Art Collins


00:00:02 Speaker 1 

This is an interview with Art Cullins conducted by Phil Stone. Art Collins started in broadcasting in 1947, working in the Music library at CK EY. 

00:00:12 Speaker 1 

He left the industry temporarily to work in the insurance business, but returned in 1951 to join CHUM as music director in Toronto. Then he moved to see. 

00:00:21 Speaker 1 

FCF Montreal that was in 1956, again as music director. He left a year later to return to Toronto, coming to CFRB to head up the music library, and he remained there for 28. 

00:00:33 Speaker 1 

Years art. We go back to 1947. You’re working in the music library at CKEY, but what kind of records were you involved with at that time? 

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Do you recall? 

00:00:42 Speaker 2 

Well, it seemed to me we were doing a lot of things with Keith Sandy and the Make believe ballroom. 

00:00:47 Speaker 2 

So there were quite a few of these sweet fans like Freddie Martin and Sammy Kaye and some of the the. 

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Swing bands like Glenn Miller. 

00:00:57 Speaker 2 

Cook Jack Hancock, the owner of the station and would bring records back from European TRIPS, and we would infuse these into our mix at the time and they usually have a high quality European or continental vocalist. 

00:01:08 Speaker 2 

So we had quite a we had quite an eclectic mix back in in the 40s on EY when it was a ride, a station that was riding high. 

00:01:17 Speaker 1 

And the programs were block programming wasn’t much more. 

00:01:21 Speaker 2 

Or less. 

00:01:21 Speaker 2 

Yes, it was. 

00:01:22 Speaker 2 

You know, we had, you know, the make believe ballroom with Keith Sandy. 

00:01:26 Speaker 2 

We had the morning show, we had Mickey Lester, for whom I chose a lot of music and worked closely with Mickey on that. We had the blue room with Martin Silbert A5 to 5:30 program. 

00:01:37 Speaker 2 

And the morning show with I think it was Joe Crysdale, if I remember correctly, that’s a long time ago. 

00:01:44 Speaker 2 

So my, my, my mind. 

00:01:45 Speaker 1 

41 years ago at this point, yes, musical tastes were different too. 

00:01:46 Speaker 2 

Yeah, yeah. 

00:01:46 Speaker 2 

At least, yeah, yeah. 

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Quite anyway, I was doing extremely well with its with its version of the Make believe Ballroom, so it was a nightly affair with with Sandy. 

00:01:58 Speaker 2 

And I think it had a very high rating in this city and. 

00:02:01 Speaker 1 

Did you select all the music for the announcers or? 

00:02:03 Speaker 2 

No, there was a staff of three or four in there, but by the end of the 11th or 12th month of my my soldier and withee why there was just myself and that was it. 

00:02:13 Speaker 2 

I was doing the whole thing and it was it became over. 

00:02:16 Speaker 2 

Coming the other three people left or departed on under under amicable circumstances, but it just meant that I was totally alone in the library doing practically everything and working on 12 to 14 hour day. 

00:02:30 Speaker 2 

So I decided to get out of radio temporarily and go back to go into marine insurance. 

00:02:36 Speaker 1 

When you. 

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Chose the music. 

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Did you do the pacing? 

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Would you pick an instrumental in the male vocal and a? 

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Female vocal that was all prescribed by by the program director. 

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What was the what was the? 

00:02:47 Speaker 2 

Well, basically it was started off with something bright like a big like the opening of a big live show and then going to a ballad with a male vocalist or a female, and then a small group instrumental. 

00:02:57 Speaker 2 

Then a, then a vocal group, and then back to another instrumental. 

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It was a very set pattern. 

00:03:03 Speaker 2 

A flow like a wave so that you had temporal variations and there were never any faded records at the end of A at the end of. 

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A period. 

00:03:13 Speaker 1 

70 eights weren’t they though? 

00:03:14 Speaker 1 

Yes, they. 

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Were they broke regularly and we had to keep keep lists of the music as as as discs were returned from control rooms and. 

00:03:23 Speaker 2 

In broken state, so and we had the transcription libraries, three of them at. 

00:03:27 Speaker 2 

The time. What kind? 

