CFTR in Toronto
was the start of it all
They made me the manager
but, America called.
We’d created a format
that became the new way
It turned out so well
I still use it today.
Happy that Roger Sharon & Elshaw
all helped it along
But alas too soon
twas the end of that song.
Growing weary of the “old guard” attitude at CFRA, I was almost too ready for the call I got from a headhunter one morning. He told me that he had been instructed to check me out by the owner of a radio station in Toronto who was looking for a new Program Director. He also claimed that they were down to the wire because they were about to choose from the three final candidates when my name came up. The problem was that my interview needed to be done today in Toronto, but he understood if that wasn’t possible. The combination of being bored and his sounding like he was hoping I couldn’t make it was too much for me to resist.
A couple of hours later I’m at his office in downtown Toronto where he’s trying to persuade me to take some kind of an aptitude test which I was refusing to do. By now I’ve already figured out that the station in question had to be CFTR so even I’m mad at myself for coming. After telling him that I had no interest in discussing CFTR if, in fact, that was the station on the table, he almost looked relieved. When I asked him if he could call me a cab, he said, ” it won’t be necessary because I’ll drive you back to the airport as soon as I make a quick phone call.”
When he returned, he claimed that his client wanted to personally thank me for coming and within minutes in walks Keith Dancy. Keith turns to the headhunter as we shake hands and asks what the test had revealed about me. When told that I refused to take it, he looks back at me with an inquisitive look on his face which I shrug off by saying, “Only a miracle could fix CFTR. I doubt very much if there’s one lurking in that test. Also, if someone were to come up with what it would take to fix the almost unfixable, most owners wouldn’t have the stomach to go through it.” Hold that thought Keith said as he dialed the phone and says to whoever answers, “Ted you gotta meet this guy he’s a piece of work.”
Moments later as Keith is introducing me to Ted Rogers (pictured below) he says, Ted, George here thinks that you don’t have the guts to do what he thinks it will take to take to fix CFTR. Ted’s only response was to ask if I would do them the honor of joining them for an early dinner.
While making some small talk at dinner, Keith suddenly turns to me and says let’s play a little game called “what if.” For example, what if I told you that we agree with you about how bad CFTR is but what if I also told you that we’d let you do whatever you wanted to do to fix it, what kind of money would it take to get your attention?
Not being prepared for that question I quickly just doubled my current salary, and the table was silent for a moment until Ted leaned over to me and asked if he could throw in a car. And just like that, I was the new Program Director of CFTR in Toronto.
About a week later when I was back in Toronto with Lana house hunting, Ted invited us for Sunday brunch at his home. When the taxi dropped us off at this beautiful old mansion, we were greeted at the front door by a butler, and I remember thinking, this is sure a long way from Transcona Toto.
Before sitting down for brunch, Ted proudly showed me the radio tube that his father had invented long time ago which was enclosed in a beautiful glass case. The tube his father had invented allowed radios to be plugged into an electrical outlet rather than run on batteries. While I’m admiring it he says, “George what you’re looking at is the past, after brunch, I’m going to show you the future.”
After we were all done eating, Ted led me to his den where he had me sit down in front of his TV. He, then, handed me a brown plastic box containing three rows of buttons. Next, he turned on the TV and told me to push all the buttons one at a time. When I did, the channel would change each time I pushed a button. Ted explained that what I was watching was called Cable TV and in the not too distant future it would be how most of us would be watching TV.
When he asked what I thought of it all, I told him that it was mind boggling, but I couldn’t help but notice that every fourth or fifth button had the same programming on it. “That’s your problem, he said, you’re the programmer; I’m just an engineer.”
Guitars & Radio & Wild Wild Women. (We’ve Only Just Begun) Chapter XVIII
After moving to Toronto, it didn’t take long before I was ready to pitch my plan for the new CFTR to Keith and Ted.
