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George Wade and His Cornhuskers, Part 2

George Wade and His Cornhuskers will play next Tuesday evening at the local Kiwanis service club and Hallowe'en frolic at the Horticultural Hall, Lansdowne Park, Ottawa.
(Evening Ottawa Citizen,
Saturday, October 28, 1933, page 22)

Listen to George Wade and His Cornhuskers

Sojourn in Montreal and Back

Wade and his Cornhuskers disappeared from the Toronto area after 1935. Recalling their appearance at Majestic Hall, Montreal, in the 1933 tour (MDS, Dec. 29, 1933, p. 5), then calling themselves "Montreal Kings" in Regina, Rob had an idea and found George in the 1936 Lovell's Montreal Directory at 2066 Claremont Avenue, Westmount. They played Majestic Hall (MDS, May 9, 1935, p. 14), Wood Hall, Verdun (MDS, Oct. 18, 1935, p. 17), adding Columbus Hall in 1936 and continuing into 1938. After six weeks he got bounced out of Legion Hall in early 1938 by "Charlie Smith and his Colored Harlem Swingers" and at Wood Hall by "The Harvesters" with Jean Carignan (MDS, Oct. 21, 1938, p. 9). Those setbacks likely decided him to pack up and head back to Toronto. George re-appeared in Toronto as "music director" along with Mrs. George Wade, at 683 Dupont Street in the 1940 Might's (surveyed in late 1939).

George and his Cornhuskers began dances again in March, 1940, at Lansdowne Assembly Hall, Queen and Lansdowne, every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday night, initially sponsored by the Lakeshore "Y" Wrestling and Track Clubs (TDS, Mar. 17, 1940, p. 20), and at Elm Park, Woodbridge. They also got a half-hour date on Dominion Battery's CKCL (TDS, Apr. 23, 1940, p. 20), every week or so through early October. In 1941 they gave a euchre and dance at 22 College for war victims (G, Mar. 24, 1941, p. 25), a hoe-down in Eaton's Main Store for Eaton's Junior Council (TDS, Oct. 24, 1941, p. 44) and began a Wednesday and Saturday series at Forresters' Hall, 22 College Street in 1942 (TDS, Jan. 20, 1942, p. 29) and appeared every Friday until June at the Ulster Temple (TDS, Mar. 13, 1942, p. 13), resuming September 23, 1942. They worked four days a week, 1943 to 1950, at Forresters' Hall (TDS, Jan. 16, 1946, p. 11) and Ulster Temple, switching to Wednesdays at Masaryk Auditorium in August, 1946 (TDS, Aug. 14, 1946, p. 7).

George Wade and his Cornhuskers performing at Defence Industries Limited Hall, Ajax, Ont., circa 1945 (The Commando, Feb. 1945, p. 3). George was making very good money after the War and Bill Wade remembers his uncle asking him to drive him in the Cadillac out to an auto dealer where he bought a little Jaguar sports car (WJW).

From 1941, the Wades lived at 819 Dupont, George listed variously as machinist, mechanic (from his Post Office days?) and income tax assessor and then, from 1944, George and Alice were at both 819 Dupont and 261 Wright Avenue and George was a dog breeder and musician at both addresses. Then they were at 57 Felbrigg Avenue, North York, in 1945 (M).

Sic 'em, Shad

American Champion Westphalia’s Rameses CDX, "Shad", featured in Dogs in Canada, June 1944, p. 5.

We presumed that George had long been a breeder of dogs. The Toronto Star noted in 1928 that a police dog owned by George had bitten a boy on the left leg in George's side entrance at 262 Lisgar Avenue (TDS, Dec. 29, 1928, p.3).

George visited the U.S. three times in early 1944, to Baltimore in January and on February 10 arriving at La Guardia on Trans Canada Airlines out of Toronto (Ancestry.ca) to show a dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden, New York. That year there was a special feature on war dogs, featuring 107 Dobermans, "the devil dog of the Marine Corps". Soon after, George returned to Maryland to purchase a champion U.S.-bred Doberman from Maryland Kennels, a sleek black canine-commando infantry veteran, one of the famous "Seven Sires", to add to his kennels. The Canadian Kennel Club Stud Book shows G. Wade as a breeder, at RR #1, Port Credit as of each December 31, in 1944, 1945 and 1946.

