From being the “messages” radio guy in the 1970s to police raiding the 630 CHED radio station for beer in the vending machines, veteran newscaster Bob Layton has seen it all and has the stories to confirm it.
Layton was at the Ponoka Jubilee Library March 24 to tell some of those stories to fans and to promote his book Welcome to Radio! My Life in Broadcasting So Far.
Now in his 47th year of broadcasting, Layton has countless stories to tell, which is one of the reasons he wrote and published this book.
Many of his friends and colleagues encouraged him to write these old stories. “It took about three years to write,” said Layton.
“We printed 1,000 and we thought that would be lots in Edmonton,” he added.
Once he looked at “this wall of books” in his garage, Layton admits some trepidation at the prospect of having to sell them all. “I had a little buyer’s remorse.”
His fear, however, was unfounded and Layton ended up selling them all with the need to print another 500 for a second printing. As the tour progresses, he’s pretty sure a third printing is going to be needed.
As for the stories, Layton says people just love to hear of the old days of radio as well as the big hosts of the day.
The names, stories and background to them all are countless but there’s one specific one that he says is a big part of the book, and that is the movement to get the City of Edmonton a police helicopter despite strong reluctance from city council and administration.
“The biggest challenge…was getting the story right,” said Layton of this and other stories.
One example he gave was some high jinks from about 40 years ago of how the DJs at a radio station blocked the manager’s office by drywalling it in. The trouble was, the pranksters involved, including Layton all had a different version of the same story.
“I spoke to four different people and got four different stories. And they weren’t, in some cases, even close,” joked Layton.
For that story, he ended up reaching out to the man who had the joke played on and was able to get a more accurate explanation.
One surprise from the tour for Layton has been in speaking to fans. “The biggest surprise is when people put up their hand and say, ‘I was there.’”
It’s a ripple effect of stories and experiences.
He said there’s a story of boy who fell through the ice and drowned. One attendee at another event spoke to Layton and said he was one of the divers who searched for the boy. After that incident, the man created a diving club and as it turns out, one of the staffers at 630 CHED is on that diving club.
“It’s all these stories that you tell and then you find out from other people more than the book because they were there,” said Layton.
For him the biggest takeaway is being able to tell his story, something he advocates for anyone.
“This is the story of my life in broadcasting. Everybody has a story,” said Layton.
“It would be a shame that when their turn on Earth is over that the generations to follow don’t know anything about them.”
The proceeds of the book go towards 630 CHED’s Santas Anonymous, Global TV’s Give Me Shelter and the Edmonton Police Foundation.