In an earlier column, My Short Career as a Radio Announcer, I described how in late 1958 I became a radio announcer, a career I abandoned after only a few days, even though it was an ambition I had had from childhood.
Although that experience dampened my interest in broadcasting, it didn’t completely extinguish it, so when in the spring of 1966 radio station CJRT asked me to do a five-minute broadcast on income tax matters (which would be taped and rebroadcast) I jumped at the opportunity. CJRT was broadcasting out of the Ryerson Institute of Technology (now Ryerson University), a station on which I had done some broadcasting in 1957 when I was taking the Radio & Television Arts Course there. (The JRT in the station’s call letters stood for “journalism, radio, technology,” and, of course, all Canadian radio stations’ call letters must begin with C.) CJRT is now a Toronto jazz music station.
A bit of history here: The first time I was ever on the radio was in 1955 when Barry Nesbitt, from CKFH (Foster Hewitt’s station, which is now CJCL and better known as The Fan 590) interviewed me at Maple Leaf Gardens. There was some kind of controversy going on surrounding the Leafs (not much has changed in almost sixty years), and Barry corralled me on my way to my seat before the Leaf game that night. I don’t remember the particular topic, but the interview was broadcast on the Leaf pre-game show. Anyway, back to 1966.
Spending that five minutes in front of the microphone in 1966 was a completely enjoyable experience, and hearing one of the rebroadcasts was positively intoxicating; especially when I realized that I had done a pretty good job. I wanted to do more, but I wasn’t about to give up my career as a CA, so three more years before I had another opportunity to go on air.
One of my clients was a gentleman by the name of W.C.T. Cran, the president of Standard Broadcasting Ltd., which owned CFRB, at that time the Toronto radio station with by far the largest audience. In late March of 1969, while going over Mr. Cran’s income tax return with him in his office at CFRB, I happened to mention my childhood ambition to become a radio announcer. He asked me why I hadn’t done so and I told him about my brief experience in radio. He said, “Excuse me for a moment,” got up, and walked out of his office. He returned a couple of minutes later with the legendary Jack Dennett (Canada’s most respected radio newscaster and a mainstay on Hockey Night in Canada) in tow.
He introduced me to Jack (which in itself was enough of a thrill to last at least the week) and then said, “Lyman, Jack does an income tax show each April and has a chartered accountant in to answer questions that listeners mail in. How would you like to be the guest CA this year?” I assured them I’d love to. A few days later Jack and I taped a half hour show, and my appetite for broadcasting was completely restored.
When I received notes from both Jack and Mr. Cran saying it was the best tax show they’d ever done I was sure I’d be back on the station soon, but it would be another four years before I again sat in front of a microphone at the mighty CFRB. In the meantime, though, I was invited by both CBC radio and CKEY (at the time CFRB’s biggest competitor) to do business commentaries. I was also a between-periods guest on the radio version of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, talking with play-by-play guy Fred Sgambati about contract negotiations for hockey players.
Then in 1973 Jack Dennett had me back on his annual tax show again, except this time we did two episodes. The two shows with Jack Dennet led to my being a frequent guest on CFRB news and current events shows, such as The Betty Kennedy Show and Let’s Discuss It with Betty, Gordon Sinclair and Bob Hesketh.
I became CFRB’s main analyst on income tax, federal and provincial budgets, and other business stories. I was also a panelist on provincial and federal election nights. I even filled in for regular hosts from time to time, including Betty Kennedy, Earl Warren and Ed Needham. In 1981 I started doing a daily commentary on business, finance and politics, that would be first broadcast in the morning on the Wally Crouter Show (which at the time had the largest morning audience of any show in North America!), and then rebroadcast during the evening drive period.
While filling in for regular hosts I interviewed many famous people, including John Dean, of Watergate infamy, and Igor Gouzenko, the famous Russian defector and spy.
CFRB promoted me heavily, both on air and in print. As they didn’t worry too much about competition from other Toronto radio stations, except CHUM and CHFI, two stations they asked me not go on, (by then CKEY was no longer a threat) they didn’t object to the many broadcasts I did for other stations over the years. I was a regular on CFRB until 1990 when, although I still had the inclination, I no longer had the time.
In addition to my CFRB work, I probably did about five hundred broadcasts on other stations all across Canada (and even a few in the U.S.). Altogether I did about 4,000 original radio broadcasts. Including rebroadcasts on CFRB, my voice has been heard on radio well over 5,000 times.
My first television appearances were in 1969 on CHCH in Hamilton. I was as a panelist on a show hosted by Ed McGibbon called You and Your Income Tax. Also that year I was a guest on CHCH’s late night show Cherington’s Hot Line.
In 1970 I was a panelist on two episodes of the CBC network show Fighting Words, hosted by the arts guru Nathan Cohen. That same year I appeared on CTV’s Sportsbeat. Then the floodgates opened and I could have been on TV at least once a week. Over the years I’ve made about 300 TV appearances.
But I always preferred radio. TV just takes too damn long.