Part love song, part introspective query about the meaning of life, Mile After Mile was written by Gerry Joly in Elliott Lake in northern Ontario in 1969, after a long drive during which his car gave him mechanical troubles. Joly’s lyrics convey the loneliness of the open road, while the guitar and percussion provide a constant rhythmic reminder of the car’s wheels turning unrelentingly as the miles pass.
The bilingual Joly initially recorded Mile After Mile, with one French verse, on his 1971 album “Gerry Joly Duo – Live at the Belle Claire.” It was soon covered by the well-known country singer Orval Prophet (“The Canadian Ploughboy”), a fellow eastern Ontarian, who used the title for his 1971 album. The peppy, slick single with a trademark country twang was produced by Canadian country star Gary Buck and quickly became a country hit. With Jennifer Moved Away on the B side, Mile After Mile debuted on the RPM country chart in September 1971 and established itself there for over three months, attaining the coveted No. 1 Canadian country music position in January 1972. It remained at No. 1 for three weeks and amassed 11 weeks on RPM’s Top 10 chart and 21 weeks on the Top 40 chart. Prophet also reprised Mile After Mile on his 1983 album “The Canadian Ploughboy.” Following the single’s success, Orval Prophet became a Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer and was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame.
The next country star to pick up the song was Quebec’s giant of country music, Willie Lamothe, known in Quebec as “the king of western” (“le roi du western”). Lamothe recorded Joly’s French version, Mille après mille, with a more middle-of-the-road sound, on his album “Le soleil se lève avec papa Willie” in November 1972. The successful 45-rpm single followed the next month with Puisque tout est fini on the reverse. It proved to be the second hit for the Joly composition, firmly establishing Mille après mille as a long-term favourite of French Canada’s country, pop and folk scenes. Lamothe also chose it for his albums “Album souvenir” (1981) and “Je reviens” (1983) and sang it on his popular television show, “Le Ranch à Willie.”
Since these early successes, many celebrated Quebec country, pop and folk stars have performed or recorded Mille après mille, including Fred Pellerin (solo and as a duet with Céline Dion), Patrick Norman with Renée Martel, Les Cowboys Gallants, Les Respectables on the compilation album “Quand le country dit bonjour,” Laurence Jalbert, Bobby Hachey (as Mile After Mile), Jean-Jacques Égli, Natalie Carbonneau, Stephen Faulkner, Renée Martel, Plume Latraverse, Michel Canapé, and Roch Voisine. Isabelle Boulay had great success when she included Mille après mille on her 2011 album “Les grands espaces,” which charted for a full 50 weeks. The tribute album “Chapeau Willie!– un hommage à Willie Lamothe” features the song twice. The tune endures on Quebec compilation albums such as “Les 100 plus grandes chansons country de tous les temps,” “Les 4 Grands,” “Vos Chansons: Les mélodies de votre quotidien,” and “Les stars du Country” and is a frequent choice of karaoke singers. On film, it has been heard in “Congorama” and was featured on the 2000 television mini-series “Willie,” which was based on Lamothe’s life.
Mille après mille / Mile after Mile was the biggest hit written by Gérald (Gerry) Joly (1934-2008), a Franco-Ontarian country music singer-songwriter from Hawkesbury, Ontario. He wrote and sang for more than 50 years and was also known for his comedy songs. Joly received a Certificate of Honour from BMI (ancestor of SOCAN – the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) in 1972 for his outstanding contribution to Canadian music.