Official Pathé poster created by Gérard Neuvecelle
Liz Brady was born Raymonde FLEURAT on January 5, 1940 in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo,
the capital of Egypt, to a French father and a Greco-Sicilian mother. Liz joined the ranks of many other French recording artists born in Egypt such as Claude François, Dalida, Richard Anthony, Georges Moustaki and Georges Guétary. Their families had settled down in that country, since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, either because they worked for the Canal’s companies or because they traded cotton and gold, which were Egypt’s main resources.
Because of the varied origins of her family, Liz spoke many different languages from a very young age, including French, Greek, Italian and Arabic.
As her father’s family was very French, they welcomed into their home twenty members of the French Foreign Legion, waiting to leave for El Alamein in 1942. After dinner, during parties thrown to honour and entertain them, the soldiers would take Liz in their arms and twirl her around to the sound of her grandfather’s piano playing. Liz says that this is probably when her passion for music and dancing was born.
The day the Legionnaires left for the front they wrote ‘Mondie’, Liz’s baby nickname, in lime on the hoods of their Jeeps and christened her ‘Mascot of the Legion’, by pouring a bottle of Arak on her head! Liz’s grandparents had filled the Jeeps with plenty of provisions for these men, who had to go fight what turned out to be the deadliest of battles for the Legion, during World War II.
At the age of four, already attending school at ‘The Mothers of the Sacred Heart’, a convent where the nuns came from wealthy French families, Liz was cast in the part of Jesus in the manger for the Christmas show. Can you believe her first role was that of a boy?!
When she turned seven Liz’s parents enrolled this only child in the Cairo chapter of the French Girl Guides, a non-religious group, in the hope she would learn to mingle with children of different backgrounds and not grow up to be shy and a loner. She quickly became leader of a clan: The Bambis. She adopted her father’s nickname: ‘Moustique’ (mosquito)! He had been a Boy Scout in that same company.
By age fifteen she was determined to earn her badge of: ‘Life of the Party’, so at the annual parents’ day, she put together a musical comedy that she wrote. She sang, danced, introduced the actors, prompted them and even drew the curtain! Everyone was delighted and she got her badge!
Her world was turned upside down when in December of 1955 her father received a job offer and the family moved to Kenya, where Mr. Fleurat worked at the French Consulate in Nairobi. It may be important to underline the fact that Liz’s great-grandfather had been the Consul General of the Netherlands on the Greek isle of Rhodes. The family had a long history of diplomatic service and travel.
It took Liz two years to master the English language at the Kenya High School for Girls, in Nairobi, from which she emerged with an Overseas Cambridge School Certificate, with distinctions in both English Language and English Literature! She had weathered being the only girl at the Kenya High School who spoke no English, when she first came from Egypt, where she had only been educated in French and Arabic.
Becoming a singer had not crossed Liz’s mind; her academic excellence was more important to her… and especially to her mother, who thought, already in those days, that a woman should hold her own and not simply rely on a husband; but Liz was fascinated by music. She knew by heart many songs of famous singers of the time: Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Sammy Davis Jr., Gilbert Becaud, Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf, to name a few.
At the height of Rock’n’Roll Liz often took part in dance competitions. This is how she met her dancing partner, who was a British officer. They began to appear in high level contests, for which they won many prizes. They were invited to give exhibitions all over Nairobi. Liz remembers that one night they were accompanied by a young student singer-guitarist: Roger Whittaker! Little did she know then that he would go on to become a huge star in Europe and Canada!
Her dance partner, who had fallen head over heels in love with her, asked for her hand in marriage. Her father gave his consent and on January 17, 1959, at the age of 19, Liz became Mrs. Braid. It is now easy to see why her stage name would be: Liz Brady.
Soon after the wedding Liz’s husband returned to his home in England, he had just been demobilized. They had planned to settle down in Kenya and he had promised to return immediately... but he didn’t. He asked her to join him instead. After a string of disappointments Liz realized that their marriage was not working out and, although she was pregnant, she left him on May 1, 1960. She took a plane back home to be with her mother, who had not liked living in Kenya and had returned to Egypt. Liz gave birth to a baby girl, Margaret-Anne, on September 27, 1960 in Alexandria, surrounded by her loving family and friends.
From May to September Liz had enjoyed long drives along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in Alexandria, with her cousin Claudine in Claudine’s convertible. They listened to the radio and Liz sang along with everything that was broadcast! Claudine thought her cousin had a beautiful voice!
