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Mon Jan 8 11:12 am  #1


Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

I was at a meeting of the London Vintage Radio Club this weekend and this month's lecture was on the CKO Radio network.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CKO

The speaker became interested in the history of the network when he found a cheap 70's office clock with the CKO - 99.1 logo. 
I guess they were the precursor to 680NEWS back in the 70's and 80's and attempted to get an entire network up and going before pulling the plug.

Any of you old timers out there do any time at CKO Toronto or one of their affiliate stations?

Davester.

 

Mon Jan 8 11:41 am  #2


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

I never worked there, but I know dozens of people who did. They always told me the place was chaos. Among the big names who spent time at CKO were Robert Holiday, Mike Robbins, John Gilbert, Taylor Parnaby, Jim Morris and more. 

The stories about the place, which actually had a network of stations across the country, were legendary. Here are a few: 

=================

A friend of mine who worked behind the scenes once complained to me that she wanted to leave but they kept replacing the person in charge and she was having trouble figuring out who it was, making one of the greatest statements in radio history. "There's no one to quit to!" she told me in a despairing voice. 

============

I've told this one before here but it's so good, it bears repeating. Another friend of mine, who I'll call Mike, was one of their long suffering newscasters. He was in a semi-management position, but whenever they promised him better equipment, more money for talent etc. etc., the bosses never ever delivered. This went on for some time, and as you can imagine he got incredibly frustrated.

And then one day came the breaking point. He'd been working horrendous double shifts for weeks because they were shorthanded and had arranged to finally get away for a much needed vacation. Everything was booked and he was more than ready. And then the news director told him, "Sorry Mike, but we can't find anyone to fill the shifts, we need you to work overtime."

After all the broken promises that was the last straw and Mike finally exploded. He tore a strip off the guy, called him every name in the book and ended it with a dramatic, "I quit!" He stormed back to his office, gathered his things, and was walking out to Carlton St. when he heard John Gilbert, who then was second in command, screaming his name down the hall. 

"Mike! Mike!" Gilbert thundered, chasing him as fast as his aging legs would go.  

An angry Mike spun around on his heel with steam coming out of his ears. "What the f--k do you want?" he thundered. 

And then Gilbert said to him, "Can you at least work the weekend?"

My friend never did tell me what he said in reply, but I'm betting it's not printable.   

==================

CKO may have been an all news network, but it fell down on perhaps its biggest story. When it suddenly announced during a noon newscast that it had gone broke and was going off the air for good, I heard about it - on CKEY! Yes, they were scooped by a rival, who announced they were ceasing broadcasting before they could tell their own audience.

==================

And last but certainly least is a tale that may be apocryphal, but I like to think it's true. It concerns a guy who was working in B.C. but always wanted to make a name for himself in Ontario and tried to get a job at CKO so he could be heard in Toronto. After much persistence, he wound up at the station's Ottawa outlet and that was close enough. 

Because CKO was a national station, mostly on FM, he was able to listen to it on his trip across the country. Finally, after driving into the nation's capital with all his worldly possessions packed in his car, he turned on the CKO frequency there. And he heard the announcement that the station had gone broke and that this would be their final newscast.

I never did find out what happened to that guy. But I can only imagine what he was thinking when he heard that headline. 

============================

Perhaps CKO's most lasting legacy is the battle that followed it for control of the 99.1 frequency. As you can imagine, it was a hot commodity in Toronto and everyone wanted it. It finally went to the CBC, who (and yes, I know the complaint about electrical noise in the downtown core)  managed to convince the powers that be that no one could hear their clear channel 50K signal on 740 AM, despite the fact the thing could be received as far away as Florida, and they had to have the open FM frequency. The rest, along with CKO, is history. 

 

Mon Jan 8 12:26 pm  #3


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

Davester wrote:

Any of you old timers out there do any time at CKO Toronto or one of their affiliate stations?

I'm dating myself here but I worked in their Toronto station as a studio/transmitter technician for the spring/summer of 1977 leading up to their launch. Straight out of high school these were exciting times for a 17 year old.

