Max Ferguson

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Max Ferguson, OC (February 10, 1924 – March 7, 2013) was a Canadian radio personality and satirist, best known for his long-running radio programs Rawhide and The Max Ferguson Show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). [1]

Order of Canada order

The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order and the second highest honour for merit in the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada. It comes second only to membership in the Order of Merit, which is the personal gift of Canada's monarch.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, branded as CBC/Radio-Canada, is a Canadian federal Crown corporation that serves as the national public broadcaster for both radio and television. The English- and French-language service units of the corporation are commonly known as CBC and Radio-Canada respectively, and both short-form names are also commonly used in the applicable language to refer to the corporation as a whole.


Born in Durham, England, Ferguson was raised in London, Ontario, and graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a BA in English and French. In the summer of 1946 he was hired as an announcer at radio station CFPL in London, but later that year relocated to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the opportunity to join the CBC as a staff announcer with the local station in the CBC Halifax Radio Building. According to his autobiography, And Now...Here's Max (1967), he was appalled to find among his assignments the task of hosting a cowboy music show called After Breakfast Breakdown. To protect his anonymity, and in hopes of quick reassignment, he improvised the character of "Old Rawhide", assuming the voice of an elderly ranch hand and giving colourfully disdainful appraisals of the songs he introduced. The character was a breath of fresh air to listeners of the staid national broadcaster, and they relayed their approval with volumes of mail. Accepting his fate, Ferguson devised an entire repertory company of raucous and bizarre characters to interact with Rawhide (all voiced by Ferguson) to amuse himself and his audience, creating daily skits which parodied literary classics and satirized current events and CBC personalities. Recurring characters (other than Rawhide) included pompous, adenoidal CBC announcer Marvin Mellobell, The Goomer Brothers, Little Harold, The Black Widow Spider, and the adventurous Granny.

Durham, England City in England

Durham is a historic city and the county town of County Durham in North East England. The city lies on the River Wear, to the west of Sunderland, south of Newcastle upon Tyne and to the north of Darlington. Founded over the final resting place of St Cuthbert, its Norman cathedral became a centre of pilgrimage in medieval England. The cathedral and adjacent 11th-century castle were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. The castle has been the home of Durham University since 1832. HM Prison Durham is also located close to the city centre. City of Durham is the name of the civil parish.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

London, Ontario City in Ontario, Canada

London is a city in Southwestern Ontario, Canada along the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor. The city had a population of 383,822 according to the 2016 Canadian census. London is at the confluence of the Thames River, approximately 200 km (120 mi) from both Toronto and Detroit; and about 230 km (140 mi) from Buffalo, New York. The city of London is a separated municipality, politically separate from Middlesex County, though it remains the county seat.

In 1949, the show's popularity led the corporation to transfer Ferguson to its head office in Toronto, where he would broadcast nationally. Rawhide's first coast-to-coast broadcasts caused something of a national controversy when a Member of Parliament rose to denounce the show for its low humour and abuse of the English language. However, it remained one of the most popular programs on air, lasting some seventeen years. Along the way, the cowboy music was dropped in favour of esoteric folk music, making Ferguson a pioneer in the world music genre long before the term existed. He was also able to originate his broadcasts from his beloved Maritimes for a few years in the mid-1950s. Between 1955 and 1960, Ferguson recorded three albums on Folkways Records, each a part of the Rawhide satirical series. From 1954 to 1961, (while continuing the Rawhide radio program) he branched out to television to host the nightly CBC Halifax program Gazette, and later the CBC Toronto production Tabloid.

Folk music Music of the people

Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.

Folkways Records was a record label founded by Moses Asch that documented folk, world, and children's music. It was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1987 and is now part of Smithsonian Folkways.

Ferguson announced he was retiring Rawhide and all of the associated Rawhide characters in 1962, and kept to his word—his subsequent radio ventures did not incorporate any of these characters. Instead, he launched the 5-days-a-week Max Ferguson Show beginning in 1962, featuring ethnic music and topical skits based on the news of the day. The latter were always highlighted by Ferguson's uncanny ability to mimic prominent politicians and celebrities. Ferguson wrote his own topical sketches, based on the morning's news, and performed all the voices live-to-air. The show was introduced in grandiloquent fashion by another CBC legend, Allan McFee, who always ended his piece with the mellifluous "And's Max".

Allan McFee was an often irreverent announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's radio and television networks. Born in Belleville, Ontario, he joined the CBC in 1937, and remained with the network until his retirement in 1989. Even after his retirement, he continued to be the announcer for Max Ferguson's Sunday morning CBC radio show up to the beginning of 1998.

