Part 28: Culture Shock

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 28: Culture Shock

Postby Brian Lord » Mon Jul 05, 2010 5:20 pm

Brian Lord's Radio Stories # 28
Culture Shock.

First another Cop-out. It' has been a bad time in the Philippines, again. For me. ... I got struck by Lightening and haven't sent anything to Radiowest since sometime in May. I have a 100 ft pole in my back yard which is grounded to a long piece of iron down an unused well on our property. However, on the pole is the terminal where my wireless service signal reaches me and a second wire runs from the receptor up the poll and ends at the back of my computer. Mid-May I was sitting here with the mouse in my hand just about to disconnect the computer because there was a thunderstorm getting close when..... ZOPPO. Part of the bolt hit the back of my computer and there was a flash of light, about like when you struck one of those old kitchen matches. Accompanying this was a hideous loud noise. The lightening burnt out a bunch of computer guts, all the fuses in my accessories, and jolted me which I felt from my fingers to my toes. The mouse has a metal strip on it. My chair - with me in it - was blown back about two or three feet from the desk which I was told happened because of the thunder. The way it was explained to me the thunder is the bang the air makes when it is displaced by lightening... something like blowing up a paper bag and smashing it with your other hand and it makes noise. The outcome of this left me weak for a few days and I just now have my computer back with all new innards. I sent out email to my close friends telling them what had happened and they mostly sent back "glad you're Okay" notes. But radio people are not characteristically understanding sometimes. Three in particular ignored the fact that I had nearly ended up somewhere else. I signed my email "Billy Batson" of the comics whom you may remember said SHAZAM and turned into Captain Marvel. Dave McCormick wanted to know if I had met Clark Kent and Lois Lane who worked at the Daily Planet - completely unconcerned for my brush with whatzisname. Brian Forst was worse. He wanted to know if I was wearing the PANTS he gave me last year when I was in Vancouver. (No) But the most disappointing email I received was from my friend Rupert Winchester of the London-based Reuters News Agency... a friend with whom I worked in Hong Kong. "You are a stupid bastard. You live in a Lightening - prone part of the world with a 200 foot steel pole that rises above the jungle canopy and is attached to your house and by extension to you and then wonder why you get hit with lightening." It's only a hundred feet and I don't live in a jungle... they are mango trees.-------------

Dave Chesney is about 15 years or so younger than I and he started hanging around his Dad's station, CJJC, shortly after I arrived. But I must go back a bit because last time I mentioned some of the really fun people we had but the real fun started when Dave Chesney came to work. Hold on to that thought.

When I first arrived at CJJC, I was met with a great quietness. There were monitors around... in the can, in Joe's office in the newsroom but it seemed like a great stillness had descended on this funny little radio station at the end of downtown Langley. There was a small staff... Joe said he felt it was possible to run a station with no more than a dozen employees and he was proving it because that was the number of employees. There were a couple of copy girls, somebody did the log, there were two newsmen, about four or five DJ's and an engineer who had a passion for rum. The Program Director, Barry Bell is a good guy but he soon became a reporter at QM and that's where and what he should have been from the beginning. Barry struck most folk as impossibly boring until they got to know him. I wanted to pump some life into the solemn halls and with the help of others we created an atmosphere that resulted in the owner looking around one day and throwing his hands up in the air trying to figure out what had happened. He must have realized he'd lost control.

Anyway going back in time, Barry Bell held DJ meetings once a week. But there was nothing to talk about because there was nothing happening. We had a pretty strict format consisting of new and a bit of old music. Joe Chesney ran a tight ship. He had the final say and although it happened very seldom, he sometimes exerted his dominion-ship. An example: after I had taken over as PD, The Beatles White album was released and I thought I could get away with playing Rocky Raccoon. Joe wrote me a nice note asking to let Rocky out of his cage because the line "Rocky came in, stinking of gin..." wasn't really the kind of image he, Joe, felt would increase an audience. Joe's secretary and I had little agreement from Joe when we thought Proud Mary by Credence Clearwater would draw listeners. The policy of the station was to play A) Country Music and B) Canadian Country Music. That meant a lot of Wilf Carter. I can no longer abide the sound of Wilf Carter than I can the Chipmunks. Hank Snow was okay but in small doses. Joe Chesney and I were heading for a programming battle of wits -- I wanted Waylon Jennings, Connie Smith and George Jones and he wanted Hank Thompson, Mother Maybelle, and The Osbourne Brothers. We had long talks and I gained a few points but there was only one man who ran that ship and it wasn't me. Joe was a grass-roots farmer-sympathizer and I wanted to blast the newly arrived Country-Rock sound. At a much later date, there was one person in the station, Joe's kid, who began to make his old man see the light.

