Warren Cosford recently wrote a column in his e-letter about the glory days of rock radio in Toronto, inspired by an article by John Parikhal published in FYI. Cosford’s op-ed is reproduced with permission, with Parikhal’s response at the bottom of this lengthy written exchange.
In 1977, I thought of Radio as an Art. John Parikhal considered it a science.
With Research in the lead, it was about to become Both.
CHUM had just finished production on The Evolution of Rock (the music that made the world go round).
It was 64 hours long and would be broadcast across much of the English-speaking world.
It was also quite a challenge.
But, as Canadians, we were proud to take what America had, essentially, invented…
And take it to the next level.
NOW what do we do?
The program director, J. Robert Wood, called me into his office.
Warren, we need you to become CHUM-FM’s programming director.
(Was he joking? I’ve never been a program director).
Why me Bob?
He told me that CHUM was about to meet what would probably be the toughest competitors we have ever faced. Yes, we had defeated all the American consultants who thought Canada would be easy.
But it was different.
The tough competitors were local. They knew us from The Inside Out.
You like Warren Challenges. This will make The Evolution of Rock look like child’s play.
J. Robert Wood was right. But I didn’t know yet how right he would be.
From the 1950s to the 1960s, Allan Slaight was the CHUM’s first program director. He was the man many said he “made” CHUM. Now, after a ‘stint’ with UK pirate radio stations, Allan Slaight has been given an FM frequency in Toronto. He was joined by former CHUM Jock Dave Charles as PD. On the Air and Behind The Scenes were five other former CHUMers.
They were interesting choices.
John Rode. A Creative Top 40 DJ on 1050 CHUM (was he finally going to succeed in Mornings?)
Maryanne aka Zuma. Great Sidekick Traffic/Weather for Nelson and Rivers. (she is not a night DJ)
Mark Daily. Great Journalist. They can’t go wrong with him
John Donabie. A mainstay on CHUM-FM. Excellent interviewer. John Lennon loved him.
Bill Anderson. A mysterious man. Former CHUM op. Could he be JRW’s spy?
Oh… and by the way Warren,
American programming consultant “Flavor of the Year” will also be involved.
I later learned that Lee Abrams’ Superstar format was beating Heritage FM across the United States.
Could CHUM-FM be the first Scalp from a radio consultant in Canada?
BUT WAIT. JRW had a Wild Card for me.
Warren: This is John Parikhal. He was trained by Marshall McLuhan at the University of Toronto.
He holds a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in economics and commerce.
They didn’t hire him to find Hit Records.
Bob didn’t say it that way but, I thought,
The art of the CHUM was about to be challenged by Marshall McLuhan’s Science.
Parikhal, Abrams and their scientific research studies were weapons the CHUM had never encountered before.
But wait. JRW wasn’t finished. All this was not enough
Former CHUM-FM announcer David Marsden had convinced the owners of an FM in the Toronto suburb of Brampton to request a power boost. This would allow them to put a new antenna on a hill overlooking Toronto. Guess what format they were going to make? And did I think that more CHUM alumni would be hired?
Of course they would. CHUM-FM All Night Jock Legend David Pritchard has come out of hiding.
In short, CHUM-FM surprised many by becoming the #1 FM radio station in Canada.
Believe it or not, CHUM Limited was not happy.
CHUM expected the three of us collectively to beat every other FM in Toronto. After all, for the first time we were bringing AM rock music to FM radios and listeners. BUT they didn’t expect the three of us together to inspire Rock FM’s launch across Canada so quickly.
It wasn’t in the plan.
They knew that musical FMs would eventually beat musical AMs and that AM would practically be All Talk.
However, it wasn’t supposed to happen so quickly.
CRTC regulations were supposed to “save the day for AM radio”.
FM radio was allowed to broadcast a limited number of commercials.
AM radio could play as many as it wanted.
AM ownership rarely lost money.
Also, due to music rotation limitations, FM could not make the Top 40. With limitations on both commercials and music in a rock music environment, AM radio still had the advantage.
