Donn Reynolds

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Donn Reynolds
Donn Reynolds - publicity photo with guitar.JPG
Background information
Birth name Stanley Beresford Reynolds
Also known as Donn Reynolds,
King of the Yodelers
Born (1921-06-26)June 26, 1921
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Origin Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Died August 16, 1997(1997-08-16) (aged 76)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Genres Country, western
Occupation(s) Singer, musician, songwriter
Years active 1947–1987
Labels MGM Records,
Pye Nixa Records,
Regal Zonophone
Website www.donnreynolds.com

Stanley Beresford "Donn" Reynolds (June 26, 1921 – August 16, 1997) was a Canadian country music singer and yodeler most widely known for his Bavarian style of yodeling. Often referred to as Canada's "King of the Yodelers",[1] Reynolds established two yodeling world records. He recorded 38 singles and six albums throughout a performing career spanning over 40 years.

Biography[edit]

1937 B&W photograph of Donn Reynolds (top left) as "The Yodeling Ranger" seated on steps with his band (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada).
With his band as "The Yodeling Ranger" (1937).

Early years (1921-1936)[edit]

Donn Reynolds was born in St. Vital, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on June 26, 1921. His parents, William Reynolds and Ethel Smith, migrated from England to Canada in 1907 after their marriage in 1905. He was youngest of three children, with older sisters Dora and Connie. Influenced by Harry Hopkinson (aka Harry Torrani), a popular British yodeler during the 1930s, Reynolds taught himself to sing and play guitar at 10 years of age. He first achieved local notoriety in 1936, winning a local radio (CKY Winnipeg) sponsored talent contest. By the age of 16, Reynolds had formed a band performing local clubs and theatres as "The Yodeling Ranger".[2]

Military (1937-1945)[edit]

With his father's encouragement, Reynolds headed for British Columbia in 1937 to work as a deckhand for Canadian Pacific Railway Coast Service aboard passenger steamships along the western coasts of Canada and the United States. Traveling with his guitar, he gained popularity for entertaining passengers and crew with frequent impromptu performances aboard each ship. After Canada's declaration of war in 1939, Reynolds became a Merchant Mariner in the Canadian Merchant Navy with Canadian Pacific Steamships. In 1941 he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was assigned to deep-sea rescue operations in the Northern Pacific Aleutian Islands. During service in the RCAF, Reynolds' vocal talents caught the attention of senior officers as he was often heard singing and yodeling throughout the ship. They facilitated his reassignment to the "Joe Boys",[3] a Canadian military entertainment unit touring throughout Western Canada and Alaska performing for Canadian, American, British and Australian troops where he remained until the end of the Pacific campaign in 1945.

1948 B&W photograph of Donn Reynolds (far left) on the film set of Eureka Stockade standing with Peter Finch, Grant Taylor, and Sid Hermann (New South Wales, Australia).
With Peter Finch, Grant Taylor, and Sid Hermann on film set of Eureka Stockade (1948).

Australia (1946-1948)[edit]

Upon completing military service, Reynolds moved to New Zealand through an offer to tour the Kerridge Odeon circuit[4] under contract with R.J. Kerridge. Success of the tour extended to Australia in early 1947 where he joined Western Cinemas Limited as a featured vaudeville performer in his own travelling hillbilly variety show [5] and debuted over Australian radio performing weekly for Bob Dyer's "Dude Ranch" on 2FC.[6] His appearances now featured the heavy black beard he had grown for an acting role in the Australian film "Eureka Stockade" produced by Ealing Studios.[7] The same year, Reynolds joined Willard (Bill) Ferrier's Famous Hillbillies along with budding Australian artists Johnny Ashcroft, The McKean Sisters, Dusty Rankin, and Billy Blinkhorn. Their shows were the first in Sydney to present a strictly all country music format.[8]

