Court and Spark and the era of brainy music on the AM radio

I’ve been thinking these past few days about Court and Spark, the album that Joni Mitchell released in 1974. As always, you are probably wondering: what on earth does an old Joni Mitchell album have to do with Katherine and Raymond’s Manse in Queensborough, Ont.? Well, as always, I’ll tell you.

The regular soundtrack to life at the Manse back when I was a kid and young teenager growing up there was the transistor radio in the pantry tuned to CJBQ (Belleville and TRENton!!!!, as their jingle went), at 800 on your AM dial, then as now. And in those aforementioned early-teenage years of mine, the striking and intelligent songs of Joni Mitchell were as apt to waft over CJBQ’s airwaves as were less memorable (except they’re stuck in my memory forever) songs like King Fu Fighting and I Got You Babe and (oh, preserve us) the execrable Having My Baby.

My Court and Spark thoughts were triggered in part by hearing a couple of guitar chords when a song came on the radio (CBC 2) the other morning when Raymond and I were driving to work. Instantly I knew what it was. You know how the songs that were popular in your teenage years stick with you forever? A few bars later, when Joni started singing “Help me, I think I’m falling…” – well, I just sang along with her. And remembered singing along with that song back in the Manse kitchen way back in the middle of the 1970s, when Help Me was a hit single from Court and Spark. And it was a happy memory.

So that was one Court and Spark trigger. The other was watching an instalment of PBS’s American Masters series a week or so ago; the subject was record producer/movie mogul/utterly ballsy self-made man David Geffen. It was a fascinating program, and especially fun to watch because many of my musical heroes (who’d recorded on Geffen’s labels) were there to weigh in: Neil Young, Jackson Browne, the Eagles – and of course Joni.

And of course it was Joni who wrote a very famous song about David Geffen, called Free Man in Paris. That was another one that was on Court and Spark, and on the CJBQ playlist back in the old Manse days; I found it then, and still find it now, an incredibly catchy song – especially given the very complex lyrics. Call Me Maybe this is not, let’s put it that way.

Really, there’s something to be said for an era (the 1970s) when such intelligent songs were not only to be found on the AM radio, but were providing turns of phrase that became part of the popular vernacular. Like “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” from Joni’s huge hit Big Yellow Taxi (from the 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon, which is smashing). And that amazing chorus from Free Man in Paris, as she brilliantly and musically quotes (or paraphrases) David Geffen:

I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive,
Nobody was calling me up for favors
No one’s future to decide.
You know I’d go back there tomorrow
But for the work I’ve taken on
Stoking the star maker machinery
Behind the popular song.

They just don’t make songs like that anymore. Here’s Joni singing it live; and here’s to the soundtrack of the Manse kitchen. Then as now.

54 thoughts on “Court and Spark and the era of brainy music on the AM radio

  1. Free Man clip w the one and only Jaco Pastorius on bass. Totally forgot he played w Joni. Just listen to what he does on the bass… absolutely unbelievable. What a sad story. Also unbelievable is that pant suit of Joni’s.

  2. Oh the music. Thanks Katherine, for all the tunes playing in my head as I leave my laptop after the last check-in of the day.

    • You will appreciate this, Lindi: when I got up this morning I suddenly realized ( and informed Raymond) what this Manse needs: a radio! So we can once again listen to CJBQ, Belleville an Trenton – and especially Freddy Vette!

  3. Ahh…CJBQ. We used to call it, totally politically incorrectly, even then, “CJBQueer”. Nevertheless, it had the finest radio continuing show of all-time, the “Milt Johnson call-in hour”. Could one find a finer radio personality than him? And, then there was the soft, velvetine voice of the newscaster Mary Thomas [she’s still on the air]. And the farm report…and so on.

    Yes, those were the days [does that phrase really mean anything?]. Now, who actually listens to AM radio?

    • Oh my goodness, Milt Johnston! That name takes me back. Is he still on the air? Meanwhile, in present times there is Freddy Vette (a Stirling boy), whom I have yet to hear but have read a lot about (notably in the feature about him in Country Roads magazine) and gather is much-loved. And do you remember long-ago evening DJ Joey Edwards? He was a Madoc boy (his mum or his dad or maybe both ran the Madoc post office, as I recall) and he was just great: played fantastic music, and provided hilarious commentary. He used to do a great George Harrison (or was it John Lennon?) imitation. And then one night he disappeared, and one heard that he’d moved to the radio station in Cobourg – which seemed impossibly far off in those days… What ever happened to Joey Edwards? Inquiring minds want to know!

