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Over the past few weeks, we’ve been asking you to share your memories of when CKUA shut down 20 years ago. And you responded — a flood of emails and voicemail describing how it felt when the station went dark.

Here are a few of the touching messages we’ve received.

Our dedicated supporters are why CKUA was able to come back. So, we’re celebrating with a second Touch the Transmitter tour, visiting 16 communities across the province with free shows to thank you, our listeners. We hope to see you there!

From Kathy:

“Back in early 97, I would wake up every morning to my husband, my baby boy and CKUA to greet me. Waking up that fateful morning to static on the radio was like losing a good friend. We joined your legion of loyal listeners to bring back a great treasure and cried with joy when you came back on air.  Below are pictures of your youngest campaigner to being back CKUA.    “

From Maria:

“Dear members of the CKUA team,
I remember with great clarity the sound of CKUA being off the air 20 years ago. At that time, I was in University and did not have a TV. The newspaper, CBC and CKUA were my ‘lifelines’ to the outside world. I remember waking up that morning and hearing that awful ‘dead air’ sound. It was exciting to see people rally around the station and bring it back to air. It was a testament to that ‘Alberta Spirit’ that often comes out in times of need.

CKUA really provides the background music to my daily schedule. Remembering the days of it being off the air always reminds me to not take the station for granted. It is a treasure amongst radio stations. There are so many artists I would not be aware of, and who would not receive the same exposure as they do on CKUA. The announcers are knowledgeable – truly the best on the airwaves.
Thanks for all you do.”

From J.:

“Back in the late 1990’s I was basically listening to classic rock radio stations but growing weary of their rotating playlists. Channel surfing in the car I came across a song that really caught my attention, took note of the dial and discovered I was listening to CKUA. When I got home I decided to try and find out the artist, so I phoned the station. Cathy Innes? was on the air, answered the phone, but said I can’t talk right now but leave me your phone # and I’ll call you right back. AND SHE DID!  I couldn’t believe a radio station would provide such “listener support” I have been a faithful supporter ever since and my dial rarely leaves 94.9. The artist? Capercaille. Where else but CKUA. Thanks Cathy, nice to hear you again.”

From Barry:

“Dear CKUA:

I thought you might be interested in a memory I have of the 1997 shutdown.

I have been an avid listener to CKUA since the early 1970s.  When I moved to Medicine Hat in 1977, I was delighted to find out CKUA was available in the region.  To this day it remains, in my opinion, THE ONLY radio station with quality programming in the area.

I remember turning on my radio in the morning of March 21,1997 (I am almost exclusively a morning listener) and hearing nothing but a tone.  A few days later I read about the shutdown in the local newspaper and was quite depressed.  I did not realize how important CKUA was to my mornings.

A few weeks later I was coming back to Alberta from a small project in Montana (I am an archaeologist).  I entered Alberta at the Wild Horse border crossing (in the far southeast corner of the province)) and without thinking I turned my radio to CKUA.  I was very surprised to discover you were back on the air and in the middle of a donor campaign.

I was so excited I wanted to donate immediately, but I did not have a cell phone at that time.  Fortunately on Highway 41 midway between Wild Horse and the town of Elkwater in the Cypress Hills there was a pay phone.  So — I stopped at what was perhaps the most isolated pay phone in Alberta at that time —- and made a $200.00 donation.  Shortly after that I became an ongoing subscriber and have remained so to this day.

I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to bring CKUA back from oblivion.  Who knows what will happen with technology but I hope we are all around to celebrate CKUA’s 100th birthday in 10 years.

Keep up the good work.”

From David:

“Dear CKUA,

I have been listening ever since I first heard CKUA in 1975. I remember enjoying the eclectic mix and marveling at hearing Fairport Convention, Robin Williams, Pink Floyd and Strauss in a single program! CKUA became a part of my life, my home and I kept two radios tuned in to CKUA all day, every day, as I do to this day.

On that fateful morning I awoke to my morning cup of tea and switched on the radio to hear…nothing. I frantically changed the batteries but to no avail. I switched to CBC to hear the announcement that CKUA was off the air and my heart sank. I do remember that I kept one radio tuned to the CKUA frequency just in case….and how pleased I was to hear about the fund-raiser which I eagerly joined! Suffice to say that since the re-birth CKUA has become even more important to me, and like many others it is my musical home.

Through CKUA I have enjoyed not only my favourite range of music from Jazz to Rock to Folk to Classical, and the wonderful and knowledgeable announcers, but I have also been introduced to the various Folk Festivals that occur in Alberta. I have also been fortunate to have had regular correspondence with Baba, Tony King, David Ward, and Grant Stovel. I hope that you will remind us all what was the first song played when CKUA started up again. Thank you to you all at CKUA, and to the many listeners who subscribe and keep this wonderful treasure alive.”

From Edmund:

“Serving with 1PPCLI in Calgary I left for exercise in Wainwright listening to the station, radio as always hard wired to CKUA, upon my return some months later I get in my car, dirty and thinking of 2 things, putting on the radio for my drive home and a cold beer. Only this time there is the broadcast signal only emitting tone, my guts sank as I knew transmitter was broadcasting but the station must have gone off the air. Not too long after enjoying that cold beer I heard the bad news they were to be off air indefinitely…”


From Dale:

“Good morning everyone. I’ve just been reading Original Thoughts, and writing about your request as to what one was doing during that dark time.

I was a studio camera operator at CBC and we were getting ready Togo on with 6 o’clock news. David Ward had come on the show to talk about Gail Hinchliffes decision to cancel the station’s funding, and this was one upset and bewildered individual. He told everyone about the horrible news and we could not believe this.

When a station such as “ours” is about to have it’s doors closed due to such an absent minded decision, it makes you ask what can we do. The decision to have donor funded radio was brilliant. You all obviously guessed correctly about how much CKUA meant to the masses.

Thanks again.

P.S. I don’t remember as long as she was maintained her ministerial position had HER salary reduced. Once again thank you all for still being here.

CKUA, the best damned radio station in the land.

Again, thank-you.”

