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.
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.
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.
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