I was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia.
My parents moved from the Canadian province of Alberta to Vancouver in 1956. As I grew up there was always music in my house. My mom played piano and guitar and my dad played the accordion. My parents bought records, almost exclusively albums. I’d look at the record covers and read the liner notes. These included Gigi (Original Soundtrack), Sound of Music (Original Soundtrack), My Fair Lady (Original Soundtrack), The Kingston Trio, Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, Last Date by Floyd Cramer, Joan Baez Vol. 1 and Joan Baez Vol. 2, Peter, Paul and Mary, Downtown by Petula Clark, That Latin Feeling by Bert Kaempfert and Whipped Cream & Other Delights by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. For me the album covers were “art.” My cultural osmosis was on track from infancy into my childhood. But there was no Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Connie Francis, Brenda Lee, Dinah Washington, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, Hank Ballard & The Midnighters or The Coasters in my parents collection.
It was during Christmas holidays in 1962, I first heard “The Twist”, by Chubby Checker, while an uncle demonstrated the dance moves in front of me and my cousins. My babysitters helped expand my musical repertoire bringing over 45’s to play on the record player before my brother and I were tucked into bed. It was while I was being babysat, not on the radio, that I first heard “Fingertips” by Little Stevie Wonder and “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto. As a family we watched The Ed Sullivan Show. Seeing The Beatles on TV in February 1964, along with my paternal grandparents, all I remember was the screaming girls drowning out much of their performance. I attended an alternate school or “free school” from 1964 to 1967, starting in grade two. Classmates would bring 45’s from home and play them on portable turntables. Some of the songs I remember include “Thank You Girl” by The Beatles and “Ferry Cross the Mersey” by Gerry and the Pacemakers.
In June 1965 when I was seven years old, I was having an eye operation at Vancouver General Hospital. My roommate was an older kid who had a transistor radio. It was then I first heard a lot of music on the local pop charts like “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits. I think I listened more closely to the songs on the radio since my one eye was bandaged during what I remember as a three-day overnight stay at the hospital.
From childhood there was an arrangement for my brother and me to get a weekly allowance for sweeping the driveway, washing windows, keeping our bedrooms tidy, mowing the lawn and raking the leaves. My dad was a dentist working at an office at 70th and Granville. Buying candy like the other kids in the neighborhood was kept to a minimum. Instead I began going to a local record store at 41st Avenue and East Boulevard called Fraser Radio and TV. I never knew why there was a “Fraser” in the store’s name since Fraser Street was about fifty blocks east of the store. In June 1965 my dad walked six blocks with me to the record store. It was then I got my first 45 RPM, “Tired of Waiting For You” by The Kinks. I began to collect the weekly record surveys available at the record store and have kept most of these from 1965 to 1974. I also began collecting 45’s, one per week.
I remember going to a Rock n’ Roll Revival concert with my mom in 1971 at the Pacific National Exhibition. I was thirteen and on stage were Bo Diddley, The Dovells, The Shirelles and others. Chuck Berry was expected to perform. But a riot broke out and I headed off in a hurry with my mom to the parking lot to get out of there.
In 1972 I discovered Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, a weekly radio show from the powerful signal on KJR in Seattle. Kasem counted down the Top 40 singles hits from the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA. Soon after I began subscribing to Billboard Magazine in the spring of 1972. I continued to get copies of Billboard by subscription, or from local magazine stores, until the beginning of 1986. From this exposure to the hits on the national charts in the USA, I was increasingly aware of a variance in records played on the pop charts in Vancouver and south of the border. This didn’t only involve the introduction of Canadian content rules for airplay on the radio in the early 1970’s. Singles by artists from Europe, and even the USA, were appearing on the local charts in Vancouver that were getting little attention in America.
In 1973 I went to visit CKNW’s legendary DJ, Jack Cullen, and viewed his broadcast live in his studios at Brentwood Mall. I saw his vast record collection, second only to the BBC at the time. I thought about becoming a DJ but didn’t end up pursuing that career. At one point I owned over a thousand 45’s in my record collection. But with the shift to CD’s I took about half of these to second hand record stores that, for awhile, I judged to be no longer fashionable.
Around 2008 I found a box with a stack of record surveys I had kept from visits to Fraser Radio and TV, as well as those I’d clipped out of local newspapers. Since that time I took on this project and have been helped by individuals and websites that have assisted in bringing this project to its October 2016 launch. Please see Acknowledgments section on the Resources page.
In 2010 my dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and for three and a half years I put this project on hold until after he died in 2014 and the role of being executor to the will was finished. So my final thanks is to my dad who walked with me to Fraser Radio and TV over 41 years ago, when I was seven years old, and opened up a whole new world.
– Ray McGinnis