00:03:28 Speaker 1 

Of stylus, were you using back? 

00:03:30 Speaker 2 

I have no idea. 

00:03:31 Speaker 2 

No, I’m well. 

00:03:32 Speaker 1 

The diamond was it? 

00:03:33 Speaker 2 

They they would be in the in the transcription arm pickups that were were the 16 inch records, but as far as on the air. 

00:03:42 Speaker 2 

Playing 70 eights. 

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I can’t even remember what the equipment was not. 

00:03:46 Speaker 1 

Now, but those 16 inch disks came from the services, weren’t. 

00:03:50 Speaker 2 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

00:03:50 Speaker 1 

They the digital services. 

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You rented them from, like, world transcription or langworth or what have you. 

00:03:55 Speaker 2 

And they were soft plastic and normal groove size, but of a disc that was 16 inch diameter. 

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The year after I left there, the CBS brought out the long Play Record 1948. 

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Which changed everything appreciably. 

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Now you had 12 inch records with as much music on it as the old 16. 

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I remember in those days, as you will recall, the man from the record company would come around. 

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You recall those people? 

00:04:24 Speaker 2 

Oh, no, not the people. 

00:04:25 Speaker 2 

No, no, sorry. 

00:04:25 Speaker 1 

But if you recall me coming around. 

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These two come around, bring in their new records. 

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That’s what they do today. 

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There’s, you know, that people are. 

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Still, visiting CFRB on Mondays with their new product and. 

00:04:36 Speaker 2 

Hype sheets and latest innovations singles are now coming out on small or small compact discs and I think the the demise of the 45 is almost imminent. You know that’s that will be a passe medium. 

00:04:52 Speaker 1 

He went to charm in really from 51. How different was that for you? 

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51 yeah, yeah. 

00:04:57 Speaker 2 

Well, at the time it was hardly any difference. It was a. It was a smart station, but it certainly wasn’t rock that came in in 56 with Phil Ladd arriving from Texas, Ready to create the new Wave, which was rock radio and. 

00:05:13 Speaker 2 

I at the same moment that Phil arrived. 

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That’s Alan Ladd. 

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‘s brother, by the way. 

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Got a telex from Montreal. 

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The CFCF needed help badly. 

00:05:22 Speaker 2 

They were in a fix and would anybody in Toronto be available to come down and work at the library or be the music director so. 

00:05:29 Speaker 2 

I flew down on a weekend, had an interview, took over and moved to Montreal and stayed for a full year to get CFCF organized, did a music director at that time have autonomy? 

00:05:42 Speaker 1 

Were you responsible to a lot? 

00:05:44 Speaker 2 

Of people, usually it in every case and even it’s RB or what have you responsible to the program. 

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Director and if he wanted to devise a new type of program, you would naturally get together with him and discuss what the content of that program would be, if whether it was music or or what have you. 

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You know, if it was music. 

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And you achieved you defined what your your goals would be and what kind of music and adhered to it, but with great flexibility at RB, I might add, it was NCFC. 

00:06:16 Speaker 2 

F2 was a very. 

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Free flowing. 

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Use your imagination type of radio. 

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Some announcers more particular than others. 

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But what you chose for them? 

00:06:27 Speaker 2 

Yeah, especially at CFCF. 

00:06:30 Speaker 2 

Because I worked the morning show. 

00:06:32 Speaker 2 

I did the music for Gordon Sinclair Junior, and then he and I would have coffee at 10:00. 

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When he came off the air and talked about. 

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530 taping he was going to do or the taping for his 530 country Western show. So I would change hats and immediately put together a 30 minute block of country music right off the the charts of 5657. Four guard to, you know, to voice track. And he would take off and reappear the next morning. 

00:07:00 Speaker 2 

Morning, man. 

00:07:01 Speaker 1 

Were you familiar with people who took a record and used it to make it commercial? 

00:07:06 Speaker 1 

Use it for background or for introductory music on spots? 

00:07:10 Speaker 1 

Taking a standard record? 

00:07:15 Speaker 1 

In my time, a lot of that was done. 

00:07:16 Speaker 2 

And I can recall people taking records away to do something with them, but. 

