Joe Carbury, the former voice of the Calgary Stampede’s chuckwagon races, walks a makeshift red carpet on Stephen Avenue in downtown Calgary on Thursday, September 20, 2012. The Calgary Downtown Association launched its Walk of Fame ‘Grate Portraits’, featuring numerous grates around sidewalk trees painted in honour of local celebrities, all in an effort to curb sidewalk littering. LYLE ASPINALL/CALGARY SUN/QMI AGENCY
Joe Carbury, who for 45 years called chuckwagon races in his inimitable style and made the gravelly “And they’rrrre off …” his signature line, died on Tuesday at the age of 91.
“He’s a Stampede legend,” said Billy Melville, chuckwagon historian and colour commentator on CBC-TV and radio. “His voice defined chuckwagon racing and the Calgary Stampede.
“He was a great guy, a good friend. I’m glad I was able, a couple of years ago, to get an oral history on him so we’ve been able to get that in the Stampede archives. Calgary lost a legend. His voice was so unique.”
Those who knew him described him as a class act all the way.
“Totally outgoing, good-hearted guy,” said John Down, who for many years covered chuckwagon racing for Calgary newspapers. “I don’t know if you could find anybody that would have anything bad to say about him. He was just a real good person.
“Everyone knew him for his voice. I remember we were in a grocery store one day and all of a sudden I heard this voice and it had to be three or four rows over and I said to my wife ‘Joe Carbury’s in the store’.
“There will never be another voice like Joe’s. Million dollar pipes. And he was happiest when he was in the Eye in the Sky.”
Carbury was from Winnipeg originally. He was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.
“He was a real gem of a man,” said Melville. “He took the time to get to know the drivers and the outriders as people. He was a chuckwagon guy; he just had a different role.”
One of those drivers was Kelly Sutherland, on whom Carbury bestowed the nickname ‘The King’.
“He started announcing the same year I started driving ironically,” recalled Sutherland. “We became very close. He got to know the competitors and their families. He used to come visit prior to the Stampede and would call to get an update on who was running tough. He kept a real pulse on the sport all the time.
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