Bob Powers, April 23, 2009.
Bob Powers and I met at the Mongolie Grill in Halifax a few months ago. It was a free wheeling conversation about his radio career. We hope you like it.
1. How did you get your start in radio?
Bob Powers: It was a fluke, really. I went to college; the first week I was on campus, which was a fluke in itself, that I made it to college. I was looking through the college course calendar trying to pick out courses. I didn't expect to go to college.
I just happened to look at the back page of the calendar. I was getting frustrated trying to figure out what I wanted to take, and the back page was about the campus radio station. It was not a credit course, but it was a club. I said, " That sounds like it could be a blast". I should check that out. No sooner did I think that, when there was a knock on my door (this was in residence at Saint Thomas in Fredericton), and a bunch of my buddies were at the door. They noticed that I was reading the back page of the calendar, and said " Hey, man! Are you signing up too"?
So I was in. We all signed up; it was not a credit course but it had 92 or 93 student members, so you had to fight to get on air. It was never a burning desire for me to be a broadcaster. I always liked radio; I always thought it was cool and listened to it under my pillow at night. But that's what really got me going because I spent the next year and 1/2 after that putting in as many hours on the air as I could. I spent more time at the radio station than I did at my studies.
Then, a year and 1/2 later, when I left college, I got the proverbial day to day jobs. I got tired of it, and I asked myself, one day like my daddy used to tell me, " Find something you like and you'll never work a day in your life". I went, " Oh, radio is kind of neat. Maybe I will just put on a shirt and tie end see if they'll give me a job at CKCW in Moncton".
I walked in, asked to see the program director Doug Pond. I could see the look on his face because I've had it myself later on in my life and career. "Not another rookie off the street looking for a career on air".
"Hi!. I'm Bob Powers. I have a year and 1/2 on air college radio experience. Do you have any jobs open? I'm willing to do anything".
Doug had nothing, but he turned me on to a course here in Halifax through Manpower. That's how I ended up here in 1975. I took the course for seven months, and started my first gig on air, at radio station CRXL. I came to Halifax in the Spring of 1975. The instructors were Rick Green and Alex J. Walling.
BB: He was doing that training for many many years.
BP: Where do you think he got the idea to do the school [the Atlantic Broadcast Institute]? When he did ABI, all the groundwork was laid out for him by what they put together for the government. Very interesting set up how that was built in terms of how you grade somebody in Broadcasting, and the different jobs that you do. Everything was broken down into cells - - Editing, Copy, Reading. They all had a square and the all came to a composite grade at the end. Well, he used the same basic principles, foundation or system of marking, when he started ABI! As far as I understand it, when Gary Barker and Troy Swinamer bought it, they used the same system again. They continued to use the same system.
BB: So, you did the course, and ...
BP: I spent seven months in the course here in Halifax. I got my first job in December of 1975 at CFNB in Fredericton. So I went back to Fredericton where all of my buddies were still going to college. It's a great place to start your first job in radio [laughter]. I was doing all nights. I was there for seven months.
2. Tell me about your very first on air shift. How old were you, and how nervous were you?
BP: My first on air shift would have been in September of 1973. I honestly don't remember much about it, but it was in the middle of the day. I think I was on for an hour. I didn't have a clue what I was doing. And don't ask me why when I think of this question it's like I have no idea what possessed me that I thought I could do this
BB: This was at the Campus radio station, was it?
BP: Yes, at UNB Saint Thomas. I made it on the air. They basically showed us how to use the board. I'm a big music fan; I'm playing my favourite rock and roll tunes. I have no air checks of those days. I have lost many of my earlier checks, but I don't remember being afraid of this. And yet, ironically, later in my career, after I started professionally, I can remember coming up short and dry on the air. "Nothing to say!", or "I'd like to think of something to say, but I'm braindead; I've gone past the first three things I was thinking I was going to segue together".
Just that first day didn't equate to anything nervous that day. And then, after that, I was hours on end. Nobody wanted to do all nights. A buddy and I did the all nighters. But that's another story. [chuckles]
3. What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received, and who provided it?
BP: Be nice on the way up, because you'll meet them all on the way down. That would have been
Rick Gordon, in 1976 at CKCW. That would have been one of the first pieces of good advice I got in the business. And it's true. You'll see them on the way down. I've seen them all [chuckles]. On the way up, and and on the way down again?
BB: Which side of the hill are you on now?
BP: I'm on the other side of the hill now. In my heart of hearts I still wish I was doing radio full time. I miss it. It's like a part of me has been cut away, in a way. It's not totally cut away; it's always there. But I can't exercise the muscle every day like I used to all those years.