Wade joined the Canadian Kennel Club and took his new Doberman "Shad", his pet name for Champion Westphalia's Rameses CDX (Companion Dog Excellent), to various Canadian shows to demonstrate his impressive obedience routine. Shad was a one-man dog, not trained to be a pleasant animal and if you moved to pat him, he would clamp onto your arm and bite down to the bone. "He's trained to go for your forearm," Wade explained, "but if he misses it he'll get you in the groin. And when he bites, he really gives you the business" (WFP, Sept. 9, 1944, p. 13). In May, his Friday gig at Forresters' Hall was sponsored by the Doberman Pinscher Club of Canada to buy seeing eye dogs for blind service men (TDS, May 26, 1944, p. 21).

The Cornhuskers Continue

George predicted that square dancing was making a comeback, that it was "on the upswing all over Canada...including jitterbugs and bobbysoxers" (MCC, May 30, 1946, p. 7). He added, "We don't talk gibberish. We make every word clear and sharp, and believe in using infinite variety. Often I never know what I'm going to say next - until just a second before I say it. This keep the dancers out of a rut..."

In 1947, it was Masaryk Hall, Mondays and Wednesdays, going back to Lansdowne and picking up Elm Park, Woodbridge on Fridays and Edgewater Pavilion, Jackson's Point every Saturday from July 5 (TDS, June 4, 1947, p. 27). They appeared at the King Women's Institute Street Dance (NEE, June 26, 1947, p. 3), the Stouffville Athletic Club Street Dance (NEE, Aug. 7, 1947, p. 1) and Parkdale and Woodbridge for autumn (TDS, Aug. 18, 1947, p. 21). Into mid-1949 it was Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at Lansdowne and Friday at Woodbridge until they picked up the celebrated Palais Royale near Sunnyside every Thursday (G, Oct. 26, 1949, p. 10) through the end of March (G, Mar 29, 1950, p. 15) and again in November (G, Nov. 24, 1950, p. 13). They showed up for a dance at the Jubilee Rink in Manville near Ottawa (OC, Sept. 5, 1950, p. 22).

George Wade Showing "Shad" among the winners at the Progressive Kennel Club Show, Toronto, June 24, 1944.
(Dogs in Canada, August 1944, p.14)

After 1950, advertisements for Wade's dances were intermittent. The Cornhuskers continued Wednesdays through Saturdays with Lansdowne and Palais Royale and Dixie Arena in the summer of 1951 (TDS, July 12, 1951, p. 11) until a switch to Playter's Hall on Saturdays and Palais Royale on Thursdays (TDS, Dec. 4, 1954, p. 11). Then it was Lansdowne on Saturdays in 1956, back to Masaryk Auditorium until a last listing in May 1958 (TDS, May 31, 1958, p. 30). It was at the Red Barn, Oshawa, in 1956 that we first found them advertising "Rock and Roll" among their dances (CS, Feb. 16, 1956, p. 11). They were next announced for every Saturday at 1574 Queen East near Coxwell (TDS, Jan 20, 1962, p. 23) and then nothing until their final notice for Playter's Hall in 1966 (TDS, March 11, 1966, p. 27).

George and Alice disappeared from Port Credit after 1949 (CEA-VL) and George turned up in 1953 in Brampton (CEA-VL) with a young wife also named Alice (née Crowe) (PE, Oct. 9, 1973, p. 2). His nephew, William J. "Bill" Wade, remembers visiting George and Alice #2 in Brampton around 1953, that she was a beautiful young woman, a spendthrift, and that George was crazy about her. Bill said that after television arrived around 1952, people didn't want to go out dancing any more. Then, in the middle 1950s when rock ‘n' roll came in, even though George offered rock in his dances, the big bands and old-timey bands began to die out, fewer turned up at his dances, George had to wind down his gigs and his savings ran out (WJW). In 1957 George and Alice were at 31 Homewood Avenue near Jarvis and Carlton, in March 1958 George briefly owned the Prince Edward Smoke Shop at 2889 Bloor West (CEA-VL), working day and night for very little, and in 1959 he was a "costumer" or stagehand at the CBC and living nearby at 166 Carlton Street (CTAR). On the drive to Peterborough, circa 1964-65 (see below), George told his nephew that Alice (Crowe) had left him, disappeared, and that he had lost his money, his car and everything (WJW). We found George living alone about that time, in 1963 "retired" and in 1965 a security guard, living a marginal existence at 17 Strathcona Avenue (CEA-VL), though he made at least one more attempt to revive the Cornhuskers in 1966.

George Wade's Character

Toronto Daily Star, Toronto,
Wednesday, January 16, 1946, p. 11

Graham Townsend (1942-1998) remembered George Wade from the late period. At the age of 8, in 1950, Graham was introduced to Wade by his father Fred, who had played and recorded with the Cornhuskers in the 1930s, and then Graham worked with Wade in the 1950s and 1960s. He recalled "Doc" Boyd on banjo, Cec McEachern double bass, Tony Mont on guitar and Pete "The Mountain Boy" McGinn. Also that George was famous for his singing calls, as in his disc of "Little Brown Jug", but his voice reminds us of the flat, dry voice of Canadian actor Ned Sparks.

