Apparently CJET was being inducted into something called the Eastern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame.
CJET had started in 1948. People like Rich Little had worked there and a ton of radio names like Rich Winter and Rick Peterson whose still on the air in Montreal.
My amigo called me just like he did 30 years ago asking me if I wanted to go. He’d asked me all those years ago if I wanted to work at the station.
I’d just come back from California and needed a job.
My training for my minimum wage job as an overnight operator was one night with Pat Wylie who wasn’t making much if any more than I was.
We talked chicks, the Sex Pistols, and other strange things that young guys talked about at odd hours of the morning.
I was a quick learner. Yes, some of my confreres had gone to Loyalist to get a degree in Radio, but they made the same as I did and mostly what they seemed to have was more experience.
They knew how to cut tape way better than I did which we’d spend hours abusing PSA’s with. In those days you’d hunch over the reel to reel decks with a razor blade splicing audio tape together to edit.
You’d record your final product to handy carts; sorta like 8 track tapes that you’d slam hard into the players and pot in when needed or for giggles.
Potting was the use of the pots on your console that ran things. You’d have engineers coming in and tinkering with your board and equipment. Usually strange grumpy old men that liked to play with wires….
My first night live was a date night. It was a double date and the girls thought nothing would be funnier than to drop some acid into our drinks so I was deposited at the station near midnight just ready to spin some records. Of course our loyal Country listeners started to call in as I ripped up some Rolling Stones and Doors tracks on their beloved CJET.
It was fun. I was young. It was in some ways like Fast Times at Ridgemount High without Phoebe Cates. We jocks were wary of the strange news people who seemed to out rank us and be bossy. The sales staff were to be hidden from as well as management.
When you worked overnights you were master of your domain. You could travel the halls and learn, read, snoop, and rub margerine into people’s arm rests on their chairs.
Not many of the people I worked with are still in radio. I remember the names, Joe King, Mikey Oates who drove that Cordoba, Mike Richards who sadly died; Peter Conroy who could be quite the partner in strangeness, (the most fun learning how to set Anne Murray records on fire live while playing on the air and waiting for the melt down) and the very very different Scott Richards who was sort of our Les Nessman in WKRP parlance. We used to watch him methodically clean snow from his Dodge Dart as though it was a religious experience. He doubled as music director; something he took far too seriously…
Of course who wouldn’t like being locked in a room with thousands of records at that age? Or being able to blast them in a tiny studio with huge monitors which is why I’m kinda deaf in one ear to this date 🙂
CJET was country which was painful to me. I’d search out the least country songs I could. The station manager at that time was corrupt bundle of weirdness named Hal Botham. He’d been around forever and was the morning man. He made up these freaky religious shows on tape that if I was working on Saturday nights would have to play Sunday mornings.
I’d get calls from him screaming as I’d play the raunchiest music I could before his show and I guess looking back all these years “Life Size Wife Size plastic blow up girl by Mel McDaniel could have that impact on the late Mr. Botham….
It was finally decided that it was time for me to go on air; not by management, but by my bretheren. We started doing comedy bits late at night and with me reading weather reports although I’d usually toss away the actual reports and make stuff up. I’d get the phones blinking on some of those.
The treat or bonus was getting shifts on Q101 whose slogan was “Mellow Rock with a Touch of Gold.” Get it? Wink Wink! I loved working on that side of the window as I could have way more fun with the music.
Our studio was about 12×12; probably a bit smaller. The large phalanx like microphone was in my face; snickering and giggling confreres behind me.
I was ready though; even after Joe ran around to the other side of the glass in front of me and dropped his pants and spread his cheeks against the glass (our cleaners never were paid enough!) essentially in my face and eye line.
The boys had cued up a Bruce Cockburn album. Of course I’d never heard of Bruce at that time and their devious plan worked as the song ended; I flipped the mike on, the red light lit up and I did my voice over….phonetically…..
I had officially burst my cherry to their merriment and here I am 30 years later writing about it and those ghosts of the past.
CJET is no more; neither is Q101 and the company that owned it. It was bought out and its call letters are now owned and used by an Ottawa station.
Local media is so important in many ways. It’s harder to keep alive too, but it’s so important in so many ways. One of my fellow workers, Kevin Atkinson ended up with the area start up near Perth; Lake FM. I haven’t spoken to him in years, but I hear he’s quite happy.
It’s one of the reasons I can’t wait until we get Seaway TV live here in Cornwall. When we had Seaway Radio for a year it was a blast. It was local; it was live and we had some great guests and a lot of fun. Mayor Kilger, before he decided to implement this bizarre boycott of all that’s CFN was our first guest.
Our First Radio Show
I still sound like a gay hamster on air. I guess I always will; but geez it was fun, and I think it always will be too or as the Stones sang “It’s a gas!”
So I end this piece with a toast and salute to all those little boys and little girls who love and have loved working in radio and media. To all that I worked with those many moons ago and to all those that I work with in the future….