ti delam", "Monsieur Ptitpas" and "Le Reel du portageur".

Pauline Julien

Julien achieved a national reputation as a singer in the 1960s and 1970s. Like Bolduc, this forthright woman sang of her political opinions and personal beliefs, and wrote lyrics in everyday French.

Robert Charlebois

A highly influential chansonnier and pop musician, Charlebois performed in Canada and France beginning in the late 1960s. His music is informed by French and Anglo-Saxon styles and his lyrics employ an everyday "joual" slang.

By following in the footsteps of Mary Bolduc, these and many more chansonniers and chansonnières have both honoured and enriched their French-Canadian musical heritage.

Works about Mary Travers Bolduc and her songs

Since Mary Bolduc's time, her songs and her impact on the culture and folk music of Quebec have been widely studied. In and around 1992, the 50th anniversary of La Bolduc's death, several books and recordings were released. The following is a selection of some of the many resources that have been produced on the life and music of Mary Bolduc.


  • Benoît, Réal. La Bolduc. Pref. by Doris Lussier. Montréal : Éditions de l'homme, c1959. 123 p. AMICUS 2701551

  • Bolduc, Édouard, Mme ; Joyal, Jean-Pierre ; Remon, Lina. Madame Bolduc [musique] : paroles et musiques. [Compilées par] Lina Remon avec la collaboration de Jean-Pierre Joyal. Montréal : Guérin, 1993. 244 p. AMICUS 13434595

  • Bolduc, Édouard, Mme ; Laframboise, Philippe. La Bolduc : soixante-douze chansons populaires. Edition prepared and presented by Philippe Laframboise. Montréal : VLB éditeur, 1992. 218 p. AMICUS 14622284

  • Day, Pierre. Une histoire de La Bolduc, légendes et turlutes. Montréal : VLB Éditeur, c1991. 132 p. AMICUS 10891939

  • Lonergan, David. La Bolduc : la vie de Mary Travers. Bic, Québec : Isaac-Dion Éditeur, [1992]. 212 p. AMICUS 11349098

Film and television

  • "La Bolduc". The Canadians : biographies of a nation [television program].History Television Network, 1998

  • "La Bolduc". Heritage minutes / Vignette du patrimoine [television series]. The Historica Foundation of Canada / Fondation Historica du Canada

  • Masse, Jean-Pierre ; Perron, Clement ; Office national du film du Canada. Swing la baquaise [film]. Montréal : Office national du film du Canada, 1968. 27 min. 20 sec. : son, no.1 6 mm, vidéo  1/2 in., 3/4 in., 1 in. AMICUS 15372245


  • Arsenault, Angèle. Bonjour Madame Bolduc [sound recording]. [Québec?] : DUA, 1993. 1 cassette. AMICUS 19320482

  • Bolduc, Édouard, Mme. La Bolduc [sound recording]. Willowdale, Ont. : MCA, p1991. Publisher no. : MCAD-10486 MCA. 1 sound disc : digital ; 4 3/4 in. Héritage Québécois series. AMICUS 23310746

  • Bolduc, Édouard, Mme. L'intégrale [sound recording]. Outremont, Québec : Analekta, p1993. Publisher no. : AN 2 7001-4 Analekta. 4 CDs. AMICUS 13835507

Reissues of the original recordings

  • La Bolduc, Mme. La Bolduc : chanteuse québécoise, enregistrements 1929-1939 [sound recording]. Gentilly, France : Silex, p 1994. Publisher no. : Y225108 Silex. 1 disc. With booklet. AMICUS 23085544

  • La Bolduc, Mme. Madame Bolduc : l'oeuvre complète [sound recording]. [Montréal] : Production Octogone : Distribution GAM, cop., 1994. Publisher no. : OCT 501A-2 Les Productions Octogone. 4 CDs. AMICUS 25163748

  • Bolduc, Édouard, Mme ; Carignan, Jean ; Charlebois, Jeanne d'Arc. Jeanne d'Arc Charlebois et Jean Carignan rendent hommage à Madame Bolduc [sound recording]. [St-Laurent, Québec] : Philo : distributed by London Records, p 1975. Publisher no. : F18.2014 Philo. 1 cartridge. AMICUS 10596151

  • Bolduc, Édouard, Mme ; Les Maringouins chantent La Bolduc. [sound recording]. Pointe-Claire, Québec : Disques Elan : distribué par Musicor, [1991]. Publisher no. : ELAC-5002 Disques Elan. 1 disc. AMICUS 10996121. The musical group Les Maringouins perform songs by Mme Bolduc, including the song from which the group's name was taken.

  • Lord, Marie ; Tremblay, Georges ; Bolduc, Édouard, Mme. Hommage à Madame Bolduc [sound recording]. Montréal : RCA/BMG : Distribution Select, p1991. Publisher no. : BMGQCD-5002 RCA/BMG. 1 disc. AMICUS 12631674. In addition to Marie Lord performing songs by Mme Bolduc, this disc includes the tribute songs "Chapeau Madame Bolduc" by Marie Lord and "Très Chère Madame Bolduc" by Georges Tremblay. Also available in cassette format (see AMICUS 11004653)


  • Jeanne d'Arc Charlebois raconte La Bolduc. Performed by Jeanne d'Arc Charlebois. 1984

Web resources

  • "La Bolduc (Mary Travers)" (archived). Celebrating Women's Achievements. Library and Archives Canada.

