Changing diapers, heating formula, etc, on a train with an infant baby was quite an experience that we often talked about, and they there were good memories there. We eventually returned to Calgary where I was given my first opportunity to become a full-time entertainer.
We were visiting friends near Brooks and were fortunate to take in a local stage show and “Red Head Jamboree” performance at the Elks Hall, featuring “Ray Little and His Radio Cowboy Show”. Ray, his wife Ann and Jimmie Daughtry came to Alberta from the Eastern U.S.A. and settled in Calgary.
Every day they had a radio show on CFCN and then would travel to a rural community where they would have a live evening performance.
It was on one of these evening shows in Brooks that I was invited to perform. And as a result, I was asked to become a full-time member of the “Ray Little Radio Cowboy Show”. As I mentioned, my first chance to do full-time, what I wanted most to do. And I’m sure you’ve heard these words, recently taken from a popular song.
“It’s a measure of people who don’t understand the pleasures of life in a hillbilly band.”.
As a performing group working together six days of the week, I remember many pleasant, enjoyable times together. We hit most of the small rural communities and met a number of very fine people. However, I must relate an experience we had which illustrates that harsh times are necessary to really make you appreciate the good times.
Ray became very good friends with a pilot in Calgary and they arranged an airplane trip to B.C. To entertain there. We loaded up the aircraft at the Calgary airport on a Sunday morning as we were scheduled to perform at Vanderhoof B.C.
On Tuesday night, Prince George on Wednesday night, (which was my birthday) and Williams Lake B.C on Thursday night and then return to Calgary for our Saturday radio show, “The Red Head Jamboree”.
By this time, “Tex” Emery was a regular member, so with the aircraft loaded with five passengers, the pilot and all the gear we left the Calgary airport.
And though weather conditions were not the best for flying, we were confident the pilot was very much aware of this.
All was well until we were approaching Jasper, Alberta, where the weather conditions took a turn for the worse. I well remember the pilot making this statement, “If I were by myself, I would take the chance, but no way will I take that chance under these conditions.” And with those words he was on his radio and found good landing conditions for us at Grand Prairie, Alberta.
By the time we arrived there, unloaded the gear it was dark and cold. Ray and Ann flew back to Calgary, Picked up their Olds 88 and drove all night and picked up Jim and Emery and myself at four or five a.m on Monday and we loaded the car and drove all day and arrived at Vanderhoof in time to do our evening performance.
And so each day thereafter, we proceeded by automobile to our prearranged performances, ending up in Williams Lake, B.C. for our final appearance. By the time we completed the show and got packed up it must have been 2 a.m. and we left at once for home. Keep in mind that all of this was taking place in the dead of winter. Weather and driving conditions were deplorable and Ray drove every mile.
We arrived back in Calgary at about noon on Saturday, which would be December the fifth and were glad to be off the road. However, with a few hours of rest and a good meal we were back on the stage at number one Canadian Legion at 8 p.m. for the “Red Head Jamboree.
Shortly after this experience Ray and the group moved on to Regina, Saskatchewan. Being a family man, however, I stayed in Calgary, where I had been offered a job in the accounting department of the Royalite Oil Company.
In just a few days after Ray and company left, I received a phone call from Tony Niedermayer, the leader of the CFCN Radio “Old Timers”. This was a weekly three hour radio show which had been on the air continuously since 1924. He invited me to become a full-time vocalist. I was ecstatic.
I should also mention my wife was so supportive of my ambitions that it just gave that extra pleasure to my own happiness. I really enjoyed radio work, not only as a performer, but I had been fortunate to have worked for a short time at a radio station. So, in early 1955, I became a member of CFCN’s “Old Timers”. Every Friday night from 9 p.m.-midnight we did three hours of
“live” music. We had many local businesses as sponsors, and I performed one vocal number during each quarter hour segment.
Most of our broadcasts were done from CFCN studios, but on occasion we would do a remote broadcast. A particular one that I recall was broadcast from Riley and McCormick retail store in Downtown Calgary. This business was one of our major program sponsors and on this occasion our special guest was banjo virtuoso Eddie Peabody of the U.S.A. who was in Calgary as a guest of honour of the famous Calgary Stampede.
— By Floyd Sillito, Special To L.A. Beat