September 20, 2018
Welcome to JJ-365 Salutes. Over 2018, we pay tribute daily to one of “The Good Ones”. Today we are shining the light on Mark Burley.
We never worked together but I definitely had Mark in my talent bank (still do). I’ve talked to many who have worked for him, mostly young ones who have gone on to bigger things and they all credit him with being close and creating an environment conducive to learning and trying new things. Not everyone in the industry allows people to be that way, but Mark is different. I would connect with him at the British Columbia Broadcaster (BCAB), and CMW (Canadian Music Week) annual conferences and it seemed like every year he’d be up there collecting some kind of award for his stations and himself. I often send notes after conferences, and once I sent him a tongue in cheek congrats message that said something like “enough with the awards already!”-:). He still has that note he says.
At his high school in Kitchener, Mark was in the band for the production of The Wizard of OZ. The students from Conestoga College’s Broadcasting, Arts & Television program brought their mobile tv studio to video the play. He was smitten! All he wanted to be was a sports cameraman.
Part of the application process to get into Conestoga’s program was writing an essay about a favourite media personality. David Wolfe was the evening jock at 570 CHYM so Mark called and asked if he could write about him. Mark was invited to sit in on his show and the rest, as they say, is history. Radio was Mark’s path. David and Mark are still in contact to this day.
During his first couple of weeks of college, in a TV class, Gary Parkhill, the course coordinator, came in to say a board operator’s job was open at CKKW (now KFUN)/CFCA (now Virgin). He said that it was usually the case of first through the door to get the job. Mark packed up his books, drove to the stations and applied to Rych Mills the Production Manager. He got the job.
Operators did everything from operating reel to reel voice tracks, to remote set up to filing to operating live shows and remotes. Mark did all that and more including remote setup for “Hoppy”. Hop was a local legend in Kitchener having a live country music show on Saturday mornings of which he broadcast live from client locations that he sold. That was his gig. Sell time during the week, primarily in his show, and then do the show Saturdays. It was the only country music show on CKKW that was basically and AC station. It was also the best rated daypart on that station for years. Mark would end up in that studio again 14 years later.
At that time the industry was full of jobs. Many in the college ranks “jobbed out” and that’s what Mark did landing his first on air gig doing all nights at CHOO Country in AJAX. Paul Scott, an announcer in Kitchener had become a good friend and helped him get the job. “Mark Edwards” did all nights for 6 months, broadcasting to the line at the GM plant in Oshawa who filled the request lines every Friday overnight.
After 6 months or so Mark left the gig and applied to CJCS in Stratford. Braden Doerr hired him to do part time weekends which quickly turned into full time evenings and then afternoon drive. Braden became a lifelong friend.
Next stop was CHYM/CKGL in Kitchener. Pat St John hired Mark to do some fill in and eventually made him Production Manager. A little over 4 years was spent there and Mark was CKGL’s Promotion Manager when he left. Pat was a huge influence on Mark’s career and hired him again in the early 90’s to work at Magic 106.1 in Guelph & again to work at Conestoga College in 2000.
Hits Radio, AM 109 hit the air in Kitchener in 1989. Mark was on the hunt for a job at this point and in early 1990 met with friend Paul Scott who was now the PD at CFCA. One thing led to another and Mark was the on-air swing jock and did everything. He filled in for anyone who was away including the traffic person “Luba”. The station did traffic from a Jeep Cherokee with a Mosley transmitter that was in the back and always broadcasting. It was during one morning show with Derek “The Hitman” Botten and Captain Kirk Dickson that the “Early” Mark Burley handle was laid on Mark. It stuck and became how listeners referred to him when on location and is still with him to this day.
One great experience at AM 109 was hosting Canada’s Funniest New Comic at Yuk Yuks. Says Mark: ” I did the whole run with Ross Poll (middays) and had a blast. I found an amazing respect for comedians and how hard they work at their craft. I even got to share the stage with some future stars including Jim Carrey at the finals in Toronto.”
Pat St John came back and hired Mark again to go to Guelph to do weekends. He eventually became the Progam Director
while doing afternoons and production at MAGIC FM.
