I have many warm and vivid memories of my time with CFCN Old Timers. First off, maybe I should tell you a bit of history of the broadcast.
As I mentioned before, the program hit the air in 1924, and of course the musicians changed and the program identity changed, but the broadcast never missed one week in 57 years of broadcasts. Until it went off the air in 1981 it was recognized as the longest continuous radio broadcast in North America.
I feel totally justified in being very personal, and yes, somewhat emotional, writing about my time with CFCN Old Timers. I’m sure from the very first the entertainers were very sincere and dedicated to bringing to their listeners and to their live audience, the type of music that would endure for so many years.
I will not attempt to name all the musicians who were part of the broadcast over the years but I feel inclined to present some of them to you and of course those who were members during my time. I guess proper protocol is Ladies First.
Pianist Nan Tingle was a regular member of the band before it became known as CFCN Old Timers. Nan was delightful, always happy and positive and her father, Tom Smith, played violin in the band for some time.
George Fitzsimmons, violinist— I go to George next as he was a member of the group(s) who played before Tony became the leader. George was a very well educated violinist who read music very well but also had a trained ear for playing without music. If my information is correct, George played on that program more years than any other musician. George was always eager to perform — more about George later.
Tony Niedermayer was the accordionist leader and arranger of the CFCN Old Timers band. Tony arrived in Calgary in early 1940 from Lethbridge, where he had given accordion lessons to a well known accordion player, Joe Horhozer, whom a lot of people remember and whom I enjoyed playing with on many occasions.
When Tony arrived at CFCN Radio and shortly thereafter, he had written arrangements for well over 500 musical numbers. For every broadcast each musician had a written arrangement for the instrument he or she played. And each member of the band knew that if you wanted to play his music, you played it the way it was written. The name of the band was officially called CFCN Old Timers or Tony and the Old Timers.
Len Taylor played the bass fiddle and was about six foot four inches tall. It seemed like we were always “looking up to him.” Len was a good guy — very quiet, was very capable at doing what he did. There were a few occasions when he was unable to make the broadcast at which time we could count on previous members, Lint Ladler or Pete Loewen to fill in for him. On a couple of occasions I recall Louis Ogaad filled in. Louis was the number one bass violin player for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. What a thrill when he drew that bow across those strings with great authority.
I want to mention here, Ernie Yardley, who played banjo on the broadcast for over 30 years. Because he left the band, I was asked by Tony to become guitarist and the band’s first full-time vocalist.
So after a couple of rehearsals with Tony at his house, I was invited to join the Old Timers. Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I was thrilled!
My previous radio experience helped me to realize how fortunate I was. Some of Tony’s musical arrangements were very foreign to me and had some very difficult chord structures, but Tony was very patient and helpful.