I know, I haven’t forgotten about the info. Somewhere, I have oooold photos (you know with 6 turntables ’cuz carts hadn’t been invented yet... and the recording lathe in production, where the client flicked cigar ashes into the laquer "hair" in the waste basket and darn near blew his beard off...
Didn’t know you worked for KISN, till I read your Bio. Remember Scotty Wright - who sounded like he was in the traffic plane even when he was talking to you in person? He was Tom Cauthers... became the Continental Electronics rep out of Seattle. Have lost track of him recently. POA.. Paul Oscar Anderson. When he was bombed, his voice would scare children and small dogs. Most of the time, he was bombed.
Jimmy the Rabbit (later of ABC), Jim Hunter (forgot his real name). He looked a little like a rabbit, had a problem with overbite. Once, we had a spot where he was to eat a client’s fast food burger on the air. We stuck a paper milk shake lid in the middle of the burger and he bit through it and couldn’t get his teeth out.... this of course was live. Then there is the time after the ratings began to slip to KINK (FM) the "real Don Steele" (Rick Flickinger as I recall) stripped naked and with the old rpu unit, climbed the Steel Bridge and claimed it was his, demanding a toll from everyone on I-5. Tied up traffic from Salem up north of Camas, Washington.
I remember KISN. The overnight guy was Chief Engineer, cause it was licensed to Vancouver - remember "KISN VANCOUVER Portland Radar Weather Eye - Partly Cloudy and 55 degrees--" Gee, I can still say that one in my sleep. That was the station ID. Then Burdon told the FCC to shove it and he was outta there. Anyway, the Chief had to take a rowboat to the transmitter when the Columbia would rise (cause the transmitter road was under water. He had rigged up a rope and would just use an oar and let the current work against the rope to get him to the site. One night the rope broke. They finally found him wet, cold, pissed, and half way to Astoria....
> All the crew sez howdy! You are certainly welcome here any time.
I appreciate that. I have these old priceless Top 40’s etc. that I dearly want to put up on the site in color and your scanner will make that possible.
> haven’t forgotten about the info. Somewhere, I have oooold photos (you know > with 6 turntables ’cuz carts hadn’t been invented yet... and the recording > lathe in production, where the client flicked cigar ashes into the laquer > "hair" in the waste basket and darn near blew his beard off...
I remember. One night, at KICN (Denver) we touched off a bunch of that stuff and fed it into the air conditioner intake. Geez, the entire studios emptied out and we got in big trouble. Sure was fun.
The other stories about Portand are hilarious. Didn’t know you were so funny. I gotta hang around with you more.
Talk to you soon,
>Didn’t know you were so funny.
Sorry about that.... morning man for too many years! Had to get into engineering to get any respect at all.
Todd Baucher on Cleveland in the late 1960s and early 1970s
Most of my growing-up years were in the Cleveland area, and I listened to most of the local radio stations, but my favorite was KYW, which later became WKYC. I was in the minority, because by the end of the 1960s, it seemed everyone else was listening to WIXY. But it was a long time before I warmed up to hard rock and roll, and WIXY was a little too wild for my tastes.
I can remember the KY personality lineup in the early 1970's: Jim Runyon in the morning, Al James middays, Larry Kenney afternoons, Eric St. John in the evenings, and Ted Lux all night. But in the 1960s, I remember Jerry G. and "Big Jack" Armstrong. I pick up Jack occasionally on KB radio out of Buffalo, and he was talking about meeting Bobbie Gentry when he was in Cleveland in 1967. I think the first time I heard her "Ode To Billy Joe" was on Jack's show on 'KYC.
When the station was sold in 1972 and became WWWE, it changed drastically, and a lot of the personalities left. Jim Runyon tragically died of cancer in 1973 (he was only 42), and his passing seemed to mark the end of an era, not only for the station, but for Top 40 radio.
Having been involved in the broadcast industry for 15 years as both contract engineer for several stations and on-air for a couple, I thought that I had heard it all (or at least most of it) before. Until this. The following story was told to me by Bob Duncan (now selling real estate) in Columbia, TN. I hope that I have recreated the scene accurately and not left any of the considerable details out due to sagging memory emissions or some-the-such. Here goes:
Centerville Tennessee is a small town in Southern Middle Tennessee about 60 miles south west of Nashville. In the late 60’s - early 70’s Bob worked the weekend shift for the local AM daytimer. As with many small stations the weekend shift amounted to exactly that: You worked the whole weekend, Saturday and Sunday sign-on to sign-off. Thru the winter this was not too bad, sign-on at 7:00 AM, sign-off at 4:45 PM. During the summer months, its a different ball game. Sign-on at 4:45 AM, sign-off at 8:30 PM.
WHLP (I think) was owned by a local family and had not made any substantial money in previous years, nor was it likely to make any in the future. Due to the somewhat bleak financial outlook, the station equipment was not of the newest design or in particularly good condition.
As a matter of fact, the console was an ancient 6-channel Gates of which 2 channels didn’t work. The console had 1 microphone channel, 2 turntables and 1 "other" channel. The console was sitting on a World War II military surplus desk with a military surplus table of the same vintage drawn alongside to hold the other studio equipment. A similar vintage surplus roll-around chair (you know the type, missing a caster or even a whole leg) was provided to complete the studio furnishings. Both turntables, a decrepit reel-to-reel machine and a "cart" machine all set on the mil-surplus table.
The so-called "cart " machine was actually the predecessor to todays cart machines. This machine used a piece of magnetic tape several inches wide and long enough to provide something over one minute of recording time. On the front of the machine was a lever that physically moved the record/playback heads across the tape to any of about 25 tracks. Thus to play a particular spot, the DJ had to look up the track number (an illegible list was kept thumbtacked to the wall), select the proper track with the lever, and press the start button.
The things actually worked very well, but like cart machines, were meant to be used in pairs. Several seconds of dead air between spots was necessary if one tried to play two spots back-to-back. For this reason a lot of spots were simply read live to give the machine time to rewind and reset. Due to the limited track availability and trouble associated with recording spots (since there was no production room), only spots purchased for long terms were recorded on the "cart" machine. This brings us to the R2R.
When an agency spot was awarded to the station it was received on a reel-to-reel tape. Instead of dubbing this tape off onto the "cart" machine and taking up a precious track, the reels were cued up and played directly. By now (if you’re still awake) you may have figured out that we have four working console channels and five pieces of equipment to regularly put on the air. Due to some incompatibility between the R2R and the "cart" machine, they could not be hooked up together on the same console channel.
Dangling under the edge of the now faded OD green table were three pieces of oft-splice audio wire. Each lead was neatly marked with it’s respective function. "TO CONSOLE", "FROM R2R", and "FROM CART". In order to change from R2R to "cart", the console wires had to be un-twisted from the R2R wires and then re-twisted to the "cart" machine wires. Being ambidextrous was a necessity if a DJ ran a tight show. To play a "cart" spot and a R2R spot in the same break required that a live spot or PSA be read while all of the untwisting/retwisting was taking place.
During the period of time that we’re talking about (late 60’s - early 70’s), most stations had a live performance studio. The live studio usually had several mics connected to a separate mixer such that a band, quartet etc. could be mixed prior to being fed to the air board. As you can imagine a separate mixer was not used, nor was a separate mic channel available for "Studio B". Laying behind the air console was 3 pieces of audio wire neatly labeled "CONSOLE", "AIR MIC", and "STUDIO B". When "Studio B" was to be used, a manual switch over was required.
"Studio B" was a 4ft. by 12ft. closet that had been converted to a studio by installing a microphone, a piano and a window between the studios. The battered upright piano had obviously not been tuned for some time prior to being installed in the studio. Even more apparently the piano had not been tuned after being installed. Several piano technicians had tried, but soon gave up after finding that the room was so small that the front of the piano couldn’t be opened without moving the piano out of "Studio B" and moving the piano meant tearing out the wall again. Hence this particular piano was of far more worth as a rhythm/percussion instrument than one to produce pleasing melodies. To best capture the piano and the singers voices, the Altec-Lansing "blimp" microphone was suspended from the ceiling straight over and about 16 inches above the piano.
Early each Sunday morning a local quartet, "The Dixie Hummingbirds", entered "Studio B" to do their bit to spread the word of God thru gospel music. What the Humming Birds lacked in quality they more than made up with volume quantity. The Dixie Humming Birds consisted of a 335 pound bass singer (who was reputed to be the only member that could actually sing), a piano player slash alto singer, a baritone and a tenor. It really didn’t matter that the piano had three "C" notes in one octave since the "piano player" only had a very rudimentary understanding of notes, keys, octaves and other musical terms.
The Humming Birds treated music as more of a contest than an art. When one member would get a little louder than the others, instead of quieting him down, the other three would get louder. This would soon turn into a vicious circle such that all four members would be singing at the absolute top of their lungs. Being several years before the advent of the OPTIMOD or CRL modulation limiter (not that one would have been in use anyway) the on-air guy had to constantly "ride" the mic level on the board to keep the modulation somewhere under 130%. Sunday morning listeners were regularly annoyed by short periods of dead air in the late stages of the Humming Birds performance when the Modulator PA over-current relay in the transmitter would operate, knocking the transmitter off-the-air or when the mic pot would be turned just a little to far down and go into Cue.
