Dec. 21 1951 Dick arrives at NW
Another of the many long-term employees begins with CKNW. Responsible for creating the three tone NEWS Sounder, Dick Abbott started in the record library and later became the Production Manager. Now with Dick and Roger’s Recording Studio, he remains active with CKNW.
Dick Abbott - Record library then production engineer and Production Manager CKNW New Westminster 1951-98; created CKNW’s three-tone news sounder; co-founder (with Roger Monk) Dick and Roger’s Sound Studio Vancouver 1990-current; retired from CKNW 1998
“There was an 8-month hiatus, otherwise NW has been my life.” The number of commercials, jingles, features, special programs etc. that you’ve heard packaged by Dick Abbott is beyond numbering in his 40 years at CKNW. He is one of the best, most sought-after production engineers in North America. Ted Smith’s evaluation of Dick appears to be universal among the staff: “. . one of the finest, most genuine and dedicated people I know.” Dick’s known for his speed and concentration. A representative of hockey’s Seattle Totems came to Vancouver one day, told Dick the club needed a promotional campaign . . . and needed it that very day. Dick was collaborating with the talented David Hoole at the time, and the two of them put their heads together. Before the end of the day, they had packaged the entire campaign—and called it Blood, Sweat & Cheers. It was a smash.
Born in Kamloops in 1935, Dick moved to the coast with his family when he was 6. He got into music in junior high, played alto sax, clarinet and flute. And he was a jock, too, into all sorts of sports. At 16, he got a job in the CKNW record library. Eventually, Dick began packaging commercials . . . then making transcriptions. . ending up doing all the production at NW. “I learned to edit doing Gerber Baby Food commercials.” Some of the programs he packaged (such as the Easter special with music and readings) are still being played on NW years after they were created. And he recalls, with a shudder, his first remote: it was at the Bowell Funeral Home, where organist Ed Reimer would play 15 minutes of sweet, solemn music. “There were bodies there in open coffins!” Dick taped the show and left quickly.
Dick credits chief engineer Jack Gordon with being a tremendous influence. “He was so patient. And if I wanted to do something, and didn’t have equipment to do it, he’d built it! He started calling me his production manager and I got a memo where he used that phrase. I took the memo into Hal Davis office, and said, “Does this mean that I am your production manager?” Hal grins, and says, “I guess so.” So I took the title.”
Dick has worked with hundreds of different people at CKNW over the years—but has a special regard for Hal Davis. “In my opinion, Hal has never been given credit for being one of the most innovative programs directors in radio history. He was open to experimentation. His hirings, and his patience with talented, extroverted people has been taken for granted. I, for one, will always be grateful for his help.” And he has a special left-handed regard for Hugh Wallace. “Hugh was assistant manager at the time. I hadn’t been at the station long. We’re coming back from an Orphan’s Fund do; Hughie’s driving, Arnie Nelson’s in the front passenger seat, I’m in the back. Hughie says to Arnie, “You’ll make it on talent.” Then he jerks his thumb over his shoulder at me. “This guy makes it on personality.”
“Well, I took that as a challenge. After 40 years, I thank Hughie Wallace for that.” Dick still brings an infectious enthusiasm to the job, after 40 years of it, still tries new ideas, new equipment, new effects. The most fascinating part of the business he says is the “what if?” factor. “What if we speeded up the music here?” What if we brought in this electronic sound effect?” “What if we etc. etc?” At a 1992 bar B Q party at Frank Griffiths’ home, more than 100 CKNW employees were gathered. Dick leaned over the boss’ chair to say hello to him, and Griffith, now in his late 70s, and frail, clasped Dick’s hand and looked up smiling, “ I hope you had good memories of this place.”
Thanks to Chuck Davis