"It was about 1950 that my father introduced me to he and the band and all they used was one microphone for the 10 or 11 musicians that were on stage. No monitors of course, then, two speakers in the hall and everything was crystal clear. You could hear every instrument. There was no dragging or gaining in tempo. It was wonderful" (Townsend).

"...Wade had a lot of respect for my dad, and vice-versa. And they had a little trick going sometimes that, if it were Wade's job he would get my dad up to call maybe one or two square dances throughout the evening. But sometimes he would carry an extra microphone for the caller and made sure if he liked him that the caller got the better mike. He'd always use the local caller in the local area that they were playing in because it would draw in some more people. But if the caller was just maybe not quite as good as Wade, but pretty damn close, he'd give him the bad mike and he wouldn't sound as good. There are all kinds of tricks to the trade, I guess" (Townsend).

Toronto Daily Star, Toronto,
Wednesday, September 1, 1948, p. 10

Townsend called Wade "a conniving old bugger", a business man though his players still loved him. "I worked with Wade several times in the 50s and 60s - you'd be shocked at the fee he had received on many occasions back in those years. Where there's bands going out to-day getting $6 - 800, maybe $1,000 a night, he was getting that then. He was even more in demand than Don Messer and his Islanders were at one time".

"The band changed (over the years)...Well, the reason for the change is because the musicians were getting a little - shall we say pissed off? - at not getting paid...at which I don't blame them. He would go so far as to put the (pay) envelopes on the chairs after the job had been complete and make sure that they had seen him doing this. And when they were packing up their instruments in the case, scoop them all up and swear to God he had paid them. And they finally believed that...well, I guess maybe he did because I had lost the envelope. But he could only fool some of the people some of the time and not all of the people all of the time, so it's unfortunate that the group did change and then deteriorated. After the Cormiers left, especially - those three fiddlers. It went downhill very, very quickly" (Townsend).

Fred Isenor recalled, "Back in the 1970s, a friend who was in the Musicians' Union used to give me his copies of International Musician. Until he died, George Wade was on their "Unfair List". I didn't think much of it and figured he just didn't go along with the union dictatorship. After hearing Townsend (on CIUT), however, I thought possibly there was some basis for it" (Isenor). We were unable to examine the magazine before 1962, when Wade was appearing on the "Defaulter's List" but not on the "Unfair List".

Advertisement for one of Wade’s appearances at the famous jazz venue, the Palais Royale, Toronto (G, Oct. 26, 1949, p. 10), continuing every Thursday through January 1951, and again in May, 1952.

Bill Wade, George's nephew (the only one of Joseph's sons close to George) recalled that at age 19, in 1948, he arrived in Port Credit to find his famous uncle, who was then selling dogs. By the early 1950s "Little Willie" was driving the big maroon Cadillac on the band's tours and taking money at the door. He told us that George had two bands, one playing Lansdowne Hall and the other on tour, and that he doesn't remember George playing the violin but playing the harmonica. Bill recalled George playing his little harmonica in the back of the car on long trips and that they used to carry a .45 in the side pocket of the car door since, in those days one could deposit money only in one's own bank. On a one- or two-month tour in 1953, they were carrying upwards of $10,000 in a suitcase. When George went to a remote on week-ends, he would stipulate his price, not dependent upon ticket sales, cash in advance. Bill remembers that his uncle didn't smoke or drink, was a gentleman, a very polite and friendly guy and treated him very well (WJW).

Circa 1959, after not seeing his uncle for a year or two, Bill received a phone call from George, then a stagehand for the CBC at Maple Leaf Gardens, asking for a loan of $20 until he was paid. Then Bill and his old band members kind of lost track of him. In 1964 or 1965, after the second Alice had left him, George asked Bill to drive him up to Peterborough, in Bill's old ‘52 Chevy, where he had his beautiful furniture stored in a barn and Bill noticed that George didn't seem right after that. Later, George turned up at his niece Evangeline Dolan's, looking as if he were starving. He said he was all right, but Bill thought that he was somehow not all there. At a last Cornhuskers gig, Bill recalls, where beer and wine sales were allowed, the crowd wasn't there and that was the end of the band (WJW).

