May 27, 1957 wasn’t the day the music died in Toronto. On the contrary, it was the date when it began. That was the morning that Allan Waters walked into his mostly money-losing radio station, supposedly threw out every record that wasn’t a Top 40 song and boldly brought rock and roll to the city on the now legendary 1050 CHUM . We told you on Tuesday about the incredible week being held on air to promote the 50th anniversary of that fateful day. But now one who was there near the station’s beginning, weighs in with a few stories on his own.
Bob Laine (top left) was best known as the overnight disc jockey on the station during the 60s. His years of staying up all night are long over, but his efforts to keep those memories alive are not. An incredible 49 years later, he’s still with the station. In an email exchange with CityNews.ca, one of the architects behind CHUM’s biggest party dishes out the background of rounding up old jocks for an all-star reunion, the first record he ever played at the station and the night he got locked out of the building while still on-air.
CityNews: How long has it taken to contact the former jocks and who was the hardest to find? How difficult was it to locate airchecks for the CHUM greats who are no longer with us and where did they come from? Can you give us some idea of the difficulty in restoring the old recordings, which can sometimes be incomplete?
Laine: We’ve been working for 6 months to try and find the CHUM on-air alumnae. We have airchecks of most of the guys but we have no Al Boliska morning show (6am-9am) and just 30 minutes of Mike Darow (4-7pm.) Otherwise, some of the shows had the music removed so we had to put that back and some old commercials were retained, but not too many. This whole process was accomplished by our creative guru, Doug Thompson.
CN: Was there anyone you tried to find that you couldn’t locate?
Laine: We found Brian Skinner in Seattle but he couldn’t make it here. Health was also a factor in Duke Roberts not being with us. Jack Armstrong will be at home in the U.S. mid-west, listening to us on-line. Phil Stone [who will make an appearance] is the oldest of the old CHUM guys at 93 (his 60th wedding anniversary is coming up). He started at CHUM during the pre-Allan Waters’ days and is joined by a couple of octogenarians, Pete Nordheimer and Barry Nesbit, who will be listening.
CN: Do you remember the very first record you ever played at CHUM and the first thing you said on-air when you joined the station in 1958?
Laine: The first record I played on CHUM, May 1st, 1958 was “Witch Doctor” by David Seville. I guess if it was a pretty ballad, I wouldn’t remember, but who could forget The Witch Doctor… “oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang!!!!” I can’t remember what I said when I first went on the air but, whatever it was, I can assure you I was scared saying it.
CN: What was the strangest behind-the-scenes incident that the listeners never knew about (that we can print!)?
Laine: There were many strange things that happened at CHUM. On one occasion, I caught a guy stealing a typewriter from our switchboard at 3am. I chased him and he dropped the machine and didn’t kill me. One other time, my technician, Dave Shaw and I decided to celebrate an especially nice summer night by taking a couple of chairs and spending a few minutes on the sidewalk in front of the building. We put the station on ‘auto-pilot’ and enjoyed the night air. “Do you have the key?” I asked. “Don’t you?” Well, we ran to a jock’s home nearby and got a key and made it in just as the last song came to an end. There are dozens more…but space and time, you know!
CN: How do you account for CHUM’s incredible longevity and the strong memories it seems to invoke in those who grew up listening to it?
Laine: CHUM was one of a kind and the disc jockeys were part of Toronto. We mingled with the folks at the CNE and the Sportsmen’s Show. We did ‘sock hops.’ We were visible and CHUM was fun and the music was unique. CHUM became part of a lifestyle, not just a radio station.
CN: Where did your famous signature line “Hello, World This is Bobbo” bit originate?
Laine: “Hello World This is Bobbo” was given to me by a friend of mine who was studying medicine and one day, he said it to me but it was backward. “Hello Bobbo, this is world” and I answered him. I loved it…turned it around, and the rest, as they say…
CN: Give us some details of the big open house and concert scheduled for May 26th.
Laine: CHUM, for the first time ever, will open its doors as part of Doors Open Toronto on Saturday, May 26th from noon to 3, but earlier if the crowds are huge. The tour takes listeners through the newsroom, into 1050 CHUM’s main studio where Duff Roman and I will be doing our show celebrating 50 years. From there, it’s through the halls that so many rock and roll stars also walked. Upstairs, through the boardroom where we will be screening the 40th anniversary video and into the CHUMuseum where we have assembled many memories. It is there that listeners can purchase The CHUM Chart Book, the new CHUM 50th Anniversary poster and The CHUM Story.
As a finale to this, let me say that 1050 CHUM’s 50th anniversary is as much a celebration of an anniversary as it is a final farewell to the Waters’ family who have sold the company. So many of us who have been with CHUM for many years have adopted the honesty and morality of our founder Allan Waters. He will be missed. This “All-Star Week” on 1050 CHUM is a tribute to all he did for us, for the music and for Toronto!
I celebrated 49 years with CHUM a couple of weeks ago and wouldn’t trade any of that time. I’ll be on the air Wednesday at noon, Thursday at 3 and on Saturday at 11am with my ol’ buddy Duff Roman. I hope you’ll be listening.