[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.”