Welcome to JJ-365 Salutes. Over 2018, we pay tribute daily to one of “The Good Ones”. Today we are shining the light on Tom McGouran.
When I first met Tom, he was Music Director and Program Director at KISS 97 in Winnipeg. We were rocking away at CITI-FM and killing it. One day Tom called me out of the blue to meet and talk about a gig which we did. I was flattered, and it came at a great time because I was rethinking radio a bit at the time. Was it still right for me? We had a great chat, but I was happy at CITI. That jawing session though helped me recommit to the business knowing someone outside was valuing my contributions. I came away thinking this is a guy who has a great way about him. He is a student of the biz with a great presence of mind that would and continues to serve him well.
Amazing the many things most of the radio rats have in common. One of the big ones is longing to be in the business at a very early age. Same thing with Tom who grew up in Toronto and listened to CFRB with mom every morning. At five he decided that's what he wanted to do.
He got at it by attending Seneca College in Toronto for 'Radio and Television Arts'. He spent most of his time on the campus radio station and not in class, knowing he'd learn the most by soaking up as much airtime as he could.
In my roles as VP Programming/National Program Director, I was very adamant that our Program Directors give some kind of reply to ALL who apply, and our PD's generally were very good at it. (Thanks, everyone). I tried my best to get back to each and every one who applied to me and still do. I’ll not forget what it was like sitting out in a small remote market dreaming of bigger markets, working hard and making the efforts to get noticed and hearing crickets 90% of the time.
Tom went to work, and I mean work, sending out 200 tapes across Canada! He got 40 thank you letters back and one interview, that at CFMX Cobourg Ontario a new 'Classical' music station. He embellished his classical knowledge (“had none ha-ha!” he says) and got the gig. He was on the air with his lifelong dream of spinning music. Albeit the classics 6-7 hours a day.
If you know Tom, you know he is good at talking friends and listeners into things and usually very humorous stuff. He talked his boss into letting him fill in on CHUC AM and landed mid-days and continued to send out tapes.
Then he got an offer for Afternoons at Saskatoon’s CFMC Rock 103, a progressive rock station like early CITI-FM Winnipeg (now CHR C95 owned by RAWLCO). We all start out wherever we can and hope to be able to get into a format that is more of our preference, and this happened to Tom early as he was now doing Rock Radio Baby! He would stay for an awesome two years before he was off to Q94 Winnipeg in '82, which was short lived because soon he was offered an opportunity at the new 97 KISS FM in the WIC chain (Western International Communications).
Here's where it all started to come together. He met Larry Updike who was doing news by this time, and they discovered a strong on-air chemistry. Tom was also Music Director and Program Director, but says it was the on-air gig that was their greatest times. They had great fun and success until he got fired due to format compliance issues with CRTC that started well before Tom got there. WIC felt that somebody had to pay the price and Tom found himself on the beach.
The next day he got a call from Ross Winters to go to CITI, and it kept getting better from there. He then went back to 97 for money but regretted it and rejoined Larry and Ross a year or so later. The Tom and Larry show had the best of times and huge success at CITI for a number of years.
There are so many stories, but one of the ones that many remind of was the 'hostage incident'. It goes like this: “Larry gets a new bike and is very proud of it and especially his supposedly impenetrable new lock. Enough said…I've got to steal it for fun now! I slipped keys out to a buddy during the show to take the bike and leave the lock on the pole. Over the next few weeks, my buddy sends parts of the bike to Larry and calls the show acting like a weirdo named Buck Manson. He puts some parts in Jello and others he builds weird stuff with some of the bike parts. Finally, I got him in the studio posing as a client until he handcuffs Larry to a chair and pulls out a gun. He has two buddies dressed as cops who come in and shoot him (blanks). It was crazy shit in another time! Meanwhile, we're on the air doing a call segment called 'Morning Prize Question' so listeners can hear all the drama. Listeners call the cops, they surround the building and come in just as the ended. End of story. I almost killed Larry via heart attack. It was just me being a young announcer trying to grab people's attention. Well, that happened, and I paid the price getting suspended etc.! Most important though is Larry and I were able to repair our friendship, but it took a bit, and I am thankful he gave me a break. Over the top and too much?? Yes, but it happened around 25-30 years ago, and people still ask me about it. BTW I have a tape of it but have never listened to it.”
It indeed was a different time. Imagine if that happened now. To be fair Tom was not alone with those kinds of stunts then as many, including Mike Michael Cooper and Rob Christie both pulled of similar shenanigans a few years before Tom’s jarring escapade.
Meanwhile, Ross had ended up in Vancouver at Classic ROCK CFMI as Program Director and along came the big break with the boy’s now on the west coast up against Larry Hennessey and Willy at CFOX. Says Tom, “Not so great success haha! We got our walking papers in 8 months. The experience was all good though, and we loved the city and the people.”
