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GROOVIN' BLUE

In October 1967 the radio show Groovin’ Blue, produced and hosted by Bill Reiter, first aired on Vancouver radio station CKLG-FM - 99.3 MHz.  Uniquely, every record played and opinion expressed was that of the 24 year old host/producer.

Bill and Bob's CKLG-FM poster Bill had originally been approached by a young man regarding CKLG-FM in Bill & Bob’s Record Shop.  Owned and operated by Bill Reiter and Bobby Garrison and located at 10 Pender Street West at Shanghai Alley in Vancouver’s Chinatown, Bill & Bob’s occupied half of the structure featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as the narrowest building in the world.  The store's mandate was to provide Black Music – Soul, Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, Jazz, Funk, Gospel, Salsa, Blues etc. – to Vancouver’s Lower Mainland.  The young man visiting the record store that day said he was in line to host a new Jazz show on CKLG-FM and suggested Bill talk with the Program Director about Bill & Bob’s sponsoring it.

The well-known and respected CKLG-FM Program Director Mr. Frank Callaghan met Bill at the Moffat Communications Ltd. station a day or two later.  After an hour or so, Mr. Callaghan declared that the young fellow who came into the shop was one of ten people that ‘LG was interested in and, more importantly, how would Bill like to host the show?  Reiter jumped at it.  Here was an opportunity to play the music he and his East End Vancouver pals loved so much.  Frank Callaghan’s offer was especially thrilling because it opened a door for the music to reach the much wider audience outside its present Hastings Street East boundaries.  In fact, until then, no Canadian radio program had ever programmed the full spectrum of Black Music.   Initially, Groovin’ Blue was heard on Saturday nights in the 6:30 to 8:30 time slot.  Six months after its autumn 1967 premiere, the show moved to 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday.  Eventually it would become widely known not only to listeners in British Columbia but also Black Music fans in Washington State and the many areas the 100,000 watt signal bounced to.

The name of the program was taken from the title of a 1961 Pacific Jazz album by Curtis Amy and Frank Butler.  Bill tells of the time a New Yorker phoned to say he’d recently been on a freighter in the middle of the Pacific Ocean heading to Vancouver from Japan when he picked up the CKLG-FM Groovin’ Blue signal.  The Big Apple resident said he couldn’t believe that anyone on the West Coast of Canada was playing the N.Y.C. conga drum hero Mongo Santamaria as well as Pucho & his Latin Soul Brothers.

Management wanted a unique program that fit with the type of music being played on California FM radio.  This California format, originally known as Underground, later became Progressive Rock.  Moffat Communications, CKLG-FM's owner, reasoned that if there was acceptance of a Blues music show, then the more universal Underground Music format might be immensely popular.

More than just Jazz or only Blues, the Groovin’ Blue Format covered the complete spectrum of contemporary Black Music - the same music being offered for sale at Bill & Bob’s.  Bill feels he was fortunate that the Country & Western-appreciating management weren’t sophisticated enough to ask the right questions.  Reiter speculates that if they had, the show may never have been offered to him.  Appreciatively, Groovin’ Blue paved the way to meet both parties’ needs.

Many outstanding artists got their first Canadian airplay on the program. Ollie & The Nightingales, Marva Whitney, The Dapps, Sy Risby, The Joe Tex Band, Sly & The Family Stone, Larry Williams & Johnny Watson, George Kerr, Johnnie Taylor, The Trials of Jayson Hoover, Freddy Robinson, Mabel John, Oscar Toney Jr., The Raelettes, O’Dell Brown & The Organizers, Melvin Van Peebles, Lou Donaldson and many more made their Great White North radio debut on Groovin’ Blue.  Interviews with Jimmy Smith, Billy Preston, Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry, King Curtis, John Lee Hooker, Bobby Freeman, Bobby Hebb, Joe Tex, Stanley Turrentine and others were a show feature.

Groovin’ Blue lasted for two years and ended its tenure on CKLG-FM in mid-September 1969.

Since the original show, the Groovin’ Blue program format has aired on other Vancouver radio stations including CKST (Coast 1040), CJVB and CHMB.  The GB Format with Bill as guest or co-host, has also been featured on many local and national programs including CBC radio’s Variety Tonight, CITR’s African Rhythms and Stormin’ Norman’s Blues Show on CFOX-FM.  Bill Reiter also worked as a pop music disc jockey on stations CHQM-FM, CKVN and CKLG-AM.  On ‘LG-AM he was known as Bill Reiter - The All Niter and also earned the non-commissioned rank of Boss Jock.

November 23, 2008 saw work begin on the WAGRadio (180.2 FM & 1802 AM) blog with Groovin’ Blue as the flagship program along with it's companion program entitled "Groovin' Blue Funk Shui Specials" co-hosted by Sunny "Sweet Daddy Fonk" Wong and DJ ZigZag.


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