This is the third and final installment of DD Fraser & The Stormy Clovers, the personal narrative by David Fougere,1 who, then known as DD Fraser, was the band’s bass player in the sixties.2 While my personal interest in the Stormy Clovers was initially predicated on their role as the first professionals to perform Leonard Cohen’s songs, I have since become convinced that the band’s brief history is significant both in its own right and for what it tells us about an important era in the evolution of pop music.
That said, this part of the Stormy Clovers story does have much to do with Leonard Cohen, then (in the mid-1960s) just beginning his career as a singer-songwriter, and Marianne, who was living with him in Montreal when he and the Clovers first met.
There are also appearances by, among others, David Clayton Thomas, Jesse Winchester, Garth Hudson, and Mary Martin as well as the Stormy Clovers themselves and others associated with them.
It’s a fascinating, well told story.
The Stormy Clovers Meet Leonard Cohen & Marianne
We first met Leonard Cohen on a sidewalk in Montreal. Leonard and Marianne were radiant together. I was just a kid from Galt, 21 years old. I had no idea there were people like that in the world.
Leonard had a compelling presence. He was always immaculately dressed. ZZ Top would have been proud of him:
They come runnin’ just as fast as they can
‘coz every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.
‘Am I a singer?’ he asked before a performance at Ontario Place, Expo 67. On another occasion he said: “My guitar is telling me not to play”.
His songs were powerful and beautiful. It took a lot of courage for him to make the leap from living room to concert hall. Invariably he would win the audience over. They could let go of some of their sorrow and grief because he showed the way.
Once he spoke of how he’d like to have a band and to play music “for the rest of my life”. He described how such a band might gather to pray before a performance.
“Marianne was incredibly beautiful … as though she were a goddess”
Marianne was incredibly beautiful. To me it was as though she were a goddess. I knew nothing about her, nothing about Hydra. Leonard hadn’t made the record yet with her picture on the back. She had recently been in Mexico. There had been another man in her life, Axel’s father. We figured that Leonard was about the luckiest man in the world and were saddened when they parted. LC has mentioned a kind of beautiful aura that surrounded the relationship of Suzanne when she was with the sculptor Armand Vaillancourt. Leonard and Marianne had this in spades. They were a sight to see. I had a dream back then that I would not see Marianne again until I was very old.
When another poet was visiting and she said as an aside: “It’s a pity he´s such a masochist”.
That startled me because it was beyond my depth. How could she know a thing like that just from looking?
She gave a gift to Pat and to me of a little Mexican charm on a turquoise string to wear around the neck “for good luck and protection”.
Once when I was tongue tied she said: “What are you trying to tell me?”
“It was about someone that I loved.” I managed to stammer.
“Well whoever she is – she’s a lucky girl”.
So said Marianne.3
The Stormy Clovers First Hear Leonard Cohen Sing Suzanne
The first time I heard ‘Suzanne’ we were at Leonard and Marianne’s apartment on Aylmer Street in Montreal. I had been in a back room listening to Ray playing ‘Satisfied Mind’ on his guitar. It was majestic, like something in a cathedral.
Then we moved to the small living room which was crowded with friends. The only place I could find was under under a table.
Suzanne takes you down to her place by the river
You can hear the boats go by…..
We were spellbound.
When the song came to an end the room was utterly silent.
I wish I had remained respectfully silent but no, the truth is I said: “Play that song again! I came out from under the table to hear that song!”
Or some dumbass inane remark like that.
At least it gave the room a chuckle. Helped us to get over being stunned, poleaxed, and gobsmacked by the incredible beauty of the song.
Eventually we learned to play Suzanne too. We played it in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax, Calgary and on CBC television, all before Leonard’s own record was made. I’m not sure we ever did it justice. I like Judy Collins’ version best because of the lovely descending guitar part.
I remember riding in a taxi down St Catherines Street in Montreal when Leonard said: “Look there’s Suzanne!”
