Just a thought… Radio is the most intimate and socially personal medium in the world. [Harry Von Zell]
Hey – first of all, thanks if you were one of many who posted on my public FB page about the fact that BC is going to align its Family Day with the rest of the country next year. I don’t know where I was when that news came out, but I will be sure to mention it on my midday radio show today here in Victoria. And speaking of radio….
Today is World Radio Day, so I am going to wave the flag and sing the praises of my favourite medium, and tell you why it always has been and always will be, too, for that matter. I hope it’s yours, too.
When I was a kid, I would have a cassette recorder at the ready and tape (yes, tape) songs as they played on the radio. I thought deejays on our local radio station, AM 800 CJBQ in Belleville, were gods. When Randy Quinn did an interview with Wilbur, a rodent from Omeemee, I thought it was hilarious (and soon learned when I got into radio how to speed up the tape and make those chipmunk type voices, too). New Years Day I’d run a tape on the whole countdown of the top songs of the past year and God help anyone who came into the room I shared with my younger sister when the tape was running. ‘Cause I was hooked!
When I spent summers at my grandparents, I had 1140 CKXL out of Calgary keeping me company on a tiny transistor radio that had two prongs that flipped up out of the back so that you could charge it every night. Cool technology from Panasonic, I’m pretty sure. I would go to sleep listening to Garner Ted Armstrong preaching on a show called The World Tomorrow and I couldn’t get the radio on fast enough in the morning to hear my favourite Top 40 songs. Clear as day, I remember keeping that little black radio in an apron pocket as I hung out or retrieved laundry for Gram.
Radio was my life even before it became my life. You remember being in the car with your parents, begging them not to turn off a song just because a guitar solo had started. “It’ll be over soon!” I would say in desperation. (Most of the time it worked.)
You probably have your own stories. The song that came on when your heart had just been broken or the one that made you jump up and dance until your hair was wet with sweat. The soundtrack to your summer, the moments in your mornings that still stand out to this day. The deejays (later to be known as hosts, thank you) who made you laugh, made you think, made you cry, made you feel you weren’t alone. Best of all, they played the songs you loved…and a few you couldn’t stand, but you remembered – always – that another one was coming right up.
You remember where you were when you heard on the radio that something huge had happened. The morning after John Lennon died, I had CJBQ on, was about to go to school (college by now) and was washing my hair in the kitchen sink. As I heard the horrible news through the whooooosh of the water, I pulled my head up so fast I hit it right on the tap…and trust me, my day didn’t get any better.
When people, some of them reporters, have asked me over the decades how radio will survive CDs or satellite music or Spotify or whatever else has come down the pike, I’ve always had the same answer: it will survive because radio is all about the human connection. Anyone can hear their favourite song now at the touch of a button. But there’s still something special about hearing that song come on when you’re not expecting it, or hearing one for the first time and wanting to hear it again right away.
One of the biggest regrets of my career came on the 12th of September 2001. We’d been there on the radio on 9/11 when the Twin Towers were first hit; Michelle Butterly (whose birthday it is today!) talked you through the impossibly sad events that happened in the hours to follow.
But that night, having just launched a format called the 8 am All-Music Hour a week earlier, my boss (not the one I loved and had to leave in 2016) called and said that we’d go back to all music; that everything that had to be said about the event had been said(!). In other words, rather than give people what they needed – comfort, information and just someone they knew was with them in this time of confusion and fear – we were to shut up and play the music. I had to do as I was told; it was terrible advice and I had no choice. Today I would not let that happen – no way.
Because it’s that connection, the answer to the question “is my world safe?” as my radio mentor Valerie Geller puts it, that makes all of the difference. I hope it’s what radio will always do and I also hope, in some way, to be a part of this marvelous, magical medium until my days are done.
We can hope. Tomorrow – speaking of radio magic – I have some very exciting news. It has to do with you (hopefully), me, a riverboat and a very special someone whom we all love. Tell you soon!