From Cathie:


I’m listening to CKUA online as I write this. I just heard the request for feedback regarding March 20, 1997, when CKUA went off the air. It’s difficult to believe that 20 years have gone by since that dark day. I had been feeling very happy to have found CKUA, having spent a lot of time flipping around various radio stations after moving to Calgary in 1992. I remember getting into my car to go to work on March 20th. I wondered why the radio didn’t come on, as it usually did when I started the car. I fiddled and fiddled with it; finally settling on something else to listen to on my way to work. I was horrified when I discovered that CKUA was no longer on the air! This isn’t really much of a story; but I just wanted to share how I can still clearly remember “that sinking feeling” when I realized you were not on the air, and my enormous relief when you returned. I’ve been a subscriber for several years now; and continue to listen online since moving to BC in 2007. I work from home; and my working day goes so much more smoothly when I’m accompanied by CKUA. Thanks for all you do.”

From Margaret:

“Hello CKUA

Responding to your invitation to send in a story about our experience 20 years ago when CKUA went off air, please know that I had to move my father into long-term care from Edmonton to Athabasca in April of 1997.

He was sliding into Alzheimer’s disease and I lied to him about going out to get parts for the washing machine so we could get on the road. (Later, he told me I was a traitor and I could only agree.) I’d prepared a bag with toiletries and a change of clothes. We were going to the Athabasca Healthcare Centre.

I missed you terribly on the road that day because I was driving the Mercury Tracer and we just had AM radio and no tape deck. Obviously, I was not going to listen to CKBA 850 top 40 country or 630 CHED. The trip occurred largely in silence. The only happy part of this story was that my mom was already in long-term care in auxiliary and the nurses and I witnessed my parents’ reunion after their separation of nine months. Don’t be sad. Since then they have both passed on and they live on in me and my good sons, in our genes, in our memories.

I don’t want to dwell on this, I only mention it to say please don’t go anywhere again. We need our good community of like-minded people and I will do my best work keeping CKUA right where I can find you. Thank you all for everything you do.

And to end the message on a positive note, I remember that Dan West at AU got us set up with the discussion thread and that was something new and powerful as we came online in the mid 1990s. It was a place for us to share, vent and love, feeling connected to the community we fought for and continue to support.”


From Colleen:

“March 20 is my birthday, so on March 20, 1997, we had come home from an evening of celebrating. I turned on the radio and was happily listening until I heard those horrid words followed by radio silence. I will never forget that feeling, but also have the happy memories of working to bring the station back, and tears of joy upon its return.”


From Patricia:

“I don’t remember exactly where I was 20 years ago today, but I do remember turning on the radio and getting nothing.  I can’t remember how I heard about what happened, it might’ve been from friends, or it might’ve even been on the CBC, but I just remember a big sense of shock and loss – how could this happen!?  And anger at Ralph Klein – more cuts!  This is an Alberta institution, we can’t let it die!  Not only that, what about that fantastic music library and all those great broadcasters?!  Then, when I heard about the movement to get CKUA back on the air, I was definitely in.  Thanks to all of you for making it happen!”


From Helen:

“I don’t recall when I became aware of CKUA. Was it while growing up in Calgary? Or during grad school in Edmonton? For sure, CKUA was my sonic lifeline when I started working in Grande Prairie. That’s when I went from a listener to a donor.

I didn’t hear the last broadcast so I didn’t know why there was just a dial tone that morning. Despite learning what happened, I obsessively would turn on the radio, just in case. I also became glued to the online bulletin board created by CKUA supporters in those early days of internet. Every night, I avidly followed the rumours and excoriations (towards Gail Hinchliffe, former board chair) and updates on the efforts to restore the station. I’m back in Calgary now and for me, CKUA was (and still is) “radio worth fighting for”!”


From Ron:

“Here is my CKUA story….

In 1997 I was a long suffering “commercial” radio dial surfer when one day my scan button stopped on a station called CKUA. What is this? A diverse and interesting music selection; knowledgeable announcers – real people; no loud and obnoxious commercial jingles?! I checked back several times in the next few days…Wow! This is excellent. Then suddenly – silence. I kept checking back – still silence. Oh well – it was too good to be true after all….

I started reading newspaper articles on the problem – and that there was a movement afoot to start CKUA back up again. I was ecstatic when CKUA came back on the air – and have been an avid listener (and donor) ever since. Many other radio stations and formats have been introduced since that time. None of them have been able to capture the magic of CKUA. Please, please keep up the good work! We need CKUA for 20+ more years. I am a fan for life!”

From Marcia:

“Unlike many other things in my life, I remember very well hearing for the first time,  that CKUA was gone. My husband, son, and I were having a party at our home, and had a friend visiting from California. Friends and fellow listeners arrived and informed us that they’d been listening on their way over, and the station had gone off the air. We were in shock but couldn’t really pursue it or talk too much about it, in view of our host duties. The next morning (one of the times we listen the most), we turned on the radio only to hear that awful sound. In desperation, over the next few weeks, we tried several other stations (including that Canadian icon, some call it), even though we knew better, but of course, it wasn’t CKUA. We talked with other listeners, attended a few events, and tried to spread the word.  We were SO grateful for the return of our staple, even tho’ we missed Andy’s “first words” by a couple of minutes!

Thanks to everybody out there who worked so hard for CKUA.

We’re so sorry to lose that rock, Ken Regan, but are thrilled with the addition of Kevin in one o’ the big chairs. We appreciate the fact that CKUA is more collaborative than ever.”

From Roger:

“At the time of the shut down I was working at a start up technology company in Calgary. As always I tend gravitate to co-workers with an interest in music and the arts.  Working for this small company I discovered many who also worked there were fans and supporters of CKUA.  It was common to hear CKUA played on portables radios in the office and “us” supporters often attended the local fundraising parties and blues dances as a group.

I remember a couple of days after the plug was pulled on CKUA that we found out there would be a meeting of sorts at the short lived “Media Club in downtown Calgary. How I found out about this meeting I can’t remember as the meeting notice would not have been broadcast due to the blackout and social media was not what is today in this post Facebook/Twitter world. News of the meeting was likely passed on by ‘word of mouth’ to the faithful. A small group of us from work planned to attend this meeting.

