Category: CBC (Page 1 of 9)

Parting Gifts

Me and Peter Chin in Radio MCR circa 1989

“How else you gonna be?”

That was Peter Chin a few days before he left us. We were talking on the phone. He wasn’t in great shape. They’d taken him to the hospital a couple of weeks earlier because he’d woken up with no feeling in his legs. He couldn’t walk anymore. I may have the details wrong. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that he’d been cheerful during our call though he must have known the prognosis wasn’t good.

“I have to say, Peter, you sound pretty positive despite everything,” I’d told him.

“How else you gonna be?” he said.

It was a gift. Peter had been good to me right from the beginning, ever since we’d met thirty-four years earlier serving the nation’s broadcaster in Radio Master Control. He’d mentored me, and I was awfully fond of him, and now here he was in the last week of his life and he had to have known it and he wasn’t anywhere near old enough to be in the last week of his life and he was cheerful. It kills me to think of it. But it was a gift he was giving me, it wasn’t an act, I’m sure of it, it was really Peter showing me that you could face that sort of thing, the end of your own life, with courage and grace and I will remember it to the end of mine.

Then there’s Gus. Gus was my next door neighbour, had been since 2001. He passed away a couple of months ago. You may think this is sad, me writing about good people dying, and of course it is, it is definitely sad, but it’s a part of life (“the last part,” a friend’s father once said) and we arguably don’t talk, don’t think about it enough. But bear with me, please, I promise you it’s not all doom and gloom.

The last thing Gus ever said to me was a joke. He’d had surgery and it hadn’t gone well. In fact, it had signaled the beginning of the end. He never got better. And he was sitting on his porch in his eighty-fifth year with the woman he loved, who loved him back more than anyone I’ve ever known has ever loved anyone, and who was there with him right til the end, and he was watching my wife and I move a ridiculously heavy couch from our basement to our living room through the front door.

“Good for you, Joe,” he told me, in his soft Scottish lilt. “Making your wife lift the heavy end.”

Gus knew the end was near but he faced it with good humour, joking to friends, family, and nurses alike right to the end. We lost him a few weeks after he poked fun at me.

My father-in-law Dave spoke to me via video from the hospital bed from which he would never rise.

“How are you, Joe?” he asked with genuine interest, my well-being somehow, impossibly, important to him during these last few hours of his life. “You look good,” he added, his attention firmly directed on those around him rather than on his own predicament.

I am not at all sure that I will be able to muster anywhere near the same courage and dignity when my time comes, but having seen it done now I shall certainly try.

Bill Lane. (Boy, I really feel like we’ve lost a lot of fine people in a short span of time this past year. I think about them often.)

Bill’s family reached out in his last few days, soliciting memories from those in his life. I shared one on Christmas Eve, honoured to have been included. So did many others. There’s a picture of Bill on Facebook taken on Christmas Day after having received those memories. He appreciated us celebrating his life. He’s lying in bed smiling. Smiling, though he would be gone a few short days later.

You see, don’t you? It’s possible to smile at the end. To joke, even. To be positive in the face of certain calamity. I am sad, thinking of my friends. I wish I’d gotten to know each of them better, spent more time with them.

But I am also braver courtesy of their parting gifts.

Glossary

One of the items in the glossary.
Who remembers this?

I’m putting together a glossary of terms related to broadcasting, mostly about radio, for an upcoming book. I’ve attempted to put the definitions in my own words.

Here’s a draft.

Anybody care to check my work?

Any and all suggestions welcome.


Acoustic chamber: A small enclosed recording space with sliding glass doors located in Studio 212 (the drama studio) in the Toronto Broadcast Centre. It was used to replicate specific acoustic environments such as the interior of cars. No longer in existence.

Analog audio: The word analog itself (sometimes spelled analogue) means something comparable (analogous) to something else. In the case of sound, analog means recordings in a format (such as tape or vinyl) capable of reproducing continuous, uninterrupted vibrations comparable to the original sound waves.

