After hanging up their instruments close to four years ago, members of the popular rock and roll band The Martels have come out of retirement and are reuniting for two Barrie concerts.
“We were all getting a lot of questions from different people about the music – that they don’t have anybody playing our music or to enjoy at Kempenfest or any of the other dances we played at,” said band member Tom Ambeau. “Then I had a request from the downtown BIA to think about doing a show celebrating the first anniversary of Meridian Place. So we had a little talk with all the band members and everyone agreed. We agreed if we’re going to do one, we could do two.”
The first performance is on June 30 at the new stage at Meridian Place from 3-6 p.m. The second performance will see the band returning to Kempenfest where they have been a mainstay on Monday afternoon for 25 years.
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They are calling their reunion ‘The Martels One More Time Around’. They’re not ruling out future shows but they plan to take it one year at a time.
Ambeau, who retired after he sold his Barrie business, Jellco Packaging, is one of five origin band members. Their early beginnings date back to the late 1950s when they were in Grade 9 at Midland Penetanguishene District High School, as it was called then.
They spent their high school years recording and backing a well-known pop artist Bobby Curtola. They toured Canada coast to coast and performed in the U.S. which meant changing their name from The Corvettes because there was an American band with the same name. So they adopted the name of Curtola’s manager Maria Martel.
Original members include singer and drummer Gary French from Elmvale; his twin brother Larry, who sings and plays lead guitar, from Penetanguishene; Milt Budarick who plays bass guitar and currently lives in Innisfil; Bert Desrochers, keyboard, lives in Penetanguishene. Ambeau, the fifth members, plays drums and rhythm guitar.
He and French grew up drumming, played with the Sea Cadets in Midland and took some percussion lessons at school and taught themselves the rest.
More members were added: Madeleine French, vocals and piano; saxophone player Russ Strathdee from Barrie; and Bill Chambers, singer, and lead guitar, originally from Barrie but currently lives in Midland.
There was a gap of several years from the late 1960s to 1979 when band members moved away, did their own thing but they moved back to the area around the same time and reunited.
“We got back together and we raised kids together and boated together (on Georgian Bay) and partied together,” said Ambeau.
They have become known for playing the music of the late 1950s and early 1960s the same way it was originally done. Ambeau’s personal favourites include a Roy Orbison set and songs by the Everly Brothers. The Martels play Kempenfest on Monday, Aug. 5 from 3-6 p.m. Special guests The Dreamboats take a more modern approach to the music of the ‘50s from noon to 3 p.m. The show goes on rain or shine at Barrie’s waterfront. Tickets are available at EventBrite or at the gate. Children age 12 and under accompanied by an adult are admitted free