240 pp 8.5″ x 5.5″
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In the age of podcasts and streaming, you could be excused for forgetting that commercial radio still exists. Indeed, it lumbers on, mostly for audiences either too entrenched in their habits to change them (listeners of classic rock, CBC, AM talk radio), or who don’t know any better (Top 40 pop). When I listen to local classic rock station CHOM, large chunks of the commercial breaks are devoted to the corporate owners’ satellite network and to hawking ad time on the station – not a good sign. Into this twilight era, like an only-slightly-premature obituary, comes local author Ian Howarth’s Rock ‘n’ Radio, a passionate paean to the golden age of the airwaves here in Montreal.
When Howarth, early in the book, uses the phrase “one of the most exciting eras in Montreal AM radio,” you get a strong sense of his overall tone: very specific, very enthusiastic, and very nerdy. He profiles the DJs and station owners – mostly men, along with a few women who tolerated the era’s Mad Men-like gender politics – who dominated the airwaves of English-language radio from the fifties to today, though the focus is mainly on the commercial and cultural heyday of the sixties and seventies.Review by Malcolm Fraser is a writer, musician, and filmmaker based in Montreal.
Growing up in Montreal during the mid-sixties, I was a huge follower of my city’s English-language radio stations, especially when it came to Top 40 Music. I devoured all the elements of three AM stations; CFCF, CKGM and CFOX; the music, the weekly hit lists, and of course, the patter and crazy antics of their resident DJs. Ian Howarth’s Rock n Radio is a solid gold mine of insights and anecdotes from that era. The book’s conversational tone and accessible style made it a fun and absorbing read for me. As much as it is a fantastic trip down a groovy memory lane, its author also reveals that our favourite radio jocks often lived with high levels of job insecurity, where creative reinvention became the key to career survival. That these one-time Montreal icons opened up to Ian Howarth so honestly is a tribute to his skill as an interviewer. I would recommend this fascinating book to anyone who, like me, grew up with a transistor radio soundtrack to homework and bedtime.Review by Norm Horner
Before CDs, Napster, iTunes and music streaming apps, there were 45s, LPs and radio. Ian Howarth’s “Rock ‘n’ Radio” takes us on a nostalgic trip back to a time when colourful DJs and savvy Program Directors ruled the English airwaves in Montreal. Ian‘s research and anecdotes tell the story of the early days of Rock ‘n’ Roll on Montreal AM radio from Dave Boxer and Buddy Gee to FM’s Terry DiMonte. It will take you back to a time when you skillfully turned the dial on your transistor radio from CFCF 600 to CKGM 980 to CFOX 1470 to try and catch your favourite song. A great, insightful read that will have you asking “How’s your bird (the old oiseau)?”Reviewed by Alan Takenaka
Wow. Ian Howarth has just released a wonderful, well written, and researched tribute to the mostly 60’s/70’s DJ and radio station scene in Montreal.
The book unveils how important the DJ’s in Montreal were to baby-boomers who turned to music for fun, protest and liberation. The book harks back to the days when a transistor radio was your ticket to the world and “album-based” FM radio was a novel low budget experiment. Howarth ties the Montreal scene to DJs south of the border like “Cousin abrucie.” Very well written and packed with information, the book could not have been easy to organise. I like how Ian Howarth put it all together. He also covers the clubs where the DJs introduced The Stones, and local bands like The Haunted (check out their song “1-2-5”), Mashmakhan (“And As the Years Go By”). This book is a must for all baby boomers who loved listening to the radio during the 60’s and 70’s.Reviewed by Christopher Viereck
Tuesday, July 26 | SiriusXM The Eric Alper Show – Interview Ian Howarth
Tuesday, June 27 | CTV’s Mutsumi Takahasi interview Ian Howarth, on noon hour news broadcast.
