As our station enjoys more than twenty-two (22) glorious years on the air and online, I felt this was the perfect opportunity for me to give you all the history of the station (as I remember it...cause I'm old AF), at least the start anyway. From it's beginnings as a weekly FM show focusing on Saskatchewan music, to the eventual launch of our own online station you now enjoy. This is the early history of this station we now call Pure Rock Radio...
Pt. 1: THE BEGINNING (S.O.M.A. Radio)
It’s beginnings, it’s changes, and it’s success. This story wouldn’t be any good without it’s beginnings and the birth. How did the idea come about? Where did it begin? The story starts with a homegrown organization, formed, made up, and run by local Saskatchewan musicians. The organization was called S.O.M.A., which stood for Saskatchewan Original Music Assoc.. The organization was started partly, because at the time, local and regional bars and clubs were not booking “Original” musicians and bands for their venues. Only cover bands. A cover band is one that only plays other people’s music. Also, MacLean's magazine published an article about Canada's thriving music scene but left out Saskatchewan...shame Maclean's!!
The Saskatchewan music scene has always been strong, and with the help of S.O.M.A. and it’s musician members, all the special events planned and executed by the group were smashing successes and standing room only, in most cases. This caused club owners to take notice and realize, there was a viable market for “Original” Saskatchewan music of all genres. At one of the board meetings, it was discussed that we should approach our local community FM station, to host a weekly radio show that solely played and promoted our Saskatchewan talent. CFCR 90.5 FM agreed, and we got a weekly one-hour time slot, every Tuesday afternoon in the mid-1990's. I've lost a lot of my early notes, so I don't have the exact date (sorry).
Check out this old 1994 S.O.M.A. documentary film (youtube clips) that originally aired on Shaw Cable 10 in Saskatoon. It does a great job showing what S.O.M.A. was about and a fun snapshot of 1994 Saskatchewan music (all genres). Also, how cool was it that Rob Doherty and Pericardium were grinding out the death metal in the mid-afternoon for the blue-haired ladies and kiddies LOL!
For one reason or another, I was chosen to host the program (probably because of my sultry, sexy voice) called S.O.M.A. Radio, which began with a very small collection of about a dozen cassettes (yes I said cassettes), CD’s and Records. Eventually, in a couple years, I managed to build-up a nice collection of a couple hundred CD’s from Saskatchewan artists of all genres and sizes (solo, duo, group, rock, country, jazz, blues, etc).
The SOMA/Radio306 CD Binder (above) with 200+ CDs from mostly Saskatchewan artists (all genres). Not bad considering I started with less than a dozen cassettes, Cds and records.
The show was moved to a killer time slot on Saturday nights and expanded to 90 minutes, after a couple years (Thanks to CFCR's program director Theo Kivol). I was joined by my "brother from another" Jim Boulton as a co-host in the early days of the Saturday night time slot. In the late 90’s, S.O.M.A. had done it’s job and our local musicians were playing regularly to great crowds. We had taken over the booking of the yearly, six day and night, Music and Food festival, called Taste Of Saskatchewan from S.R.I.A. (Sask. Recording Industry Assoc.) which is now called SaskMusic but eventually, membership was declining and responsibilities of the board became too great to continue successfully, plus S.R.I.A./SaskMusic was doing a great job of covering the business of music in Saskatchewan and still thrives today as a source for the business of music in Saskatchewan. So there really was no need for two organizations! Unfortunately, S.O.M.A. was officially disbanded but it's legacy lives on, including Pure Rock Radio which wouldn't be here if not for S.O.M.A. and the early days as S.O.M.A. Radio/Radio306.com. It's an important part of our 22+ year history!
Pt. 2: A NEW ERA BEGINS (Radio 306/Radio306.com)
With the end of S.O.M.A., Jim and I decided to re-brand the weekly radio show, which we christened Radio 306 (306 being the telephone area code for all of Saskatchewan at the time). For a couple years, Jim and I continued playing Saskatchewan music of all genres and styles, interviewing musicians and having a blast.
Best bud Jim Boulton behind the co-host mic at CFCR 90.5fm in the dungeon (for Radio 306) before CFCR moved to it's updated, street side studios.
My younger self Rich Embury (complete with Grunge Goatee) live on the air at CFCR 90.5fm (for Radio 306)
Former Saskatchewan Premiere Hon. Lorne Calvert (holding sign) Plus various CFCR peeps (no actual Radio 306 hosts in the pic though, guess we weren't thinking). RIP Derek Bachman (2nd from left) :(
At one point we were joined by then Saskatchewan Premiere, Lorne Calvert, for a special show, promoting Saskatchewan music. Unfortunately Jim had to move to Victoria, British Columbia, and was unable to continue with the show. Thankfully I was joined by new friend and fan of the show Bryce Walker as co-host. We continued putting on a great weekly, 90 minute radio show. But at one point, Bryce and I got the idea to add a live online chat to the show. Being that CFCR 90.5 FM was a low-band local only station and barely reached the outskirts of Saskatoon (they have expanded since), much further the entire province, which was our focus at the time.