00:07:22 Speaker 1 

I mean losing them, yes, yes. 

00:07:23 Speaker 2 

It was always considered illegal. 

00:07:24 Speaker 2 

It was illegal to take your that kind of music you had to. 

00:07:28 Speaker 2 

We used to use as a services that required a fee, even if it was the capital record. 

00:07:37 Speaker 2 

System from Hollywood, not the one in Canada, and fees were paid so that you could use this music legitimately behind commercials. 

00:07:45 Speaker 2 

But I mean, from what I hear. 

00:07:48 Speaker 2 

I’ve heard over the years it’s just a case that. 

00:07:52 Speaker 2 

People just took the music and used it, used it as they wished, you know. 

00:07:54 Speaker 1 

That’s right. 

00:07:56 Speaker 1 

Sorry, that’s what I’m referring to and I wondered if. 

00:07:57 Speaker 2 

Yeah, yeah, I’m quite sure they did. 

00:07:57 Speaker 1 

You were familiar with that. 

00:08:00 Speaker 1 

In your time at John, there was a man named Harvey Dobbs. 

00:08:03 Speaker 1 

The late Harvey Dobbs, who I think was a man who really knew his music and who had a sense of how he liked to pace his show. 

00:08:11 Speaker 1 

Did you find a lot of announcers, had that feeling had that sense. 

00:08:15 Speaker 2 

In those in that era, yes, and to a small lesser degree today. 

00:08:22 Speaker 2 

Harvey was a A a bit of a genius at putting together. 

00:08:27 Speaker 2 

Programs of operetta music from the you know the 20s and 30s, and he had a program called Herman Harmonies. 

00:08:33 Speaker 2 

He was always great for alliteration, so Harvey Dobbs had this interesting program on CFRB that was. 

00:08:42 Speaker 2 

Mainly like concert things, you know? 

00:08:44 Speaker 2 

But he also did a show on CHUM. 

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I think he was in the morning after. 

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I think he did a morning show from 10 till 12 or something after Larry Mann. 

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Larry man. 

00:08:56 Speaker 2 

Yeah, Larry Mann was the morning man at the time. 

00:08:58 Speaker 1 

How about him? 

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An oddball like Mickey Lester, but again a bit of a genius, you know? 

00:09:06 Speaker 1 

I remember too that a lot of. 

00:09:08 Speaker 1 

Performers, people who recorded came in person to the station, arrived in person, I think particularly of Tony Martin. 

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You might recall that. 

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Oh yeah, sure. 

00:09:16 Speaker 2 

Yeah, Peggy Lee and all those people, they would drop in and and just say hello. 

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And it was nice. 

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Nice to meet the artist with the record reps and so on. 

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Whether they had a new record or not of it, they might have been appearing at a club in Toronto. 

00:09:28 Speaker 2 

But at least they came to the stations you. 

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Know a different kind of performer than today’s aren’t. 

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They. Ohh yeah yeah, yeah. 

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Nothing. Same at all. 

00:09:37 Speaker 2 

Well, things have changed over 40 years since we’re into a new era and nothing is constant in the music business or the radio business. 

00:09:46 Speaker 2 

I mean, it’s just CFRB itself has changed dramatically and it’s in, in the three years since management took over and it’s progressing. 

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It’s moving onwards and. 

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Forward into into the 90s in the year 2000. 

00:10:03 Speaker 1 

You said a moment ago the demise of the the 45. 

00:10:06 Speaker 1 

Why did you say? 

00:10:06 Speaker 2 

That well, it’s it’s it’s it’s inevitable because we’re we’re getting singles now single records that used to be on the 45, they’re coming out as little 3 inch compact discs. In other words if you’re playing compact discs of. 

00:10:19 Speaker 2 

Say Whitney Houston. 

00:10:21 Speaker 2 

Or the Bee Gees or air supply on the regular compact disc. 

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Now you have a little adapter and you can slide in a single and play it as well. 

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So you have one instrument. 

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Your album tracks and your singles. 

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It makes sense and the cost is a little higher, but when when it’s a radio station, it’s to the advantage of the. 

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Record company. 

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To to use any medium whatsoever to get the product. 