Audio console: An electronic console used to combine audio from separate sources (such as microphones and musical instruments) and send that audio elsewhere, such as for broadcast or to a public address system or to record it. Sometimes called a “Board” or a “Mixing Desk.”

Audio Systems: What the CBC radio maintenance team used to be called.

Backtime: An instrumental piece of music used to end a radio show or part of a radio show over which the announcer spoke.

Baffles: An object or device used to reduce sound. We used large sound baffles on wheels in Studio 212 to create smaller acoustic environments simulating living rooms, offices etc. on the large studio floor.

Board: See Audio Console

Bounce: Create a two–track (stereo) version of a sound file from multiple tracks.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC): Canada’s public broadcaster, a federal Crown Corporation funded by (but operating at arm’s length from) the Canadian government. “CBC” refers to the English language service; Radio-Canada refers to the French language service. CBC/Radio Canada also broadcasts in multiple aboriginal languages.

Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC): Canada’s first public broadcaster. It came before the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).

Capsule distortion: When a microphone overloads creating an unpleasant sound because it’s receiving too much acoustic information (everything is too loud for the microphone).

Carbon granule microphone: The first type of microphone. Essentially granules of carbon in an enclosure, one side of which is a thin metal or plastic diaphragm that compress the carbon granules when struck by sound waves. Capable of producing high level audio signals with very little power. Used in early AM radio and early telephones, and still used today in certain applications.  

Cart: An industry standard endless-loop tape cartridge developed in 1952 under the brand name Fidelipac. From the fifties until the late nineties, radio stations used them to play every kind of audio material from music to stings to station IDs to sound effects.   

Compression: A low concentration of air particles moving through space.

Compressor: A type of audio gear or software used to reduce dynamic range, which is the difference between low and high levels in a piece of audio.

Condenser microphone: A type of microphone that requires power (called “phantom power”) to function. Generally higher quality than dynamic microphones and used to record more delicate sounds.

Confidence clock: A clock in a studio connected to Radio Master Control with a countdown timer and a light (typically red) to let you know when you’re going to be on and off air.

Console: See Board.

Continuity: When audio can pass successfully from one location to another, such as from a studio to Radio Master Control.

Cue speaker: A small speaker on an audio console for auditioning audio before using that audio for a broadcast or recording. Also called pre-fade listen, or PFL.

Dalet: A networked desktop audio editing system used by CBC Radio from 1996 until it was replaced by DaletPlus .

DaletPlus: The networked desktop audio editing system that replaced Dalet, essentially a more sophisticated version of Dalet. 

Digital Audio Tape (DAT or R-DAT): A recording and playback medium that was developed by Sony in the mid ‘80s.

D-Cart: Also called Digital Cartridge Editing System. A digital audio editing platform developed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the early nineties that CBC installed in 1993 and used until replacing it with Dalet in 1996.

Dead air: Unintentionally broadcasting silence.

Dead Room: An acoustic environment in Studio 212 with no hard surfaces for actors’ voices to reflect off, simulating an outdoor environment. No longer in existence.

Delay System: A system to record everything CBC Radio broadcasts to Atlantic Canada that plays that content back an hour later for the Eastern Time Zone, and so on to time zones further west until the content has been played back for the entire country. In this way every Canadian can hear their favourite show at exactly the same time, subjectively at least.

Destructive interference: When longitudinal sound waves are 180 degrees out of phase and cancel one another out, resulting in no sound.

Dialogue Edit: A small CBC Radio studio used primarily for editing dialogue tracks for radio plays. No longer in existence.

Digital Audio: A means of reproducing sound waves by accurately measuring and recording sufficient sonic information over a specific period of time to record the information as a sequence of numerical samples.       

Direct Box: Instruments such as guitars can be connected directly to audio consoles via these small electronic devices, eliminating the need to mic the instruments.

