Music HistoryTelevision

A browse through vintage Canadian music-based TV

Sitting on the porch last night with the elder bull terrier, I fell into a YouTube rat hole of Canadian vintage TV. It started with a click on a promo for a Canadian-produced sci-fi series called The Starlost (starring 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s Keir Dullea) and a dig through the consumer show Live It Up before it evolved in a search other old Canadian TV shows.

1. Here Comes the 70s

I vaguely remember this future-centric CTV program for little more this racy opening…

…and for the futuristic synth-heavy theme song called “Tillicum” by a pioneering electronic band from Montreal called Syrinx.

2. The Hilarious House of Frightenstein

Kids across the country tuned in every weekend for this program (starring Billy Van, Billy Van, Billy Van, Billy Van, and Billy Van) produced out of CHCH-TV out of Hamilton. In addition by regular cameos by Vincent Price(!!!), Van played a series of horror characters and villains including The Count, The Librarian, and The Wolfman, an old-school DJ riffing on, yes, Wolfman Jack, except that–well, you know.

I’ll admit that The Wolfman stirred my early interest in radio. His shtick was to make some made jokes, take a request, put on an actual record (I can’t imagine the music was cleared by anyone) and then danced to the song against a swirly psych background that was inevitable invaded by Igor (pronounced Eye-gor), the Count’s extremely large henchman. Is this how radio worked? For a while, I thought it did.

3. Samantha Taylor on Video Hits

With the rise of the music video in the 1980s, every network had its own–and sometimes more than one–video show. CBC counter-programmed the very young MuchMusic with Video Hits.

4. Good Rockin’ Tonight with Stu Jeffries

And who could forget this evening music video program on CBC?

5. Toronto Rocks with John Majhor

If you grew up in Toronto, you ran home to see this after school show on CITY-TV.

6. The New Music

This remains the gold standard of music journalism not just in Canada but just about everywhere outside the BBC. Damn, the stuff I learned every week. The original opening featured Rush’s 2112 Overture as the opening theme…

…but later switched to using “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag,” an instrumental by the British band Pigbag.

There are obviously a lot more memories out there. What have you got?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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12 thoughts on “A browse through vintage Canadian music-based TV

  • I think that much of SCTV was based on what came out of CHCH every day. And the HHoF was a prime example. Need 3:30 of filler? Let’s have grown men dance in front of a green screen.
    There was a TVO series (Nightmusic) that featured live music of local Toronto bands. I remember seeing FM on that late one night:

  • During the 80’s, there were probably a hundred or more different music shows being produced at the myriad of community access channels across the country. The format varied, every combination from a copy of the video countdown format, local music events and interviews to old-school spinning discs. I worked on one that went from around ’82-’87.

    As for memorable musical intros culled from original artists – CTV’s W5 used the instrumental part of Supertramp’s “Fool’s Overture” for a time, probably starting in the late 70’s.

    CBC Radio – As It Happens (during the Barbara Frum and Alan Maitland era) used Moe Koffman’s “Curried Soul” as the program intro.

    Also on CBC Radio in the 70’s and maybe the early 80’s – “The Great Canadian Gold Rush” with Terry David Mulligan and “Ninety Minutes With a Bullet” hosted by Linden Soles.

    • Growing up in Indiana in the US, when the AM radio waves at night were kind to me I could pick up CBC out of Toronto and I used to listen to “The Great Canadian Gold Rush” as well another show called “Major Progression”. It was a static-filled listen but I loved listening to both shows.

  • There were a few. Here in Edmonton, I remember rushing home from school to catch 4 O’clock Rock with local news staple Mike Sobel.

    I remember Dan Gallagher, but don’t remember which video show he was on. Maybe he was MuchMusic? Hmm…

    • If memory serves, Dan Gallagher hosted Video Hits on CBC for a time, and was also a VJ on MuchMusic.
      I only caught 4 O’Clock Rock once in a while on pauper-vision, but I remember it being pretty good.

  • Ah, the hilarious house of Frankenstein, ranked under the category of I can’t believe my parents let me watch that when I was not even 4.

  • You’re thinking of Young Frankenstein. In HHOF, Igor was pronounced ee-gore.

  • Wasn’t Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag used for Fashion Television too (also Jeannie Bekker)?

  • I’m going way back. to the 70’s. I remember watching Keith Hampshire’s Music Machine on a Saturday Afternoon as well as Musical Friends. I don’t remember the name of the host but it was the first time I saw April Wine.

  • Do you guys remember a cheesy show from the 70s called “Music Till Midnight”? They had bands doing covers popular songs from what seemed to be the early to mid ‘70s.

  • It also bears mentioning.. Good Rockin’ Tonite was originally hosted by Terry David Mulligan.
    Who still has a show on CKUA (Alberta public funded radio) called Mulligan Stew!

  • When channel 47 (UHF, before it was added to cable as CFMT) first launched in the TO area, there was a 30 min music video show where the theme song had a singing frog…kind of psychedelic 60’s vibe. Can’t remember the name of the show, but they played a lot of 1970’s era promotion videos bands made back then before music videos were an official thing. I remember Rod Stewart “The First Cut Is The Deepest” cover, some Heart, Fleetwood Mac, and a lot of live Gino Vanelli clips. I’ve never been able to find anything about this show and it drives me nuts.


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