Monday, January 16, 2006

The dowdy world on radio

Driving across the great prairie last night, my wife Elaine and I were searching for something suitable on the radio. The usual classical FM station was playing something by musicians from the "Cold-hearted Club," as Elaine put it, and the usual oldies station did not quite fit the moment. So we tried the radio's scan function. We started with AM, where we picked up station after station filled with talk of a sort that held no interest for us. Often one word was enough to send us scanning again - diadems, eternity, blood. We listened for a short time to a talk show about Kentucky auctioneers, but as much as I like the odd and arcane, that was too much even for me.

Then we found it - AM 740, playing "big band" music, lively, harmonically sophisticated, and free of references to damnation. We had found "the dowdy world" on our radio. The music was a treat, but the commercials were even better. First, a spot for "Bruno's Fine Foods," featuring Scottish smoked salmon and 5-lb. lasagna trays. Then a spot for a cd called A Little Breath of Scotland. Where was this station coming from?

Finally, we heard the ID: AM 740, CHWO, Toronto. Three hours south of Chicago, we'd picked up George Jonescu's Sunday night big-band program.

I talked to George briefly by cellphone: he was playing two versions of "Stealin' Apples," by Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, and was polling the audience on which it preferred. Elaine and I thought Goodman was better, no contest. George's listeners agreed: in a (small) landslide, Goodman won, 45 to 14. The toll-free number - "good anywhere in North America" - should have been my first clue that picking up this station wasn't quite as extraordinary as I'd thought. The second should have been George's lack of surprise that we'd picked up his show. As I learned this morning, CHWO is a 50,000-watt clear-channel station.

The AM 740 website is a wonderful thing:

With access to the largest active music library in Toronto radio, AM 740 features a wide range of specialty programming, from big bands and 50s crooners, to the early rock’n’rollers, folk singers, country cross-over artists, and many of today’s top artists specializing in 'retro-sounds'.

AM 740 is much more than a well-stocked juke-box though. With newscasts every half-hour weekday mornings, and hourly through the day, information flows consistently with news, sports, traffic, weather and plenty of time-checks too. Hourly 'Prime Time Moments' focus on travel, gardening, finances and car-care. AM 740 on-air personalities are friendly, cheerful companions who help you through your day.

Tune us in anytime, just about anywhere, for the All Time Favourites – AM 740!
AM 740 certainly helped brighten our drive through the darkness last night.

» AM 740

» AM 740 schedule   A sample: "Bob Sprott features a spotlight on Les Brown, covering the lengthy period between 1936 and 2001."

» AM 740 photo gallery   I especially enjoyed the photos from the re-opening of Woolcott's Shoes, "Comfort Shoe Specialists Since 1937."

» Bruno's Fine Foods   "Yes . . . there really is a Bruno."

» Denis Snowdon's page   Snowdon is the AM 740 on-air personality who compiled A Little Breath of Scotland.

comments: 4

Anonymous said...

I listen to George Jonescu almost every Sunday night, and it's a pleasure. J Hunt Bloomfield, CT

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for your comment -- I'm glad to meet another George Jonescu fan here. I still listen to AM 740 whenever I can pull it in.

David Aplin said...

Hi! I used to listen to AM 740 back in the early 2000's. My favourite show by far was "Big Band Panorama" hosted by Bob Sprott. It was an incredible show. The music was lovingly presented by an extremely knowledgeable aficionado... Bob Sprott. I was then, and continue to be a guitar player, of the hard rock variety. However my musical tastes span many genres and the big band era is one of my favourites. Bob's shows were a real treat. He played entire shows drvoted to a single artist or subset of the big band genre. He never swore or took liberties with the big band idiom, he was enthusiastic and unfailingly polite. He also returned my emails! For a time we had a friendly correspondence going on as musician to musician. I knew deep down that his show, and indeed Bob himself was living on borrowed time so I enjoyed every moment as best as I could. Then one rainy Tuesday evening I tuned in to AM 740 only to find out that the station had been sold and the format had changed to AOR pop. I was sorely disappointed and went into mourning for I knew that the show had been Bob's lifeblood and with it gone it wouldn't be long until his own demise. R.I.P. Bob Sprott 1926 - 2008

Michael Leddy said...

It’s a great thing to find stations by chance on the AM dial. I haven’t been able to pick up 740 for some time, but their website shows that George Jonescu is still there playing big-band music.