The Calgary gathering was a somber affair in the dim lit club on a rather wintery day with perhaps 30-40 CKUA followers. I remember that David Terry Mulligan appeared to talk to us there. He had flown in from a remote location and had a rather bad cold with a hoarse voice and could barely speak. He detailed the reasons for the shutdown, offered some possible community actions and answered question best he could. At this time shortly after the shut down the future of the station was still unknown but this awareness that there others who were concerned about “our station” gave us some hope.”

From Scott:

“Wow. 20 years!

We used to live in Pendroy, Montana. We could get Montana Public Radio on the air, and the kids liked it. We donated every time they had a fundraiser.

Around 1991, after we had our 5th child, the house got a little small for our family, so we moved to a new place 10 miles east.

The radio signal was suddenly iffy! I could put the radio in a certain place, mess with antenna, etc. You know the drill.

One day, I was listening and the signal went off. I had been sort of bored with their programming anyway. Frustrated, I scanned the dial and suddenly here was the Medicine Hat ckUa transmitter at 97.3. I was amazed, and *so* happy to hear it! Soon found a different spot to place the radio for best signal, and we were fans.

I don’t remember hearing the sign-off on March 20th, but I sure recall the next day when there was suddenly no signal. Internet was pretty rudimentary, but I did a search after a couple days, and found the site devoted to getting us back on the air. I was so excited, I spent many hours emailing back and forth with fellow devotees. Made some friends who are still friends after these 20 years.

When the station went back on the air, it was the happiest evening of my life! Have been a supporter ever since.

Keep up the good work, and I look forward to the next 20 years!”

From Rob:

“I remember it well …. I was working night shift at Sherritt in Fort Saskatchewan on that fateful day. After the minute or two that it took to realize that it wasn’t some kind of Orson Wellesian stunt, I wanted to cry for the last six hours of the shift. And for many months afterward until so many stepped up.

Congratulations on another 20 years of greatness!”

From Brenda:

“Oh, how I remember those days!  I was utterly indignant to think our gov’t would stop funding Alberta’s only public radio station.  I immediately threw myself into a letter writing campaign that, if nothing else, gave me an opportunity to vent my spleen.  And then the lights went out. . . . and I was quite beside myself. . . until someone came up with the brilliant idea to raise awareness AND funds.  While my pledges are small, I don’t think I’ve missed a year yet and every little bit helps!  Carry on!  Be Strong! Sing it!  CKUA!”

From Jeff:

“I remember when 93.7 went silent.  Searching for something listenable on commercial radio was useless (thank goodness for my old cassettes).  Fortunately, during most of the silence I was working in Sudan and could not listen anyhow.  Shortly after returning home I’ll never forget Andy Donnelly’s voice at 6pm on a Friday evening bringing CKUA back to life!  I believe he immediately played “Rise Again” by Stan Rogers.  How appropriate!

Thank-you to the dedicated staff, volunteers, and donors!  This “Juggernaut” of a radio station would not be possible without you!”

From Ron:

“I clearly remember when I had discovered that CKUA had been yanked off the air.  It was the morning after that fateful broadcast when I tuned in CKUA only to hear the carrier tone. At first I thought it was a momentary glitch that live radio is known for but when an hour had passed and nothing changed I came to the realization that a dark curtain had been drawn over my life.  That following week I learned more about how Ralph Klein’s cronies were foolishly trying to gut the network like so much of the rest of the Alberta infrastructure.

A few weeks later a town hall type meeting was called in the largest meeting room of Red Deer’s old courthouse building.  Even though it was very hot out and we had no A/C the room was packed with over 400 people, with standing room only, and the remainder of the attendees spilled out the door and down the stairwell.  That night I signed up as a CKUA supported and made my first donation.  Later I learned of how Ken Regan and the rest of our heroic team confronted the old board and laid out for them the legal ramifications that awaited them should they decide not to turn over control of the board back to the people who rightfully owned it.  Thankfully it was not too much longer (although it felt like an eternity) that we were back on the air again.

I will forever be in debt to Ken and the rest of the team who worked so hard to get CKUA back on the air and to get it to the point we are at today.”

From Les:

“I remember it so well.  Somehow, rumour had spread to local television stations, and it was mentioned on the late night broadcast.  I immediately turned on my radio to hear Chris Martin and his horrifying statement, “We’ll be back, after this ….”  and that interminable tone.

Within a couple of days, the campaign had begun.  Telephone calls, organizing, rallies, meetings, and an incredible mail program, (no email at that time, and probably much more effective) so much that the huge mail bags were stacked up and blocking the corridors in the legislative offices.

It was so bad that the Premier, Ralph Klein, called in a long time strong backroom Tory man, and told him, “This is getting out of hand.  Bud, get in there and clean it up.”

As we know, it took five weeks, but he did get it cleaned up.”

From Irene:

“I still recall it well. I had been listening to CKUA for a few years. We had moved into a home with a sound system throughout and CKUA was the go to station. I told all who would listen about how wonderful this radio station was, the music , the djs , everything about it excited me. I started buying cd’s based on artists I heard on CKUA. My repertoire expanded and I was thrilled to have so much new music to listen to. One night my husband and I had gone out and come home close to midnight. When we walked into the house we were greeted by silence. I looked at my husband and suggested perhaps a power outage? I turned it off and on again, I can only say the silence was deafening. It wasn’t until  a few days later  that I found out funding had dried up. I honestly mourned the loss of CKUA, it was like losing a close friend. When it hit the airwaves again I was so excited, I don’t think I’ve missed a fundraising campaign since. I now live in British Columbia and it is still the station I turn on every morning. I spent many years in Alberta and have always felt equally Albertan as British Columbian, province of my birth. I Feel so blessed to be able to listen to CKUA from the comfort of my home. For someone who spends a lot of time in my home it is a joy to hear so many beloved people on the air. We live along with those who disappear for a time, hoping and wishing that all is well. When they return we celebrate and hope all is ok for a while. I truly love this wonderful radio station, wish we had something similar here on the Island, think there would be a market for it.”

