We read stories about people quitting work by doing something outlandish and think, OMG, I could NEVER. Around the time I quit MIX/CFRB there were much bigger and bolder exits from broadcasting. One used their airtime to lambaste their boss and company owner. Another tossed his headphones and walked out. One of my exits became a bit of a folk-tale and over the years it has come back to me with the details all wrong.
If you’re not in broadcasting, you won’t likely know JJ Johnston. If you are in broadcasting and you don’t know of him, you haven’t been paying attention. JJ has made it his mission this year to highlight 365 Good Ones; people he’s worked with or come to know whom he feels are worth talking about. I was shocked when he contacted me to say he wanted to turn the spotlight my way. These posts take a lot of effort. It’s a big undertaking. They’re shared on Facebook and Linked In and must-read articles for our industry. A nod from JJ is truly a compliment.
And here’s why I nearly fell off my chair when I got his email. JJ was my PD at MIX 999 (now Virgin). He followed Marty Forbes (who had hired me and then left within a few months – nothing personal!) and Pat Holiday. I left the MIX under less-than-stellar conditions of which I’m not proud but felt justified at the time. On my first full-time day at CFRB I gave two weeks’ notice. This, after getting transferred from down the hallway at MIX at my own request.
My contributions to CFRB began under the supportive and watchful eye of Dave Agar. I had grown to love news/talk more than being a music jock anymore. Meetings were held and there were a lot of moving parts to make it happen. When I resigned, I seemed ungrateful and some (I think) thought I just outright quit. I did give notice and expected to work those two weeks, but I was immediately ushered out the door. People were, shall we say, displeased with my actions. But I was also displeased with some of them.
The part of the story that doesn’t get repeated is how the job changed between the time the transfer began, and when it was too late to turn back. At the outset, it was my understanding that I’d be joining Brian Linehan in the CFRB entertainment department. He’d do what he did best and I’d cover the opening of an envelope if it was deemed worthwhile. Looking back, I overestimated Brian’s clout and the importance of entertainment to the station’s format. Shortly before I left for vacation, my MIX replacement was announced: the wonderful Bob Callahan. Grand Poobah Gary Slaight called me into his office and informed me that my new job was doing traffic reports all day and recording entertainment updates “when you can”.
Please, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with doing traffic, especially on a powerhouse radio station like CFRB. But it wasn’t exactly the same as working under the wing of Linehan, which is what I’d been looking forward to. It crushed me. But I didn’t see the point in arguing. It was a done deal.
On my vacation, a chance run-in with an old acquaintance at a mall led to a job offer to help launch a classic rock morning show in KW. It felt like fate stepped in. (Fate got the last laugh. I lasted at KOOL-FM one year to the day. It was a terrible situation, professionally. Maybe karma felt I needed that?!)
A few years later, Gary and I cleared the air and he invited me in to interview with CFRB’s then-PD who was looking for a talk host. It ranks #2 in all-time worst career interview experiences for yours truly. I honestly think the PD forgot I was sitting across from him at one point. It was confusing on my side of the desk but also a kick to be back in the ol’ station. I’ll never forget MIX Music Director Wayne Webster’s reaction when he saw me in the hallway. Surprise puts it mildly.
So, yeah, I was pretty stunned to be considered a Good One by one of the men who was most upset at the way I left. Although my sudden departure was a huge deal at the time, now it’s just a tiny story in a long career. If you like, you can read his piece at one of the links, depending on which platform you belong to.