The Brothers-in-Law

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For the film and novel, see Brothers in Law.
The Brothers-in-Law
Origin Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Genres Satire, folk, show tunes
Years active 1963 (1963)–early 1970s
Past members Alec Somerville
Howard Duffy
Larry Reaume
Ken Clarke
Bob Lee

The Brothers-in-Law was a Canadian satirical musical group that was active in the 1960s and early 1970s, recording a number of popular record albums and generating occasional controversy.

History[edit]

The group was established in 1963 by four police officers in Windsor, Ontario (hence the name Brothers-in-Law). The group's repertoire consisted mainly of musical satire poking fun at the Canadian government, sex and censorship, the law, and consumer issues. They performed and recorded a mixture of original songs and adaptations of folk and stage tunes (particularly based on Gilbert and Sullivan).

The band's most popular recording was the album Oh! Oh! Canada, released in 1965, which sold between 100,000 and 275,000 copies (sources vary as to the exact number). The album's best known songs included "Rally Around the New Flag", which lampooned the extensive political battles over the then-new "Maple Leaf" national flag design, and "The Pill", which satirized the then-topical issue of the birth control pill. The latter song was somewhat controversial for its subject matter and the album liner notes contained a warning to radio stations not to play the song.

The band recorded five albums of songs and several singles in Canada. They also recorded an album for release in the United States which included a new rendition of "The Pill" as well as "Canada-U.S.A.", a song about Canadian-American similarities and the long-standing debate over whether Canada should become the 51st state (this song was later covered by The Travellers).

The original line-up of the band included chief songwriter Alec Somerville on banjo, Howard Duffy (guitar), Larry Reaume (guitar), and Ken Clarke (bass). In 1965, Clarke left the band and was replaced by schoolteacher Bob Lee. Duffy left the band in 1966 and apparently was not replaced. The members of the group maintained their day jobs, treating their musical career as a sideline and only giving occasional performances.

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, the group disbanded in the early 1970s, however in the early 1980s a compilation album entitled Oh! Oh! Canada, Eh? was released. (The appending of the phrase "Eh?" to the title suggests its release was inspired by the success of Bob and Doug MacKenzie.) As an acknowledgment of changing morality, whereas the band's first album contained a warning about broadcasting "The Pill", the compilation amended the warning to say "be our guest."

The Evaporators reference The Brothers-in-Law in their song Gerda Musinger (about the woman of the same name) from the album Ripple Rock. Nardwuar the Human Serviette sings, "The Brothers-in-Law sang about her first / but let's further whet your thirst!"

In 2008, the Quebec-based label Unidisc reissued most of the group's albums over a three-volume CD series. Volume 1 collected Oh! Oh! Canada and Strike Again; Volume 2 featured Expose '67 and Onward the Establishment, while Volume 3 collected The Pill and the previously unissued recordings featured in the 1980s compilation Oh! Oh! Canada, Eh?

Discography[edit]

  • Oh! Oh! Canada (1965)
  • The Brothers-in-Law Strike Again (1966)
  • Expose '67 (1967)
  • Expose '67 Plus (1967) - same album as above, with additional tracks
  • The Pill (US release; year unknown, c.1967)
  • Onward the Establishment (1969)
  • Oh! Oh! Canada, Eh? (early 1980s compilation)
  • The Brothers in Law (2008) - three volume CD series collecting most of the group's albums

Note: the Canadian Encyclopedia entry for the group also lists a 1968 release entitled Total Lewdity, but this is erroneous. Somerville recorded a solo album for Arc Records entitled Total Nudity, but not as a member of the Brothers in Law.[1][2]

External links[edit]