Obituary: Wilf Carter

Wilf Carter, aka Montana Slim, was one of the last surviving links with the early giants of country music. A native of Nova Scotia, he worked with Jimmie Rodgers and the legendary Carter Family, with Bradley Kincaid and Goebel Reeves, and became, over a 60-year career, a Canadian institution.

Montana Slim, the sobriquet by which Americans knew him, came courtesy of a radio lawyer named Becker. Carter was working for CBS at the time and when one day called into Becker's office was told that whilst the show was fine his name would have to go. Asked if he had ever been to Montana, he replied in the affirmative. "Well, you're long, tall and skinny, how about Montana Slim?" was the response, and it stuck.

Unusually for a country musician, Carter actually spent part of his early life as a cowboy. Whilst still in his teens he headed for Calgary, working the prairie farms before moving on and hoboing along the Canadian-Pacific railroad. He then became a bronc' buster in the rodeo before being hired by the Brewster Transport Co as an entertainer for its early "dude ranches". Whilst on the trail he would practise his yodelling technique in the canyons.

Carter had been fascinated by yodelling as a child. At the age of 12 he saw a performance by an entertainer known as "The Yodelling Fool" in a revue based on Uncle Tom's Cabin and was hooked. His later advocacy of the form would prove one of his most important legacies, influencing, among others, Slim Whitman and Riders in the Sky.

In 1933, whilst en route to New York where he was to join a liner as an on-board entertainer, Carter stopped off at Montreal to audition for RCA Victor. In a disused church on Lenoir Street, he cut the self-penned "My Swiss Mountain Lullaby" - its famous echo courtesy of an upturned bathtub - and "The Capture of Albert Johnson", a vivid retelling of the hunt for a mountie-killer.

On its release, "Lullaby" blossomed into the first major Canadian country hit and as a result in 1934 Carter cut a further 36 tracks for the label including the first song he ever wrote, "I Long For Old Wyoming", and the topical "The Life and Death of John Dillinger". By 1938 he had 120 sides to his credit.

By now a star on the CBS radio network, Carter's records began also to sell well internationally, particularly in Australia where his popularity proved pivotal to its fledgling country music industry. Several years later, he acknowledged this by cutting an album for RCA entilted Wilf Carter Sings The Songs of Australia.

A serious automobile accident on 30 April 1940 was to prove a major setback, the severity of his injuries necessitating a nine-year hiatus from touring. When he hit the road again, it was in the company of his daughters and he was gratified to find that he could still draw large crowds, at least in his homeland.

Carter recorded prolifically over the years and much of his work has been reissued on CD. With Victor until 1954, he spent five years at Decca under the Nashville recording pioneer Paul Cohen, before returning to the RCA fold and later still cutting a couple of albums for Starday.

The composer of some 500-plus songs including "There's a Love Knot in my Lariat" and "Bluebird On Your Window Sill", in 1971 he was elected to the Nashville Songwriters' Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the Canadian Country Music Hall of Honour, the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City and the Calgary Horseman's Hall of Fame. The last of these gave him particular pleasure, as did the chance twice to act as Grand Marshal of the famous Calgary Stampede. Although semi-retired, Wilf Carter continued to tour into the 1990s.

Wilf Arthur Charles Carter, singer, guitarist and songwriter: born Port Hilford, Nova Scotia 18 December 1904; married 1936 Bobbie Bryan (died 1989; two daughters); died Scottsdale, Arizona 5 December 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent