Today is a historic day for me — it’s the start of my 60th year in radio.
I had been a daily guest on Al Jordan’s CJOR radio program while going to school, but on November 12, 1954 Al left to go to work in Penticton and I was given my own show. I aired my daily Theme for Teens show from a radio studio across from CJOR’s Grosvenor Hotel studios on Howe Street. I would rush downtown from King Edward High — the principal gave me a special pass so I could be at the station in time for the show.
I started playing wall to wall rock and roll music. It created quite a stir. Even though the studio held only about 100 kids, the show caught on, and suddenly they were lined up around the block to get into the studio.
At one point Vancouver Police asked the station to move me back into the hotel’s main studio. The audience grew, and as the old time radio shows moved to television I began filling in the hours with more and more rock and roll tunes. At one point in 1955 I was on the air for over 50 hours each week.
The music and the show caught on, and at one point we had a 51.4 audience share. Recognizing the growth of the youth market, we took the show “live” to the Kitsilano Showboat and 10,000 kids showed up. I knew then that rock and roll was here to stay. I was voted the top deejay by the Vancouver Province newspaper in 1956.
It was then that I decided to take my music on the road. Playing only records, we packed them in by the hundreds in Chemainus, Duncan and other destinations on Vancouver Island. I also presented shows in the Fraser Valley and then formed my radio program band, the Stripes. Lead singer Jimmy Morrison was voted the Elvis Presley of Vancouver in 1957. Soon I was booking acts like Ritchie Valens, Robin Luke, Gene Vincent and others into these former big band dance halls.