Vancouver jazz great Eleanor Collins honored with stamp

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The singer was the first black entertainer in North America to host a TV show in 1955

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Vancouver’s first lady of jazz is honored with her own seal.

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Friday morning, Canada Post will unveil an Eleanor Collins stamp during a virtual press conference. The Collins stamp is issued in conjunction with Black History Month in Canada, which is fitting, as Collins has quite a history.

“He’s a legend,” said Bronwyn Graves, director of Canada Post’s stamp services. “If you know anything about jazz music in Canada, then you know Eleanor Collins. She is remarkable. His music is timeless.

“Not only was she a consummate professional and an incredible musician, but she was also an innovator. She was featured on a CBC radio show in the 1940s (and) she was the first female jazz artist to host a national television show.

His legacy is not just in Canada. When The Eleanor Show debuted on CBC on June 19, 1955, she became the first black television host in North America.

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Collins was born Eleanor Ruth Proctor in Edmonton on November 21, 1919, which means she just turned 102. She still lives independently in the Lower Mainland, with the help of her children.

She came from a musical background, singing in her local Baptist church and with her Uncle Bert’s family band.

“Every time the cousins ​​got together as kids, and even later in life, we started to harmonize,” she recalled in an interview sent by Canada Post.

It was supposed to be a family group. His sister Ruby was a classical pianist who won the approval of opera/spiritual singer Marian Anderson. Another sister, Pearl, was an acclaimed jazz and blues singer – and became Jimi Hendrix’s aunt.

4th May 1962 Singer Eleanor Collins.  Original cut: Blues singer Eleanor Collins, who is seen weekly on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television network during a half-hour of jazz and blues from Vancouver, will be featured in a blues interlude when the CBC will present a jazz show at the May World's Fair in Seattle.  23. Franz Lindner/CBC.
4th May 1962 Singer Eleanor Collins. Original cut: Blues singer Eleanor Collins, who is seen weekly on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television network during a half-hour of jazz and blues from Vancouver, will be featured in a blues interlude when the CBC will present a jazz show at the May World’s Fair in Seattle. 23. Franz Lindner/CBC. Photo by Franz Lindner /PNG

Collins began singing in Edmonton as a teenager, winning a talent contest at age 15 and singing with an orchestra at Edmonton’s Tivoli Ballroom.

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In 1939, she moved to Vancouver, where she married Dick Collins and had four children. But she continued to sing, first with a trio called the Three E’s, then with the Swing Low Quartet, which included her sisters Ruby and Pearl.

Collins was a natural adept at singing in many styles, from jazz and gospel to pop and show tunes. She has often been compared to Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald for her musical ability and elegance.

“After the war years, jazz standards, ballads and show tunes were the music of the day, and I was particularly drawn to composers and lyricists whose songs created drama or told a story that suited my approach as an artist and song stylist,” she said during the Canada Post interview.

Her adaptability has led to all manner of gigs, including productions of Kiss Me Kate and Finian’s Rainbow at Theater Under The Stars. His big professional breakthrough came in 1954 in a CBC television production called Bamboola, which featured Creole and West Indian music.

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This led to his own CBC television show, which lasted for one season. She continued to work at the CBC and perform throughout the 1960s with the cream of Vancouver jazz musicians. In 1964, CBC offered her another television show, Eleanor, where she was accompanied by legendary local jazz pianist Chris Gage and his trio.

She has won many accolades over the years, including her appointment to the Order of Canada in 2014. She credits the love of her late husband (they were married for 70 years) and their family for her longevity and vitality.

She also retained her sense of humor. When the Canada Post interviewer asked her what she considered her greatest accomplishment, she replied, “In my 102nd year, my greatest accomplishment is getting through another day. »

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Eleanor Collins - jazz/gospel singer.  Undated handout photo.
Eleanor Collins – jazz/gospel singer. Undated handout photo. Handout
31 January 1964. Singer Eleanor Collins.  Robert Ragsdale/Vancouver Sun Files.
31 January 1964. Singer Eleanor Collins. Robert Ragsdale/Vancouver Sun Files. Photo by Robert Ragsdale /PNG
July 16, 1955 Vancouver Sun article on Eleanor Collins on her first CBC TV show.
July 16, 1955 Vancouver Sun article on Eleanor Collins on her first CBC TV show.

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