CJOR Signs Off

A look back at various radio stations

CJOR Signs Off

Postby cart_machine » Mon Sep 02, 2019 12:40 am

Half the people in the hallway were numb like zombies, the other half were anxiously waiting to take over the graveyard. Both did their damndest to stay out of each other’s way.

This pretty much describes the situation just before noon 31 years ago today at 1401 West 8th Avenue.

On the air, Fanny Kiefer was presiding over a golly-gosh-shucks, what-a-good-time-we-had remembrance of the station that was about to sign off for good—CJOR. It’s a bit of an understatement to say it was an odd day.

(In the middle of all this, as I was set to join dozens of people who were about to become unemployed, Frank Callaghan walked up to me and offered me a full-time job on the FM side. But that’s another story).

At noon, the frequency was taken over by classic rock station CHRX. The new station advertised it’s “where all the good songs had gone.” Eventually they went to another station and CHRX changed format about 5½ years later.

Former CJOR sportscaster and sex show host Denny Boyd wrote about the change in two columns in the Sun. His comments about Peter Toigo show there were people who could not accept the fact CJOR was never coming back.

For the record, the two “news reporters” were Jim Goddard and Jill Robertson, and the traffic reporter was Katie Rebak. I am none of these people, which I’m sure is a relief to Katie.


August 31, 1988
Just what does it say about us if we'd rather rock than talk?
OLD RADIO JOKE: What's the difference between CJOR and the Titanic? They played music on the Titanic.
NEW RADIO JOKE: What's the difference between CJOR and the Titanic? There were a couple of boatloads of survivors from the Titanic.
The number of CJOR personnel who survived Monday night's official torpedoing of the news-talk staff could have floated ashore on one empty lard tin.
News director Tom Mark survives, as do two news reporters, the traffic reporter and two continuity (an ironic word) writers. Everyone else below general manager George Madden—43 people—will be paid off and cut loose into a cold and lean job market. Pat Burns, the rasp in the night, silenced, replaced by a Simon & Garfunkel album. The 62-year-old call letters, perhaps the second-best known four-letter word in Vancouver, changed to CHRX. (Crocks?) Sic transit format.
For those of you who keep grisly statistics, it's a domestic record for cluster-axings. In 1965, former owner Marie Chandler, under fire from the CRTC, fired 16 employees on a single Monday morning. In 1981, pro-tem general manager Tiff Trimble took the staff to dinner at the Terminal (they should have suspected a trick) City Club and announced 15 staff cuts.
On Monday night at the Holiday Inn on West Broadway, Madden passed out the termination notices. He said everyone would be paid off fairly but that anyone who said anything critical of the company in their remaining time on air would be fired for cause, with no settlement, the traditional thing to do. But people who know radio people have been tuning in Al Davidson at 8:45 a.m. to see if he has anything more to say.
There is no mystery to the dramatic shuffle. As a news-talk vehicle, CJOR couldn't carry itself from one end of the block to the next. Underfunded, it was losing money and hadn't produced the profit-figure owner Jimmy Pattison expects since 1975, when former manager Don Wall, with a gilt-edged stable of highly-paid gabblers, overtook CKNW for one glorious ratings period.
But the work-obsessed Wall wrecked his health and left the station in 1979 and the bleached bones of his successors, Neil Soper, Trimble, Al Anaka, Ron Vandenberg and Harvey Gold are a reminder to Madden how capricious listeners are and how unforgiving the radio market is.
You had forgotten some of those management names? Well how about some of the on-air people they hired and dumped in the constant search for a working formula? You remember the biggies, of course: Webster, Murphy, Burns, Nielsen, Mair, Reynolds, Barrett. But what about Bernice Gerard, Jack Lee, Bob Spence, Nadine Berger, Art Finley, John Wilson, Karl Friedmann, Wayne Cox, Terry Moore, Dave Abbott, Doug Collins, Jack Moore, Jack Short, David Berner and Peter Weissbach? Or, from the days of carbon microphones, how could you forget Laddie Watkis, who sang on CJOR in the 1930s as The Girl Baritone?
The decision to switch formats to classic rock, which can be loosely defined as all the music recorded since the Sir Wilfrid Laurier administration, seems a strange one, since at least four other stations in the local market, CFUN, CISL, CFMI and KISS-FM are playing that hybrid music. But Wall told me last week that the CJOR decision makes business sense and that CHRX might make it if it goes for a sliver of a segment of the desired 18-49 audience profile.
(And if it does work, what does that tell us about ourselves? That we would rather listen to 1970s music than to commentary on the news of the day?)
Pattison has always maintained that only two pieces of his business empire are not for sale: his original, car lot at 18th and Main, and CJOR.
Despite that, the rumor circulated last week that Pattison was trimming the station's operating overhead, prior to selling it to Peter Toigo. It was the only rumor that Madden categorically denied, but it spawned an interesting scenario.
In the past 15 years, CJOR employed the former leader of the provincial NDP, the current Progressive-Conservative party whip, two former Social Credit cabinet ministers and the current speaker of the B.C. Legislature.
If Toigo owned a radio station, he could repeat that political trend. In due time, Toigo could hire the exhaustive talker Bill Vander Zalm, doing a favor for his friend. Wouldn't that be a switch?

