Year Born: 1919
Year Died: 2001
Chesney, Joe (1919-2001)
Joe Chesney holds the distinction of founding British Columbia’s first full-time country music station and providing support to the careers of country artists. He was born in Saskatchewan and moved to British Columbia after leaving the air force at the end of World War II.
He began his radio career as a trainee announcer at CFJC Kamloops in 1946. After a few months, he moved to CJAV Port Alberni. The following year Chesney left to join suburban Vancouver station CKNW New Westminster, where he progressed to the morning show in October 1947. At ‘NW he became to be known as “Uncle Joe” and both his popularity and that of the station grew.
Chesney put the wheels in motion for his own radio station in the 1950s. As he was perceived to be competition at then mostly country music programmed CKNW, he left the station. In the interim he worked at Vancouver’s CJOR, and in 1962 his application for a new station in Langley, 40 kilometres southeast of Vancouver was approved.
His new station, CJJC (the “JC” for Joe Chesney) officially signed on with 1000 watts at AM 850 Saturday January 19, 1963 as “City and Country Radio”. For a decade, Chesney’s station was the only one with a country music format in the B.C. Lower Mainland. That changed in March 1973, when 50,000-watt powerhouse CKWX Vancouver picked up the format. In June 1975, CJJC moved to AM 800 with a subsequent power increase to 10,000 watts in an attempt to better penetrate the Vancouver market. However, over the next few years much of CJJC’s audience slipped away.
While at the helm of CJJC, Chesney continuously promoted country music and worked with several musicians who turned out to be country legends. Those included Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, whose career he helped to develop by booking shows and acting as master of ceremonies when she toured.
Chesney sold City and Country Radio, and on May 17, 1985 the CRTC approved application for authority to transfer effective control of CJJC to Saskatoon Telecable Limited and Mr. Sam Folstad.
During the years, Chesney was politically active, even running as an NDP candidate in the area. In 2001, he became the 17th inductee into the B.C. Country Music Hall of Fame and was presented with an award to mark his achievements during the B.C. Country Music Association’s 25th Annual Awards Show held in nearby Cloverdale.
“Uncle Joe” Chesney passed away Saturday, November 10, 2001 at the age of 82.
Written by Gord Lansdell – May, 2002