Early one humid summer Sunday morning "The Dixie Humming Birds" filed into "Studio B". They had to enter in the order in which they would stand due to the lack of space and the fact that with the piano player’s back was against the window while sitting on the rickety piano bench. The rotund bass singer entered first, followed by the piano player / alto singer, then the baritone, and the tenor. Immediately upon cue, The Dixie Humming Birds (with the piano player keeping excellent time) launched into a spirited if slightly off key rendition of "Amazing Grace".
Destined to be one of the hottest, most humid days of that summer, conditions in the air studio with all of its windows open was barely tolerable. Since the conversion of the closet to "Studio B" had been performed in the dead of winter, no thought had been given to ventilation for the fine new facility. Before the first hour of their two hour stint was over, "The Humming Birds" musical exertions had transformed what was already a stuffy, uncomfortable atmosphere into a tropical rain forest. The humidity was so high in "Studio B" that the window was starting to fog up.
At about the half-way point the bass singer, although still producing high volume low frequencies, had taken on a slightly pale cast. After another 15 minutes he had turned a noticeably paler shade and was weaving slightly. With only moments to go the bass singer had assumed a definite green cast and was developing a severe list to the bow. With seconds remaining the large bass singer started toppling forward. On his way down the bassist made a valiant effort to right himself by grabbing for the piano top. But being in the midst of passing out, he missed the corner of the piano and continued to fall forward. Falling further forward his still stiffly outstretched arm finally settled on top of the key cover. Looking like a Three Stooges parity, the key cover slammed down on the unsuspecting piano players hands. Milli-seconds later the bass singer slammed down onto the key cover which still had the piano players hands pinned.As most people would be inclined to do when faced with possible death or dismemberment, the piano player leapt bolt upright and with his nose almost brushing the "Blimp" microphone screamed at the top of his considerable lungs, "YOUR ON MY G _ _ D _ _ _ FINGERS".
As you can imagine this is the point at which things got a bit dicey. Since even now in southern small market radio it is considered at least rude if not criminal to use such language on the air. In the 60’s saying "snot" was a firing offense. Bob, being quite quick of mind (at least in those days) decided that he had to get this pain induced profanity off of the air. Like all good DJ’s he already had two records cued up. Bob yanked the "CONSOLE" wire loose from the "STUDIO B" wire, twisted the "AIR MIC" wire together with the "CONSOLE" wire, flipped on his microphone and said "This next song goes out to all of the sick and shut ins listening out there today". In one motion he started the turntable and ran to help extricate the still trapped piano player.
As he rounded the corner into "Studio B" Bob realized that in his haste he had started the "sympathy" song instead of his "get well song". Truly believing that no one had noticed or cared, he assisted in getting the overweight bass singer up off of the now crippled piano player and tried to continue as if nothing especially unusual had happened at the radio station that day.
The rest of the day the telephone rang constantly. Little old church ladies called to complain. Ministers called to complain. Deacons called to complain. The local bootlegger called to complain. Seemingly most of Hickman county had been listening as it happened or had at least been told in church of the morning’s mishaps at the radio station and called to complain.
Do you know what the really funny thing about all of this was? Not a single complaint was about the piano player’s outburst. Naw... Every one wanted to know just what did that DJ feller think he was doing?... Dedicating a song like that to sick people! What are you trying to do? Send them off early? Well I never! The name of the song he had sent out to those sick and shut-in’s was "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder".
The Dixie Humming Birds were back the next Sunday morning with a replacement player (and you thought that those were only for baseball) and an electric fan. Bob continue on for a few more weekends but still continued to get nasty calls concerning his mis-play on that fateful morning and decided to retire from the broadcast business.
While working at WDHA-FM in North Jersey, Mark won a contest run by Radio & Records in which he picked more hits than other entrants. His prize was a choice of cash or a Mercedes Benz, but the real payoff was when he got a call from WNEW-FM to join them as Music Director. After a short stint as MD, he got the PD post, and he has been a major market PD ever since.
Bob Derro on CHNO (Sudbury ON) Time Shifting 1976 Style
I remember my first station CHNO in Sudbury Ontario, Canada used an IGM 500 system to handle overnight duties. This unit was very well built and maintained however that didnt stop it from taking a dive occasionally. I remember in the mid 1970s being a young announcer pulling weekend morning duties. As I was in bed one Friday night around 10:30 pm setting the volume on my alarm clock radio, I noticed the automation's time announcer was the only thing playing.
Remember now, the time announcer consisted of two, 45 minute carts, one odd times (12:01, 12:03, 12:05 etc), the other even (12:00, 12:02, 12:04) both containing 12-hours worth of time checks (am and pm were not identified so they could be used in case of a nuclear war ...uh..yeah...) each minute one cart would roll, than the other the nex t minute to stay updated and when called upon would play on air. Simplistic, yet it worked ... most of the time. On this occasion a balky relay stuck and we became you're all-time station. I listened in dreaded disbelief as CHNO time is 12:06, it's now 12:08 on the big 55, good music time is 12:10, CHNO time is 12:12 played on and on.
What to do? Ignore it and hope everyone else does? Call an Engineer (darn it, he lived much further away from the station than me) or, be a good little soldier and go in to shut off the offending time parrot. In my mind I visualized Channel "D" turning off but my mental skills were terribly under developed (heck ... I had chosen to be a Broadcaster as a career, after all ... what did I expect?).
I jumped out of bed and raced to my (not so) trusty 1976 Gremlin and took off to right this terrible wrong. As I flew down the bumpy streets of Sudbury, the all-night time-show continued ... 1:32 good music time, CHNO time 1:34, we bring you the time at 1:36, as time was flying by. After my frantic 20 minute (5 hour according to the radio) drive, I finally pulled into the parking lot. The station was dark except for a light at the end of a long hallway. I booted it down there and burst through the door to find a mystified janitor staring at the big blue unit. He turned to me and said, "I think she's broke!"
By the time I turned off the offending Channel "D" it was 6:06, 6:08 and shortly thereafter 6:10 (yep ... all good music time). I was a little bleary eyed for my Saturday morning gig and no one ever mentioned hearing this gaffe ( I should have gone to bed ... D'OH!).
This system served the station faithfully on overnight duties for close to twenty years but every once in a while it would remind us that IGM ruled the airwaves after dark.
- Bob Derro, Brother Bob in the Morning
- CIWW /Oldies 1310 Ottawa, Canada
CFTR, Toronto -- Tom Rivers and His Air Force
I believe longtime radio sort Warren Cosford described Tom Rivers the best. He was the average looking kid with the unruly hair at the back of the class with his arm around The Girl, six pack at his feet, smirk on his lips and a twinkle in his eye. But it was the microphone on his belt that made him dangerous.
To me, however. Tom will always be the BIG brother I never had.
The relationship started when Tom Rivers and All Hits 680 CFTR were both powerful and peaking at the high numbers When Tom and 'TR fitted each other like an alcoholic and his poison of choice. In 1989 I was 11 years old, still seeking the meaning of life. Until one day, while listening to Riv, I found it - Radio!
After some curious questions to my father and mother about this weird money making scheme of playing music and talking to kids all day, I decided to see if I was fit for wearing headphones and drinking black coffee every morning. I called Tom and told him the story of how I wanted to be in radio. Thinking he would laugh and hang up on me, he simply replied "Call me tomorrow, kid. At 7:10am."
That night I couldn't sleep. Twisting and turning. Thinking of what the evil minded Tom Rivers could have me do. Would I play a new character on the Unfriendly Giant? How about this being a big joke that would just end up being on the Call of the Day Classic reels? I was nervous. I was scared. I was going to be on the Radio!
The next morning arrived. I called Tom. He told me I was to get the Toronto Sun and talk about the Stock reports! A pre-pubescent, high voiced, nervous rookie crunching numbers. That bit must have been funny, because I ended up dong different things with Tom every week after that.
This relationship that started in 1989 doing stock reports and entertainment updates, kept on going from station to station and even kept alive when Tom packed up and headed west.
As a pro, Tom will always make the radio station sound better. He has the creativity, humor, sensitivity and warmth. But most importantly, his own unique `little boy charm' that has made Tom one of the most recognizable voices in Toronto radio for the past 18 years. Unfortunately it's the higher ups whom have to realize that Tom has to be `Tom' for the show and station to be successful He always says that I will be his boss. I hope so. I get it.
As a person, Tom is my best friend. Someone who can always relate to my problems - even if there is 30 years difference in age. Someone who will always cheer me up by telling some old radio story or making fun of one of his old bosses, or just using that old `kid charm' of his.
But he will always be the one who gave a little kid a chance to live out his dream. The guy who saw another `Tom Rivers' at the back of the class with that twinkle in his eye.
Thanks for the love, support and the admiration for the headphones and the mic.
Rock On, Bro.