Sept. 3 1988
Radio station CJOR is no more, as CHRX rock'n'rolls to life
The last soft words that will ever be spoken on the 600 AM radio band belonged to Fanny Kiefer.
At 11:59:25 Friday morning she said, "The ducks are all in a row and now it's time to rock and roll." Then, 90 seconds of silence, the sound of CJOR dying of age and infirmity, until CHRX was slapped to lusty life with the squall of Bob Seger singing I Love that Old-Time Rock 'n'Roll.
The signal was off the air for two hours Thursday night as the transmitter was adjusted. The call letters were replaced on the side of the building by the time the sun came up over Eighth and Hemlock. By midday, rather than the old commentators shaking their heads at the cupidity of politicians, the new staff of rockers were bobbing their heads to the stereo beat.
Even as the old station died, vultures circled for one good peck at the carcass. At least three other rock stations, tipped in advance, played the same Seger piece at the same time of day. And in today's paper there is a promotional ad placed by CKNW, the only fat and healthy talk station left in town. It says, "Let's Talk," and goes on, "This is an open invitation to ex-CJOR listeners . . . . " Hands were rubbed in glee while they were cranking out that message of sympathy.
Kiefer hostessed the final three hours of traditional CJOR dialogue before the noon switchover and likened it to "the last three hours of a telethon, when no money's coming in." Sports commentator Al Davidson called it "the last hours of Pompei." Radio's most unpredictable exploding stove, Davidson said nothing critical enough to cost him his severance. He just thanked his listeners for their support and their calls. "All seven of you."
One male listener, clearly the kind of guy who is big in the union halls, called in to say, "I've been listening for 30 years because you were the only voice the working man had. If you weren't making money, why didn't you ask us for donations?"
General manager George Madden, who began at the station as a 17-year-old part-time board operator, did the deal and defended it yesterday. He said, "The station has lost money every year for the past nine. Talk is a very expensive format. Our research showed us we didn't have much chance over the next three to five years of getting the kind of success we want. There is a certain risk in making a change. Some of our old advertisers may not want to buy us now, but that's another challenge."
(CHRX began, at noon Friday, 90 straight hours of music with no commercials. It's hard to pre-sell a new format that you have been trying for weeks to keep secret.)
Ironically, the Board of Broadcast Measurements book that came out Thursday showed that CJOR had made some gains, but they may have been just the last rattles of a broken drum.
The early show, that weird Mark and Michaelson In the Morning, two guys chuckling and poking each other in the ribs for four hours, had picked up about 3,000 male listeners from the previous year but had chased away 12,000 female listeners. Barrie Clark had almost doubled the number of male listeners he inherited, with a minor gain among women tuners.
In the evening the lively Dan Russell sports talk show had combined with the eternally static Pat Burns cult of Dolls and Macs to double the 1987 audience.
But this was merely putting iodine on a hemorrhage. Bottom line, CJOR was swimming weakly to maintain a fifth-place niche in a nine-station market. After nine years of near-drowning, a faint light on the horizon is no sure sign that the storm has blown itself out.
In terms of prestige and market position, the CJOR decline began when Jack Webster took his morning bluster to television in the winter of 1978. That was unavoidable. But management compounded that loss when it decided not to renew the stubbornly old-style morning disc jockey, Monty McFarlane.
They wanted someone who sounded younger and who didn't insist on playing Doris Day records. But heavyweights like Frosty Forst and Fred Latremouille prove year after year that popular morning men can make and establish the audience for the day.
It's like trout fishing. You have to be there with the right bait for the morning rise. And yesterday, George Madden changed lures.
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Re: CJOR Signs Off

Postby J Kendrick » Mon Sep 02, 2019 9:05 am

Don't remind me...
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Re: CJOR Signs Off

Postby tuned » Mon Sep 02, 2019 11:08 am

CJOR was run into the ground by a parade of bad managers. I had the misfortune of being employed at CJOR/CJJR on the watch of Harvey Gold who was completely inept at running a radio station and surrounded himself with incompetents. He did however enjoy appearing in CJOR TV ads which foreshadowed his subsequent career change to character acting. Being fired by Gold & Co. was a blessing in disguise because I vowed to never work for anyone again. I made the right decision.
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Re: CJOR Signs Off

Postby radiofan » Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:27 am


CKNW newspaper ad from September 3, 1988 inviting former CJOR listeners to move up the dial.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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Re: CJOR Signs Off

Postby Heard It On The X » Tue Sep 03, 2019 12:23 pm

Cute. Six years later when CHRX signed off and CKBD signed on, CFMI ran liners saying “Welcome, CHRX listeners!”
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Re: CJOR Signs Off

Postby J Kendrick » Tue Sep 03, 2019 11:43 pm

radiofan wrote:Image

CKNW newspaper ad from September 3, 1988 inviting former CJOR listeners to move up the dial.

The irony of that CKNW ad deliberately targetting 'OR's listeners is that Rafe Mair and Dave Abbott appearing in that photo above had both jumped from CJOR to CKNW within the previous two years...
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