CJAD honours Balcan, Sinclair and Blackman as it opens a “hall of fame”


Framed Aislin cartoons of George Balcan, left, Gord Sinclair and Ted Blackman.

This morning, on its 70th anniversary, CJAD 800 inaugurated what it officially calls a “hall of fame” but program director Chris Bury admitted would probably be more accurately described as a wall of fame. Its first three inductees, unveiled during the Andrew Carter morning show, are of no surprise: George Balcan, Gord Sinclair and Ted Blackman.

The three Montreal broadcasting icons, who all died between 2002 and 2004, were immortalized with caricatures produced by cartoonist Terry Mosher (Aislin), actually taken from cartoons he had already drawn of the three. “We had a few versions” for each of the three, Bury explained, and they decided to go that way rather than use old publicity photos, many of which were not in great condition, were poorly lit or seemed too serious.

The framed cartoons will be hung in the CJAD studio, where people who work at the station “can get a sense of the history of the radio station,” Bury said.

More CJAD personalities will join these three over the coming years. Bury said the plan is to induct one every six months or so until the 75th anniversary in 2020. “Nothing is set in stone” about who else will be inducted, though there are some obvious picks. Simple math would suggest about a dozen inductees in all, though that too hasn’t been set in stone.

“I don’t know how many other stations could do this,” Bury said after the ceremony.

Andrew Carter with staff, former staff and special guests.

Andrew Carter with staff, former staff and special guests.

Bury said today’s event was intentionally low-key so they could make a bigger splash five years from now.

The event was attended by staff, some listeners, former CJAD staff like Rick Leckner, Jennifer Roman, and Ed Cowell, plus family members of the honorees, who shared stories about them.

Also invited was the daughter of Joseph Arthur Dupont, who founded CJAD 70 years ago.

George Balcan drawing unveiled by Terry Mosher, left, and Bill Brownstein

George Balcan drawing unveiled by Terry Mosher, left, and Bill Brownstein

George Balcan (1932-2004) worked at CJAD from 1963-73 and then 1975-1998, most of those years as its morning man. He is a member of the Order of Canada and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

When he died in 2004, the Broadcast News obituary read:

MONTREAL — George Balcan, a Manitoba native who was a top morning man with Montreal radio station C-J-A-D for more than 25 years, died today of cancer.

He was 72.

Balcan, who was born in Dauphin, Manitoba, began his radio career as a rock ‘n’ roll D-J at C-K-O-C, in Hamilton, Ontario.

He moved to afternoons on C-J-A-D in 1963.

Balcan took over the morning-drive slot in 1967 before moving to C-F-C-F five years later to do radio and T-V.

He returned to his old C-J-A-D job almost 10 years later and was the station’s morning man until he retired six years ago, in April 1998.

Balcan was named to the Order of Canada in 1996.

He was also a painter whose work was featured at the National Gallery of Canada.

The Gazette printed obituaries by Alan Hustak, Brownstein and Mike Boone. Brownstein’s obit captured the essence of what Balcan meant to Montrealers:

For many anglophones, allophones and even francophones, Balcan was Montreal’s morning man. Breakfast was Balcan plus a cup of coffee.

Generations of Montrealers woke up to him – for excellent reason. He was part of all our families. He helped soothe by getting us through the rough spots. He helped celebrate our good fortune. He helped bring us up to speed on developments here and around the world. There was virtually no subject – culture, sports, economics, politics – that he wasn’t able to converse about intelligently and sensitively.

His success on radio was no mystery. It was never about him. It was always others who mattered. He generously shared his air space and let those around him shine. He was an icon who broke almost every English-radio ratings record and whose pastels won awards.

He was the most talented person I’ve ever known. But there was not an iota of pretense to the man. He was among the most sophisticated people in town, yet among the most unassuming. He was there for listeners, and he was there for friends. And he gave back to the community, getting actively involved with Juvenile Diabetes and the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation.

And Boone’s obit made it clear what Balcan meant to broadcasting:

Until he retired six years ago, George Balcan managed to make every CJAD morning show sound fresh. Ratings primacy merely confirmed what CJAD listeners knew: Balcan, who died yesterday, was the kind of guy they liked to wake up with.

And like all great broadcasters, he made it sound easy. The Balcan morning show was an artful blend of news, information, features, humour – all effortlessly blended by a mild-mannered, bespectacled Manitoban who understood that Montrealers don’t like to be jolted awake.

The Balcan morning show eased us into our day. It was the perfect radio complement to steaming hot coffee and a hearty breakfast.

