A Half Century Since Chuck McCoy Hit the Airwaves

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A Half Century Since Chuck McCoy Hit the Airwaves

Postby jon » Mon Jul 06, 2015 1:23 pm

The following article is reprinted here with the full permission of Broadcast Dialogue, where it appeared in last Thursday's weekly issue. They told me that "Chuck told us that the response was unprecedented and he heard a number of stories from other people."

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So you want to be a DJ
by Chuck McCoy

Fifty years ago yesterday, July 1, 1965, my boyhood dream from 10 years earlier became a reality. Even in the fourth grade I just knew that somehow I was going to be on the radio. Miss McCauley, my teacher at the time, asked, “Now, Mervyn (the name I used back then), what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“When I grow up,” I said, “I want to be a radio DJ.”

Wise beyond her 18 years, Miss McCauley looked down at me and said, “Well, son, you can’t have both.”

She was right. I’ve been a DJ and growing up is still a work in progress.

But why radio?

Early on, I was a goofy Winnipeg kid who’d go to the library and take out books on broadcasting, bring them home, hide them under my mattress and read them late at night under the covers with a flashlight. Playboy didn’t have pictures of DJs to look at.

I followed radio station remote broadcasts whenever I could. One day, on my way home from school for lunch, the new IGA store on the corner was having a grand opening. Sitting in the parking lot was a real radio station in a big trailer surrounded by glass. The station’s sound through the speakers was so loud that I could hear it at home where I was wolfing down my sandwich. With that accomplished, I raced out the door and zipped back to the corner.

With 40 minutes before the bell and a 10-minute walk to school, that gave me a half-hour to just stand there and watch, awestruck by these very cool, smooth-talking men reading commercials, doing the weather and introducing music. I was eight years old trying very hard to look cute and it worked. The radio men asked me if I wanted to come into the trailer.

Were they kidding me? Of course I wanted to go into the trailer!

This was going to be my first visit to a real radio station and I jumped at the chance, peppering them with questions and saying that one day I’d be just like them on the radio. One announcer asked if I’d like to read a commercial live on the radio.

Oh my God, would I!

But if I stayed to read the spot, I’d be late for school. Easy decision; I read a 30-second commercial for Swift’s Premium Franks. My head was in the clouds. I was actually on the air.

My mother, besieged with calls from her friends spilling the beans about hearing me on the radio when I should have been in school, was waiting when I got home. I was sent to my room to consider my error in judgment. But all I could do was dream about the wonderful moment that afternoon and how I knew then that this was only the beginning.

Like so many radio veterans, I started by playing radio with a record player, a tape machine, a microphone and a speaker. Two of my friends across the street were into it as well and we’d play with equipment set up in their garage with a speaker hanging on the door sending our fake radio station out into the back lane. The two kids who played fantasy radio with me also went on to broadcasting careers. John McQuaker was with CBC farther west and Roger Currie had a long and successful career in morning radio at CJOB Winnipeg.

I grew up with 58 CKY Winnipeg, 50,000 watts of great Top 40 music and I didn’t think there could possibly be a station better or more exciting. But then, on a summer trip to Toronto with my family during my teenage years I heard 1050 CHUM, Toronto’s big Top 40 station, and it was like nothing I’d ever heard before. I fell in love.

“This Is Where I Have to Work, I Just Have To!”

I asked my parents to drop me in front of CHUM on Yonge Street and pick me up later. I just stood there on the sidewalk staring in the window that went through to the announce booth where the DJ was doing his show. I had a transistor radio and I listened to this very cool guy playing great CHUM music and jingles for about 30 minutes. To my shock, surprise and delight he waved me into the building, took me into his announce booth, introduced himself and gave me a quick rundown of how they did it at 1050 CHUM. I was able to stay for 15-20 minutes, watching him cue the operator for the music, open his mike and do some CHUM music intros, chat with listeners on the phone and simply do his DJ thing. God, this was so glamorous. This was a life changing moment for me. Now I KNEW I just had to be a CHUM DJ. My future was now in focus.