From Wes:

“What I remember most about the ’97 shut down and subsequent fundraising campaign to get CKUA back on the air is David Ward’s “touch the transmitter crusade” In my opinion a brilliant awareness campaign. Just look at CKUA 20 years later, WOW!”

From Holly:

“Picture 1997. I was a dedicated CKUA listener, aware of some dissention and difficulty — but I never thought it would result is radio silence.

Having read the book “Radio Worth Fighting For” I now understand what was going on behind the scene. But for most CKUA listeners including me, it was — SILENT.

Thanks thanks thanks to leaders like Tommy Banks and Ken Reagan, who stood strong and got things back on track. OMG, we can’t thank them enough.

My revival memory:
Andy Donnely’s voice when CKUA came back on air. The first track he played: Dougie McLean singing “All together/All as one…” OMG — I cried endlessly. I pledged my support for the rebirth of CKUA. I’ve been a supporter ever since.

CKUA is my window on the musical world — local, national, global. I could have Beyoncé and Lady Gaga and Justin BEAVER whenever I want, which I don’t. Instead, I depend on CKUA for INTERESTING music and insightful commentary.

Long live public radio. Long live CKUA.”

From Barbara:

“We remember that day well.  My husband was driving to(or from) work, and I was home with our boys.  The station just went off the air, boom.

Our hearts hurt.  It was like there was a death of a significant presence in our lives.

For days we mourned.  We wondered if things could be resolved and our beloved CKUA would return the next time we tuned the radio station to it’s rightful position on the dial; the only position on the dial which mattered to us.

My husband introduced me to CKUA in 1986, when we met.  He fondly told me of a memory of sitting in the driveway in the car and listening to Hendrix, Machine Gun on the radio.(it was Holger Peterson hosting at the time)  He can’t quite remember how old he was, but apparently, if you put the emergency flashers on and stepped on the brake, you would get power on the radio without turning on the ignition….the car was a Dodge Monaco. He’s been listening ever since.  I immediately fell in love with the station, the hosts, Bill Coull was one of my faves, and the vast library which this wonderful radio station seemed to possess.

We have been donors and subscribers for almost the entire 31 years since we met, off and on.  Our boys were raised on the station and one son is a devout listener…the other is exploring the many options available out there, but has CKUA on his radio dial as a favourite.

We were SO incredibly elated when CKUA came back on the air, and so thankful that it was only a short-term issue; an ugly one, but almost forgotten and not really important anymore. Except to say that the listeners supporting this radio station financially is paramount(or maybe tantamount) to its success.

We now have the station on almost all the time.  There is no other station which feeds us like CKUA does.  Even with the changes which have happened, and do happen in shows, hosts and music styles, CKUA is home to us. It is part of the fabric of this home as we continue to grow into a bigger family; marriages, grandchildren, friends….

Thank you to all the listeners out there who support this station so that we can turn the radio on in the morning, or in our vehicles and know that y’all are gonna be there!  Thank you to all the great hosts, the administrators, and the volunteers who keep CKUA going.”

From Vernon:

“This story is from a very dark time in my life (before I became a loyal ckua listener). My wonderful departed mother used to spend her evenings curled up on the couch reading a book and listening to classical music on the radio. One day and for the next few weeks she kept saying that she couldn’t find her favorite station on the dial . It is only recently that I have realized for sure that it was ckua that she was listening to . I began listening in about ’04-’05 and now it feels like torture to have to listen to any other station. My mom passed away in 2011 and shortly thereafter I moved out of Calgary to Carstairs, AB. I have constructed a large garage (2000 sq.ft.) and installed an older high quality stereo with a twenty foot high FM antenna for crystal clear reception . Now, in the evenings, I am often in the garage listening to classic examples and puttering around on whatever.”

From Rusty:


my (the lump in my throat still happens when I think of that terrible day) trauma of that time actually began the night prior, when I usually would press the sleep button on the clock radio so I drift off with “Night Music” and Tony Dillon-Davis’ voice . . . but for a still unknown reason – my (at that time . . .) husband refused to let me listen – I would have known there was something amiss (is it possible to hear that “last night’s” playlist?? have always been curious)  and Chris Martin as the dj might have been a give away that there was something wrong.

When I awoke to the HUM!!   : (  and struggled to shake off the night’s groggy feeling – first thing I did was try to call  1 800 494 ckua to ask  Cam Hayden “what’s up!?” (Looked outside and saw that it had snowed quite a bit – in Banff that was an indicator that the dish was blocked and the signal would be off for a while)  but it just rang & rang & rang – before the panic set in I woke the boys (isaac & ben) to get ready for school – I then went out to the car in my nightgown – to see if I could try to get the Red Deer frequency (some times would sort of come on – but still the HUM) – I felt like my world was tilting – then the husband phoned and said CKUA was GONE – co-worker told him it was all over the news and other radio stations – tuned into CBC and while I got the kids ready for school – told them and as this was all they had every heard in the house they were upset too.   I would listen to the hum EVERYDAY – until it was too much – right up to the moment of the last day of the HUM and John booked us to be somewhere (I cannot even remember where as it didn’t seem as important as the RETURN of my beloved CKUA)  so I missed the Celtic Show sign on  : ‘ {  (He is now my ex – and though there were other things – this event was a bit of a ‘straw’, was so angry at him – for years)

BUT – we did get involved in the the following – – – The local chapter of Friends of CKUA got together to see what we would be able to do to help , , , and we had a fundraiser in Canmore.  David Ward & Lee Onisko came through on the famous “Touch the Transmitter Tour”and my eldest son Isaac – only 10 yrs old at the time – created a *Radio Worth Fighting For – *  T-Shirt which we had made up and sold at our local fundraiser . . .

