Norma (Beth) Locke, a singing star of the big band era in Canada, was
born in Montreal in 1923. Noticed first by the public in a musical at an
Ottawa high school, Locke with her warm contralto voice was a regular
of CBC Toronto where she starred in a number of national radio shows
over the years. She recorded mostly with her husband’s band, Mart Kenney
and His Western Gentlemen, from the mid-1940s to the late 1960s. The band
was formed in 1931 before a gig in Vancouver, where it also made its radio
debut in 1934 on CJOR. Kenney began touring in Eastern Canada in 1937.
Kenney signed a contract with RCA Victor in 1938, and began recording
for its Victor and Bluebird labels. Norma Locke, joined the band in 1944
and soon reached fame as a premier big band vocalist. Norma Locke peaked
during the was years. In a way she was our Vera Lynn, a symbolic link between
the oppressive war abroad and the sweetness of home.
Like Glenn Miller’s music, the melodic, sweet tunes of Mart Kenney seemed
broadcasted weekly on The Victory Parade live from army depots and war plants. Kenney was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1980.
to hit a sentimental spot with Canadians, who were going through a rough
time and were being rationed even in basic necessities. People flocked to
attend Kenney’s record launches organized by RCA at the Montreal
record plant. The band toured across Canada between 1943 and 1945 and