Origin: Port Hilsford, Nova Scotia - Calgary, Alberta
Wilf (Wilfred Arthur Charles) Carter. Singer-songwriter, guitarist, b Port Hilford, on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, 18 Dec 1904, d Scottsdale, Arizona, 5 Dec 1996. Inspired by a touring Swiss yodeller, Carter began to sing as a boy. After working as a lumberjack he went to Alberta in the early 1920s and became a cowboy, but also entertained at dances and performed for tourist parties travelling in the Rockies. He made his radio debut on CFCN, Calgary, in 1930 and was later heard locally on CFAC, and nationally on the CRBC. About 1932 he recorded for RCA Victor in Montreal; his first 78, comprising his songs 'My Swiss Moonlight Lullaby' (which featured a yodelling style now influenced by the US singer Jimmie Rodgers) and 'The Capture of Albert Johnson,' was popular - indeed, the first hit record by a Canadian country performer. Many of Carter's early songs were published by Thompson between ca 1933 and 1949 in several volumes individually titled Cowboy Songs, More Cowboy Songs, New Cowboy Songs, etc.
In 1935 Carter went to New York, where, as 'Montana Slim,' he was host until 1937 for a CBS radio country music show. He then returned to Canada (purchasing a ranch near Calgary) and was heard on CBC radio. Before 1940, however, he had two other US radio shows, on the CBS and NBC networks. An automobile accident in 1940 left him inactive for nine years; his popularity was sustained by the periodic release of new recordings.
In 1949 Carter resumed live performance with tours in Canada and the USA. In 1950 he attracted 70,000 people during a week at the CNE Bandshell, Toronto. For several years he performed with his daughters Sheila and Carol; his early tours also introduced such country artists as the Rhythm Pals and Orval Prophet to audiences across Canada. Although his popularity began to wane in the 1960s in the face of the changing styles in country music, Carter continued to tour in Canada and performed regularly on CBC TV's 'Tommy Hunter Show,' and at the Calgary Stempede, of which he was the Grand Marshall in 1979. As well, his song 'Have a Nice Day' was a modest Canadian hit in 1976. Carter appeared in 1981 in western Canada with his contemporary Hank Snow. In 1991 at age 86, he undertook his last tour (aptly titled 'The Last Round-up Tour'), performing in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Manitoba.
Carter had more than 40 original and compilation LPs released by RCA and its Camden and Pickwick lines, including several theme albums - eg, Nuggets of the Golden West (Camden CAL-840), Christmas in Canada (Camden CAL-889), Songs of the Rail and Range (Camden CAL-2208), Songs of Australia (Camden CAS-2362), Wilf Carter sings Jimmie Rogers (Pickwick CAL-2300), and the gospel Let's Go Back to the Bible (Pickwick CAL-814). In 1983 he re-recorded many of his most popular songs for Fifty Gold Years (RCA KXL2-5020).
Carter recordings have also been issued or reissued by Apex, Decca, MCA, Starday (USA), Bear Family (Germany), and other labels.
Carter was known for his simple, straightforward singing and guitar style. He wrote several hundred songs, many as much in the folk ballad tradition (eg, 'The Capture of Albert Johnson' and 'The Fate of the Old Strawberry Roan') as in a country vein, although he was known for his many songs with cowboy, hobo, and prairie imagery (eg, the popular 'There's a Love Knot in My Lariat'). Carter's versions of 'Blue Canadian Rockies' and 'You Are My Sunshine' were also popular. He enjoyed an international reputation as far afield as Australia, where he once toured. Carter has been acknowledged as the father of country music in Canada, a distinction based on his prominence as Canada's first country star, on his influence on Canadian performers, and on the assistance he gave to the careers of others. If the distinction does not belong solely to Carter, he shares it only with Hank Snow. Carter was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association Hall of Fame in 1971, the Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Honour in 1984, the Juno Awards Hall of Fame in 1985, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989, and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007. The video documentary The Last Round-up: The Wilf Carter Story (Telefilm Canada, 2000) explored the country star's career.