Segarini: SOWNY, and Macko Speaks from ‘86!

Don BobStill putting the finishing touches on the Fifth Chapter of the ‘Stockton, Daring-Do, and Cruisin’ the Miracle Mile’ series, (which will run here tomorrow), and thought you might enjoy this flashback column from the late, lamented FYIMusic, first published in 2010. The column focused on one of my favourite Internet sites, and featured an interview with legendary radio music/program director, Bob Mackowycz, which appeared in the Toronto Star back in 1986. Macko was one of the radio icons instrumental in bringing local Toronto music to the airwaves back in the day, and was the key element in Q107s rise to popularity in the ’80s and the architect of much of the station’s foundation, innovation, and reputation. The information herein has been updated. Enjoy

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SOWNY

sownyWe all have that ‘go-to’ website we check first thing in the morning with our first cup of coffee in hand (or first pint), to see if we missed anything during the night, or if our comment/picture/email had been posted. Among my ‘must see’ sites is one that never fails to amuse, entertain, or frustrate me, is the Southern Ontario Western New York Radio and TV Forum, known to its readers as SOWNY, and to to its denizens as the Big Yellow Board.

SOWNY is populated by radio professionals both old and new, employed and not-so-much-so, radio fan boys, curmudgeons, crackpots, and shit disturbers. The threads range all the way from interesting and knowledgeable posts about radio and television, to anal spell-checkers and grammar Nazis, thread hijackers (an interesting thread about, say radio stations in and around Georgian Bay, will suddenly become turned around to be about making your own fishing lures out of marbles and My Little Pony tails).

Radio On AirOld war stories from the trenches are the most fun to read, but the most prevalent posts are the ones bitching and moaning about the state of radio today, which are mostly addressed by seasoned pro’s, who understand what has happened and can explain the reasons for it to those who haven’t a clue. Because of the interaction between radio types and those who love the medium but have never worked in it, the discourse can be riveting, even though a lot of it is sports driven (which broadcaster has his head further up his ass/what if the Leafs were on a better station) and some of it is so downright goofy, you wonder if a radio CEO somewhere is laughing into his Caramel Mocha Half Caff Latte with a gusting of Cinnamon, after posting it under an anonymous nickname, which is allowed here, but is a continuing deathtocorporateradiosource of debate.

A lot of radio folk have been told to avoid the Big Yellow Board, because it can be pretty brutal when it comes to discussing the ills of the current direction radio has taken, so in order to post anything, they give themselves nicknames so they can speak their mind, or not get in trouble at work. Others do it so they can spew and rant without finding Hairy Men Dating Invites, fetish porn, and adult diaper spam in their inboxes in retaliation.

Hiding behind an anonymous handle is also one more sign of the times when it comes to speaking your mind about the business you are in. There are a lot of thin skinned people running things Dr. Ruththese days, not like the days of yore, when nobody in charge gave a rat’s ass if someone didn’t like what they were doing. Nowadays, everyone wants to be popular…even if they’ve been vilified as the worst thing to happen to radio since Dr. Ruth, pictured here showing us how big it should be.

Among those responsible for the existence of SOWNY was its moderator, a wonderful man and huge fan of all things radio, especially the golden era of CHUM AM, Craig Smith. Craig  made the SOWNY board a must for most radio folk and fans of the medium, and his hard work was accomplished without income being generated by the site, and very little help from outside sources. I’m surprised radio stations don’t fund this great little town hall, but then again, maybe they are a little too thin skinned to listen to the criticism that finds its craig_at_chumway into the threads here, as well as the kudos.

We lost Craig on Monday night, September 6th. 2010, but his legacy lives on through the efforts of current moderator, Rob Edds, and the cast of characters who populate Craig’s beloved board.  if you love radio, you need to check in here, and peruse the threads that unfold between fans and foes of terrestrial radio, television, and the grammatical error police, and add your own insights and tales.

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Bob Mackowycz

Thanks to an anonymous poster on SOWNY who calls himself ITGeek (for reasons known only to himself), I read this wonderful interview piece written 27 years ago and which ran in the Toronto Star at a time when radio actually had so much interest from the public, that journalists wrote about it in the daily newspapers. When, I ask you, was the last time a local radio PD (Program Director), MD (Music Director), or On-Air host was featured in a local newspaper in your area?

I couldn’t help but comment on a few of Macko’s answers…and my comments appear in italics.