CFTR, Toronto -- Tom Rivers Pt. II: The Legendary Dick Smythe
I remember when I first met Dick Smythe. It was the same day that I met Tom Rivers. It was a weekday morning in the summer of 1989 when my father and I got up in the wee hours of a summers morning, to head downtown in Toronto to meet the Rivers Air Force on All Hits 680 CFTR. Back then, a young person able to head into the studio to meet the number one morning show, was like being able to sit in on a studio session with Beyonce.
In those days, the disk jockeys were celebrities. The radio show was like a TV show. If you met one of those guys on the radio, you better have your autograph book out because you'd need proof when you tell your friends you met a real life disk jockey from the radio!
I met a few that day. First, it was in master control to meet my pal, Rivers. We chatted on and off air. I looked around examining how he would answer the phones, talk to the producer, and get into the mood before going on air. I drank my orange juice slowly, taking everything in and practicing any bits that Riv would pass my way. Then, it was break time. Rivers got up and told me I was taking `a trip around the Force'. He and show producer Dave Tooke gave me the tour. First, the music library, where I learned that Rick Deez never did a show from the downtown studios, but it was pre-recorded and put on record. Second, it was other production rooms where the commercials were made. I took a quick peak inside the some offices of "the suits" - as Riv would call them - and then it was time to head into the newsroom. Three of my favourite all time news people were working that morning: Evelyn Macko, Gloria Martin and the legendary Dick Smythe.
"He was the guy from TV," I thought. Both my dad and I were mesmerized and I remembered how I made fun of the broadcasting vet just a few weeks prior. After a Jays game one Sunday, I saw Smythe walking out and throwing something into the fountain. As the good RAF correspondent that I was, I called Rivers the next morning to give him the eyewitness report of the events that went down the day before. Earlier on that morning, Dick remarked during a commentary that he had spent most of his time at the bar because the game of baseball was getting boring. As Tom and I were waiting to record the bit, Tom advised me to say something as the punch line. I agreed. Seconds later, we're on. Tom and I talked about the Jays win and my new box seats that my father had just bought earlier on that season. I then told him of the Smythe sighting. I told him that I saw the newsman throw what looked like a penny or a dime into the fountain after the game. Tom asked if Smythe said anything when he did it. I promptly replied, "Yeah. He said, 'keep the change, bartender.'"
I quickly zoomed back to the present day. I heard someone talk to me. It was he. Smythe asked me if I was the little guy who is always on the radio with Tom. I replied, "Yes I was, sir." He asked me if I liked news. I said, "kinda." He asked me if I wanted to replace him. I said, "someday." He laughed and went on with his work.
People you look up to always seem bigger and have this light surrounding them when you first meet them. Dick had the light. He seemed huge. Moments later, I would see him in his realm. In the newsroom reading the news. His shaking head would move from left to right constantly looking up for the time check. Confident. Determined. Passionate. He was the Dan Rather of Toronto radio news; the Paul Harvey of Toronto radio commentaries.
Always controversial, Dick was the best at delivering his own opinions. Sometimes it sounded like how he just wanted to get through the news just so he could tell the listeners what was on his mind - much like how a kid had to clean his room before going to play tag. The commentaries were Dick's game of tag.
In Toronto, some people were fans of Brian Henderson. Some were fans of John Gilbert. I was a Smythe supporter. Like how a bad-guy wrestler knows he did a good job after a match when the whole venue wants to kick his butt, Smythe knew he did a good job when he got calls about what he said during the 8 o'clock commentary. Fans would've gotten into the ring with him after each morning show in a steel cage match.
The passion Smythe carried into the newsroom every morning is missed. We still do have the Oakleys, the Richards, the Staffords, the Carrolls, but like how every year the grade nine class looks up to someone in grade 12, the kids looked up to the vets of the school. They paved the way, after all. Smythe was the rebellious one. The one in the leather jacket, smoking his cigar in the middle of class - but still scoring top grades because he had intelligence.
Watch out barkeep, you're talking to a wise one there.
CHUM, Toronto -- The Beatles and Elvis
Toronto Radio, 1970. CHUM is the heritage Top 40. CKFH, is the latest station to take them on. CHUM was going through an Evolution. In 1968 a new Vice President of Programming named Fred Sherratt was hired. He brought in a new P.D. named J. Robert Wood. Wood cleaned house. First he hired a "stunt" jock named Big Jack Armstrong and then he raided CKLW, bringing in J. Michael Wilson, and from WKNR, Big Tom Rivers.
CKFH countered by purchasing the rights to Bill Drake"s "History of Rock and Roll" a ground-breaking promotion and production. No one else was producing documentaries for Top 40, so what was CHUM to do?
CHUM decided to produce The Story Of The Beatles. It was a brilliant move. Drake’s program was very good, however, The Beatles were Hot, not only because of their continued success, but because they were about to break up. The problem was, that CHUM had to produce the program within a month in order to get it on the air before CKFH hit with The History. No one working at CHUM had ever written or produced a documentary. Worse yet, the CHUM production facilities were dreadful.
My name is Warren Cosford. I was the Production Manager at CHUM..
I had arrived at CHUM in April 1970, from CJOB, a MOR station in Winnipeg. With me, from the same station, came Bill McDonald an incredibly creative writer. The key members of the rest of the Beatle team were Doug Thompson, who had been with CHUM since the mid-60s, and Doug Rawlinson, an intern in the music library whose father owned a station in Regina, Saskatchewan.
But J. Robert Wood was The Man.
Wood had worked with an announcer at CKY Winnipeg named Chuck Dann aka Chuck Riley, real name Chuck Hanks. Chuck was working at WIBC, Indianapolis. Once we had some script written, Bob intended to bring him in.
Out of somewhere, (I’m not sure where and I don’t want to know) Bob Wood got some outstanding Beatle interviews, most of which sounded like they had been done 1964-65 while the band was still relatively accessible. We made plans to conduct our own interviews with everyone we could get to that could claim a Beatle connection from Little Richard, to Dick Biondi to Ed Sullivan.
In 1970, there really wasn’t much in the way of books about The Beatles to draw from, so we searched the library for newspaper clippings and, of course drew on the best resources of Capitol Records.
Over the next 6 weeks, we produced a 15 hour Beatle documentary. Somehow. It was on the air before it was finished. From a ratings standpoint, we wiped out CKFH and Bill Drake’s History of Rock and Roll.
CHUM then made an edited 12 hour version of the documentary available to any radio station in Canada or the United States who wanted it, for the cost of the tape (about $450 in those days). Over 50 stations took advantage of the offer. People were hearing about CHUM.
Syndicating The Story of The Beatles for cost of the tape was a decision that would come to haunt CHUM 5 years later.
In 1971, Watermark Productions syndicated The Elvis Presley Story. It was a 12 hour documentary. CHUM bought it for their group of stations in Canada. In 1975, Watermark revised and updated the show and put it into syndication once again. CHUM exercised their right of first refusal.
Watermark placed The Elvis Presley Story with CKY in Winnipeg and CKLG in Vancouver both stations owned by competing Moffat Communications, despite CHUM’s right of first refusal. The excuse was that, CHUM had not owned radio stations in Winnipeg and Vancouver when the agreement had been made in 1971. The real story was that Watermark was pissed at CHUM for giving away the Beatle documentary at a time that they had planned to originally syndicate their Presley documentary.
Bob Wood called me into his office. We had a problem. Somehow, we had to put our own Elvis Presley documentary on the air in Winnipeg and Vancouver, and do it before Watermark’s program could clear customs.
As hard as it may be to believe today, in 1975, there was only one book written about Elvis Presley. It was by Jerry Hopkins. I bought two copies of the book, gave one to Bill McDonald who moved into a hotel and began writing, and took the other and copied every name of every person Jerry mentioned in his book. I then called information in both Memphis and Nashville tried to find out who might talk to us. Everyone I called said that they would call me back, and everyone who called back agreed to be interviewed. I booked a flight for my Production assistant Bob McMillan and I to Memphis on Wednesday and to Nashville from Memphis Thursday night, with a return to Toronto Saturday morning.
Then I got some good news and some bad news. The bad news was from RCA Records Toronto. Earlier I had called them for help in lining up interviews. They told me that Elvis would not be available because he was in the hospital, but that someone living just outside of Toronto had worked for Elvis and might agree to be interviewed. Whoever that person was, declined the interview.
The good news came next. I had been trying to reach Mae Axton, co-writer of Heartbreak Hotel at her home in Broken Bow Oklahoma. There was no answer. Incredibly, she turned up at CHUM on the very day we were leaving for Memphis! She was in Toronto promoting a TV special hosted by her son Hoyt Axton best known for having written Joy To The World for Three Dog Night. Mae was our first Elvis interview. She later sent us a tape of Elvis singing That’s Alright Mama on a TV show that Mae had hosted.
Incredible but true. And it gets better.
The first interview that Bob McMillan and I were scheduled to do in Memphis was with someone who had grown up with Elvis that now worked at a Law Office. As we got off the elevator there was a sign with two arrows. The arrow pointing right was to the Law Office. The arrow pointing left was to The Memphis Southmen Football team.
