When I Heard Cleveland and it Blew My Mind

When I Heard Cleveland and it Blew My MindI've written about my old blue transistor radio before, but it's been almost seven years so I thought I'd reminisce once more.

It was a Christmas gift in the mid-80s and I used to fall asleep listening to it. More often than not, I was listening to Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth call Blue Jays games, but when there wasn't a Jays game on, I liked to slowly surf the AM and FM bands.

During this crawl, I'd pick up stations from cities that felt awfully far away. One of those cities was Cleveland.

I remember it blowing my mind that I was lying in my bed in Toronto and hearing a radio station all the way in Cleveland, Ohio. Radio seemed almost magic. It was a transponder, letting me hear traffic reports for streets I didn't know and weather reports in Fahrenheit!

I loved my blue transistor radio.

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Ryan G

Yea, there is, or was, a magical quality listening to radio growing up.

For me, as a kid it all started with CFTR when it was top 40. Then at about 12 I made the switch to FM and marvelled at how much better it sounded, and heard interesting new music and eventually the Sunday Night comedy shows which included Dr.Demento, and then my favourite, old time radio horror and drama with Theatre Of the Mind.

Around 15 I jumped to CFNY which changed my musical sensibility completely, and forged my interest in alternative music. But equally important was the free-form nature of the station. Jocks who knew music and kinda didn't give a shit, inventing a lot of it up as they went along. Innovative music, innovative DJ's. Fantastic stuff for an impressionable teenager.

May 6, 2013 @ 11:33 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Ryan G

Are you me?

I cut my teeth on 680 CFTR as well... recording the top six at six to cassette for my Walkman.

Tom Rivers was my morning show until I discovered FM.

And I too loved Dr. Demento.

May 6, 2013 @ 11:36 AM

Ryan G

@Toronto Mike. We're step-doppelgangers or something because your brother's name is Ryan.

Plus we connected at all those great toga parties at your house and jesus what a blast at the Boon Summer cottage and boy oh boy was your barmitzvah fun too.

May 6, 2013 @ 11:49 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Ryan G

We're due for another toga party.

May 6, 2013 @ 11:52 AM


I have fond memories of sneaking my transistor radio under my pillow for years when I was a kid (which wasn't all that long ago) and listening to the end of Leafs games and to Andy Frost's Leaf Talk. The best was trying hard not to make a sound when the Leafs would score a big 3rd period or OT goal.

May 6, 2013 @ 12:32 PM


Another CFTR guy here.

Here's a taste of what it was like back then.


May 6, 2013 @ 1:31 PM


I was a CKOC listener. That's an A.M. station in Hamilton plus I listened to CHUM F.M. Chum F.M. was my morning usually. I loved Pete Griffin, but then in the evenings, I would listen to CKOC when Ray Girard was on. He was the best. I loved his all hit 40 countdowns. They were on every Wednesday night from 6:00 to 9:00 and I always had to listen to them.

May 6, 2013 @ 6:21 PM


Do you still have it? If not what happened to it?

May 6, 2013 @ 8:42 PM

Rick C in Oakville

Listened to CFTR when Big Jim Bradey was a big draw for them. WGR in Buffalo was the furthest I ever heard on my radio.
And before the internet etc. my buddies and I in the early to mid 70's were playing with CB radios, and with Skip of the atmosphere, could listen in to the southern truckers with their funny accents.
AM at night is just jammed with US stations now on the fringe of a good signal.

May 6, 2013 @ 9:26 PM

Blind Dave

I did the transistor radio thing back in the 70s too. I also had a little clock radio beside my bed that could pick up some night time American AM stations from far, far away. I wish I could remember some of the call letters, but to no avail. It's too far gone in my memory. I was living in central Ontario, so once the Barrie, Orillia, and Midland stations shut down for the night, the airwaves opened up to all sorts of possibilities.

I do remember hearing the odd Sabres game on WGR very late at night if the Sabres were out west playing against L.A. or the California Golden Seals!!!

May 6, 2013 @ 10:57 PM


I was given my first transistor AM radio, a Sony, when I was seven, living in Edmonton. About all that I remember from then was hiding it under my pillow so that I could stay up and listen to the Edmonton Oil Kings (that was even pre-WHA Oilers) games on CFRN 1260. Yes, my parents usually caught me. Saturday mornings I got up to listen to the 630 CHED morning team read the comics from the Edmonton Journal.

The real discovery came when I moved to Winnipeg. Despite having three AM top 30 (Canadian stations didn't seem to have a top 40). There were huge gaps in the AM band in Winnipeg. At night, I discovered some of the all-time great top 40 radio stations from the US: 89 WLS Chicago being the big one for me. I was listening to John Records (yes, that really is his middle name) Landecker long before he came to Toronto to do mornings on CFTR in the early 80s. Signals were regularly picked up from Denver, San Antonio, Detroit, St. Louis, New York City, Louisville, New Orleans and more. Many winter nights were spent listening to NHL games, especially if the games were on one of the many 50,000 watt "clear channel" AM frequencies (Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, St. Paul-Minneapolis, to name some).

In the daytime on the prairies, AM signals carry better than just about anywhere else in North America, thanks to ground conductivity. So I checked out what I could find in the daytime, too. It wasn't as interesting as at night, though. To this day, you can easily listen to CBC Radio One on 540, transmitter in Watrous, SK, all the way from the edge of the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary to east of Winnipeg.

When I moved to Toronto in the mid-70s, I bought a more sophisticated radio that was much better for listening to distant signals on AM, FM and shortwave. I never got into listening to shortwave, but over time managed to hear even FM signals bouncing over/around the atmosphere from places as far away as Louisiana. Within North America, I think the longest distance "catches" I managed were Los Angeles (KFI 640 - where 640 CFMJ's Bill Carroll now does double duty) and CBC Vancouver (CFTR was off the air).

Not long after moving to Toronto, I discovered the top 40 and rock stations on FM from Buffalo. Like Ryan, new music and Sunday night programming, then CFNY.

All of this is now history. Most of my radio listening for modern/alternative rock music is online from cities around the world. There are many really good stations out there, many alternatives, unlike what the Toronto market offers. Today, like yesterday, for a change from my usuals, I am tuned to 96.5 The Buzz from Kansas City, KS. That combination may make you laugh initially, but the station is high in the ratings in its market and has even topped the ratings there. A certain local alternative can not say that. There is still good/great music and radio out there. Like in the past, we have to go find it, but the process is way different from trying to fine-tune a 1:1 knob on a small transistor radio.

May 7, 2013 @ 11:07 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


I have no idea what happened to it. I'm guessing it was replaced by a Sony Walkman at some point, deemed obsolete and junked.

May 7, 2013 @ 11:11 AM


I remember Big Jim Brady. Didn't John Records Landecker take his place. I sometimes listened to CFTR, but mostly I was CKOC and CHUM FM. I remember when Pete Griffin left. That was sad because the guy, John Rode who took Pete's place wasn't nearly as good. Pete Griffin was the best morning show there was and now he's gone.

May 7, 2013 @ 5:10 PM

Rick C in Oakville

Have to agree Cheryl, before H&F, Pete and Geets were the cats pyjamas, with their cast of characters.

May 7, 2013 @ 7:48 PM

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