PSR Jock Shots featuring Capital FM's Morning Disc Jockey's Rob and Audie
'Live' from Edmonton's Capital FM Studios with Rob Christie and Audie Lynds
By Michael Easton June the 4th 2012
This has to be the longest ongoing interview I've ever conducted... I first connected with Rob Christie back in 2008 when he was working at Rawlco's Magic FM. We met through Facebook after sending him an invite. I requested we get together for an interview for our Puget Sound Radio Jock Shots feature. Although he responded in the positive, the timing didn't seem to be right. I later came to understand he was about to cut the cord with Magic and join Newcap. I then reconnected with him a year ago, hoping we'd be able to line up an interview as he and Audie approached their third anniversary at Capital FM. Rob indicated he and Audie were going on summer vacation, but would be back in late July, then we'd be able to get things underway. Little did any of us realize at the time, but numerous events were about to take place and there was no way we'd hit the deadline for a September story. First, with the departure of then Operations Manager Patrick Cardinal crossing the street to Astral, then with the Newcap search for a new PD underway, added responsibilities fell on Rob and Audie. Once John Roberts was hired as the new PD in November of last year, 2011. The boys took off on another vacation. Then there was the Christmas vacation, which brought us into the new year with yet, another vacation in Mexico. I'm definately in the wrong job! Infact, this was begining to remind me of the days of the late Johnny Carson doing his Tonight show with all the vacation periods having been included in his lucrative contract with NBC. :)
Talk about a Work in Progress!
To be honest, I had reservations if my latest project would ever see the light of day. Nontheless, I persevered with numerous emails and on March 25th of this year Rob sent me part one of his response to the interview. I then knew it was a go, for sure. Part's 2,3 & 4 came in over the months leading up to now, along with Audies replies, then today Audie emailed me the studio pics to complement the article.
As Rob told me, once he got into answering my questions, the memories began to flood back, to the point he was concerned the interview would be too long. I assurred him, we have no restrictions as far as word count is concerned here at PSR and not to worry. However, it now appears I'm going to have to split it us, in part one and part two which will follow below.
Having followed Rob's career from Vancouver, I knew he was one of the successful on air personalities who's worked markets across the country, including Montreal and Toronto, as well as Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, and I for one, wanted to hear it all. I was also very interested to know more about his radio mate Audie Lynds and how he and Rob got together, not once, not twice, but three times. Talk about great chemistry!
I tell you, the long wait was well worth it, infact I was very pleased the way things finally came together, and I thank both Rob and Audie for taking the time in allowing me to interview them both.
I hope our PSR readers enjoy the read, as much as I enjoyed asking the questions.
Puget Sound Radio welcomes Rob and Audie, our latest PSR Jock Shots
ME: Firstly, Congratulations are in order to you both... Anniversary number 3? coming up? Just to bring everyone up to speed, it was March of 2008 when Capital FM was launched, then you two came onboard six months later, the day after Labour Day, Tuesday September 2nd, 2008
Rob: That's right we celebrated our third anniversary on Capital-FM Sept 6th 2011. I believe that's the linoleum anniversary.
ME: Correct me if I'm wrong, but is this the third time around for you guys? Perhaps 3 times lucky, making the perfect radio marriage?
Rob: Three times lucky - hopefully not 3 strikes and you're out.
ME: What year are we going back to for 630 CHED, then Power 92?
Rob: We first teamed up at 630 CHED in '86 then moved to Power 92 in '92 , (the year we won the Gold at the International Radio Festival of New York for Best Humor/Comedy Morning show).
ME: How did you guys originally connect?
Rob: Actually, it was an arranged marriage. Pat Bohn was the P.D. and Vern Traill was the G. M at the time. My afternoon drive show was very successful and I remember Pat describing 630 CHED as having two morning shows. Bruce Bowie left CHED for CKNG-FM (Later POWER 92 - how's that for irony?) and mornings were suddenly open. I'll never forget it. Pat & Vern took me out to the Convention Inn South, wining and dining me late into the night and pressing me for an answer that night.They really put the full court press on me, but I'm a Scorpio and I can be pretty stubborn when I want to be. I told them I'd be giving up all my lucrative nightclub gigs and with the change in lifestyle that comes with mornings, I'd have to discuss it with my wife Diane first.
When i got home Diane was dying to know what happened so we stayed up til 7 a.m., talking about it. For some reason I thought it just didn't feel right, and I was about to call Pat & Vern and decline the offer.Then I told her about the money they were offering and she said , "You touch that phone and I'll break your arm!"
Now this is where it gets a little fuzzy . I remember Eileen Bell was on the show but I'm not sure if Audie had been part of Bruce Bowie's Morning crew or if Pat Bohn added him to the show at that point. (Hopefully Audie's memory on this point is clearer than mine) .To the best of my recollection, Audie was already on the show, so he and Eileen inherited me.
ME: Obviously the chemistry was there, and remains to this day
Audie: Yeah, chemistry is very important and trust and respect play a large role in that. You may not agree with everything your partner does or says, or what direction he wants to go with a bit, but you have to have an open mind and respect their opinions and come to a mutual agreement that's best for the show. You also have to understand that somedays your performance may not be top notch, but your partner will stand by you, and you have his back at times. That's what makes a good partnership...chemistry, trust, respect and covering each others asses.