In 1975, The Memphis Southmen were a franchise in The World Football League. Their coach was Leo Cahill. Leo was the former coach of The Toronto Argonauts of The Canadian Football League. When he was fired, we hired him as a sports commentator at CHUM. I trained him. Following the interview in the Law Office we dropped in on Leo.
He was wearing The Medallion.
Elvis fans will know that The Medallion was shaped as a thunderbolt with the letters TCB written across it in gold. It was a gift that Elvis gave to people who worked for him, or that he cared about. Cahill had it because Elvis was a football fan.
When we told Leo why we were in Memphis, he picked up the phone and called Richard Davis. Richard was an executive with Stax Records and, legend has it, the only person outside of family that Priscilla allowed to stay at Graceland after she and Elvis were married. Leo told Richard that we were friends of his and that "any favors Richard might afford us would be a favor to me".
We picked up four interviews with people who had not been mentioned in Jerry Hopkins book. The Elvis Door had opened wider.
Now my favorite part of The Elvis Experience.
From the beginning I had been trying to reach Gordon Stoker of The Jordanaires. I still hadn’t connected with him by the time we got to Nashville. He called me at The Holiday Inn. I asked for the interview. He said the same thing that everyone else had said. He would have to call me back. He did, and offered to come to our hotel. Gordon walked into the room and said…."you’ve been getting the party line about Elvis. I’ll tell you the truth. All you gotta do is ask the right questions". Then he said…do you know why you’ve been getting all this co-operation from the Elvis people? I said no…thinking that it had to do with CHUM’s influence in Canada. Then Stoker said something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Gordon Stoker said…."Elvis heard your Beatle Documentary and said to give you all the help you needed".
It’s the truth.
J.Robert Wood’s vision of getting The Beatle documentary widely distributed had paid off. WHBQ Memphis had aired the show and Elvis Presley had heard it!
CHUM’s The Elvis Presley Story went on the air at CFRW Winnipeg and CFUN Vancouver before Watermark’s Presley show cleared customs. CHUM later sold the show into syndication through TM in Dallas who later sold it to Wagontrain Productions in New Mexico. Wagontrain still syndicate it today under the title The Presley Years. The Narrator was Charlie Van Dyke.
Bill McDonald later became Chuck Blore’s partner. Chuck Riley became the Voice of CBS-TV and Emmis Broadcasting. Doug Thompson, who co-produced The Beatles documentary has done many since, including Ringo’s Yellow Submarine and The John Candy Series. Bob McMillan has a donut shop in Brandon, Manitoba. Charlie Van Dyke is reading liners on a radio or TV station near you. J. Robert Wood is a consultant. He is preparing his 4th application for a Toronto FM Radio license.
I’m the Operations Manager of CKLW/CKWW/89X/THE RIVER in Windsor Ontario.
Bill, Chuck, Bob, Robert and I went on to produce the 64 hour documentary The Evolution Of Rock in 1976.
CHUM, Toronto -- The Elvis Canadian Connection
It was 1975. We had a week to produce the first hour of an Elvis Presley Radio Documentary and get it on the air.
While Bill McDonald was writing script at the Mount Soudan Hotel in Toronto, I was telephoning everyone that Jerry Hopkins mentioned in, what was at the time, the only book written about Elvis. We needed interviews.
So, of course, I also called RCA Records in Toronto.
A lot of people in Canada claim to have a connection with Elvis ... but the best connection has always been Barry Hoagan (I’m sorry to blow your cover Barry ... but hell ... it’s been 22 years!).
Barry told me that there was someone in Stouffville, Ontario “who had worked with Elvis. Barry didn’t think he would talk to us. And, as it turned out, he wouldn’t. But we went ahead and produced the only radio documentary about Elvis that Elvis, himself, authorized in his lifetime. It’s still being syndicated to this day by a U.S. company.
Two years later, when Elvis died, Canada AM asked me to come on their show to talk about Elvis. But I couldn’t. I was going to be on CHUM-FM the next morning with Pete Griffin and Dave Tollington producing our own Elvis Tribute. So I told the Canada AM producer to call Barry.
It wasn’t until some years later that I found out that the mysterious “someone”, from Stouffville, who had worked with Elvis, consented to be interviewed by Canada AM.
It was now 1978. I was programming CHUM-FM. A major promotion was The El Mocambo live concert broadcasts. In ’78 alone, we produced 62 shows for radio. Frankly, we were the best. King Biscuit in New York may have had better distribution and the WMMS shows at The Agora in Cleveland better hype ... but musicians and managers often told me that The El Mocambo had the best mix.
Our rep was mostly because of the people we had hired to produce the shows. John Cordina, Ed Wideman and, later, Mike Elder were fabulous. It was a tough job. Often, they had to make it work without the benefit of a soundcheck.
One day I came in early for a Todd Rundgren Show. Ed Wideman was setting up the board. For the first time I could remember, he wasn’t wearing a T-Shirt. It was an open neck dress shirt. And I could see, around his neck, he was wearing The Medallion.
The Medallion was solid gold, in the shape of a thunderbolt, with the letters T.C.B. embedded in it. I’d never seen it before. But I’d heard of it.
The Medallion was copyrighted. No reputable jeweler could reproduce it. The copyright was owned by Elvis Presley. Legend has it that Elvis only gave it to people that mattered to him.
Ed Wideman ... my recording engineering, was wearing The Medallion.
Ed was always a man of few words.
Warren: “Ed where did you get that Medallion.”
Warren: “From Elvis PRESLEY?”
Warren: “Why did he give it to you?”
Ed:“I used to work for him.”
Warren: “Work? For ELVIS PRESLEY? What did you do….record his concerts?”
Warren: “Well, what did you do?”
Warren: “You SANG!”
Warren: “You SANG WITH ELVIS PRESLEY!!!!!”
Ed:“Yea….for a while.”
Warren: “You were in J.D. Sumner and The Stamps??”
So the mysterious “someone” who had “worked” for Elvis Presley ... was Ed Wideman.
Tragically, Ed died in a car crash a year later.
But next time you see the legendary Elvis Live By Satellite From Hawaii concert, check out stage left. J.D. Sumner is on one microphone, two other guys share another ... and between them on his own mike is Ed Wideman. From Stouffville, Ontario Canada.
And now ... you’ve read the rest of the story.
RPM Music Weekly August 16/97
CHUM, Toronto -- Birth of a Star
I first met him in 1976. He came to us as a jock on CHUM-FM Toronto. He acted like he had a lot of talent. Maybe he did. But so did almost everyone else who worked at The CHUMs in those days.
Most of us had also done something. He hadn’t. Yet.
I had been the Production Manager of CHUM and CHUM-FM. In June of 1977 I was the Program Director of CHUM-FM. I was now his boss.
Our morning show had peaked. It was downhill from there. FM radio was hot. Q-107 had just signed on. CFNY got a power increase. Heritage wasn’t going to keep us on top for long. I wanted him as our morningman. So did he.
The people I worked for were happy with the way things were.
In August ’77, Billboard brought their convention to town. My morning team took a holiday. So I gave him mornings for two weeks. The visitors thought my morning show was great. I told them it was my standby morning show.
Yuk Yuks became a comedy club in Toronto. He became their headliner. I could see his confidence growing. He asked for six months leave of absence from CHUM-FM. He got it. I thought he still might be my morning show someday.
He went to L.A. to work The Comedy Store. Two months later he called asking for his old job back. There were a lot of funny people in Hollywood.
But 40 minutes of Non Stop Rock in Afternoon Drive was not a long term positioning statement for him.
So before long he got a job at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation doing weekends on a radio station that didn’t define itself with music. Later, he was the was the New Years Baby on a silly CBC-TV year-end special. I hoped he’d made the right decision.
He auditioned for a new TV Show in Edmonton, Alberta and became half a McKenzie. And then all of a Movie Star.
Many people with talent don’t get a Happy Ending. But it’s worth trying for. Just ask Rick Moranis.
CHUM, Toronto -- Elmo’s Greatest Hits
I’d been waiting for the telephone to ring for a couple of years. It was time. The eighteen year olds from 1977 were entering mid-life, radio was trying to figure out 70’s nostalgia formats, the record companies were re-releasing 70’s catalogue and the Eagles were touring. Someone was just going to have to call me soon about The El Mocambo Tapes. The telephone rang yesterday.
Today the El Mocambo is a seedy bar on Spadina Avenue in Toronto that features bands you’ve never heard of, that you’ll never hear from again. From mid-1977 to about 1980, the El Mocambo was a seedy bar on Spadina Avenue in Toronto that featured bands that often would later change the world. There were 350 people at the first Meatloaf show, and I know all 2000 of them.
Live Recordings were as hip in 1977 as Unplugged is today. Frampton Comes Alive was the #1 album, but The Legend of The El Mocambo started when The Rolling Stones chose the El Mo as the venue for the Live Club Side of their Love You Live Album. CHUM turned the event into one of the biggest radio promotions ever.
