An old friend at CHUM tracked me down in Seattle. She knew Id want to hear about it before I read about it.
Terry Steele was dead. Damn!I first heard Terry in 1972 . J. Robert Wood dropped his audition tape off at my studio in CHUM. I liked the tape, and the cover letter. The guy sounded like he had class.
In retrospect, Terry Steele was the last piece in the CHUM puzzle that would create one of the most respected and influential radio stations in the world.
In the 70s, no other radio station anywhere, did all the things that we did; the ratings victories, the promotions that snarled traffic and telephones, the influence on music tastes in both Canada and the U.S, the international awards, and the audio and later video documentaries.
Even today, if you hear a Beatles Special in Florida, a Rock History program in LA. or a Presley Show in Memphis, chances are it was produced by CHUM. Terry Steele played a role in all of it.
On the air, Terry may not have been as funny as Jay Nelson, as creative as Tom Rivers, or as flashy as Scott Carpenter. In the studio on tape, he wasnt as smooth as Walter Soles and Ron Morey, or as versatile as John Rode. But Terry Steele was consistent and solid. He was the quarterback when everyday was the Superbowl!
He was "Terrible Terry, The Bear in the Airchair from the Big House on Yonge Street". Working with him made you better. He had a kind of Majesty.
I can remember Terry stomping into my little postage stamp sized studio with the lousy air conditioning across from Bob Woods office. He always brought his energy level with him. Hed take off his shirt, pick up the script, turn on the mike and say .."All right Cos, lets embellish the Legend."
Whenever I hired a freshman operator, I always tried to team them with Terry after theyd learned the board on the overnight shift. Terrys class and professionalism had a way of rubbing off. He was a people person.
Unfortunately, Terry never really found his way after leaving CHUM in 1985. I suspect it had a little to do with corporate culture and a lot to do with 40 minutes of nonstop rock. The "Show" was fading from the "business". Terry knew that the kids were no longer going to bed at night with radios under their pillows. Its a long way down from the mountaintop.
But he knew it would happen.
In 1975, Peter Goddard devoted most of a page to Terry Steele in the Toronto Star. In it, Terry closed the interview by saying that he planned to get into radio sales "in about 10 years". I never got to ask him why he didnt.
Terrys era was radio as an art form, where every show was a morning show. Fortunately it lives on in airchecks.
Two years ago, while holidaying in the U.K., I met the program director of Great North Radio in Newcastle, England. Amazingly, he had some Terry Steele airchecks. He said he often played them to inspire his announcers.
Vaya con dios my friend. You made a difference.
(Terry Steele died in August, 1993.)
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