In order to make a living for herself and her daughter, Liz gave English lessons to Egyptian officers. She worked twelve hours a day and earned little. Claudine took note of the struggles of her cousin and saw an opportunity to make use of her talents.
The teachers at Saint Marc’s were putting together a musical comedy entitled ‘In the Cycles of the Centuries’, telling the story of music from Adam and Eve to Rock ‘n’ Roll. Claudine, who was part of the cast, invited Liz to join them to sing. Liz answered: “But Claudine, I’m not a singer, and I really don’t have the time!” Claudine complained to Liz’s grandmother, who was very religious: “You’re not going to refuse your help to the church to raise funds!” said Madame Fleurat, “You must go to the rehearsal tonight. Your grandfather and I will take care of your daughter!”
In the meantime her cousin had already bragged about her to the cast, so when Liz opened the door of the amphitheatre, they welcomed her with a thunder of applause. Liz was very intimidated and headed back out, but Claudine grabbed her by the arm and dragged her to the stage! The pianist asked her what songs she knew. Liz went totally blank. “Give me the title of a song, any song and I’ll accompany you”, he said. She chose Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock.’ At the end of the song, it was sheer madness and everyone begged her to stay! She gave in and became the soloist of the show. Rave reviews were written in the newspapers of Alexandria after opening night. Additional performances were scheduled, which became very lucrative for Saint Marc’s.
One evening after the show, members of the cast had dinner in a Greek restaurant called ’Elite‘. Wine was flowing so they went to the microphone, each in turn, and did excerpts from their musical. As Liz sang, the owner dashed across the room to their table and said to her show partners: “This girl is tremendous!” Without skipping a beat her cousin Claudine answered: “She is a star in France… She is just here on vacation!” That was a spur-of-the-moment invention, but it was the turning point of Liz’s life. When Liz came back to the table, the owner asked her: “During your vacation, can you sing here every night?” Unbeknownst to him, he offered her twice as much as she earned teaching all day, so, wishing to make a better life for her daughter whilst separated from her husband, Liz accepted. Down the road she had to give up teaching, moonlighting was beginning to take a toll on her. The owner who now knew the real story gave her a raise so she could afford to stop teaching. This is how Liz became a full-time entertainer.
In 1961 a customer at ‘Elite’ noticed her. He was a talent scout from Lebanon and asked Liz to put together a quartet for an engagement in a casino in Syria. She hired a pianist, a drummer and a sax player. As a name for her Combo she took the beginning of her first name, Raymonde, and called her group The Four Rays. She separated her name in two and the stage name Ray Monde was created. This name had a double meaning -‘monde’ means ‘world’ in French. She was obviously ambitious as she saw her singing talent shining on the world!
We have to mention that Liz, as she says it herself, was a tomboy. She always wore pants and flat shoes, she was small and thin, and with short hair she looked more like a young lad than a young lady. This turned out to be helpful for keeping unwanted sexual advances at bay and the ambiguous look attracted curiosity, which was successfully exploited by club owners in all of the countries where she performed, including the Middle East, East Africa, Greece, Germany, England and France. In some clubs the audience was actually invited to guess whether she was a boy or a girl!
So Liz, with her three musicians, left for the casino of Lattaquieh in Syria, where she sang dance music for many hours, seven nights a week, thus increasing her international repertoire.
At the end of each overseas booking she always came back home to Egypt where she could enjoy being with her daughter, mother, grandparents and friends. They were all so happy for her success and kept encouraging her to continue singing.
In Cairo at the Grand Continental Hotel, she sang with the hotel’s dance band, introduced entertainers who came from Europe and had a solo spot at the end of the show. The audience loved her so much that she was promoted. No longer just a dance band singer and emcee, now she was billed as a Star!
Later Liz performed on one of King Farouk’s former yachts, turned into a first-class elegant nightclub called the ‘Laila’, moored on the river Nile in Cairo.
Liz’s mother invested in the production of the first record of Ray Monde, appropriately titled ’Maman’. She registered her daughter’s own label: Scarabee. She took the disc door-to-door around Cairo’s cinema houses and convinced them to project a slide of a photograph of the record while it played, during intermission before the featured movie!
In 1962 Liz appeared at the Capitol Hotel of Beirut, in Lebanon. This is where Liz spoke to French dancers and asked them the address of their agency in Paris, to whom she immediately wrote. She felt very much like going to sing in France, her family’s country. When her contract was over in Beirut, Liz’s agent sent her to Cyprus.
