A month into its renascence as a nostalgic rock station, Oldies 990
introduces disc jockeys tomorrow.
Andy K, who got his start as a high-school kid working weekends at CFOX about 100 years
ago, will be on the air at 6 tomorrow. Oldies, which signed on June 12, will have
completed a launch promotion that featured 10,000 musical selections, interrupted only by
station promos and taped calls from Montrealers for whom the availability of old records
on the radio makes life worth living again.
The city's newest morning man invented CHOM's Electric Lunch Hour and has a genuine
passion for 30-year-old music. K is a pleasant fellow who's blessed with a voice that
won't grate on the ears of listeners who like to go to bed in 1998 and wake up in the
(I am one of the select few who knows K's last name. The DJ has made it quite clear
that should the secret name ever appear in print, he will abduct members of my family and
make them listen to a tape loop of House of the Rising Sun. Suffice it to say that he is
not Karla - although John Le Carre's Soviet master spy perfected the brutal and inhuman
use of Troggs music as an interrogation tool.)
K's role at Oldies is unique: he will be the only DJ who actually works at the station.
The other Oldies jocks - Charlie O'Brien, who follows K at 9 a.m., Gord James (2-to-7) and
Marc Chambers (7 to midnight) on weekdays, Ingrid Shumacher and Bruce Marshall on weekends
- ply their trade at CHUM Inc. radio stations in Toronto and Windsor.
After putting in their regular shifts, O'Brien and the other disc jockeys go into a
studio and lay down tape tracks on which they record intros and extros to bracket musical
selections. A computer then combines the DJ patter with music, time checks and openings
for live news/weather/traffic breaks.
Should local events such as fires, floods or celebrity sightings necessitate live
broadcasting, Oldies will have the flexibility to replace pre-recorded programming with
coverage by the station's crackerjack news apparatus (which consists of Richard Dagenais
and a cell phone).
But unless an outbreak of reality disturbs its Strawberry Fields Forever ambience,
Oldies 990 will be on automatic pilot from 9 a.m. until K returns the following morning.
The employment of one lonely on-air announcer may strike some as an excessively frugal
means of filling the airwaves. Well, welcome to the economic realities of fin-de-siecle
CKGM's experiment with talk radio was a latter-day Charge of the Light Brigade.
Well-paid blabbermouths bravely blundered into a battle they couldn't win.
Simply put, no one is making any money on the AM dial. Even the mighty
"heritage" radio stations - CJAD and CKAC in Montreal - are able to keep
reporters on the street and helicopters in the sky because their FM partners (Mix 96 and
CITE respectively) are generating big revenue.
Savvy and prudent radio station operators - like Pierre Beland and Pierre Arcand, who
own four Montreal stations - are reluctant to invest in the AM band. Beland and Arcand
have pumped up CKVL (notably by importing Andre Arthur), but beyond astutely hiring Jim
Duff to energize the CIQC morning show, the execs have not thrown pots of money at their
English AM station.
The flow of advertising dollars toward FM - which is the band that most people with
disposable income listen to - has been going on for 20 years. Innovations in technology
(remember AM stereo?) and format (Talk Radio With Attitude) have not stemmed the tide, and
no one who knows anything about the radio business expects a reversal of the trend.
Even the most popular AM stations face revenue squeezes that put pressure on costs.
When a well-paid warhorse like Gord Sinclair finally totters off into the sunset, will
CJAD run out and hire an expensive, high-profile journalist to replace him?
Or will we hear daily editorials by Olga and Laurie?