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Douglas Edward Fraser Photo

Douglas Edward Fraser


March 21, 1950
Stratford, Ontario


December 24, 2019
Langley, British Columbia


23105 St Andrews Ave, Langley Twp, BC V1M, Canada

Douglas Edward Fraser was born on March 21 in 1950. Doug was very proud of his heritage, both Scottish and performing, and to speak of him, we must start with his parents and grandparents. The history is fascinating, and likely influential on why Douglas became an historian himself.

Doug’s maternal grandmother was a performer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West: she was the master of the black snake whip on stage and was the first woman to ride wild steers. She was a mechanic, and a barber; she had been in gun fights and always had a Winchester with her. She was good friends with Annie Oakley. Married seven times, family lore tells that she had a son out of wedlock with the notorious Jesse James. Due to her travelling with the Wild West show, she placed her daughter, Estelle in private schools – stopping to visit her when the circuit brought her back to the area.

Estelle was eventually to become Doug’s mom.

After Estelle was subjected to unfair treatment at one of the private schools, her mother moved her to the care of the Ringling Brother’s Circus: they had facilities for child care and education, and they took in little Estelle out of professional courtesy. Estelle was much later to learn that the man she was destined to marry, Doug’s father, was also living with the Ringling Brother’s Circus, being trained to be a big top star. Ringling was such a huge organization that they didn’t meet til many years later when their paths crossed again, this time in the Shubert Vaudeville circuit where both of them were working.
Doug’s paternal grandfather was born in the highlands of Scotland in 1840 and moved to Canada with his wife in 1858. They settled in a place that become Stratford, Ontario. His grandfather was not a great farmer, but he was an astounding fighter. When they first settled, he experienced an attack on his homestead from the local First Nations. With a board ripped from off the top of a fence, and a hammer in the other hand he killed six attackers and wasn’t bothered again by anyone.

At the age of 72 years, with a second wife who was then 54 years old  (this must have been a miracle) he had a son called Brian Fraser, who was eventually to be Doug’s father. Brian’s parents died within a few months of his birth and he was raised by his brothers. At the age of six, Doug’s dad decided to fulfill a dream that many young boys had –  to run away and join the circus. He hitch-hiked across the Canadian/American border and made his way to Florida where he finally found The Ringling Brothers Circus. They took him in, educated him and trained him as a professional tumbler and on the high wire. At the age of seventeen he decided to leave it all and go into vaudeville. That is where the big money was and the notoriety, and opportunity to gain the respect of the industry.

He teamed up with a singing comedian named Amos Jacobs whom he influenced to change his show biz name to Danny Thomas. While performing in vaudeville he met Estelle.

Brian and Estelle were married, had a daughter named Sharon, and then a son, Douglas Edward Fraser. Douglas for his  grandmother’s maiden name, Edward after Robert E. Lee, (Doug’s mom was from the Deep South) and Fraser, a fine Scottish Clan. His parents had moved back to Stratford, just long enough for Doug to be born and grant him dual citizenship, then returned to the states.
By the time Doug was born, the glory days of vaudeville were long past - Doug’s parents had retired from show biz but continued to socialize with the good friends they had made:they hosted regular parties and the seats and dance space in the house were filled with the likes of Orson Welles, famous animal trainers, authors, film directors, Jerry Van Dyke, Buddy Hackett, Joey Bishop, the greatest Ringling clowns, multiple personalities from the freakshows: Alligator Man, Frog Boy, and Monkey Girl, and load of animals they had as pets or performers including, on once occasion, a lion that was loosely tied in the back yard and a blue-faced mandrill baboon in the kitchen.
As a little boy, Doug was at every party and every party had a story. He grew up wearing suits and ties, sneaking in the back of nightclubs, and going to sleep only because he finally passed out.