In Canada, your license is predicated on your programming, and CFTR’s license stated that it must be programmed for adults. Back in those days radio stations who had adult licenses usually played artists like Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Mel Torme, and Steve & Eydie but as I said to Ted and Keith, only my parents like that kind of music. My wife and I including all of our friends dislike that kind of music and seeing as we’re all in our early 30’s we’re hardly kids anymore. What I want to do is to aim the radio station at my wife and all her girlfriends by playing the kind of music that they like.
When Ted asked if I was planning on rocking, I told him we definitely weren’t because as I had learned long ago, women love guitar gods, but they hate their music. Ted suggested that I take my plan to the CRTC and if they liked it so did he.
Within a few days few days I was back in Ottawa again but feeling a little nervous because this would be the first time I’d ever met with the CRTC. Most radio stations only let their lawyers do the talkin’ for them so I had no idea what to expect, but they couldn’t have been nicer. Not only did they greet me warmly but they also claimed that they were big fans of my work at CFRA and congratulated me on my new position at CFTR. They then asked why I was there and when I explained that I wanted to radically change the music on CFTR but Ted Rogers wanted me to run it by them first.They surprised me by saying that they didn’t care what kind of music I played they only cared about who listened to it. Just like you, we’ll be very interested in your ratings, if it’s mostly adults all is well, but if isn’t, Mr. Rogers can expect a call from us.
Adult Contemporary Radio was born at that very moment, now all I had to do was get back to Toronto and figure out what the hell that was.
After telling Ted and Keith about my meeting with the CRTC, they now only cared about how quick I could get the new format on. Luckily CFTR had an extensive library, so I was able to carefully pick and choose the perfect music.
On March 15th, 1972 after an ice storm had knocked us off the air we signed back on with North America’s first ever Adult Contemporary radio station which would end up becoming one of the biggest music formats in the world.
Within hours of our launch, the Toronto radio community was up in arms demanding to know how we could change formats without going through a public hearing. They believed as they also did in Dallas when we launched the same format a year or so later on KVIL that if it was a hit, it had to be rock. I could only hope and pray back in 1972 that the 30-year-old women who lived in Toronto knew the difference. The Toronto broadcasters who were all whining had no idea that the CRTC was well aware of what we were doing and just like we were they were also anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new rating book
The station was very smooth, and the music was all familiar, but I believe that the magic was in the music we weren’t playing. When you also have some of the best voices in the business on the air like Bob McAdorey, Earl Mann, Roger Klein, Sandy Hoyt, The Magic Christian, Doc Harris, and Stirling Faux, you can’t help but sound adult. I was so proud of all our guys and couldn’t help but send a little bragging demo to Jim Hilliard whose only comment was that they all sounded like production guys, but he kinda liked the music.
Guitars & Radio & Wild Women (Don’t Worry Be Happy) Chapter XIX
After our launch, my assistant PD Keith Elshaw and I spent most of our time listening to the radio trying to find and pull all the tunes that didn’t fit. OK, can you spell NERVOUS! The new rating book is out and not only are our numbers fantastic, but they’re all adults. Whew!
After calling Ted with the good news, I spent the rest of the day smoking cigars, drinking champagne, and hangin’ with the crew. I had to take it easy though because I had an early morning flight to LA where I was joining Keith Dancy at a radio convention. When I arrived at the airport the next morning, I was delighted to discover that magically my ticket had been upgraded to first class.
Needless to say by the time Keith picked me up at LAX I was so wasted that Keith took one look at me and said that we’ve gotta get me shaped up fast if I was ever gonna make the opening cocktail party. Not to worry he said, I know just the place, and the next thing I know is that I’m sitting in a hot tub drinking orange at some fancy spa that looks like we’re in ancient Rome. At some point, I’m led to a private room by a blonde goddess who tells me that she’ll be right back and that I’m to disrobe and get under the sheets.
Once back she starts by rubbing my neck and shoulders with a warm scented oil which made the miles all but disappear. As I began to drift off she says, your friend next door has upgraded you to our “special” massage, and when I asked her how could it possibly feel better than this, she said trust me.
It all began with the arrival of great ratings, and now it looks like it was gonna finish up with a “happy ending.”