here's to bluebirds
You know, in a world where we’re being ruled by Covid regulations, there have to be some easygoing ways to recall the joy in life. So here's a little story that's true and nothing less than happy.
It starts with a friend of mine recently sending me some information about the song (There’s a) Bluebird on Your Windowsill. George told me this particular tune had created millions of dollars for sick children’s hospitals in Canada.
How had that come about? Well, my research revealed the tune was actually written by a nurse, Carmen Elizabeth Clarke, back in 1947. She worked at the Hospital for Sick and Crippled Children – now the Children’s Hospital – in Vancouver. Just like Ruth Lowe (who I’ve written about in my newest book “Until I Smile At You”: untilismilatyou.com), she was not a trained songwriter. But Elizabeth had become interested in a little patient who one day was visited by a sparrow that just perched on the windowsill next to his bed. The nurse was inspired by that occurrence to sit down and write a poem about it. A melody was then added to the words.
Now, Nurse Clarke used to sing (There’s a) Bluebird on Your Windowsill to her patients regularly. Heck, she even sang the song on a local radio station. “I didn’t intend to write it,” she exclaimed, “it just came.” And wasn’t that just like Ruth Lowe describing the arrival of her huge landmark tune “I’ll Never Smile Again”: “It just poured from my soul.”
The “Bluebird song” took on a special meaning to Elizabeth. “It made me want to cry every time I heard it,” she said. “After requests began pouring in, I got the idea the people really wanted it.” Her colleagues and patients at the hospital began to call it “our song” as its popularity grew.
And get this: sensing the acclaim her little ditty seemed to be creating, she had the presence of mind to make a deal for a percentage of the song’s royalties to be donated to fund children’s hospitals in Canada. Since that lovely decision, the song has raised literally millions of dollars to care for kids.
Knowing of my love for music, my pal George had originally told me how a very popular version of this song was sung by the late Canadian country singer Wilf Carter (known as Montana Slim south of the border). In thanking him for passing along the info, I shared with George the fact that I’d actually had the pleasure of meeting Wilfred Arthur Charles Carter a million years ago. It was at the beginning of my career when I was a young radio broadcaster on CKLY in Lindsay, a little 5,000 watt AM station (I used to joke that our audience consisted of “two farmers, a moose and a dead bear”. Prolific author Ted Barris and I worked there together and our friendship exists to this day.)
Every Friday in the summer, famed showman Tommy Hunter would come to town to record his show that evening for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “Live, from the Academy Theatre…” He and his guests would rehearse in the afternoon and then come up to the radio station at 6pm for me to do interviews with them before their 8pm show at the Theatre. Often, before arriving for the interview, they’d make a stop at the lovely Sailfish Room in the local hotel for a few “pops” which always made for interesting interviews! Anyway, Tommy was always gracious and he’d have The Rhythm Pals with him (“Hi. I’m Mike. I’m Marc. I’m Jack!”), fiddler Al Cherney, and others. I got to meet and interview some real country music legends… people like Tex Ritter (the late John’s dad)
And that’s how I met Montana Slim himself, Wilf Carter. A true gentleman.
Why Wilf even offered to teach me how to yodel!
Those were the days, my friend...
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