Doug started out in show business making $3.25 a performance. Not bad money for a three year old! By the age of fourteen he took to the road on his own over the school summer vacation as a travelling folk singer / comedian. He was making more money than most of his friend’s parents. By the time he was in junior high school he was in demand organizing and booking school dances. Schools in L.A. and the Hollywood area had an almost limitless budget for social activities and Doug had the connections and would deliver acts to school dances like Jim Morrison and the Doors, Tommy James and the Shondells, and Janis Joplin &
the Holding Company. As a teen, Doug opened for these acts in concert.

In 1967 the family was living in Anaheim, California next to Disneyland and one morning Doug’s dad sold the house and moved the family to Vancouver with no more than a day’s notice. Once there, he explained that he did it to prevent Doug (aged 17) from being drafted to the Vietnam War on his next birthday. 

Douglas started school at Burnaby South and got a job playing in Rob Roy’s Cabaret on Edmonds Street. He made great and musical friends with Terry Devine and Terry Raible, and Pete Turner, and started a jug band called the Suppertime Jug, and in a later incarnation as Wizbang. He began touring with his good friend Rickey Mann – their manager was manager was Isy Walters, the owner of the renowned Isy’s Supper Club and The Cave in Vancouver. During this time Doug was introduced to Rickey’s cousin, Janine who eventually became his first wife. 

Doug became the band leader for “The Banjo Palace” which was a popular night club in Gastown, and he joined The Heartaches Razz Band. For those who don’t know this band, it is a challenge to describe. It was a “fantasy” the audience became a part of, that incorporated jazz, comedy, and stage-magic with a back story woven throughout of a 1938 Vaudeville act from Uruguay. As the front man, Doug embodied “Golden Throat” the mellifluous song bird of the West Coast.

The Razz Band enjoyed hometown success and toured all of the Canadian universities coast to coast 13 times. They opened in concert for Blood Sweat and Tears, George Carlin, The Knack, Doug Kershaw, Tom Jones, Bozz Scaggs, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Pointer Sisters, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, and many more over a ten-year period. They also played the Troubadour in Hollywood 31 times! 
The band gained a two-year contract performing at Knott’s Berry Farm in California, but had to return to Vancouver before the end of it as Doug’s father had come down with lung cancer. Their touring vehicle, was an old-time school bus with Uruguay in the destination sign. When they shut the band down, they buried the bus in the interior of BC with solar panels on the roof and a full orchestra of mannequins in fright wigs in the bus seats. One future day, when it is uncovered by an archeologist, the solar panels
will charge and play a recording of 1920s gramophone music!

Once back home in Vancouver, Douglas settled down to marry Janine Clayton and they had two beloved girls: Jaime and Nicole. He was very proud of his girls and their highly unique personalities, interests, talents, and bravery. He would tell and retell his final wife, Jennifer, stories of them growing up, and his feelings of pride were clear when he talked of them to anyone.

Early in his marriage to Jeanine, Douglas started a talent agency called Encore Entertainment, and managed the kids’ amusement park at Fantasy Gardens in Richmond, BC. When Fantasy Gardens closed, he then took those rides on the road as the Little Bitty Kiddy Carnival, which eventually became Fraser Amusements: a children’s specialty carnival of rides, bouncy castles, games and concession.

Jeannine and Doug went separate ways in 1994 and his second relationship was with Jennifer Macdonald – the two had many great adventures travelling with the carnival and living in their RV. They also wrote, produced and performed an act at the Merritt Mountain Music Festival: Dr West’s Travelling Medicine Show, and the two remained friends after they separated.

The second incarnation of the Heartaches Razz Band was developed by Douglas and his friend Ron Davies. It was further enhanced by the creativity and talent of Bib Wishinski, Shuggy Milligan, and Jeannie L. They played in the Greater Vancouver area with a Vaudeville show, a Halloween Show, and a Christmas Show. Doug managed the Burr theatre in New West for 6 months with the Heartaches as the house band. 