New co-host Bryce Walker who replaced Jim Boulton and was there when we began online chat and streaming live from CFCR 90.5fm out to the world via Radio306.com (the updated name of the show from Radio 306)
With the addition of weekly, live chat, the next progression was obvious but rare at the time. Bryce and I decided that we needed to broadcast our weekly show to the internet. Now keep in mind, at the time, AM/FM and terrestrial radio stations were NOT online yet with live feeds. So it's not like we could share the CFCR online feed since it didn't exist for a few years later (for any FM station at the time). I was able to find Live365.com which was offering free radio station feeds and became founding broadcaster at the site. It now requires a paid subscription and a lot has changed (including licensing for online radio since then), but this gave us an opportunity to serve our weekly radio show out to anyone in the world who wanted to hear. It was especially beneficial to all those bands and their fans who lived outside Saskatoon and were not able to hear the show on FM before that. A lot of musicians in Saskatchewan heard their music on the radio for the very first time because of the online feed of Radio306.com.
So here we were, literally pioneering a new way to listen to radio and music, at least from what we could tell. Aside from old-time radio shows online, there were very few online stations catering to music, and almost none in Canadafor sure. Keep in mind also, that this was many years before iTunes (January 2001) and especially iPhones (June 2007). I built a website first on MSN Communities (thanks Auntie Canuck for all the initial help getting started). Of course I knew nothing about web design (or computers for that matter) and I built the initial show/station site on a 14.4 kbps dial-up modem (imagine the patience). This afforded us the opportunity to get a URL (radio306.com) and an easy place online for people to listen Live each week or find the Chat room. I also started playing the music from our radio show randomly through out the week on the online radio feed at live365. The show name was changed from Radio 306 to Radio306.com (also a strange and unique thing to name your show after a URL at the time, but commonplace now).
New logo design for Radio306.com I created. Look for a possible return of Radio306.com as a weekly radio show here at PRR focusing on heavy Saskatchewan music...if enough content arrises.
Due to several surgeries and health issues, it became hard for me to continue doing the weekly FM show, plus Bryce had other commitments as well. The internet station Radio306.com continued on though without the weekly FM show, since I could manage it from home. In 2002 we were nominated for a Prairie Music Award for "Media Outlet of the Year" from the Prairie Music Assoc. (see nomination letter below) a collection of the Manitoba (formerly MRIA), Saskatchewan (formerly SRIA) and Alberta (formerly ARIA) music associations, who pooled their resources to form the Prairie Music Awards and Festival. We (Radio306.com) were the only radio outlet from Saskatchewan nominated for the award that year, so we had truly become a real place for Canadian prairie artists to promote their craft and help introduce the world to our homegrown talents. The only other Saskatchewan media outlet that was nominated in 2002 was the Star Phoenix (Saskatoon's major newspaper). The annual award show and festival has now grown into the very huge Western Canadian Music Awards and festival, most commonly known as Breakout West, which is held in a different Western Canadian city each year. Obviously we lost, being up against huge multi-million dollar companies, but it was a huge milestone and thrill for us just to be nominated (and we mean that) by the members of the Prairie music associations.
Nomination letter from Prairie Music Assoc. (now expanded to Western Canadian Music Assoc.) for 2002 "Media Outlet of the Year". At this point I had already made the Name, Format, and URL change to Pure Rock Radio in 2001, but it was incredibly humbling to be nominated by the members of the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta music associations. We lost, but were the only Saskatchewan radio outlet nominated that year!
A lot changed in 2001 though. By the time we were nominated as Radio306.com, a major format and name change had already happened. The major reason being, that despite my best efforts, I was unable to inspire local and regional musicians to submit their music for airplay for some reason at the time. Even with prodding on blogs, emails and websites (Facebook for the public didn't begin until September 2006), I was getting almost zero submissions from local or regional musicians. Seemed no one cared about airplay or furthering their band's exposure to the world? This made it almost impossible to keep fresh each week on Radio306.com the online station. Definitely impossible to keep up the original mandate of Saskatchewan, then Canadian Prairie music on the station.
Radio306.com had grown from all Saskatchewan to all Canadian prairie music of all genres, but the expansion to 2 other provinces still did not help with submissions or fresh material. With great regret, I decided to make a HUGE change. So, in early 2001 I bought a new domain name, built a new website, and changed the format to all hard rock and heavy metal, because it was my listening preference and that genre was what the majority of submissions were at the time (from all over the globe). Radio306.com become Pure Rock Radio located at purerockradio.net on the internet.
Despite the lack of submissions from local and prairie Canadian bands, I had started getting submissions from all over the globe, right at the beginning of the full station on Live365, and the vast majority were heavy metal or hard rock. The fact I was a metal head also had a huge inspiration on the change. When Live365 started charging and grew larger, I started streaming from our own servers, offering automated requests, and never looked back.
So that covers the early history of this station. From the weekly FM radio show to the inception of our own internet station. In a time where so-called "real" radio stations hadn't had the foresight to put an online stream out, we were there first! A major change of format and URL, and we were off to the races!!
Stay tuned for the continuation of our history soon.
More to come...........
Pt. 3: DAWN OF THE METALHEAD (Pure Rock Radio) ~coming soon~
S.O.M.A. Radio (1996/97-1999) Radio306 & Radio306.com (1999-2001)
Total = 22+ Years!!