For decades veteran newscaster Brent Sleightholm worked alongside former CKCO program director Nevin Grant, longtime CKOC program director who died yesterday. Sleightholm was a legend in his own right as a rock and roll newsman for CHUM and later for many years in Hamilton at OC. It was the era of AM rock music powerhouses, pumping out the hits interspersed with some of the most urgent, (and as Brent once told me, physically exhausting) newscasts ever heard. I contacted my old friend from Chatham Collegiate Institute to get his reminiscences of Nevin Grant. Here’s his reply:
Wow, what a kick in the head. His passing was not unexpected, but his loss cuts pretty deep for all of us who knew him. I would really regard Nevin Grant as a Renaissance Man. He took a tremendous amount of responsibility for what went on the air at CKOC.
I can say with honesty he truly loved the on air crew. He was not just your boss. He really was your friend. That made it tough when he had to fire somebody Fortunately, that didn’t happen very often.
Working with Nevin and for him was really a pleasure at the old CKOC. Speaking for myself, with the wisdom of hindsight, I (we) had no idea how lucky we were to be working there in the 70’s and 80’s.
Nevin Grant, along with News Director Con Stevenson, were both my bosses in a hybrid arrangement that saw news people like myself do a weekly talk show and spin records in a jock shift. The announcers got to read newscasts as part of their duties.
Our Manager R. K. ‘Bob’ Macdonald had imposed the arrangement in an effort to avoid layoffs in the event of economic contraction. It was up to Con and Nevin to make it work.
It did work. I for one didn’t mind the challenge of stretching away from news announcer, writer, reporter to talk show host and DJ.
The DJ part was fun. The talk host .more challenging.
Nevin was ever the great tutor. He was not in favour of me fading out his records so as to hit news times on.the nose. I quickly learned that was a ‘no-no’.
For Nevin, the critical thing was the integrity of the hits and he was a mastermusic researcher, and programmer. If he said it was a hit, it was. He didn’t want anybody playing with the music. He was right. The listeners knew the difference.
Those were the days when we were going head to head with the great 1050 CHUM in.Toronto for listeners.
The Toronto-Hamilton AM radio universe was a world unto itself. The market was the most lucrative rative in.the country. But my late brother Brock Sleightholm would often say he came east from Chatham to hear the oldies, since the radio market he listened to was Detroit which would typically break hits on their side of the border weeks before Canadian fans caught on to them here.
It was amazing how Toronto-based radio reps of the day would flock to Hamilton and court Nevin’s favour, getting him to listen to their latest product in hopes it would be charted.
Those were the heady days of weekly audience cumulative listeners totals (cumes) of close to 800,000. Nevin, and all of us, really, were very popular with venerable Sifton family because we kept the company cash register ringing. We were delivering a very good return on their investment. Fortunately for us, President Michael Sifton and his family, were very generous owners. When they sold the company in 1988, they cashed all of us out with a very nice retirement annunity. I can’t say enough good about the Sifton family.
It was often said CKOC, before K-Lite came along, was run like a country club. We had the best seasonal.parties, men’s day out at Woodbine in Toronto, women’s day out at the spa. Those were the days.
Nevin and his lovely wife Heather were the gracious hosts at innumerable staff parties hosted at their home in Stoney Creek.
I don’t know what else to say. Working with Nevin was simply the best of times.
It made it hard to deal with all the changes in the years that followed in radio.
Hope this helps, John. Great hearing from you.