On the night of June 21, 1970, George was delivered by police from his home at 615 Logan Avenue to the Queen Street Mental Hospital, diagnosed with senile dementia, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Apparently he was not able to supply them with names of his next-of-kin. Nephew Bill went to see him a couple of times and George did not recognize him, though Bill was assured that George was being well taken care of and did not bother anyone. Graham Townsend also went to meet Wade at Queen Street, but George recognized him for only about 30 seconds of the hour visit.

The Alices Wade

The Canadian Champion, Milton, Thursday, June 25, 1953, p. 5

We know that George and the first Alice were together, married or not, in or before 1930, at 68 Runnymede Road, Swansea (SACR), that she was with George on the CEA-VL in 1938 at 681 Dupont St., and that she was referred to as Mrs. Alice Wade in George's border crossing documentation in 1944 and 1945. She was with George in Port Credit in the CEA-VL in 1945 and 1949, Bill Wade met her in 1948 and we know from Bill that she survived George. We do not know the family name of the first Alice or when they met.

The discrepancy in the Alices turned up when we found George at 166 Carlton in the CTAR, February 27, 1959, with a Mrs. Alice Wade born about 1920. Bill Wade cleared up the problem, remembering a young Alice from his stay in Brampton in the early 1950s and that she was with him on Homewood, on Bloor (WJW) as well as 166 Carlton. We found no evidence of George ever being legally married or divorced, but many of those records are not available.

After Alice (Crowe) Wade left George, she turned up in the CEA-VL, possibly as Mrs. Alice Foulette in 1963 and Mrs. Alice Folett in 1965, and certainly as Alice Wade in 1972, living close to her sister Amy Taul, always in the seedy district around Carlton, Bleeker and Gerrard Streets. On the night of October 6, 1973, leaving work, Alice Wade, age 56 and living at 597 Gerrard Street, was fatally shot by a rifle-carrying man in a car on Carlton Street between Bleeker and Ontario Streets. One Robert Cyril Follette was arrested at his home soon after, suffering a probably self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, and was charged with non-capital murder (SS, Oct. 7, 1973, p. 1; G, Oct. 8, 1973, p. 1; TDS, Oct. 8, 1973, p. C7). We discovered that this second Alice (Crowe) Wade was buried in Lakefield Cemetery, her home town, without marker (PE, Oct. 9, 1973, p. 2).


After spending almost five years in Queen Street, George William Wade died on January 23, 1975, predeceased by his (second) wife and leaving no children. Several children of his brother Joseph, nieces and nephews, were mentioned in the obituary, and he was buried in a Catholic cemetery, Holy Cross, Toronto (TDS, Jan, 24, 1975, p. C08).

In his own way, George W. Wade discovered, groomed and launched several generations of the best old-timey musicians in Canada, was the model for other bands, employed composer/ arrangers such as Johnny Burt, Jim Magill and Dan Sullivan and supplied the square-dancing public with recordings and booklets of steps, calls and tunes. He was instrumental in uniting the Irish, Scottish, French and western musical traditions and does not deserve his current obscurity.

The Devil's Dream
George Wade and His Cornhuskers

May 12, 2014, #23, 56:40
with guest Arthur E. Zimmerman

The Playlist

1.  George Wade: Mason's Apron - 1931
2.  George Wade: Little Brown Jug - 1935
3.  George Wade: Waltz Quadrille - 1933
4.  George Wade: Devil's Dream - 1931
5.  George Wade: Soldier's Joy - 1931
6.  George Wade: Arkansas Traveller - 1933
7.  George Wade: Haste To The Wedding - 1934

Great North Wind Classic
George Wade and His Cornhuskers

September 29, 1997, 53:36
with guest Graham Townsend

The Playlist

1.  Edward Schweigart: First Century Reel - 1970s
2.  George Wade: Uncle Jim/Cowboy's Reel - 1935
3.  George Wade: Little Brown Jug/Father O'Flynn - 1935
4.  George Wade: Waltz Quadrille - 1933
5.  Graham Townsend: Little Rock Getaway - 1982
6.  George Wade: Arkansas Traveller - 1933
7.  Graham Townsend: Black Jack Whiskey - 1982
8.  George Wade: Devil's Dream - 1931


