ROCK RADIO SCRAPBOOK
TOM RIVERS ...
To the left are airchecks of Tom Rivers (these same airchecks, with descriptions, can be found elsewhere on Rock Radio Scrapbook):
Many people have provided their special recollections of Tom Rivers:
(Note: Many of these were written shortly after Rivers death.)
When I first heard Tom Rivers, I thought I was going to be disappointed. Disc jockeys never look as you picture them.
Tom, though, was just right. He was the average looking kid with the unruly hair at the back of the class with his arm around The Girl, six-pack at his feet, smirk on his lips and a twinkle in his eye. But it was the microphone on his belt that made him dangerous.
In the 60ís, Iíd grown up in Winnipeg listening to some great DJs. The wide expanse of the prairies brought me the warmth of Peter Jackson and the content of Chuck Dann at CKY. Darryl Burlingham had style at CKRC; Johnny Walker motormouthed at CKCK; Gary Gears had Godís balls at WCFL and Dick Biondi pushed the creativity envelope at WLS.
Tom Rivers at CHUM, in the Ď70s and Ď80s, was the only DJ I would ever work with that had a little of all of themÖ.yet a personal something else that was indefinable. But as I came to work with Tom, it was his "little boy charm" that I found his most appealing trait. Radio was his act.
Like most DJs, he couldnít read commercials worth shit. It was a challenge to cast him in things that allowed him to be who he was on the air. The key was to make the commercial for "Tom". Personality Commercials. If Tom ever finds an agent who understands that, theyíll both make a lot of money.
As radio tightened up and FM was coming on, I could tell that Tom was getting bored. So I put the most creative board operators in with him to see what would happen. Bob Huminick and Tom Rivers were dynamite dripping. Their "Junko Awards" skit, alone, probably set CHUM back ten years politically. But not only that. Tom was held in such high regard by baby DJs such as Mike Cooper, that his influence would often get us all in trouble. He was every motherís worst nightmare.
Whenever he left CHUM, for whatever reasons he left, Tom always kept in touch. One time a tape arrived from Philadelphia. It contained episode after episode of a 2 minute radio series chronicling the adventures of The Stoned Ranger and his Indian companion Toronto that Tom and come cohorts had written and produced for WIBG. It was brilliant. Rock and Roll Theatre of The Mind Radio. Iím sure "The Kids" had never heard anything like it.
The Stoned Ranger was as harmless as Bob and Ray and probably less provocative than Amos and Andy, however The Lone Rangerís lawyers and The Indian Nationsí Chiefs were not amused. Lesson learned. In the future, Tomís Characters would be Caucasians who didnít hold copyrights.
It seemed like Tom was always running into people who couldnít take a joke.
In his personal life, Tom Rivers was his own worst enemy. His women knew theyíd always find him somewhere near a radio station. I know it drove J. Robert Wood crazy. But the little boy charm and all that talent usually saved him. "Only Tom" would stage a playful vendetta against a CHUM VP of Sales. Poor Wes Armstrong. He probably still locks up his car and hides the tires when he hears Tomís in town.
Maybe the best DJs are always one step away from jail.
How many times did Tom work at CHUM? Three? Four? But each time we got into talent trouble Bob would ask meÖ."should we bring back Tom?" We always did. The last time from Alaska! Rivers was running out of room.
Thereís a certain irony that Tom finally got it all together at CFTR, CHUMís long time rival. Although it would be Wood who took the heat for Tomís final firing at CHUM, it was also Wood who had earlier put his reputation on the line to help Tom find jobs in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
For a while in the 80ís Tom propped up AM rock radio in Toronto, but of course it couldnít last.
Over the past few years Iíve watched him drift through some smaller markets and hoped he would stick. Itís fitting that heís back in Toronto where it really all began for him. Tom doesnít need music to make Radio.
Wherever he is, Tom Rivers will always make the radio station better. Although itíll take some pretty bright people in management to support him and to get it.
I hope heís found them.
Rock On Mothah!
I worked with Tom at both CHUM and CFTR. I always regret not shooting some video of Rivers and Erik Tomas doing "The Unfriendly Giant" routine because it was even funnier to see it. We all had a lot of fun working with Rivers.
But Tom always needed a challenge. At one point CHUM cut back his bits. I knew there would be trouble when I saw Tom in the studio one morning with his feet up on the desk reading the paper while he was on the air. He was bored. And when someone is bored in radio... Well... Toronto we have a problem...