Rob: To be perfectly candid, I wasn't thrilled about working with any co-host because I had always been a one man show with my cast of character voices and established bits like my phone scam segment, "Christie's Kidding". BTW, Pat Bohn wanted me to rename it "The Morning Crew's Kidding". I learned way back then to NEVER give up a feature that's branded with your name. But Audie & I stuck it out, the show evolved, we both grew and somewhere along the way.... magic happened. Some teams never find it but we did. The guy from Moose Jaw and the guy from Montreal connected, clicked and now...well I won't say we finish each other's sentences, but our ability to feel other's timing, and to feed each other is rare in this business. It's about mutual respect, trust, and putting the success of show above any personal agenda.And we have fun on the air , lots of fun.
ME: My memory is a tad bit foggy, previous to this gig Rob, you were brought in from, was it Toronto, or Vancouver to do mornings on Magic?....
Rob: I left for MIX 99.9 Toronto in November 1994. Audie was supposed to be part of the package but I'll let him explain that chapter of our relationship.I did what I like to call the "Toronto sandwhich" .First taking over mornings on Mix 99.9 (Standard) for a very succesful run from Nov. 1994 - Dec. 2000. Program Director J.J. Johnston blew that up just before Christmas 2000.
I started the new millenium with an offer from Sandy Sanderson at Rogers to take over mornings in Vancouver from the legendary "Fred & Cathy" at KISS-FM. Thanks to the astute programming decisions of KISS P.D. Susan Davis, Rogers eventually blew up KISS-FM and Canada's first Jack-FM rose from the ashes. My KISS co-host Val Cole was replaced by Kerry Marshall and we were off to the races. Jack Vancouver became a phenomenal success - #1 in the market and #1 morning show, even beating the venerable Frosty Forst at CKNW. We made North American ratings history.
Enter Rogers VP Gary Miles, and in a wonderful example of pretzel logic, he does an end run on JACK-FM P.D. Pat Cardinal and hires Larry & Willy because "....they're a Vancouver brand dont'cha know". This will be a great chapter in my book, which I plan to title " How to be #1 and still get gassed". As part of this "Lido Shuffle", Cardinal is offered the PD/GM position at the newly rebranded 92.5 Jack-FM Toronto and he in turn signs me for morning show in 2003. So how's that for deja vu! I go to a Vancouver station named KISS and it morphs into Jack.Then I move to Toronto where a KISS also turns into a Jack. I love this business.
Based on the success on the West Coast ,senior management at Rogers Toronto thought the JACK format was so strong that it -and the morning show - didn't need to be promoted. Funny how that affects ratings in a little market like Toronto. After 2 years and the customary sacrificing of the talent, I found myself a free agent when I received a call from Susan Reid, who was known as "Janet from Another Planet" on our early morning show days at CHED. Susan was now an experienced sales manager at EZ-Rock Edmonton, when Rawlco tapped her for the GM/GSM position at the new Smooth Jazz Magic 99.
I wasn't thrilled about returning to Edmonton but Susan was very pursuasive, the Rawlinsons really impressed me as radio people, and the generous package included a consulting role in programming.So after 11 years it was back to River City where I signed on MAGIC 99 in December 2005.It was a brand new learning curve.
[ Audie Lynds
Audie: Actually, after Rob left for Toronto, I stayed here in Edmonton and continued on in mornings at 92.5 through the various owners and format changes. Power 92, The New Power 92 (Hot AC hybrid format) and then the switch to Joe and the variations on that format. 4 different program directors over 15 years and yet I was lucky enough to never hear management say the words "We're taking the station in a different direction." My on air partner for 11 years on 92.5 was Gary James who's back doing mornings on Joe FM. It was a good partnership, but after Gary moved to afternoons, I hooked up with an old friend, Rhubarb Jones, whom I first met at CHAB in Moose Jaw in the early 80's. We had drank together and worked at the same station, but never shared a show. Rhubarb and I only worked together for a year and a half before Newcap came calling, but we had a lot of fun and laughs during that time.
ME: Was hooking up with Rob at CHED your first gig... tell us about what brought you to Edmonton...
Audie: I came to Edmonton in October of 1981 to do middays and handle Assistant Program Director duties at CHED. The plan was to get off the air and into programming and I went in that direction for a while, building format clocks, doing airchecks, overseeing music and taking care of promotional imaging production. In 1985, Bruce Bowie and "The Coach" Jamie Herbison were doing mornings on the station and I joined them to help make it more of a "Morning Crew/Zoo" sound which was the trend at the time. It was a small role, but that's when I started slapping the alarm clock at 3:15.
ME: While where at it, I'm not going to ask if you were named after Audie Murphy, surprise! actually I read it in your bio on the Capital FM website. Where and when did everything start radiowise for you? Was radio something that grabbed you at an early age being raised in Saskatchwan?
Audie: I wasn't one of those guys who played radio in his bedroom, but sound, music and electronics fascinated me. I used to drive my parents crazy running microphones through a guitar fuzz box, phasing my Dad's reel to reel tape machine and putting thumb tacks in the felt hammers of Mom's piano to get a honky tonk sound. I didn't get into radio until I was 16. At that time, I looked it as a way to make money to buy guitar strings, sound equipment and cigarettes and get free records. My buddy got me a part-time job at CHAB running the religion tapes which aired from 6am Sunday to 3am Monday. I think we were supposed to read the weather once an hour, but I rarely did because I was too busy listening to The Bitch is Back on cue. Then a year later, a couple of weekend all-night shifts opened and, based on my finely tuned weather skills (and the fact that I worked for next to nothing) the program director decided to give the long haired skinny kid a shot. I'll never forget the advice I got from the guy who trained me on that first night. After a couple of on air breaks I asked him if he had any advice. His answer? "Yeah, quit now. You don't have a chance."
