Guitars & Radio & Wild Wild Women. (inside the world of radio & records) Chapter XIV & XV Running Back To Saskatoon Chapter XIV & XV (edited June 11/17)

11826022_10154067139699307_3849871369170343459_n-1Packed up my family
and headed to Saskatoon

Promised them all
we’d be back real soon.

Knew upon arrival
I’d need my own team

If this move was gonna
kick start my dream.

My first radio hire
was a hippie named Gar

He helped me a lot
as we gathered our stars.

Sebastian and Woody
were part of our gang

When we added Alfie and Doc
we came on with a bang.

When my daughter Candis was born it put me through some major changes. I knew that I wasn’t a good enough as a musician to support a family so when Bill Grogan (pictured) offered me the music director’s job at CKY, I left the Jury.
Leaving the Jury was no easy thing because it meant giving up on the dream that Rolly Blacquiere had dreamt when we were kids. In fact, Rolly and I had been in bands together for most of our life, but now it was time for me to move on. Surprisingly when Randy Bachman heard that I’d left the Jury, he called almost immediately and tried to get me to join the Guess Who. When I laughingly told him that I was barely even good enough to play for my own band let alone the Guess Who he claimed that he could teach me the music stuff but what they needed was all that other stuff I do. I told Randy that I was very flattered by his call but that I’d made up my mind to give radio a shot and see where it leads.
In the long run, I made the right decision because I was a hell of a lot better at radio than I ever was playing the guitar. The only bad thing about my new job was by the time I got a full-time position at CKY the Americans were already gone so it wasn’t near as much fun but it still beat working for a living. The only fun we had now was when John Wells and I would go up to Chan’s moon room to drink somebody goodbye and flirt with Embree McDermid. Em wasn’t a wild woman or a “bad girl” either, but she definitely was a MILF.
13238908_10154847424739307_8046440284813590518_nAs fate would have it I one morning when I was returning an album to the on-air studio, I overheard George Dawes  (pictured above) who was on the phone telling someone thanks but no thanks. When I queried him about the phone call, he said it was the GM from CKOM in Saskatoon who was looking for a Program Director. When I told George that I was sure interested in becoming a program director he called them back and the next thing I knew I was on an airplane to Saskatoon where I became their new Program Director.
As exciting as this opportunity appeared to be there were a couple of major issues with it. I was taking the only grandchild away from doting grandparents, and I knew nothing about programming and my wife wasn’t thrilled about the move either. I assured them all that we’d be back soon because I was going to fix CKY as soon as I learned how to be a program director.
All Lana ever wanted to do was raise a family in Transcona, and all I ever dreamed about was becoming the program director of CKY. Little did we know that we’d never live in Transcona again, we’d just boarded the high flying rocket ship called success.

Jim-BarbFlying to Saskatoon for my interview for the PD’s job at CKOM was only the second time I was ever on an airplane. My first had been a couple of months earlier when my old boss from CKY, Jim Hilliard (pictured today with Barb) called and told me to jump on a plane and come visit him in Philly. Jim had just been made the new PD of WFIL, and he wanted to talk to me about moving to Philadelphia to do promos for him.
After white-knuckling it all the way to Philadelphia and then filling out all the necessary paperwork, it was time to jump into Jim’s bright red Caddy and head out for dinner with his wife, Barbara. When we arrived at “Bookbinders” the joint was jumpin’ with lawyers who were all wearing their matching uniforms. You know, spiffy navy blue pin-striped suits with matching vests, yellow and red striped power ties, and of course the regulatory red suspenders but they were no match for our table. Jim was wearing a maroon colored Nehru suit with a huge gold medallion around his neck and Barb had on what can only be described as a Toga. The toga was snow white and trimmed in gold which matched her hair that was piled high on her head. She also had little ringlets that sort of drifted down to frame her face, and of course, it was all topped off with a gold tiara. On her fingers were a couple of fancy baubles along with snake-like gold bracelets which wound their way up from her wrists to her elbows. The white Roman sandals that she wore had straps on them that crisscrossed all the way up to her knees.
While enjoying our meal we spent a lot of time just catching up on what had transpired since we last hung out in Winnipeg which included the fact that Lana was now pregnant. At some point, I started to notice that we were being stared at and when I mentioned it to Jim, he said, “they’re just pissed ’cause I make more money than they do.”

 

Guitars & Radio & Wild Women. (We Gotta Get Outta This Place) Chapter XIV.

