The popular CJAD Morning Man continues to be #1
in the competitive Montreal AM radio market.
A long way from a career in competitive curling.
Montrealers who start their day with Andrew Carter appreciate his affable and somewhat self-deprecating manner. I found that Andrew is essentially the same person off-air as he is when coming to you in your kitchen or car radio. He really is a little bit like the friendly guy next door. Except that to co-ordinate the many elements of a morning radio show, including news, sports, weather, traffic and his cast of guests requires enormous preparation and years of experience.
It’s no place for a novice when your on-air guests include the award-winning Sports Illustrated writer Michael Farber, L. Ian MacDonald of The Gazette and Policy Options, The Gazette editorial cartoonist, Aislin, and the irascible Tommy Schnurmacher. There’s a lot of intellectual capital around the microphone, and it requires a well-informed individual to keep up.
“When I was young, I wrote sports columns for the Chronicle and the Sunday Express – but my real desire was to be a radio DJ,” Andrew states at the beginning of our visit. “I enrolled in the Communications Studies and Journalism program at Concordia, and it was there that I got the bug for radio.” He continues, “However, my entry into the radio business was not particularly an auspicious one. I was the last guy you’d expect to be on the radio – let alone as the morning man.”
“I worked at the Concordia radio station as a newscaster and a DJ. This led to an internship at CJAD, where I did everything from putting labels on tapes to getting coffee. I have to tell you – I was useless.”
Andrew was very involved as a competitive curler at this time of his life, and he was going to compete in the provincials. Chris Cuthbert, now part of the TSN broadcast team, was the Sports Director at CJAD, and Andrew offered to send reports in from the provincial bonspiel. “What he didn’t know was that I’d take an hour to do a short clip – doing it over and over until I thought it was good enough to send back to Chris”.
The late Gord Sinclair, CJAD’s long-time News Director heard some of the curling reports, and asked Andrew to do some overnight newscasts. “I did nine shifts in 1984, and I was awful! However, I was able to finally have some tapes of me on-air.” In the radio business, sample tapes for a broadcaster are what resumes are to the rest of us. “I sent out 40 tapes and only got one reply – from CJLB in Thunder Bay. I worked six days a week for $156 a week. I did everything – the news, live boating reports on the weekend, election campaigns – you name it.”
Andrew missed Montreal terribly. “I’m basically a West Island guy, and I missed everything about Montreal. I even missed my convocation at Concordia. I sent tapes back to Gord Sinclair every week and asked him to critique my work. Then I got a job in Welland, which was a lot closer to Montreal than Thunder Bay.” After a brief visit to Montreal to visit friends, family and a quick visit to CJAD; Andrew headed off to Welland for his new job. When he arrived, the station manager told him the Gord Sinclair from CJAD had called, and wanted him to call back. “Someone had left the station, and Gord offered me the overnight news shift on the weekend, plus a ‘Week in Review’ show. The guy in Welland tried to talk me into staying, but I was on my way! My career in Welland lasted all of one hour.”
“The Week in Review was a disaster, but I continued to write it for Victor Nuremberg. I then had the opportunity to do the afternoon traffic report. It took me a while to be able to tell where I was in the city. However, this was really good for my career. There’s no time to write a script. You have to report on the traffic as its happening. This is where I learned to ad lib and really be comfortable behind a microphone.” Andrew continued as the CJAD traffic reporter for three years.
There was a big change in his career on the horizon. Andrew was going out with broadcaster Cindy Aikman, to whom he has now been married for 20 years. One afternoon he was waiting for Cindy in front of the CHOM studios on Green Avenue when the station manager Steve Kowch leaned into the car and said ‘So Andrew – when are you going to come and work with us?’ Andrew’s glib reply: ‘And how much would that pay Steve?’ Shortly after that encounter – Andrew was indeed offered a position as co-host of the CHOM morning show. It was a great opportunity, but as he noted, “I was nervous about leaving CJAD. I had grown up listening to the station, and I was comfortable.” However, it appears that CHOM had indeed come up with enough to make it interesting.
