Before 1960, there had been several Canadian acts with major success on the US charts, like Paul Anka, Jack Scott and The Diamonds. However, their hits had all been recorded in the States. The Beau-Marks were the first Canadians to have a rock hit in the USA with a Canadian-produced recording.
The group evolved in June 1958 when polio victims Ray Hutchinson and Mike Robitaille met through a shared interest in music at a school for handicapped children in Montreal, Quebec. Hutchinson (a guitarist/vocalist) and Robitaille (who played the bass) subse- quently teamed up with pianist-vocalist Joey Frechette and drummer Gilles Tailleur. They wrote their own material, financed their own recordings and used local studios, none of which was too common in the late fifties, certainly not in Canada. Originally the group was called The Del-Tones and under this name they had their first release on Canada's Quality label in April 1959, the rockabilly single "Rockin' Blues"/"Moonlight Party". This 45 also saw a UK release on Top Rank JAR 171. However, a copyright hassle from a US group forced the band to change their name to the Beau-Marks, which came from, of all things, the BOMARC missile. Under this name they recorded their second single, "Clap Your Hands"/"Daddy Said", but for some unclear reason, Quality postponed its release until April 1960, some ten months after it had been recorded. The record was purchased for US release by Bob Shad, who owned the Brent, Warner, Shad and Time labels in New York City. Released on Shad 5017, "Clap Your Hands" scored well in many markets and reached # 45 on Billboard's charts in mid-1960, staying in the Top 100 for 14 weeks. The record also did (very) well in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some European countries and led to appearances at the Peppermint Lounge, Carnegie Hall and on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand". The Beau-Marks followed this up with "Cause We're In Love"/ "Billy Billy Went-a Walkin'", which first came out in the US and then in Canada. Bobby Shad coupled the next release, "Oh Joan" with the USA-unissued "Rockin' Blues", this time on his Time label. Several more singles followed, both in Canada (all on Quality) and the USA (on Time, Rust and Port), but "Clap Your Hands" would remain their only hit. The Beau-Marks remained a popular Canadian attraction until they disbanded in 1965.
Lead singer Ray Hutchinson joined Dave and the Coins before settling in as a North American lounge act, but had to retire from music after sustaining serious injuries in a 1988 car accident. Mike Robitaille became successful in video production ; Gilles Tailleur died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 35. Joey Frechette was the head of Capitol Records' April Blackwood publishing, then a program director at CHOO radio on Ajax, Ontario, before re-recording his own version of "Clap Your Hands" in 1987 under the name Joey Conrad.
Three LP's (including a live album) were released, all of which were reissued on CD by Unidisc in 1998. In addition, Unidisc released the compilation "Best of Beau-Marks" (20 tracks). I have not heard these Unidisc CD's, but one Amazon customer complains about the "Best Of" set: "The Beau-Marks deserve better than this. Poor sound quality, shoddy artwork, no liner notes." So beware. For the availability of their recordings on compilations see Terry Gordon's website Rockin' Country Style (unfortunately unavailable at the moment, so I can't give the link).
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