My Radio Phase

I have gone through many ‘phases’ in my life. There was the time after high school I was going to be a landscaper and snow plow driver in the winter. I landscaped one summer and that was enough of that … and with climate change I don’t think the income potential from a winter’s worth of snowplowing is very secure, at least not in the Greater Toronto area where there’s money but often a lack of reliable snow.

I’m pretty sure my mom thought that my switch to a plant-based diet was a ‘phase’ but after a quarter century that one looks like it’s sticking.

After high school I worked loading trucks for a year (my ‘Styx’ ‘Blue Collar Man’ phase). Then I went to college and got a diploma in radio broadcasting. Once in I discovered that I didn’t really have what it took to speak effortlessly between songs unless I scripted it, which just meant that I sounded like I was reading. I also discovered that on-air people didn’t make much money, so I got into radio sales. Shortly after starting at a radio station in Peterborough my general manager called me in to his office to tell me that he had ordered jackets from a local men’s wear store for all of the sales staff. I, being a newbie, was happy to go along with the team so I purchased one.

Well it turned out it that the jackets were optional and I was the only salesperson who bought one. I offer this photo as proof as to why my fellow salespeople chose to pass on a CKPT Radio suit jacket.

Cam CKPT Jacket

The jackets were made of brown polyester with fluorescent orange call letters of the station. I was mocked by the other salesman (and yes, it was all men in those days) for walking around town looking like the station’s weatherman. Luckily I was young and stupid and spent many days trudging through the streets of Peterborough with my briefcase and my binder of radio facts selling radio advertising. Gloriously enthusiastic about selling radio and oblivious as to how I might appear. Those were grand times!

I think the other reason that the other salesmen might have stayed away from the jacket was because it was 100% polyester and smoking was still popular in those days. It was no wonder I wasn’t incinerated at some coffee shop … where I learned to drink coffee and eat donuts.

This was about the time that “WKRP in Cincinnati” was on TV with Herb Tarleck as the Sales Manager. Now he wore outrageous suits! My friends from my radio days often called me “Herb” in reference to him. In fact they still do.

Recently I was invited to CJBQ Radio in Belleville, ON for my final media interview for the campaign. Well actually it was a one-hour live call in radio show, which I have never done before. So it was one of those ‘approach-avoidance’ things I learned in my first year psychology class at university (in my one year at Queen’s during my university phase). I was really excited about it and pretty terrified at the same time. If the topic had been something I am really comfortable talking about like living off the grid, renewable energy, growing vegetables organically … I would have been fine. I have those topics down pat.

The challenge is that even though I have supported the Green Party for many years, the “Green Vision 2015” policy book is 185 pages long, and it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve read it, unless you’re Elizabeth May the party leader, you can only be so familiar with all areas of policy.

All Candidates Meetings posed the same challenge. If someone asked a question on a topic that I wasn’t familiar with, I might have to answer off the top of my head, but with 3 other candidates taking turns giving the first answer, there was a 75% chance that I’d have a few minutes to rifle through the policy book or think through an answer that is in keeping with the other policies of the Party.

Radio was different. There was no delay. No chance to rifle through the book. Just give an answer. And I assumed that with it being “talk radio I was going to have to be on the defensive. There would probably be at least one climate-change denier with any number of facts to suggest why 97% of climate scientists were wrong. There would the ‘why are you wasting your time with a party that is so unlikely to form a government’ question. Oh, and the “If you tax carbon you’ll destroy the economy…” line which I will admit by now I have developed a strong comeback for.

But no such luck. Lorne Brooker, the host, seemed happy to have me on. And the callers went pretty easy on me. The good thing was I didn’t blow it. I think I represented the Green Party well. The great thing was that it was a blast. It’s been… well… more than 30 years since I sat behind a live mike on a radio station. But it sure didn’t feel that long.


I’m thinking that growing food is way too much work. And the garden isn’t air conditioned like a radio studio. So I’m thinking it’s time to get back into radio. To which I sing the happy jingle our station used to play to convince advertisers that ours was a good investment for their advertising dollars… “Look at radio, hey radio… you’re lookin’ good!” Oh how I miss those days!

5 Responses to “My Radio Phase”

  • Hey Ruth! The first video I posted was the very first pilot episode of WKRP so I am not sure why YouTube took it down. So I replaced it (after seeing your comment) with just a short video of the opening sequence of the show which, unfortunately, it a plug for the entire series available on DVD! Thanks for letting us know that the first link wasn’t working any more.

  • Brian:

    Hey Cam…just think of it this way. Instead of calling you Herb….you now grow them. 🙂

    Funny, my radio jacket was brown with orange letters. I still have it too. 🙂

  • Ruth:

    Ah! A glitch! youTube now accepts the link. Nothing commercially deceptive at all – at least, no more than any other advertising!!!

  • Ruth:

    What, in your video, was “spam, scams or commercially deceptive content” such that you’d be blocked by you tube??? Restless and misunderstood I could believe. Stick with what you are doing. Nobody listens to radio any more.

  • Hey Cam, you know you can’t eat radios. Please carry on growing food, as someone has to do it.

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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