Ladies and Gentlemen, all the way from 1986, one of the great radiomen, scholars, music aficionados, and the most soulful and caring academic I have ever had the pleasure to know and to work with, Mr. Bob Mackowycz

Music’s Got to be ‘Real’ for Q107 Man to Listen In

As told to Henry Mietkiewicz

Toronto Star June 7th, 1986

Bob Mackowycz: Assistant program director of hard rock radio station Q107 and co-host of Q’s Six O’ Clock Rock Report.

Bob and Bob Q107I’m not sure if there currently exists, a show similar in tone and content to the Six O’ Clock Rock Report. It was informative, previewed new releases, contained short interviews, the rock news, and a lot of laughs. One of the stand out show for me was Bob’s “Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love Tribute Hour” with comments from every major rock star out there as part of the program, extolling the importance, and Universal love, the rock community had for the under-appreciated Elvis classic, “Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love”. Who knew Robert Plant and so many other rock legends loved HHBL?

Another funny moment I remember was when Bob read the news that Freddy Mercury had grown a mustache. When he wondered out loud why Freddy would do that, I calmly told him that it might have been to hide the stretch marks. Bob fell off his chair laughing…(Pictured above: Bob (left) and Bob (right) in the Q107 broadcast booth 30 stories above Yonge and Bloor 1983)

Age: 37, but I look 36 and feel 35.

Birthplace: Metz, France, near the Luxembourg border. I came to Canada when I was 2 1/2.

Claims To Fame: The gold medal I won at the University of Toronto for the highest graduating mark in the class of ’74 in English literature. I have an M.A. from the U of T, but left partway through a doctorate on the influence of The Book Of Job on 19th-century English literature. That makes me living Q107 Hotproof of the value of a liberal arts education, because when the door to opportunity opened, I knew how to open my mouth.

My First Radio Job: First and last — Q107.

Bob, of course, went on to do many things at other stations, but his love of Q107, and his firm belief that it would be his home forever and always, shows the kind of loyalty and dedication possible when a place is that much fun and provides such a creative environment.

Current Projects: Radio biographies of the Fixx and Kim Mitchell and a number of syndicated projects, including, for next year, a look back at the 1967 Summer of Love. There’s a novel in the works (Cabfare) about a baby-boomer’s mid-life crisis, and a book of poems (Bungalow Three). I’m also growing my hair and working for world peace.

My Most Memorable Performance: Dec. 8, 1980 — I anchored our coverage of the John Lennon assassination. Until that day, I really didn’t know why I was in radio. But during the broadcast, I felt for the first time that I was born to be there.

Lennon HeadlineI think Macko was on the air for at least 12-24 hours when John was assassinated. I was in Ottawa and Bob tracked me down and we spoke live over the air about Lennon. Every artist Bob knew shared their memories and stories live on the air, either in the studio or on the phone, and we all got together to pay tribute to Lennon at the El Mocambo the next weekend. Would music radio stations be able to devote that kind of time and care to a similar thing happening today? As tearful and painful as it was, it was an amazing show of support and unity for one of our own. It was Macko’s sincere love of the music and admiration of Lennon’s rise from the ashes of heroin addiction and inactivity, that drew the rock community to the flame that was held on high by Q107’s participation and support of the local Toronto (and Canadian) music scene

beastie-boysWorst Experience In The Line Of Duty: Without a doubt, interviewing the rock group The Beastie Boys. Jerks with talent I can take, but jerks with no talent and bad attitude I don’t have time for. It was a live interview, but I threw them out of the studio anyway. They’re from New York city and that’s where they’re going to stay. 

Is there an artist in existence these days that would behave so badly as to get themselves tossed out of a radio station? And is there a jock that wouldn’t be terminated for disparaging a hit act on the air or in the press?

Why I Haven’t Moved to New York or Los Angeles: That would mean moving to the U.S. and paying taxes to support Reagan. And besides, no one’s asked.

What I’ve Given Toronto: With Q107’s program director Gary Slaight, I’ve helped put together the Homegrown talent search, resulting in more than 100 music acts being recorded in the past nine years. I’m also proud of the work Gary and I have done on Q’s Rock Against Drunk Driving campaign.

cilq_q107_homegrown_album_vol2_bigOkay…I have to repeat that, “I’ve helped put together the Homegrown talent search, resulting in more than 100 music acts being recorded in the past nine years. One hundred LOCAL music acts. Oh sure, some conglomerates have prizes for national writers, and some tertiary and secondary stations still seek out great local talent (Hi Trews!)…but Q107 and CFNY and others, PLAYED the local bands they helped discover, promoted their live shows, and involved their listeners in musical discovery. Why on Earth is this not still part of music radio’s mandate and reason to exist? WHY???