In 2006 he fell in love with his third and final love, Jennifer Nelson. The two continued to run Fraser Amusements together until they sold it in 2011. Jennifer and Douglas had marvelous adventures together and a beautiful and unusual life . When they first joined forces they each had a motorcycle: Douglas rode a customized Triumph, Jennifer a Harley Sportster, and some of their adventures were on two sets of two wheels. Though Doug had travelled a lot on tour, he had rarely travelled for pleasure. Jennifer introduced him to this concept and they sojourned to London and Scotland, first time for Douglas, third time for Jennifer. In the Highlands they followed his forbears footsteps, Douglas handsome in Fraser tartan, to visit sites important to the clan including Fraser Castle and the Wardlaw Mausoleum and Graveyard. In 2012, they went to New Orleans where Doug explored more of the heritage of Jazz, and then back again to England and Scotland with daughter Nicole joining them.

Jennifer and Douglas shared a great love of animals. Douglas had many exotic pets when he was younger, including a roadrunner, a number of parrots, and Capuchin monkeys – one of his after-school jobs as a young boy was taking an anteater for it’s daily walk. In recent years, the animals in Doug’s life included his beloved poodle, Gracie of whom Doug was highly proud of, hamsters and over twenty rats (not all at the same time) Doug’s most loved rattie Martin passed away exactly one month, shy a day, before Doug did.

Doug was very proud and supportive of Jennifer’s role with the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He used his skills as a volunteer on many projects to help improve the lives of shelter animals, and when they chatted on the phone while Jennifer was at work, she would often tell him of an animal she was caring for. The first words from his mouth were, “Hun….. do you want to bring that animal home?”.
Jennifer would reply," No, darling, I don't want to bring this animal home." 
"Are you sure? It sounds like you love that little animal..."
"Yes, yes I do. But I don't think we need another little animal in our house."
"Well," Doug was say, "If you change your mind, you just bring that little animal right home and we will make it work." 

And Jennifer is very proud of Doug’s creative adventures, and she often supported him by providing logistical help, photography, or computer graphics for him.

Douglas wrote and published two books – “Early Entertainment: The Evolution of Show Business from 1840 – 1940” and “The Prepper’s Handbook”. He was a featured performer for several years at the Tenor Guitar Festival in Oregon, and it was here that he connected with the members of The Kingston Trio. He ended his professional career life as the Director of Special Events for the Kingston Trio, this he did up until his passing.

He also continued to perform solo as Professor Douglas Fraser, and was booked up to nearly the end of the following year. (Little did anyone know the pandemic would have cancelled all those shows even if Doug had not passed away. ) His shows were entertaining and educational, dispensing, with great authenticity, the vintage jazz, ragtime and blues that titillated the clientele of smoky backwater saloons, New York gin mills, and sultry Louisiana cabarets. Featuring a voice and musical style that brought it all to life. His performance delivered a narrated musical tour of songs and stories from the late 1800s to 1940.

He also continued to perform with, Terry Devine and Tony “Mad Fingers” McBride in The Genuine Jug Band: what was to be the final show was in November 2019. Jennifer had joined them for that. A lady in the audience was so delighted with the performance that she treated all four to dinner. Historically significant, the band accurately represented the authentic sound and feel of the first jug bands from the turn of the century - the medium which influenced the styles and development of many players and contributed enormously to the evolution of jazz and blues. “Their Jazz Show” conjured the era of prohibition, speakeasies and bathtub gin, playing Jazz, ragtime and Delta blues with a few original songs that blended perfectly.

On December 23rd, Jennifer left work early and had a beautiful afternoon and evening with Douglas. He returned with her to the BC SPCA for her final shift of the evening, feeding an ailing bunny its late-night meal - there is a story about this time they had together in the Guest Book on this site, entry date 2023-03-15. They had an enjoyable visit on the drive, and Doug went to bed feeling loved and looking forward to Christmas with his family. In the early hours of December 24th he passed away gently in his sleep.