I recently worked with Rick Hodge. Rick and I had a rocky start to our relationship, but as is often the case, the guy you most want to stab in the eye quickly becomes a solid bud.
Rick Hodge is no longer on the air, having been booted from the radio by Astral, but he's now writing very interesting prose on his blog. All bias aside, it's a very interesting perspective and he occasionally tells some pretty cool Toronto radio stories over there. I strongly urge you to check it out.
Here's an interview I conducted with Toronto radio legend Rick Hodge earlier today.
Q: I can't tell you how many Sunday nights I spent listening to you host the Sunday Night Funnies on CHUM-FM. How did that program come to be? Are you aware of how awesome it was?
A: I inherited the Sunday Funnies after the original host left. It was kind of make shift at the time so I thought it would be a good idea to get it organized. Because of content and language a lot of the material couldn't be used and it would take the producer hours to find all the edits. So I catalogued the entire library. Then I made a point of going to the big record stores downtown and bought up anything new I found. I remember coming across Jeff Foxworthy for the first time. I bought him, loved him and played him. After a couple of weeks I got a call from Sam the Record Man. The guy said "what the hell are you doing?" They were getting a non stop stream of people coming into the store asking for Jeff Foxworthy or that southern guy I heard on the Funnies. I also made runs to Buffalo about every 3 months because they had material that wasn't available in Canada. Don Ferguson from the Air Farce told me I had the largest comedy collection he had ever seen.
One thing I took pride in was promoting as much Canadian talent as I could. The 2 comics I got to know the best were Gerry D who cut a name for himself on "Last Comic Standing" in the US and Frank Spadone. I just happened to pick up Frank's cd one day and started playing it. I used it on the Funnies and he called to ask if he could do a ticket giveaway on the morning show. He did and the venue, which was only half sold, sold out. And he did it on Super Bowl Sunday.
The program director at the time wanted me to start cutting back on the older comics. He wanted the young comics I told him the problem with the young comics is that most of them live and die with "F" bomb. If he'd allow me let that word go in their bits it would open things up for all sorts of new material. He did and we only got one complaint.
To answer the question, no I never did realize how awesome it was.
Q: I used to catch you on television hosting Rinkside, a weekly AHL highlight show. How did you score that gig?
A: Actually they came to me. It was just after I won a sportscaster of the year award. I'm not a television guy so thank God it was pre-taped. The most fun I had was with the co-hosts. Brian Kilrea of the Ottawa 67's did regular bits one year and he was a hoot. Brad Smith (Motor City Smitty) was fun to work with. We discovered Jim Ralph when he was a goaltender with the Newmarket Saints. I knew from the start he had a career in sports casting. I also got to know Gord Stellick. Truly one of the nicest people I have ever met and another former non broadcaster who's done very well on hard work and talent as a talk show host.
Q: "Roger, Rick & Marilyn" was my mom's favourite radio show. The CHUM-FM morning show was tops in this city. Why did you leave?
A: Roger Rick and Marilyn was, and remains, the highlight of my broadcasting career. I was honoured to be asked to be part of Roger Ashby's induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. So, why did I leave? The station was evolving. My commentaries had been dropped, the Funnies were dropped and finally the sports casts in the morning were dropped. I disagreed at the time but in an industry that had become specialized I understand why they did what they did. I wanted to get back to doing sports and commentaries and I wanted to get involved with talk radio. There's more to the decision but basically when I was presented with the opportunity, I took it.
Q: Astral never seemed to know what to do with you once they landed you. You were on the EZ-Rock morning show, while running down the hall to be on CFRB. Then, without giving you a fair shot, they kicked you off the air. What the hell went wrong?
A: Good question.
Q: Do you have any resentment towards Astral?
A: No. Sometimes you forget it's a business and the people running that business will do what they feel is best for the company. I understand that. That doesn't mean it doesn't sting when it happens but at least you understand.
Q: What's next for Rick Hodge?
A: Well, I have to check the kitty litter, I have to fill out my NCAA brackets for the pool, Pardon the Interruption is on in about an hour (best show on TV), then I'll read some of the new book I just picked up. Lord I've got cabin fever. Actually I want to stay in radio. It's the old Joni Mitchell line "you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone." Getting up at some ridiculous hour never really bothered me. I love the early, early mornings and the drive to work at 2:30 am with virtually no traffic on the road. Where I'll end up I don't know and who knows, I may not end up anywhere.