Wilf, and Those Horrible Dance Bands

Bits and Pieces of BC Radio History

Wilf, and Those Horrible Dance Bands

Postby cart_machine » Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:53 pm

A squib on Wilf Ray caught my eye going through Dick Diespecker’s “Around Your Radio Dial Tonight” columns in the Province. Wilf, of course, spent many a year working with, then for, Jim Pattison. He was always friendly to me and liked talking about his career. I suppose I shouldn’t use the past tense as he’s still around.

In the same column are more moans and gripes about popular music of 1949 by those who desired to hear little but classical material or Ann Leaf at the Wurlitzer punching out “Ebb Tide.” There’s a reference to an earlier column, so I thought I’d dig up both.

The first column is from November 14, 1949, the second from November 26th. Both refer to Lew Fox’s All Night Record Man show on CKNW. Fox was the host from 1947 until he got a day job on the station in 1950. He was on the air at CHUB in Nanaimo from at least 1952 to 1962, when he quit radio and eventually settled in the central Okanagan. He died in 2003. The first story also mentions a number of local actors, almost all of whom I think ended up in Toronto. Peg Dixon and Ed McNamara voiced cartoons at the end of the ‘60s. “Rocket Robin Hood” is a far cry from the average CBC drama.


People write me about the strangest things. They also make some amazing requests. A letter from a lady last week said that she was quite upset because "Meet Your Match" (heard over CKWX) is on at the same time as Amos and Andy (heard over CJOR). She wants to know if I can not persuade them to broadcast a repeat of Amos and Andy, as Jack Benny and Edgar Bergen are repeated. Thank you for the compliment, madam, but networks and agencies do as they please about these things. One little columnist wields no influence whatsoever with them.
The same lady wants to know what has happened to a program called "Strike It Rich". It is one of the casualties among radio 'giveaway shows.'
In the same mail came a letter from an old friend who once worked with me at CJOR . . . many years ago. His name is Alan Davidson. He is so tall that we used to call him "High Pockets." He is one of the few young men who early in a radio career, stood back mentally as it were, looked the situation over, and quit. He departed for the Okanagan and undertook to help run his father's sheep ranch outside Vernon. He is still there and very happy. The only thing that seems to bother Alan is the Benjamin Britten opera Peter Grimes, recently produced twice by the CBC. He says he found it boring. He says he was afraid he was all alone in his dislike of the opera until he read a prairie weekly in which the radio critic found it just as unappealing.
However, all of us seem to agree that the performance by the CBC Opera Company was of the highest order.
A letter from F.W.M. wants to know when the fad to sing like Bing Crosby is going to change. To quote him directly: "Dwelling on every word of a Tin Pan Alley composition perhaps is the most moronic exhibition of the age. It runs a close race with the dance band "arranger" in his striving after new effects."
While I can agree with F.W.M. that imitators of Bing Crosby, or anyone else, are not desirable, he is, perhaps being a little hard on dance band arrangers. Some of them are very good indeed.