Thursday, June 15 | A Broadcast Dialog Podcast interview with Ian Howarth, the author of Rock ‘n’ Radio
Monday, May 21 | Dave Bronstetter & Yvon Huneault chat with Ian about Rock’n’Radio
Tuesday, May 16 at 6:40 AM | Terry Dimonte interview Ian about Rock’n’Radio
Terry Dimonte Interviews Ian Howarth
What people are saying about “Rock ‘n’ Radio.
“It’s clear from reading Rock ‘n’ Radio that Ian Howarth has a passion for both. Growing up in Montreal, arguably the most unique radio and music market on the planet, he glories in the tales of those homegrown stars and the local legends of the airwaves on the English-speaking side – Doug Pringle, Dave Boxer, Buddy Gee, Ralph Lockwood and Marc Denis, to name but a few – who gave the city its buzz and soundtrack during the halcyon years of rock ‘n’ roll.Martin Melhuish
“Well, hey, thanks to Ian Howarth for Rock ‘n’ Radio. What a wonderful collection of Montreal-specific nostalgia. I should know, because I’m old enough to remember all of it!”Terry Mosher (Aslin)
“Few broadcasters have achieved the power or celebrity status of the rock ‘n’ roll disc jockeys of the 1960s and 70s. Radio stations such as CHUM Toronto, CKLW Windsor, CFOX, Montreal, CKY Winnipeg, or CFUN Vancouver were setting the standards for changing musical taste. Musical icons such as Randy Bachman and Neil Young have spoken about the role of the rock DJs in shaping their careers. Rock ‘n’ Radio is a book long overdue as the impact of the early DJs is still being reflected today”Gary Moir
Montreal Times June 28, 2017
The Suburban’s Joel Goldenberg writes about Rock ‘n’ Radio..
When artists and groups recorded a hit single in the 1960s, the first priority when mixing it was that it had to sound good on a portable mono 45 RPM record player and, especially, the radio. AM Radio is as far from good sound as one can get, and the already limited sound is further compressed by the radio signal. And yet, that was the way most people heard the great hits of the day. Read more
The Gazette’s Bill Brownstein writes about Rock ‘n’ Radio..
Like many a kid in the early 1960s, Ian Howarth would feign sleep late at night and, with a transistor radio tucked under his pillow, pick up signals from Boston, Chicago, New York and even Schenectady (who can forget WPTR?) to check out the latest Top 40 hits — which… Read more
Notable DJ Soundchecks
C.P. Rodney Chandler - 1969
Roger Scott - 1969
Ralph Lockwood - 1975
Terry di Monte - 1990
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Dave Boxer In the UK working on bringing The Beatles to Canada
In the late 1950s, well before the British invasion, Hill put together his first rock group: the Del Cappos (a capo is a clamp that it strapped onto the neck of a guitar to raise the guitar’s pitch). Hill had a new electric guitar thanks to a deal with his father that involved a haircut. He was also gigging with his part-time musician father’s jazz band, where he got to stretch out his young fingers beyond the limitations of the Del Cappos’ early 1960s rock songs.
The Del Cappos didn’t last long and, while attending Monkland High School in Montreal’s west end, Hill joined a band with guys a couple of years older, who were playing club gigs. It was a step up from the weekend church basement circuit and Hill found himself playing much more often, getting home at 3 a.m. and getting up for classes the next day. The band, Dave Nichols and the Coins, wanted to hit the road. But Hill was still in school and was not inclined to make the serious move to full-time musician. It was a wise decision, despite the disappointment of his band mates. “I enjoyed that band,” says Hill. “We were making pretty good money for the time and I thought we had a great sound.” Then he got a call from Dave Nichol’s younger brother Allan. He wanted to start up a new band, one that would soon have Hill putting aside any regrets about leaving his former band behind...Ian Howarth
The DJ’s delivered the hits and vinyl dealers provided the fix.
Read about the early days at CFOX when Dean Hagopian, seen here with Corky Van Guelpen, headlined an exciting new breed of radio DJ’s.