In 1963 Liz came back home to Egypt once more and received an offer to be part of a tour called ‘Continental Cabaret’. The cast consisted of entertainers from all over the world. They went to East Africa where they played in cinema houses in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and on Zanzibar Island, in front of the Prince himself! The tour suddenly stopped in Mombasa, Kenya. The producers had vanished overnight without paying the entertainers, leaving them stranded!
The owners of the New Florida, who had enjoyed Ray Monde in ’Continental Cabaret’, hired her in their nightclub overlooking the Indian Ocean in Mombasa.
While on tour Liz had gotten close to a family of Italian acrobats. They, too, were lucky enough to find work, but in Athens. Once there they saw to it that Liz was hired to sing in Kifissia, in the mountains of Greece, during the summer. The owner of the ‘Copa’ night-club in Athens noticed Liz and invited her to perform in his club. (Nana Mouskouri had sung in this club before becoming an International recording Star. It was an honor to be booked there!) Liz sang the songs of Charles Aznavour. At the time, it was a ‘must’ for the Athenian ‘in’ crowd to speak French and they were very keen on Aznavour. Liz was tremendously successful there.
While in Athens Liz befriended a couple of Americans who were exhibition ‘twist’ dancers and, at the end of her contract at the ‘Copa’, she left with them for the American military base of Wiesbaden in Germany. There they performed for the troops.
Liz left Germany to spend Christmas of 1963 in England with another of her cousins, Jacqueline. Her mail had been forwarded and upon her arrival she found a letter from Lilette Voland and Roberta (a former singer) from the MODEI Agency in Paris. Finally, the opportunity she had been waiting for. The agency was interested in representing her and she was asked to come to Paris for an audition.
She arrived in the City of Lights in January of 1964. At this time, Liz clearly had a British accent. She was still married to a British man and therefore held a British Passport. This is why she was mistakenly introduced, at first, as a British singer.
On the night of her audition, which took place at the ‘Dolce Vita’ in Montparnasse, tucked away in a dark corner of the club, obviously ‘incognito’, were Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis! Liz could feel her knees shaking uncontrollably, however, she did very well and was subsequently hired to sing at ’Elle et Lui’, across the street from the ‘Dolce Vita’. Although she had signed a fifteen day contract, she ended up working there fifteen months! The owner, ‘Papa Marcel’, who had nicknamed Liz: ‘Baby Ray’, because of her size and her accent, did not want to let her go. She drew crowds who showered her with red roses and Champagne. Her managers realized that with her stage presence she had a real future, they promised to start work immediately on making her a big recording star and convinced her to sign an exclusive contract with their agency.
She was not Liz Brady yet.
One night in the wings of ‘Elle et Lui’ a tall man held out his business card and told her: “Give me a call, I’m very interested in signing a contract with you”. This man was Johnny Stark himself! Liz did not know him or anyone else in show-business in Paris at that time. Agents had very strict rules for artists under exclusivity contracts with them: “No meetings with competitors”, she had been told by her Managers at the Modei Agency. So Liz threw the business card away!
Three years later, in 1967, she saw Mr. Stark again. She was now LIZ BRADY performing at the famous ‘Olympia of Paris’! She had already recorded 4 EP’s with Pathe/EMI, appeared on a slew of television variety shows, toured France, Belgium and Switzerland with big names and earned a spot as an opening act in Eddy Mitchell’s show. Johnny Stark was the manager of Johnny Halliday, (often referred to as the French Elvis Presley), who was to star in the following program and who came every afternoon for his rehearsals. He was still in the theatre when Liz would come on stage. As usual, she ended her show with ‘Mack the Knife’. She had convinced Bruno Coquatrix, owner of the renowned ‘Olympia of Paris’ to let her sing one song in English. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Johnny Halliday in the wings, watching her night after night, obviously enjoying the way she sang and moved. That made her feel so good! One evening Liz overheard Mr. Stark arguing with her manager Roberta, saying: “So, will you sell me this girl’s contract or not?” and Roberta’s answer was “No!”. That made Liz feel so bad! She thought it was a pity that she was tied down with this exclusivity contract, otherwise she would have said: “Yes!” to this man, who had made Johnny Halliday the number one rock’n’roll star of France.
Later that same year, after a tour with Richard Anthony, Richard also tried to buy out Liz’s contract in order to become her producer. He was willing to invest one million francs on her, but again her agents refused to let her go.
