Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I don't know if it was on American Bandstand, but I recall Dick Clark saying that Paul Anka became the first Canadian to top the U.S. charts with his “Diana.”

What I have never heard is the first female singer to do so. I would think there would be someone before Celine Dion.

Overall, who are some of the top living Canadian recording artists?
—Keith Bonniwell, Hamilton, Ontario

DEAR KEITH: First let's examine the comment attributed to Dick Clark.

It is unlikely he named Paul Anka the first Canadian with a No. 1 U.S. hit, when Ontario-born Guy Lombardo has about two dozen No. 1s to his credit between 1927 and 1950.

Then there is the Crew-Cuts, the Canadian quartet whose “Sh-Boom” topped the charts in 1954, three years before “Diana.”

There is a good chance Clark's reference to Paul Anka included the term “singer,” or “vocalist.” To be even more precise, Paul could be described as the first Pop or Rock male singer, since Hank Snow, a Nova Scotian, reached No. 1 on the C&W charts in 1950 with “I'm Movin' On.”

Nova Scotia (“New Scotland”) may be Canada's second-smallest province (after Prince Edward Island), but it is also the birthplace of the first Canadian female with a No. 1 U.S. hit (November 1978).

Of course that is Anne Murray and the song is “You Needed Me,” one of Anne's two RIAA Certified Gold Record Award winners.

The other, her first and best-known hit “Snowbird,” did not reach No. 1 but landed in the Top 10 on both the Pop and Country charts. Anne's Gold Record for “Snowbird” marked the first time such an award went to a Canadian gal.

When Murray's 1983 LP, “A Little Good News” was named Album of the Year by the Country Music Association, she became the first Canadian, male or female, to claim that honor.

Lesser known but equally impressive is that same year “A Little Good News” also won the CMA Single of the Year award, making Anne the first female, nationality aside, to sweep in both categories.

To date the only other lady to accomplish this is Lee Ann Womack, with Single of the Year (“I May Hate Myself in the Morning”) and Album of the Year (“There's More Where That Came From”) for 2005.

Among the living legends of Canada, special mention must be made of George Beverly Shea, whose discography includes over 70 albums of sacred music. Being the featured vocalist of the Billy Graham Crusades since 1947 provided George with incomparable exposure, and millions of albums sold.

Working for Billy Graham even put Shea in the Guinness Book of Records, for singing to the most people ever. They estimate over 220 million have listened to George in person.

“America's Beloved Gospel Singer,” as he is often called, turned 100 years of age February 1, 2009, and yes, he's still singing!

In addition to the living Canadians already mentioned, here are just some of that land's brightest solo singing stars, and their birth province: Bryan Adams (Ontario); Michael Bublé (British Columbia); Burton Cummings (Manitoba); Bobby Curtola (Ontario); Celine Dion (Quebec); Diana Krall (British Columbia); K.D. Lang (Alberta); Gordon Lightfoot (Ontario); Sarah McLachlan (Nova Scotia); Joni Mitchell (Alberta); Alanis Morissette (Ontario); Buffy Sainte-Marie (Saskatchewan); Jack Scott (Ontario); Shania Twain (Ontario); and Neil Young (Ontario).

We know there are others, but we just ran out of time ... and space.

IZ ZAT SO? Just as we have the Hit Parade Hall of Fame, where nominees from all styles of music are invited, our neighbors to the north have the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Surprisingly, since they began in 1978, the only inductees from those stars mentioned today are: Guy Lombardo (1978); Hank Snow (1979); Paul Anka (1980); Joni Mitchell (1981); Neil Young (1982); Gordon Lightfoot (1986); Anne Murray (1993); Buffy Sainte-Marie (1995); and Bryan Adams (2006).

We should probably include Burton Cummings, enshrined in 1987 as a member and lead singer of the Guess Who.

Most conspicuous by their absence are the two top-selling artists in Canada: Shania Twain and Celine Dion. Both coming soon, no doubt.

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