Year of Induction:
Pioneer – Member of CAB Hall of Fame
Lalonde, Phil L. (1900-1978)
In 1929 (the year of the stock market crash) Phil Lalonde answered an ad in a Montreal newspaper for an announcer. He was auditioned – read some stock market quotes and a commercial (spot) announcement, and was immediately hired. Two years later, he replaced the man who hired him – J. Arthur Dupont – as General Manager of CKAC.
(Arthur Dupont, in 1933, had accepted an invitation from the newly formed Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission to be program director for Quebec and the Maritimes, as well as supervisor of International exchange programs.)
In those days, CKAC – owned by the newspaper La Presse – was broadcasting in both French and English. Phil’s resonant voice became synonymous with the letters CKAC as he handled a variety of on-air assignments, including hockey play-by-play in both French and English. He also hosted the “remote” pickups of the Jack Denny Orchestra playing for the dinner dances “atop-Mount-Royal-Hotel’s-beautiful-Normandy-Roof” on Saturday nights, where he first met his wife-to-be, Mariette Daveluy, as she dined with relatives.
It was also in 1933 that Phil negotiated an arrangement with the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) for CKAC to carry many of its most popular shows – such as the New York Philharmonic concerts on Sunday afternoon; radio’s top dramatic program hosted by Cecil B. deMille – “The Lux Radio Theatre” on Monday nights; and shows starring Jack Benny, Al Jolson, Edward G. Robinson, Guy Lombardo and a host of others.
On the French side of things, many innovations took place. An amateur hour titled “Les horizons dors” became the springboard for several Quebec musical stars, such as soprano Claire Gagnier and baritone Yoland Guerard who both went on to international fame.
There were local live drama shows and situation comedies. One 15-minute daily show, “Fridolin” gave Gratien Gélinas his start (famous for “Ti-Coq”, a film about a Canadian soldier during WW II, that Gélinas wrote and in which he starred).
Following the daily 6 PM News, the Family Rosary Hour was piped-in from St. James Cathederal, led by Archbishop Paul-Emile Léger. And, on Sunday morning, especially for shut-ins, the Mass from St. Joseph’s Oratory. Thousands of devout Quebec listeners tuned in these programs faithfully.
The 30s and 40s were the Golden Years of radio, and CKAC’s schedule glittered with the best and most varied programming to be heard anywhere. However, when TV came to Montreal in 1952, the station started to alter its format from A to Z. CKAC began to focus on music, news and talk shows. In 1959, Phil launched “Le grand prix du disque canadien” a competition which enabled French-speaking performers and composers to have a chance at success on records in their own language. It proved very successful.
Politics in Quebec were changing, too. Listeners sought more programs in the French language. – they wanted more Quebec-oriented shows on radio. Phil had changed CKAC’s programming with the times, but he was a firm believer in bilingualism and free-enterprise. After 31 years at the helm of Quebec’s leading privately-owned station, he left CKAC to become a consultant.
In 1963, at a special ceremony in New York, CBS Radio’s President, Arthur Hayes presented Phil with CBS’ “Golden Mike” to mark his 30-year association with CBS.
In 1967, he was awarded the Medal of Confederation “for outstanding service to Canada in the field of broadcasting”.
Phil Lalonde played a major role in the affairs of the Canadian broadcasting industry. He served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters for twelve years and was elected President of the CAB in 1948. He also helped found L’Association canadienne de la radio et de la television de langue francaise (ACTRF).
He had a warm personality and enjoyed the respect of his fellow broadcasters from coast-to-coast.
On September 2, 1978, Phil died of cardiac arrest following surgery for a broken hip.
In 1986, Phil Lalonde was inducted into the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame.
Phil’s memory is cherished by his daughter, Joanne Fleming to whom the editors express their thanks for her reminiscences of her father’s career.
Written by Joanne Lalonde Fleming / J. Lyman Potts – April, 1996