This article was originally submitted to PSR by Chuck Benson, former contributor to our site, back in 2018
Puget Sound Radio was informed by a comment below, that Ernie passed away yesterday morning (Saturday September 18th, 2021. Heartfelt condolences to his wife, family and friends.
50 Years of Continuous Local Broadcasting in West Central Alberta – marked April 4th.
Though today it is known as “Real Country West”, the story of broadcasting in West Central Alberta began a half-century ago. This is how it all began:
In 1967 three men in Edmonton’s broadcasting industry had a dream to own their own radio station in Alberta. One worked at CHED, the two others at CFRN. Over long lunches they expanded their ideas and finally picked an area to apply for a radio station: That area was Edson.
Edson had a local newspaper, but radio reception from Edmonton stations was considered weak.
So with their dream (and a well prepared presentation) in hand, they headed to Quebec City to submit their application before the Board of Broadcast Governors (BBG now known as the CRTC).
With only one dissenting submission (from CFCW Camrose) the application was ultimately successful and Yellowhead Broadcasting was born.
It was said the three were the youngest to come before the BBG for a radio licence.
Now to set it up.
Ernie Mushtuk became President & General Manager, Ernie Mykyte Sales Manager, and Chuck Benson Program/Production Manager.
They eventually settled on a studio location – a building behind Switzer Drugs. It was a vacant Laundromat building that suited their needs. So the three worked tirelessly to transform the building into a studio.
The transmitter and broadcast towers were established along the Coal Branch road (approximately 10 km SW of Edson) by a group of professional engineers which would output 10,000 watts of broadcast power.
On April 4th, 1968 Yellowhead Broadcasting opened up the microphone and the voice of morning-man Wax Williams was heard for the first time on the frequency 970 and call letters CJYR, – soon to be known as YR Radio.
In due time, satellite re-broadcasting transmitters were established in Hinton, Jasper, Grande Cache and Whitecourt thereby creating a private broadcasting network.
In 1999, YR Radio was purchased by Okanagan- Skeena, a British Columbia Broadcasting Network.Today, 50 years later, the station has changed owners several times. And the signal has changed – with the times – from AM to FM.
Today it is “Real Country West” – owned and operated by Newcap Broadcasting, a Maritime conglomerate rated as the number two private-sector radio broadcaster in Canada, just behind Bell Media Radio. It operates 95 stations across Canada.
Puget Sound Radio thanks Chuck Benson for submitting this article
My first job in radio in 1982 working for the legendary Murray David Collins -rip. If I remember correctly it was Ernie, Chuck and Mel Lazarenko by the time I got there. So many great memories and really the essence of what radio is all about – wouldn’t trade that year for anything! If it hadn’t been for YR Radio I’d have no idea what Donkey Baseball is. Unbelievable that 36 years later I’m still working in the industry.
Congrats all – hell of an accomplishment!
My first DJ job was in Edson starting on September 8th 1975. The managers I had were Ernie and Chuck and Wax. My first year I was a DJ from 7:00pm- 1:00am. From 10pm we had to play country music and that is when I loved Tanya Tucker. On my second and 3rd year at YR Radio, I was the DJ from 10:00am-2:00pm. YR radio was great. The bosses were amazing.
I remember the early days there very well. Mr. Benson’s daughter and I were in the same class. I remember CJYR “Swap Shop” show and “Light Out Time in West Central Alberta” in the evenings in the early 70’s. My paternal grandparents lived next door to the station. Memories!
To Ernie Mushtuk, Chuck Benson, Wax Williams and all the YR Littlemen who were on site April 4th 1968 as Canada’s newest radio station went to air;
CONGRATULATIONS on this the 50th anniversary.
I joined the party in July 1972 and left in 1976 for CJME Regina.
Thank you Chuck for giving me that elusive first job in the business. It made me one of the lucky few to have a job that was fun, stimulating, challenging and occasionally frustrating. A job that made me look forward to getting up and going to work every day.
I’m not sure what you had to endure to get to the stage of being able to launch the good ship CJYR. Only those who have been through their own station launches would know. However, I am certain I speak for many men and women in thanking you for opening the station and letting us be a part of it.
If there’s a glass or ten being poured today to mark the occasion, consider me there in thought if not in person.
Little known fact…
When CjYR went on the air, I was working in Fox Creek for HBOG.I had a love for radio and talked to the two Ernie about doing some sports announcing from Fox Creek.
It was a lot of fun and allowed me to have a long standing relationship with the Ernies
and Chuck Benson as well as Waxie.
Sad to report that Ernie Mushtuk passed away Saturday morning.