CFCO-AM, Country 92.9, Chatham

Blackburn Radio Inc.

CFCO-AM200463010,000/1,000Blackburn Radio Inc
CFCO-AM199763010,000/1,000Bea-Ver Communications Inc.
CFCO-AM199463010,000/1,000Blackburn Radio Inc.
CFCO-AM198263010,000/1,000Key Radio Ltd. (Maclean-Hunter)
CFCO-AM196563010,000/1,000Great Lakes Broadcasting System Ltd. (Maclean-Hunter)
CFCO-AM19626301,000Great Lakes Broadcasting Ltd. (Chambers/Hildebrand)
CFCO-AM19456301,000John Beardall
CFCO-AM1936630100John Beardall
CFCO-AM19291210100Western Ontario “Better Radio” Club
CFCO-AM1928121025Western Ontario “Better Radio” Club
10BT-AM1926250 m10Western Ontario “Better Radio” Club


On May 14, John Beardall sold CFCO to Great Lakes Broadcasting Ltd. (Maclean-Hunter Publishing Ltd., Clare L. Chambers and Donald G. Hildebrand). Beardall retired and Maclean Hunter entered the broadcasting business with this transaction.

The Trans-Canada and Dominion networks consolidated into a single CBC radio network. CFCO’s affiliation with the CBC came to an end.


CFCO increased daytime power to 10,000 watts. Night power remained 1,000 watts. Six 299 foot towers at the existing transmitter site produced different day and night directional patterns.

Cheryl Lancaster became music librarian at CFCO.


Pete McGarvey

Don Hildebrand was president of Great Lakes Broadcasting Ltd. Bob Bambury was CFCO’s manager. Clair Chambers was commercial manager. Earle Bradford was news director. Gord Brooks was chief engineer.

Great Lakes Broadcasting Ltd. (CFCO and CFOR Orillia) and Kitchener-Waterloo Broadcasting Ltd. (CHYM-AM-FM) amalgamated to become Great Lakes Broadcasting System Ltd. This followed the purchase of CKCR-AM-FM (which became CHYM a short time later) in Kitchener.

Pete McGarvey became CFCO’s news director. He had been at CFOR Orillia for 18 years. Jim Knettle and Fred Merritt joined CFCO.

Jim did the afternoon drive show, and Fred did the 9-midnight shift, Monday thru Friday.


Some of the on-air names at CFCO at this time: Vern Rombough (mornings), Jim Knettle (middays), Fred Merrit (afternoons), and Jim Junk (evenings). News: Jim Cassidy (joined from CJET in Smiths Falls), Pete McGarvey, and Dave Hodge (sports).


Maclean Hunter bought out partners Don Hildebrand and Clare Chambers.

CFCO received permission to operate auxiliary studios in Wallaceburg, at 632 James Street.

On November 27, CFCO’s studios moved from 40-42 King Street West to 21 Keil Drive, with auxiliary studios at 632 James Street in Wallaceburg.

Paul Godfrey joined from CKWS Kingston and newsman Jim Cassidy left for CHOW Welland. Music librarian Cheryl Lancaster left CFCO.


Paul Godfrey left for Leamington.

Greatlakes Broadcasting would come under complete control of Maclean-Hunter Ltd. pending CRTC approval. Maclean-Hunter, in collaboration with Countryside Holdings, a few months ago, each purchased 50% of CFOR from Greatlakes and set up a new company – Orillia Broadcasting, subject to federal approval. The latest purchase involved 50% of the common shares of Greatlakes previously held by D.G. Hildebrand, president, and Clair L. Chambers. Donald F. Hunter, head of Maclean-Hunter would also be president of Greatlakes. If approved, M-H would be sole owner of CHYM-AM-FM, CFCO and part owner of CFOR. M-H also owned CKEY and CFCN-AM-TV.


Greatlakes Broadcasting System Ltd. president Donald G. Campbell named John E. Larke, general manager of 1490 CHYM. He had been general manager of CFCO Chatham. Norman H. Haines, previously general sales manager of CHYM, was named general manager of CFCO.

R. E. Nelson was operations manager.


John George (Jack) Beardall, 77, died on April 16. In 1926 he built and operated a simple transmitter in his home. This eventually developed in to CFCO. He retired in 1962, selling his interest in CFCO to Greatlakes Broadcasting.