The Stones put Toronto on the Rock and Roll Map. And we were ready. The city had two slick AM Top 40’s in CHUM and CFTR and suddenly THREE album rock FM stations in CHUM-FM, Q-107 and CFNY. Q had signed on in June, and CFNY in Brampton got a power increase in August. There were also three daily newspapers that actually reviewed Rock music more than occasionally, and a very aggressive and competitive concert promotion scene featured Michael Cohl’s Concert Production International, David Bluestein’s The Agency handling the clubs and The Garys, Topp and Cormier, defining Alternative. Timing is everything, and the time was right to break bands out of Toronto. And man, did we ever!
How many in total? I don’t know, but I do know that in 1978, CHUM-FM produced 63 live broadcasts in 52 weeks. Most were at The El Mocambo. We were so busy that we had two crews. John Cordina, Ed Wideman and later Mike Elder handled The El Mo, and a kid named Doug McClement got some amazing quality out of a kit in his stationwagon on the others.
The time was right for me too. I’d been Production Manager of The CHUMs for seven years. A month after Q-107 signed on the air, J. Robert Wood asked me to program CHUM-FM. What I understood best was Production and Promotion. Producing live broadcasts from the El Mocambo was exactly what I understood.
Of course we didn’t have a lock on live Rock recording from clubs. The best of the others were The Agora in Cleveland with WMMS, The King Biscuit Flower Hour in New York on WNEW-FM and The BBC. But Toronto radio was much more open to New Music than U.S. radio, particularly if it sounded like it came from England or at had Attitude.
It had been Canada that had broken Genesis and Supertramp, and it was Canada that broke Meatloaf, Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick, Blondie and a bunch more out of The El Mocambo.
Perhaps the best known of our broadcasts was Elvis Costello. CBS pressed a limited edition for promotion that later sold on the street for four figures and was bootlegged extensively. It’s now included in the Elvis Costello boxed set. By the way, the next time you see Elvis Costello, tell him that Ed Wideman, the guy who mixed the show, sang with J.D. Sumner and The Stamps when they backed Elvis Presley on satellite from Hawaii. It’s a good story, and I would have told it, if someone had bothered to call for credits when they put out the album.
But aside from all of the above, the main reason that The El Mocambo era worked was the Canadian Record Companies. Doing this stuff cost money. And I was constantly reminded that we cost more. Where many radio stations used the kid in production to record shows, we had people who did music recording for a living. Occasionally Rush producer Terry Brown even dropped by to help out with the mixes. We were thinking Big Time and Long Term. When Meatloaf sold 25,000 albums in Toronto the week following his El Mocambo broadcast I never again heard any complaints about the price.
I should also point out that more than half of all the broadcasts between ’77 and ’80 were CanCon. Not because of any regulation that said they had to be, but because it just worked out that way.
Ironically, the El Mocambo era came to an end largely because of video. If CITY-TV’s The New Music was the Mother of MUCH, then the CHUM-FM/CITY-TV concert simulcasts were the Father. It seemed that when the record companies started making video, the tour support for Baby Bands dried up.
At any rate, someone with clout wants to release many of the El Mocambo tapes to CD. Good plan! All of the best and most of the rest are in storage at CHUM. Getting the rights for something like this can be a horror, but it deserves to happen. And when it does, let’s get everyone back together again, have a party, and tell the tales that even Walt won’t print.
It was a magical era that few of us gave much thought to at the time. It may never come again.
CHUM, Toronto -- CHUM Culture: Warren Cosford on CHUM’s 40th Anniversary
The following article appeared in a special issue of RPM (May 1997).
I’d never heard of CHUM until 1967. I was Production Manager of CJOB, Winnipeg. We had a great lineup of Announcers and Writers. So we entered a commercial festival in Toronto and were thrilled to hear later that we’d won something. Kirk Northcott and I got on a plane to find out what it was. It turned out that we won a bunch of awards.
But CHUM won first place.
As Larry and Gary, Solway and Ferrier were the toast of commercial radio in Toronto. If we’d known enough to pay attention we would have heard of them.
Somehow, we got an invitation to tour CHUM. The people were real nice to us, but the station was nothing special. Kind of dumpy actually.
Now we had something to aspire to. At the next year awards we won it all. So most of us applied to CHUM for jobs. Mike Kornfeld got one….as the Creative Director. Mike hired Bill McDonald. I went next.
CHUM was in transition…..and so was most of Rock and Roll Radio.
CHUM’s latest competition, CKFH, was applying Bill Drake’s Much More Music Formula. CHUM was trying to keep up. The new VP Programming was Fred Sherratt, the new PD, J. Robert Wood.
More than an Evolution, it was almost a Revolution. And I would argue that it was the birth of what is now commonly known as The CHUM Culture. A Culture that would help to take CHUM from being just another Top 40 with a few Great years a la CKLW, KHJ, KFRC, WABC,WRKO, to a station with many Great years.
So what is The CHUM Culture?
GOOD ENOUGH IS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH
And it starts with many of the people that were hired. For a few years in the early 70s there were a lot of them. The "CHUM Door" often opened to the Operator job. It was a great entry level position. Most stations at that time…if they had operators at all…..usually hired them out of school. We rarely did. We looked for Ops who had shown some talent for radio and lots of character for life. And we found them wherever they were. Bob McMillan and Rick Hallson were Production Managers in Winnipeg. Zeke Zdebiak came from St. Catherine’s, Dan Plouffe was in Newfoundland, Ken Porteous programmed in Flin Flon, John Tucker appeared from Vancouver, Mike Kurnik was home in Toronto and Bob Humenick hitchhiked from Dryden.
We went mining for gold in Sydney Mines Nova Scotia and discovered a kid who had applied for a writing job with just about everyone except CHUM. He was too intimidated. Finding Larry MacInnis was a stroke of luck for both of us.
One of my favourites was someone that Terry Steele had told me was King of The Lake in the Muskokas. In Toronto he drove a truck. For days on end he called me. Because he stuttered they were getting to be long conversations. Brad Jones finally wore me down and we hired him. I think that Gary Milmine and Dave Mitchell came later and so did lots more.
In retrospect, having the freedom from "upstairs" to hire people from all over the country to work at a minimum wage job was really sending a message about what was "good enough". Management clearly understood that we were hiring for "future considerations". There were a lot of CHUM Ops that would later play important roles as CHUM and The CHUM Group matured.
A small thing, perhaps, but it was the little things that mattered.
At most stations it was good enough to have the jocks read all the commercials. At CHUM we brought in freelancers Ronald J. Morey and Walter Soles.
At most stations it was good enough to air documentaries from the U.S. Syndicators. At CHUM we produced The Story Of The Beatles, The Elvis Presley Story, The Evolution of Rock and seven years worth of The Top 100 Of The Year. And then recorded them with Charlie Van Dyke or Chuck Riley so that we could sell them to the Americans.
Ahh yes. The Americans.
We had to get the first hour of our Elvis show on the air in less than a week because a U.S. syndication company had sold their Elvis show to the competition. Slapping something together quickly with little script and no interviews might have been good enough for other stations..…but not CHUM. The Elvis Presley Story that we completed before the competition cleared customs has since been syndicated throughout the world…..and is still usually airing somewhere.
And The Newsroom? Top 40 News was an art form. Among the artists in the CHUM newsroom were Dick Symth, Fred Ennis, Mark Daley, Richard Scott, Dave Wright and even Jon Belmont. If you don’t know who they are, you haven’t been paying attention.
Then there were The Contests. In the mid-70s U.S. consultants brought The Last Contest and The 50,000 Button to Toronto. We countered with Don’t Say Hello and The CHUM Starsign.
It was fun running the name brand gunslingers out of town.
To most of Toronto though, CHUM may be best remembered for The Big Events. The annual Graffiti Parades stretched from Nathan Phillips Square to Fairview Mall. The Osmonds, Bay City Rollers and later Platinum Blonde created traffic jams downtown, The Rolling Stones created magic at the El Mocambo and mayhem in some unexpected places.
But my favourite may be the night after John Lennon died. CHUM brought over 35,000 people to Nathan Phillips Square for the largest tribute outside of New York City. A few thousand of them marched down Yonge Street to CHUM afterwards to put personal messages on a scroll that we would later deliver to Yoko.
But CHUM’s biggest continuous Music Event may well have been The History of Rock.
In the summer of 1977, Bob McMillan, Larry MacInnis and Mr. Everything, Roger Ashby, went to CKVR-TV in Barrie to try to produce a 35 minute documentary on film. Those were the days before videotape….and there wasn’t much rock and roll film around. Somehow, they did it. And for the next ten years, the show toured virtually every high school in Greater Toronto and sometimes beyond. Amazingly, each year a new show was produced with a new script and mostly new clips. When videotape came along, we added a second show called The Video Dance Party for after school.
MUCH Music wasn’t an accident.
But CHUM was more than music, news, contests and promotions. For a time it also was Canada’s #1 Talk Show. Larry Solway’s Speak Your Mind in the 60s became The John Gilbert Show in the 70s.