CKO Toronto was the first FM station (heck, the first radio signal of any kind) to broadcast from the top of First Canadian Place. Amazing being up there 72+ floors above the city.

A little different from 680News in that CKO was a national network with local news inserted a few times an hour. At launch the national newsroom was in Ottawa. Eventually it was relocated to Toronto.

Thanks for asking but man, now I feel old.

 

Mon Jan 8 1:43 pm  #4


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

Thanks for the stories!
Awesome to hear some of the stuff that happened in that era!

Davester.

     Thread Starter
 

Mon Jan 8 1:48 pm  #5


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

This should fill in a lot of the blanks

CKO at History of Cdn. Broadcasting

 

Mon Jan 8 2:13 pm  #6


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

A friend of mine, and someone many posters will know worked in the Toronto office.   He referred to the station as CK-Zero, and said it was the only station that was so cheap they could not afford a 4th call letter.

 

Mon Jan 8 2:57 pm  #7


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

Davester wrote:

I was at a meeting of the London Vintage Radio Club this weekend and this month's lecture was on the CKO Radio network.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CKO

The speaker became interested in the history of the network when he found a cheap 70's office clock with the CKO - 99.1 logo. 
I guess they were the precursor to 680NEWS back in the 70's and 80's and attempted to get an entire network up and going before pulling the plug.

Any of you old timers out there do any time at CKO Toronto or one of their affiliate stations?

Davester.

Matter of fact just this weekend I was in contact with an old school,mate who worked there in sales .She told me that Erin Davis and Eva D worked there and I was not aware of that. I also remember around 1989 a new director was hired for the company I worked for and he came from CKO. A very nice and friendly gent. 


Cool Airchecks and More:
http://www.lettheuniverseanswer.com/
 

Mon Jan 8 3:17 pm  #8


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

Fitz wrote:

Matter of fact just this weekend I was in contact with an old school,mate who worked there in sales .She told me that Erin Davis and Eva D worked there and I was not aware of that. I also remember around 1989 a new director was hired for the company I worked for and he came from CKO. A very nice and friendly gent. 

Erin Davis and Dennis Wollings co-hosted Good Morning Toronto on CKO through the mid to late 80s. The show was very well put together from what I remember. It was my wake-up/breakfast station during the week for those years. Great coverage of the goings-on in Toronto.

Last edited by Tim Brown 2016 (Mon Jan 8 3:25 pm)

 

Mon Jan 8 5:53 pm  #9


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

Just before their launch I applied for a production job.  I showed up at their studios which I believe were on Adelaide St. East.  The rooms were under construction with the drywall just completed.  There wasn't even a reel to reel machine to play my demo tape.  During the interview I was asked if I could solder.  I left with the impression that they had no idea what they were doing and did not pursue things further.

Last edited by Citypulse News 15 (Sat Nov 3 11:46 pm)

 

Mon Jan 8 7:46 pm  #10


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

I worked there in Toronto and Vancouver, kinda followed Gilbert across the country .  It was an insane place to work, but tons of fun as long as you could roll with it.

Another great line to come out of its demise..  "At least the Titanic went down playing music.."


Just a Radio Fan wrote:

A friend of mine, and someone many posters will know worked in the Toronto office.   He referred to the station as CK-Zero, and said it was the only station that was so cheap they could not afford a 4th call letter.

 


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

Mon Jan 8 7:47 pm  #11


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

Erin and John Andersen did the Toronto morning show.

Fitz wrote:

Davester wrote:

I was at a meeting of the London Vintage Radio Club this weekend and this month's lecture was on the CKO Radio network.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CKO

The speaker became interested in the history of the network when he found a cheap 70's office clock with the CKO - 99.1 logo. 
I guess they were the precursor to 680NEWS back in the 70's and 80's and attempted to get an entire network up and going before pulling the plug.

Any of you old timers out there do any time at CKO Toronto or one of their affiliate stations?

Davester.