Alongside pioneers Tex Morton and Slim Dusty, Reynolds was among Australia's earliest popular country music recording artists releasing several sides in 1947 for the Australian Columbia Graphophone Company on the Regal Zonophone label.[9] Gaining popularity around the country, he became known as "Canada's Yodelling Cowboy"[10] and regularly featured on national radio shows such as Cavalcade with Jack Davey, National Fair, Malvern Star Show, and RAAF Digger Sessions. He earned money playing theaters and halls in towns across New South Wales where people had heard him on the radio and travelled with Goldwyn Brothers Circus billed as the "Yodelling Cowboy". In October 1948, Reynolds became the voice of Australia's iconic Peters Ice Cream as the "Peter's Singing Cowboy". His signature five tone yodel garnered recognition as a regular feature of the Peters Pals radio show syndicated from Melbourne's 3XY.

United States (1949-1958)[edit]

Eager to extend his recent Australian popularity to America, Reynolds departed for Hollywood California in 1949 headlining "Red Barn Roundup" hoedowns with Dusty Ellison at the Avodon Ballroom in Los Angeles. His first U.S. single, "Texas Yodel", was declared a Cash Box "Bullseye of the Week" on July 2, 1949,[11] prompting appearances throughout California's vaudeville theaters and dance halls. The song was covered by Wesley Tuttle on Capitol Records later that same year.

Forming a band in 1950, Reynolds toured the southwestern U.S. as "Donn Reynolds & his Westerners" drawing further attention upon winning the "World Open Yodelers Contest"[12] on September 1, 1950 (awarded by Wilf Carter at the Pacific National Exhibition, Vancouver, BC) and later claiming the U.S. National Yodeling Championship[13][14] in 1956 (awarded by Connie B. Gay in Washington, DC).

During a trend when American R&B record labels were expanding into country music, Reynolds was signed by Art Rupe of Specialty Records in January 1952.[15] Recording sessions were held at John Keating Studios in Seattle, WA which had remained unreleased until appearing on the 2013 compilation "Portrait of a Yodeler". Later that summer, Reynolds paired up with western swing band leader Eddie Cletro, recording several singles for Lariat Records[16] at the renowned Radio Recorders studio in Hollywood.

From 1950 through late 1956, Reynolds traveled the U.S. working in radio broadcasting while regularly appearing on stage and television across the country. Featured appearances included the Louisiana Hayride,[17] WLS National Barn Dance,[18] WWVA Jamboree,[19] KRLD Big D Jamboree,[20] Hollywood Theatre, WSAZ Saturday Night Jamboree,[21] Herb Shriner's "Two for the Money",[22] Valley View Park (with Roy Acuff), and his own regular TV show as "The TV Rangers"[23] on WGAL-TV.

By 1956, Reynolds had settled in Cumberland, Maryland as a resident broadcaster for WCUM and host of its weekly "Alleghany Jubilee" variety show.[24] He opened a local record shop "The Record Corral" specializing in country and spiritual music.

1957 B&W photograph of Donn Reynolds (far left) in recording studio with George Morgan, Wesley Rose, Boudleaux Bryant, and Eddy Arnold (Nashville, Tennessee).
With George Morgan, Wesley Rose, Boudleaux Bryant, and Eddy Arnold at RCA studio (1957).

In late 1956 Reynolds traveled to the U.K., being among the first artists to record in London's Lansdowne Studios with British producer Denis Preston. Twelve songs were recorded for EMI under engineering expertise of Joe Meek featuring prominent backing musicians Jack Fallon (bass), Danny Levan (violin), Sandy Brown (clarinet), and Al Fairweather (trumpet). Other U.K. appearances included BBC TV shows "Bid for Fame", "Fancy Free", "In Town Tonight", "Six Five Special", Radio Luxembourg with Gerry Wilmot, and the lead role as Davy Crockett in the Irish musical, "The Adventures of Davy Crockett".