ME: You mentioned your wife... was she radio connected in those early days...how did this match come together?
Audie: No, Lois has little interest in radio. I don't even think she listens to the show to this day. She relies on her friends to tell her what I say about her on the air. We met in Grade 9 at Peacock High School in Moose Jaw. We were in the same home room together, but she thought I was a girl for the first few weeks because I was shy and never said anything. The fact that I have a name that's a derivative of Audrey, had hair past my shoulders, wore puffy sleeved shirts and weighed 100 pounds may also have influenced her perception. She didn't realize I was a guy until one day I had to call out the attendance and after hearing me speak, she didn't have to wonder why she was attracted to another female.
ME: Rob, if we can get back to Magic 99, for a minute. I recall a 'non-compete' was in place with Rawlco, then it seemed to be resolved, Can you elaborate on that?
Rob: Before I address that, let me just say I really enjoyed my 3 yrs at Magic and my move to Newcap was purely a business decision (geez I sound like a P.D.!)
Rawlco’s a progressive company with talented people and a personality driven approach to radio. That philosophy comes from the top. Both Doug and Gord Rawlinson are radio people through and through. Their father Ed was a partner in 630 CHED back in the day. Each brother has his own expertise. Gord focuses on sales while Doug oversees programming.
I remember my first meeting with Doug at his cottage in the Thousand Islands near Kingston in the Fall of 2005 .We spent a few hours on his yacht which was equipped with satellite radio tuned to an Oldies station. You know you’re a radio person when you can have one ear on the conversation and another on the station. We’d be in the middle of talking about family or whatever and he would suddenly blurt out “...love that jingle!” or “ man, did he nail that post!” Let’s just say he made a great first impression.
Doug is one of the few remaining guys in this business who trusts his instincts. I’m not saying Rawlco doesn’t use consultants, but they play advisory role – they don’t program the stations. Doug Rawlinson and Rawlco Director of Programming Doug Pringle,or as we called them,“ Doug & Doug”, have backed up more miles than most consultants have driven.
I also have to give props to Rawlco for maximizing the use of my talents. In addition to hosting mornings on Magic 99, I had consulting roles in programming, marketing , and sales. I also gave presentations at the company’s annual programming conferences in Saskatoon & Regina. Rawlco was the first company to recognize and fully utilize my three decades of experience in this industry.
As for all the rumours about drinking the famous Rawlco “Kool Aid, I’d rather drink the Kool Aid than the Hemlock some other companies like to dispense.
Now, about the much publicized non-compete episode when I left Rawlco. Yes, my contract did contain a non-compete clause. Rawlco Radio President Pam Leyland made it very clear to me that they were prepared to enforce it, and I was served with a statement of claim. Newcap was undeterred. Cue the lawyers. Let this be a lesson to all aspiring media performers: If a company wants you badly enough, because their managers believe that you will positively impact their bottom line, they’ll do what they have to do to make it happen. Fortunately,that was the situation I was in when Newcap presented me with the opportunity at Capital-FM. Negotiations took place, a settlement was reached and Audie & I were on the air September 2nd, 2008.
ME: funny how the tables turn, what with Magic flipping to Up!
Rob: Well, you know the old adage, the only constant in radio is change. I admire the Rawlinsons for introducing a smooth jazz format to Edmonton but it just wasn’t economically viable. Maybe it was just part of a long term strategy. When in doubt, play the hits! “Up” may be a contender, but the race isn’t over and in radio like in horseracing, thoroughbreds don’t fade in the stretch.
ME: Rob, I don't think I included the question, it was Patrick Cardinal who brought you back to Capital, correct?
Rob: This is one of those great radio stories you always remember.When I was initially approached by Randy Lemay, Newcap V.P. Alberta Operations, we agreed that in the interest of discretion, it would be best to meet in a non public setting, so he set up a meeting at his home in Sherwood Park. As far as I knew, the meeting was to be composed of Audie, creative genius Randy Broadhead, myself, Newcap VP Programming Steve Jones and Randy Lemay.
Audie, Randy Broadhead and I walk into Lemay’s kitchen and who should we lay eyes on but.... Pat Cardinal! You could’ve knocked us over with a feather. Pat had been consulting for Standard Broadcasting in Toronto when Newcap came calling and offered him the Ops Manager and Capital-FM Program Director positions in Edmonton.
Now, I had lots of experience with Pat dating back to Power 92 as well as Jack-FM Vancouver and Jack-FM ,Toronto. So did Audie and Randy, but not all of it good. Hey this guy fired me twice! In fairness to him, the circumstances were complicated, it wasn’t his idea, and he hated doing it. I have tremendous respect for Pat and we’re friends to this day.
Audie and Randy Broadhead were a little more skeptical.They still had some baggage from their experiences with Pat after I left Power 92 for Toronto. However, I believed that Pat’s experiences in Toronto and Vancouver had really made him grow as a P.D. and mature as a manager, and that it was better to have someone we knew in that position than a complete stranger. Besides, this was an opportunity too good to pass up!
