(Joseph) Robert (Fernand) L'Herbier (b Samson). Singer, administrator, songwriter, b Lévis, near Quebec City, 5 Feb 1921. He studied music for 12 years, and his teachers included Alphonse Tardif (piano) in Lévis and Mme Isa Jeynevald-Mercier (voice) in Quebec City. He also studied diction with José Delaquerrière. In 1940 he took L'Herbier as his professional name out of friendship for the French film-maker Marcel L'Herbier. His career as a singer, pianist, arranger, and conductor began in 1941 on radio station CHLT, Sherbrooke. In Montreal he was the star 1942-9 of CBC radio's 'Les Joyeux Troubadours'. His first hit record, 'Rita,' for RCA Victor (BMG), was one of his own songs, and he was voted most popular artist (1946, 1948) in a competition sponsored by the weekly Radiomonde. He and Lucille Dumont were co-hosts 1948-50 of 'Café-concert Kraft'. He founded the review Radio '49 with Fernand Robidoux and took the leading role in Henri Miro's comic opera Le Roman de Suzon (1950) in Sherbrooke. In the early 1950s he became a record dealer, founding L'Herbier & Latour in Montreal. L'Herbier also made several tours and often performed in Quebec City at the Palais Montcalm, the Capitol Theatre (Quebec City), and the cabaret Chez Gérard.
With his wife Rolande Désormeaux he sang in 1947 and 1951 at the Arcade Theatre and the Théâtre national. He made his CBC TV debut in 'Showtime' with his wife in Toronto in 1954; they were then hosts for 'Rolande et Robert' (Montreal 1954-9), a series for which he also wrote the script. In 1954 they participated in an 18-week radio series shared among stations CKVL, CKAC, and the CBC. The CBC TV program 'Concours de la chanson canadienne' was initiated by him in 1956 to encourage the writing of original songs in the French language and to promote the Canadian record industry. The Concours was reorganized under the name 'Chansons sur mesure' in 1961, with the participation of the countries of the Communauté radiophonique des programmes de langue française. During the period 1956-7 he founded the Amicale de la chanson and the Comité de la diffusion de la chanson canadienne and was founder and president of the publishing house Société amicale de la chanson. In 1960 he began working for the new Montreal TV station CFTM, terminating his singing career; he held the position of assistant program director there, then program director, assistant manager and finally 1968-86 vice-president in charge of programming and production, later staying on as consultant. In the 1967 Montreal 'Gala des artistes' he was honoured for his contribution to the expansion of TV.
L'Herbier has composed some 30 songs, about a third of which were published in France. His biggest record hits, however, were of other composers' songs, including Francis Lopez' 'Heureux comme un roi' and Charles Trenet's 'Douce France,' which may be found on an RCA LP (Gala CGP-144).
His wife Rolande Désormeaux, singer and accordionist, b Montreal 27 Jul 1925, d Laval, near Montreal 15 May 1963, studied accordion at the Pat Marrazza school and diction with Jeanne Maubourg. She was crowned Miss Radio 1948 at the competition organized by the weekly Radiomonde. She participated in several radio programs at CKAC, CBC and CKVL.
Their son Benoît L'Herbier is the author of Charlebois, qui es-tu? (Montreal 1971) and La Chanson québécoise (Montreal 1974) and a contributor to EMC. He has written song texts for Claude Valade, Pierre Lalonde and Ginette Reno, and collaborated in 1986 in the variety show series 'Made in Québec' for TVA television.
Heureux comme un roi: Robert L'Herbier, ed Benoit L'Herbier (Montreal 1999)