John Gilbert (broadcaster)
John Gilbert ( 14 September 1930 - 14 September 1998) was a Canadian radio broadcaster.
Gilbert was a broadcaster with CJCH Halifax until Toronto's 1050 CHUM radio announced in February 1971 that he would succeed Larry Solway as host of the talk show Speak Your Mind . In 1973, he became the most successful radio talk show host in Canada with 120 000 measured listeners, more than Vancouver media legend Jack Webster. Gilbert's term with CHUM ended in 1977.
In 1980, Gilbert hosted Night Talk , a weekday late night program planned as a national talk show. However, the CRTC ordered that the network of stations broadcasting the programme be cut back to the six stations then owned by Maclean-Hunter: CFCN Calgary, CFCO Chatham, CHNS Halifax, CKGL-FM Kitchener, CKOY Ottawa and CKEY Toronto. However, this effort was short-lived.
1962: CHEX, Peterborough, Ontario
years unknown: CFBC, Saint John, New Brunswick
years unknown: CKSF, Cornwall, Ontario
???-1971: CJCH, Halifax
1971-1977: CHUM, Toronto
1978-1980: CKFH, Toronto
1984-1986: CKO, Toronto (national radio network)
1990s: CKTB, St. Catharines, Ontario
CHUM, Toronto -- GIBBY
To almost anyone in southern Ontario, and to broadcasters in North America, CHUM has meant Top 40 radio. Since 1989, it's been Top 40 Oldies. But to a generation of listeners for much of the '70s, CHUM also meant Talk Radio with John Gilbert.
Sometime in the '60s CHUM decided to program a Talk Show, into the Top 40 mix, weekdays 9AM to Noon. The first host was Larry Solway. His "Speak Your Mind" was a somewhat typical, "in your face" issues oriented program. CHUM's strategy, I suppose, was to create a program with adult appeal in a time period in which the core teen audience were in school.
Then Fred Sherratt brought Gilbert in from Halifax to replace Larry about 1971.
Before Oprah, Jenny and the rest of Tabloid TV ... there was John Gilbert. "Gibby" was The Master. Warm and friendly. Opinionated and occasionally arrogant. But in the end, everybody's father. And most of all wise to the ways of the world and the frailties of human nature. John ran the gambit. At 16 he had run away from his home in Cabbagetown, joined The Circus and become a Carny Barker. He had lived life.
John was The Star, but The John Gilbert Show was a machine that was more than John. J. Robert Wood kept a steady eye on the topics, the copy department did the research and wrote the all important opening "hook", George Nicholson answered the ten telephone lines and had an uncanny ability to find "just the right call", a variety of Ops ran the board and, for a few years, I "produced" the show. "Producing" meant talking to John in one ear as he listened to the caller in another. The energy in the studio was incredible.
John: So what's my topic today?
Warren: "Capital Punishment: Are you for or against it"?
John: OK. Am I for or against it?
Warren: You're against it. Here's the research.
And while there were lot's of Talk Shows on Canadian Radio in the '70s ...we were #1.
There was no one on radio anywhere quite like John Gilbert. He drove the talking Egg Heads nuts. Unlike them, John knew that, usually, the audience was The Show.
Although John occasionally dealt with the issues that might be found on the front page, his "bread and butter" topics would more likely appeal to the mothers of the kids in school. John's issues were found in the pages of the so called "women's magazines" of the day. Kid's problems, Husband problems, Relative problems, Life Problems, Problem problems. John did it all with flair, style, humanity, imagination and usually empathy. Quite often, we'd take calls from listeners praising John for saving their marriage, their relationship, their family, their job….whatever. Even, on at least one occasion….their lives.
The topic was "Have you ever contemplated suicide?" She might have been the first caller. She told John that she had just "taken a lot of pills" and "wanted to say goodbye"! Jeez! What do we do now? John kept her talking. The rest of us panicked. Do we stop for commercials now? No, I guess not. But what if she dies on the air!? John got her talking about religion and found out she was a Catholic. Gently, he got her talking about her church, how suicide was a sin. By the time he got her to tell him her priest's name we had half the staff calling churches. One of the priests thought he recognized her voice, called her home and got a busy signal. John kept her talking. It seemed like an eternity. Suddenly, we could hear the doorbell. Somehow, John got her to answer the door. Then a voice came on the phone and said…."John, I'll take it from here".
Of course, "our suicide" called back a few weeks later to thank John for saving her life. Sometimes I felt like I was in a movie and the audience was writing the script.
But John was really at his best during ratings when we brought in an astrologer from Chicago named Catherine de Jersey. The phones started ringing at 4AM! One time, the call load was so heavy that we blew an exchange. This incident inspired Bell to create the "870" media exchange in Toronto.
However, John wasn't just what some people might call "fluff" by today's standards. Pierre Trudeau's first stop in Toronto when election time neared, was always John's show. And when the posties were about to go on strike, the union leadership always wanted to "go on John" in order to gauge the mood of the city. We rarely had guests, but they were always available when we wanted them.
We even had a hit record. John Gilbert's "No Charge" sold more singles for Capitol than Anne Murray in 1976. It's still played somewhere on Canadian radio every mother's day. One Saturday John autographed copies of the record at Fairview Mall. They had to call out for extra security. It seemed like every mother in Toronto showed up. We promised the police we'd never do it again.
But John's legacy in Toronto might very well be The CHUM Christmas Wish. A Christmas promotion much like the Christmas promotion run by many radio stations, John took it to that "next level". So many toys, so much food, so many clothes that, one Christmas, we took over a store at Yonge & St. Clair and then arranged for the Canadian Army to come out and try to deliver everything. No kidding. We still couldn't handle it all. So we then we got the Fire Department involved. What a time!
