Year Born: 1911
Year Died: 1999
Wright, Don E. (1911-1999)
Born in Indian Head, Saskatchewan, and raised and educated in Regina, Don Wright, in 1929, was a pioneer in AM radio – and in 1957, a pioneer in FM broadcasting. An early free-lance announcer in his teens, Don achieved experience on local stations CHWC and CKCK, then joined CJRM when the Moose Jaw station opened studios in Regina in 1933.
Prior to going to CJRM (where later he became Program Director), Don was one of the first announcers, if not THE first announcer, to broadcast on-location from a business establishment. Harkie McPherson, a leading haberdasher, sponsored a daily 15-minute program on CHWC. The records were played from the studio, but Don announced the show from MacPherson’s 12th Avenue store in the Capitol Theatre building.
Don’s career took him to Winnipeg, and in 1943 to Toronto, where he helped to pioneer the establishment of the Radio News Service of Canadian Press, which became Broadcast News (BN). He returned to radio in 1945 as Production Manager of CHML Hamilton, where he remained until 1951. During that period, he produced and MC-ed an early Ontario network quiz program – Mother Parker’s Musical Mysteries -which garnered a large audience.
Next, Don opened a radio production business in Toronto, which, in 1957, led to his putting Toronto’s first stand-alone FM station, CHFI-FM, on the air for Ed Pigott and becoming its first General Manager. Pioneering FM in that era was a tough assignment as the number of FM receiving sets in homes was insufficent to compete for audience and revenue against the established AM stations.
A second source of revenue was developed by promoting CHFI’s tasteful programming as background music in offices and stores in competition with Muzak. Commercials were broadcast on the quarter-hour in 2-minute intervals, during which time, reception in business premises was muted.
Broadcast News again beckoned, and Don decided to return to the broadcast news media, where he spent the remainder of his professional career.
Throughout his lifetime, Don Wright was actively involved in several community projects – among them the YMCA (president of two “Y” branches) – and religious broadcasting (in 1948 he originated the Anglican Sunday School of the Air, and for seven years chaired the Diocesan Public Relations Committee). He was also a member of the Toronto Religious Advisory Council.
At the time of his death, September 12, 1999, as a member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Half-Century Club, Don Wright was one of only six broadcasters surviving from radio’s first decade.
Written by J. Lyman Potts – October, 1999