Frank Cameron, May 23, 2009.
My thanks to Wayne Harrett for making this interview happen.
Wayne invited us to come to Seaside FM in beautiful Eastern Passage back in May to interview Frank Cameron. This is the longest interview I have run so far. It has taken all this time to transcribe it. Frank finished a shift. He came into Wayne's office, graciously offered to us for the afternoon by Wayne himself. We drank the water Wayne provided. And, we started to talk.
Boy, did we talk!
1. How did you get your start in radio?
Frank Cameron: When I was in high school, before high school, I had my own little radio station in the basement of my house. I had to compete with the furnace and things like that, but I started there. It was on Lavinnea Street in New Glasgow. My friend Sandy Hoyt (whom we lost about five years ago) and myself would get together in his basement or my basement and we'd have our own little radio station. It didn't go anywhere, but that was fine.
And then, CKEC arrived in 1953. Of course, having wanted to do what I'm doing still today, since I was about seven or eight years old, I thought, "Oh, man. This is our opportunity." So, we haunted the radio station. Jim Cameron, the owner...
Bevboy: On Provost Street?
FC: No. They were in the old Eastern Chronicle building, which is right beside the railroad tracks coming in toward Provost Street. It was a lot of fun listening to trains go by at 8:15 in the morning when someone was trying to do the news, but anyway. We hung around long enough that finally someone said (and I can't remember who it was), "Why don't you guys do a high school program?" We said, "Yeah, yeah! OK!" So, we did. We used to get the information from all the high schools in Pictou County. We had 250 big watts back then, but it pretty well covered most of Pictou County.
BB: 1320 AM:?
FC: Actually, no. It was 12-something when it first went on the air. And then they switched to 1320 when they got more power. 1230 rings a bell with me.
We started to do the high school program. It started out as a two hour show on Saturday afternoon, from two to four. Pretty soon, it was going from one to five. And then we started hanging around all Saturday evening; the station went off the air at midnight. The guys who were manning the station went out and got drunk. We ran the station.
Then, when I finished Grade 12, Jim Cameron stopped me on the street. He called me "Laddie"; he called everybody "Laddie" because he couldn't remember any of our names. He said, "Would you like to come work full time?" I said, "Would I! Yes. When?"
"Well", he said, "you start next week."
I said, "OK. I'll do that."
I was there just about a year. CKCL in Truro came calling, as they did for a number of us. I went to Truro. It was '55 when I started at CKEC, and then 1956 I went to Truro.
BB: How was going to Truro a step up from being in New Glasgow?
FC: More money, for one thing. Jim was cheap. I got, I think, $27.50 a week, and all the records I could steal. In Truro, it was, I think, $40 a week. In 1956, that was pretty darn good money.
I stayed there for three years, and did just about everything at CKCL as well. Any kind of program you can name, I did it. But I was regularly sort of the rock and roll d.j. That's when that all started.
BB: Patricia has a footnote about Jim Cameron at CKEC. What is it, Patricia?
Patricia: When he was first starting the radio station at CKEC, there were two stenographers that had to do all of the stenography work, etc. One of them was my mother.
FC: Oh! That's great.
P: She had some connection to the development of CKEC.
FC: When it first came on the air.
We had a lot of people go through there, who in later years [became successful]. Anna Maria Tremonti, who is actually from New Brunswick, worked at CKEC. Donny Campbell, who's no longer with us, he worked there. Ross Ingraham, who now is running some kind of a Christian station in Fredericton, but worked for the CBC for a long time as well. Gosh, there were so many.
BB: Karen Begin, who became Darian O'Toole, who died last year...
FC: That's right. I wasn't there for some of these, obviously. I wasn't there when Anan Maria was there. But I got to know here later when she came to work for the CBC, because I was there a long time.
But others went on to greater fame and fortune. Sandy Hoyt, for instance, went to the Valley, worked at the Valley radio station.
BB: Oh, he did. I'm from the Valley.
FC: Are you? Well, he worked for CKEN for a number of years. Then, he went to Toronto. He came back to start the Port Hawkesbury station when it first opened, and then back to Toronto.
BB: I seem to recall Sandy Hoyt being associated with CJCH radio, too.
FC: Yes, he was. He worked in Halifax. He worked at CJ. And, as a matter of fact, he and I were competing at one time, when I was at CHNS and he was at CJCH. But we were still friends. We used to go camping and things like that. It was great.
As I said, I stayed in Truro for three years and then came to Halifax in 1959 to CHNS.
BB: OK. We'll get to [CHNS] in a little while.
2. Tell me about your very first on air shift. How old were you, and how nervous were you? What station? CKEC?
FC: I was 17. As I recall, I was not terribly nervous because all those years of being in the basement talking to myself had kind of [helped me]. And I learned something right away at CKEC. I learned that when you're talking to the audience, you try to make conversation. I know that sounds funny, but you try to make conversation with them to get them to listen to you and to the program that you're presenting.
In those days, we tried to get away with playing a lot of rock and roll, but Jim didn't like it. He called it irreligious, sacreligious and all that kind of thing. I don't think that Jim was a terribly religious man anyway; but he saw this thing coming, this evil rock and roll, and tried to head it off, but it was too late. He couldn't do it. Most of the radio stations, as a matter of fact, that I've been associated with right down the line [were that way]. CKCL embraced it at first, and then they tried to put the kibosh on it, but it was too late. The wife of the owner of CKCL went to a bridge party one night, and all the members of her bridge club thought that this was just terrible, this rock and roll. So, it was immediately banned from the station. I saw red. I argued, but to no avail.
BB: What were you playing, when you weren't playing rock and roll?
FC: At CKEC we were playing fiddle music, country music. We were playing some pop music. Pop music in the '50's was still pretty hot, as opposed to rock and roll, which derived from rhythm and blues, which was in the late '40's, early '50's. But, in '55, Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock"... it didn't really start rock and roll. But he sort of set the standard. And, then, other artists came in and there was Elvis. People thought of Elvis as a country singer, but he's as far from a country singer as I am from Dick Clark. [Presley] came in, and was probably the most popular rock and roll singer who ever lived. They tried to ban him in the States, and it didnt do any good.
So, it was too late. The cat was out of the bag. And rock and roll was here forever. And will continue, by the way.
3. What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received, and who provided it?
FC: That's a good one. If you are talking about professional advice, not necessarily about broadcasting, but it relates to broadcasting, was my Grade 11 and 12 English teacher. His name was Wilfred Burchill. He was an amazing teacher. He knew that I was interested in radio, so every time we did something in the class whether it was Grade 11 or 12, that called for acting (I was kind of a ham actor), or reading or narration, he would get me to do it because he knew that I had an interest in this. He would correct my English. It's too bad he isn't alive; I'd like to send him to The Bounce! That's a cheap shot, and I meant it. The hip hop language really sucks.
Getting back on track, he gave me advice like, "Pursue your dream." That's such a cliche, but he basically did that. He knew that I wasn't interested in going to university, because at that time there were no universities you could go that [taught radio broadcasting]. I could have gone to the Lorne Green radio school [chuckles] in Toronto, but it was very, very expensive.
I would say that Don Tremaine gave me a lot of really good advice about The Business, and about how to handle people you consider to be bad managers (and, boy, I ran into a lot of those!). He gave me advice as to how to inject your personality into a program, without sounding egotistical. We all have an ego in this business; it's a given. But some of us get carried away with ego. But [Tremaine] told me how to control my ego, and that probably is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten from a fellow broadcaster, because I really looked up to him.
BB: Give me an example of how to inject your personality into a program without being egotistical.
FC: Well, let me tell you what not to do, and then I'll tell you what to do. What not to do is to put the "I, I, I" in there. "I" did this. "I" did that. "I" had to do this. In that case, it's all about me. If you try to couch it in words that tell the audience that you're really interested in them (and, indeed, I am. The audience is what keeps you there. If you audience gets turned off by your ego or your smartness), if you can inject some of your happy personality into your program, then [the audience] pick it up. The audience picks up on every little cliche, because they're not stupid. I think that a lot of radio stations today program to the lowest common denominator. "Oh, the audience is stupid, anyway. They won't understand this". Which is very dangerous. I think that many, many of the stations existing today (and I won't necessarily mention any names) are "formula" stations. Their formula is, "Shut up. Don't talk. People don't want to hear all that talk. They want to hear music." Well, that's a lie. They don't. That's why radio exists:
To have a person there who maybe knows a little bit about the music; they know a little bit about what's going on in the world, and they inject that into the program. If you want a jukebox, go buy one.
