James Leroy and Denim

James Leroy and Denim

The following information was gathered from various articles and comments from friends and family of James Leroy.

James Leroy was born April 3, 1947 in Ottawa at the Grace Hospital. His family came from Martintown, near which his father was born (the name Martintown was later used for James' music publishing company).
James became interested in music while attending high school at Milford Prep in Connecticut. Bob Dylan was a strong early influence. He later attended university in the United States but returned to Canada when all his friends were drafted. 
In the mid-60's he started a career as a folksinger in Ottawa. James was a self-taught musician who played both guitar and keyboards.
In the early 70's his family left Martintown and resettled in Ottawa, were they urged James to "find himself".  He alternated between selling tires for his father and practicing music.    

He started on the sidelines providing material for local groups.  Some of his first compositions were played by local Ottawa groups Renaissance and September Dawn. He also tried folk singing in small clubs. 
At one point he met Doug Orr of MRQ (Modern Rock Quartet) at a party.  Orr suggested James learn the heritage of the Ottawa Valley and incorporate it into his songs.  This was the beginning of what was to emerge as the "Denim" sound.
James approached local music impresario Harvey Glatt several times trying to convince Glatt to work with him.  Finally his persistence paid off; on a handshake Glatt agreed to work with him.  Shortly after Adam Mitchell produced James' first single,"Touch of Magic,"  and finally a self-titled album on the GRT label.  In September 1973 "Touch of Magic"  reached number 6 on the Canadian top singles chart.  The supporting group, originally called the James Leroy Group, went on to become Denim. One song James had written was "You Look Good In Denim" and the band used Denim as its name. Said James at the time, "We all wear denim, it's casual, wears well and grows on you, and who wants to throw away their old pair of jeans?"
Members of Denim included:  

- Gary Comeau on lead and steel guitar. Previous bands: Canada Goose,Esquires, and the Townsmen
- Dave Oslund on lead guitar and backup vocals.  Previous band: Jumbo 
- Gibby LaCasse on drums. Previous band: Jumbo
- Wayne Leslie on bass.  Previous band: Canada Goose, the Townsmen
- Valerie Tuck on vocals. Previous band: Canada Goose and Brimfull
- Chuck Bergeron on bass and backup vocals. Previous band: Jumbo

James Leroy and Denim were signed to GRT Records in 1973 and managed several singles throughout that year and 1974 before disbanding after two years.

Post-Denim James performed as a solo artist, touring a great deal of time with the Stampeders. During this time he also recorded some newer material for the GRT label;  two singles including "Lady Ellen" were released. These songs were produced by Ian Thomas, another well known Canadian musician of the same era. During this time James also spent some time in northern Ontario where he wrote a collection of new material.

By1976 Leroy had become lead vocalist for Major Hoople's Boarding House, whose name was changed to just Boarding House (See note below from Brad Stone).   At that time he wrote most of the band's repertoire.  At one point they toured the maritime provinces. 
In December and January of 1978 Leroy and new manager, Martin Onrot, began assembling a band, composed on several ex-Denim players and some new musicians. This band undertook a cross-Canada tour.  He also had plans to crack the U.S. market at this time.

Members of the reformed-Denim included: 

- Gibby LaCasse on drums. Previous bands: Denim, Jumbo
- Marvin Dolgay on guitar and steel guitar
- Paul Faubert on bass
- John Stimson on keyboards and vocals
Sadly, James committed suicide in Ottawa at age 32 on May 10, 1979.

On November 18, 2002 "Touch of Magic" received SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) Classic Award for achieving the 100,000-airplay mark on domestic radio.

