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A television producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) English Television Network, Robert James (Paddy) Sampson produced many groundbreaking television specials on the great blues and jazz musicians of the 20th century. He worked with Duke Ellington and Lena Horne, and produced 5 specials featuring Harry Belafonte, but he is probably best remembered for the ground-breaking special "The Blues," a six-part series which brought American blues performers to Toronto and recorded them playing, singing and being interviewed by Barry Callaghan.
Paddy Sampson got his start in Belfast, Ireland as an apprentice electrician in the shipyards at the age of 14. He joined the Royal Navy at 15 by altering his birth certificate so that he could fight in World War II. After the war, he worked as a stagehand at a British theatre which led to more work at the Riverside Theatre, Laurence Olivier Productions and the Arts Council of Great Britain.
While employed in the theatre, Sampson met former naval officer and Canadian Peter Garstang. Garstang would eventually return home to Canada and join the fledgling CBC television broadcaster. Garstang wrote to Sampson telling him to come abroad and seek employment with the CBC as well, but when Sampson did decide to emigrate to Canada he joined the Crest theatre in Toronto. Upon arrival, the theatre union called a strike action, leaving Sampson with little choice but to offer his services as a stage hand to the CBC. His experience quickly led to more responsibilities in television production; one of the earliest being a director and producer of "Howdy Doody," a combination live-action and puppet show adapted for Canadian children. Regular employment as a producer of children's programming at the CBC followed with "Junior Magazine," "Club 6" and "Youth '60."
Sampson moved into variety programming in the 1960s and it is this for this format that he is most often remembered. He produced "The Blues," "Hear Me Talkin' to You," "The Duke" and "Eye Opener." Despite the fact that his accent was infamously difficult for his Canadian colleagues to interpret, he was remembered as a great talker and an authority on the subjects of "jazz performers, dance, lighting and all that sort of thing."
Pat Annesley, "He Can Talk To Anybody." Toronto Life, August 1989, pp.38-46.
F.F. Langan, "Paddy Sampson, CBC Producer 1926-2005." [Obituary]. The Globe and Mail, January 3, 2006.