Star Feb. 6,2005
'Mac' led heady days at CHUM
DJ Bob McAdorey as popular as music
`Bon vivant' later a Global TV fixture
By Jim Bawden
Bob McAdorey helped usher in radio's rock `n' roll era and set the musical
agenda for a generation of Toronto teens.
Few today realize the power that DJs like McAdorey exerted over Toronto
popular culture 40 years ago, when radio ruled. It was a cozy time for
- and then CHUM entered the fray, blew the cobwebs away and ushered in
the crazy days of rock broadcasting.
McAdorey, 69, died Saturday at St. Catharines' Hotel Dieu hospital after
a long illness.
McAdorey grew up in Niagara Falls and attended Stamford Collegiate,
also the alma mater of Titanic director James Cameron. He was in the
same graduating class as Barbara Frum, the legendary CBC-TV interviewer.
As a teen, McAdorey won a province-wide public speaking contest and
was the popular president of his high school fraternity.
He also played ragtime piano.
"Crowds would go around him," said
his older brother, Terry McAdorey.
McAdorey's radio career started in 1953 when the Niagara Falls native
first signed on with CHVC near the Falls, introducing listeners to his
unique style of easy-going patter.
"I looked like Buddy Holly back then," McAdorey
told the Toronto Star in a
1981 interview. "I weighed about 95 pounds and we played songs
like `Que Sera Sera.' Everything was a lot softer, smoother then."
After additional stops in London, Guelph, Hamilton and Dawson Creek,
McAdorey wound up at Toronto's CHUM, coaxed to climb aboard by resident
star DJ Al Boliska.
"I'd lived with
Al above a variety store in London and he kept telling me to come to
CHUM. I asked for $600 a month, after all Gordie Tapp was making $100
a week, and to my surprise I got the job."
Starting in 1960, McAdorey began a stint that many people consider rock
programming at its finest: brash, spontaneous and pretty wild. And the
DJs were the stars.
CHUM became the rock station to listen to and McAdorey was the man who
told you if a song was going places. The guy who hung out with The Beatles
and The Stones when they were in town (and introduced them from the stage)
was known simply as ``Mac.''
For years, he hosted
the all-important 4 to 7 p.m. slot. CHUM's chart of the week's top
records was posted everywhere: in record stores and high school lockers.
Eaton's and Simpson's would only stock those 45s that were on the CHUM
list. When a new record called "The Unicorn" came
in, McAdorey liked it so much he immediately put it on the air and
it sold 140,000 copies in Canada in two weeks and made The Irish Rovers.
Thinking back on
those heady days, McAdorey said, "We kept it all
clean up here. There was no payola as in the U.S. and we deliberately
helped a lot of Canadians. It was personality radio. We were promoted
like crazy back then.
And the pressures were unbelievable. We dictated what records were going
to go. And what kids would eat, drink.
"I could have
written five books about what happened at CHUM. There'd be one book
if I saved my memos. The most frightening thing was the British invasion.
There weren't enough cops to handle the crowds - it was out of control."
Off the air, he was a bon vivant, said 72-year-old Terry McAdorey.
"We did a lot
of drinking. He was a good friend of Ronnie Hawkins."
In 1968, the CHUM deal fizzled. When owner Al Waters brought in American
consultants, McAdorey felt the business was becoming too heavily formatted
McAdorey headed to CFGM in Richmond Hill, which was trying to invade
Toronto with a country music format. As morning man, he energized the
station. He moved to CFTR in 1970 and after a few years returned to CFGM.
A constant listener was Bill Cunningham, head of Global TV news, and
he asked McAdorey to contribute satirical bits, which eventually became
a full-time job.
Sample segment: during an airline strike McAdorey headed out to Terminal
2 with bowling equipment and pins to demonstrate the building was only
of use as a bowling alley. RCMP officers saw nothing funny in this and
whisked him out as the piece was being filmed.
Another time during a city campaign to get dog owners to scoop up deposits,
McAdorey and a cameraman went out to do field tests, which consisted
of chasing terrified dogs whose owners had failed the test.
By 1980, he was entertainment editor. In 1983, Global tried to fire
him when he disagreed over assignments. Global's Three Guys at noon telecast
was a big hit (the others: Mike Anscombe and John Dawe) and hundreds
of daily phone calls forced management to reconsider. For a time, Global
even outperformed CBC's Midday.
McAdorey later got his own afternoon entertainment show where he'd report
from movie junkets and comment on the entertainment scene.
I last chatted with him in 2000 when he was railing against Global's
retirement-at-65 rule. But he looked frail and had been off for months
after a fainting attack.
McAdorey had a farm
at Gormley and a place in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Despite his TV success
he still yearned for the golden days of radio: "I'd
walk into the booth in pyjama tops and jeans and talk one-on-one to
people. At least that's the way I always imagined it."
McAdorey leaves daughter Colleen, her husband Jim Tatti, a Global sports
broadcaster, and four grandchildren.
He was predeceased by his wife Willa, daughter Robin and son Terry.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at St. Patrick's
Church in Niagara Falls.