A MUSICAL ODYSSEY
Present
THE COUNTRY GENTLEMEN YEARS Pt. I
In 1962 the original Country Gentlemen, a very popular local band, had just broken up but Barry Forman, a fiddler from Rivers, had kept rights to the name. Barry and I were classmates in college and I had filled in with the band a few times so after the break up we put a line-up together to fulfill previous television and appearance contracts.
Barry Forman (fiddle and accordian): went on to become a teacher and owner of a string of successful Ford dealerships
Larry Clark (drums and piano): well-known local jazz musician who went on to become a lecturer at Brandon University, City Planner, Forest Ranger and a successful recording artist performing novelty forest ranger songs under the name Uncle Smokey.
Audry Lintott (singer): I had worked with Audrey in another band where she played piano - it was quite a surprise to learn that she was an also an accomplished singer.

The new television show was a daily live show as part of the CKX-TV Noon Show. Barry and I would rush over to the studio from morning classes each day. The shows were largely unrehearsed. While the news, weather and sports were being broadcast we would coax the graphics designer to take an early lunch break and we would all squeeze into her closet-sized office to do a hurried acoustic run through of songs for that day's show.

Nichol's Red Star Barn Dance near Virden
Country Gentlemen Poster during Ranch House TV Show Days
The first show was a bit of a shocker. I had warned my parents and sister at home in Strathclair that I might be on the noon show so they all tuned in to watch the event. I had planned on staying the background for the first shows but because of a timing problem I suddenly found myself playing a "Wildwood Flower" instrumental solo without warning or rehearsal. I later learned that my mother and sister Bonnie had put on quite a display of tearful excitement in front of the old Westinghouse TV. During this time Barry and I also played many dance dates for which we picked up a variety of musicians.

We then went on to take over the Co-op Jamboree TV show which had featured Russ Gurr and the Carnahans for so many years and at this time the band line-up changed somewhat with:
Jake Kroeger (rhythm guitar and vocals): a Rapid City/Rivers farmer and plumber
John Skinner (drums): a Rivers farmer.
Frequent guest: Ray Power (rhythm guitar and vocals): Ray was one of the original Country Gentlemen and a school teacher.

CKX announcers for the show included Harold Roberts (TV weather man), Lorne Ball, as well as Ernie Nairn and Keith Cummings who went on to become well-known CBC announcers.

Mel Carver, Gordie Carnahan, Gunter Zabel, Russ Gurr, Betty CarnahanHarold Roberts: CKX-TV MC
The Co-Op contract turned out to be a most rewarding one for us. We were featured in a weekly TV show which spotlighted a different Co-Op community each week. The live studio audience consisted of people from that week's featured town and the show's guests were actually winners of Co-Op "Talent Nights" held in the rural areas. The company even sent us out to appear at some of the Talent Night shows.

We also carried on the tradition of doing live Co-Op "Neighbour Night" and "Social Evening" appearances at every town in the area which had a Co-Op store. These were great sho biz learning experiences as we had to put together shows that would entertain rural, sit-down audiences that were made up of all ages.

The MC for many of the live shows was Ozzie Puloff from CKX who also sang old standards. Also featured were organists Kris Thor and Frank Woodmass, as well as local guests from each town. In the early '60s audiences still looked upon TV performers as being something special and this was really our first taste of "stardom" with applause, autographs, stares, etc.

1963 Manitoba Provincial Exhibition Programme: Promo for Country Gentlemen TV Remotes
1963 Provincial Exhibition Programme
COUNTRY GENTLEMEN continue to encourage home-grown talent in city and rural areas.

Time is taken out occasionally to have evenings of fun and entertainment, and this is done with the ever popular "Neighbour Nights," "Talent Nights," and "Social Nights" held in all the towns and communities served by Co-Op.

In addition to the concerts, performers continue to be chosen in their home-areas to perform on Co-Op "Country Gentlemen" on CKX-TV in Brandon. Each week a Co-Op community is highlighted and performers and studio audience from the home town appear on the TV screen . . . every Wednesday Night.

1963 Provincial Exhibition Programme: Kris Thor(steinson)
AN INVITATION TO ... 
CO-OP COUNTRY GENTLEMEN
Visitors to the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba are invited to take in the half-hour Television show Co-Op Country Gentlemen which is telecast daily at 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. Monday to Friday and features variety talent of South-western Manitoba, much of which has appeared throughout the year on the regular Wednesday Night productions. K.J. "Kris" Thorsteinson (above) of Brandon, Director of Public Relations for the District 3 Federation, directs the programming of Talent Nights throughout the year and serves as co-ordinator of the Television Show, which is produced by CKX-TV producers Stuart Craig and Don Williams. A feature of each show are the two Co-Op "Hammond Organs" played by Frank Woodmass and Kris, with far-famed TV Weatherman Harold Roberts as M.C.

Country Gentlemen Live Remotes From The Provincial Exhibition

TV script: Circa '64 or '65 Throughout the early sixties, we performed live CKX TV and Radio shows at the Provincial Exhibition in the Brandon Fair Grounds Paviliions. We did numerous shows each day and never failed to get caught up in the excitement of these events. Live shows TV shows are difficult to do under the best of conditions but we never knew what was going to happen in these productions: crowds milling by, equipment breakdowns, unprepared guests, production gaffs, and a wall of distracting noises from the midway, competing sound systems, kids, animals, and vendors. Many of the Grandstand performers appeared on these shows to promote their evening performances - the one who stands out in my mind was a young impressionist from Ottawa named Rich Little.

The illustration on the left is a playlist from one of our short afternoon shows. For this particular summer fair Barry and I hired a young singer named Ken Martell and one of the original Country Gentlemen, Henry Redekop on guitar. This was before neither Barry of myself did much in way of vocals so the show was pretty heavy on guitar and fiddle instrumentals.

In the summer of '64 we were hired by Imperial Tobacco to perform at the Morris Manitoba Stampede. At this time Barry and I were working mainly as a duo and were hiring pickup musicians to fit the size of the job. We agreed that the perfect singer to take to this gig was our predecessor on the original CKX Co-Op TV shows: Russ Gurr. We were looking forward to working with the flamboyant Russ as we thought he would be a natural for working a rodeo crowd. CKX announcer Lorne Ball agreed to come along as a front man and he showed up in an expensively-tailored western dress suit he had borrowed from Western movie/recording star, Rex Allen who had played Brandon recently.
Our shows at the Morris Stampede went extremely well, so well in fact, that Russ in turn, hired us the next summer to back him at the Austin Threshermen's Reunion.
Austin Threshermen's Reunion: Bill - Barry - Jake with Russ and the Hurleyville Taxi


BackHomeNext
WebMaster: Bill Hillman
Bill & Sue-On Hillman Eclectic Studio
Photos and Text Copyright 2000