What Toronto Has Given Me: A decent environment to bring up my family. Also being on the air without having to change my name or sound like a disc jockey.

And here we are, decades later, when it seems that sounding just like the other on-air guys is paramount. Isn’t it funny that the most important and well known DJs sound like no one else? Isn’t it funny that sounding similar to the other on-air personalities is now a prerequisite to employment?

The Music I Like To Play On The Air: Anything with an edge, from Elvis to U2. It’s got to be real.

“It’s got to be real”? Macko meant honest and from the heart. Now I’d have to ask, real what? Real manufactured? Real autotuned? Real popular? Real cute? Real-ly well financed? Real-ly well produced? Real-ly format friendly? I need a beer…

The Music I Like To Listen To At Home: The strange things is, I don’t listen to much music at home. My stereo was broken for seven years and I fixed it only recently. Now I listen to whatever my 17- year-old son is playing, from Wynton Marsalis to the Cult.

Is there a radio exec out there that lets his kids pick their own music and where they hear it, and then listen to what his kids and their friends listen to and talk about? Just curious.

Three Favorite Albums: Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, the Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks and Mink de Ville‘s Cabaretta.

Mink DeVilleMink DeVille? Bob, how positively honest of you! Macko was always on top of whatever was out there (I remember him extolling the virtues of Omar and the Howlers), but still knew the real shit that was street level awesome, whether Q played it or not…and would feature his personal faves on the Six O’Clock Rock Report or play them whenever he had the chance. Personality depends on personal taste and the ability to share it.

Three Favorite Movies: Grand Hotel for the heart, Seventh Seal for the mind and Cannonball Run II because the other two sound so pretentious.

Three Favorite Literary Works: King Lear, Snaps by Victor Hernandez Cruise, anything by e.e. cummings.

Favorite Eating Establishments: My kitchen at home and Kam Wah restaurant in Chinatown.

Favorite Hangouts: Reggie’s apartment on Spadina, because I don’t get around much any more. But when I do, there’s the U of T campus, because it reminds me of Matthew Arnold’s spires of Oxford and it keeps me in touch The Copawith what’s really important amid all this ratings nonsense. Also, the Diamond because of manager Jim Zeppa, the Copa because of Mike Elder and Heaven because of Gareth Brown.

Reggie, a fine poet and the doorman and soul of the El Mocambo when Elvis Costello, the Rolling Stones, and great local acts held sway there, is a muso of the first water and was another of Bob’s links to the street and the music of Toronto, and the clubs and show runners he mentions are proof of something that is forgotten in most quarters: When the people who are in charge of a live music venue are there every night, their personalities are what make or break the venue. This is why Cherish  at Cherry Cola’s, Darryl Fine at the Bovine Sex Club, Randy Charlton at Sound Academy, and Mark Holmes at the Mod Club, and others like them, run successful venues. Have you ever met the owner/manager of your favourite bar? Can you name a favourite disk jockey who shows up at your favourite band’s gigs, or at your favourite local watering holes?

Bob M and Bernie FMy Local Heroes: Musicians Paul James, David Wilcox, Morgan Davis and Johnny Lovesin — in other words, the survivors. In the music industry, Bernie Finkelstein. In criticism, Peter Goddard. Also sportscaster Earl McRae and John Dickie of Mondo Combo.  (Pictured here, Bob and Bernie)

Performers Or Artists Who Have Influenced Me: Shakespearean critic Jan Kott, Northrop Frye, Pierre Berton (the importance of research, research, research), Monty Python (say no more) and Joe Crysdale who was the original voice of Toronto’s Maple Leafs baseball club and made me fall in love with magic of radio. Also John Donabie and Murray Smith who taught me the radio ropes, and Lenny Bruce who taught me that words can be both powerful and entertaining.

HowThings Could Be Improved In Toronto Radio: We need a good rhythm-and-blues station and a good, old-style, screaming, bells- and-whistles disc jockey on a Top 40 station. We could also use a truly great rock ‘n’ roll oldies station and more stations like Q107 and CFNY that support and develop local talent beyond just playing Canadian content.

…and more people like Bob Mackowycz.

As told to Henry Mietkiewicz

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Segarini’s regular column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

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One Response to “Segarini: SOWNY, and Macko Speaks from ‘86!”

  1. Don Della Nina Says:

    Please remove my e-mail address from your site…Third request.

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