Thankful everyday WE brought it back”

From Herman:

“I had come home from work that night and my son informed me that CKUA was going off the air. I listened till all was silent and sat there thinking about what we had lost. At that point I had been a casual listener for a few years, slowly being pulled into CKUA’s orbit, but like so many others taking it for granted. Although I was at work when the station went back on air, I made a point of being by a radio to listen to Chris Martin bring it back and the playing of “All Together Now” – wonderful. Needless to say I’ve been a financial supporter ever since.

I’d love to hear a replay of the music played that fateful night CKUA went off the air. I understood it to be some of the favourite selections of the programmers at that time? The only song I can recall is “Here’s To Life”, Bill Coull’s pick I believe.

Thanks for all the good work you do.”

From Elaine:

“We moved to Calgary 1997, Tom arrived in March to get established with his new job and get to know Calgary and Owen and I followed in the summer. Within weeks of Tom being here and by the virtue of working with really smart people, he was turned onto CKUA right from the get-go. Then the plug was pulled. Before moving to Calgary we had the great fortune to live in Florida and became big fans (and moderate supporters) of WMNF, the Tampa NPR radio station, over our three years there. They exposed us to great musicians; Lucinda Williams, Iris Dement, Buckwheat Zydeco, The Subdudes to name but a few. So when Tom heard CKUA and then didn’t hear CKUA he was inspired to want to support your fundraiser. I believe his words to me were “there’s this great radio station here that was just pulled off the air that needs help. They are a lot like NPR. Shall we support them?” Without even a moment’s hesitation I said “YES”!

I think baring a couple of credit card updates blips and switching to auto debit we’ve been supporters ever since. I am so glad that many people have come together to help the station thrive! If the last fundraiser is any indication then CKUA should be around for many years to come.

CKUA became the soundtrack at our house pretty quick and with lots of unpacking and getting settled in happening, it was perfect. I remember fondly hearing Cathy Ennis the afternoon when it was announced that Sev Savarin (sorry, I know I am fuzzy on his name spelling) had passed away. The sadness was palpable and it was clear these people weren’t just co-workers, they were true friends. That pretty much sums up what CKUA is even today. Real people with big hearts.

Here’s to the day CKUA came back to life. Cheers!”

From Young:

“When I awoke in the morning and heard that awful drone, I didn’t understand what was happening. But when I found out, it was like I was living in a void. My CKUA was gone. My entertainment, music education, amusement – gone. Then when I heard of the action plan I wrote letters and called all my friends and relations who span our country from PEI to Vancouver Island. I asked them to financially support CKUA and they did. Now CKUA is back, better than ever. This is why I support CKUA financially and volunteer in a number of ways.”


From Derek:

“I thought my radio was broken. Instead of great music to wake up with I got a godawful buzz. It was a rude awakening of the worst kind.

I joined the letter writing brigade and wrote letters to Ralph Klein and my MLA. When the call went out for phone volunteers I was there. I worked the first campaign, manning the phones. One event and two phone calls stood out.

I clearly remember Sev Sabouin, I still miss that voice, walking around the pledge room introducing himself to each of us, asking our names and thanking each of us personally for giving of our time and work to save this station.

Two phone calls stand out. I took one call from a gentleman who wanted to withdraw his pledge because we were playing Sinead O’Connor and he had no use for her or her music. He wanted to cancel his pledge. I worked with him, put him on hold, got help finding his pledge and then spoke to him. I said I agreed with him truthfully that CKUA does play some music that I don’t like either but I added, if every one who donated to CKUA said here is my money but  you cannot  play this artist soon we would have a list of banned artists that  would prevent us from playing any music by any artist. Silence on the phone. He thought for a moment and said yes you’re right. Sorry he said, keep the money and hung up on me. We processed his pledge in the normal way.

The other call I took late in the day. We were rapidly approaching our goal of $50,000. We were getting there $5, $10 at a time. $25 dollars was a large pledge, $50 very rare and I never got a $100 pledge. Until my last call. A lady called and asked how close we were to our goal, about $1,000 I said. She said okay, make my pledge $1,000 here is my credit card number. She said she wanted to hear Blue Bayou by Roy Orbison. I did the paper work, handed in the pledge, It put us over the top and the radio announcer who I cannot remember let out a whoop and said he was going to play every version of Blue Bayou CKUA had . Being part of the rescue of CKUA is one of my most proud moments. Thank you all for your continued wonderful work. I love every thing you do, including Sinead O’Connor!”

From Bev,

“Remember ’97?

Remember the Shutdown of ’97?

“All Together” and we were in heaven!

Back where we’ve been since ’27.

“The Last Waltz” had played, but it didn’t end there:

The People yelled loudly “How do you dare

to shut down our station, as if we don’t care?”

Some of us thought it might be a con!

Our CKUA will not be gone!”

From Maureen:

March 20, 1997  6:58 a.m.

 I surface to semi-consciousness and one eye unglues itself to peer at my clock – two minutes to go before the radio kicks in to officially awaken me. I do not wish to be awake – on this morning, I could sleep a while longer . . . and I spend my precious time daydreaming of some-day retirement, when I may awake naturally, with my body clock. But at least, I know that in a few seconds, the soft voice of the announcer will come on, the music will be carefully chosen not to stun or agitate my sleepy brain, and I will be quietly grateful for having found my perfect radio station.

7:00 a.m.


What?  What? Is it a power failure – no you ninny – there is sound, and I can see the time…


Oh, my God – please, please turn it off –that nasty drilling sound? Turn it off!

I twist the volume down to get a respite. But when I turn it back on again – that horrific, brain-piercing screech continues, unending, without inflection, boring into my brain.  I must get rid of it, and I switch to another station, some rapid-fire news dialogue.  Switch again – more ordinary radio announcer accelerated yakking.  Switch again – CBC.  And I catch the tail end of the newscast mentioning that CKUA is off the air – it is a mystery.  Technical, transmitter difficulties?  We have had them before – it will get sorted out. 

I turn off all sound – CBC is too chatty for me and so I regroup to get ready for my day in unwanted silence.  It is like being in a foreign land; how I miss my announcer-buddy, and his choices of music.  But it is only temporary – I am sure.


