I corresponded with David on several occasions when I was writing the Part 1 Beatles Canadian Discography book. He was extremely authoritative on The Beatles and was always keen to correct me on some very detailed "Canadian Beatles lore" which I really enjoyed and appreciated. David was a real Beatles "fan" in the truest sense. He was adamant that the first station to play a Beatles single in Canada was London, Ontario's CFPL and I know we sparred over that one.
Recently my colleague Kal Raudoja brought over his old banged up Sony reel-to reel tape player and we enjoyed listening to some old tapes of Dave Pritchard's "underground" show on CHUM-FM from the first half of 1970. Years ago Kal had acquired a stack of reels of material recorded off CHUM-FM from the 1960s and 1970s by a fellow named Steve Buck. Watching the vintage tape reels playing and listening to David Pritchard's "graveyard shift" nightly show from May 1970, recorded well after midnight, was really quite a thrill and brought back many memories of listening to underground rock radio all those years ago. You can certainly tell that it was all done "live" in the studio late at night and there is a very mellow feel to his announcing.
"Underground" FM radio flourished in the larger Canadian cities in Canada in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In Montreal there was CHOM-FM, in Toronto there was CHUM-FM, and in Vancouver there was CKLG-FM. There were of course Am radio stations that would play "underground" music later in the evening; good examples of this were CFRA in Ottawa (Brian Murphy) and CKFH in Toronto in 1967 (Big G. Walters and his "Whole Bag" radio show in 1967). That was a tres cool period for both AM and FM radio in Canada and all down to the technology of transistor radio.
CHUM started broadcasting on FM on Sunday, September 1st., 1963. It was originally a station dedicated to classical music. An advert from July 1965 refers to the station as "Fine arts radio". At this time, their market was pretty much an affluent adult market as few teens could afford FM radio.
￼ With little fanfare, the CHUM-FM station changed to an "underground rock" format on Tuesday, July 2nd., 1968. In fact the new station format was not even advertised on the weekly CHUM chart. For the time being in 1968, he big advertising budgets, weekly pop charts and contests would remain in the domain of 1050 CHUM AM. In 1969 when the Beatles were hitting pay dirt with their albums instead of just the singles, CHUM 1050 were starting to promote their albums on their weekly CHUM charts (the last time a Beatles album appeared on a CHUM chart was Beatles '65 back in December of 1964).
￼ The weekly CHUM chart for October 18th., 1969 features the new Abbey Road Lp. Also the new 45 of "Something / Come Together" was given away as a promo prize by CHUM 1050 AM during the week of October 6th., 1969. The Beatles were hot during that month. A little background on David ... David had emigrated from England with his family as a young boy, attended art school, and joined CHUM-FM in 1969 when they moved from a classical format to the hip underground FM format. The years 1969 through 1971 were the classic underground FM years and Dave's show would start sometime after midnight and run through to 6 or 7 in the morning. Fast forward to early 1970 ...
The Beatles recently announced split up in early 1970 must have had a huge impact on Dave. Like the rest of us Beatles fans, he must have been feeling "down" about the whole mess; it was a real "downer" for so many fans at that time. Sort of like a hangover ... after such a wonderful 6 year party. Dave liked to tinker with recorded sound and obviously had some studio time on his hands (and ears). So within a few weeks he had worked up an idea for a late night radio show dedicated to the history of The Beatles and this show was called "A Night In The Life" (which was an obvious play on "A Day In The Life"). This was also sometimes referred to on air as "The Beatles Progression" and in between all of their hit singles and selected "underground" album cuts like "Yer Blues" from the White Album, Dave inserted a series of short interview snippets with The Beatles themselves. He had pulled together quite a few Beatles interviews from numerous sources and somehow had even conned Paul McCartney into recording a radio spot for CHUM-FM in 1969 when he was still a "Beatle". That was cool. While the original "Night In The Life" show was probably not heard by too many in May of 1970 because of its late night broadcast, there must have been sufficient response from fans to the Beatles breakup because sister station CHUM AM launched a project to syndicate a Beatles Story series as well..