George Balcan drawing by Aislin

George Balcan drawing by Aislin

Gord Sinclair drawing unveiled by his daughter and granddaughter

Gord Sinclair drawing unveiled by his daughter Jennifer, right, and granddaughter Danielle

Gord Sinclair (1928-2002) worked at CJAD from 1982 until he died, mainly as news director. He also worked at CFCF radio and CFOX.

Alan Hustak wrote the Gazette obituary when Sinclair died:

Mr. Sinclair was a familiar voice for the past two decades on the station’s noon-hour news and public-affairs talk shows, Free For All and Feedback, where he cultivated a reputation as a cranky, reactionary tightwad with a common touch. He thrived on being contrary.

“A lot of people had the impression that he was a loudmouth, big-C conservative, but that wasn’t Gord at all,” CJAD’s acting news director Derek Conlon told The Gazette.

“He was opinionated, yes. But he was also the kindest, most gentle, and most accepting person. He loved to argue, but he always accommodated other people’s opinions. That was his strength as a broadcaster.”

Gord Sinclair drawing by Aislin

Gord Sinclair drawing by Aislin

Cartoon of Ted Blackman unveiled by Pat Donvito and Mitch Melnick

Cartoon of Ted Blackman unveiled by Blackman’s close friend Pat Donvito and Team 990 co-host Mitch Melnick

Ted Blackman (1942-2002) was a sports reporter for the Montreal Gazette before starting at CJAD in 1971. He would become program director and sports director, and also work at CFCF and Team 990.

Blackman got tributes written about him from several Gazette writers after his death:

L. Ian Macdonald:

In the news business, many people move on to other markets, but Ted was made for this one. In both print and radio, he hired a lot of people who later achieved national prominence. One of the reasons he needed satellite television with hundreds of channels was to watch all the talented people who got their first break from him in local radio.

His column wouldn’t have read quite the same in any paper other than this one. It is equally difficult to imagine him doing radio commentaries in Toronto on the Leafs, Blue Jays and Argonauts. His teams were the Canadiens, the Expos and Alouettes; he gave them his lifelong allegiance, and knew everything that was going on with them.

A couple of years ago, he called to say that Maurice Richard had only hours to live.

“How do you know that?” he was asked.

“Because I just talked to Jean Beliveau at the hospital,” he said.

Ted had great news judgment, and an unerring sense of the city. He knew the Rocket died only once, that it was a uniquely important Montreal occasion, and correctly predicted that 100,000 people would come to pay their respects at the Molson Centre. How do you cover a funeral on radio? Ted did it brilliantly, by getting everybody on the air.

He knew everyone. Only Ted could have given Scotty Bowman’s cell phone number to Brian Mulroney so that the former prime minister could call and congratulate him on winning his ninth Stanley Cup.

All the people Ted knew had one thing in common – he had met them along the way in Montreal. He was a tireless ambassador for Montreal, and never gave up on the city, even in its most troubled times, notably the exodus after the first election of the Parti Quebecois in 1976 and the anguish following the 1995 referendum.

Jack Todd:

Ted Blackman had most every weakness a man can have, and yet he was a better man than almost any you will meet, because he had virtues as large as his faults, virtues that canceled out everything else: generosity, a decency of spirit, a willingness to do things for others even when his own problems threatened to engulf him.

Bill Brownstein:

In his prime, he could pen a daily newspaper column, direct programming and handle sports reporting at a radio station, and still find the time to shmooze over a three-martini, three-hour lunch. And, yes, he really did scribble stories on those fabled cocktail coasters.

Blackman didn’t follow the rules. He lived hard and fast. And he has paid the price. But if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t fiddle with the script.

Blackman was something akin to a Forrest Gump in Montreal, only far more acerbic and alert. He was there for the Expos opener in ’69 and he was there for the Summit Series in Moscow against the Soviets in ’72. He bopped to his own beat at Springsteen or Rolling Stones spectacles at the Forum. He was pretty much a fixture everywhere: sports events, concerts, upscale restos and low-rent bars. He knew everything that went down in this town. He knew those in high places and those in low places.

And he always had time for his buddies. Count on the gravelly-voiced Teddy – as he was known to friends; though to me, he was always E. Buzz, a tribute both to his journalistic skills and the Bill Murray character on Saturday Night Live – to call to offer encouraging words about your work or to turn you on to a new TV show. And count on Teddy to make you a compilation cassette of the latest Lucinda Williams or Lyle Lovett tracks and to deliver you the newest Sopranos tape.

Mike Boone:

Sportswriter, broadcaster, rock’n’roller, raconteur, bon vivant, Ted was the world’s oldest teenager. Always first with the new toys: CDs, DVDs, anything you could plug into a wall socket.

