Just over two weeks ago, I lost my Dad, Dr. Hugh Tildesley to pancreatic cancer at the age of 65. It marked the end of his 11-month battle with the disease; a battle he fought with not only dignity, but positivity and a sense of humour. In a packed room at Vancouver’s Point Grey Golf Club a week ago Tuesday, I had the chance to applaud him for these extraordinary character traits, when I delivered a eulogy at his Celebration of Life. Dad gave me many gifts over the years: a glass-half full attitude, a strong work ethic, and the ability to tell a good story. Yet I somehow neglected to mention one of the greatest gifts my Dad ever gave to me; the gift of radio.
It started when I was around five. Dad would leave for work most mornings before 6:30, and wouldn’t arrive home until supper was on the table, nearly twelve hours later. sometimes I would be lucky enough to wake up early enough to share breakfast with him, when he would read his paper and attempt to educate me on politics. But in the event I didn’t, he got in the habit of recording little messages to me on cassette tape. Simple things; he’d talk about his plans for the day, and hoped that I too would “have a good one”. Me being a creature of habit, and always wanting to see more of my Dad than I did, these messages became a huge part of my formative years! On one such message, he signed off by saying, “G-morniiinggg!!” later that day, he told me he’d got that turn of phrase from a guy called Don Percy, whom he would listen to on the radio every morning. Of course, I wanted to hear what this guy was all about, so from that day on, he would not only record his own little greeting to me, but he would then flip on the radio and record a small segment of Don’s show. Henceforth, these messages from Dad to son became known as “Don Percy Messages.”
I too started listening to Percy’s show on a regular basis. Admittedly, much of what he had to say went well over my five-year-old head. But I was intrigued by the whole concept of radio, and how this man’s voice was coming through my little sanyo ghetto blaster. I asked my Dad one day how I too could get on the radio. He told me there were two ways: either go down to the radio station, or else pick up the phone and call in. I’m sure Dad was just a tad surprised when, later that same afternoon, I called him at his office and played a 30-second tape of myself chatting with Don on CISL 650. Thus began a 26-year-long friendship between me, and the “Master of the Morning”, all because a father had the foresight to share with his young son the magic of radio.
I’ve always believed that Dr. Hugh Tildesley could have been a funnier version of Art Hister if that’s what he wanted to be. I remember as a young child Dad would be in his office by 7AM, and had expressly told his patients that they were free to call him with any medical questions at that time of the morning. He affectionately referred to the time between 7:00-7:30 AM as the “Phone Show”. He appreciated good radio, from wherever the source may be. I remember him being an ardent fan of the “Breakfast Jam” on Z95.3 when Janice Ungaro and Ted Shred “Vancouver’s only Traffic Biker” were a part of the show. It didn’t matter to him that the music was geared to someone twenty years his junior! In later years, he switched over to Bro Jake on Rock 101, and the two of us would also spend many a-morning’s drive to the pool laughing our butts off to Frosty Forst’s shtick on CKNW.
Dad accompanied me to numerous radio stations over the years, but most of the time he remained in the background. As much as I’ve tried to avoid turning this weekly feature into a vanity post, I have felt compelled to share these two recordings, as they contain not only me, but my late father as well.
Back to Don Percy for a moment. Several years ago, Dad and I were drinking wine out on our back patio one Sunday evening. I was telling him about a recent Percy aircheck I had heard, where the sponsor tag for the 6AM newscast was for a funeral home. “Well,” Dad said with a chuckle in his voice. “I guess that brings a whole new meaning to him being a mourning man!” And in the words of Don himself, when I told him of Dad’s illness last year: ” … Hugh Tildesley is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met…And in 77 plus years , that’s a lot of people….”.
Don Percy (along with Donovan & Hugh Tildesley), KY58 Winnipeg, 08/04/2000 (21:52)
In the Summer of 2000, I had just made my first Paralympic Swim Team. One of the required pre-Games competitions happened to be the Summer Nationals in Winnipeg. But before I set foot on the starting blocks, I was on the air with Don Percy! He not only talks to me on this recording, but asks my Dad a number of questions, which range from coaching, to medicine, to the name of Vancouver’s baseball stadium. My neighbor recently described my talk-ups of the songs as “Pavlovian”. I would describe it as a highly-confident kid, who’d listened to far too many old Top 40 radio airchecks for his own good. Also featured are news/traffic person Kathy Kennedy (still one of my all-time favourite female radio news voices), and Don’s long-time friend Chris Rutkowski (who now runs the unofficial “Master of the Morning” Facebook fanpage).
My thanks to Doc Harris for his help in amplifying this aircheck!
Donovan & Hugh Tildesley CBC Profile, March 2007 (5:57)
As a competitive athlete, I was called upon on multiple occasions to participate in some or other documentary. These could range from a TV or radio profile, up to a longer feature. While I’m the first to admit I’ve never met a microphone I didn’t’ like, at times these interviews could be a bit of a chore. It meant disrupting an otherwise focused swim practice for specific soundbites, taking time out of a work or schoolday to sit down and answer questions, or bugging friends and family to expostulate how “inspiring” I was on camera! This particular piece was done by a couple of BCIT students, who were auditioning various special-interest profiles for CBC Radio. Teresa Tang is the host, who has since gone onto work for CBC-TV. I only just stumbled upon this audio a couple of months back, and couldn’t help but reflect on how beautifully this was put together. In retrospect, I found my own part to be somewhat self-serving at times, but what did jump out at me was how well they painted the picture of the relationship between a swimmer and his coach; a son and his Dad. I sent it to Dad, who had the following to say: ” … Lovely piece keep in an easy to access file, one of the best pieces done. ”’.
In closing, each day when I came home from work, Dad would say to me, almost without fail: “Make any sales today, Kid?”! Well, Dad, you’ll be proud to know that I made two more last week … at your Celebration of Life no less!! Sacrilege for some, perhaps, but I just know my Dad is smiling up there on that big golf course in the sky. RIP.
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