Monday, January 24, 2011

Post 1504 – Interview with Lite 92.9’s Lisa Blackburn

November 4, 2010



Lisa and I met for dinner at the Mongolie Grill in downtown Halifax a little while back. I told Patricia. She told Jamie. Plausible deniability, folks. Try it sometime.

Usually when I meet these radio folks, I get a smile and a firm handshake. Not with Lisa. It was a big hug. DSCF4748-1What could I do? I hugged back, chastely.

We filled our bowls with the food that would be cooked in our vicinity, ordered our beverages, and started to talk. It’s a good thing I have such a perfect memory. And a digital voice recorder helps, too.

1. How did you get your start in radio?

Lisa Blackburn: How far back do you want to go?

Bevboy: As far back as you want to go.

LB: I think it was Christmas, 1978, when I got a tape recorder -- one of those table-top, cassette tape recorders. I started recording myself doing newscasts. I would have been 10.

BB: This would have been in Ontario?

LB: No. Actually, we lived in Saint John, New Brunswick by this point. That would have been the first. But, if you want to know actual on air, it would have been CKDU in September of 1986.

BB: Oh, that’s right. You went to King’s, which is part of Dal; and CKDU is the official Dal radio station.

LB: Exactly. When I went to King’s back in ‘86, it was still very much a print-oriented school. The journalism program was very focused on print. You really didn’t even get a chance to explore broadcast [journalism] until the 3rd and 4th year you were there. I decided early on that if I was going to test the waters with radio, that I’d have to do it on my own and went to CKDU and said, "Here I am." I didn’t even know how to type. All of my newscasts were written out in longhand. [laughs]

I did that for 4 years. I did a 15 minute news package and then some sort of Deutsche Vella(sp.?) radio feature for the next 15 minutes to fill the half hour. The tapes came to us for free.

BB: Was it in English?

LB: Yes. It was their English service.

BB: OK. How did you get started at the Q?

LB: In December of 1989, I chose to do my work placement at the Q. This was back in the day when commercial radio still had reporters. I think it was Barb Anderson that I followed for a couple of weeks. It was about the same time as the Montreal Massacre, actually, so there was a lot of vigils and stories surrounding that we attended.

I got my first auspicious on air exposure. I don’t know if there’s a tape of this that still exists. If there is, I’d love to burn it. It was suggested that I come in and shadow the morning news run to see how it works. I came in. It was getting close to 6 o’clock. I don’t know if you remember Michael Wile. Do you remember that name?

BB: Yes.

LB: He used to do the news on the Q. He was notoriously late. He would sometimes not show up. At the time, Andrew Boyle was doing news on CFDR.

So, it’s coming up on 5 to 6, and Michael Wile still hasn’t arrived. The first news cast is at 6 o’clock. Andrew Boyle looks at me, an intern, all of 18 or 19 years old at the time, and says, "So, do you want to do it?" And, because I had more confidence than brains, I said, "Yes! Sure."

Literally, it was rip and read. I didn’t know the format. I didn’t know what [news items] came first. I didn’t even know what the intro was. I just went in there. My voice was shaking; it sounded like I was gargling razor blades. I came out of the booth saying, "I never want to do that again!"

BB: This was during the Bob Powers era, right?

LB: It would have been, yes. He would have been doing mornings at the time. I think, at that time, Harv Stewart would have just arrived on the scene. Michael Wile would have been doing the news.

BB: What’s he up to these days?

LB: Good question. The last I heard, he was in Montreal. I don’t know if he’s still in radio or what his status is. He’s one of those people I should look up on Facebook.

BB: Everybody’s on Facebook!

LB: I know. But, to this day, Andrew Boyle is still one of my favourite people on the planet. I respect him so much. He did tv for a while, I do believe.

BB: What is Andrew Boyle doing now?

LB: Andrew DSCF4750-1Boyle just got hired for the new Rogers station in Ottawa.

BB: Good for him!

LB: I think he’s doing evenings. They are grooming him to take over the morning news run.

BB: That’s 1310 AM, isn’t it?

LB: Yes.

BB: And, they’re going to be staffed 24x7 from what I read.

LB: That’s the plan. But, it’s a tough format to try and staff.

2. What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received, and who provided it?

LB: I would have to say, it would be B.J. Wilson, who just said simply to be yourself.

BB: That would have been his first incarnation at Q104, in the ‘90‘s?

LB: Correct. That’s when I stopped being the disjointed news voice that just came in at the top and bottom of the hour and became integrated into the show. It was B.J. Wilson who discovered that I had a personality and pushed to have it used on the air. That was the best piece of advice: Be yourself. That’s what I would tell anybody in radio now who’s trying to get into it or get further into it.

BB: I made a mistake. Of course, you didn’t work with B.J. Wilson when he came back, because it was after you left. B.J. Burke didn’t leave for several months after you left.

LB: Yes. He’s on hiatus.

BB: What kind of guy is B.J. Wilson?

LB: He’s a big teddy bear. Have you ever met him?

BB: I have not.

LB: Oh, he’s a big man. He’s tall. He’s got to be at least 6‘4". Big, muscular chest. He’s just a big teddy bear of a man.

BB: He’s got that big voice of God.

LB: Big voice. but heart of gold. He’s a big-time family man. He’s "Daddy" first. He’s got a little girl. It broke my heart when he left. It broke his heart, too, when he left, because he certainly didn’t want to leave Halifax. He loved it here, even though he’s from Toronto. This was really his adopted city. I think, from the moment he left, it was his personal mission to get back to Halifax some day.

BB: I thought they made him a really cool offer out West, and he took it.