It was while working in Guelph that Mark met Don Shafer as the station carried his Star Network in overnights. This eventually became Pelmorex. Mark interviewed with Don to be the PD of the network but didn’t get the gig. But they stayed in touch through phone calls and hanging out at CMW becoming friends to this day.
Don called in 1996 to see what Mark was up to. Next thing Mark was on his way to Sudbury to be the PD at MIX 105 and CHNO.
The station was in an old school. Basically, it was pretty much a dump he says. The basement held the gymnasium which was storage. The wood floor was so warped you could barely walk on it. 2 of his Promotion guys were responsible for installing and removing window air conditioners! Mark says: “They dropped one out my window while I was on a call with Shafe who was addressing a few things. I remember Shafe wondering what the hell all the laughter was about as Ryan Dryden and Craig Heward ran past me to get the hell out of the room. It was a great story shared during the next market visit by Don over a couple of beers.”
Eventually the stations moved into new, more compact, studios in Sudbury. Just after that, Shafe left the company to join the Toronto Star and lead the charge for a TV application and a brand new online TorStar TV site. They didn’t get the licence but the site was ground breaking and the staff was amazing. Don had a winner.
At the end of October 1997, the unionized staff of the stations went on strike. The job action lasted 16 weeks and taught Mark all about stress management.
(Imagine his surprise when the representative of the Union showed up for negotiations and was a person that Mark had been in college with! Mark had sold him his AMC Hornet while in school. It subsequently caught fire in the college parking lot). Says Mark: “At the beginning of the strike I was doing both morning and afternoon drive with Pelmorex network programming in middays and evenings/overnights. 365’er Tom Tompkins was the PD of the network at the time and visited for our Christmas party. He didn’t think the strike was a big deal as I recall but I filled him in on the realities. We remained in contact for the next few years and I eventually lost track of him until he surfaced in Williams Lake.
Eventually the stations were sold to Telemedia. Once again Mark was working with Braden Doerr who was VP of Programming by this point. Braden was a part of Mark’s career on 3 different occasions, this being the 2nd. They would work together again with Standard/Astral as Braden was GM in London.
Mix flipped to EZ Rock during this time. Mark used the music library from Q in London, Ontario and became quick friends with Al Smith who was the Music Director there. It was determined after about 4 months that London’s music didn’t work in Sudbury. As a matter of fact it was a bet Mark won with Claude Beaudoin who was the President. Mark told him that he thought the music was too soft when asked. Claude said if the ratings proved it, Mark would get his own auditorium music test. Mark got the test!
After 4 ½ years, back to Southern Ontario when Pat St John hired Mark to launch a new radio station for Conestoga College and the Broadcasting program. Yes, the same program he had enrolled in over 20 years prior.
The station launched in January 2001. The regulations for a campus station were like going back in time. They had a huge spoken word commitment, all different categories of music to play and a hit/non hit quota. It was tough keeping track of all that and 365’er Malcolm Sinclair was instrumental in getting a Windows version of Music Master and working with Mark on setting up the system.
While at the college Mark freelanced on-air at The Hawk in London and then with Kool FM and Oldies 1090 in Kitchener. That was his 3rd time working at CKKW / CFCA.
In 2004 a “hi how’s it going” email to Shafe turned out to be the first step in Mark’s move to BC. Don had left TorStar in 2003 to become the VP of the BC Interior Group of stations that Gary Slaight‘s Standard Radio had bought from Telemedia. He asked if there was interest in becoming the Group PD out of Kelowna. Mark arrived on Superbowl weekend 2005.
This move was both exciting and scary. A move across the country and new jobs for both Mark and his wife Janet. His tenure lasted 12 years, almost to the day.
Mark’s responsibilities included overseeing the 22 stations in the Interior of BC. 5 different formats in 7 clusters spread across the province. The biggest project was aligning brands so that music for the AC’s and Top 40’s could be scheduled out of Kelowna allowing local staff to work on localized promotions and community involvement. Mark aligned the Rock stations with The Bear in Edmonton and had them helping those stations with music. 365’er Janet Trecarten in Winnipeg took over the country scheduling helping those stations sound better. Mark’s experience with Music Master software helped greatly with this project.