Ted Blackman had his own Web site before Bill Gates had heard of the Internet. He was hip to the hottest music acts while they were still playing the club circuit (and before his best friend, Donald Tarlton, could book them into the big venues).

Pat Hickey:

I learned most of what I know about this business from Red Fisher and Ian MacDonald. They guided me through my earliest years in the business at the Montreal Star and Blackman continued the education during my first stint at The Gazette in 1967. He taught me how to write under a tight deadline, something that wasn’t necessary at the Star which was an afternoon paper.

He gave me advice the first time I screwed up the courage to ask for a raise. And he reinforced my belief that there was no higher calling than journalism. He delighted in talking about his sideline of booking bands for high-school dances.

… His legacy lives on in all the people he helped on the way up.

Ted Blackman drawing by Aislin

Ted Blackman drawing by Aislin

CJAD has compiled audio clips relating to its inductees, mainly interviewing people about their memories of them:

CJAD and CTV Montreal have news reports about today’s activities. CJAD has more photos on its website.

33 thoughts on “CJAD honours Balcan, Sinclair and Blackman as it opens a “hall of fame”

  1. Bill

    Used to be a great station but has seriously gone downhill last 10-15 years.

    Aaron Rand is really the only show that’s both entertaining and informative.

    1. Bill

      To amend my comment, Trudie Mason is actually quite good when she’s on the Gang of 4…wish she had her own show or that the station used her as a co-host with a rational viewpoint to the gasbag who is on between 9am – noon.

  2. Robert Haslewood

    I would have chosen Bill Roberts, Al Cauley and Rod Dewar. Like the three chosen, I believe that my three are also all deceased.

  3. Frank

    Great picks and wonderful broadcasters, brought back memories. I still have a pic with Mr Balcan at one of his Tickled Pink breakfasts. He was most generous with his time to have a quick convo and take the pic.
    I’d have added Victor Nuremberg and Ed Cowell’s predecessor whose name I forget to the set but perhaps in the near futur he will be inducted. Loved the stories by Melnick and Tommy.
    However, once again, Carter rose to the occasion to showcase his sheer ineptitude as a host. Granted I only tuned in around 8:15: from bumbling or searching for the words, running over DuPont’s nephew with the Cindy Acheman story and not caring a whit to his response to not knowing the founder’s first name was Joseph???..come on.

    1. Gazoo28

      Sadly, Mr. Dupont’s first name was not the only one that Andrew Carter missed during the morning.
      He could not remember one of Gord Sinclair’s daughter’s name either.

  4. Media Man

    Well this Hall or Wall of Fame is a nice idea, and come to think of it, maybe CTV Montreal, which I prefer to call CFCF-12 should do the same or would the tightwads at BellMedia allow that seeing the station’s staff has been so drastically reduced but that’s an argument for another day…..

    Balcan and Sinclair, excellent choices, but I and others would have so many more instead and ahead of Blackman, Paul Reid for sure, Rod Dewar, Mike Stephens,etc.. maybe I’m thinking of too much of personal demons,which have been well documented…

    As for L.Ian MacDonald’s comments about Scotty’s cell number, others have it. I even got his home number in a sunny southern US state…

    1. Fagstein Post author

      maybe CTV Montreal, which I prefer to call CFCF-12 should do the same or would the tightwads at BellMedia allow that seeing the station’s staff has been so drastically reduced but that’s an argument for another day

      CJAD is also owned by Bell Media and has seen its staff purges too, so I don’t see why the situation would be any different.

      1. Dilbert

        The difference is of course that CFCF12 in it’s heyday wasn’t just an office space with a small news studio, but rather a net TV content producer with studios, staffing, writers, editors, and oh yeah, the ability to put it’s own programming on the air without someone in Toronto pushing the buttons. The current staff of 100 would have fit into a small corner of 405 Ogilivy Ave with space left for a football field.

        CJAD still has at least some claim on it’s history and it’s past glories. CTV Montreal really no longer has anything to do with CFCF12. The move by Bell to re-locate, re-brand, and re-make the station in their national image pretty much pulled the plug on history. CJAD has yet to suffer the same fate, although it seems likely that at some point the station will end up getting sucked into the corporate vortex of sound alike, look alike joy.

        (Oh, and BTW, why no mention of Evanov dropping the Radio Fierte format?)

        1. Media Man

          Amen Dilbert, that’s what I should have said, and to add on to what you posted, CFCF-12, as most people don’t know, was the busiest production center in the whole CTV network, even more than CFTO in TO…not bad for the second largest French speaking city in the world after Paris….

