His parents and older brother played traditional jigs and reels on the
button accordion, but when 13-year-old Jimmy Linegar (b. 1936) heard country
music, the guitar became his instrument and Hank Snow his principal
influence. Jimmy appeared three times on local radio in 1949, and between
1952 and 1956 he was a regular on radio stations CJON and VOCM. In summer,
he toured his country music repertoire about Newfoundland, travelling by road
when possible and by boat when necessary. In the 1960s, he ventured to the
Canadian mainland, where he played in several bands and made the rounds of
small clubs and bars. After returning home in the late 1960s, he played with
various Newfoundland musicians and singers. He still performs occasionally,
but he has not sought to regain the popularity he had during the early 1950s.
||Jimmy Linegar, 1952.
In the 1950s Jimmy Linegar, or the "Kid Ranger", had his own
show on CJON radio station.
Photo by C.F. Ruggles. From Newfoundland Radio in
Pictures, 1952 (St. John's, Nfld: Guardian Press, ©1952) 42.
Jimmy first heard country music on a gramophone his parents acquired in
1949. An early favourite was Alberta Slim, whose rendition of Two Little
Eyes that Shine sparked Jimmy's interest in singing. Jimmy sang this song
on his first radio appearance on the CBN (later CBC) show "The Children's Savings Program"
in 1949, accompanied on piano by program host Bob MacLeod.
For his second appearance, Jimmy sang Hank Snow's Little Buddy,
Snow having superseded Alberta Slim as Jimmy's favourite country singer.
By his third appearance, sometime in 1950, Jimmy could accompany himself
In 1952, forced to leave school for financial reasons, 15-year-old Jimmy
found a radio spot playing four nights per week on Great Eastern Oil's
"Bargain Hour Program," first on CJON and then on VOCM. With this exposure,
Jimmy became "virtually the only widely-known name in Newfoundland country music,"
and the attendant publicity enabled him to tour the isolated
settlements along Newfoundland's largely roadless coast with some success.
His repertoire included songs by Hank Snow, Wilf Carter, Doc Williams, Eddy
Arnold and Hank Williams, along with any requested material.
Jimmy continued alternating his radio appearances with summer tours
until 1956, when rock-and-roll cut into his audience. With the youth
market for country music considerably lessened and recorded music now
more palatable to audiences, Jimmy's radio spot was cancelled, forcing
him to find alternate ways of making a living from country music.
He went to the Canadian mainland. Although he met with some success,
including a stint as guitarist for Canadian fiddle champion Ned Landry,
Jimmy's foray into the mainland country music scene proved financially
unrewarding, though it did afford him the opportunity to record his
self-penned single, an A-side titled Golden Strings backed with Bubbles
and Johnny One-Eye.
In 1967 Jimmy returned to Newfoundland. Throughout the 1970s he toured
with various Newfoundland singers and musicians. In 1975 he played lead
guitar with Botwood singer Rex Hemeon, and in 1976 he toured Newfoundland
with John White, a well-known singer of traditional Newfoundland songs.
In the summer of 1979, he was asked to emcee the Nova Scotia Bluegrass
Festival, an indication of his renown outside Newfoundland. In November
of that year he made the first of two appearances on the CBC television
program Come All Ye.
Jimmy no longer performs regularly. Except for appearances at the
annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. John's and an
occasional concert for senior citizens, he contents himself with playing
for his own amusement as well as making violins, a hobby he took up in the
|Jimmy Linegar, 1979.
Linegar holds his first dreadnought fiddle, partly built.
Photo by Neil Rosenberg, ©1979. Reproduced by
permission of Neil Rosenberg.
To this day, Jimmy remains a well-known personality among Newfoundland
people of both his and later generations. Winston Elms, a resident of
Quirpon, at the tip of Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula, saw Jimmy
perform in 1956 and recalls as a boy of 12 or 14 walking "...about five miles to listen to Jimmy Linegar...it was a big thing for us because we used to hear him on the radio, you see.... And we thought he was great. He used to sing all the western songs, and he told some pretty good jokes, too."
Even among people in their early twenties, the name Jimmy Linegar
can "ring a bell."
As the first Newfoundland musician to bring live performances of country
music to the isolated Newfoundland outports, Jimmy Linegar helped to
popularise and perhaps legitimise a musical form not indigenous to the
island's shores. Along the way, he undoubtedly inspired budding local
musicians to try their hand at country music.
© 1998, Jacob Larkin