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Who Evan Kemp
What Evan Kemp: Yodelling Prowess Made B.C. Country Singer Popular
When April 16, 2007
Where Vancouver, BC

British Columbia country music legend Evan Kemp has died. He was 78.

Back when country music was still western, Kemp was the king of the west coast cowboys—a fan site calls him "the golden voice of the golden west." His smooth, easy-listening style and yodelling ability earned him fans all across Canada, peaking in the 1970s when he hosted two national TV shows, "Cross-Canada Barn Dance" and "Circle Seven Ranch".

His biggest hit was Sweet Molly Malone, which cracked the top 50 in the United States in the 1960s. He appeared on the Grand Ole Opry in the '60s and was squired around Nashville by his hero, Eddy Arnold.

But his career was largely confined to rural western Canada. Kemp was a classic hard-working country singer on the small-town circuit, selling his records off the stage and entertaining folks with British Columbia-themed songs like My Home By The Fraser, Bella Coola Baby and Queen Charlotte Schottische.

Kemp was born in Vancouver, but spent his early days in Pagman, Saskatchewan where he fell in love with country and western music.

"I had a problem with my eyes," he recalled ina 1997 interview with the Vancouver Sun.

"I was practically blind. Of course, all you can do when you're like that is listen to radio. I listened to Wilf Carter and all those yodelling entertainers and I learned to yodel. I could yodel like crazy."

The Kemp family moved back to Vancouver when Kemp was 11, and he started selling Liberty and Saturday Evening Post magazines. To entice customers, he would display his yodelling talent if they purchased his wares.

One night, CJOR disc jockey Bill Rae heard Evan yodelling on Love's Cafe on Granville Street. Rae took Kemp straight to the station and put him live on the air. The young yodeller became a staple of Rea's shows on CJOR, CKMO and CKNW.

Kemp became a DJ himself for CKWX and CKMO, but he gave up radio to play live and make records, first for Al Reusch's Aragon label and later for RCA.

Kemp's career earned him membership in the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame, which honoured him with his own star on Granville Street. A 1989 stroke forced him to cut back on live shows, but he was a regular at a Remembrance Day convert at the Orpheum, where he would sing The Man We Never Knew.

Kemp died March 17 in his Burnaby home from a heart attack.

He was predeceased by his wife Laurie. He is survived by their three children, Kathryn, Ken and Darcey.

Contact John Mackie
Vancouver Sun


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