LB: Oh, absolutely. In Edmonton. But, it was one of those things. It was an offer too good to turn down. It was an opportunity for him to further his career, but he left knowing that he wanted to come back to Halifax some day. It was funny, because this all came down when he left so fast. I literally found out about his leaving at a pay phone, standing on the wharf in Skagway, Alaska. I was on vacation. I was on an Alaskan cruise, and we made a port call in Skagway, Alaska. For whatever reason, I decided I was going to call and check my voice mail. He left this voice mail. He was practically in tears.

BB: Before the days of BlackBerries.

LB: Exactly.

BB: OK. Have you seen B.J. since he came back?

LB: A couple of times, yes.

BB: Just like old times.

LB: It is. He’s just as much fun as he ever was. He still has that sense of humour. He still has that laugh. And, like you said, that voice of God. Mind you, I haven’t had the chance to listen too much of his work on Q.

BB: He’s filling in for B.J. Burke.

LB: Yes.

BB: But, does he have a secondary role with Newcap that you know of?

LB: I don’t know what the plan is.

BB: I had heard that he would be the new Program Director at Kool. But, they hired somebody else.

LB: They hired Trevor Walworth, who was the Production Manager. So, I don’t know what the plan is. I’m in the dark as to what goes on at Newcap these days. They must have something, because you don’t just travel half way across the country with your whole family for a 6 month fill-in gig. B.J. Burke’s illness was probably ... I never felt so much guilt in my life as I did when I heard his diagnosis, because it was so soon after I’d left.

BB: He announced in... January? [2010]

LB: Friends knew before it was announced on air. I had just left in November. Then, to get that [news]. I just felt so guilty about leaving.

3. The "Megan Edwards" question. If you lost your ipod, and I found it, what songs on it would surprise me the most?

LB: Oh, boy. Let’s check the ol’ iPod here. Even though I didn’t grow up listening to rock, I still love Led Zeppelin. Jamie is completely responsible for that. You’re going to find ABBA. You’re going to find Duran Duran because I am a girl from the ‘80‘s. I’ve got some Lady Gaga on here. Lots of comedy: George Carlin, Jim Gaffigan(sp.?). Kate Bush.

BB: What happened to Kate Bush, anyway?

LB: Such an amazing voice. The Mamas and the Papas. I’ve all the people I’ve had the opportunity to meet, getting to meet Denny Doherty was just beyond for me.

BB: What was the context of meeting him?

LB: When he did his show, "Dream a Little Dream", at Neptune Theatre. KOOL FM was a sponsoring station, so they did a preview and then a meet and greet with the cast afterwards.

BB: You met Doris Mason too, did you?

LB: Yes, I did. I took an old, beat-up [Mamas and the Papas] album and got him to sign it. When he passed away, I wrote a column about that for The Daily News. About a month later, I got a letter in the mail from his sister, who lives out, I think, either in Fall River or Waverley, to tell me how touched she was about the column. The whole thing is framed: The album, the letter, the article from The Daily News.

BB: Have you metDSCF4751-1 Michelle Phillips?

LB: No.

BB: She came to town for his funeral.

LB: I would have liked to. For me, it was all about Denny because the time he was kicking around Halifax with The Halifax Three, my dad was kicking around Halifax with his own band. I’m sure they intersected and played the same venues.

BB: What year would this have been? What was the name of your dad’s band?

LB: Oh, that was just a passing thing.

BB: DId the band have a name?

LB: I don’t know the name. He was a singer. He sang in choirs growing up. Then, when he was in high school, because it was the ‘50‘s and the cool thing to do, he found a couple of guys who played instruments because he doesn’t play anything. It was just a teenage flight of fancy, I think.

4. I was on FB in late July of 2009 and noticed your status updates about your husband losing his job at Kool FM. There was an angry tone to them. What emotions were you experiencing that day? Did the events of that day help you decide to leave Q in November of 2009?

LB: That day was very difficult for me, more difficult for me than it was for Jamie. He took it very much in stride. For me, that was the first time that I had ever had an experience with a job loss like that. I had never seen my parents get laid off. I myself had never been laid off. So, now, all of a sudden for my husband to lose his job, there were a million things going through my mind, a million emotions.

BB: Anger? Plus, you’re working across the hall.

LB: Well, what really upset me was the way in which it was handled by the company. They knew I was the spouse. Even though these meetings were taking place one floor below at 8 o’clock in the morning, they still expected me to perform on the air and didn’t call me into any of the meetings with Jamie.

BB: They didn’t excuse you from the air for the day.

LB: Exactly. It was just the way in which it was handled. The fact that that all the personalities’ web pages were erased from the website before they were told they were being laid off. I found that out 2 minutes before I’m expected to do my 8 o’clock newscast.

So, I wasn’t pleased with how it was handled. I think it could have been handled differently. I think it could have been handled better. Did it help me make the decision [to leave]? I wouldn’t say, "helped me make the decision". I was certainly just as dedicated to the company from that point on. I understood the logistics. I understood the reason behind why they were doing what they were doing. But, again, I think it could have been handled a little bit differently because there was a spouse that was directly involved.

Having said that, although I was still just as dedicated to the company, his leaving certainly paved the way, because if he hadn’t been laid off, Lite 92.9 wouldn’t have come calling. It was just happenstance that, when he was doing his initial interview with Danny Kingsbury (the manager at Lite), Jamie said, in a joking fashion, what I did for a living. That’s when Danny’s ears just went, "Ping! Oh, really?"

BB: He didn’t know you at all?

LB: No. He came from Ottawa. But, he’s an Edmonton boy. He and Jamie have a lot in common, because Jamie was born and raised in Edmonton. They worked in a lot of similar circles. But, Danny had no idea that Jame was married to the morning show co-host on Q104. When that information came to light, they went back and stewed on it and asked what my situation was, and would I be interested. To be honest, up to that point, I had no interest in leaving the Q whatsoever. If anything, my thought process was starting toward, "Well, you know what? Maybe I should start thinking about what I can do after radio". I thought that after I left the Q, I’d move off into some sort of PR-type of position, use my journalism background that way. That would be the end of my days in radio. But, when this offer came up, it was, "Wow. Never considered this. I wonder what this would be like? It would be a definite change."

