It was a crazy 48 hours…starting 28 years ago today!

Sept. 3, 1992, Garth Brooks was going to perform in concert that night at the CNE in Toronto. But that afternoon, I was among about 75 media personalities invited by his record label, Capitol/EMI Canada, for lunch at the SkyDome! We ate on the field of the Toronto Blue Jays and then the record company played some new music videos on the venue’s Jumbotron. When the lights came back up, Capitol introduced Garth to say a few words to us. After his remarks, everyone had the opportunity to meet and get a photo with him. That’s where the photo of Garth and I was taken.

I had met him earlier, in Jan. 1991, after his show at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. I was there on vacation and he happened to be playing in town. I went to the show and interviewed him after the concert. (Carlene Carter was the opening act and her mom, June Carter, was sitting in a booth at the back. I was three seats from center stage and had a better seat for her daughter’s performance than June did.)

Back to Toronto, 28 years ago today. I had something special for Garth to do. I had cleared it with his record label days earlier. I hosted the afternoon drive show and was the music director for 96.7 CKGL-FM in Kitchener. Owned by Maclean-Hunter, we were the sister station to the market’s big station, 570 CHYM. But with AM listenership eroding, the decision was made at head office that the Kitchener stations should switch frequencies in order for CHYM to remain viable. The date of the change had been set for Sept. 4, 1992 at 8am.

I had the idea days, maybe a week or two, earlier to have Garth voice our FM sign-off announcement, inviting our listeners to join us at our new “home,” 570 on the AM dial. Garth would voice the welcome to CKGL 570, too. I wrote up a script for him to voice and brought it with me to Toronto. After the meet-and-greet, I walked with Garth to the SkyDome’s parking garage. There were two limos waiting and he had them turn off their engines so he could record the script with a minimum of noise. “Classy move on his part,” I thought to myself. I told him to read it over and if he had any objections to anything written, he was certainly free to refuse to it. He didn’t, read it like a pro and I had it on tape.

I rushed back to Kitchener, handed the tape to our producer and then headed back to Toronto. I had to accompany some contest winners backstage at the CNE for a meet-and-greet with Garth before his concert. I stayed for the show and, as Garth always does, he was impressive. But tomorrow was another day.

On Sept. 4, I joined the staff of both stations as we made the switch at 8am. Hearing Garth host it was so cool! BTW, after his introduction on the new CKGL 570, the first song we played was Alabama’s “Here We Are.” It was a big day with more events going on. As the afternoon drive announcer, I was to be on location doing my show live across the street from Waterloo Town Square. I had arranged for Duane Allen of The Oak Ridge Boys to call in live. The trick was to figure out how I would hear him calling into the station’s control room while I was live on-location and for him to be able to hear me. But we figured it out and it went off without a hitch. He could the excitement of the crowd around our location as I was live on the air.

Later, staff received a commemorative bottle of wine to mark the event. Each bottle had a clever label. It was good wine, BTW.

I framed and hung the photo of Garth and I on my living room wall. It was the only photo on my wall that was an exception to a rule I had: a photo didn’t go up unless it was autographed. That changed four years ago.

In March 2016, Garth and Trisha Yearwood played a series of concerts in Hamilton. I took the photo off the wall and accidentally ripped it trying to remove it from the frame! Fortunately, I had saved a scan of the photo years earlier. I had a copy printed off of a thumb-drive at WalMart that morning. I had already received confirmation I would be meeting Garth at one of the Hamilton shows. With my buddy, Michael Warren, we went to Hamilton and were escorted to a room backstage. We were the only people there. I was expecting to be part of a media crowd for a meet-and-greet. After a few minutes, I began to worry we had been forgotten. But soon, the door opened and in walked Garth and Trisha. For at least the next ten minutes, Michael and I had our own private meet-and-greet with Garth and Trisha!

(the spot on my wall reserved for a Garth Brooks photo; among the autographed photos are Gene Watson, The Band Perry, Glen Campbell, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, Restless Heart, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Brett Kissel, Vern Gosdin and George Strait)

And in 2016, 23 years after the photo of Garth and I was taken at the SkyDome, the autographed and framed photo (the print from a digital copy) went back up on my wall, completing my rule that only autographed photos would be hung.

(23 years later, the photo autographed)

All that from a crazy 48 hours that began 28 years ago today!

[FYI – in the picture with Garth, I’m wearing a button that reads “JFK: Release the Files.” Ten months earlier, Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK” had renewed interest in his assassination. I kind of got that button autographed. Later, I met Stone in Toronto and had him print the word “ALL” after the word “Release.” To this day, there are still unreleased files.]