I absolutely cringed when Joe and one of the old salesmen -- Bill Somebody -- broadcast the New Westminster Day parade. Yup, on radio. We had a guy who did a 15 minute show,.. maybe it was half an hour but whatever, it was too long... talking to merchants at the Guildford Mall in Surrey. Also we did an hour broadcast from Haney across the River which was designed to get Haney people listening to CJJC. What the hell do you talk to Haney People about and besides the full-time salesman, part-time announcer who ran the Haney Hour liked to play hoedowns.

But I had developed a kinship with Dave Chesney. He and I, although years apart in age, believed in the same wild side of life and had matching sense of humours. It was Dave who turned my head around about Stompin' Tom Conners "Well it's Bud the Spud, from the bright red mud, rollin' down the highway smilin''. The spuds are big in the back of Bud's rig... they're from Prince Edward Island." And Tom had a plywood board that he stomped on and drank a lot of beer. Tom Conners takes a lot of explanation which I am not about to dwell on. After all he was a Maritimer and they is differnt.

So slowly but surely the station began to change it's sound. We hired some good jocks, I mentioned Ched Miller, but the best of all was a guy named Mike McMann who takes a whole shitload of explaining. The word on him next time: I had to call on Dave and Rob Carlyle, another jock-friend, to fill in the details with which "Madman McMann" had surrounded himself. He was nuts but one of the funniest breakfast announcers alive and it's too bad in many way that he never became known in the Vancouver area. Like a lot of us at Langley, he didn't last that long.

Dave and I and a couple of the copy girls used to drive down to Blaine, Washington about once a week for lunch. We had a postal box there so the US record companies could send us music without going through customs. (We hid the records and ignored Customs of course, a trick I had learned at CFUN back in the early 60's.) We had an evening DJ who was a complete off-the wall wacko named Mike Dodman; Rob Carlyle and I took up golf together (most of the station had a fling at golf) and he fit into the CJJC that I knew and loved when I left it for good. We had the best newsman (at least he had the best voice) in the lower mainland and sometimes we'd get together socially: Roy Jacques.

It was the early 70's that I was getting to like booze to the extent that it was unhealthy. It was beginning to infect me because booze can be, to some people, a strong poison and it can sting like a hornet. People used to drop hints but I ignored them. One day Joe came out and found me fast asleep (passed out) at the wheel of the CJJC mobile radio station we used for remotes. I was parked behind the station but the engine was still running. Well that was the first time Joe suggested I find a job somewhere else, he didn't need an alcoholic running his radio station. I never blamed him, in fact, then -- and now -- I admire Joe Chesney (who has passed away) despite the fact he ended up canning me three times and hiring me back twice.

I was a periodic alcoholic... I'd drink vodka from "mickey"s hidden in my car all day long until my system got overloaded and I would get terribly sick for almost a week. That was my condition for the next few years. Sober for maybe five or six months then out of it for a few weeks. The word 'periodic' simply means that there were breaks in any given year instead of no let-up at all. When they hit they were devastating. I have known lots of guys in the radio business who turned into alcoholics and stumbled all the way down to some little frequency in northern Saskatchewan. I was eventually able to dry out but it took a few years and the help of a good friend. But it cost me.

Enough about me. To try and give you an appreciation for this radio station, I managed to make contact with a couple of the old announce staff at CJJC including Dave Chesney, quote "It was like a real life WKRP Cincinnati". The story is worth telling. Next Chapter. In some ways I struggled through this part of my life with a lot of luck which simply means I was not a no-talent juice-head that belonged in a gutter. There was something entirely different about CJJC. It's as if it was from another part of the solar system -- whatever -- we had a good group of characters and it was a lasting experience. To be continued.
Brian Lord
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Re: Part 28: Culture Shock

Postby Steve Sanderson » Mon Jul 05, 2010 6:01 pm

Well "Billy Batson" ...I'm glad you survived the lightning strike!
Waiting for part 2.
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Re: Part 28: Culture Shock

Postby radiofan » Mon Jul 05, 2010 10:17 pm

I always liked the way the old CJJC building on Fraser Hwy shook everytime a loaded dump truck or an 18 wheeler went by.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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Re: Part 28: Culture Shock

Postby tuned » Tue Jul 06, 2010 7:55 am

I loved the burgers from Big John's next door.
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Re: Part 28: Culture Shock

Postby hagopian » Tue Jul 06, 2010 6:14 pm

Glad to see Bryan made it through the latest scrape. That he manages to survive in the P'ines is a testament to his staying power. Bad pun.
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