Some family history from Ron Leroy, James’ Brother

Our father, Edgar, with his twin, Hiram,was born (1906) in the town of Moulnette (?), not far from Cornwall (Ontario), but you won't find on any current map, as it got buried when the St. Lawrence Seaway was built.
Edgar left home at the age of 16--this would have been in 1922. I don't know when Hiram struck out for himself. Our father had many jobs, including farming, mining, assembly line at GM in Oshawa, before starting the first Canadian Tire Store in Ottawa, in 1935. That store was around Bank and James St, and kept moving until at was at Kent and Laurier. He retired in 1970, and the following year, he, mother and Sue moved to Florida.
The father of Edgar and Hiram died before they were born, having choked to death on a chicken bone. Sometime after their birth, their mother married their dead father's brother, but he died long before I was ever born (1941).
They were raised on a farm, and as was common for rural folks at that time, with little money, probably created their own libations. Fermented apple cider was likely the beverage, as almost everyone had an orchard, although a still should not be ruled out. But considering that Edgar left home at 16, I'm sure that whatever the booze might have been, was not of their making, but rather an older sibling or parent.
James (1947), Sue (1953) and I, lived at 444 Piccadilly until the spring of 1958, when we moved to 920 Killeen Ave, in the west end of Ottawa. 

More family history from Cousin Brucey

James and Suzanne's Dad was indeed Edgar and  twin of Hiram born  April 10, 1906 just outside the town of Martintown, Ontario.  The family farmed there on the seventh concession (little seventh it was called).  You miss that your Dad, Edgar Oliver Lagroix was a ninth generation French -Canadian who changed his name as he entered into a Canadian Tire franchise.  A major success story but he had a partner and borrowed the start-up funds from his mother.... clearly a successful farm wife.

Emma (Sigouin) Lagroix, a seenth generation French-Canadian, remarried in 1927 to a cousin of her first husband.  James was a harness maker in Martintown.

The males of this family often seemed to die younger than the females but Edgar's father, also called Hiram but named Bouremmi, died away from home (as told to me by his wife, my Grandmother) and as reported in the official records, of pneumonia, age 38.  Emma died in 1974 at the age of 99 years, always vey proud of her many children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

And yes, James was a wonderful musician and indeed told family stories with some of his compositions.

The Major Hoople's Boarding House Years - from Brad Stone Road Manager and Lighting Designer for Boarding House

 By the time James became involved with Major Hoople, the band had already released You Girl.  Prior to actually joining the band, James was working at the Water Tower Inn in S.S. Marie as entertainment manager.  With James, the band dropped the Major Hoople's part, and became simply Boarding House.  When that collaboration dissolved,  James worked with a group originally from Winnipeg called The Terry Crawford Band, reworking many of the songs he had written for Boarding House to suit the voice of Terry Johnson,  lead singer for the band now called Crawford.
The members of Boarding House were:
- James Leroy - vocals and RMI keyboard
- Richard "Rocky" Howell - guitar and vocals
- Peter "Moss" Beacock - keyboards and synth
- Keith "Chopper" Stalbaum - bass and vocals
- Ed Miller - drums
The band was managed by Dan Mombourquette of the DRAM agency.  Rick "Pound" Moses was the FOH engineer, Brad "Woody" Stone was the road manager, and John "Wafer" Graham was the stage tech.

James was influenced by Lowell George, founder of the band Little Feat.

Story from Mel Shaw - Founding President of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences

I managed and produced the Stampeders for their career from 1965 through 1980.  All of their material to that date was on MWC with the last album on MCA. The Stampeders liked James very much (As did Fran and I). He toured with the Stampeders and was in the studio on several occasions when they recorded.

"Ronnie King and James used to imitate WOLF MAN JACK together..It was hilarious and it sounded like the Wolfman Brothers. During the recording of Hit the road Jack. We had James and Ronnie pretend to be talking. It was originally placed into the mix and I was concerned about the fact that you can't imitate a famous person for a professional project.

I contacted Wolfman's manager in LA. We had met him previously in the US when The Stampeders played on an ABC TV special AMERICAN SONG SPECIAL. I asked him if he would allow the record to come out...He asked to hear it (This was after the hit CLAP FOR THE WOLFMAN by the Guess Who).  The manager said he would not allow the voice to be imitated. He said he wanted to come up to Canada and meet some Network Executives and asked if I knew them. I did know them and we made an arrangement to have me set up and attend meetings with him so Wolfman Jack could break into Canadian TV. He  also stated that if their was  In person dates WOLFMAN WAS TO GET PAID a certain amount plus expenses.

