Nov. 26, 2018 Waterloo Region Record article highlights disc jockey Roger Ashby’s half-century in radio

A Nov. 26, 2018 Waterloo Region record article is entitled: “Disc jockey Roger Ashby’s half-century in radio kicked off in Kitchener: Sitting in a KCI classroom in the ’60s, Roger Ashby already knew his calling.”

An excerpt reads:

Drake vs. The Beatles, for instance.

When it was announced a few weeks ago that the Canadian hip hop star had eclipsed the Fab Four’s record for most U.S. Top 10 hits in a year and — a few years earlier — that Justin Bieber had broken their record for most current songs on the Hot 100, Ashby took it with a grain of salt.

“I don’t deny Bieber and Drake their success,” he allows graciously, “but this comparison to old charts are apples and oranges.”

“Everything is changed — the way they measure is different. There was no streaming then.”

Top 40 then was like social media today: pervasive, inescapable, all-consuming.

Today’s charts, by comparison, are irrelevant outside their targeted demographic, profiling a specific audience whose tastes seldom transfer to the public at large.

“Somebody who listens to a station that doesn’t play Drake may not even know who he is,” notes Ashby, inducted into the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame in 2010.

“But everybody knew who the Beatles and Stones were. Drake and Bieber may have success in their genre, but they don’t appeal to a large, general audience.”



2 replies
  1. Bert Eccles
    Bert Eccles says:

    Thanks for posting this, Jaan. Roger Ashby’s statement that “Everything is changed” has prompted me to make several observations.

    I think that as we age we naturally look back at our youth and remember all that it encompassed. Despite the amusing but incorrect cliché that “nostalgia ain’t what it used to be”, several studies have indicated that the average person’s favourite music tends to be the styles that were popular during his or her early adolescence. Although I do enjoy music from various eras, my personal tastes definitely run towards what I heard in the late fifties and the early to mid-sixties.

    What made that period so vibrant was the amazing mélange of sounds that were commonly heard on AM radio. There were “adult” crooners (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Andy Williams), jazzy stylists (Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee), the fathers of rock ‘n’ roll (Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard), gospel singers turned pop stars (Sam Cooke), pop singers who could have been opera stars (Roy Orbison, Jackie Wilson, Gene Pitney ), teen idols who really wanted to be adult nightclub performers (Bobby Darin, Paul Anka, Bobby Rydell), young ballad singers who could have been doing the same thing in the 1930s (Bobby Vinton), country artists (Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Leroy Van Dyke, Patsy Cline), Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound productions (Darlene Love, the Crystals, the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers), surf and hot rod music both vocal and instrumental (the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, the Ventures, the Surfaris), orchestral and “old folks” music (Henry Mancini, Lawrence Welk), novelty songs (Jimmy Dean, the Big Bopper, Nervous Norvous, Napoleon XIV), teen dance music (Chubby Checker, the Orlons, Dee Dee Sharp), spoken word records (Walter Brennan), comedy (Bill Dana/José Jimenez, Vaughn Meader), Latin sounds (Mongo Santamaria), folk (the Kingston Trio, the Highwaymen, the Brothers Four), falsetto singers (the Four Seasons, Lou Christie), protopunk (Dion, Mark Valentino, Ernie Maresca), white-bread pop (Pat Boone), Hispanic influences (Richie Valens, Chris Montez), early soul (the Impressions, Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, Barbara George), British pop (Cliff Richard), New Orleans R + B (Fats Domino, Ernie K-Doe), young kids (Frankie Lymon, Eddie Hodges, Annette Funicello, Little Peggy March), schmaltzy love songs (Paul and Paula, the Paris Sisters), wild party atmosphere songs (Gary U. S. Bonds, Nathaniel Mayer), calypso (Harry Belafonte), early ska influences (Jimmy Soul),…and even the Singing Nun!

    Was it all great stuff? No, of course not…but it was a constant and wonderful buffet for the ears. You were always being exposed to different stuff and you were guaranteed to like at least some of it…and, as Terry Gilkyson wrote and Dean Martin sang over sixty years ago: “Memories Are Made of This.”

    The memories also include the deejays who brought life (and sometimes annoyance!) to their shows. In Montreal I never heard Roger Ashby, but I – and others – do remember iconic Montreal radiomen such as Dave Boxer, Roger Scott, Lord Tim Hudson, and Buddy Gee.

    With “American Graffiti” in 1973, George Lucas brilliantly captured the ethos of our nostalgia for the music and deejays (Wolfman Jack) of our youth. I knew it then, when I was still relatively young, and I know it today when I’m old. Maybe Danny and the Juniors said it best and oh, so simply: “Rock and roll is here to stay; it will never die.” Well, it might be necessary to change “rock and roll” to “hip hop” or to whatever the trend is during a given individual’s adolescence, but the basic message will always be true.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I was most interested to read your comments, Bert.

    The research regarding a critical period for the acquisition of musical tastes is of much interest. The musical tastes we develop in our late teens or early twenties tend, as the research underlines, to stay with us for the rest of our lives.

    Just recently I’ve been reading Memory (2018), published by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, University of British Columbia.

    An interesting passage (pp. 124-125) reads:

    Not all critical periods occur early in development. Daniel Levitin reported in his 2006 book, This Is Your Brain on Music, that our musical preferences are typically shaped by the genres we listened to in our late teens or early twenties, hence the proliferation of classic rock radio stations in North America that cater to the baby boom generation. It is rare for musical preferences to change in adulthood, and fairly significant social upheaval or immersion (think the 1960s) is required to bring about a deep and lasting change. Is this kind of cultural preference the same as the early-appearing sensory and linguistic ones? Does it involve the same parvalbumin interneurons or a different set of interneurons active in more slowly developing parts of the brain? Perhaps it involve a different mechanism entirely? These questions have yet to be answered.



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