Chapter 15 - Radio Schmadio

Chapter 15 - Radio Schmadio

Postby Tom Jeffries » Thu Jun 13, 2013 4:11 pm

Chapter 15 – “Radio – Schmadio”.

If you were kind enough to stumble through my ramblings, you have probably figured out that I was very proud to be a Broadcaster, and equally happy to say I worked at CFUN – CFTR – CFRA – CJCH – KISS-FM, and CKNW, CFAX, among others.

I was blessed to work at the end of the last Golden Era of Radio. Top Forty Radio really took off in the 50’s and by the time I got to it – it was on its last legs. BUT – with that being said – I would be lucky enough to witness the wackiness of Disco and Heavy Metal, first hand.

The people in the Music Business are fascinating. Bruce Allen is an acquaintance and I have seen his magic first hand. David Foster and I went to school together, and we all knew, even we were in grade 8 – he was bound for glory. I worked for some of the smartest and also some of the stupidest people in the world.

I saw a lovely change in a sexist business, during my years. When I started in the late Sixties – the only women in the broadcast facility were the receptionist and in the account department. The exception was Ruby Masters, at CKDA. That woman was a legend and someone should make a movie about her. I was scared pantless of her, and I wasn’t alone. She ran CKDA, for David Armstrong, like a Demagogue.

By the time I left the business – half the staff, or more are women. I have always been fine with that. If you can carry the freight – your gender has no place in the discussion. I worked with some KILLER, women broadcasters. Kathy Danford, Casey White, Joanne Sutton, Katie Rebak, Susan Booker – all talented, and that is just a couple of the greats.

So, our Industry was growing up. I liked it.

I have had women producers and never have had a problem with it. I only had one woman that I worked with that I had problems with, and it was just a bad mesh of personalities. I made peace with that very nice woman, after the fact. I hate being in tussles with people.

I want to take a few minutes and lay out what a Radio Station looked like, when I started. There would be a few rooms with mikes and control boards to make commercials. There was a newsroom with clattering AP, BN and CP news feeds, and coterie of smoking newsmen.

Everyone smoked.

The Control Room at CFUN had an ashtray the size of a Buick. I can’t believe any of us saw our 40th Birthdays!

We used 45’s, occasionally Albums and Cartridge machines, for commercials, jingles and promos. These cartridges were clear plastic rectangles (where we taped an info about the promo on a tag taped on front of the cart) – they had an endless loop of tape in them. The recording on the cart was triggered when a button was punched on the board and a tone on the tape, told the tape it was over and it would re-cued and ready to use again. They were all filled in carousels on our right or left – Hundreds of them. Some of the music would be in cart, but the quality on AM radio was bad enough – so we tried to keep it on vinyl.

You ran the control board like a big circle and you used it, you filed it, or your Control room would turn into a graveyard of disorganization. When I say a Circle – imagine…you start on your left – cuing up a new record. Filing old record, turn right a bit and make sure promo copy was ready. File all commercial cartridges right after they are played and the same with promos. (Start the circle again, repeat). We had a “format”. A Circle broken up like a pie chart, showing you where you added the elements. It would be a Song, promo, jingle, whatever. While on the air -All the time you are also ‘backtiming”. That means you have all the elements in the show – and have it end at the exact time, when the news started. Want to die? Get a newsman on late <grin>.

The mikes we used – were often Shure, but most likely Sennheisers. FM would always be Neumann’s. Now, let me be honest with you. Learning to use a Mike is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it is an art. In and out, close and far – you learned. It was harder on FM – because the sound was so live. AM was mud in a lot of frequencies – and so we would be able to yell and hit the ‘fade’ on songs, with little consequence.

When I first went live on FM, after 30 years on AM, I just about fell over. I could hear myself breath. It was a whole new ball game.

The Business of Radio itself is shooting itself in the foot.