Preston became impressed with Reynolds' talent and agreed to arrange a U.S. record deal with connections through MGM Records. Less than a year after arriving in the U.K. Reynolds returned to the U.S. in 1957 for recording sessions at Nashville's historic RCA McGavock Studio under direction of Wesley Rose (Acuff-Rose). Accompanied by Chet Atkins on guitar, Moon Mullican on piano, and famed Elvis backup singers The Jordanaires, the singles Rose of Ol' Pawnee, Bella Belinda, All Alone, and Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain were released on the MGM label.[25] The singles were well received by Cash Box and Billboard Magazine reviews while promoted through moderate radio play and touring across the U.S. which featured guest appearances on The Milt Grant Show[26] (WTTG-TV) and Buddy Deane's Bandstand[27] (WJZ-TV) in December 1957.

With Cindy at El Circo Price de Madrid (1960).

Europe (1959-1961)[edit]

Upon the release of his earlier EMI studio recordings on the Pye Nixa label, Reynolds returned to the U.K. in 1959 embarking on a European tour[28] of England, Sweden, Germany, Morocco, and Spain headlining performances at the Bavarian Grand Ole Opry, Liseberg Rondo, Circus Sarrasani, El Circo De Madrid,[29] and Victoria Palace Theatre.[30] Four of the EMI recordings were released in the U.K. on the Pye Records EP "The Donn Reynolds Song Bag" followed by four recordings released as singles in Denmark on Metronome Records coinciding with his tour dates there. In March 1960 Reynolds signed with Rank Records Ltd.[31] to record his first LP album. Recording sessions began in May with sound engineer John Timperley at London's Olympic Studio featuring the industry's first transistorised control desk built by Dick Swettenham. Shortly after, the collapse of Rank Records Ltd. prevented the album's release with all recorded material subsequently being turned over to Reynolds.

During a performance in Mildenhall, Suffolk, England, Reynolds met Audrey Williams of the British performing trio, "The Three Skylarks". They married September 17, 1960, in Poulton-le-Fylde, England after which Audrey changed her name to Cindy Reynolds in response to media confusion with another famous Audrey Williams (wife of Hank Williams Sr.). Cindy later parted from The Three Skylarks to travel with Reynolds, combining vocal talents in duet performances during the remainder of his European tour. What was to have been a two-week working honeymoon tour of Spain actually lasted six months as Spanish audiences thrilled to their performances and persuaded the newlyweds to remain in their country several months longer.

1962 B&W photograph of Donn Reynolds performing on the set of Cross Canada Barndance (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada).
Reynolds on Cross Canada Barndance (1962).

Canada (1962-1969)[edit]

In October 1961 Reynolds returned with Cindy to his birthplace of Winnipeg, Manitoba joining the casts of national TV shows Cross Canada Barndance[32] (CTV) and Red River Jamboree[33] (CBC). Captivating television appearances heightened interest for Reynolds around the Canadian recording industry and triggered the successful release of his previous Rank Records material as "The Wild One" LP on the Banff label of Rodeo Records in 1962. The album received largely positive reviews producing two singles "No One Will Ever Know" (reaching No. 10 June 30, 1962)[34] and "The Parting" with moderate airplay across the country. In the spring of 1963, lure of larger audiences and opportunity enticed the couple to head for Toronto, Ontario where they developed a smooth lounge club duet act touring for several years throughout the province. Their performances featured a variety of current folk hits and pop standards garnering significant local attention and praise from fans and media. Working with acclaimed orchestra leader Lloyd Cooper of CBC-TV's Country Hoedown, they released duet recordings as "Donn & Cindy" on London Records and Sparton Records. The couple gave birth to their first child Gary in 1964 as demand for their appearances kept them on the road for weeks at a time.

