Born in Shaunavon Saskatchewan, 1918 (October 14), died at 71 in Victoria in 1988.
Started playing the Ukulele when 11 – “Harold Teen” uke inscribed with “music self-played is happiness self made”
1934 – 38 in the “Freshmen” quartet in Regina, appeared on Radio Station CHWC
Met Bob McGill in 1936, they came out on Fred Harley Davidson to Victoria to join the Army Engineers.
Became the “Singing Sappers”, then the “Singing Lance Corporals”, etc.
Joined CJVI at the end of the War, on air with two piano players (1 piano, 20 fingers) - Len Acres and Al Smith.
Formed the Hometowners with Bob, Ernie Fullerton, Geoff Venables (Violin), Bill Botten (Bass – originally Jim McKay) Al Smith was on the piano. One of the last surviving members of the Hometowners –Bill Botten died just this past summer on July 22 leaving Geoffrey Veables as the only surving original member (February 2011).
They perform live stage shows at the Dominion Theatre and on air. Many concerts at the Cameron Band Shell in Beacon Hill Park, at Willows Beach, Victoria Day parades,etc.
They did the first dance in the old arena – October 1949 – a “moccasin Dance”
January 1951 – within a few weeks of my birth – did the first of a long series of weekly shows on the CBC Dominion Network.
January 1959 – Played at Government House for the Queen
During the 50’s and 60’s the band played thousands of dances, Christmas parties, conventions, community events, etc. As the “Fred G. Usher Orchestra ´they entertained at the Empress Ballroom for many years.
He was the author and voice of thousands of radio commercials – who can forget “4 7 1 9 1, for Dowells” Not to mention the theme song of the Oak Bay Kiwanis Club “We’re Oak Bay Kiwanians, a jolly good bunch of fellows …” For many year his voice was the automated fire alarm announcement at the Victoria fire hall “this is ….”
And just as importantly, Fred played at campfires all over the province and the US. My childhood memories are of falling asleep to the campfire songs – they typically attracted large numbers of campers.
I still have his Gibson Kalamazoo Tenor Guitar – custom made for one of the “Freshmen”, and bought by my father for $50 while on leave from the army. He knew thousands of songs
I should mention that he was inducted into the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 for his local, national, international and Olympic involvement with Archery. Many tournament nights ended with his leading songs around a fire.