D'Arcy (Darcy Draper)
Origin: Montréal, Québec
THE STORY OF DARCY DRAPER
Darcy Draper was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. He came from a musical family and by his late teen years, had formed multiple garage bands, performing around Montreal. These groups (Black Sheep, and also Lost and Found) performed at high school dances and fraternity parties throughout the latter half of the 1960's. The second group (Lost and Found) only had two original songs, all the others were covers.
After leaving the Lost And Found in late 1968, Darcy embarked on a journey of musical growth and discovery. He opted for an acoustic approach and began writing and performing exclusively original material that he wrote. This period led him to meet and befriend a young guitarist by the name of Dick Kelder. The pair would form the folk/psych duo known as Mantra in late-1969.
Mantra was an interesting project; the unity of the two budding talents, begat a fruitful period of song writing. While Dick was more focused on instrumental pieces, Darcy really came into his own with his introspective "singer-songwriter" material. They played only a few shows, but garnered a small buzz. Thanks to past friendships in the industry, they were able to secure an album deal with M.M.&C. Records (a division of Trans-Canada). This label had 20 albums and about 8 45's, all of which were country, folklore, and fiddle; except for the Mantra LP.
With the new deal in hand, the pair recruited some old friends for the sessions. Ex-band mates of Darcy and Dick's, Pierre Fauteux (bassist of Lost and Found), Graeme Lennox (keyboardist of Size Five), and Dave Walls (drummer of Size Five) provided the core band but additional musicians were brought in; Larry Douglas (of Mickey Lee & The Swingsters) on pedal steel guitar and Roger Landreville on jaw harp.
The septet descended on Champagne Studios (located at 6900 St-Denis Street) in Montreal, during the spring of 1970. The album was recorded over a two day period, showing just how proficient the band was. The song writing however, is in a league all its own. This is mostly a vehicle for Darcy's amazing lyrical songs, but features some beautiful instrumental pieces by Dick. The album casts a longing melancholic cloud over the listener, providing brief spots of heavenly golden sunshine throughout; it’s wholly unique.
Through a stroke of luck, or perhaps a dose of rightful karma, someone brought a copy of the Mantra LP to Doug Pringle. At the time, Doug was the top DJ at Montreal's CHOM FM radio station. He was a great promoter of local talent and asked Dick Kelder and Darcy (as Mantra) to perform live on CHOM FM several times.
Mantra played the coffeehouse circuit throughout Montreal/Ottawa, eastern Ontario (with brief stops to Toronto), and the Maritimes. They played at famed venues such as: The Riverboat Coffeehouse in Toronto, Le Hibou in Ottawa and The Yellow Door in Montreal. They called the coffeehouse circuit home both before and after the release of their lone studio album. In the aftermath (late-1970) however, the band realized how thin their margins were and that they wouldn't be able to make a living this way. Considering nobody wanted to make the trek to New York or Los Angeles and take a chance, Mantra disbanded; leaving behind them a musical statement of amazing depth and complexity, highly coveted by collectors the world over.
When Doug heard that Mantra was breaking up he asked if they would continue to write if they could secure a record deal. Some of the members opted out but Darcy, Graeme Lennox, and Pierre Fauteux decided to stick it out.
In mid-1971, Darcy Draper was contacted by Donald K. Donald (Mashmakhan's manager) to open for Maskmakhan at a few gigs around Montreal. Darcy, paired with Mantra band mate, keyboardist Graeme Lennox, appeared as an opening act for three Mashmakhan shows. They quickly befriended the band, particularly guitarist Rayburn Blake and drummer Jerry Mercer.
A few months later, Doug Pringle kept his word and had secured a recording deal for the band with Studio Six in Montreal and Polydor who would master and distribute an album. Graeme, Pierre and Darcy decide that going for another purely acoustic album was not viable. Darcy approached Jerry Mercer and Rayburn Blake, asking if they would lend their talents to the recordings. They had to get permission from Donald K Donald, but thanks to the favor Darcy did for him a few months back, he said yes.