Discrepancy: A deviation from the broadcast schedule as it was supposed to air. For example, when an announcer doesn’t show up for their show in time, resulting in dead air. See “Fault”.

Distortion: When the original shape of a sound wave is altered, often by increasing the gain. This can sound good with musical instruments, but it usually sounds bad with voices. 

Double-ender: When an interviewer back in the studio talks to a guest on the phone while an audio technician records the guest out in the field. Afterward, back in the studio, a tech eliminates the poor phone-quality recording of the guest, replacing that recording with the high-fidelity recording done in the field.

Dubbing: Making a copy of a piece of audio.

Dynamic microphone: Dynamic microphones operate by suspending a coil of wire connected to a diaphragm inside a magnetic field. When sound vibrates the diaphragm, the coil vibrates and produces an electrical signal.

Equalization: Increasing or decreasing the volume of different frequencies of a selection of audio.

Euphonix System 5: A high end digital audio mixing console. The Euphonix System 5-B replaced the Neve Capricorn in Studio 212 in the summer of 2003. We liked it so much that in December of that year we put one in our Music Mobile recording truck.

Fader: A device used to increase or decrease the volume of audio. Physical faders typically slide along a track in a console. Virtual faders in digital consoles appear on screen.

Fault: See Discrepancy.

Feed: Audio content distributed across Canada, and sometimes to and from other countries, to be used on various CBC Radio shows.

Feedback (acoustic): An unpleasant screeching noise usually considered undesirable (except in certain kinds of music) created when a microphone picks up an audio signal and broadcasts it via a speaker back into that same microphone at sufficient gain and at just the right frequency to ensure a feedback loop. Also known as the Larsen effect after the Danish scientist Søren Absalon Larsen, who first discovered the principles of audio feedback.

Foley: Creating sound effects for radio plays, television and film. Named after sound effects artist Jack Foley, who originated the technique for film.

Gain: How loud the audio (input) is before it’s processed.

Hourlies: CBC Radio newscasts broadcast at the top of very hour, four and a half minutes long, and read by a single news announcer.

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network): At CBC Radio we used ISDN units at to broadcast remotes. They were basically high falutin’ phone lines. We’d plug the output of our remote console into an ISDN unit which would in turn be connected to a phone line to transmit the audio back to the Toronto Broadcast Centre, from where it would be broadcast. The official definition is “a set of communication standards for simultaneous digital transmission of voice, video, data, and other network services over the digitalised circuits of the public switched telephone network.”

Lavalier mic: A small microphone intended to be unobtrusive, usually with a clip allowing it to be attached to clothing.

Lining up: Making sure the audio from a studio can reach radio master control before a broadcast. Involves a time check as well to ensure the studio clock is showing the correct time to ensure the broadcast starts on time.

Mix: Adjusting multiple sound elements into a pleasing whole via an audio console by a sound engineer, such as for a piece of music or a radio play, either live or for a recording.

Mixing desk: See Audio console

MS Stereo: Stands for Mid/Side microphone recording. A way to record in stereo that allows recording engineers to control the width of the stereo spread and that can be adjusted after the recording. Patented by EMI engineer Alan Blumlein in 1933.

Nagra: The world’s first portable tape recorder, invented by Polish inventor Stefan Kudelski, introduced in 1951. Heavily used in the film industry from the sixties to the nineties. “Nagra” is Polish for “will record.”

Neutral Room: A room in Studio 212 that could be used to replicate multiple neutral interior acoustic environments. No longer in existence.

Neve Capricorn: A high end digital audio mixing console. Used in Studio 212 until it was replaced by the Euphonix System 5-B console in the summer of 2003.

NGCN (Next Generation Converged Network): Developed by Rogers Cable Communications and Evertz Microsystems for the CBC to replace existing landlines, and launched in 2011, the NGCN network carries audio, video, and data content between CBC locations.    