If you want to listen to a station, and there's one in town that says, "10 in a row". Ten what in a row? Ten songs? No. They're not ten songs in a row because they come in with little station breaks in between each song.
BB: Which station is this?
FC: That would be CHFX. One of my former employees. Well, I worked on the CHNS side. "Ten in a row". "No repeat workdays". All this is just crap. It's stuff that never really did exist, and if it did, it existed in the Top 40 era. The Top 40 era is dead. It's no longer here. There are still stations playing Top 40-type music, the hits of today; but the music has deteriorated so much in the last 30 years that it's hard to listen. It's hard to listen to formula radio nowadays anyway because you know you're going to hear the same damn things over and over and over again.
Now, in the '60's, with Top 40 radio, yes, you did hear the same songs over and over again. But when a new one came out, and it started to go up the charts, well, of course you played it more often. I remember playing a big new song twice in an hour, and you wouldn't get much turn off because your listeners were all young, and they wanted this. I think stations today hire these consultants. Most of them are from the U.S. They have no idea what the market is like in this area. They charge a lot of money to these stations to tell them that they're doing what they should be doing. Well, that's a load of crap, too. If one of them would break away from the mould, and do something a little different, well, who knows?
This is why CBC radio is the number one station in the market. Hello! I don't say that because I worked there, but it's a fact. People like what they hear on CBC radio. CBC [Radio 2] doesn't have the same audience, but they're doing specialty programming. They have a good audience.
They don't have a big audience, but they have a loyal audience. Some people I know just listen to CBC Radio 2 and nothing else. You get your news. You get the kind of music that you might like. It might be a little odd. Some of it is classical, which I don't consider to be odd, but some of it is what you might call out of the mainstream; let's put it that way. But they get their Canadian content fulfillment in there, and so on. And [Canadian content] to the private stations is just something that they have to do. They don't do it because they want to do it. They do it because the CRTC says, "35%, buddy! That's it".
BB: Are you cynical about private radio?
FC: Oh, absolutely. Oh, God, yes, I am so cynical about them. In the '60's, private radio was great. It was run by people who knew what they were doing. Now, the owners of private radio stations, their one consuming interest is to make profit. They don't give a damn about what the audience likes or what they don't like. They get a formula; they stick to it. If that fornula isn't working, "Well, let's change, then". And, they're hypocrites. They're just hypocrites. There's one in particular, The Bounce. They're doing some crude stuff on there. But, yet, 8 year olds will listen to them. I don't understand. They say, "No, no, no. We're going for the adults". "Oh, really? Well, how come you have the 8 to 12 year olds listening? You have some adults listening to you. Those who grew up in the hip hop/rap era. Rap is great, but somebody took the "C" out of it.
To me, private radio is all trying to chase the same audience. But, yet, on the periphery, they get young kids. In particular, Z103.5 does the same thing. They're playing basically the same thing.
BB: They were on the air first, though.
FC: They were on first, and I don't think that they particularly want to appeal to the 8 to 12 year olds. I think they do want to get more of the young adults listening to them. But, the Bounce is just an awful station.
BB: They were CJCH, of course. And that's a special station to me. I proposed to this beautiful young woman on Rick Howe's Hotline in 2006.
BB: It was live on the air. It was on Live at Five that evening.
FC: My heavens!
BB: When the station went off the air last year, it was like losing a relative. It really hurt. And they replaced it with this station. I refuse to even say the name of the station. I won't listen to it.
FC: Well, it was the same with CHNS.
But, that's the story on private radio. I've given up on them. I frankly listen to CBC radio when I'm not listening to Seaside. The rest of them don't interest me in any way, shape, or form.
BB: You were talking about some of the interesting discussions you had with the program director at CHNS AM.
FC: Actually, he was responsible for all of the stations owned by Maritime Broadcasting. He used to visit once every couple of weeks, and he'd tinker with the play list. I would say, "Look. There are more Oldies than about the 500 that we're playing; we've got to expand the play list."
"No, no, no. We have this category, and that category."
I said, "How old are you, anyway?"
He complained once about a song: "Love Me Warm and Tender" by Paul Anka. He'd never heard it. I said, "Well, you're young".
He said, "Yeah, but if I don't know it, why should we play it?"
I said, "What's this 'we' business? Me? If you don't know it, the audience knows it! They know their Oldies".
"Yes, I know. But if we do that, we're just going to drive people away".
I said, "Oh, my God, man. I don't know where you got your training, but you can forget it." Anyway, it was not a pleasant place to work after I went back to CHNS after the CBC.
4. Who were your influences in radio when you were growing up?
FC: I'd say mostly CBC announcers were my influences. The big guys like Max Ferguson. Don Tremaine, of course. I was a big Tremaine fan, and always was, even when he worked at CHNS. He was in the RCMP, Marine Division. When he got out of there, he went to CHNS. He started the Westernaires program.
BB: And he summers in Pictou County, too.
FC: That's right.
BB: Toney River.
FC: I know exactly where his cottage is. I'll tell you for a quarter. But, he is such a professional. I can't say enough good things about him. He is a real pro, a broadcasting pro.
Jim Bennett is another [influence] that I really looked up to. This is before I went to CBC, by the way; when I was in the private station mode. They were my big influences. Most of them were CBC, although there were others who had been in radio for a long time, in private radio and so on. I can't put any names to them at the moment, but there were others who taught me, first of all, how to ad lib. It's not something that you just know when you walk through the door. You've got to know how to talk to the audience. You don't talk at them; you talk to them. There's a big difference. You don't say, well, "Here's what I'm going to do now". And the audience might say, "Well, we don't care." That's the thing.
But, if you invite them in, and you say, "Well, here's what we're going to do". It's a subtle thing, but it works.
But, to sum it up: CBC announcers were my big influences.
5. What was it like to leave CHNS in the 1960's, and return to it, thirty years later in August of 1995?
FC: I went in 1959. As a matter of fact I was at CKCL. The program director at CHNS came up to Truro, met me, blah blah blah. They were looking for a morning show host. I said, "Sure!". I had done morning shows, but it wasn't a personality kind of thing. In the old days, somebody just did the morning show.
I arrived in Halifax. Found a place to live. Did the morning show at CHNS. At that time, CHNS was number two [in the ratings] to CJCH. CJCH had "Breakfast with Bill" [Bill Fulton]. "Breakfast with Bill": Easy to remember. He was funny. He was an actor. So, I was up against this. And I was also up against station management at CHNS, who didn't believe in doing anything modern, although if I played something by Peggy Lee, he would say, "Stop playing that jazz music on the morning show". I was always a bit of a rebel anyway.
In late 1960, Fred Arenburg, who was the program director at the time at CHNS, went to California. He went to Chicago. He went to New York. And he went to Toronto. And all he did was listen [to the radio], and tape these stations. He came back, called me in the office, and said, "Frank, you have some experience with this. We're gonna go Top 40". I said, "What? What?" He said, "We're going Top 40". I said, "OK!".
So, I was taken off the morning show and Mike MacNeil was put on there. He started the Open Mike thing.
BB: That was the first talk show [in Halifax].
FC: The first talk show. That was in 1961. I became the host of "You Call The Play" in the afternoon between 4 and 5, where we played requests. And then, I did the "Frank Cameron Show" from 6:30 until 9 or 10. One of the two.
This started in February of 1961. The Spring ratings showed some promise. But the Fall ratings, CJCH didn't know what hit them. We had 63% of the available radio audience in the fall of 1964.
BB: That was with 3 private radio stations, because CFDR was around by then.
FC: But they were dawn to dusk. We didn't give a damn about them.
