FRENCHY AND THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (Woonsocket, RI)

With its large French-Canadian population, Woonsocket, R.I., boasts itself as "the most French city in America" — so it comes as no surprise that it is also home to this mysterious little long-forgotten 45, released on the Sterling song-poem label out of Boston. "Trip" is a rudimentary three-chorder unintentionally out of sync with the heavier, noodling sounds of the nascent '70s. This wasn't an artistic statement; rather, it was a product of the band members being only 13-14 years old at the time! (However, singer Frenchy was eight years older.)

Brothers Real (pronounced "Ray-Al") and Yves "Frenchy" Carpentier wrote the songs on the band's sole vinyl release, with "Trip" supporting the single's signature tune, the ballad "We're Lonely." And as is often the case, it's the hidden rocker which raises eyebrows decades after the fact. Check out these post-Summer of Love lyrics: "Heading on a trip / Going to my nearest grave / Going down … Feel like I'm dyin' / All speeds slowing down / Slowing down." All this before the trip derails into a bizarre half-speed hallucination. But surely these young 'uns weren't setting out to create the aural equivalent of a chemical journey ... right? In contrast, the wistful a-side, "We're Lonely," is a welcome addition to the moody New England roster.

In one notable gig, the Underground Railroad performed at a YWCA in Narragansett, R.I., for an audience exclusively made up of teenage girls. Talk about living the dream.

In January 2013, Real provided the story behind Frenchy and the Underground Railroad:
"The Underground Railroad came into existence when Real Carpentier was in his early teens. He started a band with friends, but did not have the connections needed to be able to play gigs. Still, the group played school functions, local dances, and anything else they could get. The band stayed together with minor personnel changes through the subsequent months.

Real’s brother Yves Carpentier, whom everyone called Frenchy because of his thick Canadian accent, had written a song titled “We’re Lonely.” Frenchy wanted to rehearse the song with a band and asked if Real’s band would want to learn it. As the band got to know the song very well, Frenchy decided to look into the prospect of recording it. Frenchy came up with the money and signed the contract. It was then the group decided to include Frenchy as a member of the band, and the name was changed to Frenchy and the Underground Railroad. At the prospect of getting recorded, Real decided to write a song titled “Trip” to complete both sides of a 45rpm record. At the time of the recording, the personnel of the group consisted of Frenchy (Yves Carpentier) on vocals, Real Carpentier on vocals and bass, Gene Daigle on vocals and guitar, Bob Fissette on guitar, Rob St. George on drums, and Dave LaCasse on vocals and percussion. The band was managed by Ron Bachand and Alfred Brissette.

After the recording, the band had some success with performances. The repertoire included songs by the Rolling Stones, Santana, Grand Funk Railroad, CCR, and Chicago to name a few. Gigs included establishments in Providence, Woonsocket, the Narragansett area, and other local areas. They also appeared on the Andy Jackson (Big Ange) TV show. Soon after, the band underwent some personnel changes. Bob Fissette left, Rob was replaced by another drummer named Reggie, and Dave began playing the organ. This gave the band a new sound and it was decided that the name should change as well. The new name of the band became Purple Massid. [Editor's note: Real's explanation for the odd name? "It rhymed with acid!"] Purple Massid had even more success as the sound and style of the band had changed. The songs included on the 45 record were played live and received very positive responses. The band also got more creative with new compositions and took liberties with cover songs. The drummer Reggie was soon replaced by Snookie (Leslie Olson). Also, the management changed, as Ron and Alfred were replaced by Snookie’s father, Rick.

As with any other band, Purple Massid came to a crossroads, had a difference of opinion and disbanded. All of the personnel of the original Frenchy and the Underground Railroad are no longer in the music business save for Real, who has taken his creativity to theater. Real has written a full-length musical, a full-length drama, and several one-act plays. One of his one-act plays titled “Mixed Emotions” was produced in Cranston, R.I., in 2012 and published by Original Works Publishing. A preview of his musical was also shown in Putnam, Conn., in August 2012. Real’s music can be heard at www.reverbnation.com/realcarpentier."
Band members, relatives and old friends: We'd love to see some band photos. Get in touch!


FRENCHY AND THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
We're Lonely / Trip
Sterling
(S-518) Nov. 1970


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