BB: In format, if nothing else.

LB: Well, format for sure. Now, at the same time, Jamie and I had worked together before, because he’d co-hosted the morning show on Q for about 4 years. That’s how we met. We knew it would work. We knew we could do a show together because we knew we played off each other on air very well. The on air chemistry was right. We just didn’t know how it would translate with having to work together, being at home together, raising the kids together.

It was a tough decision. There were a lot of tears that went into the decisionDSCF4752-1 to leave Q.

BB: Were you approaching the end of your contract at Q104, and that’s how you were able to leave? Or, was JC just nice enough to release you?

LB: They were pretty much nice enough to release me. I stayed until the end of Fall ratings, and then left after that. That was the only thing that they asked of me. I put in my notice; I think it was the end of August/first of September. They asked [me to stay until the end of Fall ratings]. I went to Rogers and said, "Listen. I am under contract technically. They could tell me that I have to stay until the end of the year, but they’re willing to let me go after the end of Fall ratings. What do you think?"

BB: It seemed like a fair request.

LB: Yes. And, everyone was in agreement. My leaving Q wasn’t a nasty break-up because JC and everybody there knew, for the most part, it was for personal reasons. They knew I was going to work with Jamie. It’s not like I was going off to work at the new rock station. It was a different scenario altogether.

BB: Frank Magazine was intimating that you were getting disgusted with the raunch factor at Q104. Was there some element of that to [your decision to leave]?

LB: I don’t know if "disgusted" is the right word. I would say I was certainly feeling a bit of a disconnect because I’m a 41 year-old mother of 2. I’m not going DSCF4754-1out to the band slam nights at the bar and going out until midnight. I just wasn’t living the lifestyle. It was just becoming more and more difficult. I would do what I could, public appearance wise. I would take all the charity events. But, certainly doing the rock and roll events ... it just wasn’t me any more.

BB: So, they overstated things a bit?

LB: Frank? Overstated? I’m shocked and appalled! [laughs]

5. Tell me about a couple of on air mistakes you've made.

LB: Saying "yes" to Andrew Boyle when he said, "Do you want to do a newscast?" [laughs]

BB: Really? Well, it turned out well.

LB: It did. I learned a very valuable lesson from that whole thing.

BB: That being?

LB: Prepare, prepare, prepare. For many, many years afterwards, if I wasn’t properly prepared for a newscast, I would start having a panic attack on the air, just because, in my mind, I would flash back to that moment in December of 1989 when I was just basically handed these pieces of paper and said, "Here. Go for it."

BB: When you were integrated into the morning show as a full-fledged co-host, how would you find time to prepare newscasts. I know they had Stephanie Woodin helping out. Was she actually writing the newscasts for you guys?

LB: She would do some preparation. But the computer programs that we started using were such that literally my computer in the control room gave me access to all the stories that were written by everybody else in the building: The wire service, email. So, I wasn’t really cut off. Stephanie was there as an amazing back up. She would take all the traffic calls, breaking news stories. She would do some rewrites of stories. She would get things from the paper that were a maybe little bit deeper in that we never had the chance to look at. She was an extremely valuable resource, but with the computer systems the way they are now, we could do a lot in the control rooms. "Stairway to Heaven" IS an 8 minute song.

BB: That’s what you’re doing during the songs and the commercials. I always wondered what you people do then.

All right. Is there anything else you want to admit to, as mistakes on the air? Have you ever said "fart" on the air?

LB: You know what? I’ve never dropped any F-bombs. I think I can call it a success.

6. You covered Hurricane Juan on Q104 that fateful night in September of 2003. What is your opinion of radio news these days, when newscasts are becoming ever briefer? I notice that newscasts on your station are somewhat longer.

LB: A little bit longer.

BB: By purpose or design?

LB: I think so. The days of 10 minute newscasts on private radio are gone. But, at the same time, I think people need more than just 10 second headlines. They certainly want enough information so that when they show up at work, they know what’s going on. They know that Council has decided to build that new bus terminal over in Clayton Park. They know that Gordon Campbell has stepped down as BC Premier.

I guess, at Q, I always felt that when something really big happened like a Hurricane Juan or September 11th, then format went out the door. I was allowed the freedom and the time to get the information that needed to get out, out. Hurricane Juan is probably the most memorable story that I’ve covered so far.

At the time, I was living alone with my daughter. These were the pre-Jamie days. I had split from my husband. My daughter was with her dad, so I was home alone the night of Hurricane Juan. I tried to go to sleep. Along about midnight, when it was really raging out, I decided, "There’s no way I’m going to sleep. I might as well go into work where I’m sure there’s something that I can do."

By that time, our power was out. There was a tree that had fallen across the power lines and over my 1987 Toyota Tercel. I scooted underneath the tree, got into the car, backed out of the driveway, and headed towards work. I was just like everybody else: I had never experienced a Category 2 hurricane before. I had completely underestimated the scope, the power, and the absolute stupidity of what I was doing.

Coming along the Bedford bypass, one of the big overhead highway signs had blown onto the highway. I saw it too late to stop. I thought, "Well, I’m moving over this thing, come Hell or highwater!" I went over it, and blew out two of my tires. I pulled over to the side of the highway and looked at the damage. The tires are shredded. I thought I could make it over to the Ultramar by the Bedford Place Mall. Limped my way there. Got on my cellphone, as soon as I pulled into the driveway. I called Adam Marriott, who was working live on the air at the time. They had brought him in to do storm coverage. I told him the situation, and he said, "Well, let me put you on air."