As for your original question, Randy Lemay was the first person from Newcap to contact me about coming over to Capital-FM. To the best of my knowledge, our deal was coming together before or around the same time as Newcap was courting Pat. I’d say Randy engineered the morning show deal in concert with Pat and Steve Jones.
ME: So where was Audie during those times?
Rob: Audie stayed with Power 92 all through the years that I was on the Toronto - Vancouver -Toronto odyssey. Power eventually morphed into Joe-FM and only he can fill you in on the juicy details from those days.
ME Audie, everyone has our so called heroes in the industry, such as mentors and Saskatchwan certainly launched many a radio tv career over the years... Tell us about those who influenced you in your early years....
Audie: The great thing about working in radio in Moose Jaw was that it was a small town training station for Moffatt Communications and you got experience in almost every department. You did your own production, wrote commercials at times, worked in the news room, ran promotions, set up your own remotes, filed records, wound carts...whatever needed to be done. The talent rarely stayed there for more than a year or two and somehow that made us all pretty close. Most of the jocks were always happy to share their knowledge and experience as long as it didn't jeopordize their chances at a bigger market, so I had many influences and learned something valuable from almost everyone. I only hope that I was able to teach something to those that were greener than me.
ME: Rob, born in Montreal? What's your story as far as being enticed into the wacky world of radio?
Rob: I was born and raised in Montreal and as far back as I can remember I was always fascinated with the voices on the radio. My parents were faithful listeners of a Middle of the Road station, (remember the M.O.R format?) CJAD. I remember how my mom would crack up at the breakfast table at something the morning personality said. I was amazed at how a disembodied voice could have that effect on someone going about her morning routine. Later, as a teen when Beatlemania hit, Montreal was a hotbed of radio with personalities like Dave Boxer at (CFCF) , Dean Hagopian (CFOX ), Buddy Gee (CKGM) , Chuck Chandler, Roger Scott (Both CFOX) and so many others. I listened to all of them. Each had his own style. Dave Boxer used a lot of sound effects and once even had Paul McCartney playing “Love Me Do” on his slide whistle. Dean Hagopian had a warped sense of humour and did this amazing range of voices and characters. Buddy Gee (George Morrison) just had the greatest energy and sense of production, a real “American” sound. You just hung on their every word.These guys were stars in their own right.
Buddy Gee at CKGM actually gave me my first on air break when I entered a contest to do a commercial for Yamaha Motorcycles. I remember walking into that studio in downtown Montreal with my heart in my throat but I was determined! I made the short list but didn’t win the contest.
I have to credit my mom for giving me the push to actually apply for a job in radio. You have to appreciate that even though I had built a mini radio station in my basement bedroom ,complete with tape recorder, turntable and mike ,that I was an incredibly shy kid.I mean I didn’t even have a date for my high school grad!
I was obsessed with radio. One weekend, a buddy and I actually stayed up for 48hrs straight doing a ‘radiothon’ .We didn’t actually broadcast over the airwaves we just played records, intro’d songs doing various voices, made up commercials and recorded the whole thing into my tape recorder. Mom would check in on us every few hours bringing us sandwiches and drinks . Later she said to me “ Why don’t you just go and apply at CFOX ?”
I was in my first year of University at McGill when I walked into Gord Sinclair’s CFOX in suburban Pointe Claire. I used my involvement with Radio McGill as my “experience” on the job application form.Talk about embellishing! I worked on some engineering stuff because I was too shy to do anything in front of the mike.
These were the days before the term ‘ intern’. I was a gopher , as in “ go fer coffee, go fer delieveries”,etc”. My duties included filing records, setting up remotes, delivering hit charts to record stores and opping the allnight show voicetracks.But hey, I was working with my heroes! And occasionally, I would run into Gino Vanelli, Andy Kim and April Wine in the hallways.
Afterhours, I would come back to the radio station and practice doing “shows” for hours in one of the production studios.It was the coolest, I mean they had TWO turntables and cart machines! The Program Director, Doug Ackhurst, eventually heard one of my tapes and offered me the all night show on weekends. I was scared stiff, and I was still very shy but it was showtime! The first song I played was The Beatles “All You Need is Love”. Did I mention my first air name was Jeff Douglas? A gift from Charles P. Rodney Chandler.
ME: You're certainly notable as far as wide country coverage. I remember when I lived in Victoria, you were doing mornings on KISS FM, just before those two fellows from across the street at Corus came over for the flip over to JACK FM.... that must have been an interesting time for you.... Vancouver being the dream of many a radio person.... or was it? You worked in Toronto... tell us about life in the big city of TO.
Rob: You’re right, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in all three major markets and two large markets (Edmonton & Calgary) which has helped me establish a national profile. You have to remember I started in a major market, Montreal, even though I was just swing at CFOX. Later, I spent 3 years at Top 40 powerhouse CKGM. It was the height of the disco era, the ’76 Olympics were on and Montreal was home to incredible nightlife and some groundbreaking concerts. I emceed the Pink Floyd and Emerson, Lake & Palmer concerts at Olympic stadium ,made lots of night club appearances and even had my own TV Game show on CBC.
