Chapter 11 - Road Fever Starts to Get to Anyone after awhile

Chapter 11 - Road Fever Starts to Get to Anyone after awhile

Postby Tom Jeffries » Mon May 06, 2013 6:51 am

Straight up and honestly – I was running away from everything that my last twenty years had accumulated. I don’t know about you, but life for me has been a series of ‘eras’. I have met and loved and fallen in and fallen out of clamp dip – in various degrees in every one of them.

Being a Radio Deejay doesn’t instill a feeling of security, at any level. You are only as good as the last rating. And you can always get dropped because the new PD hates your guts - or GOD FORBID; you make as much money as the sales people! It used to be a running joke at every station I worked at. Look at the Station lot. See the nice cars. Ok - now see the bent crap in the corner? Guess who owns the shiny Beamers and ‘Vettes? Yeah - the sales guys that sold ME, every night and one day a weekend. They sold MY vibes and good presence of mind and they made a great return. The people that create rarely got rewarded.

The Morning slot was where the most money was billed and Morning announcers were some of the richer of our brothers and sisters. They are worth every penny they can squeeze out of the greedy owners. Try getting up at 3:45 for he next twenty years, brother or sister.

That doesn’t mean I felt hard done by – I liked it. Music was a big fabric of my life and I sure wasn’t going to ferry yachts for gazillionires, as I fell further into my Forties.

I headed to Hong Kong. I stayed for a few nights at the International and booked what was left of my JAW ticket – to get back to Vancouver. It was time for the adventure to end.

I arrived back in the City and was happy to be back, even if my Parents were alarmed to see that I had lost a ton of weight. I had left a little heavy and dropped like 45 pounds. This is a good thing, because I tend to prosper at 175 instead of 200. Think the ticker has had one hell of a run, and so I try and give the B/P a break.

I was so hyped travelling in Mexico, and dealing with Jo Ann, that I had ben put on Adalat for a few months, by a fine heart Doctora in San Cristobal de Las Casas. I loved this specialist. She was Indigenous and smart as a whip.

I only went to the dentist ONCE in Mexico – because I was terrified of getting something more than sore gums. (*That was another stupid move, that I would pay dearly for).

Returning to Vancouver was a bit of a shock. It was so clean and green, it just about hurt my eyes. My Parents had kept my Olds in their Driveway, in Abbotsford – and the old Gal was not happy to start up, after I called BCAA, for a jump. My Father sheepishly admitted that when he arrived back from Hawaii, he had forgotten to give the engine a shot. That Olds was a fine automobile that I eventually gave to Jared. The Transmission had to be replaced, after a friend, who got the car, burned it out by getting it stuck for me, in a search for strawberries (don’t ask). I had to install heavy-duty shocks, for hauling the U-Haul. I tried it on the stock shocks and it was miracle I made it home. I came within an ace of being killed. Driving up West Fourth, I crossed a street on a green light, and a white convertible hurtled through the red light and missed me by a few feet. I stopped on the curb. A bystander ran over to see if I was OK.

So – here I was. I had a few bucks but I needed a gig.

This time with my ever so generous friend, Phil Mackesy and his amazing wife Trish, let me stay for a while. I was stone-broke. Phil was a staunch non-drinker. A thanks doesn’t quite cover it. They were both sweet.

Later in life I found out that I was allergic to only two things, Asparagus and BREWER’S YEAST, it answered part of the problem I had, drinking beer like it was soda water. I loved Mexican beer – the best is Pacifico – available in most of Northern Mexico and I saw as far afield Hawaii. In hot climates, most of the people I knew drank like water buffalo. It started early and ended late. We would buy pails full of Sol and drink from 1000 in the morning. It was nuts. In Asia, I had graduated to adding more of the damn Mekong.

I don’t know how Ted Farr of CKWX AM 1130 got a hold of me at Phil’s house. I was asked if I wanted to come down to 2440 Ash Street and sit in for Jim Fraser for one morning, because Fras was not available. Would have to ‘struggle through’ with the company of Greg Douglas and Cam McCubbin, and see and hang with Teryl Rothery (went on to a nice career as an actress, out of Vancouver).

It was like magic. It had been a few years since I had touched a board. This was going to be interesting. I had to be there at 500 am., or so – and the Olds coughed and sputtered into the parking spot across from the station in plenty of time. I have always been punctual. I think doing shift for so many years you get time crazed. I hate people that run late all the time. I judge it as rude if you take up part of someone’s busy day by blowing off an hour off his or her time as you stumble though your schedule. I never got it. Sorry. I think that I have a bit of OCD too – because I am nit picky on a few things. I also found out that I write a lot better with the music on than the sound of my fingers on the keyboard. Little Duke Ellington is nice.

The one shift went by fairly quietly and I made it clear that I was going to be short and sweet – and the crew was very welcoming. I left my number in a thank you call to Ted. (*Still one of my favorite people – I have a lot of cool friends).

In the next few days I was watching my life go down the drain, when a certain Chuck MCoy came back into my life.

He asked me to take a meeting on a Tuesday and we got right down to brass tacks.