Reynolds returned to the country music charts in 1965 with his solo single "Afraid" (reaching No. 1 February 22, 1965)[35] followed by his second solo album "The Blue Canadian Rockies" containing singles "She Taught Me How To Yodel" (reaching No. 2 April 12, 1965),[36] and "Lorelei" (reaching No. 4 November 29, 1965).[37] In 1967 Reynolds released his third solo album "Springtime in the Rockies" containing the single "Shut the Door" (reaching No. 36 June 1, 1968).[38] Through increasing popularity of both solo and duet appearances came an offer to tour and record in Bermuda prompting the couples travel to the island country in 1969. Unfortunately for Reynolds, contractual obligations with Arc Records prohibited him from recording the proposed duet album with Cindy and the studio sessions were cancelled. The couple moved to Brampton, Ontario in 1969 where Cindy gave birth to their 2nd child, Scott in 1971 and withdrew from the entertainment industry to pursue a successful marketing career.

1980 colour photograph of Donn Reynolds performing outside atop the main deck roof of the CN Tower (Toronto, Ontario, Canada).
Reynolds performing outside atop the CN Tower (1980).

World records (1970-1985)[edit]

Throughout the 1970s, Reynolds maintained a healthy Canadian solo career including performances on TV shows Country Hoedown (CBC), Carl Smith's Country Music Hall (CTV), Don Messer's Jubilee (CBC) and released his fourth LP album "Songs of the West" in 1974. National notoriety paved the way for one of the defining moments of Reynolds' career, which came on November 27, 1976 when he established a world record, yodeling non-stop for 7 hours and 29 minutes (Guinness Book of Records 1976).[39] The accomplishment triggered a surge of Canadian media attention including an appearance on Take 30 (CBC-TV) that saw Reynolds perform outside, atop the CN Tower,[40] The Bob McLean Show (CBC-TV), and U.S. concerts with Claude King in New York. Persistence in the national spotlight inspired Reynolds to release his fifth LP album "King of the Yodelers" on Quality Records in 1979.

Dedication to promoting the art of yodeling earned Reynolds his second world record in the Guinness Book of Records on July 25, 1984 when he became the worlds fastest yodeler, achieving 5 tones (3 falsetto) in 1.9 seconds.[41][42] The event was captured on the Canadian television show Pizazz! (Global-TV) and featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not! depicting Reynolds in a cartoon.[43] Reynolds once again found himself amid a stir of media frenzy including appearances on The Tommy Hunter Show, The Alan Thicke Show, Claim to Fame (CTV-TV), Daytime Challenge (CBC-TV), Canada AM (CTV-TV), That's Life (Global-TV), Tempo Ontario (CKCO-TV), performances with Claude King in Brampton, Ontario and with Ronnie Hawkins for the Toronto Musician's Association.

Later years (1986-1997)[edit]

By the late-1980s, demand for Reynolds' appearances declined with lack of national exposure or new material. He struggled amidst a country music industry progressing toward more modern sound as promoters offered less work and greater reluctance for his now obscure talent. Reynolds' worldwide fame waned to local popularity and guest appearances, although feature stories and interviews with Reynolds continued to circulate throughout national publications including International Musician, Canadian Composer, Close Up, Country Music News, and Maclean's magazines.

In 1987, Reynolds signed with RCA Records, releasing a compilation of his most popular songs titled "Donn Reynolds – King of the Yodelers". The album was promoted through performances across Southern Ontario and the Northeastern US including the Appalachian Jubilee in Pennsylvania, Malton Festival and CKGL Summerfest Jamboree in Kitchener, Ontario. Among later professional appearances, Reynolds frequently starred in the annual Royal Winter Fair at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto along with annual performances at the Toronto Musical Festival[44] and Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame Jamboree.

In April 1990, Reynolds became a member of the Masonic Order (Flower City Lodge No. 689)[45] providing greater opportunity to serve the children's charities he passionately supported throughout his career. A brief return to the spotlight occurred June 25, 1990 on the BBC-TV show Record Breakers when Reynolds beat his previous world record for fastest yodel by achieving 5 tones (3 falsetto) in .93 seconds.[46][47] The feat was later broadcast October 19, 1990 on BBC-TV.

Photograph of the plaque for the Donn Reynolds Parkette in the city of Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
Donn Reynolds Parkette.