Packaging: Putting a radio show together for broadcast later.

Phantom Power: Provides power via microphone cables to condenser microphones and active direct boxes.

Pickup: Recording material either in a conventional studio or in a remote setting. It also means an actor or announcer redoing a line either because they’ve made a mistake or want an alternative take.

Polarity: Two possible choices that are mutually exclusive. In sound, polarity is a question of direction of flow of electrical current

Pot: Short for potentiometer, and another word for fader.  

Potentiometer: A position sensor used to measure displacement in any direction. Potentiometers that slide up and down (faders) measure linear displacement and potentiometers that turn (rotary pots) measure rotational displacement.

Presentational Radio: Presenting content to listeners in a straightforward, unambiguous manner, such as on a newscast or interview show.

 Pre-tape: Taping material for broadcast before the actual show.

ProTools: Professional digital audio editing software sold by Avid Technology

Public Address System (PA): A system of speakers, amplifiers, microphones and other assorted equipment to broadcast audio material such as voice and music in public spaces, either indoors or out.

Quarter-inch tape machine: Devices to record and playback audio using quarter inch tape. Sometimes called reel-to-reel machines. The workhorses of CBC Radio, usually four to a studio, during their heyday before the advent of digital desktop radio (D-Cart, Dalet, DaletPlus). 

Radio: See Chapter Three.   

Radio-Canada: The French language service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Radio Master Control: The central hub, through which most CBC Radio shows passed before hitting the transmitters and the radios of the nation.

Radio Play: A story told by means of sound often employing multiple actors accompanied by sound effects and music.

Radio technician: An individual whose job it is to record, manipulate and broadcast sound

Rarefaction: A low concentration of air particles moving through space

Recording Room: A room in the basement of the Jarvis Street Radio building where radio technicians received and recorded audio feeds for later broadcast and for archival purposes. The room existed in the Toronto Broadcast Centre as well until the adoption of digital technology when it was replaced by a digital virtual recording room.

Reference Tone: A continuous tone, usually 1Kilohertz (1K) used to “line up” audio equipment (adjust playback and record levels). Reference tone is also used to ensure that the audio signal is travelling successfully from one location to another (i.e., one studio to another). This is referred to as “establishing continuity.”

Remote: A broadcast or recording outside of a conventional studio, often for a special event.

Representational radio: Content representing something other than what it actually is, such as the fiction of a radio play.

Rev 5: A type of outboard audio gear capable of producing multiple types of reverberation dating back to the 80s. In other words, it can make a person or music sound like it’s in different sized rooms anywhere from a closet or a theatre.

Reverb: Short for reverberation, reverb is the sound we hear bouncing back from various surfaces in our environment not including the source of the sound.

Rotary Pot: A device used to increase or decrease the volume of audio on a console, like faders only round. “Pot” is short for potentiometer.

Shure FP42: A small portable stereo mixer with four inputs and two outputs, great for remotes.  

Sound check: Testing a sound system before a performance or broadcast to ensure that everything works and sounds good.  

Splitting the board: Using an audio console for more than one purpose at time, such as recording a pickup with the main inputs and outputs while simultaneously dubbing separate content using auxiliary busses.

Sting: A brief piece of sound or music used to punctuate a radio program and/or separate two different sections of a radio program in a pleasing way.

Streeter: Short, snappily edited interviews with people out in the real world, “on the street.”

Studer 963: An analog console, quite common in CBC Radio packaging and live studios from the 90s on until the advent of digital consoles.

Studer On Air 2000: A digital audio console

Swap tone: Low frequency, barely audible tone added to the end of a recording on quarter inch tape for automation systems to detect to trigger a “swap” to the next tape containing additional programming.

Switched 56: A high quality telephone line.

Top and tail: insert leader tape before and after audio for broadcast on quarter inch tape to make it easier for technicians to cue them up.

Travelling Shot: A scene in television, film or radio in which the camera/microphone follows characters on the move without interruption.