So, he puts me on the air. I give a live report. "Here’s my situation. I’m stranded here at the Ultramar at Bedford Place Mall and need a lift into the station." Before I’d hung up the phone, no word of a lie, there were 3 cars that pulled into the parking lot of the Ultramar. One of them was military police, and one guy in a Camaro.

His name was Troy. I got in the car with him. We made our way down along the Bedford Highway. towards the station. He dropped me off. That started a whirlwind [of activity]. I don’t even know what happened from one minute to the next at that point because we were on the phones; we were doing reports.

About mid-morning, I guess, I got a phone call in the news room from the guys at the Ultramar station. They saw the car there. Jacked it up. Changed the tires. Put new ones on. Put the old ones aside. All I had to do was take a cab back to the gas station. I couldn’t believe it. I was totally amazed.

BB: Did you get a deal on the tires, too?

LB: Yes. Absolute deal! They were amazing. But, that ended up being more than just one night. It ended up being a whole two weeks of being flat out because I didn’t have power at home for two weeks. Thank God they had showers in the Pink Palace! [laughs]

BB: OK. So, what’s your opinion of radio news these days, over all? I realize you have a sister station that provides news from early morning until 7 o’clock at night.

LB: Exactly. DSCF4756-1And, really, CBC and 95.7 are really the only ones who are doing news, radio-wise. Nobody else has reporters who can go down to Province House. It’s basically rip-and-read headlines from the wire, follow up on news releases from RCMP, get a couple of audio clips from the Mounties or Brian Palmeter over at city police. That’s about it.

BB: But, you do this over the phone, if you do it at all. Right?

LB: Yes.

BB: Is radio news better now, or worse?

LB: Oh, it’s worse. I think that was one of the reasons, too, that helped make my decision to take the job with Rogers, was being able to be affiliated with News 95.7. The news aspect of it [is] my first love. And, the fact that they opened the doors to me as well, allowed me to go in and do bits on 95.7.

BB: The half hour with Rick Howe [Fridays at 10:30]? I presume you’ll be doing it with Jordi [Morgan]?

LB: Yes, I am. But, sitting it on the editorial meetings with them in the mornings, at 4:45 in the morning. They all stop what they’re doing and sit around and discuss, "All right, what’s our lead going to be for today?" I get a sense of what’s going on as well.

BB: I don’t mind saying this on the record. My problem with News 95.7, and the news wheel, is that there’s no chance to have any kind of in-depth coverage of anything, because the news stories are very brief, by necessity. I’m not sure if the news wheel is the best approach.

LB: And, I think that’s what they try to do with the talk shows. The talk shows are the opportunity to get more in-depth on particular news stories. I equate it to CNN Headline news. You check in. Stay for 15 or 20 minutes. And check out.

BB: A lot of stations in the States do that. You’re a news junkie. You know about 1010 WINS. You know about WCBS. I listen to them all the time.

LB: [chuckles] Yes. I listen to WCBS driving in in the mornings.

BB: I listen to Joe Connolly. He does the business report at 55 minutes to the hour. I’m driving in to work at 6:55 I know I have to switch away from whatever station I’m listening to, to hear Joe Connolly. I love Joe Connolly!

LB: That’s funny, because I can only get 880AM for just a brief amount of time, when I’m driving to work at 4am. I’ll punch it in just as I’m going over the Magazine Hill. They’ll be talking about 88 traffic and weather on the 8‘s and the Holland Tunnel.

BB: And the Long Island Express and the George Washington Bridge. I listen to 880am a lot. I listen to all kinds of AM talk. I know why AM radio left Halifax. I can’t ignore reality, but it was the end of an era.

LB: It is missed, big-time. I used to love shortwave. I remember as a teenager having a radio that had AM, FM, and then 2 shortwave [bands]. I’d be puttering around the kitchen or baking something, and I would just go and turn the dial and see what I could come up with. "Oh, look! Russia! That’s cool!"

BB: I used to listen to Russian radio stations in English. They would invade Afghanistan or something and then call it "military assistance".

LB: Back then it was "The Soviet Union".

BB: And, today, you have wifi radio. You DSCF4760-1can get a tabletop radio that can pick up 1000‘s of radio stations.

LB: It’s not the same.

BB: It’s not the same at all!

LB: You don’t have the loud, piercing whine in the background while you’re trying to adjust the dial.

BB: I listen to AM all the time. Do you remember Art Bell? He always flogged the C. Crane Company. I bought a CC radio. I have a CC radio at home.

LB: Oh, that was the radio that was going to save us from the Apocalypse.

BB: "Especially tuned for the human voice." It was 300 dollars for that one radio, but I do listen to it a lot.

LB: Oh, man. Art Bell!

7. Please say something about the following people.

A. JC. Douglas.

LB: The most passionate radiohead I have never known. He knows it. He gets it. He lives it. DSCF3018He breathes it. I’ve never known anybody who is more passionate about radio. When his days are over at Q, it is going to be an extremely sad day because they will never find anybody who knows and loves the history of the station like he does. He will be there until the day he decides his career is ended. That’s his love. That’s his life. That’s his passion.

BB: What kind of boss was he?

LB: He was a good boss. I enjoyed working with JC. He was Afternoon Drive. He came up through the ranks. He was just one of the guys. It was fun to work with him. I worked with him in a number of different capacities because I was his afternoon news chick there, many, many moons ago.

BB: Tell me about the first time you met him. This was around 1989, I guess?

LB: Yes. I have a feeling he heard that infamous tape of the morning newscast. He’s told me, in no uncertain terms, that the first time he heard me on air, he just shook his head. "This kid isn’t going anywhere!"

BB: He said the same thing about Karen Begin, and she had a career for a while at least.

