Wilf Carter (musician)

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Wilf Carter
Wilf Carter.jpg
Background information
Birth nameWilfred Arthur Charles Carter
Also known asMontana Slim, The Yodelling Cowboy
BornDecember 18, 1904
Port Hilford, Nova Scotia, Canada
OriginCalgary, Alberta, Canada
DiedDecember 5, 1996(1996-12-05) (aged 91)
Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S.
GenresCountry, western
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1930–1992
LabelsRCA Victor, Bluebird Records

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 United States, was a Canadian Country and Western 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[edit]

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[edit]

"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 the Canadian branch of 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 performing 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[edit]

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, Ontario.

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[edit]

Wilf Carter recorded over 40 original and compilation LP records for RCA Victor 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, 13 days before his 92nd birthday.[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.[2] Fellow Canadian country artist Ian Tyson considers Carter an influence on his music.[4] Another Canadian artist, Stu Davis, acknowledged the importance of Carter’s mentorship early in his career and credited him with securing Davis's first recording contract with Sonora Records in New York.


Charted albums[edit]

Year Album CAN Country
1960 "The Dynamite Trail"
1960 Songs of the Calgary Stampede
1962 Reminiscin' With Wilf Carter
1962 By Request
1963 Old Prairie Melodies
1964 Let's Go Back to the Bible
1964 Nuggets of the Golden West
1965 Christmas In Canada
1965 Yodeling Memories
1965 32 Wonderful Years
1966 God Bless Our Canada
1966 Golden Memories
1967 If it wasn't for the farmer what would city slickers do?
1967 Waitin' For the Maple Leaves To Fall
1968 Hittin' The Track
1968 How My Yodeling Days Began
1968 Songs Of The Rail and Range
1969 The Best Of Wilf Carter
1969 Balladeer Of The Golden West
1970 Sings Songs Of Australia
1970 Away Out There
1971 Walls Of Memory
1972 My Heartache's Your Happiness
1973 40th anniversary Special
1973 Wilf Carter's Best / Wilf Carter's West
1974 The Wilf Carter Souvenir Album
1978 Walkin The Streets Of Calgary
1979 I'm Happy To-day
1980 My Home on the Range 14

Charted singles[edit]

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[edit]


  1. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. "Wilf Carter Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Wilf Carter". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  3. ^ Carter, Wilf. The Yodelling Cowboy. Toronto: Ryerson, 1961.
  4. ^ id=eQkEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PT77#v=onepage&q=&f=false "Ian's 1st Solo Album Marks Return To Country Roots", Billboard, November 23, 1974, p.66

External links[edit]