ROCK AND ROLL WILL NEVER DIE, BUT 1050 CHUM DIED.
'Happy Birthday CHUM! We're anticipating 50 more, 'cuz ya know, "Rock and roll will never die!"'
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1050 CHUM Turns 50
Canada's First Top 40 Radio Station Now Part of Major Media Empire
Anniversaries commemorate happenings of major historical significance or a more personally relevant nature. The 50th anniversary of 1050 CHUM rock radio is both. For fans of radio and pop music, 1050 CHUM generates some serious sentimental currency in our memory banks. And it generated some serious currency for the corporation ever since. Today, 1050 CHUM is now part of CTVglobemedia, following approval and finalization of its CHUM Ltd. acquisition, concluded barely one month after the AM station's 50th birthday. CHUM Limited assets at the time of acquisition included 34 radio stations, the A-Channel Network of 6 local stations, CKX Brandon, and 19 specialty stations including MuchMusic, Bravo!, Space, CP24 and CLT. But the number that really matters is 1050. As most folks recall it, the first of Canada's rock radio dynasties was born in humble and happenstance fashion. Founder Allan Waters was working for a man known as Jack Sharp, who owned of a number of enterprises, most notably a profitable patent-medicine business. Eventually, he had to sell off some of his holdings. Waters set his sights set on the medicine business, but he ended up with a money-losing radio station called CHUM. In December 1954, Waters took ownership. Only 250 watts and only broadcasting dawn until dusk. CHUM floundered until Waters heard a top 40 radio station while on vacation in Miami in the winter of 1956/57. The music wasn't to his taste, but he saw and heard a major opportunity. Despite internal protests, CHUM 1050 dropped Rosemary Clooney and her ilk, and started rocking around the clock on May 27, 1957. People who knew Waters (and people who had never heard of him) began to call him crazy, phoning him at all hours of the day and night pleading - demanding - that he 'take that noise off the air'. But Waters stuck with it, and he told the story many times how he would only allow 40 records into the station! The key to success, he felt, was repetition of those same records over and over. If anyone brought in another record, he would throw it - and/or the offender - out. The rest is history, as they say, and its captured in weekly CHUM charts. For many years, (weekly charts were produced from 1957 to 1986), those charts were the measure of success for musicians in Canada and the barometer of teen tastes and activities. Record retailers such as Sam the Record Man prominently displayed the week's chart and racked the 45 RPM singles according to its rankings. Every week, teens would flock to Sam's to check the charts. The job of every record promotion person was to secure a hallowed position therein. The job of every teen was to be cool, of course, so they had to have the latest 45s at home, and they had to have the car radio tuned to CHUM. "My memories of CHUM are of the 'back-seat' variety," teases a fan named Karen. "If you wanted to get a date, having a car was one thing, but it had to have radio. In those days, the dating scene and the music scene were directly connected. That's what I remember." In the early 60s, 1050 CHUM was credited with airing the Beatles a full year in advance of U.S. stations, thereby vaulting to the top of the Toronto radio pile. 1050 CHUM was a big part of the frenzy and fan-aticism that greeted the Toronto concert appearances by the Fab Four; DJ Duff Roman still calls the thrill of seeing the Beatles, and hearing the fans scream, as one of his most memorable. ...
As another fan recalls, listeners took notice and made contact, too. "I remember wanting to know the name of a certain song they had played, and I called in," describes long-time listener, Barb. "Well, we dialed the number, and it was the DJ himself who answered! I couldn't believe it. They were on air, but they were so accessible, so friendly, you thought they were playing records just for you." By 1974, Roman was made program director to take the station to a new level. The station morphed from Progressive to Album Oriented Rock, a somewhat more structured sound with a professional playlist. By 1977 the new sound was so successful that it had become the #1 FM station in Canada in terms of weekly circulation. By 1984 the next step in the evolution began. As the baby boom aged, CHUM-FM made the move to Adult Rock, launching the new sound with a TV ad takeoff on "The Big Chill."
Fifty years on, the familiar neon sign still lights the street, and it still proclaims "Radio One 1050 CHUM". It towers over the city, it towers over all the memories from those days. It reminds us of era when radio ruled, and music was magic.
Happy Birthday CHUM! We're anticipating 50 more, 'cuz ya know, "Rock and roll will never die!"