4. Who were your influences in radio when you were growing up?
BP: I never really tried to emulate others. You always try to emulate how other announcers sound, the cool things they say. In the old day, the stand out jocks were your major market personalities. But, here in Atlantic Canada, you're away from the majority of that. I wasn't like JC. He could tell you about anybody in North America. That's not where I'm coming from. You do emulate the guys you hear. Doug Pond was one of them. Guys like Garnet Dee at CKCW, Rick Gordon. I took something from all of those guys.
My first real job was at Fredericton (CFNB), but I didn't get the same feeling that these guys were hip and cool and they're tomorrow's radio. They were today's and yesterday's radio at the time. There were a lot of good guys there; don't get me wrong. Lou LeBlanc being one of them. That's where Lou and I first met: CFNB in '75. But it was an old, conservative radio station, so when I got to Moncton I wanted to emulate the guys that were there. I had worked with a number of the guys in the business; that's a story in itself: John Darrell, John MacGillivray; he was on the air as Johnny D at one time.
BB: He was the Shadow, wasn't he?
BP: He was the Shadow.
BB: And he's a warlock?
BP: Yes, he is. I can tell you a lot of stories about that, but my point is that he was the guy I did not try to emulate, but I tried to do the same types of things but not sound like him. I guess, if I am using the word "emulate". He is one of the most creative, and has one of the best set of pipes I've ever come across in all my years in radio. He was a guy I took some keys from, in particular from his creative side. He has a honkin' big left brain; he's just incredibly creative at things. He's just one of those guys.
But to emulate a Wolfman Jack or a Dick Clark just to use big names like that: I quickly found out after I got on the air that I wanted to find out how to be me. That might just sound cliched in a way, but I couldn't be anything else. That's the way I look at it. I just got to my own comfort zone in my own skin. And, ironically enough, that's what you get taught. That's what you get told: Forget sounding like him. Sound like yourself. Find out how you're going to be comfortable in your own skin.
BB: You can only be a second-rate somebody else, but a first-rate yourself.
BP: That's right. I mean, you look at guys like Casey Kassem, Wolfman Jack. You can hear their voices in your head mostly because they were so popular and proliferate. They were everywhere. But each one of them sounds different. I don't sound like JC, and there are a lot of moreso nowadays un-traditional voices in broadcasting than there ever was before. When I first started, it was in the days of [deep voice] "Hey! You've got to have a sound like this." Well, nobody talks like that. And, if they do, I'm thinking there's something wrong with [them].
There's a guy who does that Car Crazy show on tv on the weekends. I watch it every Sunday morning. He's a heck of a nice guy, and he does a great show because I love the cars; but he talks like this all the time [effects 1970's disk jockey]. And I think, "God, there really is someone who talks like that, sort of, all the time!" He does interviews, and he still sounds like that. But that's him. I'm not about to emulate that guy, for sure!
You can take something from everybody, but I've never really emulated anybody in particular.
5. Tell me about those early days at Q104. How would you compare Q104 today to what it was 25 years ago?
BP: That's like saying how's Dodge City compared to when they first started it? It was pretty wide open, wild west, when it started. And now it's a refined and evolved city. That's kind of like how Q is in its development, its evolution. It was unbelievably freewheeling; the premise was total creativity. We were young; we were irreverant. We were rebellious in many ways. All those things you wanted to do as a teenager, we're getting to do them as we were approaching 30! But compared to today, it's the same DNA. The DNA that started there in 1983, is still there are now. The reason why I can say that with conviction is that when we did the radio reunion, the 25th anniversary, and all those people came together that were there in the early years, it was like old times. It had not changed. One of the things that I enjoyed that weekend was that nobody stepped on anybody. Everybody got to tell their story; nobody was trying to one up each other. It was never like that in the beginning, and it's not like that now either.
But there is a difference. Part of it is age. Part of it is backgrounds of individuals that were involved then compared to now. It's just a younger crew. It's better now than it ever was. It's more of the business: it's more of the reality of having a 25 year old business. But the nugget, the DNA of what was there 25 years ago is without question there today with the newer ones, the ones that came after. There's something about that radio station: the fabric of that will never go away. In my years in the business, there are very few stations in Canada that have a history like Q's, that has a following and a love of the station like that. People really buy into the radio stations around here. It's part of their life.
6. You are still on the air once a week, on Saturday mornings. Are you comfortable with that, or would you like to be on the air more frequently?
BP: Oh, I'd love to be on the air every day. I still miss writing a show, being plugged in everyday, being aware of what's going on and put in my spin on it. But things have changed a lot since I left there in 1995. There's only one station I would work for fulltime, and that is Q. But if I could have my heart of hearts, a fulltime gig in radio again, I'd love it. I miss being there every day.
