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An Achievement of Its Own, CAB Hall of Fame Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Twenty five years ago the CAB began inducting leading broadcast industry figures into its Hall of Fame. With this year's inductees, the total number will reach 243.

By Dick Drew

The newest members will be inducted during this year's annual convention. They are: Raymond Briere of Montreal; Bruce Hogle of Edmonton; Harvey Gatt of Ottawa; Fred Latremouille of Vancouver; Don Lawrie of Brechin; Bob Lockhart of Fredericton; and Philip Yaffe of Toronto. Jann Arden and Michel Rivard are being inducted under the "Music Star" category.

Two broadcasters, Rai Purdy and Paul Reid will be inducted posthumously, and they are the subject of this instalment of Canadian Achievers.

I knew Paul Reid quite well; he was already a radio star at CHML Hamilton when I arrived there in 1961. One of the shows he hosted live was the Italian Hour from 7 to 8 PM weekdays. I followed him on the air 8 to 10 PM as the English voice of the various ethnic shows that were a staple of radio in Southern Ontario in those days.

I always arrived early to stand in the control room and watch him work as I waited to go on. He was awesome. I was almost embarrassed to follow him on the air. Paul was also the freelance national voice of Air Canada, and a very expensive line of perfume, and a cigarette brand.

Paul had magnificent talent and matching good looks. The salesmen loved to sell Paul on location because they knew he would attract a crowd. Every local advertiser wanted him on their commercials because he sold product. As I said earlier, Paul Reid was a STAR

Back then he would voice his now famous Paul Reid's Christmas show live to air. I can still see him in the studio, lights very low, almost dark, engulfed in cigarette smoke, ably accompanied by several ounces of his favourite scotch. He would sit and tell his touching Christmas story from memory. Years later he recorded it, and today copies are available on CD.

Paul was lured to CJAD Montreal where he continued his marvellous career. CJAD still airs his Christmas program every year. I was told recently that it is still their most requested program. It is truly a broadcast classic.

We both had young families and lived close by each other, often sharing the same babysitter. He left CHML for CJAD. I left to buy CKAY, Duncan.

Several years later my wife Aline and I ran into him in downtown Montreal. We promised each other we would "Get together for a scotch someday soon, eh?"

Sadly, we never did.

I think I'll have several in his memory after I tell you about Rai Purdy, another great broadcaster also being inducted posthumously into the CAB Hall of Fame.

Rai can quite legitimately be called "Mr. Broadcasting".

It all began in 1931, at CFRB. In addition to spearheading work on Canadian quiz programs, he was responsible for the first coast-to-coast radio playhouse, Canadian Theatre of the Air, as well as programs such as Penny's Diary and Out of the Night.

One picture that accompanies this story shows media baron Roy Thomson negotiating a contract with Rai in New York in 1955. He signed Rai to stickhandle that significant Scottish TV deal and help launch STV, which eventually placed Thomson on the road to becoming Sir Roy Herbert Thomson, 1st Baron Thomson of Fleet, GBE, D.Litt, D.C.L, LL.D, L.H.D.

Purdy's name is still highly regarded in Scotland, too, where memories of his participation in the famous lost TV show, A Guid New Year (among others) are relived as a classic production and remarkably sophisticated for the time.

If Reginald Fessenden was Radio's First Voice as in the title of the book, then Ted Rogers Sr. and Rai Purdy were surely Reginald's voice coaches.

I had heard so very much about him that when Lee Rickwood, editor of Broadcaster Magazine, asked if I knew Rai and could write up his story, I said yes. But it was only when I began researching it that I realized I knew him by reputation only. There is much more to his story.

His son Brian Purdy, himself a well known broadcaster now retired, shared with me many interesting stories and insights into his dad's remarkable career, starting with those game shows on CFRB. In 1941 he was recruited to produce the Army stage shws in Europe, where he worked with Wayne & Shuster, Denny Vaughn, Robert Farnon and other destined-to-be-famous Canadian talent. After the war Rai returned to Toronto to produce for radio.

He also worked for CBS New York for a while, producing the Stork Club programs and All about Town with Mike Wallace. You name it Rai, did it - and did it well, including being loaned out by Roy Thomson to John Bassett to work on the CFTO-TV application where he later became its program director.

For some 20 years Rai had another nickname, and he was known as "Mr. Telethon" producing and directing over 100 telethon programs for Variety Clubs, Lions Clubs, hospitals and others, raising over $250 million for various causes along the way!

Purdy passed away in 1990, in Vancouver.

His son Brian told me "Dick, my dad was an icon in the business of broadcasting, making the transition from radio to the TV control room, creating all the way. My biggest thrill was in 1982, co-producing with him a 21-hour telethon on CHCH-TV. "

Like father like son. Brian Purdy is being inducted into the CAB Half Century Club at the same conference where his father will be inducted. It doesn't get much better than that.

Rai Purdy, Paul Reid and all of 243 members of the Hall of Fame are true "Canadian Achievers."

I'll sign off now and go reminisce with that long overdue drink of scotch.

Ed's Note:

This column continues our series of profiles of "Canadian Achievers" in the Canadian broadcast TV and radio industry, written exclusively for Broadcaster Magazine by Dick Drew, a well-known achiever himself.

Dick Drew is a Canadian broadcaster and writer. His "Canadian Achievers" series ran in radio syndication from 1984 to 1999, and now appears as a weekly syndicated newspaper column. This column is exclusive to Broadcaster Magazine, and there is more about all the Achievers profiled at www.canadianachievers.com

 
 
 

   

 

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