I should thank that kind DJ who took this kid off the street into CHUM and put the stars in my eyes. I do thank you, Duff Roman.

While waiting for my big break I sold aluminum windows door-to-door, drove a half ton truck and sold shoes for Agnew Surpass at Winnipeg’s Polo Park. All the time I was trying to connive my way into any radio station. I even took a broadcasting course in a local radio announcer’s basement.

As luck would have it, a friend had a connection at CKY-FM which, at the time, played show tunes and classical music. It’s now CITI-FM. A good word was put in for me and bingo, I snagged a part-time job. Unlike CKY-AM, there was no talking over the music intros. Our entire DJ yak was limited to a twice-hourly insert: “CKY-92.1 FM time”. For variety we added “CKY-92.1 FM temperature”. While I couldn’t do my best rock jock chatter I could watch through the glass across the hall at Daryl B playing the Fab 50 while I did my boring FM shift. But hey, I was getting closer. I had a real radio job (part-time) and getting paid a buck an hour.

On July 1, 1965 I got first broadcasting pay-cheque, $5 for five hours work. I never cashed that check and for the past 50 years I’ve kept it close by at my desk.

Working at a classical music FM station in 1965 when Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones was rockin’ the 50,000 watt AM airwaves meant I still had a long way to go. I sent out tapes and resumes to every station in existence. Most didn’t reply. Those which did weren’t interested in hiring an inexperienced kid. But I was encouraged by the rejections. Imagine, people who worked at legitimate radio stations in such places as Kitimat and North Battleford were actually putting a stamp on a response and mailing it to me!

I was on my way for sure.

In 1965 a man named Bill Grogan was appointed program director of CKY-AM. He’d been working at CKY on-air, had seen me around and knew I worked at the FM station. So I thought he’s new to the PD position, why not hit him up for a job? All he knew was that I was in the building and that I was blessed with a decent radio voice. I took advantage of one of my off days from the shoe store and scheduled a time to meet with him.

Training, experience, hard work and talent are the cornerstones to success. But, you also have to be a bit lucky. I wrote down some of the stations that rejected me and told Grogan I was looking at some job offers from them.

Hey, these stations had been in contact with me and who knows? A job offer could be coming.

Here’s where I got lucky. There’d been a fire at the AM transmitter and the engineers were heading out there every weeknight from 1:00 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. and the station had to be off the air while they worked. Someone had to sit with an off-air station for five hours in the middle of the night. The only live portion was the hour after Midnight and a half-hour before the morning show. Grogan asked me to do it. “I’ll be listening, he said. “I have an opening for an all-night DJ in September. You can consider this your live audition.”

The next day I was nervous, worrying about how bad I sounded, how green and inexperienced I really was and hoped the PD would let me down easy. I went to the station after lunch knowing that Grogan would give me a lengthy critique. But before even sitting down he surprised me with, “I liked what I heard this morning; the all night show is yours in September if you’ll work for $350 a month.”

How good is that? My first time on the radio and he said he liked what he heard. I sometimes wonder how much he really heard. I was 18. I was about to be full-time jock on CKY Winnipeg beginning in September. Life was good!

Between my hiring and September I was given some weekend summer shifts which allowed me to become a bit of a hero to my teenage pals at the lake. They’d call from the pay phone up there and I’d play their songs and give them shout-outs (called dedications back then).

And so began my 50-year journey of love for the magical medium of radio.

Chuck McCoy of Chuck McCoy International Media Services can be reached at Chuckmccoy@rogers.com
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Re: A Half Century Since Chuck McCoy Hit the Airwaves

Postby Rich Elwood » Mon Jul 06, 2015 2:57 pm

Congrats on the 50th year mark Chuck! Great stories about your early days. Chuck was the best PD I ever worked for and ran a great radio station. The day he left CFUN was the beginning of the end and everyone in the building knew it.