Two-way: A recording usually involving a host in a studio in one location and a guest in another.

Video Switcher: Hardware used to switch between different audio and video sources such as television cameras, used during live or live-to-tape television productions.

Video Tape Recorder (VTR): Hardware used to record and play back video and audio from magnetic tape.

Voice track: A track in editing software containing voices, either actors, guests, or otherwise.  

Voice tracking: Recording the voices of actors, performers, announcers and guests.

VU Meter: Stands for “volume unit” meter. Displays a representation of the level of audio in audio equipment.      

Volume: How loud audio is after it’s been processed (i.e., put through a piece of gear such as an amp or speaker).

Wallbox: Usually located near the floor in studio performance spaces, wallboxes provide a means of plugging microphones and other audio gear to the console in the control room.

Quid Novi?

The latest in Joe Mahoney news…

Some of you many have observed that I’ve removed most if not all posts relating to CBC Radio, including my memoir in progress “Adventures in the Radio Trade” (previously called Something Technical).

Sorry ’bout that.

My apologies in particular to those who’ve written to me lately expressing appreciation for said posts, or who have posted links to the material in question on other blogs (including Wikipedia, for which I plan to restore some of the material).

Don’t worry, I didn’t delete everything. I’ve just moved the status of those posts to “private.”

I’ve done this because I intend to release Adventures in the Radio Trade as a book, and I can’t have the material posted publicly on a blog and in a book. Well, I could, I suppose, but nobody would publish the book. For example, if Amazon detected material from the book on a website, they would decline to include the book among their wares. (They threatened to do this with my short story collection Other Times and Places after detecting one of the stories online, which I had forgotten to remove.)

I’d also begun to notice excerpts from my online version of Adventures in the Radio Trade on other websites, which, although somewhat flattering, made me afraid I’d never get it entirely offline when the need arose.

I did like the online version, which included many links and photos which I’ll not be able to include in the book version. But alas. The online version could never be permanent, whereas the book version can.

I’ve submitted Adventures in the Radio Trade to a handful of agents and publishers, but I don’t really care if it’s traditionally published. I’m perfectly happy to publish it myself, under my own imprint Donovan Street Press. I’ve also discussed publishing it as a joint venture with my sister Susan Rodgers, under her production company, Blue Mountain Entertainment. We shall see.

In the meantime, the manuscript, which includes a fair amount of material I’ve never posted before, is being edited by one of my two favourite editors (and good friend), Arleane Ralph. And I’ve already secured most of the permissions I require from the CBC to publish the book, just a few more “t”s to cross there.

Yours Truly and members of my family at Twin Shores, PEI August 2021

I’ve just returned from a highly restorative trip to Prince Edward Island where I saw several members of my family, many of whom I haven’t seen since before the pandemic. I would call PEI “the land Covid forgot” except I don’t want to jinx the place. But it was almost possible to forget about the pandemic there, where masks are not mandatory (we frequently wore them anyway). I loved it. I never want another summer to go by where I don’t visit PEI, which is where I grew up, and where much of my family still lives.

While there, I collected everything my dad, Tom Mahoney, ever wrote. One of my projects this fall will be to assemble it into a book, and publish it before Christmas, also under Donovan Street Press, in association with Blue Mountain Entertainment. His writing is almost entirely of growing up on top of a mountain near Johnville, New Brunswick in the thirties and forties. There are stories of ghosts, log drives, backwoods bullies, acrobatic dogs, and more. (One story was featured on CBC Radio’s The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean).

Not only do I think it will be an entertaining collection, I think it’s of historical value, evoking a way of being largely lost to us now. Dad grew up with no running water and electricity. His father, my grandfather, wore his long johns all winter long to stay warm working mostly outdoors on their farm. There are crazy, memorable characters like Bob Tucker, a family friend and fellow mountain man who once crashed a locomotive, dynamited rocks in rivers to make life easier for himself, jumped off a train to avoid the first world war, got trapped in snow up to his neck, and whose first hot bath was in a hospital at the end of his life. I look forward to getting this collection out.