00:10:47 Speaker 2 

Aired now, the 45 seems to be on the way out because at the price it was retailing at, perhaps it wasn’t a viable proposition when compared to with this 3 inch compact disc, which allegedly will last a lot longer a lot. 

00:11:03 Speaker 1 

When you started, I’m digressing here. 

00:11:06 Speaker 1 

Art, what kind of hours did? 

00:11:08 Speaker 1 

You work here. 

00:11:08 Speaker 2 

It’s RVFRB. 

00:11:10 Speaker 1 

Well, let’s say you started dewire. 

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That was your first station. 

00:11:12 Speaker 2 

Oh, that was a long that was that was those were hard days because I’d show up at 8:00 and leave at 8. 

00:11:18 Speaker 2 

So it was a 12 hour day in some cases five. 

00:11:19 Speaker 1 

How many days? 

00:11:21 Speaker 2 

And then again I I got my training through by working with it was Marjorie Purvis from Hamilton, who did a children’s program Sunday mornings, live from CKY, and I was asked to be. 

00:11:34 Speaker 2 

Sound effects person, so I’d get down there bright and early on a Sunday. 

00:11:39 Speaker 2 

And stomp around and gravel and crunch cellophane as if it was a forest fire. 

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And this went on for the better part of a year. 

00:11:48 Speaker 2 

It was a good training because you certainly lose your inhibitions when you’re doing that kind of stuff, you know? 

00:11:54 Speaker 2 

For the other stations, we’re sort of like normal 9 to 5 type things. 

00:11:59 Speaker 2 

RB especially. 

00:12:02 Speaker 2 

It seemed to be like 8:30 to 5:00 or 8:30 to 4:30 or nine to six. It was a. It was a flexible type of thing. 

00:12:10 Speaker 1 

There’s a change in broadcasting tune radio broadcasting. 

00:12:14 Speaker 1 

The fact that all women are now, you know. 

00:12:17 Speaker 1 

In the business. 

00:12:18 Speaker 1 

You’ve noticed I. 

00:12:19 Speaker 2 

Oh yes, it’s yes, especially on newscasts and things. 

00:12:19 Speaker 1 

Don’t you can’t help them. 

00:12:21 Speaker 2 

It’s marvelous. 

00:12:22 Speaker 2 

Yeah, I think it’s long overdue. 

00:12:24 Speaker 1 

Have you dealt with them? 

00:12:26 Speaker 2 

No, no, not at all though those RB has at the moment a very talented. 

00:12:26 Speaker 1 

Is your library? 

00:12:33 Speaker 2 

Christine Daae, who’s the music director and she really knows her. 

00:12:36 Speaker 2 

She took over from you. 

00:12:39 Speaker 2 

Well, from one of the four, she was the 4th, 4th or 5th after I retired in 85. 

00:12:46 Speaker 2 

I think she’s the best thing that’s happened to the station and she knows her music. 

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She’s reorganized the library into an alphabetical system. 

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She’s got the music in on music scan computer and it’s all coming together beautifully. 

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I can. 

00:13:01 Speaker 2 

I can foresee nothing but great things. 

00:13:03 Speaker 2 

For the station musically because of her attention to what’s happening, you know, and the way management wants the music is the way she’s doing. 

00:13:13 Speaker 1 

It’s certainly true too hard that music is more prevalent in broadcasting in radio than it was back in your early days, when they had more live shows, talk shows today. 

00:13:21 Speaker 1 

So many stations, perhaps not CFRB, but a lot of other stations. 

00:13:25 Speaker 1 

Music takes up practically all their airtime. 

00:13:27 Speaker 2 

Yeah, and especially the FM. 

00:13:29 Speaker 2 

Or is there that’s there’s a feeling that FM is for music and AM is is for news and information. 

00:13:35 Speaker 2 

I, I I’m inclined to dispute that because far too many. 

00:13:40 Speaker 2 

People that I know, or people who run little mom and pop variety stores have their sets on to AM. 

00:13:47 Speaker 2 

And invariably, if you wander in certain districts of town, you’ll hear CFRB on at night with music, because we have, we still have after 30 years Starlight concert, which is a light classical program. 

