On this edition celebrating the 75th birthday of the CBC, Rewind host Michael Enright is joined by the host of Q- Jian Ghomeshi. CBC Radio has become well known for news and current affairs coverage, for politics and drama, for music and writing. But a big part of what makes CBC Radio tick is the arts and entertainment programming.
Way back in 1936 when the CBC was created, its chairman, a man called Leonard Brockington told listeners they could expect many new things from the new broadcaster. Its governors, he said, have ideas that are "almost as numerous as apple blossoms in the Annapolis Valley or peach blossoms in the Okanagan." Brockington went on to pledge to provide a wide variety of programming for listeners. "It is hoped that the radio in Canada will be a welcome guest at your family fireside, and not a skeleton in your family cupboard."
Have a listen to some old favourites.
First, one of the most popular of the arts and entertainment programs of its time- The Happy Gang. The clip we'll hear today is the earliest recording that the CBC archives has of the Happy Gang- it's from July 1939. The Happy Gang was at the official opening of radio station CBK in Watrous, Saskatchewan.
Bert Pearl, The Happy Gang's first and longest serving host also hosted a game show called Share the Wealth. It had a studio audience and challenged them to answer questions for prizes.
The Victory Parade was an upbeat variety show presented from military bases across Canada. It featured music and entertainment designed to keep up morale during the war. This sample is from September 1944.
The comedy duo of Wayne and Shuster first made its name during the Second World War. After enlisting in the infantry, they wrote and performed for The Army Show. And by war's end they had a show on CBC Radio. This clip is from 1955.
The Libby Morris show was a light-hearted variety show in the early 1950s that featured the Winnipeg born singer and comedian.
In the 1950s, theatre critic and broadcaster Nathan Cohen was one of the most admired... and hated... critics of his time. His program Fighting Words made him a household name. It ranked among the most intelligent, provocative and popular shows of its day. It was a panel show with a simple premise: viewers sent in controversial quotations and the panellists discussed them. This episode of Fighting Words first aired in September 1959.
Children's programming was a big part of CBC entertainment with songs and stories geared to the young ones. Listen to this sampling from Maggie Muggins, Folk Songs for Young Folk and Uncle Bod.
The Rod and Charles show was ostensibly a children's program, but it was so much fun that a lot of adults tuned in too. Rod Coneybeare and Charles Winter blended humour and teaching about science and history.
Rod Coneybeare also created a program called Man to Man in 1959.
In 1952 a program called Trans-Canada Matinee began as a "women's interest show" on CBC Radio. The mandate was to produce items on: fashion, medicine, travel, housekeeping and books, but to be smarter about it than its predecessors. Trans-Canada Matinee later shortened its name to Matinee. Listen to this piece about the Royal Commission on the Status of Women from 1968.
In 1966, an announcer called Bert Devitt created a rather trippy late night show called Escape With Me. He would chat with his buddy, Smitty, against a background of seagulls and ocean surf. Devitt's stories were always about shipwrecks and jail.
Between 1967 and 1973 Robert Fulford hosted a weekly late-night arts and culture show. His wife and the show's first producer, Geraldine Sherman, created the half-hour program called This is Robert Fulford. The piece we have for you now is from 1970 and was a retrospective a year later of Woodstock and the documentary film that was made about it.
Peter Gzowski had success with a new show called This Country in the Morning. The three-hour weekday morning show, with a mix of interviews, music, essays and recipes, was the most popular CBC Radio show at the time. And when he signed off after three years there was an outpouring of emotion.
In 1983 a variety program debuted called The Radio Show. It originated from Winnipeg, aired on Saturday afternoons and was hosted by Jack Farr, also known as Captain Radio. Interviews with experts from politics, music, movies and sports made up the program. Here Jack learns how to breakdance in 1984.
Arthur Black's program Basic Black was on the radio for 19 years starting in 1983. Every Saturday morning Arthur featured a host of Canadians with unusual stories, hobbies or pastimes. And he was never afraid to jump right in on the action.
Variety Tonight is where Vicki Gabereau first made her mark in the early 1980s. It was a nightly series that featured popular music and interviews, trivia games and movie reviews. Vicki interviewed her guests with warmth, wit and humour. In 1985 her program Gabereau took to the air- and became known as a place for long format interviews. This is from 1992 with Dr. Robert Buckman, the physician, comedian and author tells Vicki about his addiction.