Charlie Chamberlain

Charlie Chamberlain

Charlie Chamberlain

Charlie Chamberlain is widely regarded as one of the most cherished Canadian entertainers to have ever graced a microphone, radio broadcast, or television screen. Born in Bathurst on July 14, 1911, Charlie’s star shone brightly across all three mediums until his passing at Chaleur Regional Hospital in July 1972.

At a young age, Charlie began working in lumber camps. Despite the long days spent swinging an axe, he still found the energy to play guitar and sing, earning him the moniker “Singing Lumberjack.”

In 1935, while traveling by train from Bathurst to Saint John, Charlie was overheard singing by a businessman who arranged a meeting with Don Messer. Impressed by Charlie’s talent, Don put him on the air the following day. Charlie’s first song, “Wayland’s Fate,” recounted the story of a woodsworker who perished in a log jam. The station’s switchboard immediately lit up, and Charlie became a regular on Don Messer’s show.

In 1937, Charlie and several others from the show won the Major Bowes Talent Search in New York. Attracted by Charlie’s sizable nose, which rivaled his own, Jimmy Durante offered him work in Hollywood. However, Charlie declined and instead joined Don Messer in 1939 to form “The Islanders,” a group that broadcasted coast-to-coast on the CBC Network.

The show quickly gained immense popularity, and when Marg Osborne joined the group in 1947, her voice and Charlie’s seemed to perfectly complement one another. Their down-to-earth appeal strongly resonated with audiences, as they lacked the glamour often associated with Hollywood stars.

The Islanders moved to Halifax in the mid-fifties and started Don Messer’s Jubilee over CBC-TV. They were the number one show that year and for the next decade stayed near the top. 

Marg pbrorn, Don Messer & Charlie Chamberlain

The show’s abrupt cancellation in the fall of 1969 came as a great shock to its millions of fans. Despite a significant public outcry and a number of private stations picking up the show, it never fully regained its previous momentum.

The stress of that year took its toll on Charlie, who collapsed during a show rehearsal in Hamilton in June 1972. Upon his release from the hospital, he returned to Bathurst, where he passed away just days later.

Charlie was inducted into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.

Click here to read more about famous New Brunswickers. 

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4 thoughts on “Charlie Chamberlain

  1. Pendant mon travail à Montréal notre compagnie avait beaucoup de clients francophones du nom Chamberlain (et Chamberland, etc.) provenants de partout au Québec et à la NB. Je me demande si la famille du père de Charlie parlait français comme langue maternelle. Dites-moi svp. Nous avons regardé Don Messers Jubilee toutes les semaines pendant les années 50 et 60, et ma mère l’écoutait à la radio avant l’arrivée de la TV.

  2. This is all very good, keep up the good work, the pictures of the old buildings send gives me goose-bumps. A little bit about me, Charlie Chamberlain of the Don Messer T V show was my uncle, he and dad were brothers, I have a lot of his music, recordings, and I have the two videos that were produced after the show went off the air. You may know that most of the entertainers on the Don Messer show were from New Brunswick, it was the best Canadian T V show for years, it caused quite a backlash when CBC cancelled the show.

  3. Hi Paul. My Mom knew Charlie; her uncle was Don Messer. We live in Belledune where Charlie is buried. Mom tells some great stories from back then.

  4. My Name is Paul Chamberlain a nephew of Charlie’s, I was born in Bathurst N. B. and now live in Quispamsis N. B. I would love to hear from somebody related to Charlie or even a friend of the family it would be so nice to share some memories, you may contact me.

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