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16th January – birthday of ‘Bard Of The Yukon’ Robert W. Service (Jan 16, 1874 – Sep 11, 1958), surely the most recorded poet in the history of country music. A fascinating life – from Scottish bank clerk to penniless hobo (in Canada) and then becoming the worlds first millionaire poet. In his 70s, he played himself as a young man in his 30s in a Marlene Dietrich/Randolph Scott Hollywood western (The Spoilers 1942). Country artistes who have recorded Service recitations or songs include Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Stuart Hamblen, Wilf Carter and Country Joe McDonald. But for me the best is Hank Snow’s 1968 Tales Of The Yukon, one of my favourite albums of all time, which has Hank in fine recitation-voice on a clutch of Service poems ; superb arrangements, the sessions featuring Chet Atkins and Lenny Breau on guitars and Chubby-Wise on fiddle. Service himself played the ukulele and published one book of songs, Twenty Bath Tub Ballads, one of which – When The Ice Worms Nest Again, was recorded by Wilf Carter.
(Tales Of The Yukon is NOT a BACM release; but is available from Amazon; the album is also on the great Bear Family box set, The Singing Ranger Vol.3)