Just a glimpse of a pretty dark haired woman on the sidewalk as we drove by in 1966.4
Leonard Cohen & The Stormy Clovers Record The Angel Soundtrack
Because Leonard and Derek May were friends we got involved with the music track for his film ‘Angel’.
I know the stars are wild as dust and wait for no man’s discipline but as they wheel from sky to sky they rake our lives with pins of light.
This was the lyric that went with the music in ‘Angel’ . The mouth harp was played by Leonard’s friend Henry Zemmel. Derek May had a budget for audio recording, a certain number of hours in the studio.
The Stormy Clovers had a tense and quarrelsome day. After eighteen or twenty attempts there was no usable track and all the studio time was used up. Leonard’s friend Robert Hershorn came to the rescue. He had a good quality reel to reel recorder in his living room. That’s where some of the Angel soundtrack was recorded, in Robert Hershorn’s living room.
We also went with Leonard to an event at a place called The Inn On The Park in Toronto in 1966. It was to celebrate the release of his novel Beautiful Losers.
Stormy Times For The Stormy Clovers
Stormy is a good description of moods within the band.
Once when we were travelling through the Rocky Mountains the quarreling got so bad that I asked to be let out of the car.
“I’ll meet you in Calgary”, I said, and I hitchhiked the rest of the way. There was just too much intelligence in the group to cram into a small car.
During another quarrel Marianne said: “I should have brought some cookies.” Meaning – what a bunch of children.
There was more harmony in the beginning when Ray and Susan were in love.
Quips, ripostes, and zingers flew like bullets in a war zone. Once Ray said to Burt: “Watch yourself or I’ll put Nair in your Dippity Doo!”
Pat could make you laugh so hard you’d have tears in your eyes.
His imitation of a pervert was hysterical. Passing a storefront he’d say: “Manikins! DD! Nude Manikins!” with great agitation and Peter Lorre style madness in his eyes.
Later the band developed fault lines.
Meeting David Clayton Thomas And Jesse Winchester
Pat and I used to scratch our heads and pretend to be monkeys. We were the ‘Chimp Faction’ and, at times, we explored the possibility of moving on together. To that end we met with David Clayton Thomas in Toronto. David had just written a song called Spinning Wheel and he sang it for us. I didn’t much care for the song. In this judgement I was guided by my infallible internal instinct for making the least money.
We also met with Jesse Winchester. Jesse was waiting out the Viet Nam war in Montreal. (Canada had the balls then to offer sanctuary, not any more.) It didn’t take more than a few songs for him to see that I was too much a beginner to play the deep Americana that he favoured. I have loved many of his songs over the years…Wiggy, If I were Free, I Want to Mean Something to You, Yankee Lady, Willow, and The Brand New Tennessee Waltz..all gems.
Burt, our equipment wrangler, was seventeen, irrepressible, unfailingly cheerful.
Susan loved to tell the story of how Burt broke the news that our van had rolled on the highway. It was an old Volkswagen service truck that we bought from the Bell telephone company. Burt was driving from Montreal to Ottawa in a snowstorm, using a rope threaded through the window as an accelerator cable. When he wanted to slow down, he’d shake the rope and say “SShh Woah!”. Susan got a phone call in the night and the voice on the other end said: “Is Burt’s bum ever cold!”
Once I said to Burt that he shouldn’t be wasting his time being an equipment man for fifty bucks a week. I said he ought to go to school and learn a better trade. He said: “Yeah. But if I do that, then who will be your friend?”
Burt has a part in Gordon Sheppard’s twenty minute film ‘The Stormy Clovers’. He has one line to say: “I’ve just had a revelation about myself.”
Mary Martin Introduces The Stormy Clovers To Garth Hudson
Our manager Mary Martin was a consummate match maker. She put Leonard Cohen and the Stormy Clovers together and The Band with Bob Dylan.
