I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.
Musical Group from Sanford, Maine
In the 1930s and 1940s, my husband's father, Alban Allain, played in a group that was locally popular in southern Maine and New Hampshire. It was called the Sanford Troubadours.
The band of young Franco-Americans played country-western tunes. They played for dances at local halls and also played live on the radio each week.
World War II broke the group up, as the six Troubadours went off to war. Here's their story. I'm hoping that by sharing what I know about the Sanford Troubadours, that it may stir memories so others will share what they know about this band.
The Members of the Band
The group played together for eight years and performed live on radio station WHEB in Portsmouth, NH. They opened the Youth Hour there.
In addition they entertained at dances and numberous functions in the southern Maine and New Hampshire area. Members of the band follow:
Leo Deschenes was the announcer and played the guitar.
Fernand Cote was the yodeller. He was in the army. His parents were Mr and Mrs. Frank Cote of Bowdoin Street (Sanford).
Alphonse Richard Michaud played the harmonica.
Alban Allain played the guitar.
Edward R. Deschenes played the violin.
Frederick J. Legere played the base violin.
More About the Troubadour Members
They all had nicknames that fit with their country music heroes. There was Hank, Tex, Fiddlin Joe, Half-Pint, Smiley, and Curly.
The group played together for eight years before breaking up as the members entered the military.
When asked how Smiley got his name, his son Roland Cote said, "my father, Fern, was nicknamed Smiley because he lost most of his teeth at quite a young age. He was also the original bartender at the Cellar Door Lounge when it opened on Cottage Street. Also tended bar at the VFW and the Elks."
Sanford Troubadours 1939
- Pvt. Fernand Cote, U.S. Army, stationed at Fort H.G. Wright, NY. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Cote of Bowdoin Street.
- Frederick J. Legere, S 2/c USN. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Edmond Legere.
- Pfc. Alphonse R. Michaud, USAAF, stationed at Buckley Field, Colorado. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Octave Michaud of River Street.
- Pvt. Alban Allain, U.S. Army, Pacific Theater. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Allain, of North Street.
- Pvt. Edward R. Deschenes, U.S. Army, stationed overseas. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Jules Deschenes of 32 Nason Street.
- Pvt. James Leo Deschenes, U.S. Marine Corps, stationed in Richmond, Florida. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Jules Deschenes.
Listen to Hank Williams on YouTube
If you'd like to listen to some classic Hank Williams, you'll see the kind of music that inspired my father-in-law.
"Hank" Allain was nicknamed for Hank Williams
The Allain Family after the War
Christmas 1948 at the Allain's
Musical Ability Passed Down in the Allain Family
My husband remembers his father learning new tunes by ear as he didn't read music. When Hank saw Carlos Montoya on the Ed Sullivan Show on television, he pulled a chair close to the screen and watched every movement of Montoya's finger work. He then got out his guitar and started playing and trying to replicate the style.
The Sanford Troubadours did not play together as a group after the war. In later years, Hank gave up playing his guitar and jamming with friends.
In 2009 we visited Hank's cousin and other relatives in New Brunswick, Canada. It was interesting to learn that many of them played musical instruments and were self-taught; playing "by ear." Some of them played for local clubs and dances.
As my husband traced his family history back to the first Allain who came to Canada from France, he found the musical tradition went back many, many generations. One early relative, Michel Allain, played the violin and the instrument is in the Acadian Museum in Caraquet, New Brunswick. The museum curator opened the box and pulled back the tissue paper to show us the worn wood of the fragile instrument that dated back to the 1700s.
Early Photos of Allain Relatives Who Were Also Musical
Alban's Great-Great Grandfather Played the Fiddle
Finding Michel Allain's Violin
We visited New Brunswick to learn more about my husband's Acadian ancestors. The Allains escaped from Grand Pre in Nova Scotia in the 1700s and found refuge in Neguac. My husband's grandfather left Neguac in the 1930s to find work in the U.S.
Meeting with second cousins in Neguac gave us background on the way of life there. We found the love of playing music had been passed down through the generations. They told us of an ancestor whose violin was in the Acadian Museum of Caraquet.