Toronto came calling three times and we finally made a deal in ’94 with Standard Broadcasting’s Mix 99.9. I worked with some incredible people at MIX including Blair Bartrem who was one of the best Promotion Directors I’ve ever known. When you’re brand new and unknown in a market like Toronto the #1 priority is marketing. Gary Slaight and J J. Johnston promised they’d give me “:..a ton of support”, and they delivered . I remember walking down Spadina Avenue one afternoon when three streetcars in a row went by, all sporting “Rob Christie in The Morning" billboards. It felt great but the pressure was also on to deliver the show the campaign promised. Within two books CHUM-FM’s “Roger, Rick & Marilyn” were hearing our footsteps.
I loved the “big screen” thinking in Toronto. No matter what crazy ideas we came up with, they made it happen. Like “Taking the Plunge” in which we married a couple live on air while going down a waterslide at Canada’s Wonderland. Another time we did “Barenaked in the Bahamas”, flying a planeload full of people to the Caribbean for a private Barenaked Ladies concert.
One thing about Toronto, you’re never short on celebrities. A week didn’t go by that we didn’t have a major star on the air, people like Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morrisette, Meatloaf and Eddie Vedder. When I first got to Toronto, David Hasselhoff was in town shooting a movie. We invited him to come on the show but he refused. So, I created “Hassel-watch” in which I invited our listeners to keep their eyes peeled for him around the city and go up and tell him to call “Rob Christie in The Morning”. He was so harassed that his manager eventually contacted us and said “Ok, call off the dogs, David will do your show!”.
Our annual Christmas show broadcast live poolside from the Sheraton Centre, featured musical guests like The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Jeff Healy, and Kim Mitchell. Oh yeah, and we got coverage on CNN for something called “Underwater Christmas Carolling”. You really felt in the centre of things in Toronto. Between the morning show, station promotions, voice over work and charity gigs it was pedal-to-the-metal.Toronto really tests your mettle and if you’re up to the challenge, you’ll discover things about yourself and your abilities that you never thought possible.
On the personal side, I have to credit my wife Diane for finding us a “dee-lux apartment in the sky”, and setting us up to enjoy a full-on urban experience. Despite what the naysayers west of Ontario say, Toronto’s a great place to live.
As far as Vancouver goes, frankly I never really entertained the thought of working there. I loved the vibe of the big Eastern markets and if anything, saw myself going south to Boston or New York. But you never know in which direction the radio compass will point and in the spring of the new millennium I was presented with an opportunity on the West Coast.
Rogers National VP of Programming Sandy Sanderson called and introduced me to Susan Davis who had just been appointed P.D. of KISS-FM, Vancouver. The Legendary Fred (Latremouille) & Kathy were retiring and I along with Val Cole and Barry Wall were offered the formidable task of replacing them.Thanks to some hard work , great promotion, and effective marketing, we not only held onto the numbers in our first BBM, we actually increased them in some demos.
In terms of lifestyle, I have to be honest and say after Toronto I found Vancouver quite slow-paced. It kind of surprised me at first, I mean this is the third biggest market in Canada and yet Edmonton & Calgary seemed to have a faster pulse. To be sure, I love an energetic, hustle-bustle kind of environment, but I grew to love Vancouver’s unique pace. I think Vancouver is so stunningly beautiful that you have to slow down to really appreciate it. We got right into Vancouver buying a condo in the West End that was a block from Lost Lagoon and Stanley Park. We had spectacular views of Burrard Inlet and at night, Gracie’s Necklace. We’ll live there again.
ME: Rob, who influenced you the most as you were growing up and maturing in the biz? besides Lorne Green.
Rob: Well I don’t know about Lorne Green - but wouldn’t you kill to have those pipes? As I mentioned earlier, many of my initial influences were Montreal radio personalities like Ralph Lockwood, George Balcan and Pat Burns when he was a talk host at CKGM. At night I would listen to big U.S. AM stations out of New York, Boston and Chicago with personalities like Cousin Brucie , John “Records” Landecker and Larry “Superjock” Lujack. When I discovered the aircheck, I became a junkie devouring tapes of Don Imus, Dick Purtan, Robert W. Morgan, Charlie Tuna and the Real Don Steele. They don’t know it, but they were my mentors. I still have tapes from those Drake-era greats. Rick Dees was a big influence on me in those early years at 630 CHED . These days I listen to Scott & Todd , Broadway Bill Lee and Howard Stern.
ME: What was the draw out to Edmonton... was it the go west young man saying of old that brought you to Edmonton? Also, tell us about fitting into these various markets.... were they all good fits, at the time?
Rob: Like a lot of things in radio, it was a combination of circumstance and luck. I was working at CFOX in Montreal at the time and the station was on the losing end of a Top 40 battle with rival CKGM which had a better signal, and frankly, better programming.
CFOX was where I met my good friend, the late Gord Robison, who was a native of Calgary. Our careers were intertwined on more than one occasion. As CFOX declined, Gord left for 630 CHED Edmonton and helped me land afternoon drive at CKXL in Calgary.After 2 years I was hosting the morning show on XL at which time Keith James Sr. moved down from Edmonton to assume the P.D. position at CKXL. He thought I was too young for mornings and offered me evenings at CHED, which ironically, had been vacated by Gord Robison who had just gotten married and was heading off to Europe for 3 months with his new bride.
