Ed Whalen, the famed Calgary sports broadcaster, we know.
Ed Whalen the crooner? Not so much.
A remastered CD with a collection of love songs recorded on reel-to-reel tapes more than 40 years ago has resurfaced in Calgary, giving a generation of Calgarians insight into the softer side of the city icon.
It’s called Songs for Nomi, and his son Tony said few people would have ever known his dad had as much a knack for singing as he did for calling Calgary Flames hockey games for CFAC.
“When anybody thinks of him, naturally they think of his broadcast voice, and his broadcast voice was incredibly distinctive and what made him stand out when everyone else was sounding like Lorne Greene,” said Tony, who is a voiceover artist here in Calgary.
“The last thing that most people would think of is he’s a singer. I mention that to anybody and they’re like, ‘really?’ and kind of cock their head sideways a little bit.”
Whalen was the television voice of the Calgary Flames for nearly 20 years, with his retirement in 1999. Whalen died of a heart attack in 2001 and shortly after, the Calgary Flames broadcast booth at the Scotiabank Saddledome was named after the legend.
While Calgarians know him best for his Flames calls, Whalen was known worldwide for hosting Stampede Wrestling. Tony said his wife actually knew Ed from those broadcasts instead of the Flames.
Tony said his dad was a softie and “a romantic.”
The songs were recorded for his wife Nomi, a long-time Calgary marriage commissioner who presided over more than 6,000 weddings.
“My mom kept these squirrelled away, hidden somewhere, and they didn’t get played or heard for… I don’t know how long,” Tony said.
“After he passed we were thinking of these songs and how touching they were and how cool it is to hear Ed Whalen sing.”
They took the tapes to a local audio company for remastering and recording on CD. That was shortly after his death. The CDs were available in Calgary supermarkets for a while, Tony said, with proceeds going to the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre.
“There’s only so much you can do with a 40-year-old reel of tape. Considering its age, it sounds pretty good,” Tony said.
“It’s pretty amazing something as personal as songs as he performed for her, was something she wanted to share with everybody that loved him.”
The CD was once again brought to light after an inquisitive Crackmacs, Calgary social media powerhouse, asked if the rumours of his dad’s singing prowess were true, and if the CD did, in fact, exist. It’s also just past the 20 year anniversary of Whalen’s retirement from broadcasting.
“My initial reaction, being my dad’s son, was to say, ‘he was a terrible singer,’ ‘cause we ribbed each other all the time,” Tony said.
“Truth, in fact, he had some pretty damn good pipes.”
Tony said there’s still about 40 CDs remaining, and unless there’s a real demand for more, it will probably stay that way. Though he believes his mom has the reels socked away in her Canmore home, just in case.
While many people remember Ed Whalen persona as the high-spirited, nasal-voiced broadcaster, Tony said was just him.
“The Ed that you saw on screen was the real Ed,” Tony said, adding that he had a deep devotion to his community.
“He was 100 per cent a giver.
“He was lousy at being a taker.”
Nearly 20 years after its first appearance, Ed Whalen’s voice is resurfacing again and giving Calgarians a window into the past.
Not through sports clips, but through love songs to his wife.