Orv Pulsifer, I still remember this. We were doing some live broadcasting from the Atlantic Winter Fair at the [Halifax] Forum; it was at the Forum at that time. I had just finished a shift in the afternoon at five o'clock; I was going back on the air at 6:30. He arrives with the station vehicle and he says, "Come on. Sit in the car with me". I said, "OK. What's going on? Are you going to give me my pink slip?" He said, "Shut up and listen. No. We have doubled and tripled our ratings. Here's a cheque for $2000". Now, in 1961, that was a lot of money. It was the biggest cheque I had ever got up to then.
I thought, "My God". Well, it was profit sharing, because the owner of the station, which was the Chronicle Herald at that time, decided they would do a little profit sharing.
BB: I'm a little confused, because CHCH was owned by one paper, and CHNS was owned by the other.
FC: That's right. There was the "Chronicle and Mail". And then there was the "Herald and Star". Then the Chronicle bought everything. I think it was close to that time that that did happen. And, then, Finlay MacDonald became the principal owner of CJCH, and then started television which was about that time.
BB: OK. You got your cheque for $2000.
FC: Yes. And I couldn't believe it. Basically, we were the number one station in the market. And we were an AM station, but FM hadn't reared its head very well. We had an FM station at that time, but we simulcast the two. Then the CRTC ordered you to break away from AM at least six hours a day. That's what we did: CHNS FM operated separate from AM from six pm until midnight every night.
BB: Playing what?
FC: Classical, mostly. And then, in the '70's they said, "You have to break away altogether", and CHFX was born.
BB: I read how the country format was founded. It was just some guy on the phone talking to his buddy. A country song was the next track on the record he was playing. He was oblivious to the record being played. The station manager was [stuck] in traffic trying to get to the radio station to fire the guy or yell at him or something. But, in the meantime, listeners were calling in and saying "Hey, this is great". It was completely fortuitous.
FC: Yes. So, I left CHNS under good terms in 1967 and went to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It was a good year, actually, because it was Centennial year. Speaking of big cheques, my first overtime cheque at the CBC was almost $2000, because I was working practically dawn to dusk every day because a lot of our Halifax announcers were sent to cover the Expo stuff. The East Coast CBC did a lot of stuff from Expo, too. So, that was a good start at the CBC!
I did everything there. Mostly radio in the beginning, which is my first love, by the way. I like television; its ok. But you have to dress up, shave.
P: I remember that. You were doing the news. Someone had written a letter. "Frank, come on. Wear a tie". And all of a sudden, here's Frank wearing a tie. You looked so uncomfortable.
FC: Exactly. Anyway, other than that, it was fun. TV, I always had fun, no matter where I worked, and no matter how much I disliked management, I still managed to have fun.
I got involved with the union at the CBC. Once you do that, management thinks you're just a big Communist or something. But without unions at the CBC, they would treat their staff like garbage. They only have one union at the CBC now, and that's fine. I have no problem with that. There are different categories, and people double up and so on. And that's great. I have no problem with that. But, in those days, we couldn't touch a microphone (we could pick it up to talk). On the other hand, a technician would not be able to go on the air and do anything unless they got the ok from the announcer's union. You didn't cross the line with technical stuff. You could turn your mic on and off, but the technician controlled everything else. You didn't play your own records. There was a master control room that was full of technicians taking feeds from various places.
But, no, I thoroughly enjoyed the time at the CBC. It was 29 years to be exact. I retired under the "85" formula. If you're 55, and you have 30 years in, you can go and get a package. So, I got a package.
BB: That was August of 1995 that you left the CBC.
FC: That's correct.
BB: That was a Friday evening. You did your last show with Doug Saunders. And, then, four days later, early Tuesday morning, 5:30 (I have the date somewhere), you were back on the air at CHNS.
FC: That's right.
BB: Let's talk about your return to CHNS either until 2005 or 2006 or something like that.
FC: Uh, 2005 or 2006. Somewhere around there, yes.
BB: Let's talk about those years.
FC: They were good. That's where I got into the private radio, -- how can I say this delicately? -- that private radio had gone for a crap. This is only my opinion and my assessment. I think a lot of people would agree that [private radio] was taken over by the bean counters. When any business is taken over by the bean counters, you know it's going to be toast. Secondly, these were people who were out to sell, sell, sell advertising, which is fine. We didn't have to sell it in the '60's; people came clamouring to us for commercials. There was a big demand. But it was a fact that I felt uncomfortable because you were afraid that you were going to ... not afraid of saying things because they were pretty lenient about that, but you were afraid of maybe playing something that "didn't fit the format". "Oh, my God. That doesn't fit the format!" That's the way all the stations are now. If you called 96.5, their motto is "We Play Everything"...
FC: Anything. That's crap. They don't play anything. They'll play anything that fits their format.
BB: I interviewed Rob Johnson six months ago. That's what he said. But, Friday mornings, they
do loosen things up a bit.
FC: Do they?
BB: They played Charlie Daniels' there. They recently played "The Streak" by Ray Stevens.
FC: Well, that's fine, then. I would say, "Good for them". You see, I have such a cynical mind. When you hear a station say, "We Play Anything. Hello? Would you play Racmanaoff's Concerto Number Three in C Minor"?
"No, we can't play that!"
"Well, you said you play anything!" So, I'd take them up on it.
BB: Well, Rob Johnson, when he met with him six months ago, said he is a big fan of Glenn Gould. Rob Johnson has a Gould collection in his office that he plays. One could request Glenn Gould, and it would be in his office. You could challenge him some morning, Frank. Why don't you?
FC: I could. Or challenge him, with, say Gordon Lightfoot: "The Canadian Railroad Trilogy".
Play that! "Was that ever on the charts?" No, but you say you play anything. I'm taking them at their word. That's the point. I don't know if you should take them at their word.
BB: The distinction that they made with me was that they play anything like what they play now. In fact, Griff Henderson said on the air once, "We play anything. We don't play everything". There is a distinction there.
FC: There is. But, to me, it's a little bit of smoke and mirrors there.
However, that's the kind of thing, and maybe they'll be a little bit innovative here (and I hope they are!) that [they] will stray away from this strict formula. If I hear the same song on Q104 again.... Sometimes, they'll do a Queen song. But it's one song! You've got to open up the thing.
Play something that may not have been number one, but who cares?
The point is, they have a good audience. They appeal to the 27 year old males with dirty minds.
But that's fine. You're appealing, at least, to a group. They've got to get off this kick of just playing the same song by the same artist.
BB: I'll defend this part. They do have a request weekend every year. They play some pretty darn eclectic rock stuff that weekend. They're extraordinarily diverse that weekend. You know "Alice's Restaurant" by Woodie Guthrie? They played that four times that weekend. It's a 20 minute song.
FC: It's 18 minutes and something. I've played it on Seaside.
BB: They played it four times that weekend. People kept requesting it.
FC: I know JC. Who doesn't know JC? I know some of the other guys, but Harv [Stewart] was a good friend of mine. I used to tease them a lot, and so on. [The all request weekend] is good, but they sort of shouldn't do this one weekend a year. Do it about six weekends a year,. because that strays aways from the blinders. All private stations have blinders. They can't see anything else except what fits their very tight format. They're shooting themselves in the foot is what private radio is doing. There's no competition from satellite radio because, to me, that's a flash in the pan. Who wants to pay 20 bucks a month to listen to radio? Give me a break. I don't care if Oprah Winfrey is on satellite radio. I have no interest in satellite radio at all. '
BB: Let's focus a little bit more on the years at CHNS upon your return. You were there for about 10 years. From what you were just saying about private radio in general, I'm guessing you encountered those things in particular at 'NS over the years.
FC: Yes. It's difficult, I know, for a program director in these times because you have the station owner on one phone saying, "Make money". And you've got the audience on the [phone] saying, "Can't you play anything except the same songs every day?" It's a fine line you're walking because the owners don't care. CHUM will probably challenge that, and many of the others will. But, they don't really care. Their one consuming interest is to make money, and their second consuming interest is to destroy (not compete with) the competition. That was never the way when I was in private radio before. When I was at CHNS [in the 1960's] we didn't want to destroy CJCH; we just wanted to give them a run for their money, which we did. But if they said, "Well, we're going off the air because we can't compete with CHNS [which would have been a lie]". Well, did we destroy you? Well, we're sorry. But [today], they want to destroy their competition, or anybody competing with them at all. That's particularly true of the CHUM group,
I might add. They might say, "Well, we do a lot of community stuff", and that's all true. They get involved in charity things. And that's good because that makes them look good. But, here again, their management is ruthless. In defense of Maritme Broadcasting, that's not their motto at all.