Reluctantly, I accepted the move north. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my career. Within months of arriving at CHED I was offered a gig at CFUN Vancouver and swing at CHUM Toronto. I was having such a great time at CHED working with the likes of Bob McCord, Wes Montgomery, Chuck Chandler and Len Thuesen that I passed on evenings in Vancouver . I thought seriously about J. Robert Wood’s offer to go Toronto but I said to myself “When I go to Toronto it’s going to be through the front door , not weekend swing”. I also believed CHED was a better place to develop my style because it was personality intensive and had agreat creative atmosphere. I also have to add that the late Jerry Forbes, CHED’s legendary G.M. played a big role in my decision to remain at CHED. Jerry was a larger than life personality himself and set the tone for CHED.
As far as market fit goes, Edmonton & I have always been sympatico, in no small measure due to the fact that I’ve spent close to half of my career in this market. Almost everyday someone tells me, “ I grew up with you”. Just last week a listener dropped into the station to thank me for emceeing his wedding reception in the 80’s. He and his wife were coming up on their 30th wedding anniversary – and they still listen. There’s no substitute for time spent in.
If Edmonton is my wife, Montreal is my lover. It’s my hometown, and still the place where I feel the most comfortable. Montreal and I are kindred spirits, liberal, irreverent, creative, and cosmopolitain. When I returned to Montreal in late ’75 to take over CKGM’s 6 – 9 pm show, disco was hitting it’s stride, the Olympics were on the horizon, and the concert scene was second to none. CKGM under the direction of GM John Mackey and PD Tom McLean, was plugged into it all.
Although CKGM is an English language station, over half of it’s 800,000 weekly cume was francophone. They loved the ‘son Americain’, the American Sound. Capitalizing on the fact that Marc Denis (9 – midnight), Scott Carpentier (Allnights) and I were all bilingual, the station launched an outdoor marketing campaign, “ La connection francaise” (The French Connection).We would do French/English breaks a couple of times an hour and interact with francophone listeners on the phone . It was groundbreaking stuff. The campaign was wildly successful, getting the attention of the French language newspapers which led to interviews and a series of stories on “La connection francaise”. . Hemingway once said “ "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." I would say the same of Montreal.
Although I was brand new to Toronto in 1994 , I thought my style and the MIX format were a good fit. We brought a new energy and edge to a market that had long been dominated by safe morning shows on CHUM-FM and CHFI. It’s never easy to rock the boat. I found myself in the MIX 99.9 P.D.’s office on several occasions over some on-air bits and even had an interview that I gave to a trade publication censored because it was interpreted as “unflattering to the owner of the company”. So much for candour.
The fact of the matter is, under my leadership of the morning show, MIX 99.9 closed the gap with CHUM-FM and CHFI and sales virtually doubled. I never heard any complaints from Gary Slaight, other than he wasn’t too crazy about my “Gay Nooner” bit. I could devote several chapters to my Toronto experience and I will – in my book.
Vancouver was like buying a suit off the rack. It fits pretty well but eventually you have to take it in for alterations. KISS-FM was my first foray into AC and a new learning curve. For some reason, “Make Grandma Bark Like A Dog” just doesn’t sit well with that audience. Oh well, back to “Battle of the Sexes”.
I always felt I had to dilute myself on KISS-FM. It didn’t help that my partnership with Val Cole was an arranged marriage. Val is a very talented broadcaster but for a number of reasons, the chemistry eluded us.
When Rogers used the All Christmas Music tactic to blow up KISS and launch Canada’s first JACK format it was an entirely different story. I was paired with veteran Vancouver personality Kerry Marshall. Now, I could let loose and not have to constantly second guess myself. This was a custom tailored suit. And we took the market by storm. JACK and the morning show went to #1 in a matter of a couple of books making Canadian BBM ratings history in the process. To this day, Pat Cardinal who did a superb job of executing the JACK format in Vancouver , has framed copies of those ratings hanging in his office .
ME: Audie, tell us about working for Newcap. The format of Capital... the cast of characters on your show, Ma and Pa Regular, Captain Eyeliner, what about Mr. Maynard or Earl the Soul singer.... have we missed anyone?
Audie: As we all know, more and more stations have a corporate feel. That's just the way the industry is headed. I've found that Newcap is more of a "family" atmosphere which reminds me of how radio was when I first started. Will it stay that way? Time will tell, but I'm enjoying it now. As for the Capital format, it's classic hits from the mid 60's, the 70's and the 80's. I'd say the music is focused on the 70's hits and we lean towards a more female audience. It's important to know who your audience is and who you're targeting so that's why most of the bits we do are also female oriented. Ma & Pa Regular, Captain Eyeliner, Earl the Soul Singer...All these comedy series and and all the musical bits you hear on the show all come down to one extremely talented man. Randy Broadhead! All created, written and voiced by Randy who has background as a musician/recording artist and in writing and performing live music and comedy shows and TV. I engineered/produced for Randy for 20 years and I spent many hours rolling on the floor in laughter. Obviously, Randy has a major role in the show, but he's also part of the reason that Rob and Audie are back together. He was initially the one who got the ball rolling to reunite the three of us and it's great to be working along side him again.
ME: You guys also made a name for yourselves at the International Radio Festival of New York.... tell us about that, when was that, how was it
Audie: How was it? It was pretty DRUNK!
Rob: Once again I have to credit my good friend the late Gord Robison for encouraging us to enter the International Radio Festival of New York competition. The first couple of years we won “Finalist” awards, then in 1992, two years after we had moved to POWER 92, we received notification that we were “Medallists”. I still think the aircheck we submitted was one of the best shows we’ve ever done. It was packed with personality and bits and we executed perfectly. We were exhausted after that show!
