Walking down the hall of fame
By Chris Stanford
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
It may come as a surprise that a radio guy might be at a loss for words – especially one with the experience Ted Farr has. But that‘s exactly what happened when the former program director of Vancouver country music radio station CKWX found out he was to be honoured with entry into the B.C. Country Music Association‘s Hall of Fame. “I was totally shocked,” said Farr, who now works in talk radio as a consultant and calls West Kelowna home. “I had no inkling that was going to happen.”
Farr, who was also vice president of the BCCMA for a time, left country radio 20 years ago after a decade at CKWX. One of the things he‘s most proud of, and in large part the reason for his selection to the hall of fame, is his role in helping B.C.-grown artists get their careers off the ground. He saw the rise of singers like Lisa Brokop, Ron Irving, Larry Wayne Clark and Patricia Conroy, all of whom went on to have careers in a notoriously tough business.
As he gets set to join fellow inductees at a gala show Saturday at the Red Robinson Theatre in Coquitlam, Farr had a chance to look back at his career. “What was radio like in those days?” said Farr. “Well, it was huge. I mean, you had the emergence of albums, some of the biggest names that are still working today, like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.”
Although he was initially recruited to be the news director at CKWX back in 1981, within months Farr was promoted to program director. For the next 10 years, he had a major hand in deciding what artists and songs got air play on the station. A champion of local talent, Farr also saw an opportunity to foster the best country songwriters in the province. In the late ‘80s, he helped create the CKWX songwriters competition, creating ties between the songwriting talent in B.C. and Nashville, the home of country music. The contest ran for five successful years. While it‘s common for British Columbia-based songwriters to spend time there now, it was a rarity back then for someone from north of the border to break into that market. Farr had a hand in changing that for the better. “I became friends with many songwriters,” he said. “The stories that they tell, there was a great connection there for me. (Country music) always had an audience in British Columbia . . . and there was always something going on.”
According to Farr, who incidentally stands several inches past six feet in height, his radio career started almost by accident. A physical education major in school, he also played basketball in Texas and in British Columbia,
“My best friend‘s brother was in the radio business at (Vancouver station) CKLG, he was the news director,” said Farr. “He phoned me up one day and we had a conversation. “He phoned me back the next day and said he had recorded it and played it for the program director and would I be interested in doing reports on the B.C. high school boys basketball tournaments. “Because I know the game I said sure . . . I never did finish my degree and I‘ve been in radio ever since.”
A move to Winnipeg in 1973 to station CKY saw him move up to the position of news director, a position he assumed after he returned to LG73 four years later. In 1991, Farr returned to Winnipeg where he moved into the talk radio arena with station CJOB as program director from 1991 to 1997. He later was based in Calgary, where he moved up the food chain to become the operations manager and national program coordinator for a group of talk radio stations, before finishing his full-time career as vice president of news talk programming at a pair of stations in Saskatchewan in 2008.
Although he fully enjoys the talk radio format, Farr still fondly recalls his start on the air four decades ago.
“It was extremely exciting in those days,” said Farr. “Most stations were on AM – FM hadn‘t yet caught on and CKLG was the biggest station in Vancouver. “Some of the things that happened back then, like the birth of Greenpeace. I remember reporting on Woodstock and the death of Jim Morrison. I talked to John Lennon from the bed-in in Montreal.”
In late 2009, Farr was diagnosed with throat cancer after discovering a small lump in a lymph node on the side of his neck. With a primary tumour at the base of his tongue, he began radiation and chemotherapy treatment at the Cancer Centre of the Southern Interior here in Kelowna. After nearly 40 treatments, he was declared cancer-free in August, 2010.
These days, Farr works as a radio talent coach and programming analyst, but said he plans to become a mentor to others facing the same battle against the type of cancer he had. Just like he helped out many B.C country music artists when they needed a hand getting their careers going back in the ‘80s, Farr is ready to help out where he can today. And if there were a hall of fame for that, he‘d probably be a member there, too.