Roméo Beaudry

Louis-Roméo Beaudry. Author, composer and administrator, born Montréal 25 Feb 1882, died Outremont, Que, 7 May 1932. Roméo Beaudry played a determining role in the early initiatives of the recording industry in Québec.

Roméo Beaudry

Louis-Roméo Beaudry. Author, composer and administrator, born Montréal 25 Feb 1882, died Outremont, Que, 7 May 1932. Roméo Beaudry played a determining role in the early initiatives of the recording industry in Québec. He spent part of his youth in Québec, where he completed the cours classique at the Séminaire de Québec in 1900. After holding a position at the National Bank, he partnered with his father Joseph, the Québec representative for the Willis Piano Company. Attaining a similar position with the Starr Sales Company, Roméo Beaudry settled in Montréal in 1912, where he was also a music critic for the newspaper La Patrie. Three years later, he took charge of francophone repertoire for Columbia Graphophone in New York and was responsible for the sudden influx of Québec artists in their catalogue. He also established his initial contacts with the French market.

Beaudry in the Recording Industry

In 1917, Beaudry participated in setting up the Canadian Phonograph Supply Company to take advantage of the approaching end of Berliner's patents for the apparatus for reproducing discs and for lateral-cut recording. Moreover, it was this new perspective that prompted the Starr Piano Company of Richmond (Indiana), which had produced vertical-cut records in the US since 1915, to establish itself in Canada and to take a good look at lateral-cut recording. The Starr Company of Canada was thus founded with its headquarters in London, Ontario, and Roméo Beaudry became the vice president and general manager. For two years, the company distributed in Canada on the Starr and Gennett labels only recordings produced in the US, but after Herbert Berliner opened the Compo Company in Lachine, Roméo Beaudry gave his friend the pressing and distribution contracts for all Canadian production.

Both Berliner and Beaudry wanted to increase the Canadian and francophone presence in a market that until then had been monopolized by American firms. While Berliner created the francophone series for His Master's Voice 263000, Beaudry successively introduced the Starr series 11000 (1920), 12000 (1921), 15130 (1924) and 19000 (1931) that presented thousands of recordings of popular French-speaking artists over a period of about twelve years. During a trip to France in 1921, he obtained the distribution rights for several recordings by French music hall artists including Bergeret, Linel, Wolff and Rasca, who were integrated into the Starr 11000 series.

The American chansonnette experienced impressive growth after the First World War. In order to enable local artists to profit from Canadian and Québec audience's craze for this music, Roméo Beaudry recorded more than 150 of his French adaptations of American hits by Starr and His Master's Voice artists. He composed original songs of which more than 75 were recorded, a number of them big hits: L'amour se souvient and Ne fais jamais pleurer ta mère (Hercule Lavoie); Alouette, n'ais pas peur de moi (Albert Marier); and Les baisers sont les fleurs de l'amour (Charles-Émile Brodeur). As a producer, he was a pillar of the record industry during the 1920s, combining the folk style of Charles Marchand, Isidore Soucy, Eugène Daignault, Ovila Légaré, J.O. LaMadeleine and Marie Bolduc, and American and French-inspired popular songs of which Hector Pellerin, Jean Cartier, Hercule Lavoie, Albert Marier and Odilon Rochon were the principal exponents. Starr also put "recorded words" in its catalogue, presenting comic sketches by vaudeville artists (J. Hervey Germain, Juliette Béliveau, Rose Rey-Duzil, Alex J. Bédard, Arthur Lapierre, Athanase Beaudry). Furthermore, Roméo Beaudry established the Radio Music Publisher/Éditions Radio, a sheet music company set up in Starr's Montréal office at 1200 Amherst Street.

In April 1929, Roméo Beaudry engaged Madame Marie Bolduc, a new singer who had been warmly recommended by two of his best known artists Ovila Légaré and accordionist J.O. LaMadeleine, to make four recordings before the year's end. The first three remained on music store shelves. A few weeks after the Wall Street crash, when Marie Bolduc presented herself to record the fourth, Roméo Beaudry, without much eagerness, kept his word. La cuisinière, the song that resulted from this session, sold more than 10 000 copies, which was rare at the time. Bolduc's hit briefly launched Starr on the road to commercial success again, but the respite was of short duration. A severe economic world crisis completely crippled a dynamic company that was just starting to take off. Record companies fell one after the other. In late 1931, trying to avoid disaster, Starr put 78 "double sided" discs on the market for only 69 cents, with four pieces (re-released or new). But this was not sufficient, and to stave off bankruptcy the firm abandoned its "music" section to concentrate on recorded transcriptions and radio broadcasts and commercials.

On Friday 6 May 1932, Beaudry was in the studio when Marie Bolduc and her daughter were recording. The next morning the artistic community learned with dismay that he had died of a heart attack at his home in Outremont, three months after his 50th birthday.


Further Reading

  • Nouvelles chansons populaires. Éditions Silhouettes, Montréal, 1928. (Musical scores) Popular Songs Chansons populaires de L.R. Beaudry. Toronto, 1935. (Musical scores) Beaudry also composed the French words for the musical comedy Rio Rita.