CKLG – 1968-1970 Solid Rocker to the North

Vancouverradiating tower

Seattle area radio listeners weren’t alone in witnessing a rock radio war through the 1960s and ‘70s. Less than three hours to the north, Vancouver had its own AM radio battle royal. And, similar to Seattle, the big winner was a Vancouver station with a history in town well before rock ‘n roll became a huge audience builder.

cklg73But, unlike Seattle, CKLG literally jumped on the rock ‘n roll band wagon when American popular music had its larger-than-life resurgence in the summer of ’64. On August 24, two days after the Beatles performed in Vancouver, CKLG ditched its nine-year middle-of-the-road format by switching to Top 40 rock. Talk about timing.
LG-73 became Vancouver’s third station to take on a rock music format. And after knocking off rock pace setter CFUN, it gained market leader status before 1970. For those — like myself, in Bellingham at that time – who lived and worked in Northwest Washington in those days, it was a treat to hear the talents and successes of CKLG.
Here’s a five-segment composite CKLG aircheck, including Terry David Muilligan April ’68, Daryl B (Burlingham) April ’68, Rick Honey Sept ’69, John Tanner Dec ’69 and Roy Hennessy Nov ’70.

CKLG jocks

Boss Surveys

CKLG brought a new hit radio sound to the Vancouver market in the mid-‘60s. It was program director Frank Callaghan who put the Boss Radio Drake format on the air in ’66, including 20/20 news. The following year LG-73 derailed CFUN on the way to a 16-year run as Vancouver’s Top 40 leader. Callaghan also reprogrammed CKLG-FM out of its easy listening origins in late ’64 to become Canada’s first full-time underground station in March of ’68. A recognized ground-breaker, its alternative music approach was applauded on both sides of the border. Callaghan was program director for 10 of his 15 years at CKLG.

When CKLG-FM signed on in Oct. 1964, the Vancouver Times carried this announcement along with an 8-page multiple-photo insert promoting the city’s new stereo station. In March ’68 the original beautiful music format (orchestra concerts, movie and Broadway soundtracks and MOR covers of pop hit songs) gave way to underground and eventually progressive rock which continued for 11 years.

One of the sage, familiar voices at CKLG was newsman Frank Thompson [pictured in 2006]. He’d worked at Seattle’s KJR from 1969 to ’74, and then nearly 10 years at LG-73. Here’s Frank doing a morning newscast during the Doc Harris show in December of ’76 . . . . .

A native Canadian, Thompson’s career started in Victoria (CJVI), then moved on to Southern California for 15 years – mostly in San Diego (KFMB, XEAK and KOGO) – before his KJR stint preceded his stop at CKLG. He did more than 10 years voice-over freelance work before retiring in 1998. He was living in South Surrey, B.C. at the time of his death (age 85) in 2012.
CKLG -AM cast a remarkable imprint, boasting a continuous 37-year Top 40 presence, longest in Vancouver’s history. It was, during its late ‘60s-early ’70s peak, among a handful of super rockers in all of Canada, and considered a near equal to American west coast powerhouses KFRC, KHJ and KGB. But with the decline of Top 40 and the rising tide of FM, in 2001 LG-AM faded into history. It’s successor stations went through at least two call sign changes and several different focused programming formats (all news, all guys’ talk, all sports and finally all traffic). As for 99.3 CKLG-FM, it enjoyed its own brand of success, but over a much shorter run – 14+ years from late ’64 to early ’79. The station solidified its progressive rock stance, but lost its home-grown architect when Frank Callaghan left following a nasty labor dispute. In ‘76 the program director reins went to long-time LG-73 jock Roy Hennessy. It was Hennessy, in CKLG’s Top 40 beginnings, who visited the Bay Area and then alerted Callaghan to the exploding new potential of Bill Drake’s budding format. And, ironically, it was Hennessy who voiced LG-FM’s final sign-off which transitioned to the much pre-announced CFOX-FM sign-on. Here’s the audio clip of that signoff on January 6, 1979 . . .

These pages are mostly devoted to CKLG’s ’68-’70 period because that’s what I most remember. I was fresh out of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet and working at a 1KW daytimer in Bellingham. LG’s strong signal was clearly competitive with others in town. And it was hard to ignore those jocks, the 20/20 news and that exciting, repetitive Drake cadence — all of which was the station’s trademark, its signature. CKLG had the full package, I thought, during those, my formative broadcasting years. Apparently, a lot of CKLG’s listeners also thought so.

Author: Ronald DeHart

Ron DeHart is a former newspaper and broadcast journalist and a retired Public Affairs Officer from both the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserve. His historical accounts of Pacific Northwest broadcasting are published by Puget Sound Media. View more articles by Ron DeHart  

3 thoughts on “CKLG – 1968-1970 Solid Rocker to the North

  1. I was a dj at CKLG-FM 1968-76 & it was a Great Time. I played the rock tunes & eventually got an all jazz show there while living part way up Mt. Seymour in a log cabin with a waterfall in back & the mountain stream providing water & running by the cabin where I lived with the Norwegian Princess Turgeldi & a pure bred Great Dane. Happy Happy Times!!

    1. heck Bob, I remember you from LG. Didn’t you come from the bay area originally? You actually turned me on to Jazz, although I still loved free from radio. LG had such an eclectic mix, I remember even classical pieces showing up there occasionally. before the suits gettign contril. On the subject of which i see Roy Hennessy just died.

  2. Bellingham was definitely the place to live, growing up in the mid-to-late ‘60s. Imagine what it was like to have a push button AM radio in your ‘56 Ford, with each button programmed from left to right to include 73CKLG, KJR, Seattle, Channel 95, 11-7, KPUG, Seattle’s KOL, AND CFUN 141, the choices…every time your started the car. And then were the jocks on the different day parts that you could bounce around and listen to so there were never any lapses in good radio listening. Do remember KJR reception being more difficult during the day due to interference from local KENY/KBFW bleed over on 930. A guy had to run home up Lakeway Drive to tune in FM Radio on the combo TV/Radio console to hear Scott Campbell on new FM Channel 104 KERI out at Birch Bay, or to discover CKLG-FM playing psychedelic album tracks in the middle of the night, with the overnight jock coming on over the music and interjecting “Avoid the brown acid…in Gastown”. Don’t recall ever using that line in my subsequent career, but stole (I mean borrowed) plenty of the other things I heard during that time. Where…oh, where has that kind of radio gone?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Some comments may be held for moderation. (New users)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.