Would I be interested in doing PM drive at the new KISS-FM, that Rogers was launching? “We are just soft launching,”, said a soft-spoken McCoy. The money was fair and the benefits were generous. I was introduced to the Program Director, Dale Buote, and the upstairs staff. Payroll etc. He loved his job, and I loved mine and he knew that I was dependable to sit in for the morning show when our team was off on their well-deserved breaks. Terry Reid and I had been wingers at CFRA in Ottawa – and he is one of the classiest guys going. All we di was laugh. He is a GREAT commercial reader as well – and has been on the top of the game for 40 plus years. I have always been a fan. He worked with a woman named Marianne.

KISS-FM played “soft Rock”. Meaning something with a beat for cardiac patients and heavy on the Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. Our main competition was CHQM-FM – and the dogfight went on for years.

Terry Reid and Marianne split up – and Terry left to become a stalwart for CHUM’s CHQM. Fred Latremouille and Cathy Baldazzi were hired (yeah) - as ‘Fred and Cathy in the Morning’. As the kick off, we had people given chances to win a trip with Fred and Cathy to some exotic spot, where Fred would do his morning show, it was huge, they were huge, and KISS-FM started to make some inroads.

Freddy carried a lot of the audience over from CFUN, so we had a hot start. We had a promotion that sort of gave us a hint that people were into the station (Lots of Phil Collins, Lionel Ritchie, Madonna, and Whitney). We had a team giving out logo’d mugs at a Skytrain station on Burrard street and they were mobbed. Heh, maybe we were onto something!

CKWX changed to “all-news” – and things got really intense. The war was on.

The Satellite Radio Network experiment wound up dead by the side of the road, and

KISS was killing. The money was rolling in for Rogers and the work was pleasant if a bit tedious. I also voiced a lot of commercials. The station was aimed at people that were chained to their desk all day (*at work listening*) and so their “TSL, or “time spent listening” went through the roof, and giving the sales guys another arrow in their quiver.

Selling Radio is no picnic and so my hat is off t the people that paid my salary. They all made a to of money, we saw very little of it and Sales were stingy in most stations. There, I said it. KISS-FM, and Sharon Berry, was a different story and I was treated with such generosity it was heart warming.

I did lots of remotes that made the Taxman happy. I also did interviews for Julie’s “Vancouver at Noon. Book interviews and it was addictive. Julie (although I am rather biased) was most generous and I got to met some amazing people – from Darr­­­­yl Sittler to Farley Mowat to George Plimpton, to Lord Jeffrey Archer, ‘Hurricane’ Carter – Jennifer Warnes, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore of the Doors. I could go on for weeks. It is very enjoyable, and I was told I was getting better at it.

I also filled in for Fred when he was doing their “Wake Up” promos or when ill. Fred was having issues and I was called a lot. I did the Morning show in 1995 and 1996, more than Freddy did. I was well compensated, but was NOT getting Morning man Money and in the end I was tired, to be honest. Getting up at 3:45 is hard enough when it is a regular thing – but when it is every now and then for a few days a week it just destroys you. I asked to be relieved of the duties in 2000. Little did I know that I was about to find out that was to have weight on my future with Rogers. The Companies care NOTHING for their employees. They are a number. How much =do they make for the shareholder. Fall below a certain level and you are back to working as a club deejay. I was always treated well – but had the feeling that deejays were taken advantage of, because we were classed as dim, or something. Well, we couldn’t have been that dim. I got to sit in an office, drink coffee, play Beatle records, and you were sitting in a tunnel lineup.

So, I better put things in perspective.

One thing drunks have is a problem with perspective. Impulsive and silly, we make bad breaks and sabotage our own story I just about did it a few times at KISS-FM, but I was lucky, because Julie I spent a lot of time gig to AA. I have been in a liquor store twice in 23 years and it felt odd. The money I wasted on booze was phenomenal. I apologize again to my two ex-wives. What a waste, we could have been renting a yacht each winter, with the money I was pissing away.

Radio is really smoke and mirrors and as we always say ‘theatre of the mind’. It is a weird way to make a living. I sit in a room, with input from various sources and talk into a piece of Plastic (inevitably German made) and that is interspersed with tunes. It’s all rather weird, really. I think it also is about to undergo a sea change, as a matter of fact all media, is.

The reason? Smart phones, Tablets, #Twitter, Face Book, VINE, APP, the list is endless. People no longer are chained to local offerings. Their smart phone enables them to tune in smooth jazz from Cologne; heck, even record it, and so you don’t need a local outlet. In other words = NOW, all radio stations are competing with every station the WORLD, on some level.

#Twitter has added sound and video and soon will have ad insertion. Then people with some apps already available, will get paid to #tweet. #twitter has changed the wy ppl spl. The instant features of Instagram and VINE and other cool stuff makes the old box in the corner as out of date as a buggy whip. He only way TV makers stay in business, is if they make sure that their box is Internet ready and simple. If not. Kiss it all good-bye. SHORT, SHARP!

Well enough of the crystal ball gazing.

Oh, yeah, KISS-FM.

I was puzzled when the phone rang, in the spring of 2000. The head of HR asked me to come to her office right away.

I had no idea what awaited me, just a few feet away.
Tom Jeffries
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