Tootall retiring from CHOM

Tootall in 2012.

Tootall is a rare animal in the radio business. One of the few living legends still on the air, a leftover from the days when DJs picked their own music, and a modest, unassuming guy who knows his music and is generally liked by everyone.

But what might make him the rarest of radio personalities is this: He’s one of the few on-air people who gets to decide when he leaves. (Well, almost. His bosses convinced him to stay a bit longer.)

And so on Wednesday morning, during what was teased as a “big announcement” on the morning show, CHOM announced Tootall’s retirement.

His last day is Sept. 29.

Tootall, whose real name is Robert Wagenaar, keeps a lot about himself close to the vest. He never says exactly how tall he is, nor exactly how old he is. But he has lots of stories.

How he got hired at CHOM is one of them. Here it is, excerpted from Ian Howarth’s recently released book Rock ‘n’ Radio:

First, he knocked on program director Rob Braide’s door. The doors were always swinging open and closed at any given time at radio stations. Maybe his timing was right. Braide had no on-air job for him, so he moved into the production department where they wrote advertising copy and recorded commercials. There, the manager asked if he could write commercials. In a moment of rare job-hunting honesty, he told the manager he had no experience writing ad copy. Nevertheless, they asked him to write a 30-second spot for Pascal’s, the biggest retail hardware chain store in Montreal. The next day he handed over the copy to the production manager, who looked it over. “Thanks, but we don’t have any openings,” he told Wagenaar. Tuned into CHOM a couple of days later, Wagenaar was surprised to hear his Pascal’s commercial, word for word. The next day, he went back to confront the production manager. “What the fuck?” he said. “You stole my commercial!” Caught in something akin to copyright theft and perhaps intimidated by the agitated six- foot-seven Wagenaar seething over him, the production manager offered him a job.

That production manager, Howarth writes, is the one who gave him the nickname Tootall.

Tootall started out at CJME radio in Regina, and after trying out the west coast he moved to Montreal in 1977. Within months he was working at CHOM, and except for a year he spent doing top 40 radio at CKGM, he’s been there ever since.

Countless Canadian bands owe some of their early successes to Tootall, who started a show called Made In Canada at CKGM and brought it back with him to CHOM. Tootall estimated 2,000 bands were played on the show until it ended in 2008. He also founded CHOM’s l’Esprit music competition.

Tootall is a dying breed of radio announcer, and a reminder that those days of radio aren’t coming back. So it’s sad to see he’ll be riding off into the sunset.

But it’s good he’ll be getting a proper sendoff, and a retirement that is richly deserved.

CHOM posted a job for a full-time announcer three weeks ago. The deadline to apply is July 28.

Further reading

UPDATE: Matt Cundill has a podcast interview with Tootall you should listen to if you’re interested in his story:

10 thoughts on “Tootall retiring from CHOM

  1. Media Man

    Well he certainly will be missed by listeners and future Canadian bands alike.
    But what’s satisfying in a certain way about his retirement is his leaving his way instead of part of Bell Media’s now all too common inhuman employee departure bloodbath.

    Now if only announcers could pick their own music instead in some national programming office. Happy retirement Tootall..

    Reply
  2. Bram Eisenthal

    I worked with Bob… as a sales rep with CHOM and CKGM, I had the pleasure of working at CKGM when they held the retirement party for Ralph Lockwood… I bought Too Tall and Terry DiMonte scotches at the impromptu bar. Now it is Too Tall;s turn to leave. I am sorry to say that while the end is forever imminent, it is not easy to endure. we will miss you, Bob… most of all your professionalism. At a time when Montreal English radio is far from exemplary and is staffed mainly by amateur wannabes, you are a shining example of what radio people SHOULD be! Good luck to you in the future and THANKS for the memories!

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  3. Richard G

    Looking at the picture with DiMonte I’m sorry that the wrong one is retiring . Loved TooTalls approach , never about himself , never saccharine .

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  4. dilbert

    Too Tall is certainly a 1 in a million kind of a guy. A unique voice and a unique attitude, he gets the rarest of all treats, leaving radio on his own terms and schedule.

    His departure not only leaves Bell with a big hole to fill in their daytime lineup (which they will probably fill) but also leaves them with no more connection to their past and their history. IN many ways Too Tall was the remaining link all the way back to 1310 and 1355 Greene Ave (especially 1355, which was a really magical place). Now Terry Dimonte is pretty much senior citizen at the station, After that, it’s a pretty long gap back to the next in line.

    Good on Too Tall for getting out on his own terms!

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  5. Brett

    Listening to Too Tall as a kid, he inspired me to follow my passion and head to broadcast school. I only hope to be as good as he is. You see why I got into radio. Happy retirement.

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  6. Mario D.

    Great run Too Tall. I too find that you are lucky to leave by your own decision but mostly i find you lucky to have been able to live your passion all that time. You do not replace a Too Tall. Having been through rock’ n roll history as a passionate actor from behind the scene gives you an edge that is impossible to match. Enjoy !

    Reply
  7. Michele Bucci

    Started listening to CHOM in 1977 after listening to CKGM for a few years (who played Evil Woman by ELO every hour (it seemed)

    Best of health and many excursions Enjoy the scenery

    Mike Bucci

    Reply

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