Leonard Cohen And The Stormy Clovers
The Stormy Clovers and Leonard Cohen go way back.
The Stormy Clovers were, in fact, the first band to play songs written by Leonard Cohen – a year before Judy Collins or Cohen himself would perform his music on stage and at a time when Cohen was identified as a poet.
The first band I sang that ["Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye"] for was a group called the Stormy Clovers, a Canadian group out of Toronto. I wrote it in two hotels. One was the Chelsea and the other was the Penn Terminal Hotel. I remember Marianne looking at my notebook, seeing this song and asking, “Who’d you write this for?”1 [emphasis mine]
The album’s liner notes note that Cohen “has recently been writing songs for the rock group, the Stormy Clovers.” click on image to enlarge
The Mary Martin Connection
In 1966, Cohen had moved to New York, where he was introduced to Mary Martin, a Canadian who managed some acts of her own, including Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, and the Band, as well as working for Albert Grossman’s agency.
Martin, who is credited with putting the Hawks and Bob Dylan together, hooked Cohen up with her first solo management client, the Stormy Clovers.4
The Stormy Clovers – Not Just Leonard Cohen’s House Band
By all accounts, this was one of those win-win deals. Leonard Cohen not only got to hear his songs played by professional musicians but began to build his own reputation with the support of a band with its own following. The Clovers – well, they got Leonard Cohen to write songs for them, and they were for a time part of the special world he and Marianne inhabited.
The Stormy Clovers were indeed the first band to play Leonard Cohen’s songs, but they were much more than that. This excerpt from a review of the Stormy Clovers by Jack Batten in the 25 June 1966 Montreal Gazette (page 49) is instructive:
And Nicholas Jennings, writing in “Before the Gold Rush” (Penguin Canada 1997), notes that
Montreal’s Leonard Cohen also made an appearance at Mariposa that summer courtesy of The Stormy Clovers. [emphasis mine]
Jennings goes on to point out
Again, it’s the Stormy Clovers blazing the trail for Leonard Cohen.
The Clovers also backed Cohen in his first TV appearance, “Take 30″ with Adrienne Clarkson, and performed the soundtrack for “Angel,” an art film based on a poem by Leonard Cohen.
The turning point for the band came at the end of 1966 when a recording session in a New York studio failed to produce the hoped for album comprising their original material and songs by Leonard Cohen.
While the Clovers played clubs and university campuses throughout early 1967 and were headliners at the Ontario Pavilion of Expo’67 in August of that year with Cohen joining them on stage for several of his songs, the band soon irreparably fractured and by Spring 1968 no longer performed as a group.
The Stormy Clovers Story
There is more to the story, a blend of low comedy, genuinely tragic events, and everything in between, all of which deserves to be told and not forgotten. Toward that end, Heck Of A Guy is taking on three projects beyond today’s introduction.
- Ongoing posts about the Stormy Clovers, including but not limited to their association with Leonard Cohen.
- The publication of an outstanding narrative, written by David Fougere aka DD Fraser – the name he was known by when he played in the Stormy Clovers – that not only provides a historic account of the Clovers but also reveals much about the musical scene in the sixties.
- A video featuring the earliest known surviving audio recording of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” performed, of course, by the Stormy Clovers, and supplemented with photos of the band, Leonard Cohen, and the Montreal waterfront.
All material relating to the Stormy Clovers can be accessed through Heck Of A Guy – Stormy Clovers.
Video – Stormy Clovers Sing
Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne 1966
Stormy Clovers: Resources
- By far the best source of information about the Stormy Clovers is the Stormy Clovers Facebook Page. Much of the material in this post derives from that page, which also includes photos, audio clips,
- David Fougere aka DD Fraser, author of the Stormy Clovers narrative to be published here, is represented by the David Fougere CBC site featuring his biography and four of his songs.
Credit Due Department: The Mary Martin ad was posted on the Stormy Clovers Facebook Page by Nicholas Jennings. The photo atop this entry was posted on the Stormy Clovers Facebook Page by Nicholas Jennings. The photo of the Stormy Clovers in front of the Penny Farthing is from Before the Gold Rush by Nicholas Jennings. Penguin Canada 1997. The sources of the other graphics are as noted.
- Leonard Cohen Los Angeles 1992 from Songwriters On Songwriting by Paul Zollo. Da Capo Press 1997 [↩]
- Phyllis Webb, Earle Birney, John Newlove, Alfred Purdy, Irving Layton, George Bowering, and Gwendolyn Macewen [↩]
- This was Cohen’s second album. His first LP on which je performed was an analogous project, the “Six Montreal Poets” album with A.J.M. Smith, Irving Layton, Louis Dudek, F.R. Scott, A.M. Klein, and Leonard Cohen released by Folkways Records in 1957 [↩]
- Before the Gold Rush by Nicholas Jennings. Penguin Canada 1997 [↩]