The Dumbells

The Dumbells

The Dumbells Sheet MusicToday on Rewind The Dumbells. They were the most popular group of entertainers in Canada during the First World War.

The Dumbells were a group of muddy soldiers who had been plucked from the trenches by Captain Merton Plunkett, who knew the war weary troops needed a morale boost.

They sang and danced and played their way around the fields of Flanders in 1917 and 1918. And they became a part of Canadian folklore when they returned and performed in Canada after the war.


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Our first segment is from November 1961, and it's a get together by veterans of the Great War in the Sergeant's mess of the Queen's Own Rifles in Toronto. It starts with the Dumbell Rag, the signature tune of the Dumbells. 

Jack Ayre had begun his musical career as a pianist for silent films in Toronto. He enlisted as a private in the army but it didn't take long before he was selected to be the pianist for the Dumbells. He composed the Dumbell Rag while still a soldier, and the song went on to sell more than ten thousand copies of sheet music- a phenomenal number at the time. The tune was often whistled by the troops as they marched. 

We also have a piece from Voice of the Pioneer. It was a weekly feature that told the stories of Canadian pioneers who shaped the country from the turn of the century to the 1920s. It debuted in 1967 and ran for 23 years. In 1973 Bill McNeill's guest was Jack Ayre of The Dumbells.

 This week, Jeff Goodes sits in for Michael Enright.