As you can imagine, we were pretty excited and the Edmonton media was buzzing with the news of our nomination.Program Director Wayne Bryant flew us to New York for the awards ceremony. Audie & I will never forget that night. The scene was the Sheraton Hotel & Towers in Midtown New York. It was a black tie affair with hundreds of radio & television personalities and executives from all over the world. The emcees would announce the Silver and Bronze recipients from the podium.To maximize the suspense, the Gold winner’s logo and names would appear on the video screen.
When the Best Humour/ Comedy category came up I was on pins and needles waiting for our names to be announced. But the emcees didn’t call our names, so I’m thinking, “ Geez, they told us we were medallists...”. Suddenly, Audie and my wife Diane jump up and start screaming and hugging each other. Then I caught a glimpse of the POWER 92 logo on the screen and it finally dawned on me that we had won the GOLD! What a maroon.
I can’t tell you what it means to win an award like that, in an atmosphere like that, in New York City. I have to confess that I visualized winning that award for years, but when it became a reality that night in New York , it was one of those pinch me moments you remember for the rest of your life. You laugh, you cry, and you think, “It’s only an award “, but at that moment, it seems like validation for all those years you spent honing your craft. Audie later described it as “ waves of happiness”. We also won the Bronze medal in ’94, but to the best of my knowledge, we are the only Canadian morning show ever to win Gold in the Best Humour / Comedy category at the New York Festival.
Later that night as we celebrated at Cafe des Artistes, Wayne Bryant was on the phone to Roy Hennessey who had just taken over the GM position at CFRB Toronto. Roy congratulated us and said, “ You’ve gotta come to Toronto now!” His words were prophetic.
ME: Tell us about Edmonton, the people, your listeners...
Audie: My impression of Edmontonians is that they are very generous and very real. They don't put up with B.S. and they're not afraid to say if they like or dislike something. We invite them to participate in the show and be a part of it because it gives them an emotional connection and once that's there, I believe they'll keep coming back.
ME: Tell us what you think about the Edmonton radio market....Describe the changes you've covered here in Edmonton over the years. Did the CRTC go over board by allowing too many licences?
Audie: When I first came to Edmonton, FM was just coming on the scene. AM radio was still the winner with CHED having close to a 30 share playing Top 40. Then we tried to battle against FM with AM stereo which obviously didn’t have much of an impact. I wasted hundreds of hours re-carting the library on stereo carts. Today, there’s no doubt it’s a very competitive market with everybody fighting for the coveted 25-54 demographic and not that much share difference in the top 5.. Did the CRTC go too far? I think Oprah was in charge… “you get a license, and you get a license…”
ME: What about the transition from the old BBM Diary and the PPMs.
Audie: I don't think PPMs are perfect, but they're more accurate than diary. Nobody filled out the diary as they listened. I think most were filled out from memory after the survey week. How accurate can that be? Especially when most people are dial punchers. In my opinion, we need even more meters in the market to get a clearer survey.
Rob: PPM methodology is completely different and although more scientific than the diary system, still subject to sampling errors and other factors. PPM presents a new set of challenges for programming, sales and talent alike. The most interesting thing we’ve learned from PPM is that listeners tune in more stations than they were reporting in the diary method. They are also not as loyal as the diaries led us to believe , and generally have a short attention span. This is good news for some stations and bad news for others but positive for radio overall.
Rob: The key with PPM is accepting the fact that listeners surf, even your P1’s. The trick is to get them to come back to you more often. New Capital-FM PD John Roberts is a native Edmontonian who has worked in Houston and major markets in North Carolina. He has lots of PPM experience and is skilled at interpreting the results. He’s smart enough to realize that what listeners say they want is not always what they react to. The new programming and marketing strategies he’s implemented are moving the needle for Capital-FM.
ME: You recently lost your morning help mate to the competion and I understand there was a rather intensive workout for the winner, Karen Kay. Tell us about the weeding out and Karen being on the short short list.. How many were involved in the process of elimination before you knew for sure the chemistry was just right?
Rob: Since asking us this question, Karen Kay, who replaced Kari Skelton, left Capital-FM to pursue a career in new home sales. It’s a shame, Karen’s very talented, has a quick wit and and a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour. Karen was a great fit and was just starting to hit her stride with us but the economics didn’t add up for her.
Kris Burkholder and friend Chex
Veteran Edmonton radio personality Kris Burkholder officially joined the morning show in early April. Kris was part of our Power 92 team in the 90’s so this is a reunion within a reunion. Kris brings a credible news voice, lots of life experience, and great knowledge of the market to the show. One of Kris’ biggest assets is her eternally optimistic outlook on life.Oh, and she loves “Dancing with The Stars”.
Program Director John Roberts posted the position nationally and put Kris through a 3 month audition. It’s a tough role to fill. The candidate’s challenge is to enhance and broaden the appeal of the show while not detracting from the Rob & Audie chemistry. Kris made the cut.
ME: Has television ever entered the picture for either of you?
Audie: Anybody who's seen pictures of me would know the answer. Maybe a role in "The Walking Dead."
