Seattle area radio listeners weren’t alone in witnessing a rock radio war through the 1960s and ‘70s. Less than three hours to the north, Vancouver had its own AM radio battle royal. And, similar to Seattle, the big winner was a Vancouver station with a history in town well before rock ‘n roll became a huge audience builder.
But, unlike Seattle, CKLG literally jumped on the rock ‘n roll band wagon when American popular music had its larger-than-life resurgence in the summer of ’64. On August 24, two days after the Beatles performed in Vancouver, CKLG ditched its nine-year middle-of-the-road format by switching to Top 40 rock. Talk about timing.
LG-73 became Vancouver’s third station to take on a rock music format. And after knocking off rock pace setter CFUN, it gained market leader status before 1970. For those — like myself, in Bellingham at that time – who lived and worked in Northwest Washington in those days, it was a treat to hear the talents and successes of CKLG.
Here’s a five-segment composite CKLG aircheck, including Terry David Muilligan April ’68, Daryl B (Burlingham) April ’68, Rick Honey Sept ’69, John Tanner Dec ’69 and Roy Hennessy Nov ’70.
CKLG brought a new hit radio sound to the Vancouver market in the mid-‘60s. It was program director Frank Callaghan who put the Boss Radio Drake format on the air in ’66, including 20/20 news. The following year LG-73 derailed CFUN on the way to a 16-year run as Vancouver’s Top 40 leader. Callaghan also reprogrammed CKLG-FM out of its easy listening origins in late ’64 to become Canada’s first full-time underground station in March of ’68. A recognized ground-breaker, its alternative music approach was applauded on both sides of the border. Callaghan was program director for 10 of his 15 years at CKLG.
When CKLG-FM signed on in Oct. 1964, the Vancouver Times carried this announcement along with an 8-page multiple-photo insert promoting the city’s new stereo station. In March ’68 the original beautiful music format (orchestra concerts, movie and Broadway soundtracks and MOR covers of pop hit songs) gave way to underground and eventually progressive rock which continued for 11 years.
One of the sage, familiar voices at CKLG was newsman Frank Thompson [pictured in 2006]. He’d worked at Seattle’s KJR from 1969 to ’74, and then nearly 10 years at LG-73. Here’s Frank doing a morning newscast during the Doc Harris show in December of ’76 . . . . .
A native Canadian, Thompson’s career started in Victoria (CJVI), then moved on to Southern California for 15 years – mostly in San Diego (KFMB, XEAK and KOGO) – before his KJR stint preceded his stop at CKLG. He did more than 10 years voice-over freelance work before retiring in 1998. He was living in South Surrey, B.C. at the time of his death (age 85) in 2012.
CKLG -AM cast a remarkable imprint, boasting a continuous 37-year Top 40 presence, longest in Vancouver’s history. It was, during its late ‘60s-early ’70s peak, among a handful of super rockers in all of Canada, and considered a near equal to American west coast powerhouses KFRC, KHJ and KGB. But with the decline of Top 40 and the rising tide of FM, in 2001 LG-AM faded into history. It’s successor stations went through at least two call sign changes and several different focused programming formats (all news, all guys’ talk, all sports and finally all traffic). As for 99.3 CKLG-FM, it enjoyed its own brand of success, but over a much shorter run – 14+ years from late ’64 to early ’79. The station solidified its progressive rock stance, but lost its home-grown architect when Frank Callaghan left following a nasty labor dispute. In ‘76 the program director reins went to long-time LG-73 jock Roy Hennessy. It was Hennessy, in CKLG’s Top 40 beginnings, who visited the Bay Area and then alerted Callaghan to the exploding new potential of Bill Drake’s budding format. And, ironically, it was Hennessy who voiced LG-FM’s final sign-off which transitioned to the much pre-announced CFOX-FM sign-on. Here’s the audio clip of that signoff on January 6, 1979 . . .
These pages are mostly devoted to CKLG’s ’68-’70 period because that’s what I most remember. I was fresh out of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet and working at a 1KW daytimer in Bellingham. LG’s strong signal was clearly competitive with others in town. And it was hard to ignore those jocks, the 20/20 news and that exciting, repetitive Drake cadence — all of which was the station’s trademark, its signature. CKLG had the full package, I thought, during those, my formative broadcasting years. Apparently, a lot of CKLG’s listeners also thought so.