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Formed in Montreal in the late 1960s as Les Gants blancs, the band went through a variety of names (including "7e Invention", "Grandpa & Company", "Offenbach Pop Opera" and "Offenbach Soap Opéra") before settling on Offenbach. The band initially consisted of vocalist Gerry Boulet, guitarist Johnny Gravel, organist Pierre Harel, bassist Michel Lamothe (son of country singer Willie Lamothe) and drummer Denis Boulet (Gerry's brother).
Offenbach released their debut album, Offenbach Soap Opéra, in 1971. Although the band's material was primarily in French, that album also included two English songs.
Denis Boulet left the band in 1972, and was replaced by Roger (Wezo) Belval. In November of that year, the band performed a "Mass for the Dead" at St. Joseph's Oratory, which was released on album as Saint-Chrone de néant.
In 1973, the band toured France, and were based there for the next two years as they toured Europe extensively. Several performances from this era were documented in the concert film Tabarnac. Harel left the band in 1974, but was not replaced; his keyboard duties were taken over by Gerry Boulet. In 1975, the band returned to Montreal.
Lamothe and Belval left in 1977 to join Harel in Corbeau, and were replaced by Norman Kerr on bass and Pierre Lavoie on drums; Jean Millaire also joined the band that year as a second guitarist, but left within the year and was replaced by John McGale. Kerr and Lavoie departed in 1978, and were replaced by Breen Leboeuf on bass and Robert Harrison on drums.
In 1976, the band recorded its first of two English albums, Never Too Tender, and toured across Canada to promote it. They subsequently released two more French albums, Offenbach and Traversion, before their second English language album, Rock Bottom, was released in 1980. Traversion won the band its first Félix Award for rock album of the year in 1979.
In 1979 Offenbach toured Quebec with the Vic Vogel Big Band. A recording of their concert at the St. Denis Theatre was issued in 1980 as Offenbach en fusion, which won the Félix Award for rock album of the year in 1980. The band also received Félix Awards in 1980 as group of the year and for show of the year, the latter honoring a concert on April 3 in which Offenbach became the first Québécois band ever to headline at the Montreal Forum.
In 1982, Harrison left the band and was replaced by Pat Martel.
The band released three more albums of new material, as well as the live album À fond d'train (documenting a successful tour with Plume Latraverse), before creative tensions within the band led Gerry Boulet to record his first solo album in 1985. The band performed final shows at the Colisée de Québec and the Montreal Forum that year; the Montreal concert was released on album as Le Dernier show and as the concert film Marci.
The musicians involved in Offenbach each pursued solo projects through the next decade. Boulet released two solo albums before his death in 1990. Leboeuf and McGale released a project together as Buzz Band; Leboeuf subsequently released several albums as a solo artist, after taking part in the hugely successful promotional tournée of Céline Dion's Incognito album (1987-1988). McGale released one solo album, entitled "Bridges", as well as collaborations with Dan Bigras, Julie Masse, Isabelle Boulay and Toyo. Harel, Lamothe and Belval formed the new band Corbach to capitalize on the history and popularity of both Offenbach and Corbeau. Gravel formed the band Patriotes, and Martel played with pop singer Carole Ann King.
In 1992, the band's back catalogue began to be remastered and rereleased on compact disc, and several of their albums once again hit Quebec's pop charts in the new format.
In 1996, Gravel, Leboeuf and McGale reunited as Offenbach for a reunion tour, enlisting Bob Saint-Laurent on drums and Bernard Quessy on piano. For vocals, they selected Martin Deschamps, who had recently won Quebec's L'Empire des futures stars competition. They toured extensively for two years, and released a greatest hits compilation in 1999. A second volume of hits followed in 2002.
In 2005, the band released Nature, which consisted of acoustic versions of their classic hits. It also includes one new song "L'amour est cruel" (Love is cruel). The music was written by Gravel in the 1980s and the words were later added by Deschamps.
In January 2007, Leboeuf was announced as the new bassist for April Wine, replacing the departed Jim Clench.
As of 2012, the band is still touring and performing shows all over Quebec as well as in Ontario, New Brunswick and France. WIth the addition of new band members, fans continue to appreciate the music during their performances and have voiced their appreciation for keeping the music alive after the passing of its former leader on numerous occasions.
The band's current line up consists of:
- John McGale: Vocals, Guitar, Saxophone and Flute
- Johnny Gravel: Guitar
- Michel Landry: Vocals and Drums
- Robby Bolduc: Vocals and Bass
- Bernard Quessy: Hammond B3 Organ and Piano
The band is also currently working on a new album of original material, the first since 1985. Recorded during the winter and fall of 2012 and the winter of 2013, no official release date has been set.
- Offenbach Soap Opéra (1972)
- St-Chrone de néant (1973)
- Bulldozer (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1973)
- Tabarnac (1975, live)
- Never Too Tender (1976)
- Offenbach (1977)
- Traversion (1979)
- Rock Bottom (1980)
- Offenbach en fusion (1980)
- Coup de foudre (1981)
- Tonnedebrick (1983)
- Live à fond d'train (1984, live)
- Rockorama (1985)
- Le Dernier Show (1986)
- Offenbach (1990, re-issue)
- Les 20 plus grands succès (1999)
- Les 20 plus grands succès, volume 2 (2002)
- Nature (2005)
- l'Ultime (2007)
- Offenbach (French) official website