As health issues began limiting his ability to travel or perform, Reynolds settled at his home in Brampton, Ontario, Canada with Cindy and their three sons while continuing to work with children's charities. A video documentary highlighting various performances and achievements of Reynolds was entered into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee while numerous audio recordings were entered into Library and Archives Canada.[48] He died in Toronto on August 16, 1997[1] following complications from Alzheimer's disease and was interred in the Meadowvale Cemetery in Brampton, Ontario.

In 1998, the "Donn Reynolds Parkette" in Brampton, Ontario, was named in honour of Reynolds.[49]

In 2002, Reynolds was honoured with a Canada Barn Dance Pioneer Award and inducted into the Barn Dance Hall of Fame.[50]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Album Label Catalogue
1959 The Donn Reynolds Song Bag Pye Nixa NEP 24098
1962 The Wild One Banff RBS 1178
1965 The Blue Canadian Rockies Arc AS673
1967 Springtime in the Rockies Arc AS767
1974 Songs of the West Marathon MMS-76060
1979 King of the Yodelers Quality GS-1992
1987 Donn Reynolds RCA CK-5004
2013 Portrait of a Yodeler BACM CD D 422

Singles[edit]

Year Single Label Catalogue
1947 Old Bush Shanty of Mine Regal Zonophone G 25160
1947 The Ring My Mother Wore Regal Zonophone G 25161
1947 Salt Bush Sue Regal Zonophone G 25162
1949 Texas Yodel Selective S-1X
1950 If I'd Only See'd You Aragon AR181
1952 I Tell Myself A Lie Bullet 751
1952 The Night-In-Gale Song Lariat 1107
1952 Don't Talk About Me Lariat 1108
1952 Texas Yodel Lariat 1109
1955 Don't Tell Me Blue Hen BH-207
1957 Rose of Ol' Pawnee MGM K12512
1957 Bella Belinda MGM K12573
1957 Hasta Luego HMV POP 314
1958 Swing Low Sweet Chariot Pye Nixa N.15122
1959 Swing Low, Sweet Chariot Metronome B 1341
1959 T. B. Blues Metronome B 1366
1961 The Parting W&G WG-S-1341
1962 The Parting Citadel CT3141
1962 No One Will Ever Know Citadel CT3149
1963 Rose of Ol' Pawnee Quality 1578X
1963 Mountain Laurel London M.17303
1963 Texas Yodel London M.17306
1965 Afraid Sparton 4-1315
1965 Wedding Bells Sparton 4-1332
1965 Lorelei Arc A1114
1968 Shut The Door Arc A1208
1971 Texas Yodel W&G WG-S-8311
1974 Texas Yodel Marathon 45-1131

