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From "Town Spirit", the Spirit River, Alberta blog: “You may know the songs Poor, Poor Farmer” and “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You”… and did you know that Pouce Coupe brothers Keray and Bob Regan were behind them?
Keray, born in 1923 and little brother Bob, born in 1931, spent their childhood years playing ukelele, fiddle, guitar, accordion, harmonica and mandolin. Keray wrote a few songs but didn’t consider them to be of much importance. In 1946 his sister got hold of a home recording he’d made of “My Home By the Fraser” and took it to the local radio station. Soon it was topping the local charts and selling out in Vancouver. In 1947, Keray’s song outsold Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”
Sales skyrocketed a few years later when the record company owner had Keray re-record the single with professional musicians. Stardom was in the making for Keray Regan. He covered “Those Beautiful Big Brown Eyes,” “My Dreams and I,” “The Little White House on the Hill,” and “Picking Flowers,” a song by Elizabeth Clarke, the writer of “There’s a Bluebird on your Windowsill”.
Keray went to California, was a guest on a tv show, and toured with Vic Siebert and Sons of the Saddle. But the city lights were not for Keray. He went back to farming. That’s where he wrote “Poor, Poor Farmer,” a song that reached #1 on Canadian charts and became Keray’s most famous contribution to Canadian country music (most familiarly as Stompin’ Tom Connors’ recording). It wasn’t just Canadians who loved “Poor, Poor Farmer”: it was recorded in 32 countries by 32 artists. Most successful was Tim Pat’s recording in Ireland, where the song was the best-selling record Ireland had had up til then.
Keray always preferred hunting and singing for friends to the possibilities of fame. He stuck to the Peace Country, his inspiration and his home. In 1992 he recorded Alaska Highway, a special cassette for the anniversary of the northern trail. The tape included the title song and seven other local ballads. Maybe you still have a copy somewhere?
Keray Regan died in Dawson Creek in 2005. Wonder if he’s “still a farmer up in the land above?”
Meanwhile, Bob Regan became a talented guitarist. For a short time he formed a duo with his sister Fern, but when she got married he was looking for a new partner. He found one he liked very much, Lucille Starr. They married and became the Canadian Sweethearts.
The Canadian Sweethearts went to California and found success. They were on several tv shows in the US and Canada, toured with Hank Snow, and travelled to Europe and Africa to sing. They had several popular country singles, as well as rockabilly song Eeny Meeny Miney Moe. They are recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame for their contribution to the genre.
The Canadian Sweethearts didn’t last forever; Bob and Lucille split and each took up solo careers. Bob died in 1990, but you can still see him (and hear him) on YouTube. His brother Keray is there too.
*****REVISED/REFORMATTED JUNE 15, 2019 - SR*****
A video for this song: