Max Ferguson (1924-2013)

2001 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Screens and Voices (formerly Broadcasting and Film))

In his fifty-two years with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Max Ferguson became a much-loved Canadian institution. A natural broadcaster, master satirist, philosopher and prankster, he hosted several eclectic shows and created one of broadcasting's most enduring personalities, "Old Rawhide." Max Ferguson's relaxed, unscripted delivery, straightforward style and offbeat sense of humour made him a favourite of listeners from coast to coast.

Max Ferguson was born in 1924 in Durham, England and lived most of his early life in London, Ontario, where he attended the University of Western Ontario. After working at London radio station CFPL, he joined CBC Halifax in December 1946 as an announcer, newscaster and disc jockey.

It was there the following year that Mr. Ferguson created his most memorable character, "Rawhide," as well as several others (including the mellifluous announcer Marvin Mellobell and old Ma Perkins). According to Mr. Ferguson, the momentous occasion was the result of pure necessity. Upon learning with horror that he was scheduled to host a daily half-hour of cowboy music, "With a desperation born of panic and with just 20 seconds to air time, I hit on the idea of disguising my voice by dropping the register, thrusting out my jaw, and clamping my back teeth together... Out came the words Howdy! Welcome to After-Breakfast Breakdown,' in a low, aged, hard, flat, sloppily sibilant voice that surprised even myself. This is your old pal Rawhide.'"

The Maritime show was so popular the CBC transferred Mr. Ferguson to Toronto in 1949 and put the program on the national network, where it remained on air for 17 consecutive years. Every weekday morning, Canadians tuned in to the rasping voice of the irascible Rawhide delivering a satirical analysis of Canadian cultural and political events and introducing some of the most eclectic musical choices on the air.

From 1954 to 1961 Mr. Ferguson left radio to host two television programs, the nightly Gazette on CBC Halifax and CBC Toronto's Tabloid.

His long-running The Max Ferguson Show, a weekly radio program of variety and commentary, premiered on October 1, 1962 and aired every Saturday until September 5, 1998.

He was the subject of a National Film Board profile, Max in the Morning, aired on CBC TV's "NFB Presents" in 1966.

Mr. Ferguson is also a published writer: his autobiography, And Now... Here's Max, won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour in 1968.

Max Ferguson retired from CBC Radio in 1998 and currently divides his time between Toronto and Cape Breton.

Awards and honours include: Officer of the Order of Canada (1970); the John Drainie Award (1994) for his significant contribution to Canadian broadcasting; honorary degrees from Dalhousie and Brock Universities and the Universities of Waterloo, Western Ontario and Saskatchewan.