BB: Does JC know you want to be on the air every day?
BP: Definitely [chuckles]. He knows it. He knows I'd be back in a heartbeat. I was surprised and lucky and thrilled that he called me when he did, when HAL flipped, and they [MBS] weren't offering anything. It was funny; it was weird, because on a Wednesday somebody asked me what I was doing, like are you still on the air or something. I said, " No, I guess I am a r.r....". I felt like Fonzie trying to say, "sorry". I couldn't say "retired broadcaster". First of all, I'm not that old! I don't know if I said I'm just between gigs or what I said.
On Friday of that week, JC called me and said, "I think I've got something for you". I said, "What?" I thought he had concert tickets or something. " No, I think I've got a gig for you." I said, " Have you got pictures of somebody with a chicken? Did somebody die?"
JC said, " No, seriously. I've got a gig for you, if you're interested."
I said, " Hell, yes. I'm interested. What is it?" The next thing I know, I'm working Saturday mornings. I'm doing some voice tracking and stuff at the station, like Sunday mornings. I also voice track at KIXX Saturday and Sunday afternoon. On one hand, why that might seem hokey, doing old classic country, I love it. I get so much feedback off that country station, and believe me, they're going to be so upset, they're so going to miss having that outlet. [KIXX is flipping to FM later on this summer, having been purchased by Rogers in 2008. The format for the new station has yet to be announced].
BB: Country listeners are extremely loyal, aren't they?
BP: Well, the other part of that, too, it is that if you're a 65 year old person in this town, what can you listen to besides the CBC that's going to come close to the style of what you like to listen to? By default that older person's going to listen to country or is going to have to go home and listen to Northwood on cable to get the older style. There's nothing in the market for that.
BB: There's Wayne Harrett's station.
BP: If you can pick up Wayne's station. And it comes with its own luggage in its own right. But it's not the same as having a commercial venture there, 24 7. We've pushed most of them to satellite, and most of them don't know how to turn on a satellite radio. But that's what they're missing. That's exactly what I was listening to on the way out here. It was a satellite radio, and I was listening to Sinatra. I like everything. I am a rocker; don't get me wrong. There are qualities about it that I like. It's real music. Some of it's corny, but it is real music. You can hear the lyrics, as hokey as that sounds. You can hear the instrumentation. There are no secrets; there is nothing masked in the mix. They are intellectually solid, you know? They either work or they don't.
However, you can take that across genres. The other station I was listening to [on the way to lunch] was Outlaw Country. Alex J Walling and Rick Greene tortured me to death about having to play country music in my first radio station because it's going to happen they said. I was adamant back then; I was just a punk kid. Guess what? Landing at CFNB in 1975, I got used to Country real fast! There was lots of it. It was mostly Country based, especially back then.
7. I will list the names of people you know, knew, or worked with. Please say something about them.
JC DouglasBP: Ultimate radio head. Probably the best archivist I've ever known. He is absolutely phenomenal. He is tireless when it comes to work and detail, sometimes to a fault, and he'd probably admit that. He's very meticulous, but I know what that's like. I was like that when I was a programmer. Everything I ever did in radio; everything I do now is like that.
He's just a great guy. I'll never forget him coming into the station at Q. We were offering him a job, but he couldn't take it because he had just accepted his first job at CKBW. "Come back here in a year", and that's exactly what happened.
And I have to tell you that the other part of that is proud. I'm really proud of him. That sounds hokey, too, like somebody's Granddad. He's worked extremely hard over the years. He's done a number of different things. He's been very successful at the work he's picked up at the last decade on Q. He's really helped the radio station. As a professional aspect to what I think of JC, he's really taken the station to the next level. He is a Q Councillor! He is one of an original breed. I think it's gratifying that someone is there that is aware and diligently working toward always maintaining that station's heritage.
You ask him anything: He's got things about me that I don't have. You were saying about pictures and things like that? I've got no pictures! I was never one of those guys. There are a number of guys, JC being one of them, they love nothing more than to have boxes and boxes of them[selves] with so-and-so. That was never me. I have a few things, but not a lot. A lot of that stuff, I gave away, which shocks people like JC.
But as far as JC: I love the guy. He's great.
Brother Jake Edwards
BP: I've known Jake since high school in Moncton. Actually, I didn't meet him in high school, but knew him as an acquaintance that far back.
BB: What is his real name?
