Nabob’s ‘Harmony House’ on CBC

CVA 1184-2104: An audience at the Orpheum Theatre watching Nabob’s Harmony House broadcast over CBC. 1940-48 Jack Lindsay.

The “Harmony House” radio variety show was the first commercial radio program originating in the West to be put on CBC’s network. It was broadcast live from the Orpheum Theatre, starting in September 1943 [1]. The corporate sponsor of Harmony House was Nabob. Nabob Tea and other products were manufactured and distributed locally by the Kelly Douglas Company (the head office of which was located just east of the CPR deport in the building known today as The Landing and where Steamworks is located) [2]. Harmony House ran on radio from 1943-55 and then on CBC Television for the 1955-56 season.

CVA 586-5270 – Richmond (“Ricky”) Hyslop and his Harmony House Orchestra. 1944. Don Coltman photo.

Richmond (“Ricky”) Hyslop led the Harmony House Orchestra throughout the radio years and the television season. Hyslop, it seems to me, is one of the unsung and, today, pretty much forgotten, music men of Vancouver’s past. He began as a violinist, was a writer and arranger and, of course, a band leader. The Sun gave some idea of his working life on Harmony House:

For 39 weeks through the winter, Hyslop leads 17 musicians, two soloists, Pat Morgan and Suzanne [Sysak], and a vocal group of five through their paces on Harmony House. The program goes on the air Tuesday evenings and gets as far east as Fort William [Ontario] on the Dominion [CBC] Network.

But before the show hits the air he has to arrange the music, handle rehearsals, soothe the temperamental characters, calm down the excitable ones, ginger up the guys who are half a beat behind and generally set the tone for the operation.

A band leader these days is businessman, musician, trainer, father confessor and idea man all rolled into one.

Vancouver Sun 23 Aug 1952

Hyslop had other responsibilities concurrent with those on Harmony House. Not least, he worked on the production of “Here’s Juliette”, also on the CBC Network, which featured Suzanne’s sister, ‘our pet’, Juliette (Sysak). (Both women preferred to use only their first names, professionally).

The Master of Ceremonies and principal male soloist of the show was tenor, Pat (“Buster”) Morgan. He had a long career, and was known when Harmony House moved to TV, as “the best vocalist in Canada.”

CVA 586-3040 – Pat (‘Buster’) Morgan, M.C. and Soloist for Nabob’s Harmony House. 1944. Don Coltman photo.
CVA 586-3044: “Suzanne” Sysak, soloist of Nabob’s Harmony House (sister of another CBC singer, ‘Our Pet’ Juliette). 1944. Don Coltman photo.
CVA 586-8895: An incarnation of the Nabobettes Trio: Margaret (“Bunty”) Wishart, Marion (“Mamie”) Wishart (sister of Bunty), and Vera Zimmerman. 1945. Don Coltman. [3]

The Nabobettes was a girl group composed of different people at different times. They included Mamie Wishart, Bunty Wishart, Vera Zimmerman, and Thora Anders. Thora Anders had a long music career in Vancouver and sung with many groups, including several productions for Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS). She was also closely associated with Barney Potts and his orchestra, ultimately marrying him.

Note

  1. One of the broadcasts, however, on June 5, 1944, was made from the Vogue Theatre.
  2. A reader of this blog has remarked that she can recall the words to the advertising jingle adopted by Nabob. Apparently, they were (in part): “N-A-B-O-B : The very best coffee and tea.” I tried to find an online source of this with the tune, but had no luck. Nabob Tea was sluggging it out in the 1980s with some serious competition (principally, although not exclusively, from Red Rose). As you will see from the links, this slug-fest was carried out by gently mocking the Mother Country. “Pity.” The Nabob brand was ultimately purchased by Kraft. The Nabob character – which isn’t particularly politically correct – has been abandoned in favour of simply including part of a Nabob’s imagined head gear).
  3. Thanks are due to Robert of WestEndVancouver.wordpress.com for his help in identifying the Nabobettes portrayed here.

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7 Responses to Nabob’s ‘Harmony House’ on CBC

  1. Dennis Duffy says:

    Thanks for another interesting post. The BC Archives preserves several complete episodes or excerpts from the “Harmony House” broadcasts. Here’s a link to the online descriptions, most of which are fairly detailed. (While they’re described online, the recordings themselves are not; they can only be listened to in the archives’ reference room, which is currently closed to the public due to Covid-19 precautions.) https://search-bcarchives.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/informationobject/browse?sort=alphabetic&showAdvanced=1&sq0=%22harmony+house%22&sf0=title&levels=200&topLod=0&rangeType=inclusive

  2. David says:

    Thanks Dennis for posting that additional info. You beat me to it!

  3. Nabob Coffee also sponsored ‘Nabob Coffee Time’
    Here is an episode from 27 March 1944
    CFCF-CKCO-CFRB
    https://archive.org/details/nabob-coffee-time

  4. Harmony House From Vancouver, B.C.
    Thanks for the info which I shared with an upload of an episode:
    https://archive.org/details/harmony-house

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