1967 turned out to be a very busy year for Liz who also represented France in two International Music Festivals, one in Palma de Mallorca, with the song ‘Toi, moi et une rose’, released on the Pathe/EMI label in Spain and one in Budapest, Hungary with the French translation of a Hungarian song ‘Nem varok holnapig’ (‘Je n’attendrai pas demain’), which she performed on Magyar Television ‘live’, which was taped and which can now be enjoyed on YouTube, so many years later!
At the MIDEM in Cannes, a very important market for the record industry, which took place at the beginning of 1968, Liz was highly praised and was invited to go to the United States, her agency refused to release her from her contracts once more.
Liz did not notice the decline of her production agency - the only revealing indication was the fact she did not record her last record with Pathé/EMI, but with DECCA. She did not realize that her producers changed labels merely to save money. They never told her their business wasn’t doing well. Her biggest shock came in March 1968 when she was offered an engagement in a second-rate nightclub in Marseille, with unacceptable conditions. She refused it and felt let down by her managers.
She is the tornado of the "Yeye" Era, so watch out because this is going to blow you away!!
Liz Brady creates "Les Scarabées"
Liz flew to Canada on April 11, 1968 for a promotional tour, because her
song "L'amour se voit sur ton visage" ( "Like a baby" ) was number 20 on the Billboard.
Three weeks later a phone call from Paris informed Liz that her agency in France was about to close down, as a direct result of the now infamous events which took place in May 1968: Paris was experiencing an insurrection, paving stones were flying, cars were set on fire, huge, often violent demonstrations were taking place in the streets, many businesses were going under . She was advised to wait some time before returning, as bookings would probably be hard to find. Liz therefore thought she’d try her luck in Canada. Afraid of possible troubles connected to her contracts in France, Liz did not know what to do. So she hid her real identity and began tours in the province of Quebec under the name of ‘Liza’.
Groups were in fashion in Quebec. Duos, trios and combos often made up of sisters or brothers, were very popular; so Liza decided to create a duo: Les Scarabees ( The Scarabs ), a wink to The Beatles, a nod to the sacred scarab of Egypt where Liz was born and one to her own label. Their act consisted of singing, dancing and comedy, a female version of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Everywhere they appeared the public loved them.
Ben Kay was the manager of, amongst others, Les Baronets, a trio of male vocalists that included René Angelil, Celine Dion’s future husband. Mr Kay signed an exclusivity contract with Les Scarabees. Gamma Records, the label on which Robert Charlebois would later record, produced their first three singles. ‘Puisque tu m’as quittee’ a translation of the American hit song ‘Nothing but a heartache’, made the charts. However, not satisfied with the way Ben Kay handled their career, Les Scarabees broke ties with him in 1971.
The well-known actor Yvan Ducharme then took Les Scarabees under his wing and became their ‘godfather’. He booked them in his nightclub, the ‘Wig-Wam’, where he and Paul Berval, another well-known actor, were partners. The four of them had great success giving live performances every evening. Newspapers and record companies were invited to listen to ‘the little girls’, as they were affectionately nicknamed.
An ardent fan of Elvis Presley, Liz wished to be on the same label as him: RCA. Her dream came true when it was precisely RCA, out of all the labels invited, who offered Les Scarabees a recording contract.
During the summer of 1971, a single was released by RCA with ‘Viva la buena vida’, a song translated by Les Scarabees and on the B side ‘Si Peu de Temps’ written by Yvan Ducharme, music by Jerry DeVilliers, their arranger. ‘Viva la buena vida’ was the hit that definitely put them on the map.
In October of 1971 their second single with RCA: ‘Le coeur de mon pays’(The heart of my country) an enormous success, became Number 1 and on January 1, 1972 a Gold Record was awarded and presented to Les Scarabees ‘live’ on the TV show ‘Jeunesse d’aujourd’hui’ (The youth of today), the most watched program of the time.
Les Scarabees had written French lyrics to this catchy Brazilian tune. ‘Le coeur de mon pays’ was Les Scarabees’s tribute to Canada where they were so warmly welcomed.
In 1972 thrilled by the girls’ success, RCA decided to have them go back to the studios to record an album simply titled “Les Scarabees”. The lyrics of eight out of the ten songs were written by Les Scarabees. The album was very cheerful and was enjoyed during family gatherings all over the country. Everyone from grannies to grandchildren danced to it ! The popularity of the song ‘Le coeur de mon pays’ propelled Les Scarabees to stardom. The success was a whirlwind and the girls were invited to appear in concerts, TV shows, radio interviews and receptions, they never stopped and were everywhere.
