In 1937, Bert Pearl was a studio pianist around the CBC. He
was asked to fill a programming hole for the summer. The show
caught fire, and stayed on the air until 1959.
The original cast included Bert Pearl on piano, Bob Farnon on trumpet, Blaine Mathe on violin, and Kay Stokes on the Hammond organ. Hugh Bartlett was the first announcer, and was followed by Herb May and Barry Woods. George Temple and John Adaskin were the producers.
The first sponsor was Colgate Palmolive. Other sponsors throughout the show's 22-year run included Red Rose tea and coffee, Carnation milk, and Mills Flower. All of the Gang's cast were already accomplished musicians. Kay Stokes was a theatre organist. By age 20, Bob Farnon had already written his first symphony. Blain Mathe was a member of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, but he knew how to make his fiddle swing. Eddie Allen won a gold medal at the CNE for his accordion playing, and made his radio debut at age 15. Unlike many other programs of the day, the show was virtually unscripted. Bert Pearl wrote the occasional tribute for special events, or a special piece of music. Other members of the gang also frequently wrote material. Bert Niosi wrote some jazz numbers, including The Brothers, which was played by Bert and his two brothers, John on drums, and Joe on bass fiddle. Cliff McKay and his clarinet were on the show before moving to television to host Holiday Ranch. Bobby Gimby, who became famous for Ca-na-da in 1967, was also an early cast member who often specialized in comedy numbers. When they performed pop tunes, Lou Snider played the Hammond organ. When Jimmy Namaro, who played both piano and xylophone needed a break, Snider would substitute on piano. Lloyd Edwards was another accomplished musician who worked on the show, and Les Foster played accordion occasionally, especially when Eddie Allen took over hosting duties. Of the eleven musicians, Blain Mathe and Kay Stokes were the only ones who weren't bandleaders.
The show opened with Blain Mathe applying his knuckles to his violin.
Knock knock knock.
Bert Pearl: "Who's there?"
Everyone: "It's the Happy Gang!"
Bert Pearl: "Well, come on in!"
The theme, Keep Happy with The Happy Gang, was written by Bert Pearl. The Liptonaires and The Jolly Miller Show were just two programs that made valiant attempts to imitate The Gang.
Listen to an episode from 1946, as well as one from March 3, 1948, and another from 1950.