8:00 a.m.

 As I get into my car, I suddenly remember the A.M. station and I switch over.


Something is very wrong here . . .  


You never know what you have until it is gone.

From Larry:

“So 20 years ago I was an occasional listener of CKUA. I knew it was a government-sponsored radio station that offered interesting music and non-main-stream artists. However, I never really got involved and never contributed to the then fund-raisers, secure in the knowledge that the government would always bail out the station if there was a funding shortfall.

Then suddenly, one day the music was no more! Cut off as quickly as a lost loved one suffering a fatal and unexpected heart attack.

Wait? What? No debate or discussion? No opportunity to ponder the future? No second chance?

There is a Russian saying (heard in the Russian movie Solaris, although the origin is still debated) that you never know how much you love something until it is taken from you. This could not have been truer for me than with the “death” of CKUA. Suddenly, the air waves were somehow cold, indifferent, and not interested in connecting with me the listener (except at a banal level).

I had lost a friend that I didn’t know I had, and there was a vacuum in my life.”

From Susan:

“Well, 20 years have gone by since the station went off the air. Hard to believe.

So many memories of that time, checking different radios in the house and the car to see if there was a problem with one of them. Hearing that the station was off the air, the sense of loss as it was all we listened to. Fast forward to the amazing fundraiser and staying up until midnight to see if the goal was reached.

But the main memory for me was meeting David and Lee when they did the “touch the transmitter” tour. I heard that they would be in Peace River, so I took a break from my job, grabbed some fruit and muffins and met them on main street. I even did a station ID with David while sitting in Lee’s car. It was a small gesture but I felt that if we all did a little something we could keep our station going.

So, fast forward 20 years, we still listen faithfully and support our station and look forward to the future with CKUA.”

From Chip:

I moved to Calgary on Chrismas Eve, 1988 and immediately found CKUA. Since my arrival, but for the “Sad Time of Silence”, I have been a constant listener and promoter. I’ve travelled extensively and lived in Canada, Australia and across the U.S. I can say without reservation that other radio stations pale in comparison to the rich musical offerings and expert radio voices that CKUA sends my way every day.

Twenty years ago, I was stunned motionless when I turned on the radio and heard only that atomic-era tone that signalled a catastrophic development. Moments later, I learned why my most cherished source of song was not coming across the air waves. I didn’t know whether to go running and screaming into the streets or reach for the bottle of strychnine. 

I decided to take a third, political route and wrote to then Premier Ralph Klein. Begging for a return of financial support, I offered a musical “alphabet” of reasons to fund the station. It began…

“A is for The Animals”

“B is for Beethoven”

“C, Cab Calloway”

“D, Bob Dylan”

and so forth, ending, of course, with Frank Zappa. I had hoped that I could appeal to his sense of pride and musical tastes, being careful to include a variety of  styles and artists, all of whom I had heard on CKUA (sometimes in the same program!). Sadly, I received only deafening silence in reply.

I can thank the gods that the good people of our world-wide community came to the rescue, resurrecting CKUA. Music is a calming, riveting, inspiring and enthralling joy when done well. Thank you for continuing the tradition of excellence.”

From Dianne:

“Back in 1997 CKUA was my wake-up alarm but that morning I woke up to the off air signal. But when I came home from work, that signal was still there.  That night I read in the paper that CKUA had shut down. I was devastated. Later that week there was a notice in the paper that there was a meeting to organize a come back.  When I got there the line of supporters stretched down the sidewalk and around the block which was heartening.

During those 5 weeks I realized how valuable CKUA was because there is truly nothing like it.  Like Joni Mitchell said “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”.  I had never considered myself a world music or blues fan but I really missed not hearing that music.  Pop and country were everywhere but it was the same music every four hours.

Finally after a long 5 weeks there was an announcement that CKUA was coming back.  I remember checking the radio all day long to see if it was on yet but at 6:00 p.m. Andy Donnelly was there with the Celtic show playing All For One and all was right with the world.

After that there was the amazing fundraiser that brought in a million dollars and the staff selflessly worked a month without pay in order to keep costs down so the station could come back for good.

After that I never took CKUA for granted and I learned never to take anyone or anything important to me for granted because of it.

CKUA is a treasure not just for Alberta but for the world. Long may you thrive, you enrich all of our lives.”

From Jan:

“When I worked in the corporate world, my work day was always made brighter by my radio.  I don’t remember how, but one day, I found CKUA.  I was probably tuning the dial to find something different to listen to.  I was fed up with commercial radio; the same 20 songs repeated during the day and SO MUCH NEEDLESS TALKING!  I found what I thought was a classical station, which came into my high rise office strong and clear.  Within a short period of time, I was listening to a wide array of music.  I could never predict what would be played next!  There was Alberta news.  I heard about Alberta agriculture.  I heard about Alberta Arts and Culture.  I was hooked.  It was exciting and different every day, and I looked forward to each different type of show, and the variety of announcers with such incredible knowledge about their field of expertise.  I tuned my car to CKUA.  My home radio was on CKUA.  I told my friends and family about it.

I will never forget the day I turned my radio on and there was nothing.  I thought there must be a problem with the radio, but other stations were still working.  I thought there must be a temporary problem with the broadcast, so I patiently waited a bit.  Then I began to get worried.  I made a few phone calls, called some local news stations.  Eventually I found out the sad news.

I let my office radio go quiet, as I just couldn’t imagine another station as great as CKUA.  I was in mourning.

Somehow, and I don’t remember how, we were invited to share in the resurrection of this great Alberta legacy.  My husband and I jumped on board, and have been a part of the CKUA family ever since.  The silent was broken and we heard the first sounds of rebirth with smiles and a sense of being part of something really magical and important.

I don’t work downtown anymore, so I don’t rely on CKUA to get me through my workday, but I am sure there are those that do, so I send in my monthly contribution:  not as much as we could when I was working, but the best we can do.

CKUA is a treasure, and I am so proud to be a part of this incredible gift to Albertans and the world.

I do look forward to many more years with this institution of great music.”