I imagine it pleased Leonard at the start of his songwriting career to have a ready made band of younger people happy to play his songs. (In 1965 Susan would have been 24 years old, Ray 22, me 21, and Leonard 31).
One of the greatest things that Mary did was to persuade Garth Hudson to hang out with us.
Garth carried in his briefcase the chanter from a set of bagpipes because he was interested in the intervals of that scale. He carried tapes of Appalachian music. He got us listening to sweet mountain harmonies, and singing along.
My Lord keeps a record
of the moments I’m livin down here
He knows all about me – my troubles, my sorrows, my fears.
I’m livin each moment through the mercy of God’s lovin grace
Some day He will call me
to that wonderful, beautiful
We were at a party in New York with some almost famous people. Garth said: “Let’s get out of here. We’ll go hear some music.”
I said “That doesn’t seem very polite to me, to leave just like that”
Garth said: “This is the same scene that I’ve been watching for thirty years. They won’t even know you’re gone.”
We went in a taxi to a jazz club somewhere in the city and heard an amazing saxophone player.
Garth had names for the emotional character of all the musical intervals. He gave this information to Ray. The only one I remember is the name he gave to the major 7th chord. He called it ‘Sickly Complacency’.
Christopher Nutter: “sickly complacency” – and he drew a cartoon face with a wavy line for the mouth, like Charlie Brown overwhelmed… I remember he said that in school they get us thinking music is made of notes, but it’s not, it’s made of intervals, the relations between notes, and we should try hard to think of it that way, and learn to recognize the intervals in use by their character. Then he made a list of them, with a word or two beside each one, and a small cartoon face… That was in the Penny Farthing, in the late afternoon I think.
He gave me a series of finger exercises called partials, written with incredible neatness on music staff paper. He said to someone else that I was a ‘natural’ but he wasn’t sure if I’d do the work.
In Ottawa, at Le Hiboux, the house band wanted Garth to get on stage with them. After much persuasion he got up, but just to keep things fair, he played with only one hand.
In New York we stayed at the Chelsea Hotel, and spent a lot of time in a recording studio (at somebody’s expense). Garth played on some of the tracks. While we were in New York Mary called me in to her office to to tell me that there was an opportunity for me to play bass for Ian Tyson. I said “No. I couldn’t do that. Couldn’t leave my friends.”
I never was any good at taking a hint.
Lots Of Guys Had Crushes On Susan Jains
Was Leonard Cohen One Of Those Guys?
All the journalists I have spoken to have hoped to find there was something spicy going on between Susan and Leonard. If there was anything romantic I was not aware of it. Both of them were in other relationships at the time. Then again, if there was something , would they say “Jeez! Lets hurry back and tell the young bass player all about this.”
I don’t think so.
In those days, if you were to walk into the Penny Farthing in Toronto, the Venus de Milo Lounge or the New Penelope (Montreal) or Le Hiboux in Ottawa when the Stormy Clovers were playing and you fired a water gun into the crowd, the chances are good that you’d soak at least six guys who had a crush on Susan. And with good reason. She had intelligence, a great sense of humour, a lot of vitality, and usually, a short dress.
She’d step up to the microphone, smile mischievously…and burp. So much for convention. She loved performing, loved being in the band. Pat usually managed to get her going. I can still hear her deep laughter. She read Doris Lessing.
She was liberated before liberation was invented.
Derek Hellstrom: Lump in my throat? Yes. Tears. Most definitely. Memories flit through my brain like moths dancing around the flame of a candle.