BP: Vernon Mazerole is his real name. "Rockin' Soul Mazerole" was his first on air name. I knew him from parties and stuff from a distance, and then when I worked in CKCW I was doing all nights, and he was hired from Sydney to come to Moncton and do the evening show. We started a famous relationship: we were two of the youngest guys at the station. We got to be really close, and when he left to go to Winnipeg, I left to go to Halifax. We always stayed relatively in touch with one another. He knew how I worked. There is no better tap dancer in the business. This is the King Of Sizzle. If you want a guy to sell chopsticks over the top, give it to Jake. They are $1,000,000 chopsticks when he's done. Don't ever tell a joke because he will steal it. It will never have been your joke. It will always be better; you will always remember it as being Jake's joke. He is phenomenal that way. He's a great performer. He has a big heart, way bigger than people might think about. He is a good family man. He is as funny as Hell. He was a lot of fun to work with. He was a lot of fun to party with. And he's doing very well out in Vancouver too, which I'm quite happy for him about that, because he stayed in the business.
He was a radio nut from day one. When he was going to high school, he got the bug for radio. He always wanted to do radio. He got tight with the late Ron Bourgeois, the Little General in Moncton. Ronnie recommended that he take the radio theater arts course in Boston. Jake went to Boston, took the same course that Ronnie did, and the next thing you know he's back in the Maritimes working on the air in New Glasgow and Sydney, Moncton, Winnipeg. By the time he was in Winnipeg, he just blew everybody away. And that really launched him for the next 10 to 15 years. And he still a great talent, funny as Hell. Put him up on stage and make him sing a song, he can do that too. He's a great guy.
Denyse SibleyBP: What a pet. A woman I truly, truly wish I could have worked breakfast with. I really believe that we could have made a hell of a team. It's kind of funny about Denise about any of the ones at that station I competed against them for so long, and pardon the vernacular kicked the shit out of their ratings for a long time. And that was in the era of unenviable position to iterate to what I said before about about being nice on the way up because you are going to see them again on the way down. All of a sudden I am at their door looking for work. To make a long story short, I wasn't a real big fan of the station, so I didn't listen much. Then when I started there, and obviously I listened more and got into the groove: she is one of the hardest working people. She's another person where she is what she is. There's nothing put on about Denyse. She is without question one of the hardest working people I know in the business. She carries a lot of load. She's great on the street; she's great on the air. I think she finally has her wings stretched out for her now.
She's phenomenal. She's got tireless energy. She is fun to work with. And I think for a long time she wasn't getting her due. So it's nice to see her where she's at now. She's one of my favorite people, so like I said I wish I'd had the opportunity to do a morning show with Denyse. We would've killed as a mature male and female morning team; I don't think anybody in town could have touched us. I really believe that.
BB: She was very nice to me when I interviewed her. She let me go up in the studio and take pictures of her and Jigger up there. She was just very accommodating.
BP: I think the other thing that I'd like to mention: she got painted with a brush for a long time of being like the third wheel in that scenario in the morning show for a long time. That's why I see it's nice to see her spread her wings. The thing is that she's an amazingly astute and intuitive woman. She doesn't go off about things half cocked; she doesn't lose her mind about things. She's very methodical. She's out not to hurt anybody, which is an amazing trait to have being in the business and being where she is. She's really good that way. She's not someone who will go off and whine in the corner or anything like that. She's pretty direct about things. She's a real talent who could have been and should have been bigger than she is in this marketplace. That's my opinion.
She's such a sweetheart. She really is. And she's a good momma too.
BP: Stan the Man! We worked together briefly at C100, and then the next time around the block at the Q. He came on board at the Q in a part time position there for a while. He was left behind when I left. He is an incredibly creative individual. He's got a great voice. He does a great read. He's not an over the top personality, but he's incredibly funny and very intellectual. I love to listen to him on the CBC. He and Doug put a lot of work into it which is a great comment on Doug Barron. But when you talk about Stan Carew, he is a veteran. He has been in the business for a long time, and he is definitely one who was made for the Corp. He is a Corp broadcaster. His forays into private radio were pretty good too. Don't get me wrong. He was totally different on Q. When he started on Q, it was a totally different sound. "Q doesn't sound like that!"
And it's like what I was saying about voices: you can sound like Donald Duck, not saying that Stan does. But if you're saying something and he's always feeding you something compelling, he always has a way of delivering things that makes it worth listening to.
And you cannot mention Stan in this market anymore without referring to his departure. It was classic. He was given an opportunity in their inept way of doing things at that time, to walk off the air the way that he did. As crazy as that was, they allowed it to happen again! You don't lay off people in radio and let them continue working. It's not really good for the on air sound at some point. But they did it. " Yeah, we're going to lay you off, but we'll get back to you and let you know when".
When Bob Macdonald [Bobby Mac] was laid off he was doing a Saturday night show taking calls about the state of Metro Radio. Listener responses were like, "This just sucks, man. The computers are taking over."
BB: I wish I had the tape for that.