The intimacy and the art of the business has given away to make money at all costs, hire cheap and play the same songs as everyone else. In the old days, he says laughing ruefully, you would work in a small town and learn the skills. Now they hire kids and they sound like hell. So – people are not listening. They have Apps on the Iphone that can tune the world. Vancouver used to be an exciting market. It is lame now. The copycat formats, the terrible jocks and the computer ‘voice tracks’, have destroyed what I loved. *Yes, I sound like a bitter old jock. I am NOT at all. I had my time, and was blessed.

I have been tempted to go back – but – have resisted.

You cannot win in radio, unless your audience likes the people and how the Station makes them feel. Now the feeling is gone. Now it’s corporate.

Now it’s all bucks.

The big Companies dropped all the veterans and went cheap, around the turn of the Century – because Stations were now free to own more than 2 stations in every market. It used to be one FM and one AM and that was it. Now a few big Companies own the game and that’s why the stations are about as exciting as watching a monkey on a rock.

Not a week goes by when someone doesn’t ask me about radio. I am always astounded when someone says “man, I listened to you for years”. It means a lot to hear that. You see – we never have anything to show for our work. Every show I have done will head out into Space forever…someone will hear me on Mars. I never air checked, and kept them. Why I didn’t take pictures?

Thanks for reading. Now back to Iphone and the Rolling Stones.

I wish you a long and happy life.


The following Opinions are mine:

Best Jock: 1/Fred Latremouille 2/ John Landecker/ 3 Larry Lujack 4/ Red Robinson 5/ Pat O’Day /6/ Lan Roberts.

Honorable mention – Daryl Burlingham.

Great wingers: Jack Casey at CFUN (*one fine dude) – Jon McComb – news early at CKVN and later at CKNW – always has been one killer broadcaster and consistently kind and fun to be with. I admire him very much.

Nick Ozinski – We bonded when Nick produced the “CKNW Weekend News”, for me. He and I just hit it off. He is a talented singer and is just one of those kind of great folks that light up any room.

Shirley Stocker – one of Canada’s Premiere Producers – she made a star of many CKNW personalities and was a blast to work with. One of the cleverest and most savvy people, I have met. When the chips are down, bet on Shirley.

Nice Bosses: You know of my admiration and affection for Chuck McCoy – but I should also mention again, my thanks to Dale Buote for being an incredibly supportive and brilliant PD. He made KISS –FM, along with Chuck, into one of the most successful Radio Stations , in the Country.

Al Pascal: CFRA. Al was a great jock and a very kind and patient boss – with his Wildman (me). Thanks for being there, Al – you were one of la crème, my friend.

Randy Seabrook: Although Randy fired me at CKPG for all the right reasons – he was also one of the first that suggested I might be pounding too hard. I didn’t listen of course, like most pig headed alcoholics. Randy was also a top 40 jock of great facility – CJME Regina, was his roost for a few years. You tried, Randy.

Best Radio station I ever worked for: CFTR – CFUN – tie. Both great.

The Worst: 600am – Vancouver. Staff great, Management – poor.

Best Board Op: Not Even Close: J. Lee Smith

Favorite Interviews: Ray Manzarek of the Doors was a VERY nice guy. Ra McGuire of Trooper, class and talent, Paul McCartney, Lou Rawls, Glenn Frey, Lloyd Robertson, Billy Preston, Darryl Sittler, Barry Gibb, Bill Kinsella, Bill Gauvreau from Ottawa’s “Octavian”, Howard Kaylen – The Turtles, John McVie, Billy Joel (*very funny and candid), Lord Jeffrey Archer, Elton John, Randy Bachman. (And 234 *more less/others), and I actually shook Muhammad Ali’s hand. That was very thrilling.

I enjoyed working at a Nightspot called “Richards on Richards”, for two years and I wish I could talk about the time I spent there, but I think it is off limits –as this is about radio – not partying.

As for Radio.

Would I do it all again?

In a heartbeat.

Thanks to Ted Wendland of for the chance to give you a taste of this book.

Gratitude: Julie for bugging me to write this. Apple Computer, for machines that don’t crash, or have to be updated every fifteen minutes.

