Welcome to JJ-365 Salutes. Over 2018, we pay tribute daily to one of “The Good Ones”. We are now into the last month of this year-long initiative to try and create more positivity in somewhat crazy times. Today we are shining the light on Doug Thompson.
So far Doug has won 154 awards from around the world for creative excellence. He's been THE person behind the legendary production sound of CHUM, the creator/writer-director of countless famous radio documentaries, among a million other things. Like the best producers, and Doug is the best at it, he can bring out the best in the talent he works with. He makes you feel good, comfortable and confident, and is not afraid to work you one way to another to get the absolute best sound out of you.
His first memory of radio was growing up in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario listening to classic radio programs...Jack Benny, The Lone Ranger, Allen's Alley, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. He was fascinated by the incredible voices he heard, William Conrad as Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke, Jack Webb on Dragnet and Fred Foy on The Lone Ranger.
When his family moved to Oakville (his father was in the army), he discovered CHUM 1050 and from 1959 on was a constant listener. He was only allowed to listen to CHUM's late and great all-night DJ Bob Laine on Friday and Saturday nights, never on school nights. During the annual CNE in late August, he'd hang out (like many future radio rats) at the CHUM Satellite Station all day and watch and listen.
Through CHUM, like a lot of us, he had an incredible music education - rock and roll, pop songs, instrumentals, country, light jazz and even novelty records (he loved those...and still does) all on one station. When he was 13, he vowed that one day he would work for CHUM. It took him five and a half years, but he did get there, and Bob Laine became a wonderful mentor and a lifelong friend--just like he'd been on the radio.
Doug started his radio career at CJCA Edmonton. His best friend from that time, Mike Grant and he hung around the station after school answering phones for DJ's Barry Boyd and Lorne Thompson (no relation). In May of '64, Mike and Doug were hired as board operators for remotes on CJCA AM and a six-hour nightly shift at CJCA FM (which years later became K97). His FM shift was six to midnight as he says “playing far too many easy listening records, opera, classical, everything but the music that I loved.”
During the Christmas holidays of '64, he dropped a tape of his board operating (on a CJCA remote broadcast) plus a couple of letters of recommendation from CJCA DJ's to CHUM Program Director Allan Slaight. CHUM hired him as a $65.00 a week board operator. He started February 1st, 1965 working with the same DJ's he grew up listening to: “It was a trip. That first weekend, I operated for CHUM's newest DJ, 365’er Duff Roman who like Bob Laine, became a lifelong friend and colleague.”
Doug was passionate about production so, after his nightly shift, he'd sit in the CHUM production studio and teach himself to produce. He couldn't get enough of that, and within two years he was promoted to the production department. When CHUM FM switched from classical to 'underground radio' in June of 1968, Doug experimented like never before. He played music backwards under commercials, used super tight, quick cut editing on promos, used strange noises.... all in the name of creativity and 'oh, what fun' he says. Eventually, he rose to become Production Manager for CHUM-AM and FM.
He did his very first radio documentary at CHUM in 1967 with his pal Duff Roman. It was a one-hour special on The Monkees and their fans. It was his first on-air credit. Two years later, he produced CHUM's 28-hour "History of Rock and Roll". Then in 1970, Warren Cosford and Doug produced CHUM's first internationally syndicated special, the 12-hour story of the Beatles.
That started him on a new career path writing and producing radio specials and over several decades, he’s created over a thousand hours of programming and worked with celebrity narrators such as David Foster, Randy Bachman, Ian Thomas, Dave Thomas, John Candy, Ringo Starr and Graham Nash.
In 1983, Tom Rounds at ABC Radio/Watermark hired him to write a 24-hour radio series called "Ringo's Yellow Submarine", hosted by Ringo Starr. What a trip he says: “It was my first time to England in January 1983. That was the coldest I'd ever been in my life, and I lived in Edmonton for four years! But what fun recording with Ringo at Tittenhurt Park. On the final day of recording, Ringo had his Beatles drum kit set up in the studio and gave us a drumming lesson Ringo style.”
Doug freelance engineered at Eastern Sound in Toronto from 1977 to '83 and that's where he first met and recorded John Candy. They became fast friends, and in 1985, he hired John to narrate a 26-hour series called "Rock 30" for the 30th anniversary of rock that ran across Canada. John had such a good time that he wanted to do more, so Doug created the weekly 90 minute "That Radio Show with John Candy". After John moved to LA in 1988, they made a deal with Transtar (which became Unistar) and created "Radio Kandy", a weekly two-hour radio show. Doug was the Creative Director for John’s production company, Frostbacks Productions, based in Los Angeles through this.
‘Radio Kandy’ had all the SCTV cast as guest stars. Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty were writers and performers. They had Levon Helm, Peter Frampton, Clarence Clemons and dozens of guest stars. That lasted two years. An agent from CAA wanted to sign Doug as a sitcom writer, but he never saw himself writing sitcoms, so back he came to Canada as Creative Director/Executive Director at Telemedia Network Radio, and then the Creative Director for CHUM Radio’s sports network, The Team. Next was imaging Producer for Newstalk 1010 CFRB Toronto and then Senior Writer/Director for the genius Terry O'Reilly at the great creative house called Pirate Radio & Television, Toronto where Doug wrote and directed national radio campaigns for clients as well as international, award-winning radio programs. That includes two 3-hour radio specials on John Lennon in 2005 for what would have been John’s 65th birthday and the 25th anniversary of his death. These programs won Silver and Gold medals plus a Grand Award (one of only four awarded) at the New York Radio Festival in 2006.
In 2011, Ken Murphy at High Fidelity HDTV (which a few years later became Blue Ant Media) asked him to create a series of short television profiles of pioneering Canadian musicians, disc jockeys, producers and managers. He ended up doing 28 interstitials on Robbie Lane, Duff Roman, Ian Thomas, The Stampeders, David Marsden, Ritchie Yorke, Bernie Finkelstein, Sylvia Tyson, Goddo, Bob Ezrin, Bobby Curtola, Paul White and David Clayton-Thomas among others. One of the episodes from the first season won a Platinum Award at the World Television Festival in Houston, Texas.
Doug has been kept busy as Creative consultant/writer/producer for XM Satellite Radio (later Sirius/XM), writer/producer/director for “Pressed In Canada”, writer/director for “Hitsville U.S.Eh!”, the one-hour television documentary on Motown from a Canadian perspective, which aired on Hollywood Suite in Canada, and is now working with the legendary Dave Charles on ELMNT FMs two new radio stations in Ottawa and Toronto.
Since 2008 Doug has also been a part-time Professor (broadcasting) for Seneca@York’s School of Media and is a Member of the Executive Committee of the Canadian Broadcast Museum Foundation, based in Toronto and was elected Chairman.
Doug sums up: “Canada has always had world calibre behind-the-scenes radio talent. I've been honoured to work with amazing writers such as Bill McDonald, 365’er Larry MacInnis and Mike Occomore and damn incredible producers the likes of Adam Karch, Wade Taylor, Azeem Haq, Chris Pottage, the late and great Zeke Zdebiak and 365’er John Masecar.
“Today, I'm just as passionate about radio as I was when I was 13. I'm also the official CHUM archivist and administer 1050 CHUM's official website chumtribute.com.”
What an amazing fellow! Talent oozes out of him, and while he has been around for a while, he is still making his magic. I suggest you young producers contact Doug to get his perspective and advice. The best that Doug is! Atta be.
Thank you, Doug Thompson, for being one of “The Good Ones”. Feel free to like and share Doug’s positive story. Who is the subject of tomorrow’s JJ-365 Salutes? As they say, stay tuned.
– Jim JJ Johnston is the multi-award-winning CEO, President and Chief Talent/Content Coach for JJIMS INC. and works with talent in many different industries.