Ferguson was the subject of the 1966 National Film Board of Canada profile Max in the Morning which detailed a typical morning spent preparing and hosting his radio show. That same year he went down in history as the first man to voice the Hulk for Marvel Comics in "The Marvel Super Heroes" show with fellow radio host Paul Soles voicing Bruce Banner. He also narrated several films, and wrote the whimsical children's story and its subsequent film short "Has Anybody Seen My Umbrella?" (1990).

National Film Board of Canada Canadas public film and digital media producer and distributor

The National Film Board of Canada is Canada's public film and digital media producer and distributor. An agency of the Government of Canada, the NFB produces and distributes documentary films, animation, web documentaries, and alternative dramas. In total, the NFB has produced over 3,000 productions since its inception, which have won over 5,000 awards. The NFB reports to the Parliament of Canada through the Minister of Canadian Heritage. It has English-language and French-language production branches.

Hulk Superhero appearing in Marvel Comics publications and related media

The Hulk is a fictional superhero appearing in publications by the American publisher Marvel Comics. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, the character first appeared in the debut issue of The Incredible Hulk. In his comic book appearances, the character is both the Hulk, a green-skinned, hulking and muscular humanoid possessing a vast degree of physical strength, and his alter ego Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, a physically weak, socially withdrawn, and emotionally reserved physicist, the two existing as independent personalities and resenting of the other.

Marvel Comics company that publishes comic books and related media

Marvel Comics is the brand name and primary imprint of Marvel Worldwide Inc., formerly Marvel Publishing, Inc. and Marvel Comics Group, a publisher of American comic books and related media. In 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Worldwide's parent company.

The radio show remained what Ferguson was best known for, however. The daily Max Ferguson Show wrapped up on June 25, 1971 after a 9 12-year run; Ferguson's final sketch featured John Diefenbaker, Pierre Trudeau and Robert Stanfield (all voiced by Ferguson) expressing relief that they would no longer be on the show.

John Diefenbaker 13th Prime Minister of Canada

John George Diefenbaker was the 13th prime minister of Canada, serving from June 21, 1957 to April 22, 1963. He was the only Progressive Conservative party leader after 1930 and before 1979 to lead the party to an election victory, doing so three times, although only once with a majority of seats in the House of Commons of Canada.

Pierre Trudeau 15th Prime Minister of Canada

Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau, often referred to by the initials PET, was a Canadian politician who served as the 15th prime minister of Canada. He was the third longest-serving prime minister in Canadian history, having served for 15 years, 164 days.

Robert Stanfield Canadian politician, Premier of Nova Scotia and Federal Leader of the Queens Loyal Opposition

Robert Lorne Stanfield, was the 17th Premier of Nova Scotia and leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. He was born into an affluent Nova Scotia clothing manufacturing and political family in 1914. He graduated from Dalhousie University and Harvard Law School in the 1930s. Stanfield became the leader of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party in 1948, and after a rebuilding period, led the party to government in 1956. As premier, he won three straight elections. His government was credited with modernizing the way the province delivered education and medical services. In 1967, he resigned as premier and became the leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party. He was the leader of the Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and fought three general elections, losing each time to the Liberals under Pierre Trudeau. He resigned as leader in 1976 and from public office in 1979. In retirement, he lived mostly in Ottawa, and died there in 2003 from complications due to pneumonia. He is sometimes referred to as "the best prime minister Canada never had". As one of Canada's most distinguished and respected statesmen, he was one of several people granted the style "The Right Honourable" who were not so entitled by virtue of an office held.

After some time off, Ferguson returned to the CBC airwaves, appearing on Sunday morning. For this iteration of The Max Ferguson Show—which would run for over 25 years—Ferguson dropped the skits and relied exclusively on his outspoken charm and facility with the language, as well as his unique selection of offbeat music and comedy tracks.

Long-time announcer McFee, whose programme The Eclectic Circus, preceded Max's show, retired from the CBC in 1989; but he continued to introduce Ferguson's show until failing health forced him to step down in early 1991. Shelagh Rogers, who had appeared fairly regularly starting in the mid-90s as a sort of conversational companion for Ferguson, assumed the announcer's task for the show's final few months. Rogers soon became a top network host in her own right.

Max Ferguson retired from broadcasting in 1998, having spent over 50 years at the CBC. Over the years, he garnered many awards, including the 1968 Stephen Leacock Award for humour for his autobiography, And Now...Here's Max. He was appointed an Officer of The Order of Canada in 1970 and in 2001 was chosen as a recipient of the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. [2] He was the recipient of the John Drainie Award and the Gordon Sinclair Award. He held honorary degrees from the University of Western Ontario, Dalhousie University, the University of Waterloo, Brock University and the University of Saskatchewan.

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  1. CBC Radio's Max Ferguson dies CBC News, March 7, 2013.
  2. "Max Ferguson biography". Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation. Retrieved 4 February 2015.