LB: Yes, and then a very sad ending.

BB: I went out with her once, but it’s a long time ago.

LB: Really? Wow! [chuckles]

B. BJ Burke

LB: Love him to bits. I had the best time working with BJ. He is probably one of the most giving performers I have ever worked with. He is so willing to Q104 Aug 9 005 smalldeflect the spotlight away from him and on to his supporting cast. He is unbelievable in that regard. As I said before, I felt guilt like I have never felt before when I left and found out about his diagnosis soon after, because I felt like I was abandoning a good friend.

BB: Toward the end of your tenure, were there any signs that he was sick?

LB: Now that we look back, yes, there were. He certainly had a few symptoms. But none of us put it together. He didn’t even put 2 and 2 together until he fell seriously ill over Christmas, and then got the diagnosis in January.

BB: Did he say what kind of cancer it was on the air?

LB: I think so. I was already gone by the time he made that announcement on air. I’ll never forget that phone call when Bobby Mac called me and told me about it. Both of us were crying on the phone. Now, last I heard, he’s done all of his chemo. He’s done of all of his radiation. Everything is looking up. He was almost cancer-free, the last I heard. He’s even started making a return to the morning show, at his own pace.

BB: He shows up for the contests.

LB: But, I hope he does take it slow and steady. There’s no rush.

C. Rick Howe. On the last day of The Hotline, you bought him a bottle of wine or something?

LB: Oh, champaigne and flowers.

BB: Peter Duffy wrote a column ...

LB: He just happened to Rick Howe and Bev Keddybe in the control room.

BB: I thought he was invited.

LB: My understanding was that he had been invited. He was already doing the piece on The Hotline, and observing. Rick found out it was going to be his last day, so it ended up being that Peter Duffy was there to see and experience the whole thing.

BB: But, he quoted someone, an unnamed female, who said something like, "There’s a disconnect between what the listeners want and what these people in Toronto think the listeners want. I thought about you. Were you the one he quoted?

LB: No. You see, I didn’t know too much about the CJ side of things. By that time, they really tried to keep the Newcap and the CHUM side of the building separate, because the CRTC was breathing down our necks big-time. I really didn’t know a lot about what was going on. I was just there as a fan, as a colleague, and as somebody who grew up listening to Rick Howe, as somebody who grew up listening to The Hotline.

BB: The Steve Murphy/Dave Wright days.

LB: Somebody who won an AM stereo receiver from The Hotline when they first went to AM stereo, that very first day.

BB: ‘83, I think it was. I had a car that had AM stereo built into it. It sounded really good.

LB: Oh, really? This was just a little bit bigger than a transistor radio, but not much.

But, I had been a fan since way back. I just wanted to say my goodbye. It’s funny, because about 2 weeks later, I was in Wal*Mart of all places. Just coming around the corner in the Lady’s Wear section, and whom do I run into but [Rick’s wife] Yvonne Colbert. She just gave me this big bear hug and said, "Thank you so much. That meant so much to Rick."

I said, "You know what? What he has done over the years has meant so much to me."

BB: What kind of guy is Rick Howe? Nice fella?

LB: Oh, he is. He’s so laid back, he should be in a coma.

BB: He’s the Perry Como of Halifax.

LB: Not much phases him. He knows the newsmakers. He knows the city inside and out. And he certainly knows how to get the story.

BB: Well, I hope that News 95.7 gives The Rick Howe Show a chance and keep it around for a while.

LB: I hope so. I’m glad that they created that for him because he certainly gave it his all, filling in on Maritime Morning. Really, he’s too good a talent to let go.

BB: Why not just give him the morning show and give the afternoon show to Jordy?

LB: That’s a good question. I don’t know why they made that decision. Jordy’s never had a talk show before.

BB: You worked with him at the Q, didn’t you?

LB: Yes. They would bring him in for vacation leave whenever there was an emergency. I think he was just there this past summer, actually.

D. Moya Farrell.

LB: I like her. I like her a lot. Never met her until we moved into the Pink Palace.

BB: ‘98. Right?

LB: Sounds about right. Yes. My daughter was born in ‘99. I have all the time in the world for her. She’s funny. I think she’s amoya sweet person. I never had an issue with her at all, even though she was over on the C100 side.

BB: Competition.

LB: Exactly. I always had a laugh with Moya.

BB: Did you make a good impression with her the time you guys sent the singing telegram over? [Q104 hired a woman to sing a telegram over at the C100 studios. The woman worked in "Q104" into the telegram, much to the Breakfast Club’s chagrin]

LB: Absolutely not. But, that was a different time. I don’t know so much if it was her or it was [then-PD] Terry Williams, because I know Terry was quite upset. Rumour has it that their kitchen was missing a plate after that morning.

Once the merge happened, we all had to adjust. And, we all got to know them as people as opposed to just the competition.

BB: Has Moya ever broached the subject to you?

LB: That’s a good question. I don’t remember.

BB: I’ve heard the story from the Q’s perspective. I’ve never heard it from Kelly, Peter, and Moya’s perspective, about how they felt about it at the time.

LB: I think Terry would prefer they forgot it ever happened. That was the impression I got when we moved in.

BB: Terry fancied himself as your PD for a while at Q104, briefly, didn’t he?

LB: Those were crazy times. Just before the merger, when we were stiill working in the Sun Tower, our program director, Eric Stafford, had left for Ottawa. The merger was in the works, but it wasn’t completed yet. The in-mates were running the asylum. [laughs]

BB: Were you playing whatever you wanted?

LB: I wouldn’t quite say that, because Terry was really the only program director who was affiliated with us. He certainly looked in on us to make sure things didn’t go too, too crazy. But, after the merger, before JC was hired [NB: The merger was in ‘98; JC Douglas was hired as PD in ‘99], Terry did oversee Q for a while. Upper management ended up having problems with it. That’s when it was decided that Q needed their own program director, and that’s when JC was hired.