From Carla: 

“On this morning 20 years ago, I did what I did every morning: turned on the radio once the kids were off to school.  I couldn’t understand what I was hearing, and after a few minutes I tuned into CBC radio, only to hear the news.  I couldn’t believe that none of my friends had called the night before to let me know and hear Chris Martin’s shut-down show!

I was devastated.  That evening, after the kids were tucked in bed, I had been practising piano.  I had started piano lessons to try to brush up my piano skills.  It wasn’t coming easily.  Every day the following week, when I sat down to practice, I was overcome with tears.    I felt I that over the past 6 months I had wasted precious CKUA listening time by trying to make music – badly – a fool’s errand.  I felt that we had truly lost something central to Alberta culture and definitely to my life.

After a week of weeping over the piano keys, I made a decision.  I never took another piano lesson, and I threw all my practice energy and time into the fundraising project to return CKUA to the airwaves.  To this day, CKUA continues to be my daily companion as I love and appreciate music and throw my creative energy into genres more suited to my aptitude.”

From Rob:

“I have been listening to CKUA since moving to Alberta, from Ontario, over 40 years ago. I’d listen in my truck during the day and at home on the weekend. It was unusual for me to be listening at midnite on a weekday, but that is what I was doing on March 20, 1997, I was disappointed to say the least. Foolishly I thought the demise of CKUA was a “fait accomplis “, until on the Sunday after the shutdown, I answered the phone and there was the smoothest voice on radio, Mark Antonelli. As a former pledge room volunteer my name was on a list and he was asking if I’d like to help. The time line of the next 5 weeks is a bit fuzzy in my memory, but, I think it was the following Saturday that I was down at the Strathcona Market, with a sandwich board sign, directing people to visit the CKUA volunteers inside. The media showed up, TV cameras and microphones, and we’re asking me for info. I was nervous, and fortunately before I had to say anything, a car pulled up with Bill Coull and possibly Catherine Hoy and i directed the media to them. Bill Coull was awesome, cool, calm , and collected, very professional.

Lots of people pulled together to get CKUA back on the air, but it wasn’t till much later that we learned of the excellent behind the scenes work of people like Bud Steen. Shout out to Lee Onisko and David Ward too. Thanks.”

FroM Helene:

“Good Morning,

I just listened to Cam’s comments about how during the dark days of the shut down of the station, he attended numerous rallies and benefit concerts, and participated in letter writing campaingns.

His comments reminded me that all of this took place at a time when there were no Facebook Groups, no “Go Fund Me” pages, no Twitter….just a large group of driven and dedicated people with a common goal…to rescue our beloved station!

Without all the wonders of our current technologies, we still managed to communicate, and find each other! ( A pretty amazing accomplishment, given the times.)

Our energies were connected….we rallied, we read and wrote newspaper articles, and we attended concerts that brought us together in our love of music, and our passion and commitment for this great station.

After five weeks of deafening silence, CKUA came back with a roar to have it’s best fundraising campaign ever, and continues to grow and evolve and become stronger each year!

I’ll always remember the first song played when the station came back on air, it was Dougie MacLeans “All Together Now…All as One” and I think it was the PERFECT choice, as “All together”,  we managed to bring music and diversity back to the airwaves..”

From John:

“You might find this somewhat amusing, but during that period of silence I continued to regularly check the wavelength here in Calgary.  Then a great surprise, as the tone (I don’t think it was silence) was intermittently broken by a brief announcement that CKUA was going to come back.  Sometimes I listened to that in preference to the other broadcast alternatives!”

From Sherry:

“I was living in Medicine Hat in 1997 and had my radio continuously tuned to CKUA – the best radio station in southern Alberta. I remember driving to work on the morning of March 21st and being surprised at the dead air at 97.3. I was later to learn that CKUA had been shut down. I was incredibly upset as I had been listening to the station since the early 1980s. I was thrilled when the station was back on the air 5 weeks later. I have been a constant financial supporter since the earliest fund drives and have been a subscriber for many years now. Most recently I have become a volunteer for my FAVOURITE radio station.”

From Stuart:

“20 years ago today I was in Ottawa on business.

When I called home to talk to my family that night, my young son said “Dad, that radio station you listen to all the time is off the air.” I said, “What? Did they have technical issues?” He said “No, they shut it down?”  “WHAT?!? Who… they?…No way… not happening?” Well, it was frustrating being in Ottawa while others were attending rallies and making their passion for our station visibly known.

When I got back to Alberta I did of course volunteer in the pledge room and got to experience the great response of Albertans in that insanely successful fund drive.  I remember David and Lee returning to the building from their touch the transmitter tour.

Although I was a supporter, volunteer and listener before March 20, 1997 and still am, that date and the events that followed were a pivotal time in my life with many memories and friendships whihc remain to this day.

Thanks CKUA and congratualtions!”

From Richard:

“Hi there CKUA team,

It’s hard to believe that it has been twenty years since the plug was pulled. I still remember that morning vividly – turned on 93.7 only to hear that cursed tone, and heard the same at 580AM. I had only been a listener for a couple of years, but in that time I came to love the music and people that played it, and knew that I had to play my part in getting the station back on the air and have been a proud monthly donor since those dark days.

In some respects, I am glad that the shutdown happened – it underlined the importance of CKUA in my life, and is something that I have not taken for granted even since.

Looking forward to seeing David and Hayley here in Red Deer on the 6th!

Keep on bring the great tunes!”

From Jay:

“20 years ago today, it was a Friday morning. I had jumped into my car to head out to Drayton Valley for  mornings worth of work. When my radio came on, all I heard was the off air signal tone. My first thought was that there was an FM transmitter problem, so I switched to good old 580AM, only to be greeted by the same tone. I assumed larger transmitter issues, switched to my car cassette because there was no other decent music to listen to on radio. I was puzzled when at noon, the station was still off air. I was really puzzled when at 3 PM it was still off. I was stunned by the CFRN report at supper time what the actual issue was. I was dismayed and started to mourn. I had just lost a close friend of  30 years! Honestly, it felt like a death in the family. No other way to describe my feelings.  I travelled the province, by car, and CKUA had been my constant companion. This was a real “sucker punch”. I truly mourned. This of course, was in the days of no social media, so I had to rely on the newspaper, and TV to keep up with developments. When I found out about a rally at the Media Club, I was in! I went to that event, and became a regular donor immediately. Thank God, people all over the province and beyond, contributed to getting my old friend back on the air.

