Reflecting on 30 years at CFNY/102.1 the Edge

At exactly 12 noon on October 3, 1986, I climbed the stairs at the strip mall at 83 Kennedy road in Brampton for the first time, presenting myself as the new all-night person for CFNY-FM, The Spirit of Radio.

The station was playing in the reception area offering coverage of the sod-turning ceremony at a new sports facility in downtown Toronto that would later be known as the Skydome.

Outside of a three-year period where we decided we’d see other people (okay, so it was the station that made that call, not me. But we’ve obviously gotten back together), I’ve never really left. So minus those three years and today–October 3, 2019–marks my 30th year at the station.

The CFNY control room. Note the three turntables and the three CD players.

An odd thing, this. Radio people rarely stay in one place for very long. They either find new gigs, get transferred, find themselves laid off or fired. The only explanation I have for my longevity is an insane amount of good luck and my position as a popular music geek through The Ongoing History of New Music. I’ve also been willing to adapt to new conditions, new rules, new bosses, and new technologies. I learned long ago that if you coast along thinking that everyone will be fine, you’ll soon be out of a job.

At one point, our strip mall had no fewer than three roti joints.

A 30th anniversary is occasion for reflection and marveling at how much things have changed from that first day I was at the station in 1986 and now.

Then: Live announcers around the clock. There was always a live human at the station 24/7/365.

Now: Voice-tracking (pre-recording of announcer bits dropped in between songs by a playback computer).

Then: Music came mostly from vinyl although we were moving quickly to CDs. Each song had to be cued up/loaded individually, meaning that the announced had to do something roughly every three or four minutes.

Now: Music is programmed into an industrial level playback system which is 100% digital. The computer handles all mixes and segues.

Then: A shift began by pulling all the records/CDs you wanted to play from the shelves. After each selection was played, you had to refile them correctly.

Now: Everything is on the server. No filing required.

Then: CFNY jocks back in the day were lucky in the sense that we had a tremendous amount of latitude over what music we played. We really did choose most of our own music following some very rudimentary and simple rules.

Now: A music director uses a software program to create a schedule of what songs need to be played in what order.

Then: Commercials were loaded onto carts, 8-track-like tape cartridges played on special machines. Each hour, you had to stack all your commercial carts next to the machine, load each in the correct order and then fire each one individually during the commercial stopsets. (Some stations had cart machines that automatically played sequentially. But not ours.)

Then: The request lines rang 24 hours a day.

Now: Most listener communication is done via text, social media and email. The request line rarely rings.

Then: No watching TV! You can have it on if there’s something special happening. Otherwise keep your mind on your work!

Now: As the music plays, you need to keep on top of news headlines, answer email, answer texts, post blogs, monitor Twitter, post to Facebook, post to Instagram, and pre-record bits for other programs. Oh, yeah: You’re also live on the air from time to time.

Then: Smoking in the control room was almost a job requirement.

Now: You can’t smoke within 10 metres of the entire building.

Then: We scoured for music news in trade publications, a wire service, and weeks-old British music papers.News traveled very, very slowly in those days.

Now: Please. The internet.

Then: We had eleven people in our newsroom. Newcasts ran every hour from 6am to 8pm weekdays and 6am to 6pm on weekends.

Now: News has been outsource to Global News Radio 640, the news station in the Toronto cluster.

Then: Announcers made extra money by hosting CFNY Video Roadshows, which were run by Martin Streek. We could attract thousands to special events where all we did was show music videos on a big screen.

Now: Music videos. How quaint.

Then: My coworkers included PD David Marsden, assistant PD and MD, Don Berns, Pete and Geets, Fred Patterson, Kevin O’Leary, JR, James Scott, The Live Earl Jive and Beverly Hills, Scot Turner, Liz Janik, Peter Goodwin, Chris Shepherd, Hedley Jones, Skip Prokop, Daddy Cool, Ted Wolyshyn, Eric Vonn, Bob Noxious, John Masacar, Maureen Bulley, Walter Venafro, Martin Streek, Ivar Hamilton, Kneale Mann, Leslie Kross (David’s assistant), Diane at reception, Mary, Emmy, and Nadia in the back office, GM Bill Hutton, Earl Veale, Jimmy Veale, Cliff Cohen in sales, Captain Phil, Darren Wasylyk, Mike Stafford, Rick the news director, and Mary Ellen Beninger. Apologies to anyone I’ve left out.

Now: Here’s what I can tell you to the best of my knowledge about the people I met during those last months of 1986.