‘Musicorama 72’, in July 1972, was a tour that included the ten number one French language recording artists in Canada, for that year. They performed in 42 cities within 42 days!!! They came on stage one after the other singing, “Je l’aime mon pays, je l’aime…” ( I love oh how I love my country…) Les Scarabees’ #1 hit ‘Le coeur de mon pays’. Before each show, the cast paraded in convertibles in the streets of each city and as Les Scarabees’s car came around the corner, headed towards city hall, the majorettes struck up the band playing their song! Then all the stars were welcomed by the mayor, with whom they toasted with a glass of wine and whose city hall guest book they signed.
The huge success and popularity of Les Scarabees continued throughout 1972. They even recorded one last 45 rpm in the RCA studios: “Angelita”, which they wrote and “Soley, soley” by ‘Middle of the road’, which they translated. Sadly, the duo split up at the peak of their glory and the 45 rpm was never released.
After the separation of Les Scarabees, Liz Brady went back to Egypt on December 13, 1972, where she sang again as a solo act at ‘L’Auberge des Pyramides’ over the Christmas and New Year holidays of 1972.
Upon her return to Montreal in February of 1973, Liz produced and recorded in RCA’s studios a “voice-over” on two of her recordings from France: ‘Bas les Pattes’ (on which she adapted the words written by Pierre Saka, who had attempted to translate the original American version: ‘Hands Off’) and ‘Et c’est bien mieux comme ca’, which she re-titled: ‘Je voulais faire de l’amour…’ (by George Liferman and Sylviane Boutin). She signed a distribution contract with the label ‘Profil’ belonging to another former member of Les Baronets, Jean Beaulne. Unexpectedly soon thereafter Jean Beaulne, who had overextended his resources, declared bankruptcy.
‘Je voulais faire de l’amour…’ was already number 12 on the charts and had a brilliant future, but it was suddenly removed from programming by radio stations. When people went to buy it at record stores they were told the order had not arrived yet. So sales plummeted and the media had the misconception that this was because the song was not popular enough! In fact, ‘Profil’ had stopped the pressing after the first five thousand copies, without informing Liz who was on the road promoting her record! When she got back to Montreal she was crushed by the bad news that her song was off the charts. She had invested all she had to regain her status in vain!
Liz was forced once again to reinvent herself.
THE UNITED STATES
Liz never stopped singing and in 1985 she was offered the opportunity to perform her ‘one woman show’ in Florida. Her American agent billed her as LIZA BRADY.
Everywhere she went with her show in six languages, relating her career and her travels, the audience rewarded her with a standing ovation! The American public adopted and loved her.
Liz found the warmth of the beautiful state of Florida similar to the one of Egypt’s and decided to settle there.
On April 17, 2005, twenty years after leaving Canada without even a return visit, Liz was invited to Montreal by Radio-Canada Television, as a special guest on the show ‘Tout le monds en parle’. This show discusses current events of the previous week and the host, Guy A. Lepage plays ‘Le coeur de mon pays’ every time a politician walks on the set, because this song was used in 1980 as the rallying call during elections. That evening Liz sat next to the former Prime Minister of Quebec, Bernard Landry, while they showed an excerpt of Les Scarabees singing the song on ‘Donald Lautrec Chaud’, a TV show of the ‘70’s. Liz laughed whole-heartedly at this delightful memory!!!
‘Le coeur de mon pays’ has taken on a life of its own, since its lyrics depict affectionately the pride and love of one’s country. It has become a sort of National Anthem for all French-speaking people in Canada. It is sung in schools, at political rallies, played by marching bands, paraded to by majorettes and performed at various public events.
It is high time to focus on Liz Brady’s phenomenon and her fifty years on stage, since her beginnings in Egypt. This site is the perfect venue to reach and thank her fans all over the world.
Liz’s story: A little girl born in Egypt, fond of singing and dancing who, however, never aspired to a singing career… Everyday life made happenings different and the fortune of one evening made this fairy tale come true, against all odds!
Liz now boasts an international career throughout Africa and the Middle East, then Europe and especially France, her father’s country where she wanted so much to be. She stayed a little more than three years there, but definitely left her mark.
As a phoenix Liz rose again in Canada and once more in the United States.
The audience greets her artistry. She sings, dances, makes people laugh and can hold her public in the palm of her hand! Her talent defines ‘charisma’.
Charisma is when you do what you like above all… and do it with brio.
The adventure of this wonderful talent is far from over. Liz occasionally treats appreciative audiences in South Florida and Montreal by appearing as a featured star in musical reviews and at special events.
by Linda Bloch