Remembering Gordie’s greatness in song

Verdun, Que., singer and songwriter Bob Davies presents Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe with a 78 rpm demo copy of Gordie Howe (Is The Greatest Of Them All) in Howe’s Montreal hotel room in early 1963.
Courtesy Bob Davies

Whether Detroit Red Wings Hall of Famer Gordie Howe was the greatest of them all, regardless of the record book, might forever be debated by hockey fans. But in the spring of 1963, when Howe was celebrated in a hit song by Verdun, Que., native Bob Davies, there was no doubt.

On tonight, the man they call Mr. Hockey will be joined by a handful of other Red Wings legends at the Bell Centre when the Canadiens pay tribute to one of their Original Six rivals as part of the Habs’ ongoing celebrations leading to their 2009 centennial.

In Stouffville, Ont., just outside of Toronto, 70-year-old Bob Davies will be thinking warmly of Gordie Howe – both the superstar, 79, and the song, 44.

Dave Stubbs spoke with Davies and Howe about the first song ever recorded about a hockey player – it helped define Davies’s career and it embarrassed Gordie, though clearly he remains delighted by it to this day. You’ll find the feature story here.

Davies would also write hockey tributes to the Canadiens’ Jean (John) Béliveau and Chicago’s Bobby Hull. And with his kind permission, those songs, and others, are available to Inside/Out readers below for listening or free download.

With Bob Davies’s permission, here are digital files of his hockey songs, as well as a tribute to the Montreal Alouettes. They’re free for listening or download, for non-commercial use only:

Gordie Howe (Is The Greatest of Them All), original recording, 1963, Globe Records

Gordie Howe (re-recorded when Howe went to the WHA Houston Aeros), 1975, Broadland Records

Gordie Howe (B-side instrumental for lounge singalong use), 1975, Broadland Records

Big John Béliveau, 1963, Click Records

Here’s To Bobby Hull, 1964, Click Records

Hockey Medley, recorded live at Toronto’s Brown Derby, 1970s, NPS Records

The Mighty Als of Montreal (ode to the CFL Alouettes), 1963, Click Records

 

Gordie Howe (Is The Greatest Of Them All)
By Bob Davies and Mo Chapman
Released 1963, Globe Records

(Lyrics reprinted with permission)

(Chorus:)
Gordie Howe is the greatest of them all
The greatest of them all
Yes, the greatest of them all
You can have your choice of all the rest
If you’re a Howe fan, you’ve got the very best

From Floral, Saskatchewan, his story all began
It didn’t take him long to be known throughout the land
He’s all-star right-winger of the NHL today
Hockey fans from everywhere just love to see Howe play

He’s one of the Red Wings, a team of great renown
And when it comes to hockey, Howe’s the best in town
He sets up all the rookies playing on his line
We know they all thank him, because he is so fine

(Chorus)

So Howe is a big man, he stands 6-foot-2
He plays defence, centre, and on the wings, too
We can say without doubt he can even play nets
We know that Gordie Howe is Abel’s best bet

Just count all the trophies big Gordie has won
Records on records, he makes it look like fun
For total points, he has them all beat
And the goal record Howe will soon meet

(Chorus)

There was Howe, Lindsay, Abel, a line we can’t forget
The greatest line in history, not to be equalled yet
Sid would pass to Lindsay, Ted then back to Howe
He flicked his wrist in lightning speed
And a big roar from the crowd

We mentioned before of his talents galore
And how Howe makes it so easy to score
We all think he’s great, his name will never fall
Gordie Howe is the greatest of them all

Gordie Howe is the greatest of them all
The greatest of them all
Yes, the greatest of them all

You can have your choice of all the rest
If you’re a Howe fan, you’ve got the very best
If you’re a Howe fan, you’ve got the very best
If you’re a Howe fan, you’ve got the very best (fade)

 


PHOTOS, FROM TOP (record courtesy Norm Aubé, Musiquest; other photos courtesy Bob Davies’s collection):

The original 45 rpm Gordie Howe single of 1963, on Globe Records, plays on a Lenco turntable;

Davies (right) with rock ‘n’ roll TV show host Mike Stephens, also of Montreal’s CJAD radio, on the set of Burlington, Vt., WCAX-TV. The puck labelled 544 ponders when Howe would tie Canadien superstar Maurice (Rocket) Richard’s all-time NHL goal-scoring record. Gordie did so in October 1963, just a few months after the tribute song was released and shortly after this TV appearance took place;

Davies with his 1950s band, the Rhythm Jesters. From left: Norm (Curly) Robertson, Rick Munro, Bob Davies and Emmett McGoogan;

A 1963 publicity shot of Davies;

An autographed 1950s portrait of Howe by the late football legend and accomplished painter Tex Coulter.

 


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