This week Musings is an obituary page.
When Betty Kennedy passed away last Tuesday at age 91, we lost one of the most accomplished broadcasters in Canadian history.
She was a panelist on the iconic CBC TV show “Front Page Challenge” for an incredible thirty-three years, hosted her own celebrated radio show for twenty-seven years on Toronto’s CFRB (then the most-listened-to radio station in the country), and was a long-time panelist on CFRB’s popular weekly current affairs show “Let’s Discuss It.” She was a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame, the Canadian Broadcasting Hall of Fame, and the Order of Canada.
In June, 2000, Prime Minister Jean Chretien, as an acknowledgement of the esteem in which Betty was held by all Canadians, appointed her to the Senate, even though she was able to serve only seven months before reaching the mandatory retirement age of seventy-five.
I knew Betty very well. We were colleagues at CFRB for almost twenty years, during which time I made many guest appearances on her show and even filled in for her on a number of occasions when she was away. I also frequently appeared as a panelist with Betty, Bob Hesketh, and Gordon Sinclair on “Let’s Discuss It.”
She was the best interviewer I ever heard. Three important elements of interviewing that I learned from Betty were: the interview is about the guest, not the host; always let the guests make their points; and, there’s nothing whatsoever to be gained by offending a guest.
It was while filling in for Betty that I experienced both the highlight and the lowlight of my broadcasting career. The highlight was being able to garner a lengthy interview with one of the main players in the Nixon Watergate scandal, White House counsel John Dean. The lowlight was summarily refusing to interview Luciano Pavarotti when given the opportunity. Why? Well, to my everlasting shame, at that time I had no idea who he was.
Betty Kennedy was one of the classiest people with whom I’ve ever been associated. She was always a lady in whose company I always wanted to be a gentleman.
The Real King of Rock and Roll
Elvis Presley is invariably referred to as the King of Rock and Roll; but for my money Chuck Berry, who passed away at age 90 last Saturday, is more deserving of the title.
Let’s start with the fact that Elvis, although often credited as a co-writer (at the insistence of his manager Colonel Tom Parker before he’d allow Elvis to record a song) never actually wrote anything, while Berry wrote his own hits, and there were a lot of them. Next is the fact that Berry was one of the greatest rock guitarists ever, whereas Elvis was limited to playing some simple rhythm guitar. Finally, although I haven’t been able to confirm this, I’m pretty sure there’ve been more covers of Berry’s hits than Elvis’. Even if I’m wrong, the fact that Berry wrote his own while others wrote Elvis’ makes Berry’s cover influence superior.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Berry; but I did see him live at the Embassy Club in Toronto in the mid-60s, a musical event that still stands out as one my most memorable. His guitar mastery was mesmerizing (probably due in large part to his unusually long fingers), and his Duck Walk was innovative and entertaining. But the most amazing part of the performance was that he sang about twenty songs, every one of which he had written himself and every one of which had been a hit!
I obviously don’t remember them all, but here is a list of what they could have been: Maybellene; Brown-Eyed Handsome Man; Roll Over Beethoven; School Day; Sweet Little Sixteen; Rock and Roll Music; Johnny B. Goode; Carol; Memphis; Back in the USA; No Particular Place To Go; Promised Land; You Never Can Tell; Too Much Monkey Business; Come On; and, Nadine.
I rest my case.
Canada Savings Bonds
Canada Savings Bonds, at age 71, passed away in this week’s federal budget.
The popular features of these bonds were: convenient purchase arrangements (payroll deduction or regular instalments at financial institutions); no risk; easily redeemed; and, an attractive rate of interest. They were a popular gift for kids.
I purchased my first CSB (par value $100) on the payroll deduction plan when I started working at the CPR in early 1954, and invested in them every year thereafter until about the mid-80s.
The reason given for their demise is that they no longer attracted enough investment to warrant the attendant administration costs.