Radio Host Finds Vancouver Jazz Legend Eleanor Collins Vocal And Vibrant At Age 93.
By Kerilie McDowall : Recently I produced and aired a two part radio series for CHLY 101.7 FM, Nanaimo, Canada on early jazzwomen from North America. I received helpful input from people across Canada and thanks to email communication, the research and materials for these radio shows became a collaboration of many individuals from across the country and even the USA.
As a result of research I decided to feature more information on my radio show around the theme of important early Canadian jazzwomen. One truly exciting find was discovering the 1950’s jazz videos online of Vancouver’s Eleanor Collins at www.jazzstreetvancouver.ca . Jazz vocalist Collins was the first musical artist in Canada to have had a national television series named for her in 1955 called the “Eleanor” show. Her music career and appearances began in the early 1940’s on both CBC radio and television where she had a long and vibrant career lasting many decades.
Collins was a gifted performer and had much natural musical and vocal talent. She was also charismatic, elegant, beautiful and glamorous. While her television show aired in the 1950’s during an oppressive period for artists of colour, the “Eleanor” show helped to break down barriers for performers and Canadians from diverse cultural backgrounds.
An interesting fact is that Collins’ television program preceded Nat King Cole’s 1956 television show in the United States. At the time Nat King Cole was thought to be the first artist of colour to host a national tv show. It seems however that perhaps that distinction rests with a Canadian who is also a woman. Research appears to confirm that the 1955 “Eleanor” show was indeed the first television series in North America to be hosted by a black artist.
Inspired by the research, I was led to an opportunity for an interview with 93 year old legend Eleanor Collins at her home. Remarkably at the age of 93, Eleanor still exercises regularly, has practiced live organic vegetable juicing for over 30 years and takes regular health supplements. She practices healthy living and a positive spirit as part of her daily routine. She is bright, humourous and witty and it was an extraordinary pleasure to have a conversation with this artist about her music, career and personal philosophy. She captivated me with stories about Vancouver music history, CBC history, the jazz scene and the musicians and it is wonderful to be able to document it for the radio listening audience. Eleanor’s years of living have been full and her wisdom and spirituality shine through.
Eleanor is a fantastically brilliant woman who had a truly exceptional talent. I know you will not want to miss the upcoming broadcast and podcast featuring an in depth interview with this jazz legend. Thanks to the generosity of CBC archivist Colin Preston and CBC producers and staff, our broadcast will showcase spectacular music tracks sung by Eleanor.
The purpose of conversational type interviews with great artists like Eleanor Collins is to allow for documentation of music history and educational information. In this case it allows for a true legend in the Canadian vocal world to reach new fans.
Rhythm’a’ning is a modern jazz radio show at the non profit university and community radio station CHLY 101.7 FM in Nanaimo, Canada. The radio program is called Rhythm’a’ning and has aired for 12 years. The show has been podcasted for 3 years to a global audience online and broadcasts every Monday at 5-7 pm to most of the west coast of British Columbia and Upper Washington, USA , Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. The radio program and podcast features new jazz and improvised music releases from the CHLY music library and interviews with outstanding BC and Canadian musicians. I originally aired the show at CFUV in Victoria, BC years ago and brought it to Nanaimo, BC with me. Rhythm’a’ning currently has over 100 podcast episodes for download. Listen to the upcoming Eleanor Collins broadcast at:
Rhythm’a’ning is on iTunes or listen live at 101.7 FM or www.chly.ca
This article is an excerpt. Read the upcoming full feature about North American jazzwomen at the Canadian Antique Phonograph Society www.capsnews.org
By Kerilie McDowall -Rhythm’a’ning CHLY 101.7 FM Nanaimo