This correspondent also objects to CKNW's all night programs of what he calls "frightful swing records." "Why," he asks, "can't they change to more sleep-producing records, soft organ music or restful tunes? I know that elderly people unable to sleep would appreciate this. There are, I understand, a number who have tried to listen to the station. The swing addicts should be in bed by at least 3 a.m."
This is a most interesting comment, particularly because it gives me an opportunity to give a bit of a plug to the boys who stay up all night spinning these discs. What F.W.M. does not realize is that most of these all night record programs, like CKNW's All Night Record Man, run by Lew Fox, are broadcast for the benefit, not of "swing addicts", but for people who have to work all night. Sleep-producing music would hardly be the thing for them, would it?
Young Mr. Peter MacDonald has been doing some very good work on Vancouver Theatre without a great deal of recognition. One of the misfortunes of such a program is that it is usually so overwhelmed by the giants like Stage 50 and the Wednesday Night dramas. It also suffers because it lands in Toronto at 11:30, and at that time of night the public is more interested in dance music. Moreover CBC officials are probably tired of listening to drama with a critical ear. So, Mr. MacDonald and his valiant little band of artists keep on doing fine work with very little national recognition.
Last Friday night was a classic example of what I mean. Vancouver's Theatre's offering was a radio play by Pierre Berton, former Vancouver newspaperman, now an editor of MacLean's Magazine, called Past Imperfect. It was all about a man who went to see a revival of the picture "It Happened One Night" starring Clark Cable and Claudette Colbert.
When he walked out of the theatre he found himself back in 1934. He knew everything that was going to happen in the next 15 years. But he couldn't make anyone believe him . . . and much worse, things didn't turn out the way history has made them, and we know they turned out.
The young man rushed to a phychiatrist [sic] where we find him telling his story. After he's told it the doctor shows him the paper. The picture revival is advertised. The young man has just imagined all this.
So to test it out, he goes to the theatre and sees the picture. He comes out, and again it is 1934. That is where Mr. Berton leaves us. It is a fascinating play, but what made it doubly fascinating was the fine production, the excellent music by John Avison and the superb portrayal of the puzzled young man by James Johnston.
Mr. Johnston is undoubtedly one of Canada's finest radio actors. Let us hope that we can keep him in Vancouver.
The entire cost was excellent. Most of their names are familiar to Vancouver radio listeners. Bill Buckingham, Cathy Graham, Peg Dixon, Alan Roughton, Ed McNamara, Frank Vyvyan, Jack Anthony . . . all of them helped to make the play real and impelling, and Mr. MacDonald's production was clean and smooth.
Some months ago I advised listeners in this column not to sell Vancouver talent or Vancouver shows short. May I repeat that advice. They may have bigger budgets in Toronto, but they are not always superior in quality.
6 P.M.—Lux Radio Theatre (Mother Wore Tights starring Betty Grable and Dan Daly), CBR.
7 P.M.—Opportunity Knocks, CJOR; Sammy Kaye, CKMO.
7:30 P.M.—Monday Magazine, CJOR; Tony Martin, CKWX; Wallie Peters, CBR.
8 P.M.—Alberta Ranch House, CBR; Open House, CKMO.
8:30 P.M.—Arthur Godfrey, KIRO; Share The Wealth, CKWX; Railroad Hour, KOMO.
9 P.M.—Show Business, CJOR; Inner Sanctum, KIRO; Take a Chance, CKWX; Telephone Hour, KOMO; National Forum, CBR; Deems Taylor, CKMO.
9:30 P.M.—Twenty Questions, CKWX; Yasha Davidoff (basso), CBR; Glen Miller, CKNW.