E. Denyse Sibley

LB: I don’t know her very well at all. I’ve met her a couple of times. That’s about it, really. Any time I’ve ever met her, she’s always been incredibly friendly, very sweet. I’ve met her at events like "Blind Date with the Stars" and that sort of thing. She’s got staying power, that’s for sure.

BB: She left [MBS], and they DSCF0442brought her back.

LB: Absolutely. She is the name and face for country music in this city.

BB: I’m still surprised there’s only the one country station. There are several stations that play a huge overlap of music, and MBS has country music all sewn up.

LB: It’s almost like they win by default. It’s amazing.

BB: I’ve never figured out why Kool never migrated to country [in 2009]

LB: I know. That’s what we all speculated at the time, too.

BB: It could still happen, I suppose, that a station could switch format.

LB: It’s interesting because, other than Country 101, Lite 92.9 is the only station that’s playing Country-ish artists. Taylor Swift. Lady Antebellum. Johnny Reid. So, yes, it’s strange that nobody else ventured down that path.

F. Brian Phillips. He has a nickname for everybody. What was his nickname for you?

LB: I don’t think he had a nickname for me.

BB: I’m shocked!

LB: We never really worked closely enough. He used to call me "The Newsbag", but everybody called me The Newsbag. That’s a nickname my mother gave me back in university. That’s what my license plate says. They used to call me that on air on the Q.

But, you talk about genuinely funny. CJCH 11 May 2007 smallerIt’s absolutely amazing, how quick he is. To this day, he’s got it.

BB: It says something about local radio that there’s no full time position for him on local airwaves.

LB: It does. It’s nice that he’s on reserve at Kool, but still, somebody of his calibre and his talent should be doing it every day.

BB: I know he wants to. I’m sure he’d rather be on the air than doing Happy Harry’s commercials.

LB: It was an absolute honour to be on the same staff list as him for a while, because I grew up listening to him.

BB: Me, too. When I first moved to Dartmouth in 1988, it was after Brian’s troubles. He was back on the air.

LB: He’s certainly seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But, he’s still a class act.

BB: There was a contest where, if he called out a certain name, you could call in and win a prize. One morning he said, "If your name is Bev, call in!"

I was shaving at the time. I dove for the phone and then stopped myself. I thought, "He’s not going to believe my name is Bev!" So, I didn’t call in.

LB: That’s funny!

8. Is it still fun, being on the air?

LB: Absolutely. If you have to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning, you’d better make sure you’re having fun.

BB: Is it a job, though? Are there times when it’s drudgery, or are there tasks where you think, "Oh, God. I have to do this again!"

LB: I don’t know about that. There are certainly time when that alarm goes off at 3 that I lay there and go, "Oh, my God! I cannot do this!" But, that’s not so much a comment on the job as it is the unGodly hour of the day, more than anything.

BB: Is Jamie more of a morning person than you are?

LB: Not at all! [chuckles] Are you kidding? I’m the morning person. He’s the night owl. He would be up all night watching tv and be playing on the computer. I’m the one who has to poke him and say, "It’s midnight. Lights out!"

BB: You must take a nap in the afternoon, both of you, don’t you?

LB: Oh, for sure. We live for the afternoon naps. I’ll come home at 11:30 or so, and then I’ll sleep until my kids come home from school at 3. It’s almost like having 2 days in one because when I get up at 3 o’clock in the morning I can just completely focus on work. I can come home, take a nap, and when I get up at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, it’s almost like I’m a stay-at-home mom because then I can concentrate on, "OK, this kid has to go to this practice, and this one’s got violin. This one’s got to go to a school dance." I can focus on kids, family, the house, that sort of thing.

BB: I get up at 5:30, and there are days when it’s difficult.

LB: I say to people, "You never get used to getting up at 3 o’clock in the morning, but you get used to how your body feels without the sleep.

9. What is one thing you haven't done in radio that you would like to do?

LB: I’ve never had a chance to work in another market. I was extremely blessed in that I went to school here, graduated from high school here, went to university here, and started working in Halifax. I was fortunate in that I lived at home during the early stage of my career when I was on call as a reporter for Q and maybe worked 5 hours a week, or maybe 35 hours a week. It just all depended. But, living at home, I had the flexibility to do that, so I could wait out and pay my dues until I got the first full-time job. So, I was incredibly blessed.

BB: What did you do during the other 163 hours of the week when you’re working 5 hours a week? Sitting home, watching tv?

LB: No. Let’s see. I did some commercial features writing, such as The Burnside News. A little bit of freelance work. I did a lot of work at home, because at that point, my mom was really a part of the sandwich generation. She had kids DSCF4761-1at home; she had elderly parents. So, I spent a lot of time helping out taking my grandmother for groceries and that sort of thing. It was a good compromise all around.

But, like I said: I was incredibly blessed. Especially, in this day and age, with radio the way it is, to be able to work in the town you grew up in... Coming out of school now, the kids today have to go away to get that first job. With automation and thinks like that, it used to be that the overnight shows used to be the training ground for new kids out of school. So, you’ve got to go to that small town. You’ve got to go to Cornerbrook. You’ve got to go to Campbellton, New Brunswick.

So, even though I was blessed, I really do regret not having that opportunity to work in another market.

BB: And, you’re as cemented to Halifax as any person could ever be. Your family. Your husband working across the studio from you.

LB: Exactly.

BB: Do you feel blessed to be working with your husband every day?

LB: I do! Now, mind you, it’s only been a year. Ask me this question about 3 years from now. We’ll see. [chuckles]

We are living the dream. We always knew that we worked well together. We always thought, "You know what? Our type of show could work on an AC-type of station." And, that was way back in the day when we were on Q.

