Jackie Rae (1922-2006)
John Arthur (Jackie) Rae was born in Winnipeg on May 14th 1922, and during his very full life he contributed extensively to broadcasting both as a performer and as a producer.
He began his performing career singing locally at the age of three, and within a few years was working with his brother Saul and sister Grace in a group called The Three Raes of Sunshine. The family moved to Toronto when Jackie was five, and the group began touring Canada on the Famous Players Vaudeville circuit, but his education wasn’t neglected, and he graduated high school from Toronto’s Jarvis Collegiate in 1939, shortly before the start of World War II. During his high school years, Jackie had had his first involvement with radio when he got the job of auditioning potential young performers for the Ken Soble Amateur Hour, and he later sang on radio with Horace Lapp’s Orchestra, during its nine-year tenure at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel.
Jackie enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force at the age of eighteen on November 6th 1940, “because I had a burning desire to fly”, received his wings as a Sergeant-Pilot on August 20th 1941, and was commissioned as a Flying Officer in May 1943. During his time in the service he flew Hurricanes and Spitfires, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in August 1943 for having “displayed skill and determination of the highest order”.
On returning to Canada at the end of the war, Jackie joined CBC radio as a variety producer, and was responsible for the production of the Wayne and Shuster series for several years. From 1952 to 1956 he was head of variety for CBC radio and later TV, and from 1956 to 1958 hosted his own Jackie Rae Show on CBC-TV, a musical variety series – produced by Norman Jewison - which featured Jack Kane and his Orchestra and the Four Grads, a vocal group that included Billy Van.
With the start of commercial television in England in 1955, Canadian broadcasting exec Stuart Griffiths had been asked to go to England to work for Granada Television, one of the stations which constituted the newly formed private network. In 1958, Stuart asked Jackie Rae to go over to join British singer Marion Ryan as co-host of a new game show series, Spot the Tune, which was a major ratings success. He also appeared on Chelsea At Nine, Sunday Night at the London Palladium, and his own Jackie Rae Presents, and he appeared in the 1961 Royal Command Performance. Some years later, in 1967, Jackie was the first host of a British version of a German show called The Golden Shot. Jackie stayed in England until 1977, during which time he made many more guest appearances on radio and TV, and made some recordings for Philips. He also appeared frequently in cabaret.
Jackie was also an accomplished songwriter, whose compositions got a great deal of airplay. His most successful song, Happy Heart, which was co-written with James Last, became a million-seller for Andy Williams, and was also recorded by Petula Clark and Ed Ames. Other songs by Jackie were recorded by Engelbert Humperdinck, Sacha Distel, Tom Jones, Mireille Mathieu, Jerry Vale and Roger Williams.
In 1977, Jackie returned to Canada, and went to work for Standard Radio, as Director of Artists and Repertoire for the Canadian Talent Library, a job he held from 1979 to 1985, by which time CTL had merged with FACTOR , another broadcaster/music industry initiative. In 1981, he co-founded the Spitfire Band with trombonist Laurie Bower and trumpeter Mickey Erbe, and fronted and sang with the band for many years. The band’s first six albums were all paid for by CTL.
With his wife Patrician Ann McKinnon, herself a cancer victim, Jackie started Music at the Atrium, a weekly program of musical concerts for cancer patients at Princess Margaret Hospital, and he was a great supporter of Canada’s Air Cadet program.
On August 31st 2002, in Vancouver, Jackie Rae was invested by the Governor-General as a Member of the Order of Canada, for his contributions to radio and television.
Jackie Rae died of heart failure in his sleep on October 5th 2006 at the age of 84.
The Canadian Encyclopedia
Globe and Mail