      • Thank you, Katherine, for the fine words! I had a blast in Belleville on CJBQ and it’s great to be remembered. I have worked at stations all over the world since CJBQ. Currently I’m in Beijing, China and am one of the top English voice artists in China. Can you dig it? f you wish, you can reach me at: madocman48@gmail.com

      • Joey, I absolutely cannot believe this! I am thrilled and honoured beyond belief to hear from you, a musical hero from my youth here at the Manse in little Queensborough. You have travelled a long, long way from CJBQ Belleville to fame and (I hope) fortune in Beijing – gracious, what a story! I’m sure there are many fans and listeners from this area who would love to hear about your days at CJBQ from your side of the microphone. On behalf of all of them, and of course myself, let me just say that it was one of the greatest things about living in this area back in those glorious 1970s days to be able to hear your program every weeknight. The music was great, of course, but it was your patter and jokes – not to mention the John Lennon imitation; or was that George Harrison? – that really made it a treat. Listen, I have to ask you: does a wet bird really never fly at night?

    • Milt was the BEST and, as my boss, he made it possible for me to do all the crazy things I did on-air. Wouldn’t have happened without him battling management on my behalf. I ended up tripling the ratings on the rock show. Then, mangement left me and Milt alone!……..Joey Edwards

      • Tripling the ratings tends to have that effect on management! Joey, I wonder if you’ve heard of the guy who is kind of like your successor on that front, CJBQ deejay Freddy Vette, who not only hosts a hugely popular late-afternoon ’50s and ’60s rock and roll show (with lots of humour thrown in) but also performs himself and is quite the star in this area. Oh man, if we could only get the two of you together for a chat and to exchange stories…

  4. His scintillating conversation and biting repartee kept all of us enthralled (so I say with dripping sarcasm…) Now, did Milt Johnson ever express an opinion of his own? Or did he carry the pose of being non-committal to the extreme?

    Alas, I don’t know if he is on the air or even still alive.

      • In the early 90s when I was in Ottawa, I dropped the phrase “Joey Edwards mini concert” while babbling away to a co-worker who grew up in Sudbury. He did a double take and then asked how I could possibly know about that local Sudbury radio personality who he used to listen to when he was a kid.
        I also remember Milt well. In particular I remember a PD day, when CJBQ did an on air reminder to tune in to Milt’s show because the “kids are off school today” “It’s going to be a good show”

      • Gotta love those CJBQ memories, Steve! Very interesting to learn that Joey Edwards went to Sudbury, presumably after his stint in Belleville. (As I recall he left CJBQ very suddenly. I had heard he’d gone to CHUC in Cobourg, but I don’t know if there was any truth to that.) If you look at the next comment that came in, you’ll see that you and I are not alone in wondering what ever became of Joey. He played great music and sure knew how to make us listeners laugh, didn’t he?

      • Clearly Milt knew a good thing when he saw it. Also: it must have been a very tough job hosting a local call-in show – especially on those days when no one called in…

  5. I was a good friend of Joey Edwards, back in the early 70’s. I’m trying to track him down. I have contacted CJBQ Management. They did a bit of research for me. None of their leads panned out. I know he had a sister. I met her at the family home in the Madoc area. I would really like to find him, and I know he would be excited if he knew that I was trying to find him. Does anybody know where he is?

    • Okay, I think we are officially on a mission: Find Joey Edwards! Do any readers of Meanwhile, at the Manse have any idea where our favourite long-ago CJBQ evening deejay might be now? I suppose he would have retired, and more’s the pity. Do you remember the Beatle imitation he used to do? I could never figure out which Beatle he was imitating (I think it might have been George), but it was hilarious! And does anyone besides me remember what the ditty was that he always signed off with?

    • Longtime fan here too! Please let me me know if you locate him….. Christopher Ward was at the station with him at the same time period… regards janet

      • Hi Janet, I did find Joey Edwards safe and sound and doing very well for himself. We keep in touch often. I will mention your name to him. If he wishes to get in contact with you, I could probably hook you up through his email address.. Thanks for your inquiry, David Cowieson.

      • Hey David, you made my (and I hope Janet’s) day with this information! So glad to hear that Joey Edwards, who was such a great (and funny) DJ at CJBQ back in the day, is out there and doing well. Being a journalist and all, I would love to do an interview with him sometime, whether by email or phone or (depending where he is) in person; I know there are a lot of radio listeners in this area and now scattered far and wide who have very fond memories of the Joey Edwards show.

      • Hi Katherine,
        Thanks for providing a “home base” for the search for Joey Edwards. I would be pleased if you would forward my email address to David Cowieson. I may be wrong but, I don’t think Christopher Ward worked in Belleville. I worked with him at CKPT in Peterborough. Since then, I know he wrote Black Velvet, a hit single for Alannah Myles. I just looked him up on Wikipedia and found that he has had a long and varied career that I was not completely aware of until now.

