The Gleaner
Nanette Workman

Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver

Question: How is it that you came to live in Quebec from the United States?

~

In the last column for The Gleaner, I wrote about my experience in New York and Broadway in the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

In January of 1966, summer stock of How to Succeed had come to an end, and I wasn’t really interested in doing another musical. I wanted to try something different, so I cruised around the clubs of New York and sang with different bands.

One night, when I was singing at the popular Rolling Stone Club with a band that was later to be known as The Young Rascals, I was approached by a handsome young Italian who asked me to dance. His name was Tony Roman.

I was to find out later that he was a big star in the province of Quebec, in Canada. I didn’t have any idea where that was, or that they spoke French there. Tony was sitting in the club with the famous Shadow Morton, the producer of two popular groups at that time, The Shangri-Las and The New York Dolls. I believe I was duly impressed!

Tony and I were inseparable for the next three weeks, and when he asked me if I wanted to go back with him to Montreal, I was thrilled. I was in love with Tony by then, so I would have followed him anywhere.

After Tony heard me sing, he said he knew right away that I could have a great career in music and that he would take care of me as my manager (and much more!).

We left New York in the middle of winter by train to Montreal. I had never seen so much snow in all my life! Not long after we arrived in Montreal, Tony produced my first recording, Et Maintenant, originally by Gilbert Becaud, but with the arrangement of the American hit What Now My Love by Sonny and Cher.

No record company wanted to release my record because of my accent, so Tony started his own label, Canusa Records. He had enough material from music that he had recorded in New York to open his own company.

Et Maintenant was a huge hit, remaining on the Quebec Palmares (hit parade) for over three months and was the beginning of a long and successful career for me in Quebec.

Tony and I made the front pages of all the “vedette” papers constantly, and a week didn’t go by that they didn’t talk about Tony and Nanette.

I recorded three French albums for Tony and two albums with him, including one from our own television show on Radio Canada, Fleurs D’amour et Fleurs D’amitié, on a stage at the site of Expo 67. I was thrilled that year when I won “Révélation de l’année” awards which were similar to the now-coveted “Felix.”

We travelled often to Europe to promote my albums. Tony had a desire to expand my career in the United States as well. He believed that it would be a great publicity coup to get a famous American magazine to do an article on me. Thus, six pages in Vogue magazine followed, photographed by the most popular fashion photographer in the world at that time, David Bailey. I also modelled for Lui magazine in France – fully dressed, of course!

With the release of my first English album in the United States, I made an appearance on The Pat Boone Show in Los Angeles as part of the promotional tour. I also appeared twice on the popular David Frost Show in New York.

I had been in Quebec for two and a half years when I met Richard Armitage, the owner of the British management company and music publisher, Noel Gay. He heard me sing and suggested to Tony that I come to England to record an album in English for the European market.

So, I was off on another plane to “jolly old England.”

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