Over his 40 years at CKUA, Cam Hayden has played a lot of music — thousands of hours of programming everything from classical to electronic music to, of course, the blues. But even after spinning all those songs, some of them stand out.
Cam took us through a musical timeline of his career so far at CKUA, picking out ten songs that hold special meaning for him and had an impact on his life on-air since his start in 1978.
Edvard Grieg – “Prelude,” Holberg’s Time suite
Starting as the classical host at CKUA…
“The interesting thing was that I really knew nothing about classical music. I knew a few things bu,t you know, nothing more in depth than ‘Oh, yeah, that’s music from that horror film.’
So, it was an interesting exploration for me to go and delve into the classical library at CKUA and discover what was actually in there, and I found Edvard Grieg’s music, especially his suite from Holberg’s Time, to be quite intriguing and his music wound up on the morning concert more than once.”
Bessie Smith – “Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair”
That time when Cam chose the music between CKUA’s shows for schoolchildren…
“I was getting bored with playing nondescript instrumental music, so one day I played this song that really appealed to me, and I thought the kids might get a charge out of it. Bessie Smith from the 1920’s doing “Send me to the Electric Chair,” which turned out to be not the best of choices, as a number of teachers took exception to hearing that on the air between the school broadcasts.
Well, the station manager asked me to not do that anymore. That came in the same two week period that I also played Peter Tosh “Legalize It” which really got some backs up and I was told to stick to instrumental selections.
Bob Marley – “War/No More Trouble,” Babylon By Bus
On hosting Another Sunday Night…
“Sunday night was an opportunity to play what I thought were neglected forms of music on the radio station. And that included acoustic blues, it also included some electric blues, reggae music, African music and even electronic music before the evening was done.
Coincidentally, the program won a best reggae radio program in Alberta award from an organization that is no longer in existence: The Association for the Advancement of Reggae Music in Alberta. And, two years in a row, they gave me the award for the best reggae radio program for the reggae portion of Another Sunday Night. This particular track always stuck with me, and particularly this version from a Babylon By Bus album, because I saw Bob Marley on that tour performing at the Kinsmen Fieldhouse in Edmonton. It had a big effect on me and it started the whole time in my life where I was going to Jamaica a couple of times a year, for about four or five years and really started getting into the culture there.
The cool thing about this song is that most of the lyrical content comes from speech that was given by Haile Selassie to the United Nations in 1963 and I think the lyrical part of this song stands up today as well as it ever has.”
Muddy Waters – “Mannish Boy,” Hard Again
That time when Cam fell in love with the blues…
“[Muddy Waters was playing] the old SUB Theater on the university campus and it was really a revelation for me. I had seen blues before, of course, and had listened to lots of blues but there was something about the performance that night that was really a turning point for me. It made me really want to get into playing more blues on radio and also looking at presenting a live blues. One of the songs — of course, it’s iconic in the Muddy Waters catalog — is Mannish Boy. It’s like the disc version from the Hard Again recording because this was the start of the albums that he did with Johnny Winter that led to some Grammys.
Stevie Ray Vaughan – “Cold Shot,” Couldn’t Stand The Weather
On the rise of Steve Ray Vaughan…
“At that point Clifford Antone had Antone’s Record Store and Antone’s Club in Austin, and he had been inviting all of these people from, all of these veteran performance people like, Muddy and Otis Rush and John Lee Hooker and just an incredibly long list of classic blues performers to come to Austin and perform.
And while they were there, they acted as sort of an informal school of the blues for people like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton and Denny Freeman. All of these people who were, if they are alive, still performing in the Austin area.
So, this song sort of, I think, encapsulates the passing of the torch, in a way from the classic masters of the 50’s and the 60’s to the new generation, which included Stevie Ray Vaughan — who, I think most people would agree, did more to invigorate the interest in the blues in the 1980s in any one single performer.
Richard Thompson – “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” Rumor and Sigh
“It was about 1994 that the Rumor and Sigh album came out for Richard Thompson, and at that time I was working mornings. And I can recall distinctly having Terry Wickham and talked to me, and he’d given me a copy of the album in advance, and the reason was that he was promoting a show with Richard Thompson. And we decided to feature the album on the morning program.
So, we played two or three tracks and I held back playing 1952 Vincent Black Lightning because to me it was the star of the album. As it turned out, it’s probably his most requested song and the one that he always plays live, even though he may be tired of performing it. And it is a great story song and it always, you know, makes the hairs on my air stand on end, and I never get tired of hearing it. It could be because I loved motorcycles, and I love music, and I love a good story. This song has all of those things plus Richard Thompson’s stellar guitar playing.”
Sam Bush – “Sailin Shoes,” Peaks of Telluride
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“I’ve always been a Little Feat fan, and so, whenever you see a Little Feat title done by someone else, it makes me wonder: are they going to faithfully reproduce it? Will they put their own spin on it? Will it be some combination of the two?
I think this performance from the Peaks of Telluride album by Sam Bush is, probably, the best of both worlds. It’s the bluegrass on steroids — attacks Little Feat and it does not disappoint. It captures the essence of the song, the feeling of the song, but casts it in an almost whole new light with an acoustic presentation in a bluegrass mode.”
Linton Kwesi Johnson – “Di Eagle and Di Bear,” Making History
“Well the Eagle And The Bear is a great example of Dub poetry, which is something I was I interested in a lot for a number of years. An off-shoot of reggae — not your roots reggae, a la Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, but sort of a hybrid that was called Dub poetry. The lyrical content was of paramount importance but, on many occasions, the music was set to more of a jazz-y background in terms of tempo and instrumentation.
And this particular track, I think, melds all of those elements really well, it’s a great piece of social commentary for the time, it has incredible musicians, and sort of a jazz cast in the presentation of the music, and it stands up incredibly well. I would have no problem putting this on the air today, just as I did in the early 1990’s.”
Delbert McClinton – “New York City,” Live
“Well, Delbert writes great songs. If you’re a person who likes R&B, or blues, or Americana music, Delbert McClinton is someone that you’re familiar with. Based on the strength of his songs, they’re being covered by so many people. This particular live version of New York City has always appealed to me. It was recorded at the Notodden Blues Festival in Norway. His band are totally on point and with him, so well rehearsed. The musical content, the lyrical content is top-notch.
And it’s just a great song, it’s a traveling down the road kind of song, and this would work great on any program on CKUA, I’d think particularly the drive shows. And it made it on to the afternoon show when I subbed in for people or on the morning show and definitely on the Friday Night Blues Party.”
Samantha Fish – “Crow Jane,” Chills and Fever
“Blues is always evolving and changing; the music that I called the blues when I started listening to blues is very different from the music that people who were listening to blues 30 years would call ‘classic blues’. And in honor of that evolution of the music, I think it’s important to look at people who are in their 30’s or 20’s who are now producing music that’s called the blues and see what direction they’re taking the music.
The interesting thing about this song, is that it goes back 50 or 60 years., I think the first version I heard of Crow Jane was done by Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee, and I know that Johnny Winter did a version with Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee on one of his albums.
This particular version comes from Samantha Fish; she’s a young woman out of Kansas City, who is tearing up the blues charts these days and she is definitely putting her own spin on the evolution of the blues. And it’s worth listening to because, in this song, there are the classic elements of the song but it’s covered in a way that has a forward-looking view on the music.”