Matter of fact just this weekend I was in contact with an old school,mate who worked there in sales .She told me that Erin Davis and Eva D worked there and I was not aware of that. I also remember around 1989 a new director was hired for the company I worked for and he came from CKO. A very nice and friendly gent. 

 


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

Mon Jan 8 8:24 pm  #12


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

ig wrote:

Erin and John Andersen did the Toronto morning show.

Fitz wrote:

Davester wrote:

I was at a meeting of the London Vintage Radio Club this weekend and this month's lecture was on the CKO Radio network.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CKO

The speaker became interested in the history of the network when he found a cheap 70's office clock with the CKO - 99.1 logo. 
I guess they were the precursor to 680NEWS back in the 70's and 80's and attempted to get an entire network up and going before pulling the plug.

Any of you old timers out there do any time at CKO Toronto or one of their affiliate stations?

Davester.

Matter of fact just this weekend I was in contact with an old school,mate who worked there in sales .She told me that Erin Davis and Eva D worked there and I was not aware of that. I also remember around 1989 a new director was hired for the company I worked for and he came from CKO. A very nice and friendly gent. 

 

Yes John Andersen is the other name brought up by my old school mate who also said the morning show was quite popular.
 


Cool Airchecks and More:
http://www.lettheuniverseanswer.com/
 

Mon Jan 8 9:57 pm  #13


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

I just remembered one last great story about CKO, It was the place where I heard probably the dumbest question ever asked on radio.

In 1983, a Saskatchewan politician named Colin Thatcher was charged with murdering his wife. As you can imagine the case was a sensation and every news outlet covered the trial. 

Thatcher was eventually found guilty and somehow CKO was the first out and on the phone with its reporter, revealing the long awaited verdict. It was an exclusive as far as getting it on the air first. So far so good. 

I won't out the newscaster because I'm pretty sure she'd be horribly embarrassed by the revelation, but her first name was Susan and she was talking to the reporter on the scene, whose name, if memory serves, was Frank Flaigle (not sure of the exact spelling.)

After Frank delivered his breathless report, Susan chimed in with a question. And it stopped Flaigle dead in his tracks.

"Frank," she intoned in her debrief. "Was Colin Thatcher in the courtroom when the verdict was announced?" 

There was a long pause while Flaigle contemplated this almost unbelievable query. His response just made it worse. "What?" he asked, not sure if he'd heard her right. 

So she repeated it. "Was Colin Thatcher in the courtroom when the verdict was announced?"

Now as much as I wanted him to say that Thatcher had just gone out for coffee and was expected back soon, Flaigle finally broke the silence with a very long "Yeeeeess."

But it was clear he couldn't comprehend how the question was asked in the first place.

It happened decades ago, but to this day, it remains the dumbest thing I've ever heard on a newscast. And it happened nationally on CKO.

 

Mon Jan 8 10:20 pm  #14


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

John Andersen ever work in North Bay?   ... like mid 70s?  I do remember CK0...although, obviously, not fondly.  I would think that I have proudly established a history here for not liking...in fact loathing...bla bla bla...bla bla bla bla blaaahhh' radio.  So?  When CKO happened along in the later 70s....for me it was only a matter of time before they would be spat out as ultra wet, and OFF-putting, barely warm toast.

And they were out after what ... 11-12 years?  As it turned out...they were merely and only just ahead of their 'time'.  That kind of poop is all over both dials these days...although mainly on AM in Canada.  To try that on FM...then...?  Pure folly.  FM, as it turned out, was supposed to be for music.  No wonder it c[r]apsized and sank.  Just an extra-dumb management decision.  It wasn't the fault of the talent.  Bet that cost some folks some money.  Too bad dumb ideas held good ideas in abeyance when it came to taking a chance.  ['cept for that crude king of 'thing' Howard who made his meanderings work...and earn the BIG BUCK$.]

 

Tue Jan 9 12:52 am  #15


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

John Andersen

There's a name I was trying to think of the other day

I knew Doug Agnew a.k.a. John Andersen as a very young boy

Knew his whole family too.