00:13:58 Speaker 2 

And unlike the FMRS, it never gets too. 

00:14:02 Speaker 2 

Too heavy or too say there’s a word for it. 

00:14:07 Speaker 2 

Ah, I can’t think of it. 

00:14:09 Speaker 2 

It just doesn’t too far above the heads of the average. 

00:14:12 Speaker 2 

Yeah, yeah. It stays within the context of a light pop concert program and has has for years now that George Wilson’s in. 

00:14:21 Speaker 1 

Charge of it so you feel today and want. 

00:14:23 Speaker 1 

To feature more music. 

00:14:26 Speaker 2 

If they believe that’s what they should do, yes. 

00:14:28 Speaker 2 

I mean, we’ve here at our meeting. 

00:14:30 Speaker 2 

The emphasis on phoning shows and talk shows and what have you, so maybe that will change, I don’t know, but it looks like it’s. 

00:14:41 Speaker 2 

It’s for. 

00:14:41 Speaker 2 

It’s good for this station. 

00:14:43 Speaker 2 

It’s very good. 

00:14:43 Speaker 1 

The point? 

00:14:44 Speaker 2 

For this station. 

00:14:44 Speaker 1 

I’m sorry, the point I was making trying to make was that with music being more emphasised and as you said in the FM station than the role of the music director is more vital is. 

00:14:54 Speaker 2 

More more important in the FM station, yes. 

00:14:58 Speaker 2 

Ah yes, and but then again, if you have fewer records or fewer pieces to play through the day, your your music director at the station, like RB, which is now playing less music. 

00:15:10 Speaker 2 

Is even more critical because everything has to be right. 

00:15:14 Speaker 2 

Everything has to be bang on, it can’t be any. 

00:15:18 Speaker 2 

There can’t be any sloppy program programming. 

00:15:21 Speaker 1 

What would be stopping programming? 

00:15:22 Speaker 1 

Well time risers? 

00:15:23 Speaker 2 

No, I mean playing music that’s irrelevant or out of context with the wishes of the PD or the management playing playing tunes that if they defined a specific format and you deviate from it then. 

00:15:36 Speaker 2 

You are wasting valuable airtime on on material that wasn’t supposed to be there in. 

00:15:43 Speaker 1 

The first place it seems to me that young people today know more about music than, for example, my generation knew. 

00:15:48 Speaker 1 

When we were young. 

00:15:48 Speaker 2 

Well, look at the exposure. 

00:15:50 Speaker 2 

Look what we’ve got going. 

00:15:50 Speaker 2 

We’ve got TV, we’ve got solid gold hit shows we’ve got. 

00:15:56 Speaker 2 

Saturation beyond belief. 

00:15:58 Speaker 1 

That means you have to be more. 

00:15:59 Speaker 1 

Careful on how your program, as you just said. 

00:16:00 Speaker 2 

Oh yeah, very much so. 

00:16:01 Speaker 2 

I mean, everything is fragmented today in the 40s, you had RB and you had UY and you didn’t. 

00:16:08 Speaker 2 

And CBC, you didn’t have much else, and if you were lucky, you might get a Buffalo station. 

00:16:12 Speaker 2 

Now you’ve got, you know, dozens of stations, and we’ve got. 

00:16:17 Speaker 2 

So many classical outlets in Toronto and country music stations, I mean the fragmentation is unbelievable. 

00:16:26 Speaker 1 

You’ve done it for a long time. 

00:16:27 Speaker 1 

For over 40 years and you’re doing it part time. 

00:16:29 Speaker 1 

As I understand it at the. 

00:16:30 Speaker 1 

Present time. 

00:16:31 Speaker 2 

Yeah, it has, and it still is or I wouldn’t. 

00:16:31 Speaker 1 

It’s been fun, hasn’t. 

00:16:34 Speaker 2 

Do I. 

00:16:34 Speaker 2 

Wouldn’t be doing it. 

00:16:36 Speaker 1 

It’s been a pleasure to talk to you talking to you, Phil. My guest has been Art Collins. This is Phil Stone, Toronto, July 1988. 

00:16:37 Speaker 2 

Nice with.