Ed McCurdy

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Ed McCurdy (January 11, 1919 – March 23, 2000) was an American folk singer, songwriter, and television actor. His anti-war classic, "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" (1950[1]), inspired and gave hope to those in the peace movement.


Born to a farming family in Willow Hill, Franklin, Pennsylvania, McCurdy left home at 18 to pursue a singing career. He first found success in 1938 as a singer and disc jockey at a gospel radio station in Oklahoma. By the early 1940s, McCurdy, tall and handsome and with a big baritone voice, had become a popular singer of romantic songs in nightclubs across North America, until the legendary vaudeville fan dancer Sally Rand caught his act, hired him to join her show, put him in a tuxedo and had him sing his romantic songs to her on stage while pushing her on her swing. He stayed in vaudeville for several years as a singer and straight man to comedian (Fat) Jack E. Leonard, before moving in 1948, with his Canadian dancer wife and family to Vancouver where he hosted his own radio show for CBC Radio. With the success of this show, the CBC transferred him to the flagship national station in Toronto where he starred in a morning children's show and an adult evening show. During his Canadian radio period, he developed life-time friendships with the guests on his show, such as Pete Seeger, Lena Horne, Josh White, Oscar Peterson, and Oscar Brand. He also developed a love for folk music and released his first folk album in 1949.

After achieving great success with his folk show at New York's Village Vanguard in 1950, McCurdy and his family moved to New York, from where he went on to become one of the world's best-known folk singers. He also became the "L&M Cigarette Man" on television, was an emcee for the George Gobel Show (national TV), and by 1956, was star of the children's TV show Freddie The Fireman.(Info about Mr.McCurdy playing"Freddie The Fireman"weekday evenings on WABD TV Ch.5 in NYC from 1956 to 1957 can be found in The NYC Kids Shows Round Up"section at "TV Party.Com")

He recorded many albums in the 1950s and 60s for Elektra Records and Tradition Records, performed several times at the legendary Newport Folk Festival, and was a major international folk star throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, with new collaborative friendships built with the younger folk set of Odetta, Bob Gibson, Erik Darling, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Josh White, Jr..

His widely covered anti-war classic, "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream", has been recorded in seventy-six languages (including covers by The Weavers in 1960, Simon & Garfunkel in 1964, Cornelis Vreeswijk in 1964 (in Swedish), Johnny Cash in 2002, Garth Brooks in 2005, and Serena Ryder in 2006). In November 1989, as Tom Brokaw stood on top of the Berlin Wall, he directed his NBC-TV cameras towards the school children on the East German side of the Berlin Wall, to show the children singing "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" en masse as the wall was being dismantled.[2]

His collection of risqué Elizabethan folk songs in a three-part series of albums titled When Dalliance was in Flower (and Maidens Lost Their Heads), became a favorite record series of Prince Phillip of England.[citation needed] The actor Alan Arkin played with him on these recordings. His single "Miracle of the Wheat" released on Kapp Records in 1956 became a Christmas Tradition on Cincinnati Radio.

By the late 1960s, McCurdy was forced to retire with severe health problems. In 1980, he was gratified that two of his compositions, "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" and "King's Highway", as recorded by his old friend Josh White, Jr., became the official theme songs for the Peace Corps and VISTA, respectively.[3][4]

In the mid 1980s, he and his wife Beryl moved to Nova Scotia, where he enjoyed a second career as a character actor on Canadian television.

He was awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience award September 26, 1992.[5]


  • 1949: "Sings Canadian Folksongs" (Manhattan)
  • 1955: Badmen, Heroes, and Pirate Songs (Elektra Records)
  • 1955: "Sin Songs Pro & Con" (Elektra EKL 124)
  • 1955: The Ballad Record (Riverside Records)
  • 1956: The Miracle of the Wheat (single - Kapp Records)
  • 1956: Blood Booze 'n Bones (Elektra)
  • 1956: Bar Room Ballads (Riverside)
  • 195(?): "Let´s Sing Out" (Capri 507) Canada
  • 1956: The Folk Singer (Dawn Records)
  • 1956: A Ballad Singer's Choice (Tradition Records, Empire Musicwerks)
  • 1956: When Dalliance Was In Flower (and Maidens Lost Their Heads) vol. 1 (Elektra)
  • 1957: Sin Songs — Pro and Con (Elektra)
  • 1957(?): Songs of the Old West (Elektra)
  • 195(?): "Songs I Learned Coming Thru The Great Smokies" (FolkArt FLP 5001)
  • 1958: When Dalliance Was In Flower (and Maidens Lost Their Heads) vol. 2 (Elektra)
  • 1958: When Dalliance Was In Flower (and Maidens Lost Their Heads) vol. 3 (Elektra)
  • 1958: Children's Songs (Tradition Records)
  • 1959: Son of Dalliance (Elektra)
  • 1959: Children's Songs and Stories (Folkways Records)
  • 1961: A Treasure Chest Of American Folk Song Double LP (Elektra)
  • 1963: The Best of Dalliance (Elektra)
  • 1971: Songs of the West (Tradition/Everest TR 2061)'
  • 1976: "Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream" (Bear Family Records) Germany
  • 1977: On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand: Sacred Songs of America with Dana McCurdy (Folkways Records)
  • 1980: Songs and Stories (Folkways Records)
  • 1996: Cowboy Songs (Tradition Records)
  • 1996: Naughty & Bawdy Songs of Olde England (Warner Bros. Records)
  • The Legend of Robin Hood (Riverside)
  • American Folk Songs (Spoken Arts)
  • A Child's Introduction to American Folk Songs (Spoken Arts)
  • Sings Folksongs Of The Sea (Tiara Spotlight Series - TST 537)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ TRO-©1950,1951 & 1955 Almanac Music, Inc. New York, N.Y. Copyrights renewed; Source: The Lyrics Connection. "The Lyrics Connection". The Lyrics Connection=29 January 2010. 
  2. ^ http://exclaim.ca/motionreviews/generalreview.aspx?csid1=62&csid2=774&fid1=3179
  3. ^ Billboard, April 15, 2000 v112 i16 p96
  4. ^ Kennedy Center: Millennium Stage Artist Details for Josh White, Jr
  5. ^ The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Recipients List

External links[edit]