All the best Chuck in all your new pursuits!

A sidebar; I still chuckle that you (I won't say forced me) persuaded me with no option to change my name from Rich Elwood to Rich Kelly (and I quote - Elwood sounds too Anglo and not very Drake). I still smile about that one. You were a great boss and it was a pleasure to work for you at CFUN in it's heyday.

Rich "Kelly" Too Anglo
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Re: A Half Century Since Chuck McCoy Hit the Airwaves

Postby albertaboy4life » Mon Jul 06, 2015 4:58 pm

Chuck's story is very well written and I know that there are a few members of RadioWest who have similar memories of being bitten by the radio bug.

I hope Chuck writes some follow-up articles. I'd especially like to know more about his move from 14 C-FUN in Vancouver to 630 CHED in Edmonton.
Faster cars, younger women, older cheese, more money . . .
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Re: A Half Century Since Chuck McCoy Hit the Airwaves

Postby Tom Jeffries » Sun Jul 19, 2015 9:38 pm

Rich said it all.
I owe my career to him.
A great teacher and leader.
Those were the days!
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Re: A Half Century Since Chuck McCoy Hit the Airwaves

Postby Mike Cleaver » Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:51 am

Just spent a couple of days in Toronto with Chuck and about 100 other people who worked at 1050 CHUM between 1967 - 77 at two separate parties, the CHUM Reunion on the 15th and the Radio and Records Party at Roger Ashby's place with more CHUM and CHUM FM alumnus. Great to re-connect with everyone. There are lots of pictures but I don't have the patience to "code" them for this site where you can't copy and paste or drag and drop.
If I can send them to Jon and have him put them up, I'll tag most of them with names.
You'd recognize many of the famous faces but some people have aged more than others.
Oldest CHUM alumnus there, Gary Ferrier.
Mike Cleaver Broadcast Services
Engineering, News, Voice work and Consulting
Vancouver, BC, Canada

54 years experience at some of Canada's Premier Broadcasting Stations
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Re: A Half Century Since Chuck McCoy Hit the Airwaves

Postby jon » Mon Jul 20, 2015 12:02 pm

I'll contact Mike and we'll work it out.
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Re: A Half Century Since Chuck McCoy Hit the Airwaves

Postby Neumann Sennheiser » Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:16 pm

The picture I viewed earlier today; Chuck McCoy was the one you couldn't mistake, center-stage and smiling broadly.
It was sad to remember the one's who couldn't be there: Terry Steele, Bob Laine, Daryll B, Jay Nelson, Marc Chambers, John Majhor, Hal Weaver, Dave Johnson.
Can't wait for the pictures with everyone identified.
"You don't know man! I was in radio man! I've seen things you wouldn't believe!"
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Re: A Half Century Since Chuck McCoy Hit the Airwaves

Postby pcardinal » Wed Jul 22, 2015 1:30 am

CFUN never sounded better than when Chuck programmed it. Listening to it on skip from Edmonton when he programmed it is a big reason I got bit by the radio bug. He did a hell of a job tuning up CHED when he got there in '79.

And oh yeah, I had the honour and pleasure of working for Chuck in Toronto. A great boss! Cheers and best to you , sir!
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Re: A Half Century Since Chuck McCoy Hit the Airwaves

Postby Muzik » Wed Jul 22, 2015 2:10 pm

I was definately bit by the radio bug by listening to 14CFUN from Saskatoon. Thanks to Chuck who was in charge had made such an impact on so many listeners not only in Metro Vancouver but across Western Canada.The night signal skip was as loud as any of the locals on a good night.Chuck coached the best talent in the biz and it resonated on the air.It was always a real treat to visit family on the coast and get to hear the middays as well.With the time change in the winter, I could catch most of drive all the way through to part of the morning show.Great memories will never forget.
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