Maggie & Terre Roche

Folksinging sisters Maggie Roche and her two-years-younger sister Terre were born in New York City and grew up mostly in New Jersey. For Christmas 1964, 13-year-old Maggie was given a guitar, and the family (also including a third sister, Suzzy, and a brother, David) learned to play folk songs by watching Laura Weber on public television. As teenagers in the late '60s, Maggie & Terre formed a duo and got their first break when they were signed to Marilyn Lipsius' Coffee House Circuit, an agency that booked acts at colleges. In 1971, Maggie boldly introduced herself to her songwriting idol, Paul Simon, which led to the duo becoming his protégés and singing backup vocals on "Was a Sunny Day" on his second solo album, There Goes Rhymin' Simon (1973). They spent two years performing on the college circuit, ending up in San Francisco and falling in with the remnants of the hippie movement, people whose interests would later be dubbed new age. They eventually hitchhiked to Louisiana with a friend involved with the martial arts, staying at what they have described as a "Kung Fu temple" in Hammond. Returning to the East Coast, they were signed to a production company by Simon, which in turn led to a contract with Simon's label, Columbia Records. Their debut album, Seductive Reasoning (1975), contained one track produced by Simon, "If You Empty Out All Your Pockets You Could Not Make the Change," and the rest produced by either David Hood and Jimmy Johnson of the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section (which played on the album) or by Paul Samwell-Smith, a former member of the Yardbirds. The album's songs, written by Maggie, chronicled the sisters' recent cross-country adventures. The album was positively reviewed, but it did not sell. The sisters abandoned music and went back to Louisiana for a time, working as waitresses while they, as Terre later put it, "sought to discover the key to a harmonious existence." They returned to New York City in 1976 and, during the holiday season, sang Christmas carols for fun on street corners along with their younger sister Suzzy. They had enough fun that they began to rehearse seriously as a trio. By this time, Maggie & Terre were working as bartenders at the famed Greenwich Village club Folk City, and soon the trio, calling themselves the Roches, were on-stage there. With the addition of the more outgoing and overtly comical Suzzy, and with all three sisters writing songs, the Roches were a distinctly different act from Maggie & Terre Roche, but they caught on and in 1979 released the first of what would be ten albums that tended to follow the pattern of Seductive Reasoning, earning critical kudos but negligible sales. Meanwhile, they built up a fervent following for their live performances In 1997, the Roches announced a hiatus, performing their last official show on March 9 at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. With that, Suzzy and Terre launched solo careers. But another result of the split was the occasional reunion of the duo of Maggie & Terre Roche. On September 17, 1998, the two sisters appeared at a tribute to Bob Dylan at the Living Room in New York City, and in 2000, having rehearsed their old Seductive Reasoning material, they appeared in the Midwest in the spring, followed by their "Lost in August" West Coast tour and Northeast dates in the fall. But even after 30 years, their individual approach to music wasn't always appreciated. After they played at the Swallow at the Hollow in Roswell, GA, on Friday, August 3, 2001, the club canceled their Saturday night show, telling them that their repertoire was not "upbeat" and "country" enough. By the fall of 2001, Terre was again pursuing her solo career, while Maggie was recording and performing in a duo with Suzzy that they called the Roche Sisters. ~ William Ruhlmann

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