Wilf Carter (musician)

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Wilf Carter
Birth name Wilfred Arthur Charles Carter
Also known as Montana Slim , The Yodelling Cowboy
Born December 18, 1904
Port Hilford, Nova Scotia, Canada
Origin Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Died December 5, 1996(1996-12-05) (aged 91)
Scottsdale, Arizona, United States
Genres Country, western
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Years active 1930–1992
Labels RCA Victor

Wilfred Arthur Charles Carter (December 18, 1904 – December 5, 1996), professionally known as Wilf Carter in his native Canada and also as Montana Slim in the USA, was a Canadian country music singer, songwriter, guitarist, and yodeller. Widely acknowledged as the father of Canadian country music, Carter was Canada's first country music star, inspiring a generation of young Canadian performers.[1]

Early years

Carter was born in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia, Canada. One of nine children, he began working odd jobs by the age of eight in Canning, Nova Scotia. He began singing after seeing a traveling Swiss performer named "The Yodelling Fool" in Canning. Carter left home at the age of 15 after a falling out with his father, who was a Baptist minister.[1][2]

In 1923, after working as a lumberjack and singing with hobos in boxcars, Carter moved west to Calgary, Alberta, where he found work as a cowboy. He made extra money singing and playing his guitar at dances, performing for tourist parties, and traveling throughout the Canadian Rockies.[2] It was during this time that he developed his own yodelling style, sometimes called an "echo yodel" or a "three-in-one".

Music career

"Down the Old Cattle Trail" by Wilf Carter

Carter performed his first radio broadcast on CFCN in 1930. Soon after, he was heard locally on CFAC and nationally on the CRBC. Two years later, he was entertaining tourists as a trail rider for the Canadian Pacific Railway, who promoted horseback excursions into the Canadian Rockies. Carter soon became very popular in the region.[2]

In 1933, he was hired as an entertainer on the maiden voyage of the British ship S.S. Empress. Later that year, he stopped off in Montreal and recorded two songs he had just written: "My Swiss Moonlight Lullaby" and "The Capture of Albert Johnson". After signing with RCA Victor, the record became a best-seller within a year. That same year, Carter also wrote and recorded "Pete Knight, The King of the Cowboys," which also became a hit.[2]

In 1935, Carter moved to New York City, where he performed on WABC radio. He also hosted a CBS country music radio program until 1937. During this time, someone tagged him with the name "Montana Slim," and the name stuck.[2] In 1937, Carter returned to Alberta, where he purchased a ranch. He continued to appear on both American and Canadian radio shows, as well as perform live concerts.[2]

In 1940, Carter seriously injured his back in a car accident in Montana. He was unable to perform for much of the decade, but his popularity was sustained by the periodic release of new recordings.[2] He sold his ranch in 1949 and moved his family to a 180 acres (73 ha) farm in New Jersey. In 1952, he moved, this time to Orlando, Florida, where he opened the Wilf Carter Motor Lodge, a venture that lasted only two years.

Return to the road

In 1949, Carter resumed live performances with tours in Canada and the United States. In 1950, he attracted over 50,000 people during a week at the Canadian National Exhibition bandstand in Toronto.

In 1953, Wilf Carter started touring with his own show called, The Family Show with the Folks You Know. His daughters, Carol and Sheila, worked with him as dancers and back-up singers.

In 1964, Carter performed for the first time at the Calgary Stampede. He also became one of the most requested guests on the TV show hosted by Canadian country singer Tommy Hunter.

Career highlights

Wilf Carter recorded over 40 original and compilation LP records for RCA Victor and its affiliates, including Nuggets of the Golden West, Christmas in Canada, Songs of the Rail and Range, Songs of Australia, Wilf Carter Sings Jimmie Rogers, and Let's Go Back to the Bible. In 1983 he rerecorded many of his most popular songs for Fifty Golden Years.

In 1971, Wilf Carter was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1979, he served as the grand marshal at the Calgary Stampede, and in 1981, he toured with his contemporary, Hank Snow. He was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1984, and the following year, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Juno Awards Hall of Fame. A video documentary was released in 2000, called The Last Round-up: The Wilf Carter Story, which examined Carter's distinguished career.

In 1988, Carter recorded his last album, What Ever Happened to All Those Years. In 1991, at age 86, he made his last concert tour, appropriately called The Last Round-up Tour, with shows throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Manitoba. He retired the following year, due to his loss of hearing. Wilf Carter died in 1996 in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 91.[3]


Wilf Carter's simple, honest sound continues to attract listeners with each new generation. His straightforward singing and guitar playing have a universal appeal. He wrote hundreds of songs covering a wide range of themes, including traditional country western, cowboy, folk, and hobo songs. His recordings of "Blue Canadian Rockies" and "You Are My Sunshine" are among the most popular. Some believe that Carter wrote the popular American Christmas carol, "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas".[2] Fellow Canadian country artist Ian Tyson considers Carter an influence on his music.[4]


Charted albums

Year Album CAN Country
1981 My Home on the Range 14

Charted singles

Year Single CAN Country Album
1973 "Shoo Shoo Shoo Sha-La-La" 60 My Heartache's Your Happiness
1976 "Have a Nice Day" 27 Have a Nice Day
1988 "What Ever Happened" 91 What Ever Happened

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Eder, Bruce. "Wilf Carter Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved January 14, 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 "Wilf Carter". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 7, 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Carter, Wilf. The Yodelling Cowboy. Toronto: Ryerson, 1961.
  4. "Ian's 1st Solo Album Marks Return To Country Roots", Billboard, November 23, 1974, p.66

External links