I’m three quarters of the way through a companion novel to A Time and a Place, called Captain’s Away, a straight up space opera set one thousand years in the future. It’s about the Doucette’s (descendants of Ridley Doucette) who are separated when their space station is blown out from beneath them at the onset of an intergalactic war. They have their own adventures while trying to find their way back to one another, each contributing to the war effort in their own way. It’s got spaceships and robots and evil emperors and princesses (or the like) and it’s a lot of fun to write.

Finally, while in PEI I had an idea for a mystery series that’s a bit of a departure for me, but that I also think could be a lot of fun to write. All I need is an extra twenty-four hours per day and maybe I can get all this stuff done (there’s still a day job, family, and de facto zoo to look after as well!)

That’s where I’m at these days.

How ’bout you?

Amanda Interviews Joe

Ryerson Student Amanda Raya

A few weeks ago Ryerson student Amanda Raya interviewed me about turning my novel A Time and a Place into an audiobook. I spouted all sorts of inane gibberish and she politely thanked me and I figured she’d go find somebody infinitely more sensible to interview and that would be that.  

She has since done her Ryerson magic on our interview and made me sound not only human but somewhat intelligible. I think her excellent questions have a lot to do with it.

She’s graciously allowing me to post the interview here. Et voila:

Amanda Raya interviews Yours Truly

CJRW 1240 Radio in Summerside, PEI

An excerpt from a memoir about working in radio called Adventures in the Radio Trade, anticipated publication date sometime in 2022:


This is similar to the console at CJRW. At CJRW the turntables were situated on our left (photo from Jim Zimmerlin)

In July, 1988, CBC Radio acquired a twenty-three year old with a lot of growing up yet to do. I wasn’t completely green, though. I’d been in broadcasting since the age of fourteen. At that age I’d begun volunteering at the local cable affiliate, Cable 5, in Summerside, PEI.

I loved working at Cable 5. I learned to operate the cameras and the big clunky Video Tape Recorders (VTRs) and I was especially fond of “switching” the shows on the cool looking switcher. My friends and I produced our own shows and worked on other peoples’ shows, often about music. At the same time I also worked at Three Oaks High School’s brand new and exceptionally well-run radio station under the leadership of teacher Ralph Carruthers, who launched at least two careers in broadcasting that I know of, and probably more.

That was all volunteer, though. I needed a part time job that actually paid money. So I got a job at MacDonald’s. I hated it there. The managers, only a little older than me, were always yelling and screaming at the rest of us, especially me, it seemed. I’d curse them angrily under my breath. Luckily, after one month they fired me.   

“It’s not for everyone,” the franchise manager told me, not unkindly.

She meant that it wasn’t for immature fifteen-year olds who couldn’t be bothered to memorize what went on a Big Mac.

Getting fired from MacDonald’s was one of the happiest days of my life.

Had I not been fired from MacDonald’s I might never have got my first real job in radio.  One cold November afternoon I cruised down Water Street in an Oldsmobile with my friend Justin Hickey at the wheels and two other pals, the four of us probably listening to classic Genesis. We passed Summerside’s local radio station, a 250 watt day-timer with the call letters CJRW, located at 1240 AM on the dial. I’d grown up listening to CJRW.

“Stop the car!” I shouted to Justin.

He stopped.

I jumped out, crossed the street, and entered CJRW’s front door. I climbed up a flight of stairs to CJRW’s reception area, walls festooned with plaques attesting to the station’s long history of community activity. Elton John was playing on a set of speakers: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” the first time I’d ever heard that song. I’ve loved it ever since.

A lady greeted me at the reception desk (possibly Rose Anne Gaudet), super friendly (maybe she knew my mother).    