For the era, if Larry was Rush, John was Opra. The difference between Time and Chatelaine. A talented talk show host, a telephone and a microphone might have been good enough at most stations, but not CHUM. "John Gilbert" was also three producers and up to three writers who each spent at least two hours a day to help keep John "special". We even made a hit record.
And it was John’s show that took The CHUM Christmas Wish to a new level. At one point we had army trucks lined up down St. Clair, while inside, an officer was mapping the city into "grids" so that his men could deliver. Although Duff Roman later worked with The Royal Bank to "flip" donations to cash from toys and clothes, I still see tractor trailers outside CHUM at Christmas.
Over the years, other radio people have accused CHUM of arrogance. I never understood it. To me arrogance is thinking that you know everything. We never thought we did. The station was always filled with airchecks from everywhere. We even set up a "creative exchange" with other stations and often traveled to places like New York, Pittsburgh, L.A. San Francisco and Chicago just to spend some time with other people who did what we did.
We also knew that we wouldn’t always breed everyone that we’d need. So we set up a Talent Bank. Answered every resume and tape….then sent out a "best of" Talent Tape to Group P.D.s.
Those are just a few of the things that, to my knowledge, no mere radio station has consistently done before or since. And The CHUM Culture is a big part of why.
The CHUM Culture, though, has a downside.
For those of us who have left 1331, life after CHUM can be a challenge. The CHUM Culture took years to create. Others don’t "get it". Times change. On the other hand, it can be tough for new people that walk in the CHUM door. Good people have failed. Better to lead CHUM today than to try to manage it.
Of course, over the years, CHUM occasionally stumbled. Once there was even a suggestion to change the call letters until a cooler head with a brush cut intervened.
And each time CHUM stumbles, people will ask me "what are they going to do now"? My favourite answer is to paraphrase Winston Churchill. Winnie was asked when he thought the Americans would finally get into World War II. His answer was….."The Americans will eventually do the right thing….but only after every other opportunity has been explored".
I hope that CHUM will continue to eventually do the "right thing" for many years to come.
CHUM, Toronto -- CHUM Sports: Warren Cosford on CHUM’s 50th Anniversary
This year it is CHUM's 50th Anniversary as a Rock Station. I thought it might be appropriate to add at least one new story this year...
My first memory of Radio was listening to Foster Hewitt and Hockey Night in Canada with My Mother. Oh how she loved "Her" Toronto Maple Leafs. It was The 50s. The Leafs were Building a Dynasty for The 60s.
My First Favourite Player was Todd Sloan, then Larry Regan and then for many years Bobby Baun.
Baun couldn't skate all that well, didn't have much of a shot, hardly ever sickhandled..but NO ONE worked harder. Or Hit Harder. The way he fell in front of shots I just had the feeling that Bobby Baun was ready to die for The Leafs.
There was No Hockey Magic Greater than when Bobby Hull, left wing on The Chicago Blackhawks, wound up behind his net with the puck ready to kill or be killed against Bobby Baun, right defense, on The Toronto Maple Leafs.
Bobby Baun showed me that DESIRE meant a lot.
Then one day in the mid 60s Baun got injured and Coach/GM Punch Imlach brought up a kid from The Minors named Jim McKenny. He wasn't at all like Bobby Baun. Some said he was he was once ranked higher than Bobby Orr. He could stickhandle, shoot, skate, and score. But I'll be damned if I ever saw him hit anyone.
NHL Expansion came in the late 60s. Toronto let Bobby Baun go to The Oakland Seals and kept McKenny. Are these guys nuts!
Then one night..there was McKenny between periods being interviewed by Hockey Night in Canada. "Jimmy.said The Interviewer..who is the Toughest Guy In The Corners in The NHL?"
"I don't know. I don't go in The Corners said Jim McKenny.
And you know what? Jimmy McKenny suddenly become My Favourite Leaf.. Surprised the hell out of me. But I've always loved Mavericks.
Flash now to 1980 or maybe early '81.
I had quit The CHUMSs in '79 with 6 months notice so that I could spend time with my aging parents in Winnipeg, ride horseback in The Mountains and shoot pool Everywhere. But my Old Boss J. Robert Wood kept sending me money to work on Various Projects for The CHUMs..
One Project was to find a Backup SportsGuy.
At The Time, The CHUMs may well have had The Best Radio Sports Reporters in Canadian Radio. Rick Hodge on FM and Brian Henderson on AM were Simply Magnificent.
So.of course, people kept trying to hire them.
Under the heading of Hoping For The Best but Expecting The Worst, JRW asked me to find a backup for Hodge and Henderson that we could groom.
"But he has to be Local and we Don't Have a Lot of Money". Ya right. (that was "code" for I don't have it in The Budget).
The Brain is a Marvelous Thing. Have you ever done Crossword Puzzles? I'm not very good at them. I'll get about 75% through and blank out. But, often, when I come back to them The Next Day...SUDDENLY...words I hadn't thought of are Crystal Clear.
It's the same with Problems. JRW's request didn't get an Instant Idea. But a day or so later I woke up at 3AM and I HAD IT!!!!
What we needed was someone who could get CHUM into locker rooms because Our Reporter was One of Them!!!!
Of course, That Alone wasn't Good Enough. We needed someone with PERSONALITY and No Fear.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JIM McKENNY!!!!
A few phone calls later I discovered that after The Leafs, Jimmy had gone to Switzerland and now was back in Toronto trying to develop a career as a model.
A few more phone calls got me his phone number. Hey Jimmy..ever thought of working on The Radio?
A few days later in The Studio I discovered that Jim McKenny couldn't read.
Alright Jimmy here's what we're going to do. Instead of you reading what someone else has written...I want you to REWRITE it. And something else. Remember how you would practice for hours before playing a Hockey Game? Well..I want you to read for hours before going on The Air.
Not Great. But Better
So Jim McKenny became Backup to Rick Hodge and Brian Henderson. His Personality made up for what he lacked Everywhere Else. Our Joke was that everytime I passed him in The Halls of CHUM he would suddenly be reading a piece of copy out loud.
Then one day he came to see me Without a Smile.
Gary Slaight at Q-107, (CHUM's Arch Rival), had offered Jimmy a job as SPORTS DIRECTOR at a lot more money. "Warren I think I should take it for My Family but I feel like A Traitor.
So I smiled.
Jimmy. You're not yet ready for The CHUM's. Yes you're developing as Backup for Hodge and Henderson but you need to grow. Take The Job with Gary. He'll give you Lots of Icetime. When you're Ready For Primetime we'll just bring you back.
A few years later, Jim McKenny became a Sports Reporter for CHUM owned CITY-TV in Toronto.
To CITY's Credit, they recognized that Jim's Greatest Strength was his Warmth and Personality. I just LOVED seeing him out at High School Sporting Events sparring with The Kids. He was, after all, just A Big Kid himself.
Then.a few years later in London Ontario at a Hockey Tournament with My 6 year old son Dylan, the CITY-TV Mobiles were parked outside The Arena. I wonder if I know who's here? We followed The Cables and there was Jim McKenny surrounded by His Fans. When he saw me he held up his arms and Everyone stopped talking.
Hey Cosford he yelled. Where ya been? You're The One Who Made This Happen.
Well Jimmy..You're One of The Ones who have Made Me Proud. This is My Son Dylan. He plays Defence.
CHUM, Toronto -- GIBBY
To almost anyone in southern Ontario, and to broadcasters in North America, CHUM has meant Top 40 radio. Since 1989, it's been Top 40 Oldies. But to a generation of listeners for much of the '70s, CHUM also meant Talk Radio with John Gilbert.
Sometime in the '60s CHUM decided to program a Talk Show, into the Top 40 mix, weekdays 9AM to Noon. The first host was Larry Solway. His "Speak Your Mind" was a somewhat typical, "in your face" issues oriented program. CHUM's strategy, I suppose, was to create a program with adult appeal in a time period in which the core teen audience were in school.
Then Fred Sherratt brought Gilbert in from Halifax to replace Larry about 1971.
Before Oprah, Jenny and the rest of Tabloid TV ... there was John Gilbert. "Gibby" was The Master. Warm and friendly. Opinionated and occasionally arrogant. But in the end, everybody's father. And most of all wise to the ways of the world and the frailties of human nature. John ran the gambit. At 16 he had run away from his home in Cabbagetown, joined The Circus and become a Carny Barker. He had lived life.
John was The Star, but The John Gilbert Show was a machine that was more than John. J. Robert Wood kept a steady eye on the topics, the copy department did the research and wrote the all important opening "hook", George Nicholson answered the ten telephone lines and had an uncanny ability to find "just the right call", a variety of Ops ran the board and, for a few years, I "produced" the show. "Producing" meant talking to John in one ear as he listened to the caller in another. The energy in the studio was incredible.
John: So what's my topic today?
Warren: "Capital Punishment: Are you for or against it"?
John: OK. Am I for or against it?
Warren: You're against it. Here's the research.
And while there were lot's of Talk Shows on Canadian Radio in the '70s ...we were #1.
There was no one on radio anywhere quite like John Gilbert. He drove the talking Egg Heads nuts. Unlike them, John knew that, usually, the audience was The Show.
