Bobby Gimby

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Bobby Gimby
Bobby Gimby.jpg
Bobby Gimby as The Pied Piper
Born Robert Stead Gimby
(1918-10-25)October 25, 1918
Cabri, Saskatchewan
Died June 20, 1998(1998-06-20) (aged 79)
North Bay, Ontario
Occupation Orchestra leader, trumpeter, songwriter

Bobby Gimby, CM (October 25, 1918 – June 20, 1998) was a Canadian orchestra leader, trumpeter, and singer/songwriter.


He was born Robert Stead Gimby (pronounced Jim-bee) in Cabri, Saskatchewan, a small town of about 300 people, several hours drive from Regina.[1] Bobby came from a musical family: his father Albert S. Gimby [2] was a fiddle player, his mother played piano, and he had a sister who played guitar.[3] His father ran a hardware store, but after it burned in a fire, the family struggled financially; they decided to leave Saskatchewan to live near relatives in British Columbia.[4] Ultimately, the Gimby family moved to Chilliwack, B.C., where they lived throughout the 1930s, and where Bobby attended Chilliwack High School.[5] Bobby was already interested in a musical career: in Chilliwack, he was a member of the Town Band, a popular group which played at many local dances.[6] In 1941, he joined the touring orchestra of well-known Canadian bandleader Mart Kenney. Bobby played trumpet (the press of that time referred to him as "The Wizard of the Trumpet") [7] and he went on the road with Mart Kenney's Western Gentlemen, working mainly in Vancouver and western Canada.[8] Circa 1944, Bobby Gimby moved to Toronto, Ontario. He founded his own band and became popular playing for teenagers. Thanks to his sponsor, the Simpson's store, he was able to entertain at various teen-oriented venues in Toronto during the mid-1940s.[9] In the late 1940s, he and his band made several recordings.[10] In 1945, Gimby became a member of the long-running radio program the Happy Gang.[11] He remained with the Gang for thirteen years, until April 1959.[12] Meanwhile, in 1949, he was given his own program on CBC Radio; his band at that time was called the Rodeo Rascals.[13] In addition to continuing to lead his own orchestra, Gimby later appeared on CBC Television in the late 1950s, and subsequently hosted a show, on CTV, in the mid-1970s. On that show, he focused on big band and pop songs that would appeal to viewers who remembered him from the 1940s and 1950s.[14]

Later career[edit]

In the early 1960s, Bobby Gimby was working as a songwriter; he also worked for an advertising agency, writing jingles for commercials. In 1962, while in Singapore on business, he wrote a patriotic song about the impending independence of the country. It was called "Malaysia Forever" and it celebrated the formation of Malaysian Federation in 1963. The song became very popular, spurred by frequent radio play, and was thought of as the new country's first national anthem.[15]

Gimby came to be known as "The Pied Piper of Canada", a role he embraced: he would perform his music dressed up in a Pied Piper costume, wearing a cape.[16] His popularity soared after he wrote a 1967 song called "Ca-na-da," which commemorated his country's centennial. He wrote the bilingual song (also known as "Canada") using children's voices to sing the chorus; wherever he performed it, he would invite local school kids up on stage to sing it with him.[17] More than 50 recordings were made of the song, plus more than 250 Canadian school choirs and bands recorded it. The song was originally written as part of a documentary intended for the Centennial, but teachers loved the patriotic message of "Ca-na-da" and led the demand to release it as a single. In fact, throughout 1967, the song remained at the top of the Canadian music charts.[18] In 1971, Gimby donated the song's original manuscript and all future royalties to Scouts Canada.

Gimby was a prolific songwriter throughout his career. In addition to his country's Centennial song, his compositions included centennial songs for the provinces of Manitoba and British Columbia. He also wrote pop songs that were recorded by Peggy Lee, Georgia Gibbs, Ray Bolger, and others.[19]

Gimby performed many concerts for young audiences, and was often praised for his ability to connect with kids.[20] He often participated in events where he would lead a parade of singing children to a county fairgrounds and then perform for the fair's attendees.[21] Gimby also traveled to military bases in foreign countries, where he would entertain the children of service personnel who were stationed overseas.[22] In recognition of his musical contribution to his country, Gimby received the Medal of Service, and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1968.[23]

In a Wayne and Shuster skit about a mail-in record offer, the comedians offer a collection containing the entire works of "Brahms, Beethoven, Strauss, Wagner and Bobby Gimby!"