Thus began a 13 year career with CHOM, where Andrew eventually became News Director. Then, in 2001, Standard Broadcast, the parent company for CJAD, purchased CHOM and CKGM. With the ensuing consolidation, Andrew moved to the afternoon drive show on CJAD. A short time later, Station Manager Rob Braid and Program Director Rick Moffat approached Andrew saying ‘We want you to be the CJAD Morning Man’.
This was a wonderful opportunity to anchor Montreal’s top rated AM radio morning show. This time slot is the premier job in the radio business, because it captures listeners for the station, even in the current world of multi-channel listening availabilities. Andrew commenting on his colleagues; “Rob Braid and Rick Moffat were very supportive. They basically left me alone to find my way and develop the show in my own style – within the existing framework. It’s a great job – and I have this incredible cast of characters to draw upon and work with.” Andrew continues, “It also allows you to have a place of responsibility in the community. In a way, it’s a soapbox where you can use your voice in the community for good causes.”
Andrew gives generously of his time, lending his ‘profile’ to organizations such as The Weredale Foundation, The West Island Palliative Care Centre, Cedars Cancer Centre, and Share the Warmth. “Where I’m able to help out is when an event requires an MC, or someone to help inform the general public. These organizations have an incredible group of dedicated volunteers that do the main work in getting an event organized. I just come along and do my bit to serve as a spokesman or MC.”
“My career in radio has afforded me the opportunity to meet many interesting people. Partly because of my work for charitable organizations and representing CJAD, I’ve been able to play golf with Myles Goodwin of April Wine, Marc Garneau, Canadiens GM Bob Gainey, and Henri Richard.”
Before golf, Andrew was a passionate and competitive curler. He grew up in a family of curlers. “Curling was my life – even back in the 70s when it wasn’t too cool for a young guy to be a curler. I went to the Briar on three occasions, in ‘85, and again in ‘90 and ‘91.
However, it required a lot of travel – every other weekend in the season. My employers were beginning to say that I’d have to choose between curling and my presence at the station during the all-important ratings periods (Andrew used to have a clause in his contract that allowed him holiday time for The Briar, even in a ratings period). “About the same time – our family was at the point that I needed to be home with Cindy and the children.” Curling was put on the back burner – to be replaced by golf. “My only minor regret is that I didn’t discover golf until I was 30!
The Carter kids – Michelle who is now 16 and son Kevin at 13 are the joy of Andrew’s life. Indeed, they sometimes are part of the program. When Michelle graduated from elementary school, Andrew read a poignant letter on-air to his daughter. The reaction was instantaneous; it brought an outpouring of emotion from listeners, and underlined how strong a relationship they have with Andrew and his family.
The job has demands far beyond most employment situations, beginning with a 3:45am wake-up call so that he can be in the downtown CJAD studios in sufficient time to meet with the producer, and be ready and primed for the 6:00 beginning of the show. Then there are the personal appearances on behalf of the station, and the charity work. The lines blur somewhat here, as Andrew is representing both the station and himself. Still, he has an incredible enthusiasm for his show. “It’s a magnificent job!”
Andrew credits the tremendous support he receives from his wife and family for his ability to withstand the rigors of a somewhat upside-down lifestyle. “My wife Cindy gave me the best advice for this job. She said ‘All you have to do is to be yourself’ and secondly; ‘You have to embrace the job’. There are no half-measures that will work in being the on-air in the wee hours of the morning when the listeners are going through their morning routines. They’ll see right through you if you’re not committed.”
Andrew is a passionate Montrealer. “As a Montrealer who stayed, when so many have left, it’s great to see what Montreal has become.”
Andrew Carter and his contributors can be heard weekday mornings from 6:00am to 9am on CJAD, 800 on the AM dial.
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