On Friday, November 22nd, 1963, when the Beatles issued their first album in North America on Capitol Of Canada, few could say that CHUM 1050 AM were paying much attention. In fact, other radio stations in Canada had been charting Beatles 45s many months earlier. Notably, Toronto's CFRB 1010 AM had played an imported Parlophone copy of The Beatles' Love Me Do 45 RPM record in late 1962.
But when CHUM finally caught the Beatles bug in December 1963, they moved swiftly to dominate the Beatlemania wave that began in earnest in Canada in early 1964. CHUM would feature The Beatles on many of its weekly CHUM charts between 1964 and 1970. They would also sponsor a Beatles fan club in early 1964 which produced 6 newsletters. When The Beatles arrived in Toronto, CHUM DJs would "emcee" their concerts. Between 1964 and 1966 there were many CHUM-sponsored Beatles contests and by the summer of 1966, CHUM would co-sponsor the Beatles final concert at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. CHUM demonstrated sheer brilliance at marketing The Beatles for its listenership during the peak of Beatlemania in 1964. They would later apply many of the same marketing techniques for Herman's Hermits, The Monkees, The Supremes, etc.
Rival Toronto AM pop station CKEY was simply out-gunned by the CHUM machinery when Beatlemania hit in early 1964. CKEY had also published an excellent weekly chart and these are also well worth seeking out although they are much more difficult to find. Today, the original 1960s CHUM charts and other CHUM memorabilia related to The Beatles are highly sought after by collectors. They serve to document the evolution of The Beatles music in Canada. This brief article explores some of those artifacts and also allows our good readers to also listen in on some audio articfacts recorded directly from the AM airwaves all those years ago.
According to Ron Hall, "CHUM radio first went on the air in 1945, with a mixed bag of programming". In May of 1957, CHUM boosted it's power and became the first 24 hour a day "Hit Parade Radio" (station) in Canada. The first "CHUM CHART" appeared on the 27th May 1957, listing the top fifty songs of the week.". The weekly CHUM top pop charts that were distributed to record retailers and teen shops in and around Toronto and these charts reflected both listener tastes and record sales in the greater metropolitan Toronto area.
A couple of indispensable books have been written about CHUM over the years:
Ron Hall, "The CHUM Chart Book 1957 - 1983", Stardust productions 1984 (hardback, 345 pages)
Ron Hall, "The CHUM Chart Book 1957 - 1986", Stardust productions 1990 (soft cover, 358 pages)
Allen Farrell, "The CHUM Story", Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd., 2001 (soft cover, 260 pages)
There is of course the CHUM Archives web site that is an excellent resource as well, and Doug Thompson and others have done a tremendous job putting that together.
There were of course numerous CHUM sponsored contests for Beatles concert tickets during 1964, 1965, and 1966 (many radio stations in Canada sponsored these) but there were four notable Beatles contests worth highlighting here.
The first interesting contest featured as it's prize a tape recording of The Beatles' Toronto press conference that was held on the stage of Maple Leaf Gardens on Monday, September 7th, 1964. The lucky winner received an open reel tape of the press conference. It is assumed that this tape was in fact a copy of the original tape recording made by CHUM on that day. Brian Epstein himself always frowned upon unauthorized recordings made at Beatles concerts and it is possible that CHUM was reminded of this.
Technologically-savvy teens with access to a reel to reel tape recorder at the time would have made their very own tape copy of the press conference when CHUM re-broadcast the press conference in it's entirety on Saturday, September 19th, 1964 from 6:05 PM through 7 PM. So ...it is not known whether this tape was ever actually given away. More information on the whereabouts of this original 1964 CHUM contest tape reel would be welcomed.
The second notable contest was announced on the weekly CHUM chart for the week of December 28th, 1964 and featured as its prize a John Lennon Christmas Card that was signed by all four Beatles. The winner of the contest, Cheryl Lightstone, was announced on the front cover of the CHUM chart for the week of January 18th, 1965. As seen in the image below, Cheryl was pictured holding her prized John Lennon Christmas Card along with two CHUM personalities. Perhaps Cheryl still has that prized signed John Lennon Christmas card from December 1964.