Who knew that after these many years the station would have flourished as it has. It still is the best radio station in the world!!  I plan on listening via the radio or the internet until my days are over.”

From Katharine:


I remember well that morning, waking at 6, turning on the stereo to the white noise of no CKUA.

After several minutes of shock, my sleuthing brain kicked in.  I grabbed the Edmonton phone book, intent to find the number of an announcer.

Unabashedly, I made my first early morning call to a B.Coull – wrong number.

Undeterred I took a wild card chance on a D Ward and hit paydirt.  Our David Ward answered. He’d not slept, but graciously took the time to fill me in.

I got to work and met my work mate, Sid, another CKUA stalwart. He told me he was crafting an obit for the station and I replied “WTF, we’re going to get this station back on the air. Tear that thing up.”

I found a way to get connected to updates, attended meetings, became a foundation member, and recall the deep emotion I felt that Friday night in May at 6:00pm when CKUA returned to the air waves, Dougie McLean’s All Together, our anthem.

Twenty years later, that iconic song continues to fill me with pride for having been part of what the late anthropologist Margaret Mead said was true: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

From Brian:

“CKUA has been a companion of mine since 1969.  When that day 20 years ago came,  the loss of said companion was overwhelming as CKUA was my default radio station. During the 5 weeks of silence music for me was cassettes and CDs . As my occupations during my adult life allowed me to listen to CKUA during the day as much as possible the silence was like losing a good friend.

CKUA has no equal in this world,  I’d say it is the Everest of public radio.  90 years and counting,

Long live The Peoples Radio !!”

From Cheryl:

“20 years WOW!!!

My husband and I will never forget that night and the days and weeks that  followed

We were closing out the evening as we always did after putting the kids to bed , we would sit by the fire listening to Chris Martin to end our evening.

We sat in horror and shock when Chris signed off for what was  “ the final time”

Chris was the original  “mike drop”

The days following we searched and watched for how to help

We were at the media club rally (which was a great event!!) and when the air waves opened up again we became donators , then ongoing subscribers and of course the occasional

“Phone us with a BONUS”

Congrats to everyone past and present who work so hard to keep this station afloat”

From Bill:

“Living in Coronation and travelling throughout Alberta ….

Missed very much being able 2 tune in wherever ….

THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE still were better than what was on the air ….

New … that something this good would b back sooner or later …

The gritty story of the gut and cut .. of infastructure such as “ckua” … is both frustrating and encouraging 2 know that their are far many more ants than grasshoppers…..

In our lives we all face storms … and thankfully the storms do pass …..

The shelter provided in these times … shows our appreciation to help one another 2 see the sun shine again ….

I m  so glad …. we did not allow the …. shoot … shovel … shut up … mentality to rule the day

Family …. doesn’t do that to family

???? … thankx b 2 all who chipped in to provide living saving measures … instead of a funeral ……


From Jackie:

“CKUA has been a part of my life for over 30 years.  We were first introduced to The Celtic Show at a neighbour’s in Edmonton on a Friday night.  My husband and I started tuning in at home every Friday and soon discovered the Blues Party following Andy.  That became our regular Friday night entertainment so of course, one Saturday morning I found Wide Cut Country.  I remember the theme that day was “Honky Tonk” songs and I was hooked.  I was surprised to find my husband listening to a bluegrass show one Sunday and I said, “I thought you hated country music.”  He proceeded to educate me on the differences, insisting that bluegrass was not country.  That’s how our listening progressed, expanding to include more and more shows that we would tune in for specifically.

Although I remember the shutdown and thinking, “Ah, that’s too bad. I really enjoyed that station”, I don’t think we were in a position to donate at that time.  Since then, we have contributed and subscribed when circumstances have allowed, and I do my part in other ways.  For many years now, any time I am in a rental car, I set the radio buttons to CKUA for the benefit of the next renter.  When anyone asks me what type of music I enjoy, I tell them I listen to CKUA, and then I describe it.  CKUA was enough a part of our lives that one year when my husband’s birthday fell during a fundraising week, one of our kids contributed as a birthday present for him. Now that I’m a retired widow, I listen all day long and often have contractors or neighbours remark on the great programming.  I can’t imagine my life without you and this station.”


From Eileen:


This is in fact more of a story about 20 years ago tomorrow, which was my birthday. I woke up that morning, got ready and left for work. As a present to me, my husband had just installed a sweet little stereo system into my car, so that I could pick up CKUA on FM. Imagine my disappointment when I turned on the radio for my commute to work and heard that tone. I was pretty upset when I figured out what was going on. I just bawled all day.

CKUA is just getting better and better! I will be so honoured to see you on April 3 and receive my 20 years as a donor lapel pin. this email was just a great early birthday present for me. Thank you CKUA (feeling a little misty eyed, but this time so happy).”


From Dianne:

“I totally remember the exact moment when the radio went quiet.  I worked for Mountain Equipment Co-op, and my job was to count the money from the day before, prepare the bank deposits, and prepare the tills for the day.

My shift started early in the morning, and I was isolated in my own office with the door locked.  I always had my trusty transistor radio with me to keep me company, and it was always dialed to CKUA, and in particular Cathy Innis whose morning show I loved.  I couldn’t believe it that morning when I tuned in to….Nothing!  I spent the rest of the morning trying to find out what went wrong, and finally realizing what had happened, I was surprised at my own emotional response.  I could barely get my work done, and the realization that my family had been shut down left me feeling empty.  The response from the public, and from ex staff warmed my heart, and the push to raise i million dollars to get the station back up and running renewed my faith in human kind. Thanks to everyone for bringing back the best station in the country, and may we never go quiet again.”