Anxious to see the violin of Michel Allain, we went to the museum. It was listed in their catalog but we looked all through the museum and did not see it. We asked at the information desk. When they heard that we were from the states and were descendants of Michel Allain, they took us to a storage area and gently unwrapped the fragile instrument.
Because of its age and condition, it was kept safely stored in a climate controlled area. It was over 200 years old.
The Allain Violin - Over 200 Years Old
More Allain Family Talent
We also learned that one of my husband's cousins, Don Allain of New Jersey, builds mandolins and guitars that are real works of art. The official name for this kind of craftsman is luthier. Once again, we're struck that love of music spread down through all branches of the Allain family.
Tex in the Troubadours Got His Nickname from Tex Ritter - Here's a video of Tex Ritter singing "Rye Whiskey"
Look Online for More about Tex Ritter
This is the performer that Tex in the Sanford Troubadours took his nickname from. Enjoy some old cowboy tunes and western songs.
A Typical Home or Kitchen Session - Acadian Music
The French Canadians perform a distinctive kind of music using the fiddle, accordion, piano, harmonica, and guitar.
Where Do Visitors to This Page Come from? - Flag Counter added on 05/15/2012
© 2009 Virginia Allain
More Information Wanted about the Sanford Troubadours - Did you know any of the band members?
Karen Kolavalli from Lexington, Kentucky on February 17, 2013:
What a wonderful lens! Lovely to see the early Allain family photos (hope you'll post them and more on our MyFamily page.)
LisaDH on January 07, 2013:
I think it's great that you've written this history down for others to read about. So much history can get lost between the generations, and now you've put this all here so future members of your husband's family won't miss out on these musical memories. :-)
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on January 07, 2013:
@Nancy Hardin: Nancy, I'd love to hear more about your early days. Time for more family memory lenses from you!
nightbear lm on January 07, 2013:
what a great personal history page. You have a wonderful family history.
Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on January 07, 2013:
I am thrilled to see this won a purple star. I love the story, and Hank Williams was my favorite as a young girl. I was inconsolable when he died. I used to have all the old 78RPM records of Hank Williams. As for Tex Ritter, I remember his song about Rye Whiskey (if a tree don't fall on me I'll live till I die!) I was a country music gal, and sang on early TV shows in Kentucky and Indiana. Thanks for this peek into that early country music time.
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on September 13, 2012:
This is a great article on a little slice of music in America. Thanks for sharing it!
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on September 09, 2011:
@anonymous: How exciting to hear from you, Heather! I'm thinking you are a 2nd cousin of my husband.
I'm so glad to hear that you and your daughter both play an instrument. Musical talent and interest certainly seems to be a recurring part of the Allain family.
anonymous on September 09, 2011:
I happened to stumble across this. My name is Heather Allain and Don Allain is my father. Both myself and my Daughter play the flute also! It certainly runs thick!
MartieG aka 'survivoryea' from Jersey Shore on June 23, 2011:
What interesting facts about the Sanford Troubadours and your musical family! My dad played Sax with Guy lombardo and also in an early territory band with Emerson Gill. I believe the musical talent is passed on through families although in my case it skipped right over me and went to my very talented grandchildren!-------Wish I had some information for you but I truly enjoyed learning about the Sanford Troubadours!
Diane Cass from New York on June 23, 2011:
Wow, what a wonderful musical legacy. I have never heard the term "Luthier". I like that name. I grew up watching my mom play piano and my dad lead worship in church. They often sang old gospel tunes as a quartet with their best friends. This greatly influenced me to go into music as a course of study in college. Music has been very important to me. I'm sorry I don't know anything about the Sanford Troubadours. Good luck.
blue22d on February 14, 2011:
Nice tribute to a family member. You deserve a Cupid Kiss and a Happy Valentine's Day to you.
Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on September 13, 2010:
Oh these Sanford Troubadours must have been wonderful! Fancy having these Franco-Americans in Maine taking on names from country stars - love it!