BB: What is their motto?
FC: Their motto is, "Let's give our competitiors a run for their money".
BB: So, over the years at NS, you became more and more embroiled in these discussions with management. And, then, you were no longer doing the morning show. You were on in the afternoon for a while, and then you were just on Saturday nights.
FC: For which I did it under a contract.
BB: Was it live?
FC: I did it live usually, yes. It may have sounded recorded, but I did it live. I saw the writing on the wall. They'd hired a new program director; he was going full speed ahead. They were going to start this Hal FM, which of course originally was supposed to be adult contemporary.
Just like CJCH when they went off [the AM dial in 2008] was supposed to come back to FM with the Oldies format. Yeah, right.
I did have discussions with CHNS management about what the future was going to hold. They would never say anything. They didn't even tell the staff about Hal FM until it was ready to go on the air, which I think is wrong, but they didn't want it to get out to the other stations. They were supposed to be competing with Q104. Poor competition. I have never listened to Hal FM in my life, nor do I ever intend to. I don't have any axes to grind with the company because they treated me well; I can't say anything bad about them. I just think they did the wrong thing.
They put this Hal FM on without really thinking it out.
Their idea is, "Well, let's give Q104 a run for their money". Well, if you're going to do that, you've got to spend some money. You can't make money unless you spend some money.
BB: When you left CHNS in 2005, it was a mutual thing?
FC: I had no problem. Wayne [Harrett] had called me anyway and asked me if I'd come over and do a show here. I said, "Well, sure".
I'm still keeping my hand in radio. That's really all I wanted to do. I don't want to go back and do the evening news on television!" [chuckles].
P: I hear there's a spot opening up [at the time of this recording, Jim Nunn was about to leave the CBC evening news and had not been replaced yet].
FC: There's an opening as we speak! I don't want to go to private radio because, here again, although from what you've told me about 96.5 there is a little bit of a glimmer on the horizon here that maybe private radio is waking up and saying, "Let's stop shooting ourselves in the foot!" They'll say, "Well, we've got to compete with satellite radio". No, you don't. Satellite radio is a flash in the pan. I can tell you that right now. In Canada, they're having trouble selling it. GM is putting it on cars now for two years free. Well, do I care? No. I have On*Star in mine, but I don't have satellite radio. And On*Star is great. If people want to hear local news, they've got to listen to the local station, because that's the only place they're going to get it. They won't get it on satellite.
6. You are still on the air once a week, on Saturday afternoons. Are you comfortable with that, or would you like to be on the air more frequently?
FC: No. I'm comfortable with that. Although Wayne will call me now and then and say, "Can you fill in for so-and-so on Coffee Club" or something? That's fine. I don't mind doing that. That's ok. But I'm not looking for, shall we say, a daily show. The weekend is fine. I come in, have myself a good time, sit in there, talk to myself (excuse me: The audience!). I don't play what I like, which is the death of a disk jockey. If a disk jockey only played what they liked? If I only played what I liked? I love Rhythm and Blues. I love Blues. I love Jazz. So, if I only played what I liked on the air, I wouldn't have really a big audience. You have to play a little bit of everything on this station; that's what we're all about.
7. I will list the names of people you know, knew, or worked with. Please say something about them.
FC: I'll just add that Don Tremaine is probably the most professional broadcaster I've ever met in my life. I look up to him, still. He's retired as well. He's probably at his cottage as we speak in Toney River. I really look up to the man. He's been more of a mentor to me than anybody else.
BB: I'd like to touch on something you said a second ago, and that you said earlier, and that I've heard other jocks say. The nicest thing they can say about someone is that the person is professional. I've never asked a jock this question before, so I'm going to ask it of you. What do you mean when you say that a person you admire in radio is "professional"? What does that really mean?
FC: Well, they can ad lib like nobody else. They make it look easy. They have a great rapport with their fellow broadcasters no matter whether they're just young or whether they've been around for years, it doesn't matter; they've got that rapport. They also know how to pass on their knowledge of the business to younger people who are coming up. That, to me, is professionalism. They read well. They put the proper emphasis on their reading. They don't put the wrong emPHAsis on the wrong syLABle. In other words, they're looked up to as well. A professional broadcaster will be looked up to by their peers.
BB: People say that about so many of your colleagues and about yourself. Everybody looks up to Brian Phillips, for example. They hold him up as a consummate professional broadcaster, and I've always wondered what they meant by that. I certainly agree that he's great.
FC: Oh, yes. He's very talented. He's a professional broadcaster.
BB: The way his career ended...
FC: It's just not good.
P: So, Don Tremaine was your mentor, and what you perceive as being a consummate professional, and gave you advice. Have you, in turn, done the same for someone else? Have you given someone else any sage advice?
FC: Not so much at CBC, because the people who come there now have some knowledge of the business and know what they're doing. But, in private radio, oh, God, yes! There's a young woman at CKEC right now. She just got married and she's from Thorburn, and what's her name? She does the morning show on CKEC a the moment.
FC: Yes. Ann...Ann from Thorburn. Her mother was in the girl's pipe band. Well, she was at CHNS for a while.
BB: I'll source the name for you.
FC: Anyway, she did the morning show with me at CHNS for much of the summer. She used to ask questions. Like, "What do you do when this happens?" And, I liked that because then I can pass on the knowledge. I don't presume to know everything, so therefore, if I hear somebody making a mistake, and there are a couple of people here but they're not "professional" broadcasters. Many of them are, but some of them have never been in broadcasting before. So, if they make a mistake in English or something, I will pick them up on it.
There was one here who was saying, "The Montreal CanadiANNS". I just cringe when I hear that because what you're doing is turning "Montreal" into an English word and and you're turning "Canadians" into a semi-French word. The thing is, it's the "Montreal Canadians". They're Canadians. I'm Canadian; you're Canadian. But because the press, when they spell it "iens", that's the French way. If you're going to say it in French, it's "Les Canadiens du Montreal". If you're saying it in English, it's "The Montreal Canadians".
A lot of people here say kilAWmetre. To me, that's a no-no. To me, it's kilOmetre. It's "decimetre", "centimetre". And it's "meet er", not "mutter". When they say that, I say, "Well, now many "mutters" in a "kilomutter"? [laughter] They say, "That's the way I've always said it!" I say, "Well, get over it! Change it. The broadcasters of the world are trying to change it. It's a French word, for God's sake". The Americans don't like the French very much, so they'll say it whatever way they want. The British don't like the French that much either. [The metric system] started in Britain, in the old boy's clubs in Britain. It just caught on. It's like "Keenya". The Hell it is. It was never "Keenya". The people of Kenya get really ticked when you call it "Keenya". Once again, it's a British affectation of the word.
I'm sticky. I'm just sticky about that kind of stuff. [Staff at the station] take me with a grain of salt.
P: You obviously don't watch the Global news.
FC: Oh, really? The local one, you mean?
I remember when George McLean, who was a CBC announcer for years. A solid state guy. I got to know him because I sat on a committee with him. He's actually hilarious, very funny. But he was doing the national news one night, and he said "Tatamagucci". I called him. I knew the number. I said, "George?"
He said, "Yes. Is that you, Frank?"
I said, "Tatamagucci?"
He said, "Well, why the Hell didn't you call me and tell me because I don't know these things!"
I said, "There's a little book, George. I'm going to send you a copy".
He said, "Oh, good! Do that, won't you?"
I said, "It's Tatamagouche".
He said, "Well, it sure looks like 'Tatamagucci'".
I said, "I know it does, George". But he appreciated that. It was hilarious, actually; and he thought it was funny, too, afterwards.