  • Pete, Don, Skip, Diane, Bill, and Martin no longer with us, all having passed on.
  • David Marsden is alive and well running an online radio station called NY The Spirit.
  • Geets is a freelance engineer, working for a variety of broadcasting companies.
  • Fred Patterson continues to work with Humble Howard on a very successful Internet broadcast and podcast.
  • Kevin, JR, James, and Rick have all been out of the business for a while.
  • Scot Turner can still be found doing some radio.
  • Live Earl and Beverly are somewhere in Southern California.
  • Chris Shepherd lives in Costa Rica.
  • Liz is a radio consultant while her husband Peter Goodwin was last scene working at CHCH-TV in Hamilton.
  • Ivar is the VP of Catalogue at Universal Music.
  • Earl is working in the tech industry.
  • Darren and Ted are retired.
  • Bob Noxious runs a raw dog food company.
  • Captain Phil is working for Telus in Vancouver.
  • Mike Stafford hosts the morning show on Global News Radio AM 640 in Toronto.
  • Kneale Mann has been working as a radio consultant.
  • Walter Venafro is part of the staff at JAZZ-FM/Toronto.
  • Leslie is high-powered ad executive. We’re still constantly in touch.
  • Cliff is still in sales at The Edge.
  • Mary Ellen Beninger is a media relations specialist at the Ontario Energy Board. Oh, and we’ve been married for 29 years.
  • If you know the whereabouts of anyone I’ve missed, please let me know, okay. (This is a handy site, too.)

Times change. People come and go. How long can I stick around? As long as they’ll have me. This seems to be what I was meant to do.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

15 thoughts on “Reflecting on 30 years at CFNY/102.1 the Edge

  • October 3, 2019 at 11:53 am
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    Love this! Your Then comments remind me of Johnny on WKRP. I’ve been in the IT industry at same company for 24 years and your observation about constant self-evolution hits home.

    Reply
  • October 3, 2019 at 1:12 pm
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    Nice read! You forgot me lol… I was there for almost a decade…

    Reply
    • October 3, 2019 at 4:09 pm
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      You were–but not when I arrived on that day in 1986. (Good to hear from you, by the way…)

      Reply
  • October 3, 2019 at 4:31 pm
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    That was great just reading all those staff names.

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  • October 3, 2019 at 5:52 pm
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    Congrats Alan!!! I still remember hearing you for the first time back when I was 11 or 12 years old when you provided music programs for Air Canada. Must have been 1991-92. I was flying from Ottawa to the UK and came across the only rock channel on the flight. You provided so much knowledge and info between songs it was incredible. I haven’t stop listening since and now listen to your podcast on Spotify. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!! Almost 25 years later I can’t stop listen and learning. Keep on Rockin’ Alan.

    Reply
  • October 3, 2019 at 7:39 pm
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    Then: Tons of fun along with OMG moments of panic.
    Now: Some of the edge is gone (no pun intended).

    Reply
  • October 3, 2019 at 8:14 pm
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    I joined NY in ’87 with the Road show so I just missed the list. It was great seeing everyone from Kennedy Rd a few weeks ago.

    Reply
  • October 3, 2019 at 9:13 pm
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    Great post Alan, and great memories. I was there in ’86 in the Sports dept (yeah, CFNY had sportscasts in drive time AND weekends) when you arrived, and you already had that encyclopedic knowledge of music. I left in ’88 (“cutbacks”) and worked at CFRB until ’94…I ended my broadcasting career in Vancouver (again, “cutbacks”, lol) and now happily semi-retired. Fred Patterson was my boss, and he’s still in radio with Humble. Please say hi to MEB.

    Reply
  • October 3, 2019 at 11:15 pm
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    Yes great read and for anyone that reads this 30 years involved in single radio station is medal status in the biz. Podium. Alan has ahieved that. But more so earned that. Cheers Alan!

    Reply
  • October 4, 2019 at 7:57 am
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    Thanks for this Alan! I was an early adopter of the Edge in my youth. Back when it was in the yellow house. There is no denying the impact the Edge had on many of the youth in this area. I had the good fortune to be born in Canada, and even better, I was raised in the GTA, in the time of the Edge.
    Just wanted to mention an obvious omission in this and the video that has been out for a few years now. Both have completely overlooked Humble and Fred. They were an integral part of my Edge experience, and remain relevant today with what they have accomplished in podcasting. I understand they were later in the evolution of the station, but they were innovative and made a difference.
    Thanks for all the years of listening pleasure you have given to all your fans, and keep up the good work!!

    Reply
  • October 5, 2019 at 8:54 am
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    AC
    brought me back to the REAL “daze” of radio, I trekked into Kennedey Road on both sides ( 1035 across in the mall !). you have always been a superb business partner that I have loved dealing with. Congrats on your anniversary ( I celebrate 30 @ BMG / SONY next June fingers crossed) you remain a vital part of the Canadian Music Industry, thank you for all you have done for too many musicians to name ! Scooter Wuts up !

    Reply
  • October 5, 2019 at 9:03 am
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    What about “May Pots” (sp?)

    Reply
  • January 30, 2020 at 5:33 pm
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    Michael Compo, Ron Burchell, Strombo.

    Reply

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