BB: I don’t want to get too personal...

LB: No, no.

BB: Have you ever had a disagreement at home about anything? How do you avoid taking that to work? Or, if you have a disagreement at work, taking that home?

LB: They are living for the day when there’s a little bit of conflict on air. Terry and Jamie and I have talked about that a number of times. He’d love to see a little bit of spark some day.

BB: "Well, at least I left the toilet seat down!"

LB: [laughs] So far, we have made it strict. We don’t talk about the home life while we’re at work. We try not to get into big discussions about the kids.

BB: You mentioned the tooth fairy, though. I heard that.

LB: Well, for sure. There are some things that will make it on air; but I’m talking about off air, if we’re having some disagreement or an issue at home, we don’t talk about it while we’re at work. It’s like, "You know what? We’ll deal with this when we get home. Right now, we have to go to work."

But, are you kidding? Family things are fodder for the show. The day my daughter left a note on the counter saying that she needed a new G string. She’s 11, right? She meant a G string for her violin. But, all she had on the note was, "Mommy, can you pick me up a new G string on the way home?"

[Bev laughs]

When stuff like that happens, you have to bring it to the table. You have to bring it on air.

BB: You must get a lot of appreciative messages from mothers.

LB: Well, we’ve had a few so far. We don’t try to make it too sappy and all about our kids. "Here are the Patersons. We’re one big happy family!" People grow tired of that. But, when things like the G string incident happen, that’s just natural humour. You have to throw that on.

10. You ask me a question, other than, "Why do you do this?", because that's what I've been asked over and over.

LB: Describe to me your very first radio.

BB: It was December of 1974. I got it for Christmas. Christmas was on a Wednesday DSCF4736that year. You can look it up. I forget the brand name of it, but it was an AM/FM table top radio. It came with a set of batteries. I was 10 years old. I had no money; I couldn’t afford to buy batteries. We didn’t have a whole lot of money in the house, and I didn’t want to plug the radio into the wall after the batteries died, but I figured, "Well, I can just plug it in and see what happens. If I get in trouble, if it runs the power bill up too much, I’ll just apologize."

So, that was my first radio. I had that for years. I used to fall asleep at night with it on my chest. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with it on the floor. After a few tumbles on the floor, it broke.

LB: Oh, no!

BB: Years later, I went to Acadia University for computer science. I had a part-time job working at the library. My boss was named George Halliwell. He reads the blog and he’s on my Facebook. He had a radio just like that in his office. The same model, the same everything. How many times did I want to steal that radio? I mentioned it to him a year or so ago. He said, "I would have just given it to you!"

LB: Who was the first radio personality that you remember listening to?

BB: It would have been Annapolis Valley Radio. A guy named Wally Milan. That was not his real name. Do you know Morrissey Dunn? Moe Dunn?

LB: Yes.

BB: I interviewed him last year. I asked him specifically about Wally Milan. We talked about him for a few minutes. He was the son of a guy who owned a big oil company or something. He came from a lot of money, but he chose to work in small private radio stations because he loved radio.

LB: Fool! [laughs]

BB: I remember the very first prize I won off the radio. It was August of 1977. I won KISS’s "Love Gun". That’s long before I knew about metaphors. I didn’t know what a "Love Gun" was. I don’t want to go down that road too far.

LB: That’s funny.

BB: I lived in Port Williams. I don’t know how well you know the Valley.

LB: A little bit.

BB: AVR was in Kentville.

LB: That was a bit of a hike.

BB: I was 13 years old. On a Friday afternoon in August, Chris Thompson and I hopped on our bicycles and pedalled to Kentville so I could pick up my very first record. DSCF4733It was raining cats and dogs that day, so the record got ruined on the way home.

LB: I think I only ever won two things on the radio. The very first thing I won was with CHNS. They had a special ABBA weekend with this interview/documentary type thing and playing the music and whatnot. They had a special edition album, limited edition, that they were giving away. I won a copy. I bugged my parents. I had to be there right at the doors at Tobin Street as soon as they opened at 9 o’clock in the morning. So, I was!

BB: What part of town were you living in?

LB: Beaverbank.

BB: Oh, you lived in Beaverbank for a long, long time.

LB: Yes. Actually, we just moved out of the subdivision that I grew up in. My parents still live there. That’s the house we just sold. For a while, my daughter was going to the same bus stop I went to.

BB: So, Tobin Street. I know when I first moved to Metro in ‘88, they had just moved to 1313 Barrington Street, and the old Tobin Street building was ... The Maritime Business College. Marie Nightingale ran it. It went out of business. The building’s gone now.

LB: It is. It’s too bad because that was a great old gray building.

BB: It was a church at one point.

LB: Oh, that’s right. I’d forgotten about that.

BB: Clive Schaefer told me that.

LB: Oh, Clive. God love him. He’s one of the voices that I remember listening to, and that was one of my first introductions into news. I went, "Wow. That’s what I would like to do."

BB: In his prime he was amazing, wasn’t he?

LB: Unbelievable. The very first radio personality that I remember knowing by name was Tom Young because I used to listen to him in Saint John. I had a little transistor radio that I would have under my pillow at night...

BB: "The Talk of the Town"! He’s still on the air, but I don’t care for his show that much. Have you ever met the man?

LB: No, I’ve never met him. I just like his whole approach of "I’m just here to learn with the rest of you. I don’t know more than you do, so let’s find out."

BB: OK. Different strokes, I guess.

Anyway, that was my first radio, and that’s the first thing I won. Thank you for asking me that. I may keep this question around a little bit longer.

