Reditorial: Rewriting History In Toronto

In the Tuesday May 6th edition of the National Post, Jay Stone wrote an obituary for his father, broadcaster Phil Stone.

Phil had a wonderful career by all appearances, but the article is totally wrong with respect that he was the first to play rock and roll records on the radio. Their quote: “On May 27th Stone – by then a disc jockey – played the first rock record ever heard on Canadian radio.”

Not true on many counts. On November 12, 1954 I dropped a needle on a song called Marie by the Four Tunes and introduced my rock and roll show on Vancouver’s CJOR. By the spring of 1955 I was playing rock and roll on the station for over 50 hours each week.

In 1956 Irvin Feld’s Show of Stars came to town with Clyde McPhatter, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Ivory Joe Hunter, Laverne Baker and Chuck Berry. I interviewed each one of them and obviously was playing their music on the radio. In June of that year the first rock and roll concert was held at Vancouver’s Kerrisdale Arena with Bill Haley and the Comets. That’s almost a year before Mr. Stone dropped a needle on a Haley song.

All of this is documented in many Vancouver Sun articles and in my 1984 book Rockbound. It was due to my pioneering of rock and roll in this country that I was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In no way do I wish to play down Phil Stone’s broadcast legacy, but this part of his career is simply not true.

I was the first to play rock and roll on the radio, that is if British Columbia is part of Canada. There is no doubt that CHUM/Toronto, for whom Mr. Stone worked, was the first Top 40 rock and roll station in the country… but even the late Keith Sandy at the former CKEY was featuring rock and roll on his radio show, albeit not as a steady diet. This is also documented in a “B” movie from 1956 titled Jamboree where many deejays of the era were featured including Keith Sandy.

Remember telegrams? I have one dated January 1956 where RCA Canada credits me with making Elvis Presley‘s Good Rockin’ Tonight a hit. I have a 1956 letter from Colonel Tom Parker where he turned down my offer to bring Elvis to Vancouver (Elvis did come in August of 1957).

It is also interesting to note that Elvis played two shows at Maple Leaf Gardens in April of 1957. Who in Toronto was playing his music at that point? It is two months before Phil Stone was supposedly responsible for playing the first rock record ever heard on Canadian radio.

We all know that 25% of Canada’s population lives in Ontario, but 75% of us don’t. It is twists like this that make people in British Columbia think many in Ontario are Toronto-centric.

I am in the process of writing a bio titled The Last Deejay, where I document the history of rock and roll from a disc jockey’s perspective and point to the fact that the era of the deejay, with few exceptions, is over.

It was also noted in some Toronto papers when bandleader Mart Kenny died, that “the last big band leader in Canada” had died. What a surprise that was to Dal Richards And His Orchestra who played 200 gigs last year alone, and Dal is 90 years of age. His band was featured for decades across Canada on CBC Radio when he broadcast each Saturday night from the roof of the Hotel Vancouver.