The most awkward moment in my relationship with Tom was when I was told about 8:45am one Friday morning that Tom would be fired (second, third time???) at 9. It put me in an impossible position. Tom never really forgave me for not telling him. I was damned either way.
Incidentally, CHUM unwittingly made the mistake of firing him on his birthday, a fact that Tom managed to exploit rather handily in the subsequent press coverage.
Tom sued. That triggered a problem for me about a year later. I always had disagreed with CHUM management on the airing of company dirty laundry. I made a point of objectively reporting stories which might have put CHUM in an unfavourable light, arguing that it was important for credibility. After all CBS covered strikes and lawsuits against it. I always got proper shit. However when the ruling on Rivers' case came down, I was expressly forbidden in advance from reporting it. (Prior restraint?) CHUM did not come off too well in the ruling which sided with Rivers. Naturally it was all over the papers, television and other radio stations while CHUM didn't say a word. I raised hell in seventeen directions. Eventually I got a grudging admission that perhaps I had been right.
Unfortunately Tom's brand of creative radio is out of fashion. Yet when we worked on the CHUM retrospective this year and we played some fifteen year old airchecks of his bits, they were still timelessly hilarious. I just hope for the sake of both Tom and the industry that somebody realizes that a special resource is being wasted.
When Tom started doing
mornings at CHUM, I was the overnight jock. We used to tape this bit
called "THE SUNSHINE SHEEP." Tom has this wool fetish. He'd roll the
"Miss America" theme, and sing "There she is, she's the sunshine sheep."
Complete with bleating, whip cracks etc.
I think you'll remember, from one of my earlier emails,
that Tom Rivers was very generous to me when I was starting out.
MORE FROM ADRIAN BELL
This is a huge loss, and I'd like to offer my sincere condolences to his wife Nanci and his family.
Tom had a huge heart and a devilish smile. His work in
the Toronto radio market and others speaks for itself. He was a giant of
morning radio in Toronto - at 680 CFTR- where he entertained a million
people on the radio at the height of 'TR's ratings. Of course his career
also included successful stints at CKLW, CHUM etc.
Tom you are sadly missed. Condolences to The River's Family and Rivers Airforce.
In my life, and in many others that visit here, you were a close comrade, an unfailing friend and an inspirational ally.
But when our corporate allegiance had to change you became an unflinching competitor and a fearsome foe.
You taught us all at least this one thing, that we had to 'Lead, follow or get out of the way.'
I read a quote yesterday that I hope applies here.
"What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight- it's the size of the fight in the dog." (Dwight Eisenhower)
Tom, you were not only the biggest dog in the fight, but had more fight in you than most we'll ever know.
If it's true the fight is over, then rest, with honest thanks for your courage and caring from those who were privileged to know you.
Tom was probably one of the finest "jocks" to ever walk through the control room door at CHUM. I had the honour of working with him in Production (he couldn't read a spot) and also got hauled in as a couple of his Morning Show "voices"...The alien from the lunch room and Khareem of Khareem's Super Serve during the gas crisis in the 70's. Tom's show was at it's best when he was teamed with Bob Humenick as his Op/On Air Producer/Writer...those 2 made it work! When you talk with him please ask him if he remembers his parody spot (he made this one work) The O'Jays at The O'Keefe.It was amazing radio as he pushed the envelope every morning and it was a ton of fun!
"TARZAN" DAN FREEMAN
To hear the news about Tom's passing is something that makes me feel
completely devastated. This was not only a media ICON and one of my
heroes, but someone with a genuine heart down deep inside. From the time,
as a kid growing up in Toronto, when he invited me to sit in on his show,
to years later working together everyday, (he was doing aft drive and I
was doing evenings at CFTR) following the man who always had a good fish
story, and a word of advice. Eventually when he left CFTR I thought OMG I
have HUGE shoes to fill in aft drive...well...cuz...his feet were BIG and
his talent ENORMOUS! Tom kept in contact over the years, and then running
into him in the halls @ CHUM the day I started, and feeling like
WOW...that's TOM RIVERS!!!! I never lost that boyish feeling when I would
be around Tom. That feeling never left me...from the day he told me as a
young dj...to take a job in Calgary...cuz if ya don't jump you can't FLY!
To most recently when I took his parking space @ CHUM while filling in
mornings,and he threatened to flatten me and my Jeep in the parking lot
with his big bad ass truck. Yet you always knew it was in fun.
I prefer to keep most of my thoughts and memories of those I have known private. Tom Rivers is one of those memories.
