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The final position of Edmonton’s remaining late night radio hosts

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It’s Friday night and the last human face Raj Dhami has seen at work is that of the janitor who slipped in a few hours earlier.

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Alone in the Now Radio building, Dhami claps his hands in joy. Within minutes of turning off the mic and asking Edmontonians for rude stories, the texts and calls started pouring in.

Dhami isn’t the only human voice you can hear on Edmonton’s late-night airwaves, but he’s probably the only one asking to hear your embarrassing stories.

Gone are the days when late-night radio DJs could listen to “Stairway to Heaven” and run outside to smoke a cigarette; scan the radio dial and you’ll hear music streaming, but it’s much rarer to hear a radio host discussing a live hockey game or sparking conversations after 7 p.m. broadcast day, and Edmonton is no exception.

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Now Radio is one of the last, if not the only, Edmonton stations to have local hosts live at night. Dhami is one of them, having spent the past five years maintaining the evening shift, Wednesday through Friday, 6 p.m. to midnight, with an earlier slot on weekends.

“If you come to relax or if you expect to relax, you’re on the wrong station,” Dhami says of his Now Radio show, which involves a lot of interaction with listeners, whether through live chat. calls, SMS or station. application.

Where the famous began

Edmonton’s late-night radio scene was once a bustling affair, with rival stations vying for listeners in the hours leading up to midnight. In the 60s and 70s, when 630 CHED was Edmonton’s hit music radio station, its nightly DJs had legions of fans.

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Former DJ ‘Daddy’ Don Kay recalls Edmonton Police Foot Patrol officers stopping downtown at the studio during this time to warm up from freezing temperatures and chat with night staff . Listeners also kept the phone lines on, eager to connect with the on-air personalities and express their appreciation for the deeper album cuts the staff could play late into the night, avoiding the Top-40 format. from the station.

Late-night radio was also considered the training ground for budding entertainers. Talk to virtually any veteran and they’ll tell you how they cut their teeth on the graveyard shift, which was knocked off the local airwaves for at least 10 years.

Paul Brown, known as Yukon Jack on The Bear, fondly recalls his time at the station in the evenings in the early 2000s.

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“It was the best place to learn the craft, how to be conversational,” Brown says. “There’s a romance around (the late night), an intimacy. You were looking to chat, you had time to kill and the listeners and the callers knew it.

Park Warden, known to radio listeners across Alberta, relished his time hosting off-peak hours.

“(It’s) the freedom to do whatever you want. It was about experimenting, finding your style, finding your personality. Almost no rules,” says Warden. “You were talking on the air like you were the only person awake in town. King of the night world.

late night queen

Late night radio rules are a bit more relaxed and allow for different conversations and music to be heard, says Pamela Kirby, who has been CRUZ FM’s new late night host since March 8 after spending several years at host parties at The Bear.

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“You could elevate the show beyond PG-13 at certain times,” says Kirby, who was successful in pushing the program director to allow heavier music such as Pantera to be played on his show due to the number of listener requests. “Fun fact: many listeners call to ask for a song, but don’t know what to ask. I would ask, ‘What do you want to hear?’ More often than not, they respond, ‘Uhhh, surprise me.’ Pick something for me. always made me laugh.”

From February 2016 to November 2021, Kirby maintained The Bear’s weekday 7 p.m. to midnight slot. The late-night hosts of The Bear you hear now are local, but voice-tracked: pre-recorded at an earlier time. Voice-tracked programs fill the majority of Edmonton’s airwaves after 7 p.m., in addition to syndicated programs. For example, on CBC Music Edmonton, Odario Williams fills the late night slot despite being based in Toronto. From Red Deer, Travis Currah’s late-night show is heard on Edmonton’s K-97, Stacey Thompson has a syndicated show airing on The Breeze and BC-based Ben O’Hara-Byrne hosts a talk show. night show on 630 CHED.

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Edmonton is an anomaly in that it has more radio stations per capita than most other Canadian cities. With more than 30 stations available to Edmontonians, not to mention readily available podcasts and internet-only radio, the competition is fierce, says NAIT radio and television instructor Dave Sawchuk.

With so many stations clamoring for the ears of Edmontonians, why would they lose slots?

More method than madness these days

“Many factors have convinced radio stations to no longer have full-time staff,” says Sawchuk, pointing to the explosion of new radio stations over the past two decades. “The formula of a show for two has imposed itself, and it takes twice as many people to host a midday show. The talent moved around the middle of the day.

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Sawchuck says radio companies are now forced to strike a balance between developing talent that can make money from advertising in lucrative daytime spots and cheaper canned content that lacks local flair.

The night shift was important to radio station owners at one time – the logic being that a popular show in the evening would attract listeners who would then wake up or start their vehicles playing the same station in the morning. Automation and cost-cutting measures have largely eliminated the need for 24-hour staffed stations, however, the late-night audience is still there; warehouse workers, taxi drivers, students and lonely people continue to seek the companionship that only a human voice heard through the moonlight can provide.

Dhami recognizes many of his loyal Now Radio listeners by tone of voice or text message style before they even say their name. Listeners, in turn, can also be watchers these days, as live, online cameras capture Dhami’s every word and move inside the DJ booth.

“There’s a different connectivity,” Dhami says of the night shift. He is proud to be the attentive ear that listeners can reach out to share their good and bad days. “That’s the nice thing about parties, there’s always someone who wants your company.”

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