This was important to CHUM because Top 40 1050 CHUM-AM was the “Bank” of CHUM.
The best news for Toronto was that competition between CHUM-FM/Q-107/CFNY made Toronto the number one market for rock music in North America. Meat Loaf, The Police, The Cure, U2, INXS, REM and many more have often been, for the most part, ignored by The Mainstream Music Industry. THIS inspired music promoters David Bluestein at The Horseshoe and The Garys at The Edge to set an example for a host of clubs in Toronto and across Canada to book baby bands. Again… Advantage Rock FM.
Perhaps CHUM’s “killer move” was the purchase of City-TV. The CHUM-FM/City-TV concert simulcasts virtually invented stereo television and launched the music video revolution in North America.
Meanwhile, Concert Productions International was taking bands around the world
Ed Mirvish took Broadway shows FROM New York to Toronto.
The annual Toronto International Film Festival BRINGS movie stars to Toronto.
Toronto was now the pop culture capital of Canada and soon, perhaps even of North America.
Hell, Concert Production International of Canada took the Rolling Stones on a world tour. although it was at the El Mocambo tavern in Toronto that the Stones recorded The Club Side from their Love You Live box set.
When The Smoke Cleared Radio was the big winner.
The radio was at the center of everything.
Thanks to the CRTC, indeed, from a staffing and programming perspective, The CHUM Influence had three album rock radio stations each with its own “flavor”. Fusing the art of music radio with the science of research and technology, plus over 100 hours of music documentaries……
Rock & Roll Radio and TV in Toronto was “Taking It to The World”.
John Parikhal and Dave Charles of Q-107 were living the dream
They could now merge The Art with The Science and launch Radio Winners everywhere.
In The Spirit of The Times, they called their media consultancy ‘Joint Communications’.
John Parikhal with The Science.
Dave Charles with The Art.
From Canada to the world
John and Dave’s Canadian roots would take them to Australia. The Middle East and beyond.
But more than the radio was launched.
John Parikhal tells us the rest of the story in FYI.
…and John Parikhal responds
I just saw the second part of Q107’s story.
Launching Q itself, it was interesting in your Part 1 to get a glimpse of what was happening at the CHUM as a ragtag group of pirates attempted to board the reigning rock ship. We had no idea what was going on up the hill. Only what we heard on air.
Regarding CanCon, I agree with you. Failure looked like success.
That said, we were able to achieve our 30% CanCon commitment to Q (when all other FMs only had to do 10-15%) with ingenuity, creative block programming and a willingness to climb on a branch to play any material that was good enough to fit. It’s amazing the heights we could reach when pushed.
One of the secret weapons was Mark Dailey, a true information genius, with the voice, the brains, the experience and the perfectly twisted and devious mind of an anarchist to run our tiny information service. THE
We’ve outsmarted everyone on Elvis’ death by creating and airing a documentary (voiced by John Donabie) within 5 hours of his death being non-mainstream again. Mark called the sheriff’s office in Memphis as soon as we heard – NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD HAD CALLED HIM DIRECTLY because they were waiting for the “official” audio – while Mark rolled the tape for over 20 minutes to get the most up-to-date information. before the press trucks pulled up and the sheriff said he had to go. The audio went a long way in giving us the most timely and original production of that night.
We all had a good laugh when Allan Slaight complained to Tony Viner about long distance charges the following month after the phone bill arrived. Of course, these guys ended up being zillionaires, so they got the last laugh.
To be fair, Tony had a tough job trying to be the high school principal of a group of delinquents. He turned out to be the perfect guy for the job with just the right amount of corporate clout combined with a risk-taking profile that allowed the gang to do what needed to be done.
Q was so much fun because none of us knew it was impossible to do what we were doing – even if we did. And, as you mentioned in Part 1, the competition was heating up on all sides – at the CFNY and across the pond in Buffalo.
Dave and I were gone a little over a year after it aired, so evolving that magic then fell to Gary Slaight and those who came after.