The title of my blog post today is a riff on a phrase that is likely familiar to people who were regular listeners to CBC Radio in the years between 1950 and 1998, “And now… here’s Max.” That phrase, voiced by the inimitable Allan McFee, referred to radio personality Max Ferguson, who spent fifty-two years (yes, that says 52) on CBC Radio.
For those fifty-two years, Ferguson made many Canadians roar with laughter while simultaneously making others shake with rage or fear that Canada was being corrupted by the words spouted by the many characters he portrayed. Some found him offensive — not I. I was one of the ones laughing.
Max Ferguson died yesterday, Thursday March 7, at the age of 89. I know that most of you reading this blog will have never heard of him before this post — I’d like to at least introduce him to you, as I pay tribute to him at his passing.
Max Ferguson was born in the county of Durham, England in 1924. I wish one of the bios I read would have said where in Durham, as my paternal grandfather was also born in Durham, although many years before Max Ferguson’s birth. The Ferguson family moved to London, Ontario when Max was 3, so Canada was truly his home, if not his native land.
His radio career began in Halifax, and indeed, if asked prior to researching this post I would have said I thought he was from the Maritimes. He was associated with Halifax for the first several years of his broadcasting career, later moving to Toronto where he launched The Max Ferguson Show, which is the program I most remember him for.
This quote from Michael Enright of the CBC expresses well who Max Ferguson was and what he will be remembered for: “Max was a true radio genius- off beat, eccentric and totally brilliant. He invented an entire repertory company of bizarre characters- all voiced by Ferguson- to amuse himself and his audience. He was known both within CBC and on air as a master satirist, philosopher and prankster.”
To hear some vintage Ferguson, which is the best way to “get to know” this man, here is a 50 minute program, hosted by the aforementioned Enright, CBC’s Rewind. I hope you enjoy these clips of Max Ferguson’s brilliant eccentricity.
For another perspective — Ferguson’s own perspective — here is an interview of him about his career, from 1986.
And finally, his obituary from the CBC.
I’m imagining that somewhere out in the vast radiosphere beyond our knowledge, on Thursday morning Allan McFee grinned and said, “And now… here’s Max.”