Rob: I love doing TV and I’ve always believed it’s a good way to increase your market profile as a radio personality. That’s why I joined CTV Vancouver as weekend weather specialist while I was doing mornings at JACK-FM. I was hoping to do an entertainment feature when I called CTV News Director Tom Walters . I was in the process of explaining to him who I was when he said, “ I’m not on Christie’s Kidding am I ?” Turns out he was a big fan of my show at MIX 99.9 when he was with W5 in Toronto. What he was looking for was a weatherperson. I mentioned I had done fill-in weather at ITV Edmonton but that I wasn’t a meteorologist, he said “ Don’t worry about it. I can teach you weather, I can’t teach you personality”. Next thing I know, I’m on the CTV news desk with Bill Good and Pamela Martin. It was great fun and I think it helped establish me in the market.
Back in Montreal I hosted a game show called “Trivia” on CBC. In Edmonton I hosted an American Bandstand style show called “Anyway You want It” for ITV (Now Global) . I also wrote and hosted a syndicated music video series called “Star Chart”. I still do quite a few TV Commercials in the Edmonton market.
ME: What's next... Not to put a damper on things, but life moves on and we're not getting any younger. after this successful gig, Is retirement in the picture somewhere down the road. How long you want to put into this industry.
Audie: I'll stay in radio as long as I'm having fun. Or until management says they're “taking the station in a different direction.”
Rob: Retire?? I’m just getting good at this job! Every morning on the show I realize how many stories I have to tell. After all, what is a radio personality but someone who can share universal experiences with his/her listeners in the form of a well thought out , colourfully expressed, compelling story. These stories don’t just write themselves, you have to have done some living. Besides, there’s a need – and a demand - for experienced broadcasters more than ever.
On the subject of retirement, I share Audie’s attidude; as long as it’s fun, and as long as I’m healthy, I’m in the game. This business keeps your mindset young, which in turn helps you stay healthy. Look what it did for Dick Clark. Why would I stop drinking from the fountain of youth?
MEWhat's your idea of retirement? Audie? Rob?
Audie: Retirement for me means not going to bed until the sun goes down and sleeping in until 7. Not worrying about having that beer at night because I don't have to be sharp first thing in the morning. Jamming with friends in my basement. Fishing. Fixing all the things that I've been ignoring in my home. Traveling.
Rob: I see myself consulting a group of stations in talent development from a vineyard in the south of France, or my ocean front home in Nova Scotia, or a condo in downtown Montreal.
Newcap Radio has 83 radio stations, Bell Media will have 100+ stations when the dust settles on it’s takeover of Astral Communications. Where are the next personalities to staff all these stations going to come from? I’m not talking about voice trackers or time ‘n temp’ers here, I mean bona fide radio performers. Where are the next great morning entertainers?
By the time today’s VP of Programming is done with administrative duties, research and testing, and implementing formats, there’s no time left to develop talent. There’s a real need for mentors in our industry. If radio companies are at all concerned about their future, they need to address this issue sooner rather than later. Newcap seems to understand the value of marquee morning shows. They may be expensive but the return on investment is undeniable.
ME: What and Where is Radio going, in particular here in Edmonton?
Rob: Edmonton now has more signals per capita than any other market in Canada. That said, we still don’t have as many as similar size U.S. markets. Competition is good -as long as it produces variety. I think the CRTC has abdicated much of it’s role as a regulatory body. Their laissez-faire policy has turned this business into a lottery, a quick way to make guaranteed millions.
Tell me this hasn’t happened in your market. An entrepreneur creates a niche format he claims will bring variety to the market and applies for a license. He goes before the Commission with a Promise of Performance loaded with CRTC hot buttons like more Canadian content, and a generous list of altruistic community initiatives. He cloaks it in a cleverly designed business plan, all the while insisting that the format will not only add variety to the market but be financially viable in the process. He impresses the Commission and wins the license.
The station signs on, breaks even or hemorrhages money for a few years, and the operator does one of two things: He sells the station for a significant profit to one of the dominant companies or he applies for relief in the form of a format switch to mainstream programming, cluttering an already crowded marketplace. That’s not competition, that’s playing the system. And it’s not in the interest of the consumer because it renegs on the promise of variety.
I think all new licenses should be granted with the explicit stipulation that the format cannot be altered in any way for 10 years. If you really believe the format will do better than a 2 share and is financially sound, put your money where your mouth is. Does a market of 1 million people really need 3 Urban stations?
Kudos to Puget Sound for this interview. First, it was a great read as others have said. And second, Rob and Audie certainly don't need to take the time to do this type of thing at this stage in their career so kudos to them too on making the effort. Much appreciated.
In my radio experience, I have never worked with two more incredibly talented, down to earth professionals. Rob Christie is not only a great on air talent - he has the business skills of a GSM. The man's approachability and networking ability are a treat to watch. Audie Lynds is not only a great on-air personality, he is a genuine person with a a trademark smile, laugh and production voice. Not a bad guitar player either ya know. The combination of these two make Edmonton's most successful Morning Show off all time. To this day, they have the same enthusiasm they did many years ago.
In our time working together at the Mix 99.9 Rob taught me a lot about big hair and how to actually look presentable at 4 am. I'm sorry I never met Audie because he never made it to Toronto but the team they put together at the Mix was terrific with Rob, Bruce Barker and Maureen Holloway. Quick, guess which one of these amazing talents has their own wikipedia page.
Congratulations to you both for long distinguished radio careers with a noticeable lack of criminal convictions.