CKFM firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-05-06 published
Don CAMERON, Broadcaster: (1923-2006)
Master of the 'insert commercial' parlayed his well-modulated tones into a successful career in radio and television
By F.F. LANGAN, Special to The Globe and Mail, Page S11
Long before television came to Canada, and decades before simulcasting, which replaces U.S. ads with Canadian commercials when programs run at the same time, there was the insert commercial in radio.
Don CAMERON was master of the insert commercial, a skill that required flawless timing to squeeze a Canadian ad in, replacing the American one.
"Insert commercials were unique to Canadian network radio. All commercials for food and drugs had to conform to Canadian rules," says Lyman Potts, a broadcast historian. "While the U.S. announcer read his piece, the Canadian announcer, at a point of entry, usually Montreal or Toronto, read the approved Canadian commercial for Canadian audiences of the U.S. network program."
The insert commercial phase of Mr. CAMERON's career lasted 10 years. He was 21 when he started, but within a decade he was commuting between Canada and the United States, doing radio and later television programs, and making serious money doing commercials and voiceover work in New York.
Don CAMERON grew up in downtown Montreal on Chomedy Street near the Montreal Forum. His father ran a moving and delivery business called Mansfield Express. The family lived a comfortable existence. Young Don went to Montreal High, several blocks to the east. To get there, he would have walked along Sherbrooke Street past fashionable stores and the shops of shirt makers and tailors. It was perhaps there he picked up some pointers on style. All his adult life, Mr. CAMERON was an immaculate dresser.
Few people went to university in 1940 -- there were only 35,000 undergraduates in the entire country -- but Mr. CAMERON went to McGill, where he graduated in commerce. Although he was a radio and television performer all his life, Mr. CAMERON was a canny businessman, and always lived well.
"He was very astute. A dollar didn't slip by him," said Walter Gurd, who knew Mr. CAMERON as a young man when they played in various bands together in Montreal. This was before the era of disc jockeys, and a live band was a must at dances.
While studying finance at McGill, he took acting and voice lessons on the side from Rupert Caplan, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation producer. Mr. CAMERON landed a job as a part-time announcer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation while he was still at McGill, the studio being about halfway between McGill and home.
The acting training came in handy. In the 1950s, Mr. CAMERON landed a part-time job playing a role in daily Canadian soap opera, Laura Ltd.
After McGill, he worked for a short time at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation but then joined CJAD, a new private radio station, when it opened in late 1945.
Soon he was the host of a popular program called Make Believe Ballroom. The show, which originated in New York in the early 1940s, was copied across North America. There was always a local announcer, inserting local colour and choosing the music.
The program started with Glenn Miller's Make Believe Ballroom Time. "In Canada, both Toronto and Montreal have their own sessions of the Ballroom running about an hour and half in the morning and from to two to 2½ hours in the evening," wrote Mr. CAMERON in 1946. "The morning program should contain bright, peppy music to brighten up the day for housewives. A somewhat different approach is used on the evening… to supply pleasant background when people eat."
This was when radio had no competition from television and wouldn't for another six years. Mr. CAMERON's description of his job comes from a guest column he wrote in the weekly Montreal Standard. He was replacing the then-unknown Mavis Gallant while she was on vacation. It was a breezy column and centred on Mr. CAMERON's two main loves: broadcasting and making money.
"Most disc jockeys earn a guaranteed basic salary, but as an incentive, some stations pay a commission for each new sponsor added to the program. Thus… a Canadian disc jockey's income can range anywhere from $2,500 to $12,000." That is $29,700 to $142,400 in today's money.
Soon, Mr. CAMERON was making that kind of money, commuting to both Toronto and New York. In Manhattan, he did live and recorded commercials for major clients such as Kraft, and Proctor and Gamble. He did so well, for a couple of years he kept an apartment in Manhattan.
Back in Toronto, he became the announcer on The Billy O'Connor Show, which starred Juliette, who would later have her own television program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Later, she was replaced by Sylvia Murphy, who remained a friend of Mr. CAMERON's all his life. Both of them stayed with the program when it moved to television.
The radio version of The Billy O'Connor Show was recorded on giant 16-inch vinyl discs -- holding 15 minutes a side -- and shipped across Canada so it could be played at the same time in every part of the country. The disc was called an "electrical transcription." The government regulator of the day tried to ban the technology to try to keep out U.S. radio programming.
Mr. CAMERON was also the host of the Canadian version of To Tell The Truth, featuring three guests, only one of whom was the real person. He also commuted to Cleveland for 10 years to host a weekly quiz show on television there.
In 1966, he started working for CKFM in Toronto and stayed, hosting his own afternoon broadcast until 1991. "Don CAMERON was a product of the era that gave us such classic announcers as Charles Jennings [Peter Jennings's father], Jack Dennett, Earl CAMERON, Elwood Glover and Frank Willis," said Mr. Potts.
"They were articulate with modulated, quiet, dramatic voices that enabled their listeners to hear every word."
Throughout his career, Don CAMERON dabbled in business and looked after his money. In the early 1960s, he invested in the Canadian rights for Ko-Rec-Type, chemically treated paper that allowed typists to correct mistakes. He also had his own production company, packaging radio programs and acting as an agent for other announcers.
Mr. CAMERON and his wife spent a lot of time travelling. He always liked to spend September in London. For many years they had a place in the Bahamas at Spanish Wells, but they sold when they found the trip to the Caribbean too taxing. He spent winters in Vero Beach, Florida
Donald CAMERON was born on September 19, 1923, in Montreal. Although he gave up smoking 15 years ago, he died of complications from lung cancer on April 7 at a hospital in Oakville, Ontario He was 82. He wife, Bea, died several years ago. He is survived by a brother John, from whom he was estranged. He loved London, England, and asked that his ashes be spread on the River Thames.
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CKFM email@example.com_county.toronto.toronto_star 2006-04-15 published
CAMERON, Duncan Don (1923-2006)
Passed away suddenly in Oakville, Ontario. Born in Montreal, the son of Jenny and Bill CAMERON. He graduated from McGill University (B.Com.) where he was President of his Junior Year and a member of the Phi Kappa Pi Fraternity. He worked as a summer relief Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announcer and was active in various Montreal dance bands. Upon graduation, Don continued his broadcast career - a career which continued for another 45 years. With the advent of television, Don left CJAD in Montreal and became a freelance performer in Toronto where he was nationwide broadcast spokesman for many prominent Canadian companies. Don moved to New York in 1956 where he continued freelancing. In the mid 1960's he returned to Toronto to host the panel show "To Tell the Truth" and to start a ten year commute to Cleveland as Quizmaster on a weekly television show. He also formed Don Cameron Productions Limited and was Vice-President of Park Leasing Company. Additionally, in the late 1960's he joined the announce staff of CKFM (99.9) Toronto and retired in 1991. Predeceased by his wife, Beatrice (Bea), he leaves his brother, John, his niece, Mrs. Jill HUBER, his nephews, Peter and David and their respective spouses and children, all residents of the U.S.A. and his godsons, Alessandro and Sebastian SCIARRA of Oakville. His request for cremation and no service has been honoured.
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