The Montreal Express

[UPDATE 15FEB15: Played “The Montreal Express” yesterday (particularly appropriate, as the temperature on the river in Saxonville was -3.5º F when I got up) and got a call after the show from Herbie Hooven, now in his 80s.  He says the piano player was Dave Stewart (sp?), and Everett Lilly played mandolin on the session as well.  Great to hear from Herb, who is still full of vim and bad jokes. /CL]

During the latest cold snap, as I tired of frantic media references to a “polar vortex,”* I was reminded that here in New England it used to be called the “Montreal Express,” and that we had a song called “Montreal Express,” by Al Sears and his Countrymen, issued as a promotional one-sided single by the Boston Gas Company (now less memorably part of NStar). A short version appeared in a one-minute radio commercial featuring the great Dick Curless.  Our CDR copy came from Gordy Brown, who writes:

I used to play this record on cold blistery days of Winter and on annual Christmas Shows on WHRB Boston’s Hillbilly at Harvard, WCAV (Brockton’s) Homegrown Tomatoes and MIT and BC country shows.

There was a series of radio commercials written by Courtney Crandall (who wrote many memorable commercials back when) for Boston Gas, which became very popular. The Dick Curless commercial Courtney sent me, I sent to Bear Family and it is included in one of the first Curless Box Sets. [Note: You can buy the Curless Boston Gas commercial on Amazon.]

Courtney Crandall wrote the longer version and the one-sider you played was used as a fund raiser for some non-profit. I believe there were only 500 copies pressed.

Al Sears was a folk singer from Middleboro, MA. Names of the backup band escape me. Mass. Hall of Fame fiddler Herb Hooven called in years ago to say he and one of the Lilly Brothers were in the group, but memory fails on complete group.

—Gordon Brown, Founder NE Country Music Historical Soc.

Fortunately a public-spirited person called ‘HistoryBoston’ has posted the song on YouTube, along with a photo of the label:

* For those who may be interested in the history of much-hyped “polar vortex” and how it works, here’s a long discussion by Dr. Tim Ball: “It’s The Circumpolar Vortex Not The Polar Vortex And Other PR Deceptions.”

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7 Responses to The Montreal Express

  1. vo says:

    Rare Original, 45 rpm, 7″ Black Vinyl Record disc, ONE SIDED, Play Time 2:03 min.
    Released ca. 1968 on Blue Flame Records Label – NO Number.
    Private Pressing, Matrix/Dead Wax # CT-201

    “Compliments of Boston Gas”

    radio spot + promo + country music

    AL SEARS & HIS COUNTRYMEN – ‘Montreal Express’ (Blue Flame Records, US 1968)

    highly ltd ed promo, ‘compliments of Boston Gas’ & presumably made for radio ads as well
    as domestic customers..

    Picture Sleeve, with brown paper inner sleeve, 1 side with song, 1 side with a beautiful
    example of checkerboard pattern etched onto vinyl..

  2. Joan Gahan Prum says:

    Thank you for sharing this! A more decidedly “country” version of “The Montreal Express” was a very popular radio selection in the NYC area in the early 1940’s…so popular, in fact, that school children used to sing it. My brother played piano in our suburban high school dance band. “The Express” was frequenly requested at dances where they played during winter months.
    Could you possibly help me track down the recorded version I remember? Was it by “Spike Jones and his City Slickers”?.

    • Was it the same song (melody and words)? I don’t know of another, and a quick Internet search finds nothing, but I’ll ask around. Can your brother help? /CL

      • Frank DiFalco says:

        This was a non-commercial version of an ad for Boston Gas. The final line in the commercial version was…Boston Gas Heat’s the only way to beat the Montreal Express.

        I used to hear the commercials on WBZ in Boston. The non-commercial version was made available as a 45 rpm record to raise money for the Boys’ Club, I believe, in the Boston area.

        Hearing this always takes me back to my youth.

  3. Pingback: Time for The Montreal Express! | Hillbilly at Harvard

  4. Vito says:

    boston gas heat’s the only way to beat the montreal express, yeah i remember that commercial

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