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.
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 (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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
— Terry Mosher (@TerryMosher1) December 8, 2015
CJAD has compiled audio clips relating to its inductees, mainly interviewing people about their memories of them: