Art Wallman (1928-2011)

Year Born: 
1928
Year Died: 
2011

Pioneer

Wallman, Art (1928- )

Art Wallman's career in radio was one of longevity and success. He was on air for 36 years at CKSW in Swift Current, where he was recognized with numerous awards and achievements. By itself, his broadcasting career is one to be admired, but what's remarkable is that he achieved all of this despite being unable to walk as a child and unable to read until the age of 20.

Born July 12, 1928 with spastic paralysis, Art Wallman grew up dirt poor and without the use of his legs. His early years were spent crawling around a one room shack in the district of Kelvington, Saskatchewan. It was the midst of the Great Depression, and like many, his family lived in poverty. Art never received any medical treatment until he reached the age of 9, when he began the first of 14 operations. Surgeons straightened his arms and legs, and when they finished he could finally walk, but only with the use of crutches.

Art taught himself to read through the comic section of the newspaper, and his inspiration for life came from listening to the radio at home. It was here where he was first exposed to country music, and as he grew older, he also taught himself to play on his brother’s guitar. Leaving home, he traveled on the road with the Johnny Manz band from 1952 to 1957. Art had become a musician, but his real dream was to work in radio.

Art auditioned for radio in the 50s, but his disability worked against him, and no one was willing to take a chance on him. Another individual might have abandoned the idea, but Art Wallman was never one to quit, and on October 18, 1960, he was hired by Wilf Gilby at CKSW. Art was told that it didn’t matter if he had to crawl to work, he just needed to do the job. Given the opportunity, Art excelled, and he continued doing that job until he retired on August 30, 1996.

Always the showman, and always the promoter, Art also continued to play, putting together his own band, “Art Wallman and the Big D Jamboree Boys.” Over time, they became known as "Art Wallman and the Ambassadors.” Along the way, he released his own album, "Art Wallman Country," and also wrote his own book called, "A Good Day To Be Alive." The title summed up his feelings about life and was one of the reasons he himself became an inspiration to others.

Art Wallman’s afternoon show was known for its live calls from listeners and feature interviews with country artists who called and stopped by on their way through Saskatchewan. During the time he worked at the radio station, the format, the management and the ownership all changed. Art, however, always refused to bend to these changes, and he kept on doing what he had always done. As a result, and because of his commitment to country music, Art developed a very strong and loyal following across the prairies.

In 1989, he was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit. In 1992, he was named Swift Current's Citizen of the Year. He was a member of the C.A.B.'s Quarter Century Club and an Honorary Life Member of the W.A.B. On September 6, 2003 at the age of 75, Art Wallman was elected to the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.

Art Wallman died on June 23rd 2011 at the age of 82.

Written by Lee Friesen - August, 2003

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