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The golden age of the Butte à Mathieu

Picture this: in the September of 1962, a room with walls of barn lumber, fish nets on the ceiling, checkered tablecloths, and subdued lighting from candles planted in bottles of Chianti. The audience grows quiet. The show is about to begin.

In the first part, a young man advances guitar in hand. He is not yet 20 years old. He sings his own compositions such as La Boulée and Hommage à Joao Gilberto. The public is captivated, convinced that this young unknown talent has a bright future. It was Robert Charlebois.

Black and white photo of Gilles Mathieu on accordion and Robert Charlebois on guitar sitting outside La Butte.

Gilles Mathieu and Robert Charlebois


Then, placing his foot on the first rung of his wooden stool, came the immense talent of Félix Leclerc singing L’hymne au printemps.

After Charlebois, Félix might share the stage with Gilles Vigneault, Jean-Guy Moreau and Monique Miville-Deschênes. La Butte à Mathieu would go on to produce hundreds of magical evenings like that.

Black and white photo of Gilles Vigneault with his mouth open and his hands outstretched in front of his microphone.

Gilles Vigneault


During the first year of the Butte in 1959, seven artists offered their talents to an audience that grew by the week. In 1960, there were 42 performers on the stage of the new theatre. Apart from Félix Leclerc and Raymond Lévesque, most of them were still unknown. In 1961, Claude Léveillée, Gilles Vigneault, Christine Charbonneau, Stéphane Venne, Pauline Julien and Renée Claude were among the 25 artists who entertained audiences at the Butte, always eager to hear more from singer-songwriters and other artists.

In 1965, 51 artists performed at the Butte. Until 1972, the number of shows presented was impressive, but the number gradually declined. The artists who first appeared in those small boîtes à chanson like the Butte, eventually had an opportunity to perform in much larger venues. The great tradition of modern Québec singer-songwriters was launched.

Collage of black and white photographs of 10 artists who performed at La Butte: Renée Claude, Plume Latraverse, Tex Lecor, France Gall, Clémence Desrochers, Raymond Lévesque, Louise Forestier, Raoul Roy, Marcel Mouloudji and Willie Lamothe.

Do you recognize them?