FC: Oh, that Communist! [chuckles] Don is a good buddy of mine. He's like me a lot in that he's a rebel. I think his rebel days are coming to an end soon because I don't know when he's going to retire, but it won't be too long from now, I don't think.
BB: He's probably eligible.
FC: He's pretty well gotta be. He's one of the best interviewers I have ever seen in my life. He's quick on the uptake. He worked in private radio as well before going to CBC. He worked at CHNS, and as a matter of fact, he may have worked at CJCH for a brief time. I know Doug Saunders did.
Don is funny. He's got a great sense of humour, and he's a good buddy. And he's very talented, too.
BB: Do you still listen to him in the morning?
FC: Oh, yes. I listen to him in the morning. I still listen. Every morning. And Elizabeth Logan is very good, too. And she used to work for CHNS.
BB: I remember. I was at the 75th anniversary of 'NS. You posed for a picture with me. I soaked it all in.
Denyse Sibley. She loves you.
FC: I love her, too. I love her dearly. Denyse is one of the brightest women that I know. I'll tell you why I say that: Attractive women are often thought of as not being too bright, and Denyse is very attractive. She is quick on the uptake. She's a great broadcaster. She could go anywhere.
I was so happy when she left [MBS' FX101.9] and went to Truro for a pretty good buck, actually. And then, they decided here that they couldn't do without her, so they approached her to come back. And, good for her, I say, for holding out because for years she got treated like a second skin, but all the employees were. You were not paid what you were worth, and she's worth a bundle. If she ever leaves that station now, they're going to suffer badly [in the ratings], because she has got her niche in this market, and she's going to hang on to it.
Country music today is just warmed over rock and roll, anyway. But, I like some of it. I listen now and then. I listen sometimes in the morning to her.
[Patricia starts taking pictures. The distraction proves interesting. Keep reading!]
P: If this [series of blog interviews] becomes a book, I want the damn credits for the photographs.
FC: Fine. Well, some of this will be in my book, so don't worry about it.
BB: I was going to ask you about your book.
FC: Well, it's almost finished.
BB: This can be the first major interview associated with your book. How's that?
FC: Good. Because a lot of what I've said to you today -- not everything, obviously -- is covered in the book in one way or another. I'm glad it's on the blog so that people can actually [say], "Oh, that's going to be in his book! Did he really sleep with Sharon Dunn?"
FC: And, the answer is: Yes, I did. Oh, is that still on? [looking at the voice recorder]
P: [To Bev] Do you remember Sharon Dunn?
BB: No, I don't.
P,FC: She was hot.
FC: A hot babe. And I was between wives at the time, so it's ok.
BB: I'm not casting aspersions on you, Frank.
FC: She's in Taranna.
BB: Are you thinking of Susan Dunn, Patricia?
FC: No, no. I know Susan. I never slept with Susan. Sharon was here in '79 [or so]. She spent a couple of years at CBC and went to Toronto and did the supper hour show in Toronto.
P: When I had to go to Toronto for surgery, I turned on the news and went, "Wait a minute! I remember her".
FC: She's a lovely person.
P: She looked at that time a lot more Americanized.
FC: Yes. Because when you go to Toronto, they Americanize you.
BB: Is there something else you want to say about Denyse?
FC: What can I say about Denyse, except that I just love her. I've always loved her ever since I walked in the door when I went back to CHNS. I have loved her since then. I knew her a little bit before that, but never really got to talk to her very much when I was at CBC. I used to run into her now and then. She is, once again, professional. She knows what she is doing, knows exactly how to play the system. That's not negative. That's a very positive thing. She knows how to get the most out of the station, the audience, and so on. She is a wonderful woman.
BB: She is one of the people who approached me for an interview this Winter, after I posted the interview with Ian Robinson. He let some of his colleagues know about the interview and gave them my e-mail address. And Denyse is one of the people who wrote me. I didn't know much about her. I didn't listen to the station much; I do now. She was very warm and very friendly with me, and I'm a complete stranger. I'm a blogger, for God's sake. I type!
She told me, it's on the blog, that if she were down to her last pennies, she could call you up and say, "Frank, I need some money. Can you help me out?" And you would say, "How much?" and not, "What do you need it for?"
FC: Exactly. And she's absolutely right. I would. And she would do the same for me, by the way. I am down to my last quarter, though. As long as you have a quarter, you're fine.
BB: So you can make a phone call. Call someone who cares.
FC: I woudn't call Jim a best friend or anything. But we're colleagues. I like Jim. A lot of people don't because they say he's too abrasive and so on. He comes from Antigonish; what can you say? Being abrasive, if you're doing a show like he's doing, should be part of your moxie. With Mickey Mouse little questions, you can't get anything out of politicians. Politicians lie, cheat, steal. Basically, they all do. You can't get anything out of a politician unless you confront them.
If you're confronting them, on live television, they'll give you a bull answer but at least people can see that you've confronted them with this situation.
BB: I remember in the late '80's, when John Buchanan was on First Edition. It was [hosted by] Jim Nunn and Susan Ormiston. They hammered him for about ten minutes, with one really strong question after another. There were people who walked away from that interview, having watched it on television, thinking that Jim had been too hard on John Buchanan. I don't mean to interrupt you, but I thought it was great.
FC: Yes. And the thing is, most media people would love it because you're at least trying to get straight answers from these people. And it's very difficult. Jim has this way. He's got this look about him. It's hard to do this on a local blog, but ...
BB: I'll describe it.
FC: You can describe it. It's like...he's saying, "What the Hell are you trying to tell me? You're a liar! "
P: He gives them a withering look.
FC: That withering look.
BB: We'll get a picture of that face, Patricia, and put it in this part of the interview.
FC: OK. Here's the Jim Nunn look!
P: [laughter] Perfect!
FC: Did you get it?
P: I got it.
FC: Good! That's the Jim Nunn look. And I like Jim as I said. I'm sorry that he's retiring because he's still got a few good years left.
BB: He's only 58. I thought he was in his sixties.
FC: No. I'm 70, and I've got 12 years on him. Jim a solid guy. He doesn't like to be lied to, because he feels that the media's job is to get to the facts and the truth. Which it is. And a lot of reporters might shy away from a politician who's really aggressive.
I saw Steve Murphy. I'm not putting down Steve; he's a buddy of mine and I like him. But Steve interviewed the Prime Minister. And, not that Steve was that easy on him, but he tried to get through that veneer that Harper has, the blockage that he has. I was saying, "Steve! Ask him this." I was't there, but I was watching the television and saying, "Steve! Come on! Get him. Go get him." The media's job should not be to go "get them", but that's what I mean. "[Harper] will never answer that question, Steve. But keep putting it to him." And that's what Jim would have done. Jim would have pushed him to the limit. Harper might have said, "Well, this interview is over!" But, who does that make look bad? Not Jim Nunn! It makes Harper look like, "Oh, he didn't want to answer that question. So, therefore, he's covering up something." A thinking person would say, "Who is this Harper guy?" That's the kind of thing that Jim Nunn is good at, very good at.
BB: It's going to be a major blow to the local media to lose Jim Nunn.
FC: It will be.
BB: I hope he does something else, somewhere else.
FC: Well, he may be planning to get into politics. His father was a gigantic Liberal. Most of his family have been Liberals. He may just be planning to run. I don't know. Well, obviously not in the [then current] provincial election: It's too late for that, and besides, he's reporting it. But maybe in the next federal election...? I don't know. It's really hard to say. I have not talked to him since he announced [his retirement]. But I do plan to contact him and say, "So, what's up, buddy?"
BB: Well, tell him that Bevboy's Blog would love to talk to Jim Nunn.
BB: He'll say, "Who the Hell is this person?".
P: He'll say, "Who is she?"
FC: No, no. I'm sure he'll talk to you.
BB: Oh, I'd love to talk to Jim Nunn.
FC: Oh, he will talk to you because Jim likes Jim. And I have no problem with that at all because he's good at what he does. He's allowed to have some ego that says, "Who else is going to ask these hard questions? Tell me. Who? Who? Who?" And, you don't get an answer.