BP: Believe me, so do I! And I roared. Nobody did anything. For perspective on that, if I was the boss, and Bobby was on my radio station, and he was leaving, first of all, you do not get a chance to say goodbye.
BB: Yes, it's very seldom. And are never even mentioned again.
BP: That's right. "He's just no longer here. Where is his mail going? Into the dark void of the universe!" That's another MBS story, but anyway.
If he had been working for me, I would've driven from home, and yanked his ass off the air in a heartbeat. "Goodbye. I'll finish the shift. Get out!". Nobody did that. Who's in charge? It was a weird time. It was a really strange time in metro radio history, and in Q's history.
BB: It was 1995.
BP: I had already been gassed in June. The day that Stan walked off the air, I was sitting across the street at Tim Hortons in Bedford. They had moved us out to Bedford's Sun Tower. They had a studio smaller than the men's room. It was unbelievable. Times were changing.
I was sitting across the street; I just dropped my son off for karate; he's now 20. I'm listening and reading and doing what I'm doing. I think it was actually studying product knowledge on Office Equipment. I caught out of the corner of my ear what Stan was saying. I said, "Oh, my God. Is he going to do what I think he's going to do?" I knew the buildup to the pitch. When he walked out, I jumped out of the car. I was dancing in the parking lot. " Way to go Stan!" I couldn't believe it. I was thinking maybe I was going to see him make his exit; I was trying to get across the street. That was a priceless moment. I laughed. I had tears in my eyes when he walked off. And it took them awhile to figure out what the Hell went wrong. They were off the air. He turned up the mic pot and walked out. You could hear his footsteps!
BB: There were three stations at Sun Tower: the old Sun FM, Q104, and CFDR. 780 KIXX. And then all three moved to where you are now [in 1998].
BP: I had forgotten the flip to country came in 1993.
Frank CameronBP: Brother Frank! That guy is amazing. He is an original radio head. He is Halifax's Dick Clark. That's served him well, and he has served Metro well, too. He is a hell of a personality. He has a great set of pipes. Great voice. Great read. Old style. He can't do a rock spot to save his life, but that's not Frank. He can be funny. [He is] well connected. He knows politics. You never know where he's going to show up. He's got his finger on everybody's pulse.
BB: He's doing a book as well, apparently.
BP: That scares me. [chuckles] Strange that for all the effort they went through to hire him and Doug Saunders at CHNS [in 1995], and how it tumbled away or devolved after that. They were a great team. Frank is old school, not new radio. But he is absolutely the best in that bubble. I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but he is not what I would call a today's broadcaster. It doesn't matter; he's done it all. He's been everywhere, done everything. I think he's got a great history. I miss him, don't see him enough.
P: He's a pioneer. He started off the Bandstand.
BP: He did all those things. He did the Bandstand. He was at CHNS in the early days. He started working in radio when he was a kid, when you could still do that. You could go in after school and work at the radio station. He is one of those originals. He is a hell of a guy though, funny as Hell. I love him just the way he is. I wouldn't change anything. I think he's perfect for what he's doing over at Seaside [FM]. He fits the mould.
Doug BarronBP: I first worked with Doug at C100 in 1979. He was a producer/on air. After I left C100, he went on to work at CFNY in Toronto. He made a couple of bounces as well. I think his resume, like mine, was in the pile when Arnie [Patterson] hired [Brother] Jake. But, without question, he is one of the top two or three producers I have ever worked with. He's incredibly funny. He's wickedly left-brained. He's incredibly creative. Very, very good producer in the studio. He has a keen sense of timing and comedy. He has an incredible voice, and incredible read. He has one of those timbre voices where he doesn't have to yell in your face. Even when he does something pumped up, he just has a nice delivery. I've always liked his delivery. Just the way he sounded on air, the way he sounded on things he's produced. But he is unbelievably creative, one of the top two or three people who come to my mind that are creative in the studio and creative on the air as well. He's got all the parts. Just a great guy. Fun to party with, too! A lot of laughs.
8. Is it still a thrill to be on the air?
BP: Is a frog's ass watertight? Hell, yes. I'm excited every time ago on the air. I love being on the air. It's not about the ego, and I readily admit to having one, a healthy one. I don't think it's oversized. But like I was saying before, the interaction, talking to people, communicating. "Did you see that guy's bike fall over?" That can be a bit to me. I miss not having that venue, that outlet to do that every day. Not many guys did it then, and not many guys do it now; but I used to write easily 3 hours a day for everything I did on the air, and I still do. I believe in having a road map and there is no better ad lib than a written ad lib.
I miss sitting down and going, "Peter Kelly, the stink downtown is not only coming from your office, it's coming from the sewage treatment plant. What went wrong?"