Since then, I've managed some stations with Talk Shows and tried to incorporate some of John's topics. It's never worked out. I've yet to work with, or hear, anyone that came close to bringing the range of talent to Talk Radio that John Gilbert did. Most "talent" I've worked with over the years were obviously influenced by someone else they'd heard. I'm not sure John had been influenced by anyone. He was just John. On the other hand, to me, John was never really "John" after he left CHUM in 1977. He drifted from station to station, never quite finding The Magic again.
People tell me that Canada is so fragmented, so regionalized, that, unlike the U.S. with Rush, Laura etc., no one personality can ever really be successful doing Talk on commercial radio nationally. Maybe so. But I would have liked to have been able to put our team back together again and try it with John.
John wasn't just simply Talk Radio…..he was Talk Theatre. That rare personality that listeners cared about because they believed he cared about THEM.
I'd read on The Internet that John had not been well, so his death wasn't a surprise. But his life on the radio was special. It wasn't radio to him. It was just life. And because the good Lord was Willing and John was Able ...he made a difference.
Radio Broadcasting History
ROCK RADIO SCRAPBOOK
Born: October 28, 1945, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
After a few reincarnations 1050 CHUM quietly passed away on March 26, 2009
1050 CHUM was a legendary Top 40 powerhouse from the late 1950s through to the early 1980s.
The station had a formula no other station has been able to duplicate.
Through the formative ‘50s, the unforgettable ‘60s and the interesting ‘70s, 1050 CHUM played a major role in shaping the radio landscape in Toronto. Recording acts from Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Guess Who, Elton John, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers and Bob Seger not only graced the airwaves but walked the halls of 1050 CHUM.
The radio station was famous for the CHUM Chart. From 1957 to 1986, 1,512 consecutive weekly charts were published, making it the longest-running chart of its kind in the world.
Also, 1050 CHUM was noteworthy for hosting many famous rock concerts including, among others, visits to Maple Leaf Gardens by Elvis Presley (1957) and The Beatles (1964, '65, and '66).
"1050 CHUM" was a legendary Top 40 powerhouse during the late 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. Early history and Top 40 format CHUM AM was launched as a dawn-to-dusk radio station on October 28, 1945 by Jack Q'Part, an entrepreneur in the business of patent medicines. The station, then operating from studios in the Mutual Street Arena, was taken over in December 1954 by Allan Waters, a salesman from Q'Parts' patent medicine business. Waters' first major move was to secure a license for 24-hour-a-day broadcasting for CHUM, along with a power increase to 5,000 watts. Less than three years after Waters acquired the station, and soon after bringing the new fulltime transmitter online, a major programming change was made. On May 27 1957, Waters switched to a "Top 50" format that had proven itself popular in some U.S. cities; Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up" was the first song played. "1050 CHUM" pioneered rock and roll radio in Toronto, and was noteworthy for hosting many noteworthy rock concerts including, among others, visits to Maple Leaf Gardens by Elvis Presley (1957) and The Beatles (1964, '65, and '66). While the station was rising to the top of the popularity ratings in Toronto in the early 1960s, it also built yet another new transmitter in Mississauga, Ontario (a few miles west of the current Toronto city line) along the Lake Ontario shoreline, and raised its power once again to its current 50,000 watts around the clock. CHUM DJs of the 1960s were zany morning man Al Boliska, who quit in late 1963 to go 'across the street' to CKEY.He was replaced by WKBW, Buffalo radio & TV personality Jay Nelson, popularly known as "Jungle Jay" from his role as host of a children's show on Buffalo's Channel 7 which was also popular among Toronto youngsters. He would be followed by housewives' jock John Spragge; singer/DJ Mike Darow; Pete Nordheimer, replaced in 1961 by witty Bob McAdorey; teen DJ Dave Johnson; and all night maven Bob Laine. Later additions to the CHUM DJ lineup included Duff Roman and Brian Skinner, both of whom came over from CKEY (then owned by Jack Kent Cooke). In the late 1960s, early 1970s, CHUM DJ's included Duke Roberts (also known as Gary Duke for a time), Johnny Mitchell (better known today as Sonny Fox), J. Michael Wilson, Tom Rivers, Scott Carpenter, Jim Van Horne, John Rode, Don Reagan, Terry Steele and Roger Ashby. Among their later mighttime hosts was John D. Roberts, who joined CHUM in 1977 and would eventually become known across North America as White House correspondent for CBS-TV and host of CNN's morning program "American Morning." CHUM was also well known for its contests, like the 1970s' "I Listen to CHUM" promotion, in which DJs would dial phone numbers at random and award $1,000 to anyone who answered the phone with that phrase. From gold-based to oldies By the mid-1980s, CHUM had lost ground in the Toronto ratings to competitor Top 40 station CFTR and FM-based music stations. On June 6, 1986, CHUM dropped its Top 40 format for a heavily gold-based adult contemporary format ("Favourites of Yesterday and Today"). By 1989, CHUM adopted an oldies format, drawing heavily on its previous Top 40 reputation to cater to the fans of that era's music.
Chart #1 - Monday, May 27, 1957 - TOP 50
CHART NUMBER 1
Monday, May 27, 1957
1050 CHUM ORIGINAL AUDIO
Mike Cooper's April Fools Joke
Bob Sam Robbie - 1050 CHUM Morning Show - 1992
Tom Rivers 1982