The admirable( now) 94 year old Collins is presently being honoured with the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Black Canadian Awards Gala in Toronto on June 7th for her contribution as a pioneer Canadian television and radio artist.
In addition to the Canadian award, it has also been officially announced by Sha Battle, Founder, CEO of Black Women in Jazz of Atlanta, Georgia, USA that Eleanor Collins will be acknowledged with a Lifetime Achievement Award March 1, 2015. Eleanor is currently featured on their BWIJ Matriarchs of Jazz website at www.blackwomeninjazz.com
Below is a reprinted article about Vocal Jazz Legend, Eleanor Collins, who was featured in a CHLY 101.7 FM Rhythm’a’ning radio broadcast interview and music special February 4, 2013.
Recently I produced and aired a two part radio series for CHLY 101.7 FM, Nanaimo, Canada on early jazzwomen in North America. I received 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 this country and the USA.
As a result of the research I began 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 the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society website:
Jazz vocalist Collins was the first music artist in Canada to have had a national television show 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 music 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 woman. Research appears to confirm that in 1955 The Eleanor Show was indeed the first television variety 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 Eleanor Collins at her home.
Remarkably, Eleanor still exercises regularly, has practiced live organic vegetable juicing for over 30 years and takes regular health supplements. She practices healthy living and holds 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 I was glad 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 an exceptional talent. I know you will not want to miss the broadcast and podcast featuring an in depth interview with this jazz great. Thanks to CBC archivist Colin Preston, CBC producers and staff, our broadcast will showcase some fine music tracks sung by Eleanor.
The purpose of conversational type interviews with jazz greats like 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 volunteer university and community radio station CHLY 101.7 FM in Nanaimo, Canada. Rhythm’a’ning has aired for 15 years. The show has been podcasted for 4 years to a global audience online and is broadcasted 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 has focused on new jazz and improvised music releases from the CHLY music library and interviews of some of the finest BC and Canadian musicians. The show initially aired at CFUV in Victoria, BC over two decades ago and has been at CHLY 101.7 FM for 14 years. Rhythm’a’ning currently has over 175 podcast episodes for download.
Listen to the Eleanor Collins broadcast in the below link by going back to February 4th, 2013:
Links and iTunes for 175 free Rhythm’a’ning jazz podcast downloads:
For Rhythm’a’ning show news visit the website at www.rhythmaning.ca
Listen live Mondays at 5 pm Pacific at 101.7 FM online at www.chly.ca
This article is an excerpt. Read the full feature about North American jazzwomen at the Canadian Antique Phonograph Society www.capsnews.org
By Kerilie McDowall
Photo of Eleanor by: Ghassan Shanti