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Library and Archives Canada Sep 1997 Archived November 4, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. King of the yodelers Donn Reynolds dead at age 76
  2. ^ Plantenga, Bart (2004). Yodel-ay-ee-oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-93990-4. , page 299
  3. ^ Canadian Military Entertainers 1939–1946, Laurel Halladay, 2000
  4. ^ Cowboy Corner No. 10. Music Maker Magazine. 20 May 1948. p.17.
  5. ^ "Yodeller Returns". Nepean Times. 65, (4898). NSW, Australia. 20 November 1947. p. 4. 
  6. ^ "Radio Round Up". The Sun. Sydney, Australia. 17 June 1947. p. 6. 
  7. ^ "Beard And Accent Set A Puzzle". The Molong Express and Western District Advertiser. NSW, Australia. 4 February 1948. p. 4. 
  8. ^ Eric Watson, Country Music in Australia (Rodeo Publications, 1975) p.111-120.
  9. ^ National Library of Australia Donn Reynolds Regal Zonophone recordings
  10. ^ "Stars Of The Air. Canada's Yodelling Cowboy". Wodonga And Towong Sentinel. Victoria, Australia. 18 July 1947. p. 4. 
  11. ^ The Cash Box 2 July 1949 p.14 Cash Box Bullseye of the Week
  12. ^ Billboard 23 Sep 1950 p.37 World Open Yodeling Contest
  13. ^ Cowboy Songs Magazine No.051 April 1957, News in Pictures, p.17
  14. ^ Folk And Country Songs Magazine Vol.3 No.1 1958, King of the Yodelers, p.30
  15. ^ Billboard 26 Jan 1952 p.16 Specialty Records contract (Art Rupe)
  16. ^ Billboard 23 Aug 1952 p.36 Lariat & Dot Records contracts (Randy Wood)
  17. ^ Billboard 3 Nov 1951 p.41 Louisiana Hayride KWKH Shreveport LA
  18. ^ Billboard 11 Nov 1950 p.30 WLS National Barn Dance
  19. ^ Billboard 4 Nov 1957 p.55 WWVA Jamboree
  20. ^ Billboard 15 Sep 1951 p.86 KRLD Big D Jamboree
  21. ^ Billboard 13 Feb 1954 p.58 WSAZ Saturday Night Jamboree
  22. ^ Billboard 24 Mar 1956 p.50 Herb Shriner's "Two for the Money" TV show
  23. ^ Billboard 18 Jul 1953 p.56 Donn Reynolds TV Rangers television show WGAL-TV
  24. ^ Billboard 12 Nov 1955 p.120 WCUM Alleghany Jubilee
  25. ^ Billboard 1 Jul 1957 p.65 Studio recordings with MGM Records (Wesley Rose)
  26. ^ The Cash Box 21 Dec 1957 p.51 The Milt Grant Show (WTTG-TV)
  27. ^ Billboard 16 Dec 1957 p.60 and Buddy Deane's Bandstand (WJZ-TV)
  28. ^ "Home Again". The Stage. London. April 13, 1961. p. 3. 
  29. ^ "Donn Reynolds Starring in Rodeo Circus in Spain". The Stage. London. January 26, 1961. p. 3. 
  30. ^ B., R. (April 28, 1960). "Our Friends the Stars...at the Victoria Palace". The Stage. London. p. 5. 
  31. ^ Billboard 6 Jun 1960 p.6 Top Rank Records contract
  32. ^ Canadian TV Archives Cross Canada Barndance
  33. ^ Canadian TV Archives Red River Jamboree
  34. ^ Western Hit Parade Country Singles Chart June 30, 1962
  35. ^ Library and Archives Canada Country Singles – Volume 2, No. February 26, 22, 1965
  36. ^ Library and Archives Canada Country Singles – Volume 3, No. April 7, 12, 1965
  37. ^ Library and Archives Canada Country Singles – Volume 4, No. November 14, 29, 1965
  38. ^ Library and Archives Canada Country Singles – Volume 9, No. June 14, 1, 1968
  39. ^ Guinness Book of Records 1978, Longest Yodel (Sterling Publishing Company, 1972) p.488
  40. ^ CBC-TV Archives Donn yodels atop the CN tower 1980 (under "Did you know?")
  41. ^ Guinness Book of Records, 1986 (32nd edition), Fastest Yodel (London, England: Guinness Superlatives Limited, 1986) p.183
  42. ^ Guinness Book of Records 1988, Fastest Yodel (Guinness Superlatives, 1987) p.183
  43. ^ The Toronto Star, July 15, 1985, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, p.D5
  44. ^ The Toronto Star, June 24, 1987, 1987 Toronto Summer Music Festival, p.F5
  45. ^ Flower City Lodge No. 689 GRC Archived April 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Brampton Masons
  46. ^ Plantenga, Bart (2004). Yodel-ay-ee-oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-93990-4. , page 28
  47. ^ Brampton Guardian, 6 Jul 1990, p. 6 Believe it or not – Reynolds tops record
  48. ^ Library and Archives Canada Donn Reynolds in the National Archives of Canada
  49. ^ Brampton Guardian, 14 Aug 1998, p. 19 Parkette named for yodeller Donn Reynolds
  50. ^ The Barn Dance Historical Society Donn Reynolds Barn Dance Pioneer Award

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]