1906 Canadian Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta
1916 Manitoba Census
1861,1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 and 1921 Census of Canada
ADN - Amherst Daily News, Amherst, Nova Scotia
Ancestry.ca on-line website
BE - Barrie Examiner, Barrie, Ontario
Bertin - "Don Messer: The Man Behind the Music" by Johanna Bertin (Goose Lane Editions, Fredericton, N.B., 2009)
Canadian Kennel Club Stud Book, Volume 48, December 31, 1944, etc.
CEA-VL - Canada Elections Act - Voters List
CE - Canadian Encyclopedia on-line, Historica Dominion
CEP - Charlottetown Evening-Patriot, Charlottetown, P.E.I.
CG - Charlottetown Guardian, Charlottetown, P.E.I.
CS - The Canadian Statesman, Bowmanville, Ontario
CTAR - City of Toronto Assessment Rolls, City of Toronto Archives
Dominion Elections List, found on-line by Rob Gilmore, New Brunswick Archives
FDG - Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Fredericton, New Brunswick
G - The Globe, Toronto and The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Ontario
GLM - Granby Leader-Mail, Granby, Quebec
HH - Halifax Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Inco - Inco Triangle, vol. 6 #4, July 1946, p. 11
International Musician, Official Journal of the American Federation of Musicians, Syracuse, New York, U.S.A.
Isenor - personal communication from Fred Isenor, CAPS member from Nova Scotia, Jan. 2014.
LAC - Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 9984-47), Order ID-13098
Litchfield - "The Canadian Victor 216000 Series: Estimating the Recording Dates" by Jack Litchfield (self-published, 2012)
Lovell's Montreal City Directories
M - Might's City of Toronto Directories
MCC - The Milton Canadian Champion, Milton, Ontario
MDS - Montreal Daily Star, Montreal, Quebec
MDT - Moncton Daily Times, Moncton, New Brunswick
Mills - Note by Alan Mills in "Old Time Fiddle Tunes Played by Jean Carignan" Folkways Records FG 3531
NEE - Newmarket Era and Express, Newmarket, Ontario
OC - Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Ontario
Owen - "Divorce in a Small Province: A History of Divorce in Prince Edward Island from 1833" by Wendy Owen and J.M. Bumstead; Acadiensis, vol 20 #2, Spring 1991, pp. 86-104.
PE - Peterborough Examiner, Peterborough, Ontario
RD St. John - Registration Division of St. John City and County: "Deaths" No. 003727
Russell - Paul G. Russell, Toronto, personal communications, 2012 and June 21, 2103
RLP - Regina Leader Post, Regina, Saskatchewan
"The Story of CFRB: Sinc, Betty and the Morning Man" by Donald Mack (Macmillan of Canada, Toronto, 1977)
SACR - Swansea Assessment and Collectors Rolls, 1930, page 77 (City of Toronto Archives).
SCC - St. Croix Courier, St. Croix, New Brunswick
SJ - The Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, New York
SJET-G - Saint John Evening Times-Globe, Saint John, New Brunswick
SS - Sunday Sun newspaper, Toronto, Ontario
ST - Sherbrooke Telegram, Sherbrooke, Quebec
Steve Fruitman, Radio CIUT, Toronto, personal communication, August 19, 2013
Stursberg - "Mister Broadcasting: The Ernie Bushnell Story" by Peter Stursberg (Peter Martin Associates Limited, Toronto, 1971; pp. 21 & 47)
TDS - Toronto Daily Star, Toronto, Ontario
Tely -The Toronto Telegram, Toronto, Ontario
Townsend - Graham Townsend interview on "The Great North Wind" over CIUT, University of Toronto Radio, Toronto, Sept. 29, 1997, hosted by Steve Fruitman.
Weir - "The Struggle for National Broadcasting in Canada" by E. Austin Weir (McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1965)
WFP - Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg, Manitoba
WJW - William J. Wade, Riverview, New Brunswick, personal communication, May 27, June 8 and 12, 2014

Special thanks for invaluable research to Rob Gilmore, Public Service Archivist of the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, who joined the team and found the Wait/Wade and Cormier genealogies for us, documented Wade's Maritime tours and opened up many other aspects of the study. Thanks to Paul G. Russell of Toronto; to William J. Wade of Riverview, New Brunswick; to David Lennick, Jack Litchfield, Bill Pratt and Fred Isenor of CAPS; to Richard Green of the National Library and Archives in Ottawa; to Lee Ramsay and colleagues at Toronto Reference Library; to the Holy Cross Church and Cemetery, Toronto; to Heather Aiton Landry of the Trent Valley Archives; to the Archives of Ontario; to Toronto City Archives; to Public Archives of Prince Edward Island; to the Legislative Library, Winnipeg; to Souris Town Archive and to Kathy Jacques of Whitby. Thanks also to Vincent Cormier and Eddie Poirier of the "Bluegrass Diamonds" of Memramcook, N.B. and to Cate McCoy who put us onto the most helpful Steve Fruitman and his 33.45.78 - The CIUT 89.5 FM All Vinyl Radio Show of University of Toronto Radio,CIUT.