`Mac' led heady days of CHUM rock radio
DJ Bob McAdorey as popular as music
`Bon vivant' later a Global TV fixture
COLUMNIST, TORONTO STAR
Bob McAdorey helped usher in radio's rock `n' roll era and set the
musical agenda for a generation of Toronto teens.
Few today realize the power that DJs like McAdorey exerted over
Toronto popular culture 40 years ago, when radio ruled. It was a
cozy time for music — and then CHUM entered the fray, blew the
cobwebs away and ushered in the crazy days of rock broadcasting.
McAdorey, 69, died Saturday at St. Catharines' Hotel Dieu
hospital after a long illness.
McAdorey grew up in Niagara Falls and attended Stamford
Collegiate, also the alma mater of Titanic director James
Cameron. He was in the same graduating class as Barbara Frum, the
legendary CBC-TV interviewer.
As a teen, McAdorey won a province-wide public speaking contest
and was the popular president of his high school fraternity.
He also played ragtime piano.
"Crowds would go around him," said his older brother, Terry
McAdorey's radio career started in 1953 when the Niagara Falls
native first signed on with CHVC near the Falls, introducing
listeners to his unique style of easy-going patter.
"I looked like Buddy Holly back then," McAdorey told the
Toronto Star in a 1981 interview. "I weighed about 95 pounds and
we played songs like `Que Sera Sera.' Everything was a lot softer,
After additional stops in London, Guelph, Hamilton and Dawson
Creek, McAdorey wound up at Toronto's CHUM, coaxed to climb aboard
by resident star DJ Al Boliska.
"I'd lived with Al above a variety store in London and he kept
telling me to come to CHUM. I asked for $600 a month, after all
Gordie Tapp was making $100 a week, and to my surprise I got the
Starting in 1960, McAdorey began a stint that many people
consider rock programming at its finest: brash, spontaneous and
pretty wild. And the DJs were the stars.
CHUM became the rock station to listen to and McAdorey was the
man who told you if a song was going places. The guy who hung out
with The Beatles and The Stones when they were in town (and
introduced them from the stage) was known simply as ``Mac.''
For years, he hosted the all-important 4 to 7 p.m. slot. CHUM's
chart of the week's top records was posted everywhere: in record
stores and high school lockers. Eaton's and Simpson's would only
stock those 45s that were on the CHUM list. When a new record called
"The Unicorn" came in, McAdorey liked it so much he immediately put
it on the air and it sold 140,000 copies in Canada in two weeks and
made The Irish Rovers.
Thinking back on those heady days, McAdorey said, "We kept it all
clean up here. There was no payola as in the U.S. and we
deliberately helped a lot of Canadians. It was personality radio. We
were promoted like crazy back then. And the pressures were
unbelievable. We dictated what records were going to go. And what
kids would eat, drink.
"I could have written five books about what happened at CHUM.
There'd be one book if I saved my memos. The most frightening thing
was the British invasion. There weren't enough cops to handle the
crowds — it was out of control."
Off the air, he was a bon vivant, said 72-year-old Terry McAdorey.
"We did a lot of drinking. He was a good friend of Ronnie
In 1968, the CHUM deal fizzled. When owner Al Waters brought in
American consultants, McAdorey felt the business was becoming too
heavily formatted and left.
McAdorey headed to CFGM in Richmond Hill, which was trying to
invade Toronto with a country music format. As morning man, he
energized the station. He moved to CFTR in 1970 and after a few
years returned to CFGM.
A constant listener was Bill Cunningham, head of Global TV news,
and he asked McAdorey to contribute satirical bits, which eventually
became a full-time job.
Sample segment: during an airline strike McAdorey headed out to
Terminal 2 with bowling equipment and pins to demonstrate the
building was only of use as a bowling alley. RCMP officers saw
nothing funny in this and whisked him out as the piece was being
Another time during a city campaign to get dog owners to scoop up
deposits, McAdorey and a cameraman went out to do field tests, which
consisted of chasing terrified dogs whose owners had failed the
By 1980, he was entertainment editor. In 1983, Global tried to
fire him when he disagreed over assignments. Global's Three Guys at
noon telecast was a big hit (the others: Mike Anscombe and John Dawe)
and hundreds of daily phone calls forced management to reconsider.
For a time, Global even outperformed CBC's Midday.
McAdorey later got his own afternoon entertainment show where
he'd report from movie junkets and comment on the entertainment
I last chatted with him in 2000 when he was railing against
Global's retirement-at-65 rule. But he looked frail and had been off
for months after a fainting attack.
McAdorey had a farm at Gormley and a place in
Niagara-on-the-Lake. Despite his TV success he still yearned for the
golden days of radio: "I'd walk into the booth in pyjama tops and
jeans and talk one-on-one to people. At least that's the way I
always imagined it."
McAdorey leaves daughter Colleen, her husband Jim Tatti, a Global
sports broadcaster, and four grandchildren.
He was predeceased by his wife Willa, daughter Robin and son
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at St.
Patrick's Church in Niagara Falls.
With files from Gabe Gonda