  • "Mary Travers dite La Bolduc". Permanent Exhibition. The Mary Travers Museum. Newport, Quebec.

  • "Mme Ed. Bolduc" (French only). Notes biographiques. Québec Info Musique Inc.

  • Wilburn, Gene. "La Bolduc". Northern Journey Online. 1999.


Selected recordings available

To find more recordings, go to Advanced Search. Enter in All Fields bolduc AND select in Digital Content MP3.


  • Baillargeon, Richard ; Côté, Christian. Destination ragou : une histoire de la musique populaire au Québec. Montréal : Triptyque, c1991. 179 p. AMICUS 12788018

  • Bolduc, Édouard, Mme ; Joyal, Jean-Pierre ; Remon, Lina. Madame Bolduc [musique] : paroles et musiques. [Compiled by] Lina Remon with the collaboration of Jean-Pierre Joyal. Montréal : Guérin, 1993. 244 p. AMICUS 13434595

  • Bolduc, Édouard, Mme ; Laframboise, Philippe. La Bolduc : soixante-douze chansons populaires. Edition prepared and presented by Philippe Laframboise. Montréal : VLB éditeur, 1992. 218 p. AMICUS 12202476

  • "Bolduc, Madame". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Edited by Helmut Kallmann et al. 2nd ed. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1992. xxxii, 1524 p. AMICUS 12048560

  • "Chanson in Quebec". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Edited by H. Kallmann et al. 2nd ed. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1992. xxxii, 1524 p. AMICUS 12048560

  • "Chansonniers". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Edited by H. Kallmann et al. 2nd ed. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1992. xxxii, 1524 p. AMICUS 12048560

  • Compo Company Ltd. Fonds. MIKAN 206580

  • Day, Pierre. Une histoire de La Bolduc : légendes et turlutes. Montréal : VLB Éditeur, c1991. 132 p. AMICUS 10891939

  • Deyglun, Serge. "De La Bolduc aux chansonniers". Châtelaine. (April 1961). P. 30-31, 88-96. AMICUS 89876

  • "Folk music, Anglo-Canadian". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Edited by Helmut Kallmann et al. 2nd ed. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1992. xxxii, 1524 p. AMICUS 12048560

  • "Folk music, Franco-Canadian". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Edited by Helmut Kallmann et al. 2nd ed. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1992. AMICUS 12048560

  • "France traditional music". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Edited by Stanley Sadie. London : Macmillan, 1980. 20 v. : ill. AMICUS 973438

  • Gabriel Labbé fonds. MIKAN 206246

  • Giroux, Robert. Le guide de la chanson québécoise. With the collaboration of Constance Harvard and Rock LaPalme. Montréal : Triptyque, c1991. 179 p. AMICUS 10736105

  • The Great Song Thesaurus. Edited by Roger Lax and Frederick Smith. 2nd ed. New York : Oxford University Press, 1989. 774 p. AMICUS 8384394

  • "Harmonica". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Edited by Helmut Kallmann et al. 2nd ed. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1992. xxxii, 1524 p. AMICUS 12048560

  • Ives, Edward D. "Lumbercamp singing and the two traditions". Canadian folk music journal. Vol. 5 (1977). P. 17-23. AMICUS 24967603

  • "Laisse". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Edited by Stanley Sadie. London : Macmillan, 1980. 20 v. : ill. AMICUS 973438

  • Lonergan, David. La Bolduc : la vie de Mary Travers, 1894-1941 : biographie. Bic, Qué. : Issac-Dion Éditeur, [1992]. 212 p. AMICUS 11349098

  • Madame Bolduc. Madame Bolduc : l'œuvre complète incluant 5 versions inédites [sound recording]. Orléans, ON : Lucien Desjardins, 1994. Publisher no. OCT 502-2 Les Productions Octogone. 4 CDs. AMICUS 26947837

  • Montreal Music Year Book 1931. Montreal : Montreal Music Year Book Registered, 1931. AMICUS 1139625

  • Philippe Laframboise fonds. MIKAN 206248

  • Normand, Pascal. La chanson québécoise : miroir d'un peuple. Montréal : France-Amérique, 1981. 281 p. AMICUS 2456064

  • Orenstein, Lisa. "Instrumental folk music of Quebec". Canadian Folk Music Journal. Vol. 10 (1982). P. 3-11. AMICUS 123254

  • Thérien, Robert. L'histoire de l'enregistrement sonore au Québec et dans le monde 1878-1950. Québec : Presses de l'Université Laval, 2003. 233 p. ISBN 2763779336 AMICUS 29903233

  • Tremblay-Matte, Cécile. La chanson écrite au féminin : de Madeleine de Verchères à Mitsou, 1730-1990. Laval, Que. : Trois, 1990. 390 p. AMICUS 10922066

  • Vigneault, Gilles. Le chant du portageur [sound recording]. [Pointe-Claire, Québec] : Le Nordet : Musicor Distribution, c1992. 1 disc. AMICUS 12735222

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