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Max Ferguson, CBC radio entertainer

The Story

With his razor-sharp wit, caustic satire and flawless impersonations, CBC Radio broadcaster Max Ferguson entertained generations of Canadians for 52 years. At age 21, Ferguson began his career as a CBC radio announcer in Halifax. He stayed with the public broadcaster for 52 years, hosting After Breakfast Breakdown, Rawhide, The Max Ferguson Show and CBC Television's Tabloid before retiring in 1998. In this CBC Radio interview from 1986, Ferguson discusses his long career and his progression from cheeky CBC freshman to revered comic trailblazer.

Medium: Radio
Program: Voice of the Pioneer
Broadcast Date: Sept. 9, 1986
Guest: Max Ferguson
Host: Bill McNeil
Duration: 18:20
Photo: CBC Design Library

Did You know?

• In 1924, Max Ferguson was born in Durham, England. He immigrated to Canada at age three and his family settled in London, Ont.

• After graduating from the University of Western Ontario, Ferguson was hired at the private London radio station CFPL in 1946. Later that same year, the CBC signed Ferguson to be a news announcer in Halifax.

• After developing a local Halifax following, Ferguson moved to Toronto and broadcast Rawhide to a national audience. In its first week on the air, Ferguson's caustic and witty satire inspired debates in the House of Commons as politicians debated the "undermining [of] our national morals."

• Robert Thomas Allen of Maclean's magazine also took note of the edgy new show. He wrote, "Rawhide emerges in the listener's mind as a knob-knuckled, tobacco-stained, toothless old goat in a battered hat."

• Despite the success of Rawhide, Ferguson remained the lowest paid announcer on staff in Toronto in 1954. But, Ferguson was in fact pulling double duty working as both a news announcer and the host and writer of Rawhide. Frustrated with his meagre pay, Ferguson quit his staff job, which paid an annual salary of $2,700. He then sold Rawhide to the CBC as a freelancer for a sum of $15,000 per year.

• In 1968, Ferguson was awarded the Stephen Leacock Award for humour for his autobiography And Now...Here's Max.

• Over the course of his career, Ferguson was relentless with his criticism of CBC executives. In his book And Now...Here's Max he wrote, "I see the CBC as a sort of domestic British Empire. Both were created and developed by a rather insular breed, exhibiting alternate flashes of brilliance and idiocy."

• In 1970, Ferguson was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.

• Ferguson's sidekick, the late Allan McFee, was legendary for his acerbic wit and developed a cult following with his own program Eclectic Circus.

• In the spring of 1976, Ferguson retired from the CBC and moved to Cape Breton. After spending a difficult winter in a small cabin, Ferguson retired to Toronto and was eventually lured back to the CBC.

• On Sept. 5, 1998, Ferguson retired for good from the CBC after five decades on the air. He retreated to his expansive estate just outside of Cobourg, Ont.

• In a Globe & Mail article published Sept. 5, 1998, the late CBC broadcaster Peter Gzowski expressed admiration for Ferguson. "It's a total honesty to himself. He only does what he feels like doing, which is magic. Right from Rawhide on to the present. He also showed everyone what a fabulous medium radio could be, and how far imagination could stretch."

• Max Ferguson died March 7, 2013, at the age of 89.


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