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This Week in History, 1964: Red Robinson defends rock and radio against a Sun columnist

Columnist Jack Scott made an offhanded comment that enraged teenage music fans

Red charles
Red Robinson in 2009 with memorabilia from over the years, including this Ray Charles animated doll. Photo by Ian Smith /Vancouver Sun

Jack Scott was one of the most popular columnists in The Vancouver Sun’s history. When he died in 1980, his former colleague Pierre Berton called him “the most graceful writer I have known.” 

Scott rarely sparked much controversy. But an offhanded comment in a Sept. 2, 1964, column got him in hot water with teenage rock ‘n’ roll fans. 

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The column was about a bottle of Bacardi rum that a local radio DJ, Roy Jacques, was to bring back from Cuba for Scott.

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“Roy is a first-rate commentator on radio-station C-FUN, a bright ornament in a daily program that otherwise consists of sounds for the retarded,” Scott wrote. 

Yes, he used the R word. Then he doubled down, noting that Jacques “is a most gracious, obliging chap, considering he might well be otherwise through constant exposure to C-FUN’s Neanderathalitis.” 

Teenagers flooded Scott with angry letters, and on Sept. 11 he replied to one, written by Lesley Norridge of New Westminster. 

But he only threw gas on the fire, arguing teenagers listened to the music on C-FUN out of a collective insecurity. 

“The teenaged years, in that Nowheresville between childhood and maturity, always have been a time of insecurity for boys and girls,” said Scott. “They are groping for a sense of identity and an established place in the social order.” 

The fact that the “basic, simple music” played on C-FUN “is so abhorrent to adults gives them an added incentive to think of it defiantly as their very own.” 

Then he went after rock music, “crude, infantile and primitive,” and took a shot at “the cynicism of the kind of men who operate C-FUN.” To Scott, “in all the tawdry world of commercial radio there are no more callous promoters than those who cater to youth.”

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cfun DJs
The C-FUN “Good Guys” disc jockeys in 1963: Top row, L-R: Tom Peacock, Brian “Frosty” Forst. Middle row: Red Robinson, Ed Kargl. From Row: Fred Latremouille, Al Jordan. PNG

This was too much for Red Robinson, the rock ‘n’ roll DJ who was then the program director at C-FUN. Robinson penned a retort that Scott ran in full in his Sept. 29 column. 

“Your personal belief that the music played on C-FUN is for the retarded, and the men behind the mikes are Neanderthal men is unjustifiable,” said Robinson. 

“In my opinion, a critic of anything is one who knows or has a basic understanding of the item he’s criticizing. For your information, radio has undergone a great change since the days of Fibber Magee and Molly. 

“Age sometimes creeps up on an individual without him realizing it. In your advanced years, you have shuffled your young years into a closet and locked the door.” 

Times change and so do people’s tastes, nurtured by disc jockeys who played the new sounds. 

“Following the (Second World) war, the music business had to concede that its pop songs no longer came from the Greats,” Robinson wrote. 

“Some hillbilly or newcomer could turn out hits in the late 40s like Nature Boy, Jealous Heart and even Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The deejay impact made it open season for all types of songs and songwriters.” 

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Ultimately, Robinson argued, “the jury is the masses, and they are buying the music they hear. As part of that jury, I like what I play. 

“Bring that you see yourself as Supreme Judge of radio, young people or music, let me ask of you to try to look at the other side of that old 1930 coin of yours.” 

Ironically, in 1956 Scott, had defended Elvis Presley when another popular Sun columnist, Jack Wasserman, had slagged him. 

“Put me down with the kids who get a boot out of Elvis Presley, who belts out a song as if he meant it,” Scott wrote on April 12, 1956.

“And the old fogies who view with alarm such ‘crazies’ all too conveniently forget the Rudy Vallee and Russ Columbo fever of their day.” 

“I don’t know if Pretty Woman or Hard Day’s Night will have this effect long years from now,” he wrote, “but come to think of it, perhaps they will.” 

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scott
Former Vancouver Sun columnist Jack Scott, Feb. 24, 1958. Vancouver Sun
Red Haley
June 27, 1956. Vancouver disc jockey Red Robinson (left) meets rock and roller Bill Haley before Haley’s show at the Kerrisdale Arena — Vancouver’s first rock ‘n’ roll concert. John McGinnis photo. Photo by John McGinnis /PNG

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