What's happening? I went to a cool restaurant today, the Mongolie Grill. If you haven't heard of it, you should check it out. They give you a bowl. You put your food in it. They cook it for you.
Any of those things, that's what I miss, about being on the air today. Or taking potshots at Britney Spears, Simon Cowell, to whoever it is. I miss that every day. And it can be frustrating, because you don't have the latitude. You've got long sweeps of music, and you can only drop yourself in there in a few places.
I came from AM radio. You were on the front and back of every damn record. Don't have a speck of dead air. Those places to shine, or show your personality, have changed somewhat. Q is a good example of that. Our mandate was to just be creative. I don't care if you go down the hall and yell the weather back into the studio. Just do something different. You had the latitude that if you wanted to do a 1 or 2 minute bit, go for it. There'd better be a payoff, at the end. If you wasted my time, I'm going to eviscerate you when we're doing an aircheck. But, at the end of the day, you had that latitude.
It's not quite the same now: You can be creative, but more compact.
BB: On Saturday mornings, when you do the album countdown and you do some anecdote about the band after a set of music, is that stuff that you write yourself? You don't source it from somewhere like the net?
BP: There are things that I will source. I'm not a robot, especially at my age and with my history. There was a time I'd recall just like that! But if you don't use the muscle, like they say, it atrophies. However, when I do go online, or use one of 100 different written sources I have, in my archive, they're there to spark the stories. I like telling the stories.
BB: I love hearing them. They're a lot of fun.
BP: Stories, to me, are what people tie into. That's what they get a hook on. I'm going to give a plug to someone else. I absolutely love Randy Bachman's "Vinyl Tap". He's first person. " When Gene Vincent came to my house for Thanksgiving dinner, he hobbled in and mom fed him…" That's real stuff! That's way more compelling than " Led Zeppelin were formed in 1968…".
Sometimes it's a little hard [to come up with a story]. What else am I going to say about Styx now? Oh, my God! Boring! Maybe I can find something about them, even individually. Dennis Deyoung, your best days are behind you. I didn't need to see him when he was here. I didn't have any desire to go see him.
Now, don't get me wrong. The band was incredibly creative. But there are many examples. Like, what else can I say about Janis Joplin?
But, the neat thing is, sometimes when I'm sitting there prepping, I remember. The first time I heard U2's "I Will Follow", Jake and I were drinking beer. We were listening to a 12 inch advance single, and "While You See A Chance" by Steve Winwood is on the other side.
BB: Well, when you played my six pack a couple of weeks ago, the Alice cooper six-pack, you told the story about the "School's Out" album, about the panties [an original premium with that allbum was a pair of panties. They were recalled because they were not flame retardant!]. I had no idea!
BP: Yes, people have no idea because after initial releases, they had to cancel that order. To me, those things are more compelling because you get that "Oh!" moment. There were something like six covers to Led Zeppelin's "In Through The Outdoor" album. I had forgotten that. I was thinking that there was four. Didn't the phone ring right away? "No. There was six!" I'm embarrassed, but now I remember. There were six different perspectives.
What an idea for an album cover. Nobody spends money on albums anymore! I hate CDs. There are great but I hate them. The ambient sound sucks. It's not the same warm sound analog had on vinyl. You don't have liner notes. You don't have art anymore.
I had an album collection that numbered around 10,000. I've probably got about 1500 or so now. They've been in storage for a long time, which is a terrible thing. I don't think I've even turned on my stereo in 10 years. You might not want to print that. My point is there are so many things, so many collector pieces that people don't know about; but I know people who actually made art designs in their living rooms and their REC rooms out of album covers. They put tacks on the walls, and they would change their display every week. Some albums were not worth taking out of the sleeve but the artwork was awesome! Some of them were amazing. I was always one of those guys into liner notes and artwork. The headier covers of Hipgnosis and like that. There's always another hidden message and that. You can't do that with CD's! I mean things like the Cars using Vargas Girls for artwork.
P: Oh, you mean the Vargas girls?
BP: Infamous. I mean, when he draws a woman, if that's not catching your attention, you're dead. Even if you're a woman. He was just that good at it. You can't put that on a CD cover. What font is that on the liner notes today? Forget it. I lose interest, because granted my vision is perfect, but the muscles are shot. I have no interest in reading one of those booklets that come with a cd anymore.
Today, with rock, the band is the band. You don't get guests in the studio [as much today]. "Look who's playing guitar on this!" It's not quite the same anymore.
BB: Or, Bill Wyman didn't play bass on that Stones song on Some Girls. Why didn't he do that? What was going on? They had Ronnie Wood doing it instead. I used to think about things like that: "Where was Bill Wyman that day?"