Although John occasionally dealt with the issues that might be found on the front page, his "bread and butter" topics would more likely appeal to the mothers of the kids in school. John's issues were found in the pages of the so called "women's magazines" of the day. Kid's problems, Husband problems, Relative problems, Life Problems, Problem problems. John did it all with flair, style, humanity, imagination and usually empathy. Quite often, we'd take calls from listeners praising John for saving their marriage, their relationship, their family, their job….whatever. Even, on at least one occasion….their lives.
The topic was "Have you ever contemplated suicide?" She might have been the first caller. She told John that she had just "taken a lot of pills" and "wanted to say goodbye"! Jeez! What do we do now? John kept her talking. The rest of us panicked. Do we stop for commercials now? No, I guess not. But what if she dies on the air!? John got her talking about religion and found out she was a Catholic. Gently, he got her talking about her church, how suicide was a sin. By the time he got her to tell him her priest's name we had half the staff calling churches. One of the priests thought he recognized her voice, called her home and got a busy signal. John kept her talking. It seemed like an eternity. Suddenly, we could hear the doorbell. Somehow, John got her to answer the door. Then a voice came on the phone and said…."John, I'll take it from here".
Of course, "our suicide" called back a few weeks later to thank John for saving her life. Sometimes I felt like I was in a movie and the audience was writing the script.
But John was really at his best during ratings when we brought in an astrologer from Chicago named Catherine de Jersey. The phones started ringing at 4AM! One time, the call load was so heavy that we blew an exchange. This incident inspired Bell to create the "870" media exchange in Toronto.
However, John wasn't just what some people might call "fluff" by today's standards. Pierre Trudeau's first stop in Toronto when election time neared, was always John's show. And when the posties were about to go on strike, the union leadership always wanted to "go on John" in order to gauge the mood of the city. We rarely had guests, but they were always available when we wanted them.
We even had a hit record. John Gilbert's "No Charge" sold more singles for Capitol than Anne Murray in 1976. It's still played somewhere on Canadian radio every mother's day. One Saturday John autographed copies of the record at Fairview Mall. They had to call out for extra security. It seemed like every mother in Toronto showed up. We promised the police we'd never do it again.
But John's legacy in Toronto might very well be The CHUM Christmas Wish. A Christmas promotion much like the Christmas promotion run by many radio stations, John took it to that "next level". So many toys, so much food, so many clothes that, one Christmas, we took over a store at Yonge & St. Clair and then arranged for the Canadian Army to come out and try to deliver everything. No kidding. We still couldn't handle it all. So we then we got the Fire Department involved. What a time!
Since then, I've managed some stations with Talk Shows and tried to incorporate some of John's topics. It's never worked out. I've yet to work with, or hear, anyone that came close to bringing the range of talent to Talk Radio that John Gilbert did. Most "talent" I've worked with over the years were obviously influenced by someone else they'd heard. I'm not sure John had been influenced by anyone. He was just John. On the other hand, to me, John was never really "John" after he left CHUM in 1977. He drifted from station to station, never quite finding The Magic again.
People tell me that Canada is so fragmented, so regionalized, that, unlike the U.S. with Rush, Laura etc., no one personality can ever really be successful doing Talk on commercial radio nationally. Maybe so. But I would have liked to have been able to put our team back together again and try it with John.
John wasn't just simply Talk Radio…..he was Talk Theatre. That rare personality that listeners cared about because they believed he cared about THEM.
I'd read on The Internet that John had not been well, so his death wasn't a surprise. But his life on the radio was special. It wasn't radio to him. It was just life. And because the good Lord was Willing and John was Able ...he made a difference.
CHUM, Toronto -- Evolution of Rock - Part 1
CHUM has produced The Story Of The Beatles (12 hours-1970), The Top 100 Of The Year (1971-1974) )(you may have heard it on the RKO stations), The Elvis Presley Story (12 hours-1975). It’s time to get ambitious. We decide to produce The Evolution of Rock. We estimate it’ll be about 60 hours.
We were really dumb.
CHUM Program Director, J. Robert Wood thought that the reason for producing these kind of programs was to increase ratings. He was right, short term, but long term……in syndication, charging stations cash for the rights to air the shows was not the way to go. Norm Pattiz later figured it out. Give it away and take the airtime the stations will give you. Sell it to people who had money that wanted to buy time to reach 18-34s efficiently. Advertisers!
Norm figured out the "business". We figured out the "art".
The Evolution Of Rock is still "out there" somewhere. Last I heard, KODJ ran it in L.A. in the early 90’s to debut their Oldies format. I still air portions of it on CKLW holiday weekends. Check it out. The Production holds up ok, but the writing is outstanding. In fact, it’s amazing. It’s the best example of "writing for the ear" I’ve ever heard. The writer was Bill McDonald, a Canadian from Winnipeg. Eat your heart out Bill Drake.
The Evolution Of Rock became a 64 hour Radio Documentary. It debuted on CHUM, WTAE, WIBG and WIBC almost simultaneously. I still get calls about it today. I’ll never produce anything better. So I’ve stopped producing.
The other producers on the show were Bob McMillan and Zeke Zdebiak. Bob runs a couple of donut shops in Brandon, Manitoba now and is quite happy. Zeke is the Production Manager at CHUM and CHUM-FM. The announcer was Chuck Riley.
Chuck didn’t want to do the show. Money convinced him. At the time he was King Of The Hill doing afternoon drive in Indianapolis at WIBC for Jim Hilliard and George Johns. He’d met them both in Winnipeg in 1964. Along with Neil Young and Burton Cummings…..but that’s another story.
For 6 months, every other weekend in 1976, I would fly to Indianapolis to record Chuck Riley. The engineer was often Howard Schrott who is now comptroller for Emmis. Working with Riley was a pain. He said didn’t believe in the project. He just wanted his money.
After we had finished the show, and it had won Billboard Magazine’s International Documentary Of The Year Award, Chuck Riley called me in Toronto. He had heard the program on WLS Chicago. He didn’t think that the studio announcer was doing a very good job of introducing the commercials. Chuck asked me if I knew the Program Director of WLS. I did. It was John Gehron. Chuck said….."for a peanut butter sandwich and a bus ticket, I’ll go to Chicago and do the IDs the way they should be done. I never called Gehron. Riley was full of shit.
A few months later Chuck Riley called from Los Angeles. He was on a holiday. By then, the writer of The Evolution Of The Evolution of Rock, Bill McDonald, had gone to work for Chuck Blore and Don Richmond in L.A. Riley wondered if I would ask Bill if he would ask Blore to listen to his demo tape. Blore listened and tore it apart…..but a few weeks later Bill McDonald called me in Toronto looking for Riley’s telephone number. ABC-TV were looking for a backup for Ernie Anderson. Chuck Blore recommended Chuck Riley.
Riley got the job.
Today Chuck Riley is the voice of CBS-TV, Emmis Radio and a lot of Movie Trailers. It all started with The Evolution Of Rock.
You’re welcome Chuck.
CHUM, Toronto -- Terry Steele
TERRY STEELE MADE A DIFFERENCE
An old friend at CHUM tracked me down in Seattle. She knew I’d want to hear about it before I read about it.
Terry Steele was dead. Damn!
I first heard Terry in 1972 . J. Robert Wood dropped his audition tape off at my studio in CHUM. I liked the tape, and the cover letter. The guy sounded like he had class.
In retrospect, Terry Steele was the last piece in the CHUM puzzle that would create one of the most respected and influential radio stations in the world.
In the 70’s, no other radio station anywhere, did all the things that we did; the ratings victories, the promotions that snarled traffic and telephones, the influence on music tastes in both Canada and the U.S, the international awards, and the audio and later video documentaries.
Even today, if you hear a Beatles Special in Florida, a Rock History program in LA. Or a Presley Show in Memphis, chances are it was produced by CHUM. Terry Steele played a role in all of it.
On the air, Terry may not have been as funny as Jay Nelson, as creative as Tom Rivers, or as flashy as Scott Carpenter. In the studio on tape, he wasn’t as smooth as Walter Soles and Ron Morey, or as versatile as John Rode. But Terry Steele was consistent and solid. He was the quarterback when everyday was the Superbowl!
He was "Terrible Terry, The Bear in the Airchair from the Big House on Yonge Street". Working with him made you better. He had a kind of Majesty.
I can remember Terry stomping into my little postage stamp sized studio with the lousy air conditioning across from Bob Wood’s office. He always brought his energy level with him. He’d take off his shirt , pick up the script, turn on the mike and say….."All right Cos, let’s embellish the Legend."
Whenever I hired a freshman operator, I always tried to team them with Terry after they’d learned the board on the overnight shift. Terry’s class and professionalism had a way of rubbing off. He was a people person.
Unfortunately, Terry never really found his way after leaving CHUM in 1985. I suspect it had a little to do with corporate culture and a lot to do with 40 minutes of non-stop rock. The "Show" was fading from the "business". Terry knew that the kids were no longer going to bed at night with radios under their pillows. It’s a long way down from the mountain top.
But he knew it would happen.