The newly founded (albeit temporarily) group went under the name "D'Arcy." They began rehearsing new songs written by Darcy Draper for the project. In addition to the above mentioned quintet, additional session players were brought in for the recordings. Denis Forcier provided lead electric guitar tracks for a few songs, Tim Forsythe provided piano and organ on three songs, Ron Dan on pedal steel guitar and Roger D'loger on percussion.
Upon its release, Back At The Beginning sold fairly well locally and even managed to get regular airplay on Montreal’s CHOM, thanks to Doug Pringle’s backing. "D'Arcy" recorded Back at The Beginning in 1972 at Studio Six in Montreal. Though they could have toured, Darcy never formed a road group. Everyone else had other commitments, and with no incentive, they moved on.
For many, this story doesn’t have a satisfying end. Both Mantra and D’Arcy wallow in obscurity, fondly remembered by the musicians who recorded it and a small devoted community made up of specific fans, Canadian music historians, record collectors, etc. The records were pressed in limited runs and never reissued; now fetching large sums in the collector circuit. Both albums feature mostly original material performed by some of the top musicians in Montreal (of the time). They are regarded by many as high watermarks in the genre of Canadian singer-songwriter/folk music; especially that of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Here’s hoping that this pair of phenomenal albums will once again see the light of day for new generations to hear and enjoy.
WRITTEN & RESEARCHED BY: AARON LUSCH
I started in music playing in basement bands with some friends (Black Sheep, Lost and Found) in Montreal at high school dances and fraternity parties in the late 1960’s. We had only two original songs, all the others were covers, although we were the only band we knew that had any original material.
In the early 1970’s I changed over from playing electric to acoustic guitar and teamed up with Dick Kelder to form Mantra. I began composing original material and we recorded one album of original songs as Mantra (titled Mantra), which was released by London Records.
The album included Pierre Fauteux (bass – Lost and Found), Graeme Lennox (keyboards – Size Five), and Dave Walls (percussion – Size Five), and was recorded in only 2 days. Dick and I were pretty traditional, playing only acoustic guitars.
Mantra played the coffee house circuit in eastern Canada including Le Hibou in Ottawa, The Yellow Door in Montreal (both still in operation) and other venues in Montreal and the Maritimes.
After the album we all agreed we weren’t going to make enough to live on by playing around Montreal, and since no one wanted to take a chance on going to New York or LA we decided to quit.
Some months later I was contacted by Donald K Donald, the Montreal manager of Maskmakhan and later April Wine, to play as an opening act for Maskmakhan. Graeme Lennox and I appeared as an opening act for 3 of their concerts. That’s where we met Gerry Mercer (drums) and Rayburn Blake (guitar).
Around this time someone brought the Mantra album to the attention of Doug Pringle who was the top DJ for CHOM, Montreal’s 1st FM station. Doug was a great promoter of local talent and asked Dick Kelder and I to perform live on-air CHOM several times. When Doug heard that we were quitting he asked if we would continue to write if he could arrange a record deal.
A few months later he had a deal put together with Studio Six in Montreal and Polydor who would master and distribute an album. We agreed another acoustic album was not worthwhile and I approached Graeme Lennox, Gerry Mercer and Rayburn Blake to ask if they would participate in an album of new original songs, but one with a more folk-rock sound. They got releases from Donald K Donald and I began writing and rehearsing new songs with Graeme, Ray, Gerry and Pierre Fauteux (Bass).
We recorded the “Back at The Beginning” album in 1972 at Studio Six in Montreal. Some songs were done on an 8-track machine and later, after the studio bought a 16-track machine the album was completed.
The album got a lot of airplay in Montreal particularly with CHOM and Doug Pringle’s backing but only modest sales. We never formed a group to play the music live and did not tour. Everyone had commitments.
After that we more or less “retired” from the music scene. Gerry Mercer went on to April Wine and Ray Blake to Riverson. Pierre Fauteux later founded a recording studio in Montreal named “Giraffe” that recorded many well-known Montreal acts.
In the late 90's Graeme Lennox and I formed the "supergroup" The Travelling Willnuts, but that's another story entirely.