There was a ton of success while in Kelowna. Sun FM took off with the Breakfast Club show with 365’er Tarzan Dan Freeman and Susan Knight. When Dan left Mark teamed up Kevin Lim and Sonia Sidhu in mornings. After some bruised elbows, ankles and egos, Kevin & Sonia took off to enjoy ratings success like Kelowna had never seen. Sun had great afternoon talent over the years including ‘Ara’ who went on to enjoy great success with Rogers and is now mornings back in Kelowna at Beach Radio. Ian MacKinnon not only did afternoons with great success but moved into mornings before BELL moved him to Edmonton where he is the Morning Host on Virgin Radio. Sun’s current morning show of B Mack & Karly is growing and another he put together.
Standard bought 101.5 Silk FM right before selling to Astral. Eventually the station was flipped to EZ Rock and the station settled into being the leading AC in the market. At one-point Mark had Sun and EZ owning their target demos for consecutive ratings periods. Led by the married duo of Andy & TJ, EZ Rock has the most tenured on-air lineup in the market to this day. Andy and TJ are celebrating 15 years in mornings this year! Amazing for that size of market. Mark Jeffries who is the network Midday personality is also MD and has been on the air at that station for over 25 years. Chanine has been with the station, on air, for over 10 years. Not many stations can say that.
During a market visit trip with Don Shafer and Brad Phillips (then VP of all of BC for Astral), they were listening to one of the stations that was running a “mix” type of format at the time.
“A song came on the air that I didn’t recognize…honest. It sounded like a U2 cut but I wasn’t sure. We stopped for gas a couple of minutes later and Brad said ‘did you guys recognize that song that played just before 3?’ Turns out none of us did. While we laughed about it at the time, it was super embarrassing and was one of the situations we used to justify aligning brands.”
In early 2007, Tarzan Dan and Susan Knight were using this new online thing called “Facebook”. Mark was familiar with it as his kids were on the platform but that was his extent of knowledge. He checked it out and thought that this was simply the best thing to happen for radio. Free Marketing! Talking directly with listeners! Doesn’t cost anything! They created “Everything Under the Sun” and went to town.
Over the years Mark’s team raised more than $1 Million for Kelowna General Hospital with Have A Heart Radiothons, broadcasting live from United Way events including breakfasts and the annual Maxine DeHart Drive Thru.
It’s been a great run says Mark. Sun FM was #1 A25-54 for 17 consecutive books. EZ Rock had a 3 year run at number one in Adults 35-54. Vernon and Penticton stations had ratings successes as well.
Mark was awarded Small Market PD of the Year for 6 consecutive years starting in 2010. Mark and his team went on to win 6 Station of the Year Awards over the years as well. The last one awarded in 2017 right after Mark left the stations.
Mark was on the board of the BCAB for 4 years. He was both Conference Co-Chair and Conference Chair during his time and Vice President in his last year. It was a great experience that ended just prior to the 2017 conference.
Mark sums up: “Janet & I have worked in radio together through most of this journey. We worked together in Kitchener, Guelph, Sudbury and BC. In most of those in the same building. In BC Janet became the GM/GSM of the Penticton Group after being Sales Manager. We worked with 365’er Lee Sterry who was GM in Penticton when we arrived. We had worked with him when in Guelph and in Oshawa when he was with Power Corp. Janet was the Regional Sales Manager when with Telemedia, went to be Group Sales Manager at Ontario Place when I went to Conestoga and then agreed to move west. I’m a lucky guy!
Right now, I am working on a couple of freelance things.
I am the weekend guy at Okanagan Oldies 103.9. Over the summer I worked in news doing the afternoon news run for vacation relief. I’m also working with on air talent at Northern Native Broadcasters helping them with their on-air presentation.
I even work part time at Home Depot in the Appliances department. Who knew that I can actually sell stuff!”
This fella is a hard working, talented, and smart guy who has always had a penchant for working with talent, new and veteran. Truly a nice guy who has made a difference with many and is not done yet! Keep it going Mark and Atta be!
Thank you, Mark Burley, for being one of “The Good Ones”. Feel free to like and share Mark’s positive story. Who is the subject of tomorrow’s JJ-365 Salutes? As they say, stay tuned.
Jim JJ Johnston is the CEO, President and Chief Talent/Content Coach for JJIMS INC. and works with talent in many different industries worldwide.