As others have noted - Rivers and I never hung out together. I believe strong friendship for him was something that was very deeply rooted and only the best got in.
Recently we chatted by e-mail about finally getting together for 'that coffee' but we kept putting it off. We humans error in that, we always figure there will be another day.
Tom and I were at CHUM together. He shaking up AM and while I was in FM. I will always remember seeing him walking about in those flourescent lit cement hallways - painted lime green or some other shade of equally unfortunate.
We would pass and do the greeting thing. He towered like a giant Sasquatch - wearing a huge brown leather cowboy hat. Always a smile. Never a negative word, just a huge friendly bear who was an amazing radio guy because he loved the damn business.
The private words will always remain private.
The recognition of a broadcaster who really knew how to communicate and at the same time shake-up the suits and - yes - the listeners, will always be public.
Tom Rivers to the public YOU I knew - you have put on your glowing white wings and then you flew away.
But Tom - for those of us left back here...you did it too early!
I'm still in shock.
Ever since reading about the news, I've been going through the motions. I had to go the bar and drink my thoughts into a stopper trying to fathom the loss of a friend of 15 years.
My friendship with Rivers started back in 1989 when he and CFTR were the top thing on Toronto radio..but I don't need to get into that...
I just need to talk about what he did for me.
When I was doing my co-op at CJEZ - which Tom hooked me up with - I was able to get to know him as a friend. A True Friend. Someone who I can give a call to and have him feel my pain and sympathize with me but also being able to put me in my place.
I remember one day I was at the local donut shop and got in fight with my mother. He asked me if I had a place to stay. I said "I'm going to stay at my girls house..." he replied, "Shaner, you sound like a pimp!"
He always knew how to make a problem better.
Always with a laugh. A true good guy with the one liners.
One of them I do recollect is when I was sitting in on his show at TALK640 when he and Silver (or, as Riv called him..Slut) were talking about birthdays. It was Ellen's. He said that it was Ellen D's birthday. Silver said "Oh yeah?". Tom noted that "she was on Oprah the other day" *short pause* "She was also on her show, too".
In pure Tom PERFECTION.
I was thinking about who I needed to call all these radio sorts I haven't talked to in years..Silver, Killer B, Cooper, Little A, Shelley Wright.....I know they'll be dealing with it like how I am.
I haven't cried yet.
It hasn't hit me yet.
But when a superhero dies, it never really does.
I won't say Goodbye, buddy. All I'm going to say is I'll see ya on the water.
Rest peacefully, my friend.
When I was gutting it out on the overnights doing news updates and oping the board on TALK640 I had the pleasure of seeing Tom come in every morning. We'd share a smoke and I'd watch him prep his show. On the occasions that my buddy Perry McIntosh (Sound) was tardy I opt the first portion of his show and had the chance to banter with this broadcasting behemoth. He was always cordial and along with Larry Silver and Evelyn Macko I was surrounded by absolute professionals. I wasn't a young punk at the time either (28) but I felt like a minion amongst giants. Learning their broadcasting methods and actions helped develop mine, both in news and talk formats. Tom showed me a lot about having fun, appreciating how fleeting a medium I'd chosen and bending the rules for the sake of entertainment. It was a lesson not lost on me. I'm thankful our paths crossed.
My first exposure to Tom Rivers was running his "The Unfriendly Giant"
show as a wet behind the ears rookie kid working at 620 CKCK in Regina.
Little did I know that years later I would be working with "Unfriendly."
I'm numb with the passing of yet another friend. Tom and I shared some rockin' good years at CHUM. We were room mates for a while in fact. We also shared a passion for flying and he got his licence and went for it a few years ago. He was truly one of the most creative radio talents I've ever worked with and his satirical creations like Rocketman, Cousin Raoul and X-100 are legendary. I'm digging in the basement for those tapes right now. I was privileged to share that CHUM Memories forum with Tom a few years ago. Tom was also a great friend, a good Dad and the love of Nanci's life. I'm grieving but smiling too at some of those poignant pieces of masterful radio I witnessed across the glass.
To me Rivers was 'The Shotgun on CHUM.' Now he joins 'Jungle Jay', Boliska, Wolfman, The Bear...and so many other favs of mine from my childhood. They say that if there is a Rock 'n' Roll Heaven, they must have a hell of a band...well if there is radio in heaven...it has to have one HELL of a morning show!
Lead, follow, or get out of the way".