“I’d like to apply for a job,” I told her.

She furnished me with an application. I filled it out as best I could. A man took me to a studio booth and gave me several sheets of thin yellow paper with dot matrix type. News, weather and sports. I recorded an audition tape on the spot. A month later, at home, the phone rang.    

“Joe, this is Lowell Huestis, calling from CJRW radio.”

I recognized Lowell’s voice immediately. He was the first famous person I’d ever spoken to. Famous on PEI, anyway. “I’d like to offer you a job as a disc jockey. When can you start?”   

I could barely believe my good fortune. Lowell and CJRW hired me to host two shifts each week. I had a six-hour long country music show on Friday nights and a rock show on Saturday nights. I hated country music. I grew to like it in time. Well, some of it. I worked at CJRW all through High School. I would have done it for free. I almost did do it for free: I earned $3.35 per hour, minimum wage at the time.

I darned near didn’t show up for my first shift (I was still the same kid who couldn’t memorize hamburger ingredients). I got confused about which week I was supposed to start. One of my fellow disc jockeys was Peter Arsenault (he went by Peter Scott on air). Peter happened to drive down High Street—my street—in his gold Pontiac Firebird Trans Am shortly before the start of my shift. Spotting me, he pulled up beside me and rolled down the window.

“You do realize you start tonight, don’t you?”

“I do?”

“Get in the damned car!”

He drove me to the station and put me on the air before a big silver console with rotary pots and two huge turntables. I learned how to cue up 7” 45 single records so they’d start an instant after introducing them (about one quarter turn back from where the needle hit the first sound). We played IDs and promos on cartridges (called “carts”). There was a quarter inch tape machine that looked rather daunting. For my first few shifts I got the guy who worked before me to cue it up. His name was Jim Murray and like me he’d go on to work for the CBC (they’d call him James Murray there).   

I got nervous before every shift, but I was never nervous on air. I loved every second of it. I got to choose my own music. I played other peoples’ requests. Once, I sneezed on air. I learned not to do that. Once, introducing a record, I choked on a potato chip. I learned not to do that. I had two laughing fits on air—I never learned not to do that (I was a giddy teen-ager).

With a mere 250 watts, CJRW didn’t have a very strong signal, but it seemed to reach a lot of people. I grew close to my audience. I got calls from all over western PEI as well as Cap Pele, in New Brunswick, across the Northumberland Strait. They’d call to make requests. They’d call to say hi. They’d call week after week. They’d tell me I knew them but wouldn’t tell me who they were. Once, calling a friend during a show, I accidentally called the wrong number. A girl answered the phone. “Hey, you’re the guy on the radio!”

We had a good chat.

The name of the Friday night country show was The Ranch Party. I always opened it with Bobbie Nelson’s Down Yonder from Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. The station didn’t own that record; my father did. I always brought in a lot of my own stuff. I mixed the country up with folk music from time to time. Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers were favourites. I used to play this one song by them. One night after I played it a Ranch Party regular called up, an older Acadian woman.

“That song you just played?” she said. “You must never play it again.”

“Why not?”

“It’s too sad.”

She wasn’t wrong:

Isn’t it grand, boys, to be bloody well dead?
Let’s not have a sniffle, let’s have a bloody good cry
And always remember the longer you live
The sooner you’ll bloody well die.

I had always gotten a kick out of it. Young and fully alive, it didn’t apply to me. I could see how it might be considered a little morbid, though. I respected my listeners. I never played it again.  

Another night, during the Saturday night rock show, a girl called up, not someone I knew.

“I love you!” she said, before hanging up.  

I laughed. I was always getting calls like that. It was just some kid in town having fun, probably hanging out with a bunch of other kids. For a few short years me and my fellow disc jockeys John Burke and Peter Scott and Mike Surette and all the rest of them supplied the soundtrack of these kids lives, and we all had fun together, so much more fun than grilling hamburgers.

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