Radio left Wilson about nine years ago.
Larry Wilson did sports at CHUM when I arrived in 1970. He was the first sports guy I had ever worked with who wasnt a Jock. He was wonderful.
Somehow he became Wilson the Newsguy on CHUM-FM. It was the era of Progressive Radio, Woodstock, Hippies, free love, flower power, coffee houses, Rochdale, Yorkville as a live music store. The Counter Culture.
CHUM-FM is remembered, and even beloved, as the New Voice of a New Generation. Pete n Geets, Green, Pritchard, Marsden, Thomas, Michaels (Soles), Rainer, Shafer, Azzarello, Talbot, Tollington and more.
But Wilson defined the attitude.
There was news and then there was Wilson News. Style AND Content. Listen to any of his newscasts today and you could define the era. "Wilson" was writing, delivery, tempo, pitch and white space. Stories you wouldnt hear anywhere else. Often the things unsaid. His pauses were masterful. Stuff that couldnt be taught, but were envied and copied. Wilson was Cronkite for his generation in Toronto.
When the FM regs came in he shone. Brian Thomas was the leader. Wilson was The Star. Some of you reading this who were The Kids will remember his generosity. Larry Wilson didnt distruct from Ego. He kidded us that radio was "a toy". His talent seemed to come too easy. At least to him.
Larry was defined by who he was on the air. Wilson. For years it was the only way I connected with him. Off the air he seemed invisible.
One day he came to me and asked to get off of news. He was burned out on bad news. He needed a change. So he finally became a Jock. Of discs. And he brought his passion with him.
He was willing to try anything.
When The Stones played Buffalo but Keith couldnt come to Toronto, Wilson covered the show as if it was the Superbowl. His "colour" commentary put us in Rich Stadium as The Radio played the music back at the station. Later, he even did his show from a rollercoaster.
During The Canadian World Music Festival at the CNE, Wilson was backstage with the musicians doing interviews between sets on the radio and into a crowd of 60,000. Nugent played guitar from his trailer. We almost had a riot. Wilson was playing with his "Toy".
When Whistle King won The CHUM-FM Supersessions, Larry became their manager. It was mostly bad luck that he missed it when Bob Ezrin recorded them as The Kings.
Suddenly, radio changed. Larry could have done mediocre better than most, of course, but why? It wouldnt have been Wilson.
By then we had become friends. Our ladiesand Larry and I, went horseback riding weekends outside Peterborough. We said goodbye when it was time for New York. God, how I would have loved to have taken him with me!
Great Radio is about more than music. Forty minutes of non-stop rock doesnt create a culture for the radio station that the core can hang onto. It might as well be Muzak in the car. Some of us re-invented our radioselves to fit. For whatever reason Larry Wilson would not. A bicycle store in the tropics. A projectionist in Toronto. For him radio was somehow no longer an option. As, perhaps with Jay, Terry, and Byron it was a long way down from The Mountaintop. But it was Larrys choice.
It is a tragedy. But Im consoled by the memory and only happy to have been part of it.
Thank you, Wilson.
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