When I arrived in Toronto, wet behind the ears in the fall of '75,
Rivers was already a legend.
Happy Trails, Brother. There was never anyone like you and will never be, again.
CRAIG M. SMITH
Even though I only met Tom a few times, I was still a little star
struck everytime I saw him. A bigger than life personality with the name
recognition anyone in the biz would give their right arm for. The best
part was, radio was always second in the conversation...Fishing was first.
Nanci would tell fish stories about her and Tom landing that lunker
bucketmouth on their private lake. I wish I had the chance to wet a line
While I can't say I 'grew up' to Tom Rivers (as I'm only one year
younger!, I do feel that I 'stayed young' with Tom Rivers. As Tom kept
returning 'to the scene of the crime' with his many stints on CHUM plus AM
740 and most recently JACK-FM, he reminded us of our youth. The music, the
jingles but most of all the 'voice' putting it all together. Without the
'voice', it is just a jukebox with your favorite compilations. I must have
almost every meaningful song from '55 to '66, but I keep listening to
CHUM, 1150 &' KB because the music without the 'voice' is the soundtrack
without the movie. We miss Jay, Terry, Darryl B, Rick Honey, Norman B,
Fulton, Big G Walters, Special 'K' Kenny Wells and now Shotgun Tom. It's
been a tough couple a years. Too many, too soon.
Just wanted to say publicly that I was lucky enough to have had the joy of working with Tom for almost ten years during his time at CFTR in the 80s . In any job that I have ever had in any occupation I have never met a more giving person. Tom was by far one of the most talented and creative people in the industry, he was also the first to get the people around him involved in his fun! He taught me about character work, how to use sound effects effectively and so much more I could go on and on. Tom was also one of my dearest and closest friends away from work, no matter whether we were moving giant rocks around his back yard doing landscaping or lugging an aluminum boat down a cliff so we could go fishing we always had a good time. Tom was a friend who no matter what always had time for you and always knew how to help you back to the brighter side of life. Hey ď Riv Kid !Ē you were one of my best friends you gave me more than you will ever know and I miss you huge already. As I sit here writing this with a tear in my eye I guess I will quote the Swami ... ďThe answer is gone but NEVER forgotten ..... and the question .... describe my friend Tom Rivers.Ē
Tom Rivers, a true inspiration. A man who loved his job and took risks in the business. I didn't have the chance to listen to Tom back in the hay days, but I do know that he had an incredible past. His journey through such diverse radio markets brought him some top notch media knowledge. I had Tom as a teacher at Seneca College in Toronto. It was a privilege to be in his class and to listen to what he had to say. If it wasn't for him I don't think I'd be where I am today. I still remember him telling me what happened at CHUM-FM just before I ended up turning on that microphone as the youngest DJ to step foot into 1331 Yonge. "Rob, I stopped by Mr. Farina's office, showed him your tape, he was looking for young talent, I told him you were ready for the big time." Tom took a chance with me. He was a guy that gave great direction, but always kept things fun and creative. One thing I will always remember is that great big grin and his amazing sense of humour.
Tom wasn't just a radio legend, but a wonderful human being.
He will always be remembered.
ROCKIN' RAY MICHAELS
I like so many other's hearing of Tom's passing I am shocked ... and saddened by this news, I had the TRUE pleasure of working with Tom at EZ Rock and we had a ton of laughs ... Tom will be dearly missed by many, and I must say he was quite the character ON & OFF AIR ... A HUGE loss to the Radio Industry ... Our condolences to Tom's Family, our prayers are with you ... Rest in Peace Tom.
I worked with Tom in Edmonton at Mix 96 when he came to do mornings I came to do afternoon drive. He was a joy to work with on and off the job. We used to go into the local "establishments" and play the 'name that tune' and 'trivia' games ... until we were banned! I loved the way he stood up to management, and for his rebel ways. One night in a club as the music was playing he said this song says it all for me ... it was "Desperado" by the Eagles ... so when you hear that song...think of 'old Tom.
Like all I was shocked to hear of the passing of an old friend. Riv was
one of those gentle giants that will always have a warm place in my heart.
From the pre ratings parties, to the fishing, to radio you always
Was lucky enough to meet/know Tom
when I began as an overnight op at Talk 640...he'd come in to do the
morning show and we'd chat about radio stuff. Was always supportive and
encouraging to a newbie like myself. Very sad day...huge talent.
(Bottom three photos courtesy Bob Laine and Doug Thompson/The CHUM Archives)
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