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Born in Newport, a small fishing and lumbering town on the southern coast of the Gaspé Peninsula, Mary Travers came from a large family of English descent. Although there was little or no musical tradition in her family, she learned to play the fiddle, the harmonica, the accordion and the jew's-harp. At 13 she left home to work as a domestic in Montreal. In 1914 she married a tradesman, Édouard Bolduc, and together they had a large family. With the beginning of the Depression years, she turned to public musical performance as a means of augmenting the family's modest income.
Travers was first engaged as a fiddler for the musical show "Veillées du bon vieux temps" in 1927. Her recording career also began at this time, accompanying the singer Ovila Légaré. Travers was encouraged to sing for the first time for the musical review, and initial success led her to compose La Cuisinière. Though she was scarcely known, her recordings of La Cuisinière and La Servante, issued on 78-rpm discs by the Starr label, sold an unprecedented 12,000 copies in Quebec. Within a short time she became known far and wide throughout the province, and was universally referred to as "La Bolduc."
During the 1930s, Travers recorded 85 of her songs for Starr. They were written in colloquial French and concerned mundane events, expressing the joys and miseries of the common people during those difficult times. Most of all, they made people laugh about the very things that were most distressing to them.
The evolution of the chanson in Quebec was greatly influenced by La Bolduc, and her songs enjoy a special place in Quebec's musical legacy. According to the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (Toronto, 1992), "Though she has had many imitators, she has had no equals."
Benoît, Réal. — La Bolduc. — Montréal: Éditions de l'Homme, c1959. — 123 p.
Lonergan, David. — La Bolduc: la vie de Mary Travers, 1894-1941. — Bic (Québec): Issac-Dion Éditeur, . — 212 p.
Mary Travers dit La Bolduc site www.labolduc.qc.ca/
You can listen to an excerpt of J'ai un bouton sur la langue [WAV 857 KB] written and sung by La Bolduc. (Starr, ©1932)