BP: You read some of the biographies and autobiographies for bands. That's my favorite reading of all.
BB: What's your favorite one?
BP: There are some incredible ones. " Nobody Gets Out Of Here Alive". Billy Graham's book was great. "A Long Time Gone", about David Crosby.
BB: Rolling Stone had an excerpt from John Phillips' biography…
BP: There are so many stories. I'm constantly reading that stuff. Right now I'm reading again Dave Marsh "1001 Rock And Roll Soul Singles". I'm not a huge fan of Dave Marsh or his writing. I think he's a very smart and a very good critic. I think he's overboard sometimes. He craps on things needlessly, but that's his thing. When you're reading about a hit from 1952 and he knows the background of that and tells you why it's good and why the other song is bad. I love reading that. To me, that's studying it. It's the " Oh!" that makes it stick. That's the
"Oh" that people remember when you say something like that on the air. I hope that when I'm telling you that there were panties in that album, someone out there is going, " Really?"
BB: Well, I did!
BP: Exactly! And now, you're looking for an album with the panties in it! And, believe me you would have a very valuable collector's item. Very valuable.
9. What has been your biggest on air gaffe?
BP: Which one would you like to hear?
P: The juiciest one!
BP: The juiciest one? I'll give you two. The short, quick one, which was -- no, I will do it this way. I'll do the three biggest, in order.
The first one, when I was still at CRXL, and the only place we broadcast was on cable four in Dartmouth. We had a large audience. :-). I had just started going out with my wife, who within 10 days of meeting her had become my fiancé. We're still together, 33 freaking years later. I was young and frisky. I was back selling Gloria Gaynor" I Will Survive" from the album "Experience". If I remember how I said it correctly, "That's Gloria Gaynor 'I will survive' from 'Experience Gloria Gaynor's Period'".
BB, P: [laughter]
BP: I was thinking that, " What day is this finished that we can get back to being frisky, right?" What do you say after that? Of course, being a rookie at the time, I had nothing!
Jump ahead now. It's 1977, and I'm working all nights at CKCW in Moncton. We had to read the news on the hour, and sports on the half hour. It's " rip and read" on the all night show. I get in there and if you're familiar with wire copy from the old days, you had summaries on all of these stories, and quickly go through it. If you were prepared it wasn't so bad, if you had a chance to pre-read it. I did not have time. I'm going through the summary on this 5 minute newscast. I hit the next story "cold", about the German airplane the Fucker [the Fokker]. [laughter]
And, of course that make of aircraft is mentioned in the story about four lines into the story, at least five or six times. Every time I said it, it got worse. Trying to get your lips around to say, " the Fokker".
BB: [laughter] It's like " Meet the Parents"!
BP: This is the last. I'm now doing a Sunday morning all night gig; this would not have been long after [the previous story]. There's a guilty portion to this one, too. On Sunday mornings, after I do the all night show, the "God Squad" would roll in in the morning. Burt Hebert, who is George Hebert's father (Anne Murray's guitar player and arranger producer for many many years), would come into CKCW in Moncton on Sunday mornings, and he would play all this Big Band music. Poor guy. He had damaged his arm at some point in an accident or something. They never removed the arm; he would be in there queuing up records with one arm.
He would be in there "conducting" the Big Bands and everything. But he wasn't an announcer. He would come in and roll all of the tapes. He never sat down. He always stood up. I'll never forget that.
So, at 8:00 AM, we ran a 10 minute major newscast that had to be recorded by the all night guy. And I'm telling you that it's Saturday night/Sunday morning, you are bagged after a six day workweek. It was a six day workweek back then, not five, not three or 4 1/2 like they have now. You were pretty bagged. I got clever. I thought, " This will be a great way to solve this problem! You always want to be current, and back then it was against the law to record a newscast. They were supposed to be live. So, right off the bat the station is bending the rules. This is making it even worse. I would record my 5:00 news on the B side of the board, the audition side. I would leave gaps when I was reading it live for the commercial. I would leave the tape for Burt to play for the 8:00 major newscast. To add insult to injury, when I recorded it I did this live as well, I made this mistake and left it for Burt; that's how tired I was.
I get home. I'm thinking I'm going to lose my job and that I should go back. I'm lying there, and my wife is saying, " What are you doing listening to the radio?" She can't stand listening to the radio. " Turn the radio down!" I said I was listening for something. I'm listening, and back in those days they had a musical signature. I'm almost sure was the top story: it was about the Newfoundland seal [female body part]! [laughter]
BB, P: [laughter]Can I put that in or not?
BP: Now, the hard part is, I left that in there. I'm home and thinking, " They will never hear that!" I hardly flinched. It's one of the first rules: if you make a mistake, keep going. It was as plain as day.
