In the 1950s, Canada continued contributing new musicians to the world stage in the genres of country (Tommy Hunter), jazz (Moe Koffman, trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, and guitarist Lenny Breau), and classical (Pierrette Alarie, Lois Marshall, Louis Quilico, Léopold Simoneau, and contralto Maureen Forrester). Following in La Bolduc’s footsteps were Quebec artists who enriched the landscape of Canadian music by singing folk music in fabulous French. It wasn’t until Beatlemania swept Canada in the 1960s that Quebec artists began to perform pop and rock; for now, folk was the genre of choice. An important word on this is best summed up by the Canadian Music Encyclopedia:
In Québec, the history of popular music unfolded quite differently. Instead of copying Americans, French Canadians created their own style of pretty and simple poetry inspired by traditional folk songs and played on the guitar by chansonniers (“songmakers” or singer-songwriters).
First and foremost among these chansonniers was the inspired genius of Félix Leclerc, who deservedly became Canada’s first international folk superstar. Second in rank to him was Jean-Pierre Ferland who started out as a folk musician in the 50s, but in the 70s switched to pop/rock releasing some critically-acclaimed albums. Other chansonniers included Yves Albert and Jacques Labrecque. In 1956, Raymond Lévesque scored a big hit with his “Quand les hommes vivront d’amour”. Its message of brotherhood and search for justice, its folky guitar and jazzy piano made it, amongst changing pop styles, a timeless classic of chanson québécoise. The song has been performed by many French singers.
Percy Faith became Canada’s second easy listening star (after Guy Lombardo). In the following decade he scored a massive hit with his “Theme from a Summer Place”, the number one single of the year on 1960′s Billboard chart.
Nearly-forgotten Winnipeg songstress Gisele MacKenzie (no relation to Bob and Doug, eh), after getting her own CBC radio show, recorded some songs of her own which became hits in 1955.
Prior to American Bill Haley’s revolutionary comet-clocking chart-topper, Canada had already set itself up to usher in the rock ‘n roll era with its hit R&B group The Four Lads. Following suit were The Crew Cuts and The Diamonds. These three Toronto-based quartets launched the rock era in Canada by converting some American R&B tunes into rock and by creating some original selections of their own.
With all this activity in the 1950s, Canadians would never have believed what was to happen in 1957. Their first anglophone international pop superstar arrived from within the nation’s capital. And he was of neither European nor African descent, but Asian. He released a single that rocketed up to Number One on both sides of the Atlantic and became the second best-selling single of all-time (after Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”). He was Canada’s first real teen-idol, scored several more chart-toppers in the late 50s, became a millionaire while still a minor, switched from rock to adult contemporary in the 60s, wrote the theme for the Tonight Show, composed Tom Jones’ biggest hit, foiled Frank Sinatra’s plans of an early retirement by writing his signature song, and rekindled his own singing career with several chart-toppers in the 70s. To date, he has written some 400 songs. He should be regarded as the godfather of Canadian pop. And his name is Paul Anka.