Steve Schijns and Sixties Radio
I began my community radio career in 1979 as a volunteer at CFRC while an Engineering student at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario. It was a fun way to be creative, meet interesting people, balance the tough engineering studies, and play great songs. I started with general rock shows, request shows (play “Free Bird”, man…), and fill-ins, but in 1980 began my own specialty program, called The Good, The Bad, and The Sixties. It would allow me to play a wide range of pop and rock from the decade, with a particular focus on the obscure and interesting rather than the million-selling hits. I did a lot of research and brought some (too much?) information to the between-song chatter. In order to avoid the daytime Canadian Content regulations for AM radio, the show ran at midnight every Friday. I ended up airing a few dozen episodes until graduation in 1982.
After graduation I wound up in Ottawa, where I joined Ottawa’s community radio station, CKCU 93.1 FM in 1983. It was a bigger, more professional operation, and I pitched them on bringing my 60s show back to life. https://www.ckcufm.com/
The CKCU show was called (appropriately enough) The Sixties. Over the course of 71 hour-long programs between July 3, 1984 and November 5, 1985, I explored all the nooks and crannies of the pop music of the 1960s. In this pre-internet age, I drew on my own singles, albums, and tapes, those of fellow collectors, and the station’s library to bring to light the groups and sounds that I thought deserved some exposure – not more Beatles! The shows were thematic, and sometimes focused on particular groups. I was able to score some great interviews and live conversations (Scott McKenzie, Elaine ‘Spanky’ McFarlane, Richard Patterson, Les Emmerson) and sometimes went beyond the music to delve into the youth / protest / beat scenes.
I left Ottawa in late 1985 to travel around the world, and handed the show off to fellow CKCU DJs and 60s fanatics Roch Parisien, Ian McLeish, and Chris Lyne. Dave Sampson soon joined in the fun, and the show carried on – amazingly – for more than three decades! Dave in particular applied a depth of interest and resources that I could only dream of. Just imagine, The Sixties ended up with something like 1,600 hours of original weekly programming – what a fantastic resource for Sixties music fans! I participated in a joint 30th anniversary program, which is archived with 238 others at https://www.mixcloud.com/thesixties/
I am proud of the fact that I was creating radio shows that nobody else was at the time, and it was only decades later that others began to use the internet to create channels and programs that approach the sort of work I did in the 80s. It’s also interesting to consider that, at the time of my show, the Sixties were only 14 years in the rear view mirror, but without “oldies” radio and internet resources, the non-hit music of the decade was already slipping into obscurity.
I recorded many of the shows (on a cassette recorder, off the radio at home while I was at the studio – not right off the soundboard!) and they are interesting to listen to from a historic perspective. The audio quality of the cassette tapes is pretty sketchy; some are sped up (especially the first few minutes) while others sound like they are a hundred years old! But you get the idea….