Gimby died in 1998 in a nursing home in North Bay, Ontario, at age 79.[24] He was interred in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ca-na-da's Pied Piper Bobby Gimby Dies." Hamilton (Ontario) Spectator, June 22, 1998, p. A13.
  2. ^ "Social and Personal." Chilliwack (B.C.) Progress, July 11, 1951, p. 18.
  3. ^ "Musician Led Canada in Song in Centennial Year." Toronto Globe & Mail, June 22, 1998, p. A 3.
  4. ^ Judy Williams. "Finding Family Tree was Worthwhile Says Jean." Chilliwack (B.C.) Progress, December 28, 1977, p/ 60.
  5. ^ "Big March Publicizes Carnival." Chilliwack (B.C.) Progress, April 26, 1967, p. 1.
  6. ^ "Ca-na-da Composer Didn't Forget Chilliwack Connection." Chilliwack (B.C.) Progress, September 15, 1998, p. 7.
  7. ^ "Kinsman Brings Kenney Here for Fund Dances." Winnipeg Tribune, March 29, 1941, p. 29.
  8. ^ Liam Lacey. "Catchy Song Still Echoes for Ca-na-da- Pied Piper Gimby." Toronto Globe & Mail, July 24, 1987, p. A2.
  9. ^ "Keen-Teens Have Keen Time at Teen Turnouts." Toronto Globe & Mail, March 23, 1946, p. 5.
  10. ^ Lotta Dempsey. "New Songs, New Singer, Solid Senders." Toronto Globe & Mail, March 24, 1949, p. 17.
  11. ^ Liam Lacey. "Catchy Song Still Echoes for Ca-na-da- Pied Piper Gimby." Toronto Globe & Mail, July 24, 1987, p. A2.
  12. ^ Bob Burgess. "TV and Radio." Ottawa (Ontario) Journal, April 16, 1959, p. 30.
  13. ^ Hugh Fraser. "Start Smiling Again, Says Canada's Pied Piper." Hamilton (Ontario) Spectator, May 27, 1992, p. D3.
  14. ^ Clarence Metcalfe. "TV Reveals His Real Career." Ottawa (Ontario) Journal, February 1, 1975, p. TV4.
  15. ^ Alan Walker. "Bobby's Commercial Now National Anthem." Brandon (Manitoba) Sun, October 30, 1962, p. 9.
  16. ^ F.A. Rosser. "Sun Beams." Brandon (Manitoba) Sun, April 22, 1967, p. 2.
  17. ^ Liam Lacey. "Catchy Song Still Echoes for Ca-na-da's Pied Piper Gimby." Toronto Globe & Mail, July 24, 1987, p. A2.
  18. ^ "Ca-na-da's Pied Piper Bobby Gimby Dies." Hamilton (Ontario) Spectator, June 22, 1998, p. A13.
  19. ^ "Musician Led Canada in Song in Centennial Year." Toronto Globe & Mail, June 22, 1998, p. A3.
  20. ^ "Heritage Days Program Planned." Cumberland (MD) News, June 4, 1976, p. 10.
  21. ^ "Gimby to Visit Killarney." Brandon (Manitoba) Sun, June 15, 1970, p. 3.
  22. ^ "Canada's Pied Piper Still Leads the Children." Chilliwack (B.C.) Progress, December 23, 1968, p. 11.
  23. ^ Scott Button. "Yankee Doodled Dandy." Brandon (Manitoba) Sun, January 5, 1968, p. 9.
  24. ^ "Ca-na-da's Pied Piper Bobby Gimby Dies." Hamilton (Ontario) Spectator, June 22, 1998, p. A13.

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