One of the best perks of being a jock, was getting to meet some amazing musicians and people like “The Wolfman”.
Robert Smith – The Wolfman, (Bless him) was a gentle, sweet soul. Wolfman would do one live show on each of the CHUM stations, that carried his syndicated Radio show.
After he blew the doors off CFRA -The Wolfman and his assistant and I, blasted over the IP Bridge to what was then called Hull, and I enjoyed a few hours of stories and laughs. I treasure my time with this famous, but humble man. Meeting “The Wolfman” – was one of the highlights of my days at CFRA.
One Saturday, soon after gamboling about with my hero – the phone rang and it was Chuck Camroux, the PD of CFTR, inviting me and my wife to Toronto, with the aim of seeing if I was interested in taking on a shift, in the big smoke. (*Are you kidding?).
We were put up in the Harbour Castle, and Chuck took us out for a wine soaked meal and made me an offer – 6-9 PM, weekdays – Saturday 6:00 am to noon, for the princely sum of $20 K a year.
Of course, I tried to look cool – but it was a large YES.
I flew back to Ottawa and gave my two-week notice to Al Pascal (Paul Ski had moved on up to CHUM at this point).
CFRA made a matching offer. Too late - I had signed a new two-year contract with Rogers.
CFTR had a moving company pack up our apartment in Alta Vista . We grabbed our cats, jumped in our rusty Mazda Rotary (piece of crap) and hit the road – arriving in Toronto, bedazzled and in the hunt for a house.
We found a lovely older home on Sunnybrook Road, just off South Kingsway, near Bloor.
It was perfect. I could drive onto the Gardiner Expressway to the Station (at King and Adelaide), in about 20 minutes – and I also had the luxury of the Bloor and Jane Subway stop, just up the hill.
I was in for a shock.
I walked into CFTR a day before I was to start, to be introduced to the staff and the amazing guys that became my two regular ops. David Grein and Carlo Raponi, were the two gents that ran things for me, on rotation - and we all hit it off.
After introductions, Chuck smiled and asked if I was busy for next few hours.
“How would you like to do Noon to three P.M. today?”
Thrown in the deep end, I sat in for Dick Joseph and I was off to the races.
I was told after the shift to slow down a bit – but over all, I guess I passed the test, because I was given the green light to make my official debut, the next day.
1976 was a great year for music, and the Radio Wars in Toronto were really heating up.
1050 CHUM had ruled the roost for years and Rogers decided to challenge them head on. Keith Dancy ( our GM - a really smart man) and Chuck Camroux had their work cut out for them, to make this a fair fight, with CHUM.
CFTR’s TX Towers were in a crummy array in the South East part of Ontario and we had trouble with coverage.
The Station used a slight reverb to make it sound fuller – and believe me it was run as tight as a drum. We never had a moment of silence. Talked up to the Vocal (or as we used to say, “hit the fade”) or used a post in the intro of the song, and we also laid music under the superb PAMS jingles.
News was still part of the equation. Clint Nickerson, my UVic pal, and CFTR newsman, shocked me when said he had just found a new gig – so I, sadly only got to do just a few shifts with him.
Larry Silver was my news partner and his slug lines were legendary – and very close to the line of, uh, shall we say ‘clean’. He could make a dog napping story sound like the flight of the Hindenburg. He was a genius. If I had a buck for every time we shared a few Metaxa’s at Cyrano’s , I’d be rich today.
I was in my element, and I fell in love with being part of such an exciting station.
Toronto was the Big Time, in Canada, and still is.
It was a TONG war between CHUM and us. I had mixed feelings, because Darryl B., my pal from CFUN, was at CHUM.
That faded after the first ratings book came out but Darryl and I would sneak off and have a visit and not a few beer – strictly a no-no – but we didn’t care.
If you knew Darryl, you would know that under his rough and tough exterior was a very warm and kind of lonely fellow. His best pal was his little dog Buffy.
Truly, Mr. Burlingham was one of the best jocks to ever work here in the frozen north. He even made a stop at the Big 8 (*CKLW), in his career.
We had some talent at CFTR. Boy, did we ever!
Jim Brady, Paul Godfrey (host of his own TV show “Boogie” – he died far too young), Dick Joseph, Broadway Bobby Day, Red Knight, Rick Hunter, and my pal from Ottawa days, Bob Saint.
Our weekend guy was Glenn Walters. A great announcer – Glenn was, shall we say, eccentric.
I was sitting in for Red Knight (PM Drive) one day and Glenn was to come in at six PM to do my shift.
Six came and went. No Glenn. I was getting a little peeved. About 6:30 PM, the door to the jock booth slammed open and an ashen-faced Walters, reeking of booze, literally fell into the booth.
“I’m sorry Tommy. I got in a jam”. (Only Glenn could get away with calling me Tommy – I just loved the guy).
I asked him what happened. It had been a sweltering day (as only TO can be in August) and Glenn said he had been relaxing with a beer on his veranda, when the postman came up the driveway.
“So, what’s the big deal with that”, I said, or something equally clever.
Glenn – with a straight face said “ I got down on my hands and knees and crab walked over to the postie and bit him on the leg”.
I was flummoxed. “Why did you do that Big G”?
He said – with a totally straight face – “because my dog is on vacation”.
The postie called the Cops and wanted to charge Glenn with assault and they hauled him to the station in Etobicoke, or so he maintained.
Toto, I didn’t think we were in Kansas anymore.
One of the so called “perks” of being a jock was getting nailed to be an ‘emcee” at shows presented by CFTR.
The biggest one I ever handled were Fleetwood Mac, Boz Scaggs and Kenny Loggins at the CNE. I was on stage in front of 85,000 people. Let me tell you – it is quite a rush saying “Good afternoon”, and 85,000 faces turn and look at you. It was intoxicating. John McVie of Mac, was a really nice cat – and I also saw something that shocked me. Stevie Nicks warmed up before the show, uh, not exactly using nasal spray – if you catch my drift.
That was a rare highlight as an emcee. Why? Because usually the promoter (Michael Cohl, in this case) hated deejays and would only usually allow us to introduce the warm up act to the main event. That got old fast – but I got to meet a ton of the biggest stars of the era, and I was very fortunate to spend some time with them.
The most charming of them all was Linda McCartney. She and Macca and Wings played Toronto and there was a reception for them at the Harbour Castle. I was over the moon – I was going to meet my musical hero.
McCartney could not have been kinder. Friendly and chatty,(I was speechless) but it was Linda that blew me away. Much more lovely than her photos would suggest – I wound up sitting and chatting with her for about 15 minutes. She asked me what it was like being a deejay, and about my Family.
Charming would be the best word to describe that lovely lady. Even all these years later, I still think of those 15 minutes and always say thanks to Mrs. McCartney for being so nice to a schmuck like me.
When Linda died, I was heartbroken for Macca and his Family – but I kept the memory of Linda like a locket in my heart.
I still think of her occasionally – especially when McCartney plays Wings songs.
Styx, Rick Derringer, Billy Joel, Jerry Jeff Walker, Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, Bee Gees - it goes on and on.
Pressure? What pressure? We were neck and neck with CHUM at around a million cume. It was so close. We had the CFTR Rumper Patch people sewed on their jeans to win prizes. We gave away trips to Cuba (just starting as a tourist destination at Veradero Beach, etc, etc).
I got a whole two weeks off a year. I worked six days a week (we all did in those days) and invariably on my Sunday’s the Promo department run by Dan Plouffe would have me off doing something for CFTR. I loved it.
But – with all that excitement – the biggest musical thrill of my career was right around the corner.