Now, Norma Lee MacLeod, I know, is not going back in the anchor chair. I know that for sure. I got that from the horse's mouth. Pardon me, Norma Lee, for calling you a horse. That's another person I love dearly, but...
BB: I'd love to meet her [and talk to her for the blog!]
FC: I have equal love for Norma Lee as I have for Denyse; that's put it that way. I just love her.
Anyway, I don't know if they're going to open up a competition, or if they're going to approach somebody. I could give them a few people to approach. But, would they be, and this sounds really funny, as abrasive as Jim Nunn? You need somebody who is going to be disliked by the audience, but they'll still watch him. That is the big thing about Jim. I've had people say to me, "I don't like that Jim Nunn." I'll say, "Well, why not?" "Well, I watch him every night", they'll say. I'll say, "Well, you've just told me you don't like him, so why do you watch him?" They'll say, "Oh, I just don't want to miss anything he's going to say!" I learned early in this business: There are going to be some people who will hate your guts. You can say, "Well, sorry you hate me. I don't know what I did to you, but I'm sorry." They'll say, "Well, it's just your attitude". Blah, blah, blah.
But you're going to get that; you're not going to get everybody loving you all the time. A lot of us would like that, but you're not going to get it. It's not possible.
BB: But the show's ratings are way up, and it's because of Jim Nunn.
FC: Oh, absolutely. It is.
BB: I wonder how much CBC brass fought to keep Jim from retiring.
FC: I'm not sure. They're so wrapped up now in more layoffs and retirements. If they retire Jim they won't make his position redundant, because they'll still need somebody to host the show, but if they hire somebody, it can be at half the price that they're paying Jim. That's where the CBC makes the same mistakes that they make in private radio. When I retired from the CBC, there were lots of people retiring, and some of them were brought back. Not me, because I was at CHNS. But [people like] technicians, specialists, and so on. They brought them right back because they couldn't do without them. They had nobody trained in that particular [area]. The satellite truck that goes anywhere and points the satellite and brings [the programming] down. They had to keep the guy on even though he retired, was getting his pension. You're supposed to stay away for a year before you come back. That was waived, and that was because they had nobody who knew how to operate the satellite truck!
BB: A personal services contract.
FC: It was a personal services contract. The early retirement thing is not all it's cracked up to be. But I got a good deal. I have no problems with the CBC pension plan. It's got a big surplus in it. I never had any big problems with the CBC that I wanted to quit. But when the opportunity came to retire, I thought, "Hey! This is a good deal. "
BB: I'm sorry to see Jim Nunn go. I guess that's the bottom line.
FC: Me too.
BB: Maybe they'll approach Steve Murphy, if they can afford him.
FC: Oh, they can afford him. I think they could, because I think that things have changed in that respect, too.
FC: You know what? I never worked with Gerry Parsons. He preceded me at CHNS. When I went to CHNS in '59, he had already gone to CJCH. Then, a few months after CFDR came on the air, he went to CFDR. So, I really never got to work with him. Tremaine worked with him, and various other people I know worked with him, but I never really got to know him at all.
I know his mother used to buy his shoes, and the guys used to make fun of him because he would wear these shoes that were a size too small. They would say, "Gerry! Go get your own shoes".
"Oh, no. My mother would kill me".
My mother sold shoes. If she ever found that out, she would...
P: At Goodman's!
FC: Yes. Janet. She worked there for like 80 years. Well, maybe 70. I had heard stories about him at CFDR, which some of them were funny. Sometime you've got to talk to Paul Marr, because he worked with Gerry at CFDR. Or Gail Rice.
BB: I'd love to talk to Paul Marr. The only thing I'd say about Gerry Parsons is that Patricia and I go to the Farmer's Market. Of course, you know about Mary's Bread Basket.
BB: Back when Mary actually owned it, around the corner from Mary's Bread Basket, she had a little bulletin board covered with glass that was sort of a little shrine to Gerry Parsons, because Gerry Parsons would mention Mary's Bread Basket on the air from time to time. She was so tickled pink that she put up that little shrine to him. It was up for years and years after he died. I remember reading it not many years ago.
FC: Clive Schaeffer worked with him. I worked with Clive. Clive was a great guy, a little bit
right-wing for me, but he was a great guy.
BB: I'd love to meet Clive Schaeffer. Is he able to speak?
FC: I tell you who may be able to help with that, and that's our "Girl Friday" here [the Seaside FM office manager]. I'm terrible with names. Ask Wayne. Krista. Krista Cook.
She worked with Clive on that news service...
FC: Voiceprint. The two of them were doing it together, and when he had the heart attack or stroke, she went in and visited him and so on. I went in one time but they were doing tests and they said he couldn't talk anyway, so I didn't get to talk to him. But Krista I think still keeps in touch with him or with someone who looks after him.
BB: I'd love to speak with him.
Pat ConnollyFC: I love Pat Connolly. Pat Connolly has been a friend of mine for forty-some odd years. I haven't seen him lately, but he's in pretty good shape. He still goes and does the games at the Metro Centre. Pat is a font of knowledge. Don't ever go against him in a sports trivia thing because he'll kill you. Not only hockey, but baseball, boxing, any sport almost. I never have gone against him, and I wouldn't. It's like suicide to do that.
Sandy Hoyt was also a very good friend of Pat's. We got together after Sandy died, and we said some nice things. I didn't get to the funeral because there were too many things going on that I couldn't make the funeral, which happened to be in Toronto. But, they've named part of the Trans Canada Trail in memory of Sandy, just outside of Truro. They've got the big plaques there, and so on. His children did that. They got together and they gave them so much money for a meter of trail; Sandy's name is on there in memory of Sandy Hoyt.
BB: I'll have to get a picture of that.
FC: It's not hard to find, apparently. I lived in Truro for three years, but I'm not sure from which entrance the Trans Canada Trail comes in. I think maybe it's up around Victoria Park, but I'm not sure. But you can check. Just call the town of Truro; they'll tell you.
BB: But, Pat Connolly: We were talking to him last month. He has met 7 heavyweight boxing champs. Canada 100 years ago produced a heavyweight champ. I asked him who it was. He goes, "Tommy Burns!". I said, "Yeah, but what's his real name?" And he goes, "Noah Brusso". Just, with no hesitation whatsoever.
But he hasn't read the book about Tommy Burns. I may try to get that book for him as a gift.
FC: I was going to say, that would be good, if you could do that, because he would really appreciate it. Pat is a very warm individual.
BB: He was kissing Patricia!
P: Patricia didn't mind.
FC: He's a warm, kind, and loving guy. I can't say anything bad about him. The best thing I can say is that I love him. He carries around all this knowledge in his head, and all of these trivia questions [chuckles]. And he knows so many people. His son got married in Halifax; he married a friend of my wife's who worked with her at Dal. She still works at Dal. She's in the adult education department there. But they got married at the big Catholic church down on Barrington and Spring Garden Road.
BB: St. Mary's Basilica?
FC: Yes. We went to the wedding. Pat was there, beaming, with the flower and the whole thing. I said, "Look, I'm way ahead of you, Pat. I've got six grandchildren". He said, "I'll die before I catch up to you!".
P: He's got a couple of grand kids now. [To Bev] You see, when you went to the bathroom, she showed me a couple of pictures of the family.
FC: Oh, did he? [To Bev] He didn't show them to you, because he didn't want them on the blog!
BB: That's right. I would have scanned them in.
8. Is it still a thrill to be on the air?
FC: Yes. It is. It's something, as I said, that I wanted to do since I was 7. I know lawyers who hate their jobs. I know doctors who would just love to do something else. They'd love to drive a truck or something, but they're making too much money so they can't. [chuckles] But I'm doing something that I wanted to do since I was a kid. I've never swayed from it. If the radio and television business ended on this earth, I wouldn't know what the Hell to do. That's probably never going to happen, but I've never wanted to do anything else. When I was very young, I thought I might like to be a projectionist in a movie theatre. We knew the projectionist at the Roseland Theatre. My sister went to school with his daughter. On a Friday night, he'd call me, because he liked my company. I was only 11 or 12. I thought, "Well, he's not a dirty old man". He'd call and say, "Do you want to come up in the booth? I'll let you operate the sound system." I said, "OK".