* * *

G. F. writes from Vancouver regarding a piece in this column recently about the music played by the all-night record man on CKNW. G. F. does not like either Lew Fox or the music he plays . . . does not agree that all night workers could possibly like it, and then says: "Anyway there are hundreds of sleepless in B.C., in hospitals and at home, and a little good music would be appreciated." How about that Lew? Why not give half an hour every two hours during the night to quieter music for these people. It would earn you and CKNW a lot of new friends.
Vancouver audiences have been missing some fine drama on NBC because we have been unable to get advance information on it. Last Sunday, for example, the Theatre Guild on the Air (heard here at 6 p.m. over KOMO) presented Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in one of the best performances ever heard on anybody's air. Arrangements have now been mode to receive this advance information as regularly as possible.
Tomorrow, for example, the NBC University Theatre (KOMO at 11 a m.) presents J. P. Marquand's Point of No Return. Radio City Playhouse, which is produced by Canadian Harry Junkin presents a radio play called Interval (KOMO, 2 p.m.) and Theatre Guild on the Air presents Ray Milland and Margaret Phillips in The Enchanted Cottage.
In Canada, Stage 50 will present Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped as a special pre-St. Andrew's Day feature. The radio adaptation has been written by Andrew Allan, producer of the series (CBR at 6 p.m.)
The fourth and last of a series of round-tables on Youth vs. Society presented by the United Church Radio, A.O.T.S. District Council, will be heard tomorrow afternoon at 3.30 p.m. over CKWX. The subject is Youth and Leadership and those comprising the panel are Reg. T. Rose, Executive Secretary of the Vancouver Board of Trade; J. S. Donaldson, High School teacher; Bob Wallace, Theology student at Union College, and Tom Cram, Teaching and Education, UBC.
Tonight's UBC Round Table will discuss the advisability of compulsory military training in Canadian universities, an extremely touchy subject. Speakers will include Frank Turner, Col. Robert Bonner and Col. Cyril Batten. (CJOR at 8:30 p.m.)
Half an hour later, Town Meeting in Canada will discuss "How Can We Avoid Mass Unemployment?". The meeting at which this was discussed was held in Mission City and speakers include Harold Winch and Paul Murphy. (CJOR at 9 p.m.)
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra tomorrow presents Sidney Foster performing Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto (CBR at 3:30 p.m.). And tomorrow night Peter Brockington, winner this year of the Toronto Conservatory Silver Medal award for highest marks in B.C. Grade 8, will be guest soloist on Stairway to Stardom. He plays the Fantasia in D Minor by Mozart. Remette Davis, star of the show, will play Liszt's Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody (CKWX at 9:30 p m.)
West Vancouver is to be blamed for CKMO's DX Prowl disc jockey Wilf Ray. He was born there 23 years ago and has lived there ever since, except for his nightly prowl to Vancouver. Young Mr. Ray went to West Van High and was one of the originators of their Radio Club. His professional career started at CKMO in 1945 as DX disc jockey, librarian and operator. Later he became chief operator of the station.
Then opportunity popped up in Seattle, but it collapsed while Wilf was trying to get an American visa.
In 1948, Wilf worked for CKWX and returned to CKMO this spring to take over the DX Prowl when Bill Rea of CKNW stole Jack Cullen.
Wilf Ray is known as the most unpredictable disc jockey on Robson Street (says a publicity release).
What else could he be? There are no other disc jockeys on Robson street. Seriously, though, he runs a good show every night starting ot 10:15 and has another very listenable program every Sunday afternoon called Compare the Hits.
A final note for the ladies. Wilf Ray is the only disc jockey in town who is still single!
6:30 p.m.—Vaughan Monroe, CJOR; Dennis Day, KOMO.
7:00 p.m.—Judy Canova, KOMO; Share the Wealth, CBR.
8:30 p.m.—UBC Round Table, CJOR; The Saint, CKWX; Current and Choice, CBR; Hockey, CKNW.
9:00 p.m.—Town Meeting in Canada, CJOR; Mysterious Traveller, CKWX; Your Hit Parade, KOMO.
10:15 p.m.—Vic Waters' Show, CJOR; Jack Cullen's Owl Prowl, CKNW; Wilf Ray's DX Prowl, CKMO; Bill Ward's Dog House (11:05 p.m.), CKWX.
12 Noon—N.Y. Philharmonic, CBR.
2:00 p.m.—Singing Stars of Tomorrow, CBR; 20th Century Serenade, CKMO.
3:30 p.m.—Vancouver Symphony, CBR.
4:30 p.m.— Amos and Andy, CJOR; Meet Your Match, CKWX.
5:30 p.m.—Leslie Bell Singers, CJOR; Can You Top This, CKWX.
6:00 p.m.—Theatre Guild on the Air, KOMO; Stage 50, CBR.
6:30 p.m.—Album of Familiar Music, CJOR; Family Theatre, CKWX.
7:30 p.m.—Symphony Hall, CKMO.
8:30 p.m.—Artistry in Music, CKWX; Standard Hour, KOMO; Western Hit Parade, CKMO.
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