The third Beatles contest of interest took place in early January 1966 when the new Beatles 45 Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out was topping the charts. The CHUM chart for the week of January 10th, 1966 announced that three contest winners had each received a personally signed photo of The Beatles along with a copy of the UK Beatles Fan Club Xmas Flexi-Disc from December 1965. One of these 3 lucky CHUM prize winners was Pamela Green of Cobourg, Ontario who sent in a postcard (with her name and address on it) and won a signed Beatles glossy photo and a copy of the third Beatles Christmas Fan Club flexi disc. Pamela kept the signed photo for many years afterwards. According to some experts, the Beatles' signatures may actually have been carefully written on the cards by assistant Mal Evans but we would like to believe that they were in fact signed by The Beatles themselves.
The fourth CHUM contest, held in early 1966, used the very latest Beatles single Nowhere Man for its theme. The new single had been issued by Capitol of Canada on Monday, February 21st, 1966 and was on the CHUM chart for 14 weeks hitting the number one spot in April 1966. The CHUM chart for the week of April 18th, 1966 asked teens to send in a drawing of their own version of the Nowhere Man. This was a much more interesting contest in my opinion and CHUM would have received many original drawings from teens that would have been very cool to see.
At this time, the Beatles lyrics had become very introspective and Beatles fans were now able to listen to the lyrics and dwell on their meaning. The lyrics of Nowhere Man are a far cry from "I Want To Hold Your Hand" or "She Loves You" by way of example.
Many thanks to avid audio collector Kal Raudoja who has generously provided the following three audio clips which were saved from oblivion by Kal in his relentless searches for old audio tape reels that feature Canadian top 40 radio air-checks from the 1950s through the 1970s. Thanks Kal !
This is a very odd recording ... it is a young family playing around with what is obviously the father's reel-to-reel tape recorder. This is happening at some point in the early evening. Sounds like Dad has a moustache and has maybe brought out a new tape recorded to record his kids ... and the young boy Jimmy appears to be asking to play with the tape recorder. Jimmy appears to be holding the microphone. He and is brother are talking about The Beatles and Jimmy even sings snatches of She Loves You. His older (?) sister then tells him "don't stick your mouth there Jimmy". Yeesh ! You will also hear Jimmy ask his brother "Richie don't you want a sucker ?". Amid all this chaos you will then hear the CHUM announcer state over the CHUM airwaves that I Saw Her Standing There is at number 1. CHUM charted both sides of Capitol 5112 (I Want To Hold Your Hand / I Saw Her Standing There) at number one for the week of February 10th, 1964 through the week of March 16th, 1964. So this evening had to be sometime during that wintery period when folks were indoors and warm. The CHUM 1050 AM show in the background was called High School Hit Pickers and the DJ announces that the song is number one with the students polled at Kipling Collegiate, Eastern Commerce, and at Orangeville District Secondary School. This odd recording is quite a mini time capsule with much more going on in the background. The snatches of the radio playing in the background help us to narrow down the time period ... the very peak of Beatlemania in Canada !
This audio clip starts with the CHUM jingle for the Hit Picker Hotline and announces that the song is at number 2 this week. Capitol 5555 Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out was issued in Canada on Monday, November 29th, 1965. Unusually, the 45 was issued in Canada almost a full week before it was issued in the USA. The 45 was a double A-side on CHUM and was charted by CHUM for 15 weeks. It climbed the CHUM chart in December and was number one on CHUM in January 1966. The CHUM announcer states "Ho Ho Go Go on CHUM ... are you ready ... Hit Picker Hotline ... Home Favourite Number Two ... " suggests that this air check was recorded either in late December 1965 or early January 1966 ... sometime after December 20th when it was charted by CHUM at number 9 (up from 28).
When this air check was recorded to tape in April 1966, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" by B.J. Thomas was number two on CHUM. The tape stops and then restarts with a brief jingle saying "number one ". Then we are straight into "... he's a real Nowhere Man ". After that comes "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis And The Playboys from the previous year 1965 as on Sunday of this week every third song was a "pop of the past". From the CHUM chart advert this week (see above) we can conclude that this air check hails from a Sunday in April - probably Easter Sunday, April 10th, 1966.
We hope that you have enjoyed these brief audio snippets from a time when The Beatles music was freshly minted on CHUM 1050 AM. Special thank you's to Kal Raudoja and extra special acknowledgements as well to the "unsung" heroes who taped these Beatles songs directly from the air waves on their reel-to-reel tape recorders back in the 1960s. Thanks should also go to those dusty old magnetic tapes that lasted so long ... smile away !￼