Gar-Me
Why we were headed to Saskatoon on this cold and frigid day instead of Philadelphia was because you can’t just wander over the border like they seem to do today.  You need a work permit and the way you get a work permit is to get your name on a list and wait. When I got on that list, I was a board op at CKY in Winnipeg, and when I finally got to the top of the list, I was the station manager of CFTR in Toronto.
So now instead of Philly, I’m in Saskatoon where I’m hunkered down in a hotel monitoring the radio station. The plan was for me to listen to the station for a few days, make some notes and then go in to meet the staff and discuss my notes with management. After only two days of listening, I was nearly crazed! They featured easy listening music in the morning until a piano player showed up at nine to play sing-along tunes for an hour with the morning man. At 10:00 they switched to Country music followed by Top 40 at 4:00 and bunch of talk at night. I didn’t know much about programming back then, but I knew enough to know that this would never work so into the station I go.
After meeting the staff, I sat down with one of my new bosses and begin to go through my list of things that needed to be ripped off the air immediately. After hearing nothing but crickets I look up to discover him sitting there red faced and angry looking, and that’s when realized that I was probably talking to the guy who had actually had put all that s**t on the air. 
That meeting cost me at least six months so while licking my wounds I decided to fix the produced sound of the station seeing as my first love was production. We were also down one announcer so based on J Robert Wood’s recommendation I hired Gary Russell (pictured above with me) who only had one question for me upon his arrival, what the f**k is all this! 
Management was so pleased with our new production sound that they gave me a raise, but when I tried to tell them that we needed to do more than that to fix the ratings they didn’t believe me.
Sure enough, out they come, and they’re disastrous. Now management panics and wants to know how long would it take me to change the sound of the station. It turns out that the owner was returning from his winter home in Palm Springs soon, so they wanted the station to sound completely different.
It is said that the definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity and because Gar and I were hoping for this moment we were totally prepared. Gary was familiar with CKLW’s formatics, so he already had a clock ready, and all we had to do now was gather the talent. We kept Ken Sebastian Singer from the old crew, brought in Keith Elshaw from Toronto, Doc Harris from Vancouver, Ron Andrews from Regina, and Woody Cooper from Omaha. Woody, it turned out preferred the freezing cold of Saskatoon to the explosive heat of Vietnam as did Dylan Thomas who we later brought in from Albuquerque. 
We had everything in place pretty quickly so now it was time to launch our exciting new sound which we did just in time for the start of the next rating period. 

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Our new format scared the sh#t out of most of the old staff, but it did attract a new listener by the name of Joni Mitchell. Joni who was a native of Saskatoon (pictured above) just happened to be in town when we launched our new sound, so she came by the station to give us her new album. She was with some long hair and while there was kind enough to do a taped interview with us. While taking a little break, she introduced us to her companion who turned out to be Graham Nash of the Hollies. Graham told us that he had just popped into Saskatoon to visit with Joni for a few days before heading south to LA where they were forming a new group called Crosby Stills & Nash.(pictured above)
It seemed like forever until the new ratings came out but it was worth the wait because they were killer. We’re #1 in every daypart except mornings where we rose all the way up to #2, hey maybe we should have kept the singalong piano guy. 🙂 
Everything was perfect, or so I thought until the owner popped into my office to ask if I was ready for the big meeting this afternoon. I just laughed and said that I didn’t need much time to prepare for a celebration and he shocked me by saying that the meeting was anything but a celebration. He went on to say that the sales department was finding it difficult to sell the new format and wanted some of the old ways back. OK, now I’m really in shock, so I immediately call my mentor Jim Hilliard for advice. Jim tells me to go into the attack mode and rip them a new one. Feeling a little better after talking to Jim I call my wife to warn her that I’m about to rain hell down on everybody so she should stay a little longer in Transcona where she was visiting her folks just in case I don’t survive the meeting. Instead of panicking as I expected, she told me to do whatever I had to do because we could always live with her folks.
It’s real easy for a man to be strong and brave when his family is backing him so when I walked into that conference room, I was walkin’ tall and loaded for bear.
Everybody was seated when I arrived, and the meeting started out cordial enough with the GM congratulating me on our good ratings. However when he got to the part about our having to fix a few problems I stood up and said, you’re right you do have a few problems, and most of them are sitting in this room. Someone I went on to say should have anticipated that there would be some resistance to our new sound and should have prepared a plan on how to overcome it. We should be out on the street there showing our clients how many new listeners we have and how they can to take advantage of our good fortune. Instead, it looks to me like our sales department was caught flat-footed and were totally surprised by the new rating book. We now have the statistical justification we needed to show that not only is our new format is working it’s working well. If you want the old ways back, I can assure you that I won’t be the doing it and with that, I walked out.

 

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