I'd go up in the booth and I was fascinated. When you see the little "blip" at the right hand top of the screen, you got a footswitch. You start the second projector rolling. And, ten seconds later, you press the switch and it flips over to the other projector.
BB: The next reel.
FC: Yes. Now, it's all done on one big reel.
BB: But you still see those little blips, though.
FC: That's right.
BB: Patricia, just before a scene ends [at the end of a reel], you'll see a little blip in the upper right hand corner of the screen.
FC: A little round thing. It almost looks like a tornado.
BB: It usually marks the end of a scene in a movie.
P: I have a question. Since you've obviously had this passion since you were a young kid, have any of your offspring pursued the same kind of [work]?
FC: No. Well, one of my granddaughters thought it might be fun. Rebecca is now 29. She's an outreach person for the Discovery Centre. She's bilingual. They send her all over the province.
She's going to do her PhD. at the Mount. But, at one time in her teen years, thought [radio] would be a really a neat thing to do. She did do a few things for CBC radio at one time. I had nothing to do with it. They contacted her grandmother, my ex-wife (who worked at CBC as well).
I only have two children, Shauna and Mark. Shauna is in British Columbia; has been for many years in the Slocan Valley. She has five kids, and one of them's here (Rebecca). Then, Mark is living with me at the moment because his apartment building in Halifax had a fire. There was water damage, so they have to gut all of the apartments and put them back together. He's the chief barkeep in Bedford at the corner bar, up above Smitty's, or what used to be Smitty's.
Neither one is interested [in radio]. Mark is a musician, too. He plays a mean guitar. He plays in a local band called The Deadbeats. [chuckles] They do old Stones stuff.
But, no, I've had no glimmers of interest from the grandchildren, or my kids.
9. What has been your biggest on air gaffe? I'd like to know your thoughts about the "Umbrella Event" on Citadel Hill back when you were the weather announcer on First Edition. It was hysterical.
FC: Well, it was. But I have to use a bad word. This was when I was on CHNS with Clive Schaeffer. We did a show called "In the Morning". It was a half hour [feature] called "Right or Wrong". It was a quiz show. You would make a statement, and the person on the phone had to tell you if it was right or wrong. Every time you got a wrong answer, the jackpot went up. There were jackpots well up over a hundred dollars. In 1960-61, that was a lot of money.
Anyway, one day we were in there. Clive got this woman on the phone. I had this little bell. When the bell rang, it meant she could go for the jack pot, whether or not she answered the question right, it doesn't matter. She could still go for the jackpot. I kind of felt sorry for her. The statement was, "Potato chips grow wild in Ireland". She said, "Yeah, that's right!" I rang the bell, and Clive said, "Oh, it's the treasure hunt! You can still go for the treasure hunt". She said, "Oh, the treasure hunt! The treasue hunt! It's over a hundred dollars. I really want that jackpot. " And, Clive says, "We've been making quite a few treasure cunt halls this morning".
I didn't quite grasp it immediately. Then I looked up at the technician, Herman Fullerton, who had fallen off his chair, he was laughing so hard. Then, I looked over at Clive. Clive didn't miss a beat, because I don't think he knew what he said. I had to get out of the studio. He was saying, "Come back in here!".
Finally, I went back in. Afterwards, I told him what he'd said, and he said, "Ah, big deal!" And, we didn't get one call. Not one call, because it went by so fast, people didn't pick it up.
BB: And you didn't draw attention to it?
FC: That's right. And, another time on Information Morning, Doug Arnold, who was a fellow CBC announcer -- we used to do the news on Information Morning. Information Morning started in 1970; I was the first news announcer on Information Morning, and Doug Arnold was number two.
Anyway, he was reading an item one day about St. F.X. University. The item read like this: "Three male students at St. F.X. University were suspended today for entertaining girls in their dorm rooms". But that's not the way Doug read it. He said, "The three students had been expelled for entering girls in the dorm room". And, of course, here again, it went by really fast.
But then, he made the absolute biggest gaffe by correcting himself. He should have just let it go. He said, "No. I'm sorry. That should read: 'Entertaining' girls". The place just cracked up. The program director came in and called us a bunch of boy announcers. We were laughing so hard, we couldn't even reply to him. And that's an famous one on Information Morning. They still have the tape of that somewhere.
And, then, Citadel Hill would have been ... I would place it number 3, even though it was funny. What didn't get on the air was the technician; Bob was the cameraman. The satellite truck was parked not far away. We were standing on Citadel Hill. Everything was fine. A thunder cell came over. Well, the wind came up, and it started to rain. Just before we went on the air, there was this gigantic bolt of lightning. It didn't hit anybody. It didn't hit the truck. It didn't hit him. But he said, "One more fuckin' thing like that, I'm getting out of here!". That didn't go on the air. But, as soon as he said that, we were on [the air], and the wind started to take the umbrella. Of course, I was getting soaked. It's the only time that Jim Nunn has really cracked up in the middle of a newscast.
BB: He said something like, "One shouldn't make fun of another man's misfortune, but my that's funny!"
FC: And Norma Lee MacLeod was sitting beside him. She laughed, too. And, there I was, trying to be serious. Finally, I said, "To Hell with it." I said, "And that would be the weather". And the umbrella had turned inside out by then. It was toast. Thank God it was a CBC umbrella and not mine.
Anyway, I had to go and change my clothes because I was soaked. I didn't get back for the final little weather hit that we had to do at the end, because I just didn't have the time. I had 20 minutes. I had to go home and change my clothes, and then come back. I got back there about five after seven. The producer said, "Well, why didn't you come back?" I said, "What? Do you want me to catch pneumonia? What do you mean, come back? I had to change my clothes! I have to work late tonight!" He said, "Oh, yeah. But it would have been really funny". I said, "Oh, yeah. Then you could show it over and over and over again." Well, they didn't. They've shown it a couple of times. I don't know where that tape ever went. Somebody's got it.
BB: It may be on youtube. I'll take a look.
FC: You never know. Weirder things show up on youtube!
10. Where do you see radio being in ten years? Do you hope to be a part of it?
FC: Well, I'll be 80, so if I'm still a part of it, it will be a miracle. But, I hope it's going to go the way we talked earlier, the way that 96.5 and maybe Q104 and this station will still be going strong in 2020. I think that there is hope for private radio as long as they don't blow it. They can survive and will survive. As far as television is concerned: I love this campaign, Save Local TV. What a sham that is! What they're saying is, "We want to be paid by the cable companies". I have no problem with that. Cable should be paying for their signals. It should have been all along. But, I don't think that local news, and local television, is in any great danger.
I think that if CTV gets that money, they'll just spend it on more American programs. When they say, "Well, we've got the top 10 most watched programs in Canada"... well, what are they? They're all American. I have no problem with that, because they are private and they duplicate the American channel, which I think is Mickey Mouse and never should have happened, either.
And, good luck to [the private broadcasters]. But don't tell us that local television is in danger. Just say, "Look. For years we've been giving these signals to the cable companies for free. Well, ok, it's time they started paying for them." If that means that the cable companies have to put your cable bill up, then so be it. The taxpayer pays for the CBC, and I think they get good bang for their buck. The cable companies are taking the CBC signal for free, too. I don't know if the CBC can even force them to pay for it. But the private stations should be able to [get paid]. The CRTC is a little behind the times. But as some American said back in the '50's, "We've got three television stations, and nothing's on". Now, now we've got 200 television stations, and there's still nothing on! There are exceptions: PBS, History Channel, and so on. But what CTV doesn't tell you is that they own a lot of these stations, and they are getting money for these stations. Let's just not cry poor mouth here. I agree with their campaign to force the CRTC to make a decision on this. But don't say that local television is in danger, because it ain't. Because the CBC is going to have local television for the foreseeable future. They have to. It's their mandate. If you're going to close your local tv, and not have any news, what are you going to do? You're going to have American programs. Why not go to the States? Set up shop there? Go ahead!