To the people that no one ever sees, the technicians, engineers and operators that helped me do my job. I worked with some very smart people. I came to get very close to the guys that ran the board, while I sat in the studio and cued them for them to hit the son, or the interview. The job is very pressure packed and very few are great. J. Lee Smith was great – but I had Carlo Raponi and David Grein at CFTR and Bruce “Fingers” Panton, at CFRA. Paul Baruzzi handled things for “Latremornings” – at KISS-FM – and he was very good to me, when I sat in so many times.

The hardest thing about Media is the blows to our ever fragile egos. The talent is always underpaid (*I won’t whine too much). You are selling me, and I want a bigger piece. Simple. Doesn’t happen that way and it makes me angry.

Radio is a buggy whip business and will be gone in 10 years, or at least how we remember it. There are too few people that know how the art is dome, left. Punks with MA’s decided they knew better.

Every year the income falls and they wonder why. I will let you guess what I have to say, because after a while, the axe grinding gets tiresome.

This is a great Country but we made a very large mistake in employing a Canadian Content rule for Radio. You cannot legislate taste. If it is a good song, it will get played. Don’t force me to play 1/3 of my content made by Canadians. I could care less. If it’s good, it gets played.

The Canadian rules drove me bananas. It drove us all nuts. I played some really BAD music. Some was foreign, but a lot was, *SORRY – Canadian. Terrible.

It hamstrung us.

Too few people, own too much. The business is one for entrepreneurs. Why should one group own a ton of stations? Give me a break.

Television was never going to be in my future. I hate it. I cannot stand the makeup and the recognition. I don’t ever want to be recognized. It happened a few times in the early 80’s and I hated it. Writers, and us Deejays don’t truck for a big crowd.


Tom Jeffries

June 2013
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Re: Chapter 15 - Radio Schmadio

Postby isthisthingon » Thu Jun 13, 2013 9:07 pm

Well, old buddy - I'd say you nailed it! When we started working for Gord Cruse (direct from Radio Caroline) it was an Ampex with Maurice Foisy VT on the left, board in the middle and pre-recorded reels of really awful easy-listening music-like product on the right. 18-years old, $300 a month, allowed to give one or two time checks an hour, working at the top station in Victoria (for no discernible reason). We were kings. :salute:
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Re: Chapter 15 - Radio Schmadio

Postby Anotherwpgguy » Fri Jun 14, 2013 11:55 pm

Hag Old Buddy Old Pal .....

Best set of hands on the board? Jeepers ..... thanks fella. I appreciate the consideration and recognition.

I'm planning a trip to YVR early next month after attending a reunion at Air North in Whitehorse, and since I was their first full-time pilot after my time in radio, I wouldn't miss it.

I'll be grabbing a rental car and doing a little reminiscing for a day then on to Sechelt to help a buddy set up an antenna system for his ham radio equipment ...... you on for a quick visit?

I'll check back on the forum in a few days for an answer.
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Re: Chapter 15 - Radio Schmadio

Postby Tom Jeffries » Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:17 pm

* Thanks again for reading - and if you would allow me, to make one BIG correction. I neglected to give proper respect and reportage on the contribution J. Robert Wood made to CFUN. When the Station was in deep clam dip, he arrived, and by 1981, the Station was doing some great things. One of the reasons CHUM was a powerhouse for many years, was J. Robert Wood.
I have some fun memories of a certain Hallow'een party - ask Stu Ferguson about the night. He might remember. :-)

I apologize for not mentioning Mr. Wood more in my narrative. The older I get, the memory is starting to get hazy. I would also like mention Russ McLeod and the late Ron Abel and Russ Tyson and Bob Merchant. I told you I worked with some great jocks. How about Jim Hault? Tom Lucas - John Rode, fer' heaven's sake.
How lucky and blessed I was. Thanks to, as well - Robin Hagenbuck - one of the most patient producers in the history of the World. I appreciated each session.
Thanks for letting me correct an oversight.
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