June 21st, 2024

Toronto broadcaster Bob Mackowycz Sr., creator of Q107’s ‘Psychedelic Sunday,’ dies

By David Friend, The Canadian Press on May 31, 2024.

Radio broadcaster Bob Mackowycz Sr., whose visionary programming injected a certain artistic flair into Toronto's cultural scene, has died. Mackowycz Sr. is seen in a Q107 radio studio in a May 26, 1986, family handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Al Dunlop, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

TORONTO – Radio broadcaster Bob Mackowycz Sr., whose visionary programming injected a certain artistic flair into Toronto’s cultural scene, has died.

His son says Mackowycz suffered a sudden and unexpected illness. He died Wednesday at age 75.

Mackowycz began his radio career at Toronto rock and roll station Q107 (CILQ-FM) during its first broadcast year in 1977; he would later move into sports programming at the city’s the Fan 590 (CJCL-AM).

At both jobs, and his many others, he found ways toshake up the system, remembered Bob Mackowycz Jr., himself a radio and TV broadcaster.

“He knew that the romantic poets would be punks today,” he said. “And so, he didn’t know whether to study them or become one.”

When Mackowycz joined Q107, he strived to be both. It helped that he was working within a formative period of Toronto’s media landscape as Citytv experimented with new ideas.

His rise at Q107 came fast. He first hosted a daily roundup of local arts events called “Street Beat,” which led to his weeknight series “Six O’Clock Rock Report,” an hour-long news journal where he interviewed everyone from rock royalty to local musicians.

But “Psychedelic Sunday” arguably left the biggest impression, with Mackowycz diving into albums from the likes of Neil Young, Led Zeppelin and Jefferson Airplane. The program ran for three decades until it signed off in 2018 with host Andy Frost.

Mackowycz left Q107 in 1987 for a job as special projects co-ordinator at Standard Broadcasting. His other roles included leadership positions at Toronto’s CFRB-AM and the Fan 590 (CJCL-AM), where he found a creative solution to at least one enormous problem.

During the dual strikes that ground the Major League Baseball and National Hockey League seasons to a halt in the mid-1990s, his son said Mackowycz scripted a fantasy World Series that played out on radio as if the games were real.

After a stint in Washington, D.C., Mackowycz returned to Canada with his eye on bringing Sirius satellite radio to Canada. David Bray said he joined his friend to draft the regulatory application.

Some musicians joined their case, Bray said, including Jeff Healey, who appeared before the CRTC to support the idea.

In his later years, Mackowycz served as a programming consultant and co-owner of Triple A format station Shore 104 (CHLG-FM) in Vancouver. It was sold to Astral Media in 2012.

Mackowycz also co-wrote the 1988 book “Dream Tower: The Life and Legacy of Rochdale College,” which told the story behind a failed Canadian social experiment. Rochdale College was an 18-story student-run educational facility in Toronto that spiralled into disarray when intellectuals and artists clashed with motorcycle gangs and dealers in the same high-rise.

The book served as inspiration for a 1994 National Film Board documentary.

Mackowycz also chased innovation in other circles.

Around the late 2000s, he was part of Mood On Demand, a business venture that envisioned high-definition TV sets as an adaptable canvas that could display images of everything from famous Canadian paintings to footage of puppies or tropical fish for 99 cents a day.

It was inspired by a scene in the 1990 sci-fi flick “Total Recall” where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone debated over whether to project a breaking news channel or a serene image of nature on the giant screen beside their breakfast table.

After retirement, Mackowycz returned to his love for writing poetry, his son noted, while his interest in radio never truly faded.

“He always believed that radio needed to exist locally,” he said.

“It needed to reflect the world that you saw when you looked out your window.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2024.

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