Max Ferguson

Max Ferguson

Max Ferguson, OC (born February 10, 1924) is a Canadian radio personality and satirist, best known for his long-running programs Rawhide and The Max Ferguson Show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

Born in Durham, England, Ferguson was raised in London, Ontario, and graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a BA in English and French. In the summer of 1946 he was hired as an announcer at radio station CFPL in London, but later that year relocated to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the opportunity to join the CBC as a staff announcer with the local station. According to his autobiography, And Now...Here's Max (1967), he was appalled to find among his assignments the task of hosting a cowboy music show called After Breakfast Breakdown. To protect his anonymity, and in hopes of quick reassignment, he improvised the character of "Old Rawhide", assuming the voice of an elderly ranch-hand and giving colourfully disdainful appraisals of the songs he introduced. The character was a breath of fresh air to listeners of the staid national broadcaster, and they relayed their approval with volumes of mail. Accepting his fate, Ferguson devised an entire repertory company of raucous and bizarre characters (all voiced by Ferguson) to amuse himself and his audience, creating daily skits which parodied literary classics and satirized current events and CBC personalities.

In 1949, the show's popularity made the corporation transfer Ferguson to its head office in Toronto, where he would broadcast nationally. Rawhide's first coast-to-coast airings caused something of a national controversy when a member of Parliament rose to denounce the show for its low humour and abuse of the English language. However, it remained one of the most popular programs on air, lasting some seventeen years. Along the way, the cowboy music was dropped in favour of esoteric folk music, making Ferguson a pioneer in the world music genre long before the term existed. He was also able to originate his broadcasts from his beloved Maritimes for a few years in the mid-1950s. Between 1955 and 1960, Ferguson recorded three albums on Folkways Records, each a part of the Rawhide satirical series.

From 1954 to 1961, he moved to television to host the nightly CBC Halifax program Gazette, and later the CBC Toronto production Tabloid. He returned to radio with 'The Max Ferguson Show'; featuring ethnic music and topical skits based on the news of the day. The latter were always highlighted by Ferguson's uncanny ability to mimic prominent politicians and celebrities. The show was introduced in grandiloquent fashion by another CBC legend, Allan McFee, who always ended his piece with the mellifluous "And now...here's Max". (After McFee's retirement, Shelagh Rogers assumed the task, and soon became a top network host in her own right.) In its latter years, the show dropped the skits and relied exclusively on Ferguson's outspoken charm and facility with the language, as well as his unique selection of offbeat music and comedy tracks. He narrated several films, and wrote the whimsical children's story and its subsequent film short "Has Anybody Seen My Umbrella?" (1990). He was the subject of the 1966 National Film Board profile "Max in the Morning."

Max Ferguson retired from broadcasting in 1998. Over the years, he has garnered many awards, including the 1968 Stephen Leacock Award for humour for his autobiography, And Now...Here's Max. He was appointed an Officer of The Order of Canada in 1970 and in 2001 was chosen as the recipient of the Governor General's Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. He is the recipient of the John Drainie Award and the Gordon Sinclair Award. He holds honorary degrees from the University of Western Ontario, Dalhousie University, the University of Waterloo, Brock University and the University of Saskatchewan.

Published works

  • And Now...Here's Max (1967; republished 2009 with new foreword by Shelagh Rogers)
  • The Unmuzzled Max (1971)
  • Has Anybody Seen My Umbrella?, illustrated by Jane Kurisu (1982)

External links


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