Saturday, May 14, 2011
Back in November of 2008 I posted an LP by Smilin' Jack Silvers and his Sons of the Plains (click here). I knew nothing about the album or the artist, other than that it was superb. I mentioned in the post that if anyone knew anything about Smilin' Jack to drop me a line. I'm glad I did, as I not only learned a good deal about him, I was able to obtain the audio recording of one of his TV broadcasts that I now (finally!) present here.
All in all, I exchanged emails with four people, three of whom played with Jack, and two of whom played on the LP. It started when I received an email from Gerry Forget, who's former brother-in-law was Bob Vall
Rather than rewrite Jack's story, I'll reprint some excerpts from the emails, so you can learn the story as I did:
"My former brother in law (Robert "Bob" Vallée) was a member of the group "Smiling Jack Silvers' Sons of the Plains" for a time. I remember this from when I was 6 or 7 years old. They used to have a TV show from Cornwall, Ontario way back then that was called OK Jamboree...
I remember meeting Jack and hearing the band play. I also remember meeting Dusty King Sr. who was very popular. This was very, very good to listen to.
Another very good local musician from a slightly later time was Johnny Mooring, that I heard playing many times along with my wife of many years. He met an untimely death in, I believe, 1974 during an attack after a gig...
I made a few calls to my sister today regarding the band to check my recall as a young boy. Smilin' Jack's birth name apparently was Leo Boisclair. Some of the other members of the band besides Bob Vallee (fiddle) were Terry Sutton (steel guitar- can be heard on the Stone-Canyon web site), Don Mitchell, Dollard "Vic" Huneault (bass).
In the early '70's when I was about 18, my steady girlfriend (now my wife) used to go out every Saturday night to the hotels in the Valleyfield or Rivière Beaudette Qc. area and listen to Johnny Mooring playing (he would occasionally come over to our table because another one of my former brother in-laws used to play from time to time with Johnny). Another good (French) country singer from the area was Marcel Laframboise. We always had a good time on Saturday night, and the booze was cheap."
"Back in the early 60's I played for a brief time in Jack's band - he was from Lancaster, Ontario, and his last name wasn't Silvers. He had a weekly TV show on CJSS in Cornwall, Ontario, called "The O.K. Jamboree". Band members were: Terry Sutton (McElroy), steel; Don Mitchell, electric guitar; Dusty King (Bruce Dustin), flat-top rhythm & vocals; Bob Vallee, fiddle; and Bill Gokey on electric bass & 5-string banjo.
The show was cancelled in 1962 when CTV Network took over Channel 8 and turned it in to a satellite station.
I believe the album was cut about 1963."
"Hi, my name is Terry Sutton and I was the steel player with Smilin' Jack from 1957 to 1960-61. We started on a Cornwall radio station CKSF in 1957 as "The Sons Of The Plains" then when channel 8 went on the air we moved over to it for about two years and played Northern New York State, Eastern Quebec and many Eastern Ontario gigs...
Smilin' Jack (Leo Boisclair) was born in Cornwall Ont. but moved to the Valleyfield QC. area at a young age and lived for many years in St Stanislaus QC. I came to work for Jack from the Smiley Willette Show on Channel 5, Plattsburg N.Y. He always had good players with him and was very popular around the east. The Smilin' Jack record was recorded in the RCA Victor studios in Montreal, and around the same time Dusty King recorded an album with the same musicians, i.e. Don Mitchell on Lead Guitar, Yours Truly on Steel, Bob Vallee on Fiddle, Sandy Parr on Bass and Jack on acoustic, and as there were no drums then we had a person named "Wave" on acoustic guitar with paper through the strings to make a snare sound. I produced the album with every ones help.
I'm still playing quite often here in Connecticut where I moved in 1965, spent some years in Nashville with various artists."
"Hi Mike. Congradulations for your research on an old country album. According to the info from Terry & Bill they gave you all the info that I know. By the way, I was the fiddler on that first album."
Receiving the above information and reflections was wonderful. If that wasn't enough, Terry told me he had a reel-to-reel tape of one of the "OK Jamboree" television shows, and he was willing to send me a copy. This amazed me, as there is so little live broadcast material of vintage Canadian country kicking around. I have found this recording fascinating, to say the least.
The "OK Jamboree" was broadcast Saturday nights on CJSS-TV Cornwall, a station that had a short run, 1959 to 1963, as a private CBC affiliated broadcaster. It was sponsored by O'Keefe Ale (hence the "OK" - get it?) and fortunately the commercials are included on the recording. The guest on this episode is "Miss" Terry Parker, a fantastic singer and yodeler who's Banff recordings I will try to feature in the future. I hope you all enjoy this great treasure as much as I have.
I CANNOT THANK ENOUGH GERRY, BILL, ROBERT, AND ESPECIALLY TERRY FOR ALL THE TIME AND ATTENTION THEY GAVE ME TO SHARE SMILIN' JACK'S MUSIC AND STORY! I'M SURE MR. BOISCLAIR APPRECIATES IT SOMEWHERE!
NOTE: The half-hour show is included as a single mp3. Please be aware there is some noticeable tape drop out near the beginning of the show, a small concern considering the rarity of this type of recording.
Intro, Theme (host, Roger D.)
Crazy Creek (fiddle solo, Bob Vallée)
Excuse Me, I Think I've Got A Heartache (vocal, Smilin' Jack & Vic Huneault)
Please Help Me, I'm Falling (vocal, Terry Parker)
The Pickup Reel (fiddle solo, Bob Vallée)
Goofus (guitar solo, Don Mitchell)
Tumbling Tumbleweed (vocal, Terry Sutton & Smilin' Jack)
Personal appearance announcements
The Yodeling Bird (vocal, Terry Parker)
Fraulein (vocal, Terry Sutton)
Smoky Mountain Rag (instrumental, The Sons of the Plains)