Frederick Charles ("Fred") Davis, broadcaster and musician (b at Toronto 10 Aug 1921; d at Toronto 5 Jul 1996 ).
Frederick Charles ("Fred") Davis, broadcaster and musician (b at Toronto 10 Aug 1921; d at Toronto 5 Jul 1996 ). Once described as "the face of CBC to Canadians" by long-time Front Page Challenge producer Roy McConnell, Fred Davis's 38-year run as moderator of that program made him a celebrity across the country.
As a young child, Davis moved with his family from Toronto to Alhambra, California, but returned to Canada at the age of seven. In Toronto, Davis attended Queen Victoria Public School and Parkdale Collegiate Institute. An avid musician, Davis performed trumpet during one summer in a dance band fronted by fellow Parkdale student Howard CABLE and later became the conductor for Toronto radio station CFRB's Teentime Orchestra.
In 1942, Davis joined the regimental band of the Kingston, Ontario-based Royal Canadian Corps of Signals before becoming lead trumpeter for the broadcast detachment of the Canadian Army Show orchestra in London, England, led by Captain Robert FARNON. Davis and other musicians in Farnon's group also played concerts in English town halls, and it was during one of these performances that Davis first ad-libbed in front of an audience with a microphone.
At the urging of his father not to be a professional musician, Davis enrolled in Lorne GREENE's Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto upon his return to Canada, graduating in 1946. Between 1947 and 1953, Davis was an announcer at CFRA radio in Ottawa and supplemented his income by narrating films for the National Film Board (NFB). In 1956, Davis joined the CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION and co-hosted Open House, a live afternoon lifestyle and current affairs program. While continuing in that role until spring 1959, he replaced Win Barron as host and moderator of the current affairs quiz show FRONT PAGE CHALLENGE (FPC) in the fall of 1957, and held that position until spring 1995 without once missing an episode.
In fall 1958, FPC became the most popular Canadian-produced program on television, and by May 1959 was already attracting more than one and a quarter million viewers weekly. On screen, Fred Davis consistently appeared well-dressed, courteous, calm and cool. In addition to his success on FPC, Davis pursued hosting duties on a handful of other television programs, including NBC's quiz show Brains and Brawn (1958), the syndicated debate program Under Attack (1968-72), and CBC's FPC spin-off Daytime Challenge (1982). In 1961, Davis joined Imperial Tobacco's subsidiary du Maurier as its official representative, appearing in commercials and public relations activities until the year he died.
Fred Davis decided early on in his career to make his home in Canada, in spite of numerous opportunities to work in the United States, once stating in a 1960 interview, "I hate to sound like a flag-waver, but I really prefer the things we do and the kind of living we have here."