In 1975, Peter Goddard devoted most of a page to Terry Steele in the Toronto Star. In it, Terry closed the interview by saying that he planned to get into radio sales "in about 10 years". I never got to ask him why he didn’t.
Terry’s era was radio as an art form, where every show was a morning show. Fortunately it lives on in airchecks.
Two years ago, while holidaying in the U.K., I met the program director of Great North Radio in Newcastle, England. Amazingly, he had some Terry Steele airchecks. He said he often played them to inspire his announcers.
Vaya con dios my friend. You made a difference.
From an article I wrote for RPM Music Weekly
CHUM, Toronto -- Larry Wilson
RADIO LEFT WILSON ABOUT NINE YEARS AGO
Larry Wilson did sports at CHUM when I arrived in 1970. He was the first sports guy I had ever worked with who wasn’t a Jock. He was wonderful.
Somehow he became Wilson the Newsgod on CHUM-FM. It was the era of Progressive Radio, Woodstock, Hippies, free love, Rochdale, Yorkville as a live music store. The Counter Culture.
CHUM-FM is remembered, and even beloved, as the New Voice of a New Generation. Pete n’ Geets, Green, Pritchard, Marsden, Thomas, Michaels (Soles), Rainer, Shafer, Azzarello, Talbot, Tollington and more.
But Wilson defined the attitude.
There was news and then there was Wilson News. Style AND Content. Listen to any of his newscasts today and you could define the era. "Wilson" was writing, delivery, tempo, pitch and white space. Stories you wouldn’t hear anywhere else. Often the things unsaid. His pauses were masterful. Stuff that couldn’t be taught, but were envied and copied. Wilson was Cronkite for his generation in Toronto.
When the CRTC issued the Regulations that required more talk on Canadian FM radio, Wilson shone. Brian Thomas was the leader. Wilson was The Star. Some of you reading this who were The Kids will remember his generosity. Larry Wilson didn’t destruct from Ego. He kidded us that radio was "a toy". His talent seemed to come too easy. At least to him.
Larry was defined by who he was on the air. Wilson. For years it was the only way I connected with him. Off the air he seemed invisible.
One day he came to me and asked to get off of news. He was burned out on bad news. He needed a change. So finally he became a Jock. Of discs. And he brought his passion with him.
He was willing to try anything.
When The Stones played Buffalo but Keith couldn’t come to Toronto, Wilson covered the show as if it was the Superbowl. His "color" commentary put us in Rich Stadium as The Radio played the music back at the station. Later, he even did his show from a rollercoaster.
Once, at The Canadian World Music Festival at the CNE, Wilson was backstage with the musicians doing interviews between sets……on the radio and into the crowd. As Nugent played guitar from his trailer we almost had a riot. Wilson was playing with his "Toy".
When Whistle King won The CHUM-FM Supersessions, Larry became their manager. It was mostly bad luck that he missed it when Bob Ezrin recorded them as The Kings.
Then radio changed. Larry could have done mediocre better than most, of course, but why? It wouldn’t have been Wilson.
By then we had become friends. Our ladies Larry and I, went horseback riding weekends outside Peterborough. We said goodbye when it was time for New York. God, how I would have loved to have taken him with me!
Great Radio is about more than music. Ninety minutes of non-stop rock doesn’t create a culture for the radio station that the core can hang onto. It might as well be Muzak in the car. Some of us re-invented our radioselves to fit. For whatever reason Larry Wilson would not. A bicycle store in the tropics. A projectionist in Toronto. For him radio was somehow no longer an option. As, perhaps with Jay, Terry, and Byron it was a long way down from The Mountaintop. But it was Larry’s choice.
It is a tragedy. But I’m consoled by the memory. I’m only happy to have been part of it.
Thank you Wilson.
(Larry Wilson died of a heart attack January 5, 1997. He was 55.)
CHUM, Toronto -- THE LAST CHUM ARTICLE
This from Marc Chambers, who worked there as a Jock in the final years:
By the time you read this, 1050 CHUM will be a distant memory although, not too distant I hope. Choosing to convert to All Sports (at 3pm, Monday, May 7, 2001), 1050 CHUM leaves a legacy of memories including a colourful array of true radio personalities that graced the airwaves.
I'm proud to say that I was a CHUM Jock for the majority of my career and was extremely fortunate to work with some of the best people in the radio business. There is an "energy" about CHUM that is hard to define, an energy that is a part of the building, a part of the mystique and definitely a part of the history. I've heard hundreds of CHUM stories over the years and I'm sure that I'm even the subject of a few along with the likes of Duke Roberts, John Rode, Daryl B., Terry Steele, John Majhor, Scott Carpenter, J. D. Roberts, Mike Holland, Russ McCloud and Jay Nelson. Add to that, Dick Smythe, Brian Skinner and son Kori, Bob Macadorey, Al Boliska, Larry Wilson, Brian Henderson, Jim Van Horne, Roger Ashby and Tom Rivers. The list is endless. What a history.
Some of Canada's finest radio Programmers graced the "South Wing" of CHUM including J. Robert Wood and Duff Roman. When I was transferred to CHUM in 1986 Duff Roman was running an FM station that had just launched their new morning show. The station was CHUM FM and the morning team was Roger, Rick and Marylin. As for Bob Wood, he remains a legend at 1050 CHUM. Personalities were born out of this mans vision, as was a unique Top 40 sound that became a legendary part of contemporary radio and a thumbprint for CHUM.
CHUM was the station to be at in the 60s, 70s and 80s and everyone else wanted to be just like them. CHUM was the Beatles, the Stones and Led Zeppelin. CHUM was The Ex. CHUM was "Don't Say Hello". CHUM was your favourite pair of jeans. Just right.
I got my dose of CHUM through CFUN who employed the same jingles, music, Personality hype and culture to create Vancouver's template of CHUM. CFUN battled CKLG while CHUM battled CFTR. That was radio! I grew up in Vancouver yet, I feel as if I grew up with CHUM.
It was 15 years ago that I arrived at CHUM following the famous tower incident in which two residents of the apartment building opposite the radio station decided that CHUM's flashing neon sign, mistaken for a broadcasting tower, was causing interference on their tv. Using heavy-duty cutters they succeeded in toppling the CHUM sign onto Yonge St. and into a GM Dealership across the street. Mr. Waters had the sign repaired and we just kept rockin!
CHUM has always had the "CHUM sound", a style or characteristic that is hard to put your finger on yet; it is unmistakably CHUM. When CHUM launched Oldies following their attempt at Soft Rock it was definitely CHUM again. The jingles, the memories, the music and the Personalities. I was amazed at how Torontonians embraced the new format. 1050 CHUM was fun once again! We gave away money, trips, more money, cars and even more money and we made a statement in Toronto that 1050 CHUM was the CHUM Toronto grew up with. Moms, Dads, Kids and even Grandparents love CHUM.
CHUM FM is the new 1050 CHUM. It is a Pop music machine much the same as it's AM predecessor and, it is a very successful machine which will continue the spirit of CHUM and it's legend. In fact, most contemporary Canadian radio stations owe a great deal to CHUM for blazing innovative trails in radio throughout our country and for providing professional environments in which to work. And, let's not forget the people who've travelled through the CHUM system.
I feel honoured to have been one of the last CHUM Jocks and I thank Allan Waters for believing in his vision, which, in turn, became such a big part of my life and many others like me in the CHUM family. Goodbye, my old CHUM!
Marc Chambers via Warren Cosford
I hate to admit it, but it was I who totally demolished the Jag XKE while working at KFRC San Francisco in 1967-68. It was the one to be given away on the air.
Afterwards, I was tortured by all the other jocks on the air. Mike Phillips even talked the engineers into running drop’s between Bill Drake’s intro and other recorded liners that "shamed" me for my deed! Les Turpin had just replaced Tom Rounds and when he heard about me destroying the car, slammed his fist into a wall at his country club breaking his wrist.
If Herb Caen had not run it in his Monday morning column as the feature story, I might not have been able to get a job even now in Shreveport.
The Connor Hotel/ Joplin MO
A regional landmark, the Connor Hotel in Joplin Missouri had once symbolized the luxurious height of Joplin’s prosperity, but seventy years later, the Connor Hotel was singled out for demolition. Almost all of the supports had been removed from the structure as it had been prepared for it’s destruction.
Someone inexplicably decided it would be a good place to hold the Joplin Mayor’s prayer breakfast in the doomed hotel after the demolition preparations had been made. A young reporter, Gerry Sorensen was in the hotel covering the event. Departing as soon as the breakfast was over, Sorensen, from KOBC-FM (religious) couldn't have known he would head back to the fallen hotel and report for days afterward a much larger story.
On Saturday November 11, 1978, the Connor came crashing down.
Unwilling to have its fate dictated by dynamite, the Connor collapsed on its own and in the process trapped three men, two of whom died. The suspense of the search and rescue effort caught the attention of the nation and for one last time, the Connor Hotel made the headlines.
I hope you enjoyed the story. It made a big impact and impression on me (one of my first job in news -- would later report for NBC Radio).