I dont know if it’s normal to keep a collection of things from places you’ve worked at, but I have a box in my basement that has t-shirts, tapes, and business cards from the radio stations I’ve called home over my 24 yr career. From CJIB in Vernon to XL 103 in Calgary, with Z95.3, 95 Crave, Virgin Radio, and AMP Radio in between, I’ve amassed quite a collection.
But it is Z95.3 FM that holds the most affection for me. I spent nearly 16 yrs walking through the doors of the studios on Horseshoe Way. As the radio brand is brought back to the Vancouver airwaves next week, I thought it would be as good a time as any to dig into the box and share some sounds and images from those days. I spent the formative years of my youth and adulthood working the mic and playing music in my hometown.
From overnights to evenings to drive to mornings, to drive, to mornings, to drive, I pretty much pulled every shift at 95.3FM in Vancouver over the course of one of the best decade and a half of pop music history. From the dawn of grunge, through the rise and fall of boy bands, I was there to greet the careers of Alanis Morissette, Destiny’s Child, No Doubt, P Diddy, The Spice Girls, Britney, and Christina Aguilera. I witnessed one hit wonders Eagle Eye Cherry, La Roux, and Blu Cantrell flirt with the spotlight.
I held audience with legends like Janet Jackson, Mick Jagger, and Lionel Richie. Think of any band that was popular from 1993-2007 and, chances are, I interviewed them. Matchbox 20, 98 Degrees, Babyface, Bon Jovi, Nickelback, Avril Lavigne, James Blunt, Enrique Iglesias, Robbie Williams, Savage Garden .. So I have a collection. I had to have one.
It started a few months into working at Z, when I saw the hallways of our sister station, 650 CISL, adorned in memorabilia from Red Robinson. The legendary Canadian DJ had photos of himself with Elvis, Buddy Holly, and more framed and lining the hallways. He would play back the classic interviews on his radio program. Then it hit me – it may have been some 30+ years later, but I was about to experience that same magic Red Robinson had.
I was going to cruise through pop culture history, so I’d best capture it as best I could. So I have the photos. I have boxes of reel-to-reel tape, DAT tapes, and cassettes, all with memories of one of the greatest eras of popular music.
In the box of tapes is an aircheck of the first time I cracked the mic at Z95.3 on September 1, 1993. It was a Sunday afternoon shift, the first song I played was Break It Down Again by Tears for Fears, the first song I introduced was Plush from Stone Temple Pilots. The adrenaline was pumping, I was pushing my 23 yr old voice to the max trying to find some bottom end, and well, this is what it sounded like.[audio:http://www.buzzbishop.com/blog/interviews/19930901buzzzed.mp3]
In that box of tapes, I’ve got dozens of interviews and I will dig back through them to properly digitize them (you can hear some of them here). I also have lots of memorabilia. Here’s some of the passes, tshirts, hats, and cards I collected over the years at Z95.3 FM
MY HIRE LETTER
This letter from Brad Phillips, dated August 18, 1993, is the single greatest letter of my radio career to date. After 3 years of rejections, I was heading to the major markets. The show. The big time. Despite that, I would have to give up a full time job in Vernon for what amounted to a part-time gig in Vancouver. I was guaranteed just $195 a week, a sharp drop from the $1100 a month I was making in the Okanagan, but I moved back with my parents and picked up every shift I could to make it happen.
MY BUSINESS CARDS
My real name is not Buzz. /obv. When I was hired at Z, I was asked to provide a list of names I thought my work. I really wanted to be an evening show Top 40 guy, so I wanted a name that would fit in the mold of Tarzan Dan or Howie The Hit Man. The idea of having a fake radio name is that it stands out, it’s easy to spell, and you remember it. Meet a Chris, or Joe, or Tim at a party and it might fade out of your mind, meet a Buzz? Well, that’s something different.
So I wrote off a list of things, and the staff at Z sat around the board room brainstorming names for me as well. This is where it gets ridiculous because the staff would often get stupid with the names suggested for people. The “William” part came from Matt McBride.
He thought it would be clever to make it look like my real name was Billy Bishop (the WWI flying ace). See? Told you the stuff got ridiculous. The William thing was dropped after my first set of business cards and I never used it in public or on the air.
THE ZED SHIRTS
The dirty one on the left is the original Z Shirt the sequel, the Hooded Z Shirt, was released a few summers later. Both were hugely popular to the point where they were sold at tshirt boutiques across the city. Can you imagine radio station merch being sold in malls now? Z was a big deal back in the day.
Those Party 2000 tags on the left are from two of the biggest shows I ever hosted with DJ’s Swift and Cool. We did New Year’s at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Center. My starting gig with Z was to host Club 95 on Saturday nights, a live mix show. It was just at the radio station, but we pretended we were live from an underground club.
The myth grew so intense that when we did finally move to The Rage on the Plaza of Nations, hundreds of people would be lined up to get into the club before the doors even opened. My other fave from that list, the yellow one at the top.
That show was INXS at The Rage, one of the final shows for Michael Hutchence. I sat just off stage right. Afterwards I hit an after party with the band at the Four Seasons where Michael bounced into the room playing the chandeliers with his cane and sang Amazing Grace with my girlfriend at the time in memory of Diana. Who knew that just a few weeks later he too would be gone.
AUTOGRAPHS AND CELEBS
Some of the signed CDs that I have framed and hanging in my basement.
Duran Duran at the Coliseum in December 1993. The famous hooded Z shirt in full regalia. Look down the line at the far right? That’s my BCIT classmate, now CTV News Anchor, Tamara Taggart. Back in the day, she was our promotions director.
Crashing the red carpet and interviewing Jon Bon Jovi at the opening for Vancouver’s Planet Hollywood (now the CTV Studios.)
There was a time when not everyone hated Nickelback. Seriously.
A look over my shoulder as I offer up The Question Jar to the members of 98 Degrees.
The biggest event I was ever a part of? Perhaps. The Presidents of the United States of America did an interview with me in the Z Machine on Robson St. The crowd you see on the right, behind me, is actually standing in the middle of Robson St. The Z Machine was parked on the south side of the street, so many people wanted to see this interview they blocked traffic. It was massive.
Of all the photos I have with celebs, this is probably my favorite. Beyonce was barely 16 in this photo, when Destiny’s Child were storming the charts with No No No. The interview was loose and fun, the girls were still in that fresh place of having their dreams come true and it was just a magical afternoon.
That’s just barely scratching the surface. I have dozens more photos, lots more gear, and even more stories. If you loved Z95.3 as much as I did, you’ll want to click over to a post I wrote back in 2009 listing some of the names you heard on air and where they went off to. Many friends and colleagues have sent many messages asking if the return of Z means my return to Vancouver. It does not.
When Z95.3 relaunches next week, I won’t be a part of it. Not yet, anyway. And if not me, then maybe one day Zacharie will get his shot. He already has the bug.
Long live Generation Z.