Now, I never heard any retribution for that whatsoever. It's out there somewhere in the universe, still out there. But, true stories, all three of them. And, again, I'm a rookie, and I'm reading a 5 minute newscast. This is either the top or the second story. I've got a long way to go with flop sweat running between my shoulder blades!
10. Where do you see radio being in ten years?BP: Oh, man. You know what? I don't know. There's so much happening now with satellite, with the internet. It's changing. I still in my heart of hearts believe there's going to be a place for local community radio. But I have to admit that I do like listening to satellite radio.
BB: XM or Sirius?
BP: It's all the same. My point is that when you have 110 channel choices, no commercials, digital quality, you'll have a radio station no matter what part of Cape Breton or Northern New Brunswick you're stuck in, that's a plus. But there's no immediacy to it; it's just not the same. It's like I was talking about before, about Buddy's motorcycle falling over, they can't do that per se. It's the same as my feeling about a lot of automation. Voice tracking now: You can't tell when you're listening [whether it's live]. You can't.
BB: You can. They don't give current temperatures.
BP: Time and temperatures. But other than that, if you took that out of the mix, you would really have a hard time telling when a jock is live or automated unless you know. The problem with it is that I find that it's hard to continue to be creative. It's almost like you become an automaton to get it done. The general premise is to be as creative and as compelling as you can always be no matter what you're doing, automated or live. It's really hard to do. When you're doing a 3, 4, 5, 6 hour live shift, and then you're expected to deliver 3, 4, 5, 6 hours of automated programming, you're toast before you left the studio.
People don't realize how tiring being on the air is, regardless of how long I've been talking here. It does. It takes a lot of energy to just talk, to be in a studio. It's funny because, and this goes to answering your question [about where radio will be in 10 years] I remember in '95 making this comment when we were making this transition over to computers, it used to be the jock in the studio was kinetic. He was going all the time [snapping fingers]. You never stopped: Grabbing carts, grabbing records, queueing records, taking a phone call. Everything is moving, moving, moving. And you're talking; you're using your brain.
This is the jock of the new millennium [mimics operating a computer mouse]. That's it! That drives me crazy. I do it all week long; I do it myself. It's not the same. These guys don't even know how to edit tape. That's not a comment on them; it's not their fault. Digital is slick and easy and unbelievably great to work with. Unbelievable. You can take a lot of crap out and go like that [clicks "mouse"]. Whereas I can remember a 60 second promo and a guy with 50 pieces of tape strapped around his neck and trying to keep them organized, saying, "Is that the Rush piece, or the Alice Cooper"? You put them together in Edit, and say, "Oh, no! They're backwards! Where's the Eddie Money bit?" However you were keeping track of the 20 pieces of tape, 50 pieces of tape, all varying lengths, and then put it all back together. You would be watching the edits flying by the heads.
Not any more. It's not like that. I'm not saying one's [better] than the other; it's just changed.
So, where's it going to be in 10 years, Bev? I don't know. On one hand, it's sort of exciting because of the technology. We are plugged into the planet more than ever before. It drives me crazy with my kids. They think they know so much, and I thought I knew a lot when I was a teenager. It's unbelievable the amount of information they have that they're exposed to, and how their thoughts and attitudes towards things are shaped. And, when you look at where we're going to be in 10 years, I don't know. They said fifteen years ago local radio was going to die because of satellites, automation and computers. It hasn't happened. It's actually gone up in sales and listenership. So there's still a future there.
But it is being impacted all the time. When you get in a car now, and you get satellite radio. The next thing you get is dvd players. You name it, and they're putting it in cars now. It's changed. But you can't change that traffic report, that weather, and that guy who makes you laugh at 8 o'clock in the morning on the way to work when you don't want to go. It ain't the guy in Chicago. It ain't the guy at BBC, London.
BB: It's B.J. Burke; it's Griff Henderson; it's Denyse Sibley. It's all those folks.
BP: Exactly. It's the local people, people I can relate to. They're here. They're immediate. "I saw him Friday night at the theater!" "Cool. He's just like everybody else, man. He was standing in line." It's not like that with the other sources.
I think there's a good future for radio, but it's going to be different. It's being made different every year. Like anything else, it's not all good; it's not all bad.
BB: It's just different.
BP: Yes. It's just different!
BB: Thank you very much for the last 2 hours, Bob. It's been fascinating. Thank you so much for your time. Spread the word of the Blog. I know you work at Steele Ford.
Tell your friends to tune into Bevboy's Blog. I update it every single day. Thank you once again.
BP: It's been my pleasure, man. I never tire of talking about Q. I never tire of talking about the business. I love it. I feel the same about cars, but it's not the same as about radio. Not at all.