The Raftsmen was a Canadian folk music group active through the early and mid-1960s. Initially formed by Louis Leroux, Martin Overland and Marvin Burke, the group collectively played 15 different instruments, including guitar, banjo and percussion, and sang songs in 13 languages. Along with The Travellers, the group was one of the most prominent and popular Canadian groups of the time. Its recordings for RCA (RCA Camden in the United States) sold well and the group's 1963 album recorded in Montreal, A Night at Le Pavillon, went on to be considered a seminal live folk performance. The single (on Apex Records) of Oscar Brand’s Something to Sing About was a national hit in the celebratory time before the Canadian centennial in 1967.
The successor group, formed after the departure of Overland and Burke, both now deceased, comprised Leroux, bassist Guy Pilette, and 12-string guitarist and arranger Donald Steven. Known also as The New Raftsmen and The Raftsmen III, the group toured and performed primarily in Eastern Canada and recorded for Banff, Rodeo, Melbourne and 20th Century Fox Records. Its single of Gordon Lightfoot’s The Hands I Love (known also as Song For A Winter's Night) was a hit and received considerable air play.
Leroux later toured with Nana Mouskouri for the better part of ten years, then became a highly respected Latin guitar player in session work and released a pair of instrumental solo albums. He subsequently became well known for his flamenco-style guitar technique, and is still sought out as a teacher.
Before he became a member of "The Raftsmen", Martin Overland was the lead singer/guitarist/music arranger for the trio, "The Strangers". The singing group consisted of Martin Overland, his sister Arlene Overland and Leon Segal, with Martin on guitar, Arlene playing the claves, and Leon on drums. They were a very popular Montreal group during the late 1950s, and had long stints at the "El Morocco", "Bellevue Casino" and other top nightclubs in Montreal, and the "One, Two Club" in Toronto. The group often did the regional club circuit throughout Quebec. "The Strangers" was under contract to London Records.
- Down in the Valley, RCA LPM/LSP-2598
- This Land Is Your Land, Camden CAS 757
- Here and There, RCA LPM/LSP 2479
- A Night At Le Pavillon, RCA LPM/LSP-2677
- On Target (Raftsmen III), Banff RBS 1279
- The Raftsmen, Rodeo SRLP 7116
- Something To Sing About, Apex 76886
- Hands I Love, Melbourne, 20th Century Fox 6698, TF-80814
- The Raftsmen at VH1.com
- The Raftsmen at allmusic.com
- Gordon Lightfoot - Covers by Song
- The Raftsmen at itcamefromcanada.com
- The Raftsmen music "Down in the Valley"
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