Michael Harling

Mike is the original Chicken Coop'er Snooper. He was the first writer to go in search of the former site of the hen house where Loretta Lynn was discovered. Had he not done so, this lost chapter of Vancouver music history would likely have remained a story known only to the friends and family of Don Grashey and Chuck Williams, most of whom live in Ontario, 3,800 kilometres (2,361 miles) away.

Mike, a Vancouver writer with a passion for sports and music, began his search for The Coop after receiving a tip from his friend Fred Hume, a University of British Columbia sports historian. He saw Loretta being interviewed on T.V. and she mentioned Norm Burley, a name that he recognized from his research of UBC's 1920's football team.

Mike found a reference to the chicken coop in Jim Brown's Country Women in Music (Quarry Press) and, from there, gradually began to uncover the story. He eventually found himself knocking on the door of a tiny bungalow in his city's Fraserview neighbourhood. The occupant confirmed that there had once been a big coop in the backyard and Mike spoke to Sandi 'Shore' Loranger and various Coop or Zero characters to confirm other details. Unfortunately, while waiting for an interview with the Queen of Country, an editorial change at the Vancouver Sun newspaper led to the story being spiked. Mike shelved the project until another writer, Rob Howatson, picked up the trail 10 years later and the two joined forces to produce this website.

Rob Howatson

Rob was born and raised in Vancouver's southeast corner which includes the Fraserview area. He thought he knew all the cool celebrity stories about his neighbourhood – "all" being: Dr Ballard, Canada's pet food king, started his company on Victoria Drive and Mozhdah Jamalzadah, Afghanistan's Oprah, grew up in the community. It turns out that the borough had more stardust to be mined.

One day Rob was walking down his lane when he bumped into two neighbours who told him that there had once been a chicken coop on the block and the rumour was that Loretta Lynn had sang there. (They also told him that Jimi Hendrix had played there, but in fact they were confusing The Chicken Coop with Vie's Chicken Shack, which is a whole other story from an entirely different part of town.) Rob, being a writer, felt it was his duty to investigate The Coop story, which he suspected was an urban legend. He promised his neighbours he would have an answer for them the next day. A year and half later, Rob and Mike Harling believe they have uncovered the truth about Loretta's connection to Vancouver.

You're welcome, Tony and Eugene.

Rob and Mike gratefully acknowledge the assistance of everyone who contributed information to this project, from the friendly archivist in Sechelt to the patient senior historian at Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame, and everyone in between. Your names are too numerous to mention here but your generosity has not gone unnoticed.

Rob thanks his wife and family for not abandoning him as he pursued this story down the rabbit hole. And to his neighbour who lives in the McGregors' old house, thank you for not dialing 911 when we came asking if a chicken coop or Loretta Lynn had ever been in your backyard. Many thanks also to Sandi 'Shore' Loranger, who understandably prefers discussing her own music career over Loretta's, and yet was willing to answer our endless stream of coop queries. Gracias, Jimmy Orozco for the sweet website. And finally, to the Queen of Country Music, thank you for taking our call.

Contact us at vancouverchickencoop@gmail.com

This two-minute teaser for Rob and Mike's Coop research was created by digital artist Odessa Shuqauya for the Vancouver Stories project to celebrate the city's 125th anniversary in 2011.