          1. JM

            Yes, it’s amazing how busy 405 Ogilvy was in its heyday. Everything was done in house. There was a three-person design studio that did all the visuals including sets. A full carpentry shop would the build what the designers had drawn. Props were kept in a prop room. There was a complete lighting department. Wrestling shows, game shows, interview shows were just some of the local productions. Floor directors kept things moving while the director, switcher and other technical personnel were all there in the control room. And then there were all the TV commercials shot by CFCF-TV affiliate Champlain Productions. There were complete dressing rooms downstairs where makeup artists would be called in for specific shows. (The news anchors applied their own makeup.) There was even a nurse’s station with a bed or two. The place was humming with activity.

  5. Dilbert

    While the sentiment is nice, it strikes me way more as one of those corporate grasping at straws to maintain a link with your non-corporate past. While celebrating the past, they have been pushing some of the current employees out the door to pad up the Bell bottom line (because almost a billion in profits a year ain’t enough, you know?). With ‘AD being in new studios and all, the links to the past are dim and getting dimmer. It’s sort of like when CHOM moved out of the old house and across the street to join CKGM at 1310 Greene ave. Something was lost there that perhaps never will come back. You can celebrate it all you want, but the spirit is gone.

    With much respect for those who were “inducted” onto the wall, I am not impressed by a weak corporate branding exercise.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      While the sentiment is nice, it strikes me way more as one of those corporate grasping at straws to maintain a link with your non-corporate past.

      Except the idea didn’t come from corporate, I’m pretty sure Bell Media doesn’t really care that much about this, and the company doesn’t see its “non-corporate past” as better than its present. People care about the brand, not its ownership.

      1. Dilbert

        My feeling is that corporate said “do things that help us keep the brand strong by showing how long CJAD has been around and part of the community” and this is the sort of thing that pops out the other end. Did Bell order wall of fames to be created? I doubt it. But I do think they care about it very much, in the sense that they care about promoting their stations with feel good stuff, such that they can continue to maintain their high market dominance in Montreal.

        I don’t think Bell (or the local person who proposed this) was trying to say anything about their past being better (nor did I suggest it), rather that the past a history of CJAD is a big part of what has made it the Montreal news and talkie station for Anglos. If it wasn’t the case, they likely would be working on rebranding it, and not celebrating it’s past.

  6. Neil K.

    Some of my candidates for future induction (although I suspect they’re only considering deceased candidates…)

    Neil McKenty
    Melanie King
    Dave Patrick
    Andy Barry

    And for their Wall of Shame:
    Ricky Cyr
    Laurie & Olga

    Whatever happened to Ricky Cyr, anyway?

    1. David Chernofsky

      I know I am old,but do not forget
      Mac Macurdy the program Director,Bill Roberts,the 50s morning man before George Balcan,Mike Stephens from Club 800,Gene Kirby of the Kirby Derby,Art Leonard newsman,Hamilton Grant news,and from very early days,Norm Kihl,lastly Don Cameron of the make believe Ballroom

  7. Mario D.

    Good choices ! All 3 class acts and in their own ways , builders…Looking back from the future i see no one coming from the 2015 class even close to that range of quality worth being named as part of the elite. Many other suggestions listed by others are notable and from those, notice how the news room is deserving for the ensemble of it`s work over the years.

  8. Rob

    As one of Paul Reid’s six children and extended family, I would have thought that Paul Reid would make the list the first time around, especially considering the time of year and the fact that he is already a member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Dad would broadcast the Christmas show live, every year, sometime in the 1st week of December. If CJAD wanted to make a splash with this, that’s the way they could’ve gone … introduce the three inductees, followed by an airing of “Paul Reid’s Christmas”. But as it’s been pointed out, CJAD didn’t want to make this a big deal. All I can say is that the Reid family has received so many kind wishes these past few days, and some people were quite vocal about him not being inducted the first time around.
    It is what it is folks … I can’t help that if there was a public vote for the inductees, the list would look slightly different.

    1. Media Man

      I agree wholeheartedly Rob, Paul Reid should have been there before Blackman. Still don’t know he got in on first shot, maybe they didn’t want to break up that triumvirate……So I’m with you…Paul I would consider a pioneer like Balcan and Sinclair, whereas Blackman was really a newspaper guy, like others have done since then, switched media careers…

      I’m one of those that would have loved to sit in during one of his weekday evening shows while talking lowly into the mic..and muse and tell stories off the air of everything and anything.

    2. Marnee

      Rob, well said, Paul Reid was an icon .As the daughter of George Balcan, I appreciate that people recognize my dad’s many talents and charitable efforts.

  9. Andy

    prob the wrong area to ask but anyone know why Suzanne Desautels “left” Cjad??? cant find any info and didn’t hear anything

  10. Pingback: Dave Fisher calls it a career, is added to CJAD Wall of Fame | Fagstein

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