(For some reason my phone posted this a few hours early. When you travel, sometimes the technology doesn’t travel as well as you would like.)
Tonight at midnight, for the 41st consecutive year, Joni Mitchell’s song “You Turn Me On I’m A Radio” will be broadcast on on Ottawa radio station CKCU-FM .
It was the first song ever played on the station, and it is played every year at the same time to celebrate; it is the station’s equivalent of “Happy Birthday.” There’s also a party, this being the 40th anniversary of the station. I do so want to be at the party, having been at the 5th, 10th, 25th and 35th, but I am eight time zones away and will have to settle for tuning in online to hear Joni sing once more.
I listened with excitement back in 1975 as the new station signed on. It was a fresh sound, one of Canada’s first campus/community stations, broadcasting from Carleton University. It was staffed by volunteers, people who had a passion for music, spoken word and radio. In 1977 I would become one of those volunteers, an experience that would change my life.
Back then (and still today) I was a big fan of what, for lack of a better name, was referred to as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). It was rock and pop music created by Christians with (usually) spiritual themes. Radio stations avoided playing it, thinking there was no demand. In the United States at least there was the possibility these musicians could find an audience through Christian radio stations, but such stations were illegal in Canada.
I thought the music deserved to be heard, so I dropped by CKCU to talk to the program director about it. He was skeptical, but not completely opposed. Could I provide more information? And. If the station liked the idea, did I want to host the show?
I hasn’t thought of that. I wanted to hear my favourite artists on the radio. I wanted others to hear them too. It hadn’t occurred to me that I would be the one playing the music.
Fast forward 38 years to today and I am still playing the music, though now I only drop by CKCU a couple of times a year as a guest on Over My Head, the successor to the show I started in 1979. I am still programming Christian music on the radio, now for Stingray Music.
The station has played an instrumental role in my life. Through volunteering there I discovered a love for radio and communications I didn’t know I had. After a couple of years I quit my government job and became a full-time volunteer at the station, learning the skills that led to a broadcasting career.
That time as a CKCU volunteer stood me in good stead also when I applied to a very hard to gain admission to Journalism program the Journalism school interviewer had served with me on the Board of the radio station.
Radio has been a big part of my life, and no station ranks bigger there th an CKCU. To the staff and volunteers, past and present, thank you for your dedication to great radio programming.