(After the record came out, I  made arrangements to have him appear with the STAMPEDERS  at the CNE and in Vancouver)  

The manager agreed and Ronnie and I came to LA to have the Wolfman record on the track and we then went on to have a major smash in CANADA, US, AND EUROPE

A short time (AFTER RECORDING IN LA)  I introduced WOLFMAN'S manager to CBC & Global Executives and they made an arrangement FOR A TV SPECIAL that turned into a series that was syndicated all over the world. I just recently heard that the Stampeders appearance on the Special is on YOU TUBE "Hit the Road Jack".
It all started with James Leroy and Ronnie joking like Wolfman.Somewhere their are copies of James on the original disc that never was released.

I wrote the obituary of James Leroy in RPM as a tribute to his great friendship with Fran and I, Ronnie Rich and Kim and each and every family member.

He is missed and as the song goes he brought "A Touch of Magic" in to many lives during his career.

From Terri Crawford and Rick Johnson

The Terry Crawford Band worked with James in 1977-78 I believe. We intially hired James to work with the band to help us develop further musically. He travelled and rehearsed with us for about 3 or 4 months. We would perform in a bar or club and then rehearse all night or all of the next day. It made a hell of a difference to the band and definitely took us to another level. 

Following this period, we backed James up on a tour across Canada in 1978. We would perform the first and last sets on our own and back up James for the middle two sets. We toured western Canada in the spring and summer of 78 and then went into the Maritimes in the fall. It was our first venture east for the band and it opened up what was to become our biggest market. Our keyboard player, who is still with us, Dale Saunders, I believe has live tapes of us with James. Working with James was an experience. He was up and down emotionally, but always delivered on stage. I have forwarded this email to Dale as well. I am sure that he will be able to provide more info for you.

From Dale Saunders

Info from Rick and Terry Johnson is good. Brad (Woody) Stone is a good source (I have been trying to track him down for a number of years) another good reference (if still available and with us) would be keyboardist John Cleveland Hughes There is a single written by James called 'Sailor' released by Major Hooples (I think Rocky Howell is vocalist). I don't recall the label; I don't think it was GRT / Avenue of America. I am quite pleased that James is being remembered and recognized. incidentally the members of the Crawford band that toured with James: Terri Johnson - lead vocals, Rick Johnson - guitar/vocals, John Hannah - drums/vocals, Dale Saunders - keyboards, Carl Rabinowitz - bass/vocals on western swing, replaced by Al Corbeil bass/vocals for eastern tour. Brad (Woody) Stone was sound/lights engineer and technician. During our tour, (I think it was in Calgary) we recorded some demo tracks at a studio engineered by Andy Krauchuk (spelling? ) who I recall also did some stuff with a band called Jenson Interceptor.

Val Tuck - Some Words of Remembrance from a Friend

Val was a very good friend of mine. We were both tall, Libra's, and the same age. We first met at the age of six; our parents were good friends.

We lost touch with each other in our teens but met again in our twenty's. We eventually became roomies until I met my first husband. After that we would socialize from time to time.

At the age of 28 Val discovered she had breast cancer, but she had a positive attitude she would beat it; only to have it reappear five years later. Val had an up and down struggle with her cancer from that point on; she was so stoic through it all.

In the last four years of her life Val met a very caring wonderful man who was there for her all the way to the end; his name is Neil MacDonald. Music was a big part of their life's together.

Val and Neil were married in the chapel at the Civic hospital. It was a happy occasion only because Val was happy; but it was very sad too; because we knew the end was close. She was transfer to the Elizabeth Breyer shortly after her wedding day. She died at the age of 38.

I can only say the world lost a wonderful, down to earth, loving, caring person that day. She was one of a kind!

On the day of her funeral, the chapel on Richmond Road was packed with standing room only. That spoke volumes of how many people Val's life had touched in her short life.

Her husband is a good friend of mine.

Abby Heggtveit