11. Coming out of left field, Patricia and I have something in common with you, and that's we're both cat persons. You're a cat person, too. I'd like to talk to you as a fellow cat person for a moment. What attracts you to cats? What is it about cats that you like? Have you always been that way? Have you ever had a dog?
FC: I did own a dog. I owned a poodle. Not a French poodle as people call them. They have nothing to do with the French. They call them French poodles because Louis XIV introduced them to his court, and so they all became French poodles. A lie! They're a Russian dog.
Anyway, moving right along. I loved that poodle. But I've always had a cat. Through my entire life. We had an enormous tom cat when I was a kid i New Glasgow. He terrorized the neighbourhood, but then he would come home and get up on my father's lap and go to sleep. I like cats because they're really independent creatures, and I love that. They will not do anything that they don't want to do, and don't you force them. It's very hard to train cats, although some people can. Some people do it. They do it for television and movies, but mostly it's trick shots.
Cats are finicky eaters. They won't just eat anything. I have a cat who will not eat table scraps, not that we give him table scraps because I don't think you should give cats table scraps. They eat cat food. That's why they're there! Cats are fussy; they're really finicky; but I like that about them. They're playful only when they want to be playful. My current cat, Shim is his name (they didn't know if he was male or female; we found out he was male, but now he isn't male any longer), will fetch.
BB: So does my cat.
FC: We've got this little ball. He'll go and pick up the ball and drop it at your feet, and expects you to throw it. But when he doesn't want to play any more, he just sits there and he lies down. He'll say, "That's it. I've had it". And you could pick up that ball and throw it 20 times, and he'll just look at you, [as if to say], "What are you doing?" . Also, if they're not interested in playing at all, at any point, and you've put something down for them to play with it, they'll take a swipe at you! [chuckles] . And I like it when they snarl.
I love cats of all kinds. I love the big cats, too. God, they're some of the most beautiful creatures in the world. At the zoo in Aylesford [Oaklawn Farm], they have these tigers. My God, they're beautiful animals. They're just gorgeous. Every sinew as they walk; it's all muscle. They're amazing, amazing creatures. And they don't call the lion the king of the jungle for nothing. As a matter of fact, it's the female lion who should be called the king of the jungle because she's the one who does all the hunting. The male just gets fat and lazy.
But, any kind of cat, I love. Even those scrawny-looking cats that are from ...
P: Oh, those Egyptian ones? The hairless ones?
FC: Yes. They're ugly as Hell, but you can't help but feel for them. "My God, you're ugly!".
P: They're very affectionate because they want to keep warm.
FC: Well, most cats are affectionate, unless they've been inbred or something. I used to go to the Eastern shore in the summer time. They had a female [cat] there who used to hang out with the full-grown collie they had there. The cat, when she had a litter of kittens (which was about once a week!), would take the kittens and put them on the dog's back, and the dog would carry them around for her. They're amazing creatures.
BB: I'm fascinated by cats.
FC: The collie was a fascinating dog, too, because it was a country dog. The mother [cat] used to go out into the woods right behind the cottage and she'd come out with a squirrel or something, and it was a savage sight watching those little kittens go into that squirrel!
FC: Yes. Once they get to eat solid food.
P: It's the kill instinct.
FC: And you can't breed that out of them. I had a cat once that used to kill birds (and the bird lovers are going to hate this!) and stack them up under the tree out behind my house. I'd go out there, and there would be two or three birds there. I'd say, "Boy, you've been busy today, haven't you?" The next door neighbour would say, "Well, you should put a bell on that cat!" I'd say, "OK", and he'd have the bell off in about 30 seconds. You can't train [cats] not to kill. Now, he never ate the birds, because he was too well fed. It was the thrill of the hunt. And they still get it. This was a female, and they're the hunters.
The males will kill animals, too. Mine brought home a mole from the golf course [chuckles]; we lived not far from Brightwood. He comes home one morning, and he's got this thing in his mouth. It's a summer night. He plunks this thing down on my foot. "And what do you want me to do with that?" He just looks up and me and says, "Meow!" It's a mole. He's just showing you the kill. I had to gingerly go and get gloves on and pick up the mole and...
BB: Did you praise the cat?
FC: Oh, yes. I did. I patted him and so on. He said, "A-1, Frank. I'll bring you back some more".
But that's why I love cats. I just love cats.
BB: One of my regrets in my life is that I didn't have more cats. I had a cat when I was a teenager [and into my early 20's], and I didn't have a cat again until I was 42. I wish I had had a cat in the intervening years. I really regret that.
FC: I never missed a beat! [laughter]
Can You Talk For Just A Couple of Minutes About Frank's Bandstand?
P: That was on the CBC, right?
FC: That was CBC.
P: I have a friend who used to watch Frank's Bandstand. Her name is Shera Lynn, by the way. She's going to love it when she finds out I was talking to you.
FC: We went to Toronto to see the Beatles in 1964. We had 20 kids from a CHNS contest. It was a typical trip. But then, as soon as I got back, we went into production with Frank's Bandstand. I did an audition, which was a joke, like most auditions are at the CBC. The producers were going to hire me anyway because I was the disk jockey, and I had access to all of the music and all that. It was cool. We had [the records]; we also had a band. We had some singers. We invited kids in to dance on the show. We used to get a lot of racists calls from people because we had black kids dancing. But the producer didn't give an inch on that. "We're not going to be intimidated by the racists". It blew over. Nowadays, you would just do it automatically. Times have changed a lot. There's still a way to go.
[The show] went for the Fall of 1964 to the Spring of '68. For the first three years, I did it as a contract performer because I was at CHNS at the time. Then, I left CHNS in '67 and went to the CBC full-time, became a CBC announcer, so it was an assignment after that (but I was making considerably more money at the CBC). That was for the last year.
It was fun. A lot of great musicians went through there. Anne Murray did it for a season. Catherine MacKinnon. Her sister Patrician Anne; she's no longer with us: She had leukemia. It went away, but it came back.
Karen Oxley, who is no longer with us; she had a heart attack.
BB: What's the biggest band you were able to book? Or, maybe, who went on to huge things afterward?
FC: Well, our musicians. Ryan O'Hearn, who married Emmy Lou Harris and who produced all her songs. He still produces her songs, even though they're divorced. Keith Jollimore, who went on to Dr. Music. He played sax. Earl Fralick, who is a big dog with the Stadacona band. Joe Sealy, who's probably one of the best jazz musicians in the country. Davey Wells, who's also no longer with us, sang. Ken Tobias appeared as a guest on a number of occasions. We had Kenny Chandler, who was an American singer, come on. There were a bunch of other Toronto musicians who came and did guest shots. Most of our musicians did very well for themselves.
BB: Thank you very much for your time, Frank Cameron. I know you're a busy guy, and that you have more important things to do than to talk to a little blogger like me. Spread the word of the blog! Tell your friends about Bevboy's Blog! I want to interview every on air radio person in Halifax that I can. Even folks who are retired. We're losing these stories.
FC: We're losing my friends, too!
BB: If my blog is about anything, I guess it can be a repository for these old radio stories.
FC: And, it's a great idea. I think it's a wonderful idea.
BB: Thank you so much for that. And thank you so much for your time.
FC: It's been my pleasure.
Great to read the interview and hear the audio clip. Living on the South Shore in the early 60's, Frank's afternoon top 40 show on CHNS was a must-listen-to. Unfortunately the evening show wasn't available because of the change of broadcast pattern at sunset. Ironically my strongest radio memories of the 1960's turned out to be WKBW in Buffalo and WABC in NYC, which came in loud and clear!
But Frank Cameron was, even to a 13 year old, a class act, someone that you inherently liked and respected. And that voice hasn't changed a bit. Thanks Frank!
Great to see the interview and hear the audio clip. Living on the South Shore in the early 60's Frank's afternoon top 40 show on CHNS was a must-listen-to. Unfortunately the evening show wasn't available because of the change of broadcast pattern at sunset. Ironically my strongest radio memories of the 1960's were WKBW in Buffalo and WABC in NYC, both of which came in loud and clear!
But Frank Cameron was, even to a 13 year old, a class act, someone that you inherently respected and liked. The voice hasn't changed. Thanks Frank!
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