Pete McGarvey (news director) left for CKEY in Toronto.


The re-organization of the Maclean-Hunter group of companies (16 cable systems and the CFCN/Shoreacres/Great Lakes broadcasting group) was approved by the CRTC. Reservations were expressed regarding the nearly 10% equity of the Toronto-Dominion Bank in the new company, Maclean-Hunter Holdings Ltd. The shares had been held by Hunco and D. F. Hunter. Effective control of Maclean-Hunter Ltd. was now held by the directors and senior managerment.

Announcer George Brooks joined from CKAR Huntsville in July.


Great Lakes Broadcasting System Ltd. merged into Key Radio Ltd. (Maclean-Hunter).


Major renovations were completed at the transmitter site, including new towers. CFCO operated with four towers during the day and three at night.

Randy Steinman joined CFCO’s sports department.


On January 23, the CRTC approved the application by Bea-Ver Communications Inc. for a licence to operate an independent English-language FM radio station at Chatham on 95.1 MHz. The competing application by Key Radio Limited (licensee of CFCO) to operate a joint FM station in Chatham was denied. Key Radio had proposed a country music format on 95.1 MHz with an effective radiated power of 50,000 watts. Local ownership was a key issue in the CRTC’s favouring Bea-Ver’s application for an easy listening format with strong local news coverage.

Stuart Clark passed away May 13 at age 73. He started his broadcasting career at CFCO in 1929, at age 15. He was an announcer and technician. After CFCO, he moved on to CFPL London, CKTB St. Catharines, CKOC Hamilton, and then joined CKLW in 1937. He remained with the Windsor stations until his retirement in 1973.


Key Radio Ltd. named Arthur Kovats, vice president and general manager of CFCO.

Mike Lapointe was CFCO’s news director.

CFCO hired two new people for its news department: John McFadden from CKLY Lindsay and Gord Dougan from CKOT Tillsonburg.


Mike LaPointe was news director.


Randy Steinman was sports director.


Robin Geoffrey was appointed program and promotions manager.


Art Kovats, vice-president and general manager of CFCO, and Paul Firminger, vice-president of Key Radio engineering, announced the appointment of Dave Ellis as engineering manager of CFCO.

Randy Steinman (sports) left for CKCO-TV in Kitchener.

Original Farm Director Harold Smith retired after 27 years; succeeded by Dennis Guy.


Maclean Hunter announced that it had agreed to sell CFCO to Bea-Ver Communications, owner of CKSY-FM. Maclean Hunter management said it believed two separate stations could not survive in the city which was just 40 miles from Detroit-Windsor. The sale did not go through.


On September 15, approval was given for an intra-corporate reorganization of Key Radio Limited. As a result, CFCO came under the ownership of Blue Water Broadcasting Limited.

On December 19, the purchase by Rogers Communications Inc. of Maclean-Hunter Ltd. was approved by regulators. As part of this transaction, Bluewater Broadcasting Ltd. (CFCO, along with CHYR Leamington and CKTY and CFGX-FM Sarnia) were sold by Rogers to Blackburn Radio Inc. of London.


Mike LaPointe was news director. John Wilson provided weather forecasts to CFCO.


On March 5, approval was granted for the sale of CFCO by Blackburn Radio Inc. to Bea-Ver Communications Inc., owner of CKSY-FM in Chatham.


On July 29, the CRTC denied Bea-Ver’s application to add a transmitter at Chatham on 94.3 MHz with effective radiated power of 50,000 watts to rebroadcast CFCO-AM. The aim was to improve CFCO’s service at night.


Early in the year, CFCO applied for a night-time power increase and improved daytime facilities. The changes were approved by the CRTC on October 14 and by Industry Canada on November 10.

Former CFCO broadcaster Roy Caley passed away at age 79.


Work began at the transmitting site to modify the antenna system. Field work delays occurred, due to heavy rainfall which flooded the site. Unused tower six was dismantled and removed. System modifications were made so that the authorized day and night patterns could be generated. All work was completed in February and CFCO was now operating with the 1999-approved technical changes, including a night-time power of 6,000 watts.

On July 27, CFCO-1 92.9 went into operation. The transmitter was at the studio location, 117 Keil Dr. S. CFCO-1 operated with an effective radiated power of 50 watts and simulcasted and supplemented CFCO’s AM service to improve reception to over 40,000 potential listeners in Chatham.


