Part of the CFCW Radio celebration of its 60th Anniversary was a concert at the Winspear Centre on November 2nd, exactly 60 years after it began broadcasting at 4:00 pm on November 2nd, 1954. The 60th Anniversary Concert was a most enjoyable treat to the ears, the memory, the eyes and the sense of humour.
An anniversary concert is, first and foremost, about the music, and here was some of the best, both old and new. Headliner Gene Watson, with more than four decades of stardom and 30 albums under his belt, paid tribute to the great songs and great singers, as does his newest album. The musically attuned in the audience recognized the opening chords and were clapping before he sang a word of the favourites. His marvellous voice and artistic presentation made his every song a joyful trip down memory lane. The saxophone in his band added delightful variety.
Brett Kissel opened the concert with some old favourites and a number of his own newer songs. He spoke easily, telling of his connections with songs, sharing his admiration and appreciation of those who inspired many of his best songs and thereby revealing the multi-generational wisdom of his genuine country roots. My favourite line from his songs: “Tough times don’t last; tough people do.” When he was 16, Brett received a Rising Star Award from the Country Music Awards Show and this year, at 24, received two more awards. He has four albums out and credits CFCW with a strong influence in the successful development of his career. Born and raised at Flat Lake, Alberta, he now lives in Nashville.
Anniversaries involve a lot of memories and giving credit to those who made the memories possible. Much of this was an intrinsic part of the music, but there was special mention and appreciation for all who had been part of CFCW, starting with a recorded message from Bev Monro, present in the audience and an inductee into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. Most of those recognized were present in the audience.
Besides appreciation, memories involve history going back to the 250 watt station broadcasting out of Camrose with the CW in its call letters standing for Camrose, Wetaskiwin; the station I listened to as a teen. In 1960, the CW also came to stand for Country Western as CFCW became the first full-time country music station in Canada. Power kept increasing: from 1,000 watts to 10,000 watts in 1961 and to 50,000 watts in 1976, which extended the listening area from Slave Lake to Red Deer and Edson to Lloydminster. Its place on the dial also changed from 1230 to 790 in 1961, and will change again in 2015 to 840, in order to restore night time coverage in north-central Alberta where noise and interference have developed as current problems. A printed time-line outlined a more complete history of people and events.
Personally, I love bright, beautiful colour just as much as I love music, so I found the coloured light display on the curtain backdrop of the Winspear stage to be a wonderful feast for the eyes. The variety of brilliant, rich colours, the designs, and the speed of change were adjusted to be appropriate to each song without distracting from the music. It was gorgeous!
Another enjoyable part of the show was the bits of comic interaction in the bands, which became front and centre as Gene Watson introduced his band via a comedy routine. The extended opportunity to laugh out loud was much appreciated by all.
While the 60th Anniversary Concert at the Winspear was an important part of CFCW’s anniversary celebrations, it was only one part. First was CFCW’s 60th Anniversary Kick-Off with The Canadian Country Legends presenting a concert on October 25th at the Bailey Theatre in Camrose. The Canadian Country Legends are a group of present and former CFCW workers and friends who entertain throughout the area with concerts of quality and varied entertainment. Included are Bev Munro and Pete Hicks. Station programming has also taken on an anniversary aspect, with Sunday, November 2nd completely dedicated to the celebration.
CFCW is to be congratulated on its 60 years of broadcasting the best of Country and Western Music, its 60 years of encouraging and playing young Alberta and Canadian Country singers, its 60 years of giving back through contest prizes and charity events, and its 60 years as an integral part of its large service area. Congratulations!
Pictured: Nick Gulka, morning team Sean Burke and Stella Stevens, star performers Brett Kissel and Gene Watson, CFCW Station Manager Jackie Rae, and afternoon announcer A.J.Keller. Photo by Margaret Chegwin