Sitting at that front table in the VD room, completely spellbound by your music. Susan with her tambourine and little bells. Ray in that striped, wool suit (which must have been very, very hot) playing that huge, 12-string guitar. Pat looking like a young Bob Dylan with his curly hair and impish grin, and you, seeming ever so serious, as you laid down the base line for each and every song. A repetoire that was not just based upon the works of Lightfoot and Cohen, but included the Stones’ “Singer Not The Song”, Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say”, “Get Together” (anonymous as far as I know), Donovan’s “Catch The Wind” and tunes of your own, like “Amethyst Harbour” and “Three Gold Pennies”…
The Stormies affected me far more than the Beatles. Your music was not just pleasing to my ears, but touched my soul. The owner of the VD room actually lived a few doors down from my parent’s home. So I made certain that I was advised whenever you were booked to play that venue. I didn’t have the same “pull” with the New Penelope, so kept a close eye out on their posters so that I would know if you would be playing there. I scrounged money from any and every source to attend every performance possible. Although I had each set pretty much down pat, your music never ceased to be new and exciting for me. If I had been able to figure out a way, I would have followed you guys back to Toronto and hung out there as well.
John Workman: Yes, me and my buddies were among those who enjoyed seeing and hearing the Clovers at the VD room whenever you came to town. We were all in love with Susan too, and watching her jump around with her tambourine in those short skirts was very pleasant. Of course, we got as close to the stage as possible. Later, I saw her and Peter Hodgson (Sneezy) perform at what was then Sir George Williams as Rosewood Daydream.Later, on taking the bus home, I spotted them sitting at the back of the bus, but I was too chicken to go say hi etc. I Regret that.
Jeremiah McCaw Budnark: . . . and the most expressive, mobile face I’d ever seen. It was like every thought and emotion she had was instantly revealed in her expression.
Christopher Nutter: She had so many different sides to her – the grinning, childlike innocence and openness side reminded me of Popov, the great Russian clown, master of the slackwire – and yet also present, ready to spring into action, was a debater as witty and capable as Mary Shelly, or Margaret Atwood – a great reasoner, but also a sharp satirist, and withering polemicist. She was well read, to be sure, but more to the point, she really cared. So Jean d’Arc was there as well, and could be depended on to come charging forth in defense of truth, justice, human decency, and underdogs everywhere… she wouldn’t tolerate bullshit. I remember she really loved Lenny Bruce and Lord Buckley… And so all these… sides of Susan were present all at once – not all speaking and acting simultaneously of course, but all present, alert, ready to respond – toute la gang – and so my theory is this accounts for that really big kind of a thunderclap of a laugh she had – which we all loved so much. That laugh could really wake you up. It could cure what ailed you. You heard that laugh, and you wanted to hear it again. Again and again…
The Venus De Milo Lounge on St Catherine’s Street (AKA The VD Room) was our base in Montreal. Christopher Nutter often joined us with his oboe. He was the fifth Stormy Clover and we were always glad to have him on the stage.
Christopher remembers Leonard sitting at front table there. Marc remembers “LC humming in the back of the VD room while Susan sang Susanne by the River. The VD crowd, very annoyed, shushed him.”
The Stormy Clovers set list soon grew to include Tonight Will Be Fine, Sisters of Mercy, Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye, The Stranger Song, and Suzanne.
We played many shows with Leonard, among them: Ontario Place at Expo 67, the University of Waterloo… (Ray’s mother Mildred was there, and oh, she was proud when Leonard asked her; “How did you raise a boy so free?”), and Adrienne Clarkson’s ‘Take Thirty’ TV show.
Christopher and Pat can be heard at Walking . Christopher plays oboe and vibraphone. Pat, drums and harmonica. And I am there as composer playing a Hofner bass and my brother’s Gibson C1E Guitar – the same model that Ray had.
The improvised oboe solo starting at 2:00 is still one of my all time favorite pieces of music. It began as a song I wrote for Leonard to thank him. We all looked up to him. I wanted to acknowledge that he had his troubles. You have only to listen to Avalanche or Priests to sense the anguish that he felt – his vision beautiful, but painfully austere.
my priests they will put flowers there
they will kneel before the glass
but they’ll wear away your little window Love
they will trample on the grass
they will trample on the grass
Christopher and I went to Leonard’s house in Westmount one night and played that song for him. He was good enough to listen to us even though we’d interrupted him courting a girl. It was not a good night for courting. He had tried to light a fire in the fireplace. The room filled up with smoke. He called the fire department. Just as the firemen were leaving, we showed up.
Christopher Nutter: I remember the red light from the fire engine flashing across Leonard’s face in the doorway, in an awkward sort of silence – the firemen moving about in the living-room. I said “Happy Fire, Leonard!” He smiled, invited us in. He said he’d been burning some old poems in his mother’s fireplace (it being her house). He gave us diet colas, and said he’d been thinking lately how there weren’t enough benedictions in our world. He talked about their plenitude in the Torah. Then we performed the song. Good song, as I recall – honest, heartfelt, and inspired.
Before we left he wrote a cheque for $50 and gave it to me. I didn’t ask for it and felt bad about taking it. I guess he knew I was out of a job and he didn’t want me to be penniless.
What DD Fraser & Leonard Cohen Said To Each Other Backstage In 1993
In 1993 Leonard was on tour to promote the album ‘The Future’. One of the shows was in Kitchener. My daughter and I were in the audience. During the intermission we walked towards the backstage until we ran into a security guard. I scribbled a note saying that I had once played bass for the Stormy Clovers and that I’d be most grateful if my daughter and I could say hello. We went back to our seats.
“I can’t promise you anything ” I said “It’s been 24 years.”
When the show ended we went back again and this time stood with about thirty people who were hoping to catch a glimpse of Leonard.
After a while that same security guard came back out and pointed to the two of us and waved us in past the barrier. A young man came to escort us down a long hallway.
“So you used to be in the band” he said, to make conversation.
The feeling that I had then in my feet was what Cloud Nine must feel like. A bit soft and surreal.
My stock as a father soared to an all time high.
We came into a backstage room where a table was set out with wine and cheese.
Leonard came to greet us. We just stared at each other for a while and then he said: “We got old”.
“Then we’ll have to be like wine” I said “and keep getting better”.
The following week when she was back in high school my daughter was telling one of her friends about the concert.
“Oh my God!” her friend said “I only got to meet Sarah McLachlan, but you got to meet… God!
A Personal Request
If you know any of these people please ask them to contact me. Reward – my eternal gratitude.
- Jack Mowbray – guitar player, tool and die maker, last known address – Dundas, Ontario
- David Smith – manager and booking agent for Ray’s band – Cambridge, Ontario
- Jim Smith – bass player, retired school teacher, last known address – Hespeler, Cambridge, Ontario
- Pat (Graham) and Lena Patterson – last known address. Toronto, Ontario
- Christopher Patterson (their son) – a man in his mid forties by now
- David Kay – Montreal – gave me a job with the family firm, Kay Manufacturing
DD Fraser’s Bass Guitar
I still have the Hagstrom 8 string bass that I sometimes used in the SC band.
“What are you keeping it for?” asked my old friend Joe (may he rest in peace, or not, as he sees fit)
“Maybe I’ll learn to play it properly in my old age” I said
“You better not wait too much longer” said Joe.
Credit Due Department: The photo of The Stormy Clovers performing was contributed to the Stormy Clovers Facebook Page by Nicholas Jennings. The graphic from Angel is a screen capture from the video. The scanned ticket and the photo of David Fougere were contributed by David Fougere. The photo of Garth Hudson and the other members of The Band was found at The Music by Levon Helm.
The Heck Of A Guy Stormy Clovers Page: All material relating to the Stormy Clovers, including the “DD Fraser & The Stormy Clovers” narrative, can be accessed through Heck Of A Guy – Stormy Clovers.
- More information about David Fougere is available at his CBC biography page. [↩]
- The complete narrative, i.e., the previous installments as well as this final portion, is posted at DD Fraser & The Stormy Clovers: The Narrative [↩]
- There is an interesting interview with Marianne here: Interview with Marianne. [↩]
- For an update you can google Suzanne Verdal. [↩]