In August, the CFCO-1 FM antenna was re-located from the studio location on Keil Drive to the downtown Bell/Nexacor tower. Later, Bea-Ver proposed to re-locate the antenna to the CKSY-CKUE tower, 7.5 kms from the present location. This move was denied by regulators.

Some of the on-air names at CFCO at this time: George Brooks (mornings), Chris McLeod (middays), Rob Henderson (afternoons), Sid Myers and Mike Regnier. News: Lisa Thomson, Matt Thompson, Arlene Dowell, Paul McPhee, Cindy Clyne, Gary Patterson (Sports).


On November 7, a power increase was approved for CFCO-1-FM from 50 to 250 watts.

Kevin Bruhlman passed away. He was one of Bea-Ver’s owners and founders.


On March 22, the CRTC approved the transfer of the effective control of Bea-Ver Communications Inc. to Blackburn Radio Inc. On the same date, approval was granted for the transfer of control of Blackburn Radio Inc. through the transfer of all of the issued and outstanding shares of Blackburn Group Incorporated (the parent corporation) from the Estate of Martha G. Blackburn to 2061302 Ontario Limited, a corporation controlled by her son, Richard Costley-White.


On March 3 at 9:00 a.m., CFCO AM 630 / FM 92.9 switched formats from oldies-based full service to country music as “Country 92.9”. The rebranding was based on the station’s low-power FM rebroadcaster rather than the main AM (630) frequency. For the record, studios and offices are still at 117 Keil Drive.


On October 5, the CRTC renewed the licences for Blackburn Radio Inc. stations CFGX-FM Sarnia, CHKS-FM Sarnia, CHOK Sarnia and its transmitter CHOK-FM-1 Sarnia, CKNX Wingham, CKNX-FM Wingham and its transmitter CKNX-FM-2 Centreville, CKUE-FM Chatham and its transmitter CKUE-FM-1 Windsor and CFCO Chatham and its transmitter CFCO-1-FM Chatham, from 1 December 2010 to 31 August 2014. This short-term renewal would enable the Commission to review, at an earlier date, the licensee’s compliance with the Radio Regulations, 1986 and with its conditions of licence.

Phil Ceccacci, General Sales Manager at Blackburn Radio Chatham, retired after 23 years with the company.

Ron Blommers was the new General Sales Manager at Blackburn Radio’s Chatham cluster. He had been with Community Living Chatham-Kent. Before that, he worked with Clear Channel in Hawaii before returning to his home town of Chatham. Further back, he was with Newcap Halifax.


Walter Ploegman, the 25-year veteran of 94.3 CKSY, who began there as the afternoon host when the station was easy listening and began working his way up, was again promoted, this time to general manager of the three-station Blackburn Radio Chatham cluster. He had been director of operations and marketing for Country 92.9, 94.3 and 95.1 The Rock.


Ronald W. Osborne died at age 66, in Florida. His broadcasting background included the presidency of Maclean Hunter Ltd. In 1994, he fought off a hostile takeover bid from Rogers Communications. After a protracted battle, a deal was inked for $3.1-billion.

Norm (Harold) Haines died at age 73. He started his broadcast career as an announcer at CFTJ Galt in 1958 and worked at CKCR Kitchener, CFCO Chatham, CKWS-Radio-TV Kingston and CFOX Montreal. Haines moved to Calgary where he was president of Voice of the Prairies Ltd. (CFCN Radio). He took on CFCN in 1973, and in time, developed CJAY-FM, Canada’s first new generation FM station.


James A. “Pete” McGarvey passed away in March at the age of 86. He began his broadcast career at CFOR in 1947 and stayed for 18 years. McGarvey moved on to CFCO from 1965-1973 before heading to CKEY as a feature newscaster/commentator.


George Brooks retired from Blackburn Radio after nearly 44 years on the air, 39 of them at CFCO, then CKSY-FM, and then CKUE-FM (all in Chatham).

Harold Smith died at age 91 on December 27. He was the former and long time host of CFCO’s farm show which began in 1962. Smith was inducted into the Kent Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1993.

The story continues elsewhere…
Effective September 1st 2019, we will only be adding new material to these station histories in exceptional circumstances. Our intent to chronicle the early days of these radio and television stations has been achieved, and many new sources and technologies, from the CRTC website to Wikipedia, and others, are now regularly providing new information in these areas.

Contact this station