by Roy Forbes
(written for Vancouver’s Western Swing Music Society newsletter, December 2013)
Keith Titterington was a passionate western swing, country and old timey music collector, researcher, historian and fan. As WSMS member (and fellow collector) Dave Schroeder told me, “If anyone in Western Canada could be called the seminal collector/fan/researcher, Keith would be the one.”
Keith was born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1936 and got the music bug early on. He told me that the first record he remembered hearing on the old family Victrola was Rock All Our Babies To Sleep by Jimmie Rodgers, a Bluebird 78.
Keith discovered mail order 78 auctions in the late 50s, which is, I believe, how he ended up with most of his 78s. He got heavily into western swing around 1961 when a red-hot W. Lee O’Daniel & His Hillbilly Boys 78 got him hooked. Keith never looked back, eventually amassing everything the band did on 78, doing the same for most other western swing groups, both pre and post-war.
Keith first got in touch with me about twenty years ago when I was doing my Snap Crackle Pop show on CBC Radio One. He’d always gently correct me when I blurted out some slightly inaccurate bit of information over the national airwaves. When I went to Alberta’s legendary radio station CKUA in 2006 to do my weekly show, Roy’s Record Room, Keith became a regular listener, contributor of information and, later, music.
Keith and I had quite a few phone calls over the years. We’d get the weather stuff out of the way, and get right down to talking music. I did get to meet Keith once, in the fall of 2012, while I was in Calgary to play a concert. We spent a couple of hours at his house, listening to western swing, with Keith supplying a running commentary for every tune, telling me who the players were, when the record was released and even the label and record number.
I acquired Keith’s extensive 78 collection in 2011; the two pallets of records arrived in North Vancouver by truck, in late October of that year. It was mind boggling, going through those boxes for the first time. I began featuring Keith’s 78s on Roy’s Record Room in November, 2011, and have just completed show #22 of an ongoing look at this great collection of records.
I’ve mentioned that Keith was a historian, and researcher – he travelled to different places to interview various early country & western/western swing musicians like Sleepy Johnson (who played with Bob Wills) and Les ‘Carrot Top’ Anderson, writing articles about these folks for small country music journals and newsletters. Keith knew a lot about early Canadian country & western as well. He told me about going to the Peace Country, in Northern B.C., to spend some time with Keray Regan and, in the mid 80s, he helped compile a reissue album featuring Calgary singer Dixie Bill Hilton for the German Cattle label, writing the liner notes as well.
Keith was in touch with many western swing collectors and researchers around the world, including respected western swing historian and discographer Kevin Coffey. I’ll let Kevin have the final word:
“Keith was a fine and generous guy, and he did a lot of important research and in those areas where he didn’t get the answers, he certainly laid the groundwork for a lot of further research for guys like me.”
Thanks for your passion, Keith…RIP
Roy Forbes is a performer, songwriter, recording artist, record producer, broadcaster and record collector who is a big fan of western swing. Go to www.royforbes.ca for more info. Tune in to Roy’s Record Room on Mondays, 6pm Mountain Time.