SOME WILF CARTER TRIVIA (March 19/04)

When I was working on the story about the Wilf Carter fan in Australia who searched out a fellow Wilf Carter fan, Leon Barron of North Alton, I discovered all sorts of interesting trivia. Here’s some of it.

As long as there are country and western music fans, Wilf Carter will never be forgotten. Carter is also a popular Internet topic as well. The legendary country and western singer died in 1996 but he remains alive on the ‘net. I found a mind-boggling 3,369 Canadian websites that mentioned Wilf Carter. I didn’t look at all those sites, of course, but the ones I checked offered biographies, the words to Carter’s hit songs, photo highlight’s of his long career and so on.

There’s a Wilf Carter room in the Canning Library and Heritage Center. The room was established in 1993, says John Newcombe, the chairman of the committee that operates what amounts to a Wilf Carter museum. In the room are photographs, some of Carter’s clothing, including a pair of his chaps, records, an autobiography and other memorabilia.

The committee looking after the Wilf Carter room is part of the Fieldwood Heritage Society. The committee has two fund raising events a year, called Wilf Carter Night, which helps maintain the room.

Wilf Carter’s first record, on the RCA Victor label, was released in 1933. Carter recorded Swiss Moonlight Lullaby, which featured his famous triple yodel, with The Capture of Albert Johnson on the flip side. RCA Victor must have figured the latter song was best since it came out on the A side. However, music historian Fred Isenor says it was Swiss [Moonlight] Lullaby that was the hit and it started Carter on the road to stardom. Isenor writes that Swiss [Moonlight] Lullaby has been available continuously in different formats from 78 to CD since Carter recorded it.

Wilf Carter’s record sales numbered in the millions and he is hailed as the grandfather of country and western music. Carter was inducted into the Nashville Song Writers Hall of Fame. He is a charter member of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma, and his likeness stands in the Banff Canadian Wax Museum.

Wilf Carter was a hit in America where he generated a massive following using the nickname Montana Slim. In the 1930s Carter had a daily radio show on the CBS out of New York.

Wilf Carter wrote a book about his life but his modesty led him to understate his fantastic accomplishments as a country and western singer. The best book on Carter’s life was written by a German fan.

Canning claims Wilf Carter as its own on the basis that his father Rev. Henry Carter had been the minister in the Pereau Baptist Church. However, Rev. Carter’s tenure as minister in Pereau was short-lived. He served for only a year, from November 1916 to November 1917, when illness forced him to leave the ministry to recuperate. Leon Barron tells me Rev. Carter stayed in Greenwich while he was mending.

Wilf Carter was a rodeo rider in his early days in western Canada and later had a ranch in Alberta. On one occasion when he was being interviewed he was asked how he got his start with horses. Carter replied that it was while he was driving a team hauling apples to Canning for Pereau farmer Lorenzo Lyons. Actually, Carter added, it was a team of oxen.

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