And while I'm here - I'm an old CKO alum as well 


"I'll kick your ass down Yonge Street"... CFTR's Robert Holiday circa 1979...
 

Tue Jan 9 11:50 am  #16


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?





 


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

Thu Jan 11 7:51 am  #17


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

CKO and CKEY proposed switching frequencies, with CKO moving to AM and 'EY to FM. But the CRTC rejected the idea.

From the CCA site:

"On April 25, the CRTC turned down proposals by CKO Radio Partnership and Key Radio Ltd. that would have seen CKO-FM-2 and CKEY-AM (both Toronto) swap dial positions. CKO's all news format would have moved to 590 kHz and CKEY's adult contemporary format would have moved to 99.1 MHz. In addition to getting the 590 AM frequency, CKEY owner Maclean-Hunter would also have given CKO $4 million. It made sense to make better use of the two channels by moving the music format of CKEY to FM and the CKO news format to AM. The Commission was not impressed that CKO would use the money to build four stations for which it had licenses. The CRTC also said that the format that CKEY had was not substantially different from what was already available on Toronto FM."

http://www.broadcasting-history.ca/




























.


"The radio craze ... will soon fade." - Thomas Edison, 1922
 

Fri Jan 12 10:15 pm  #18


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

97.5 in London. They were 50 KW mono but ran a stereo generator to illuminate the stereo lamp on FM tuners. I lived about 2 miles from their transmitter and that signal played heck with my FM reception off an outdoor antenna. If I remember correctly, they were on the air for a few years. Never listened to them very much. I do remember the audio sounded 'tinny' like the station was on a narrow bandwidth feed.

Fast forward about 15 years or so later (circa mid 1990's) now defunct CKSL 1410 ran with a partial news / talk format and put good talent behind it. That ran for about 18 months before they changed format again.

Perhaps like Titan the warehouse club (late 70's in London) these stations were ahead of their time. Great topic.

 

Sat Nov 3 7:37 am  #19


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

darcyh wrote:

97.5 in London. They were 50 KW mono but ran a stereo generator to illuminate the stereo lamp on FM tuners. I lived about 2 miles from their transmitter and that signal played heck with my FM reception off an outdoor antenna. If I remember correctly, they were on the air for a few years. Never listened to them very much. I do remember the audio sounded 'tinny' like the station was on a narrow bandwidth feed.

Fast forward about 15 years or so later (circa mid 1990's) now defunct CKSL 1410 ran with a partial news / talk format and put good talent behind it. That ran for about 18 months before they changed format again.

Perhaps like Titan the warehouse club (late 70's in London) these stations were ahead of their time. Great topic.

Speaking of CKO London, my first job in the early 1980s was working at a small station in southwestern Ontario. CKO was so cheap they couldn't hire a full-time engineer to handle tech problems, so our small station techie worked for them part-time to keep the place on the air. We had a red light in the newsroom and were told to keep an eye on it because whenever it went out, CKO London was off the air and our tech was expected to hustle up to London to change the hamster or whatever he had to do. Sometimes we'd forget about the light for weeks on end and I still to this day wonder whether anyone noticed when the station was off the air.

 

Mon Nov 5 3:26 pm  #20


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

Launching on FM only in 1977 was a huge gamble that never really paid off.  Most car radios were still AM only, so most people could only listen to CKO at home or (maybe) at work.  By the time AM/FM radios became standard equipment in the mid to late eighties, CKO was an afterthought.

I remember when the station acquired the radio rights to Leaf games for a couple of season in the early eighties.  For my Dad, it was a nuisance to have to switch his radio from his beloved AM band to hear his favorite team play.  Fortunately for him, he learned that a local AM station was part of the Leafs radio network, so the switch became unnecessary.

 

Tue Nov 6 9:05 am  #21


Re: Anyone Remember the CKO Radio Network?

I was at CKO Toronto from 1983- 87 it was a great training ground for me. Too bad it did not last.