Year Born: 1927
Year Died: 1983
Year of Induction: 2007
This is Paul in Montreal – and the night is ours.” No-one who ever heard those words, spoken by that silky smooth, warm voice over the night-time airwaves of CJAD radio on countless nights in the 1960s and 70s, will ever forget them, and the magic that Paul Reid brought to every word.
Paul Percival Reeds was born in Cobourg, Ontario, on August 11th 1927, one of sixteen children. While he only had a Grade Six education, he read voraciously, and, motivated by the promise of a job if he did so, he taught himself correct speech by reading out loud from the newspaper. It was the station manager at CHEX in Peterborough who first saw Paul’s potential, and gave him his first on-air exposure in 1947. Paul’s chores as an announcer included jobs as diverse as calling play-by-play for local lacrosse games and hosting Uncle Paul’s Children’s Hour. It was said that he was eventually fired by the station partly because of his delight in practical jokes, and partly because his occasional inclusion of double entendres in his children’s show, there for the benefit of his adult audience, became too much for management to condone any longer.
Peterborough’s loss was Hamilton’s gain when Paul – now Paul Reid – was hired by CHML radio in 1954. There he joined a station that was to produce many radio legends, including Dave Patrick, Joe Cannon and Paul Hanover, and Paul spent the next ten years building his own legend. He did all the usual announce chores, as well as hosting several of his own shows, including Nightcap, whose music he programmed himself, and in which he first started reading poetry on-air, something which was to be a Paul Reid signature for the rest of his career.
He also took the time to start writing, and his greatest success in this field came with Count Your Blessings, a series of two-minute vignettes that invited people to take stock of their lives. Originally planned as fillers, these vignettes took on a life of their own: they were eventually sponsored, and much later Robin Hood Flour pressed an album as a customer order item. After Paul’s death, a CD version was made and sold to benefit children’s hospitals in Montreal and Hamilton.
In 1964 there came a phone call from H.T. “Mac”McCurdy, then station manager for CJAD-AM in Montreal, inviting Paul to join the staff at this high-profile radio station. Paul’s arrival there was to mark the start of more than a decade of “Paul Reid’s Wonderful World of Music”, a five-hour show for which he programmed the final three hours himself, and punctuated an eclectic mix of his favourite records with interviews with anyone from politicians to cab drivers.
Such interviews were often helped along by occasional sips of “buttermilk”, a euphemistic cover name for examples of Scotland’s finest export. (Your writer was fortunate enough to be invited to guest on the show one night in 1966, and actually read the sports scores – fortunately apparently without CJAD program director Bill Roberts being by his radio to hear this strange English accent mangling the team names).
Paul’s first album of poetry, “A Letter to my Love”, was released in 1968. Featuring eight poems set to music by Denny Vaughn. It was an immediate success and was re-released after his passing.
Paul did many voice-overs for the National Film Board, and several national TV and radio commercials. His first Christmas Show for CJAD, A Paul Reid Christmas, was a wondrous mixture of sentiment, nostalgia for his youth, and the best of the season’s music, and was so popular that it became an annual event. It was issued on record and later on CD (Details at www.paulreidchristmas.com). Years after Paul left the station and even today, long after his passing, it is still CJAD‘s most requested program.
Changes in the station’s programming direction resulted in Paul leaving CJAD in 1977, and returning to CHML in Hamilton, where he spent three years on the air, though not always in the best of health. Having been aware of Paul’s talents when they were both working out of the same building in Montreal in 1976, Ralph Lucas at CFQR Montreal saw a competititve opportunity and lured Paul back to Quebec in 1980, and he continued his show for three more years, though for the last few months his failing strength prompted the station to arrange for him to broadcast from the comfort of his bedroom.
Paul Reid died in January 1983, and the warm, rich voice that had earned him the love of tens of thousands of fans was finally silent.
He was inducted posthumously into the CAB Hall of Fame in November 2007.
He became a popular announcer and did everything he could to widen his expertise. He called play by play for the local Lacrosse league, hosted a radio feature called “Uncle Paul’s Children’s Hour, (much of which he wrote as well) and began to develop his on-air persona. He was fired from that job. Legend has it that his penchant for practical jokes and a racy Children’s Hour laced with double entendres for the adult listeners were the culprits.