According to Doug Thompson, who began his career as an engineer with CHUM in 1965, "David (Pritchard) had nothing whatsoever to do with the 12 hour program syndicated across Canada in 1970. I was one of 2 producers of that program. I produced hours 1-4 and hours 9-12. Warren Cosford (also with CHUM) produced hours 5-8. CHUM ran it first in the late summer/early fall of 1970, then again at the end of December 1970. It was then syndicated around the world. Warren and I received profit participation from CHUM. It was a project from CHUM AM, not CHUM FM. J. Robert Wood, CHUM AM's Program Director got the idea rolling since The Beatles were breaking up. CHUM writer Bill McDonald researched and wrote it. Warren and I produced it. Chuck Riley (from WIBC Indianapolis) was the narrator. We worked for weeks on this program. I stayed up one entire week to finish my hours so we could make our airtime and wound up in the hospital for 3 days with a swollen ankle. David Pritchard was not asked for, nor did he volunteer, any Beatles interviews. We got them from various sources, including the David Wigg LPs, the BBC, CFOX in Montreal and original CHUM interviews (we phoned Ed Sullivan in New York and Apple set up a phone interview with us and Ringo Starr for this program). David Pritchard was a longtime friend of mine (from 1968 at CHUM AM where he was a board operator. When CHUM FM switched from classical to 'underground', Garry Ferri er, CHUM FM Program Director asked Dave to be the board operator and producer for Murray the K's CHUM FM nighttime show. That lasted only a few months and Dave was then given the all night show). I loaned he and Allan Lysaight a great many of my Beatles and Beatle people interviews that I had conducted over the years for their book, but he was not involved, even as an inspiration in the 12 hour "Story of The Beatles". Just setting the record straight. I still have the master tapes for the entire 12 hour program in my archives." .
As for the source of the Paul McCartney endorsement for CHUM-FM .. Doug Thompson states that "Several people went over there (to Apple in London), but the person that I think got the ID was a CHUM FM (employee) named Hugh Curry. He went to England to interview The Beatles specifically for CHUM FM. Ritchie Yorke was also in England, but I doubt Ritchie would have gotten the ID. He wasn't into asking artists to do those kinds of things for stations. In 1993, when Paul McCartney was in Toronto for his concert at the ACC, ALL media had to come to come at Sutton Place Hotel for interviews. Everyone - CBC, CTV, all the heavyweights, but when his publicist mentioned that CHUM would like to interview him, Paul said "I'll go to CHUM"...and he did. He remembered what CHUM had done for The Beatles back in the '60's. That was his first time inside the then CHUM building at 1331 Yonge Street." .
That 12 hour "Story Of The Beatles" produced and broadcast by CHUM AM in the summer and fall of 1970 was then syndicated across Canada on AM radio in early January 1971. I was living in Quebec near Ottawa at that time and listened to that very Beatles syndicated program on local AM radio station CFRA 580. It was probably the first time that I had listened to a radio series so intently.
The January 1971 syndication effort proved top be very successful for CHUM as Doug Thompson has stated.
After his quirky May 1970 late night effort at summarizing The Beatles story for his underground listeners upon the group's demise, David Pritchard did not lose his interest in The Beatles at all. In fact, Pritchard would later link up with Alan Lysaght and would continue to be creative ... resulting in a great book called "The Beatles An Oral History", and eventually the talking book version as well. David would become known "world-wide as an authority on The Beatles". He is missed.
And later ... CBC Radio advert from Ritchie Yorke's "Rainbow" Magazine, December 1972, page 3. Back to (probably the last week of) May 1970 and Pritchard's "Night In The Life" show though, which he produced. Dave did all of the original research himself. You can hear that it is live and not pre-recorded, as on more than one occasion he repeats some of his own dialogue when he realizes that he has made a mistake. The best parts for me are his own comments on the Beatles music and history. Also his selections of background music are also very clever. We can't roll the whole tape here but we can offer you some snippets of that pioneering end of May 1970 show and for me these are some of the highlights:
1. End of Hey Jude with Dave quoting Glenn Gould's own view of that song.
2. John Lennon discusses what he will do when "the bubble bursts" and then the start of Back In The USSR.
3. End of Back In The USSR and John talks about his Plastic Ono Band concert in Toronto and then the start of Yer Blues.
4. Paul McCartney talks about playing "ballrooms" after Hamburg and then the start of Get Back.
5. Dave Pritchard commentary and then John talks about how he met Yoko and then the start of Come Together
6. Paul McCartney talks about his idea for video taping Beatles concerts and then the start of You Know My Name
7. End of You Know My Name and Dave Pritchard commentary
8. Advert for Scarborough Fair pop festival on June 6, 1970 and then for Nepentha Discotheque, Old York Lane in Yorkville
9. Paul McCartney advert for CHUM-FM from 1969
10. David Pritchard thanks Capitol of Canada for the great job they did on the new Let It Be box set then discusses the break up of The Beatles and the show ends with "Flying" along with the production credit
Through David, the listener gets to feel what most people were feeling about the break up of The Fabs at the very same time that the world was trying to deal with a huge withdrawal ... most could not fathom the pop world without The Beatles. The "Night In The Life" program was created at the very same time that the Beatles' Let It Be box set was being issued by Capitol Records of Canada and perhaps we can say that this radio program was another form of "epitaph" inasmuch as their record company Capitol was joined to the hip of the AM and FM radio station community in Canada.
Thanks to Kal Raudoja for preserving the program on magnetic tape and to Steve Buck of Toronto who made the original recording off the airwaves way back in May 1970. Yes we had wireless stereo music back then too kids.
A salute to you David !