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George Featherstone
Born:  August 4, 1929
CKNX Barn Dance
CHVC Niagara Falls, ON (1955)

A native of Dunnville, Ontario, they wrote that Canada didn't know whether to be proud of George Featherstone as their newest entertainer back in 1953 because he was a bit different.

George's father, who was a fuel merchant, made sure that George got some musical lessons, but they were intended for educational purposes only. Now in fact, he didn't show much interest in music then and didn't become proficient at any of them and was a poor student. But eventually, he found the drums to be his liking.

George was about 23 at the time, and during those shows, he would undergo about five or six costume changes they say. He would wear such things as chin-whiskers or coon-skin hats.

While ever an entertainer at such a young age, he was also quite a hillbilly music promoter, as he owned and ran the "Wonderland Ranch" that was near Dunnville, Ontario.

It seems that when he was the young leader of the "Wonderland Ranch Boys", he just let it all hang loose and pretty much did what he pleased on stage. They started calling him "Uncle George" as a result. George was their drummer, but wouldn't hesitate to pick up another instrument and as they said, 'give it a squeak or two.' Also, keep in mind, drums were not generally a part of country music bands back then. Even the Grand Ole Opry took a while to let a drummer be on the show.

The Wonderland Ranch Boys did provide good music, though it appeared that "Uncle George" would try to prevent it, all in good humor we're sure. Back then, they were playing out of Dunnville, Ontario.

Earl Heywood mentions George in his "Canadian Corral" column in Country Song Roundup several times over the years. Earl would let fans know of the comings and goings of the Canadian artists and relay some of the notes he'd get from the artists. George reported that 'folk artists' were big draws in those days at Wonderland Ranch.

Some of the folks that encouraged Uncle George early on in his entertainment career were Ramblin' Lou Shriver, out of the New York side of the border, Andy Reynolds and Ray Price.

On another occasion, Earl mentions that George's Wonderland Ranch was the first park of its type in Canada. He told fans that Uncle George was appearing with the CKNX Traveling Barn Dance, doing his comedy bits, when the show was led by Johnny Brent.

We had the pleasure of hearing from Uncle George himself in the summer of 2007. He mentions how the Wonderland Ranch Boys and the personna of "Uncle George" came to be. He told hus the "Wonderland Ranch Boys" were formed as a house band for the Ranch to play dance music, both round and square, and when they saw that their popularity as growing, they began to get requests for personal appearances. That meant they had to develop a bit of a show for their audiences. They soon discovered that their audiences enjoyed humor and laughing, so they began to add comedy to their mix and hence, the birth of "Uncle George". He notes, back in the 1950s, the Wonderland Ranch Boys and Uncle George had lots of fun and so did their audiences.

Uncle George Let us turn back the pages to 1954 a bit and to an old article we found that appears to be written by Uncle George or a fan who had recently seen him do his act. and lets us in on what a stage appearance by George must have been like and a bit of his comedic sense. It seems this time he wanted to spread the word about his toes, for he was in the process of establishing a "Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Toes."

The unknown author of this bit describes the venue, a large audience, that Uncle George was dressed in his 'coon-skin' cap and his feet were bare, indicating a 'true son of the earth.' But as the author noted, "His head is held high and his eyes show a pride of realization that he is here to spread knowledge on a subject of the utmost importance to humanity." And before he tells us what George spoke, he wrly notes that "...his denims are in dire need of patching.") Without further introduction, here is what Uncle George reportedly told the audience on this important subject, dear to his heart at the time.

"Ladies and gentlemen—and anyone else here tonight... Tonite I will speak ona subject of great importance to us all, a subject often underestimated and forgotten by the human race. My subject this evening is TOES! Yes, those bony little things hangin at the end of your feet.

Don't laugh, they are important! Do you realize that in a recent nationwide census it was disclosed that there are ten times as many toes in the world as there are human beings? They outnumber us.

What would we do without toes? Think about it—it's important! If we didn't have toes what would we stub? When we dropped something, there would be nothing to stop its fall. Toes are important. If we didn't have toes, we wouldn't have any little piggies, would we? No little piggie would stay home. You people with your brains in your feet, don't you think some of those brains are in your toes? You bet they are!

When you're in church and the sermon gets boring, what do you do? Do you jump up and down in your seat? No! Do you wave your arms around? No! I'll tell you what you do; you wiggle your toes. You don't wiggle your ears. No! You wiggle your toes—and it feels nice, doesn't it?

How would you like it if you woke up tomorrow morning and discovered you had lost your toes? It wouldn't be nice, would it? People would stare at you. They'd point and say, 'Hey, Look at Margie, she ain't got no toes. What's-a-matta, Margie, couldn't you keep up the payments?

So, in ending, I ask that tonite, when going to bed, look at your toes, play with them and think of me. Thank you."

And he left the stage to roaring applause, secure in the knowledge that he had spread the word one more time of ... toes.

So, perhaps you're wondering if there's another sample of Uncle George's humor. The character he portrayed seems to be a bit of a person with a good sense of humor obviously, but also someone from wayyyyy out in the country without much of the conveniences that city folks took for granted. So, he would don this personna and give the audiences or in the case of 1954, a letter to the publisher of Country Song Roundup a few observations. We pick up on the commentary by "Uncle George" about mid-way through his note:

"Ma's been after me to wash agin now that spring's comin', but I reclon if I wuz supposed to go in the water I would have been made a fish, and sins I ain't a fish I ain't a-goin' into no water. I hear that you flolks got water right in yur houses in the city, an' you wash every day. If that's true, Norm, ain't yuh scart of washin' the skin right off? I reckon one bath a hear's good 'nough fer any man. Anyhow, I'm savin' your Ma money by not washin'. She don't got to buy no fly-spray; I'm strong enough, the insects don't dare come near our house.

Did you get that bottle of moutin water Ma sent you? What happened wuz old Jed Price fell in yur dad's still, while yur dad wuz brewin' up a hot batch. That wuz the saddest funeral I ever went to. They didn't bury poor ol' Jed; they just poured him into the ground."

Earl later told fans in 1956 that Uncle George had taken a position with radio station CHVC in Niagara Falls, Ontario in the fall of 1955.

In 1959, Bobby Gregory mentioned in his column in Cowboy Songs that George and the Wonderland Ranch Boys had returned to Wonderland Ranch after an eight month road tour.

Uncle George paid us a bit of a compliment in his note to us in 2007. He tells us that one thing our web site really points out was that "...during the 1950s, it was never known as Country music... we were Hillbillys and the music was "hillbilly".

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-music.com wishes to thank Uncle George Featherstone himself for dropping us a line and sending along the picture of him and Ray Price in the 1950s and one of Miss Avian.
  • Country Song Roundup; No. 17; April 1952; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Country Song Roundup; No. 29; February 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Country Song Roundup; No. 33; July-August 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Country Song Roundup; No. 44; June 1956; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Cowboy Songs; No. 27; July 1953; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Cowboy Songs; No. 37; September-October 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Cowboy Songs; No. 61; May 1959; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT

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