Larry chose to stay with WIC and go back to 97 in Winnipeg while Tom was offered mornings back home at 92 and had his choice of partner. He says it was a no brainer to pick 365’er Joe Aiello who had started as their producer back in their original stint at CITI and whose great personality he loves. He and Joe enjoyed a great run of 19 years full of great times at CITI.
In 2012 Tom was let go by CITI and had a non-compete for 18 months. The search for a gig was not easy he says: “On-air is the only thing I've ever done. I adored doing it and couldn't get a bite.”
He and Larry tried an online show created from scratch that they ran for two years selling their own advertising and marketing etc. They had a blast in his kitchen studio, but it was tough to make a living. When they did shut that down, cash was scarce, and he just needed a gig. He did what he could do. Gigs like telemarketing and labour work like installing concrete driveways, all the while applying for every radio gig in the country and bugging Winnipeg PD's and GM's weekly.
Finally, finally, in Sept 2016 he got an offer from 94.3 The Drive, now a successful Classic Rock station in the 'Peg. “I think they got tired of me bugging them”, he says. He’s been having the time of his life ever since co-hosting the morning show with the talented Kerri Salki. He’s grateful to be finally back at home on the radio, loves working with Kerri, and doesn't intend to leave any time soon!
There are always many to thank. Says Tom: “There were so many instrumental to my career! As mentors and those who inspired me like Jerry Lucky Saskatoon, a rock radio maestro and early mentor. Listening to CITI's 365’er’s Terry DiMonte and Bro Jake Edwards, and JJ. They were always having such a great time and making it sound easy and hearing the passion in their voices! So inspiring! Peter Grant, in early ’97, who gave me so much opportunity to grow. Ross Winters, an inspiring mentor, supporter and friend whose passion for the gig is unequaled. Ford Gardner and Gayle Zarbatany for her unbridled passion, inspiration, guidance, support and friendship.
Heidi Rasmussen, the GM of 94.3 The Drive, had faith in me to bring me in from the cold and give me another opportunity to continue doing what I love. Along with Program Director David Drake who supports and enables us any way he can to be our best every day! And of course, my partners Larry (one of the most intelligent interesting and funny people I know), Joe (one of the nicest and generous and funny people in my life) and now Kerri (one of the sweetest, caring and funny people I know and have the pleasure of working with now!). My god I'd be nothing without them! And not to be corny but Mom and Dad who taught me how to work hard and follow my dream. “
Tom sums up: "Since day one I have loved every minute of my time in radio. I've been the luckiest guy to have worked with such great partners and to have been guided by so many brilliant radio mentors. I've also been humbled to have met tons of listeners over the years who said we made them feel good in the morning.
My advice to aspiring young broadcasters is simple:
My theme is Passion! If you really want to get into this business, you have to do whatever you can to get in! But first, you have to have the passion. It's not a job; it's your life! I strongly suggest trying to get into a small market where you get the chance to do several jobs at once, i.e. On-air, production, voice tracking, promotions, news etc. etc. Offer to do any task for free. Make yourself the go-to person and the most reliable person. Study successful broadcasters and what they do.
When you find your niche on or off the air throw yourself completely into it! Be nice! Prepare endlessly, and I guarantee you will love every minute of it! If you are on-air yourself, let your natural personality shine through.
The more prepared you are, the more natural and engaging you will sound. Have fun every minute. It's the best career you could ever wish for if you understand preparation is a 24-hour job, but that's the best part of it! It is so much fun looking forward to what you are going to share on-air the next day. Never embrace negativity. You will inspire people by being positive. Always accept advice and constructive criticism as it will make you better. Never stop learning!"
Tom is so right. As a content/talent coach, I pound away that “Preparation is a way of life!” It is the key to remarkable content creation, delivery and confidence. As many have heard me say before: “Chemistry is not content, Content brings Chemistry to life!" TM. Keep working at it people and stay employed.
Tom is a smart, talented, creative and resourceful guy who has always had a solid work ethic. I see people who have quit but still come to work every day (known as ‘mailing it in’). That is NOT Tom. He has had great long-term success and has navigated some rough waters like all of us had/have to do. When on the beach he did what he had to do to keep food on the table but never gave up hope and got another break that the good ones get. I’ve heard the phrase ‘hope is not a strategy’. That may be true but hope creatives positive and powerful energy to help keep moving forward. Tom is happier than hell waking up the ‘Peg weekday mornings on The DRIVE. Sometimes people ask him about retirement to which he responds: "Are you kidding! They'll have to carry me out in a box!” I hope you keep it going Tommy and am sure you will!
Thank you, Tom McGouran for being one of “The Good Ones”. Feel free to like and share Tom’s positive story. Who is the subject of tomorrow’s JJ-365 Salutes? As they say, stay tuned.
Jim JJ Johnston is the CEO, President and Chief Talent/Content Coach for JJIMS INC. and works with talent in many different industries.