11. What was it like to leave Q104? What was your last day there like?

LB: I was really surprised at how choked up B.J. got. It was interesting for B.J., I think, because this was the first time that he’d ever worked with a female co-host. I think up to that point, he’d had men co-hosting with him. It was an interesting transition for him. As I said before, he’s one of the most giving performers that I’ve ever worked with.

I definitely had mixed emotions. It was a very sad day. Let’s face it: I grew up there. I did my work term there. I [went] from being part-time reporter to weekend news, to full-time in the afternoons, to full-time mornings.

BB: Almost exactly 20 years.

LB: Pretty much. I mean, I wasn’t a full-time employee all that time; but certainly, it was a 20 year affiliation with the station. So, it was a very sad day.

We made it fun. The fact that they brought in Chris Sinclair, from the Weather Network, just blew me away. Jamie makes fun of me all the time because he called Chris Sinclair my boyfriend. The first thing I do on the weekends is turn on The Weather Network. The fact that he is from here. I’ve always loved his approach. It’s just so welcoming, so warm. It’s folksy without being hokey. It just so happened that he was coming down to visit, and it coincided with my last day. Anna Z worked with him years ago in Kingston. They’ve been in touch over the years, so they brought him in on my last day. He was the surprise visitor. It was great fun. But, it was definitely a mixed emotions day.

BB: When you resigned, did anyone try to change your mind?

LB: No, because they knew it was more of a personal thing. They knew a large part of why I was going was because of Jamie and the fact that it was an opportunity to try something that had never been done in this market before, a husband and wife morning show. They knew that my heart was elsewhere. That’s why it wasn’t a bad break up. I was going for different reasons.

BB: You’re not a bridge burner at all?

LB: Oh, God. I hope not. I’ve got nothing but respect for the people that I used to work with there. They’re dedicated. Like I said before: You’ll never find anybody more dedicated than JC Douglas. The same thing for Anna Z. They’re professionals through and through. I’m definitely proud to say I spent 20 years of my life working with those people, helping build that radio station to what it is today.

BB: What’s it like to compete with people who are friends? You compete for market share and advertising dollars if nothing else.

LB: I suppose, but I don’t really consider them to be competition because their demo’s are totally different. They’re going for men 35-54. We’re going for women 25-54. It’s a totally different demographic. It makes it easier, I suppose. That’s why it wasn’t a bad break up per se, because I wasn’t going someplace where I would be in direct competition. It’s not like I left to do the morning show at Live 105.

BB: Are you more comfortable with the music you play now?

LB: You know what? I do sometimes miss the music, but the music that we play on Lite 92.9 is certainly more in tune with what I’m like. I am the demo. I’m living the demo. I’m a 41 year-old woman; I’m smack dab in the middle of the demo. This is what they’re looking for: Working mom busy with kids and school and work. So, I’m living what this station is where I wasn’t at Q, and that is where the disconnect came in.

BB: So, good feelings about the Q?

LB: Oh, yes. They’re fun personified.

BB: I’ve asked this question before, of other people, but if you’re in a crappy mood about something, you still have to go on the air and be ....

LB: You can’t be in a crappy mood standing next to Bobby Mac. It is impossible. It cannot be done. Was there ever a mold when they made Bobby Mac? He is unlike any human being I have ever known in my life.

BB: I work with a guy who used to work with Bobby Mac, back when Bobby Mac worked in bars. I’m not sure what Bobby did there...

LB: He did a little bit of everything. I think he was a doorman for a while, but he also did a lot of promotions. I actually worked with Bobby Mac back when he was Bob MacDonald at Q in the ‘90‘s when he did over nights, or weekends.

BB: There were layoffs, and he did that infamous show where he was talking about cutbacks in radio. He was losing his job anyway...

LB: You’re talking about Stan Carew.

BB: Stan did that as well, but Bobby did a show where he was lamenting the state of radio. "Here come the Eagles, again!" I’d love to talk to Bobby. If you could arrange that for me...

LB: We worked togethe back in the early ‘90‘s when Q was still on the 19th floor of Queen Square.

BB: Was he as interesting a character 15-20 years ago as he is now?

LB: He was a character, but he has developed his character to perfection now. He has really turned Bobby Mac into an entity.

BB: What’s he like off the air? Is he "on" all the time?

LB: I would say "yes", but he does know when to turn it off. People don’t believe me when I say this, but he is one of the smartest guys I know. He is very well-read. He knows a lot about a lot of topics. He’s a huge movie buff. And, he’s a big softie.

12. What was it like to go to work at Lite 92.9 the following Monday morning? What was your first day like at Lite?

LB: Surreal. I had no idea who I was, what I was, what I was doing.

BB: I tuned in thinking you might say, "Q104" in error.

LB: No. Fingers crossed. It will be a year next week. I have not yet said it. Jamie is waiting. He knows at some point it’s going to slip. It’s just going to be one of those times when I’m so relaxed, I don’t know what I’m saying.

But, that first day! There’s so much that you do with intro’s and extro’s and weather forecasts and traffic, that you’ve done it thousands of times. It’s like your brain goes on auto pilot. That Monday morning, I had nothing to fall back on. I just felt like I was a kid out of school, but at the same time that was good. It felt invigorating.

BB: A change is as good as a rest.

LB: Oh, for sure.

Wrap Up

BB: Lisa Blackburn, thank you so much for the last couple hours of your time. It’s been a pleasure meeting you. Thank you for the hug. I really appreciated it.

LB: Thank you for the interest in radio. It’s people like you that keep us doing what we do.

BB: Please pass along those Bevboy’s Blog business cards to anybody at Roger’s who might be interested.

LB: Yes. Absolutely. We’ll spread the Bev word!

BB: Thank you once again.

LB: Thank you.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

great interview (actually read it all). Kate Bush... i read about a year ago on a fan site, she was retired and living in rural england somewhere. Don't tell the guys i was on a Kate Bush fan site :)