Thursday, June 04, 2020



Once upon a time, a couple of guys in San Francisco cooked up an idea to form a French '60's covers act. One bet the other he could find some chick who could sing in French to front it.  If he did, the other had to play bass. Our fairy godmother waved her wand... et voila: a tall blonde California girl who'd studied at the Sorbonne appeared before them. The bet was won, more musicians were found and the band called themselves Rue '66. Before long, yet another lovely, tall American gal appeared who could sing in French and shake a mean tambourine besides. Now the band was graced with a harmonizing duo.

They rehearsed, cut some demos and started doing gigs. A horn section offered their services and the band could hardly fit onstage. Audiences seemed pleased, smiling as they recognized some of their old favourites, this time sung in French, and dancing to the 60s go go beat. At one of these shows, a real Frenchman by name of Serge hopped up onstage and joined them for a couple of numbers. The atmosphere suddenly went from euphoria to mania. When the set ended, the crowd yelled for more... they wouldn't let the group step offstage. Serge had literally whipped them into a frenzy. He was subsequently invited to guest appear with the band again. Each time the same thing happened. Even when he stepped in with a band opening for Rue '66,  the crowd went nuts. Finally, Serge became an official member and now the band had no less than three people who could sing in French. The fellow from the start of this tale, who'd lost the bet and had taken up the bass in payment, shook his head in happy disbelief.
The happiness was not to last however as it was known that the talented performer who had just joined was living with a terminal illness. Against all odds, Serge hung on, no doubt strengthened by his love of performing with the band. This situation was not new to the group. Mark Zanandrea, the guy who dared the other that he could find a singer, was also in dire straits, physically. The odds finally began to catch up with him and he left the group and died after awhile. Serge now dug his heels in even further... when he wasn't kicking them up on stage... ever the entertainer. The group's last show with Serge was in San Francisco, the venue sold out... oversold in fact... with people spilling into the space next door just to hear, if not see the performance.  

Rue '66 talked for years about cutting an album. Serge made that happen. Organized it, found the money and helped with the production. He contributed an original song that he'd written in 1968 and co-wrote a new song just for the album. He also adapted French lyrics he wrote for a song the bass player had released back in the 80's with his band, The Trip. Serge played 12 string guitar and sang chansons by Jacques Dutronc and Eric Charden. The songs from the Rue '66 repertoire doubled when he joined because now the band was not only doing the ye ye girl stuff but the guy stuff as well.  

Most of all, Serge Martial kept Rue '66 going. His enthusiasm and hard work never wavered. It truly was an inspiration to all and his tireless efforts were unmatched plus, he was a real charmer. Cyril Jordan of the Flamin' Groovies who sat in with the band occasionally called him his "favorite Frenchman". Serge was truly one of a kind and this author feels greatly blessed to have known him and having been fortunate for getting the opportunity to work with him. 

He really loved the group. Serge was Rue '66's biggest fan.  

Au revoir, mon ami. 

Donald Ciccone (or as Serge called me, "Antoine")