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Alexandre Desmarteaux, author, composer, performer and stand-up comedian (circa 1880-1926)

Portrait of Alexandre Desmarteaux

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Alexandre Desmarteaux

Vaudeville comedian Alexandre Desmarteaux was born in Montréal around 1880. He began his career in 1901 with the Troupe du Cercle at Dumas hall, playing alongside Hector Pellerin and soon went on to play with several other theatre groups. A theatre director in 1915-1916, he was also part of the Fred Barry and Albert Duquesne troupe of actors that gave performances at the Théâtre Family in Saint-Henri. Desmarteaux performed in several plays including L'Avocat des gueux, Fille martyre, Un cœur brisé, Vengeance de femme (by Palmieri), L'Enfant volé and Ça m'chatouille in 1919-1920. In 1922, he joined Jeanne Demons' and Bella Ouellette's group at the Théâtre Impérial in Quebec. With Hector Pellerin, Hercule Lavoie and Blanche Gauthier, he participated in one of the very first radio programs at CKAC (Montréal) on September 27, 1922.

Catalogue supplement from Victor Records, advertising new recordings by Alexandre Desmarteaux, April 1925

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An April 1925, Victor Records catalogue supplement, advertising new recordings by Alexandre Desmarteaux

The comedian began his recording career in September 1920, when he recorded 28 pieces at Columbia's New York studios. Half of the pieces were comic sketches performed with supporting actors Elzéar Hamel and Juliette Béliveau. The other half consisted of songs from Parisian café concerts and Quebec folk songs ("Mon père y m'a marié", "C'est dans notre canton", "À Parthenay") recorded with a brass ensemble. A popular performer, he recorded 71 additional songs and comic sketches (with Elzéar Hamel and Blanche Gauthier) at Columbia, for a total of 50 records in four years (an average of one per month!). After two records made under the His Master's Voice label at the beginning of 1925, he changed to Starr, where he recorded 22 songs in seven months, several of which were re-releases of his hits at Columbia. Desmarteaux died in Montréal in 1926.

Endowed with a powerful tenor voice, Alexandre Desmarteaux had an infectious laugh that he used freely in his songs. His son, Paul Desmarteaux, brought Father Labelle to life in the television soap opera Les Belles Histoires des pays d'en haut (SRC, 1956-1970).

For more information about Alexandre Desmarteaux's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.

Robert Thérien, music researcher, Montréal