        All the best for the New Year!

        Cary Jensen

      • Well Cary, it was an inadvertent thing on my part, but I am thrilled that David Cowieson was able to track down Joey Edwards, and yes, I will backchannel your email address to him (and my own) in the hope that he might put us in touch with Joey. What fun! On the Christopher Ward front: is it possible he came to CJBQ after Joey left? I vaguely knew about his future successes, but I am pretty sure I remember him being at the station at some point during my Queensborough childhood in the 1970s.

      • Hi Katherine,
        Thanks again for your coordination work!. Don’t rely on my feeble memory regarding Chris Ward. Anything is possible. I tried another little search, without pinpointing information about his early career. I did find his official website: http://www.christopherward.ca
        Regards,
        Cary

      • Hi Janet! Wow, Christopher Ward – I’d forgotten that. Thanks for reminding me! My siblings and I were talking about Joey Edwards over Christmas dinner last night, and my sister reminded me of Joey’s signature signoff: “A wet bird never flies at night.” Classic!

  6. My brother just told me about your blog and as I was reading over some of the earlier ones I see that you are a Joni Mitchell fan. I thought that you might like to know that she has a connection to Hastings County and not too far from Queensborough. I live at The Ridge, a small farming community near Coe Hill in North Hastings, just up Highway 62 from you. The farm that I live on was homesteaded by James and Maria Henderson in the 1860’s. They were Joni’s great grandparents, and their daughter born at The Ridge in 1887 was Joni’s grandmother Sadie (Henderson) McKee. Joni dedicated the album ‘Clouds’ to Sadie. She went to school at The Ridge schoolhouse and finally moved out west as a young women to housekeep for one of her brothers when a lot of the Hendersons left Hastings county to farm in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Joni’s parents Bill & Myrtle Anderson visited The Ridge In 1985.

    I find your renovations very interesting as I am working on our 1904 farm house and 1860s original log home. We are facing many of the same problems and decisions, including storm windows and plaster walls (some even painted the same colour turquoise).
    I am a retired musician (trombone player) and played at the Queensborough church with a brass quartet for the 100th anniversary service. Another funny coincidence is that for 19 weeks in the late 1980s I commuted every Saturday night at 11pm from Montreal to The Ridge and went back Monday mornings. I was playing for the musical ‘CATS’ at Theatre St. Denis and left after the Sat night performance and had to be back for the Monday night show. And every Sunday I spent the day putting glass in and painting storm windows. A local carpenter made up 13 frames, one for each window in the house, and I finished them up, one every week. And I made that drive from montreal during the winter at 55 mph in an old Land Rover.
    Good luck with your continuing renovations.
    (It is possible if your interior double hung windows open up fully to manipulate a storm window out from the inside and swing it up into place and hook it on the inside. It isn’t easy but saves going up a ladder.)

    • Ernie, I just have to say that you EASILY win the prize for Best Comment of the Day, if not of the Week or Month. Wow! Where to start? Thank you for sharing the Joni Mitchell connection, and especially your own stories of your renovation. I very much hope that one day Raymond and I might be able to visit and pick your brain about all the things you have learned about historic windows and so on and so on (because as we all know, with old houses it does go on and on and on.) It is also great to hear from someone up Coe Hill way, an area we are eager to explore. (We are overdue for a visit to the Old Hastings Mercantile at Ormsby, for one thing.) Here’s something interesting: in an odd way, we have already met! Because I was at the 100th-anniversary celebrations at St. Andrew’s, and Raymond saw Cats at Theatre St. Denis. So there you are: already we go way back!

  7. Hi Katherine. As promised in my Facebook message just now, I am here just to point out the connection between my brother Ernie from the previous comment and myself and Ormsby. You may already know all this, but Ernie is the owner, host and head baker of The Old Ormsby Schoolhouse Tea Room. He opened it when we opened the Mercantile and we are very thankful for that! It makes for such a nice reason to make the trip to Ormsby, which being in the middle of not too much, is a requirement for just about all our visitors. And perhaps we have indeed already met, as I was playing french horn at that 100th Anniversary service at St. Andrew’s. If you have any recollection of identical twins there, that would be us!

    • Hello, Gary! What an honour to get a comment from the co-proprietor of the Old Hastings Mercantile! It’s taken a while, but I think I now have straight in my head the fact that you are Ernie are twin brothers, both musicians – and both deeply involved in “The Ormsby Project.” A great friend of mine from Queensborough, Elaine Kapusta, visited the Mercantile and the Schoolhouse yesterday and was blown away by it all. As everyone does, she told me: “You’ve GOT to visit!” Which we will do, as soon as we possibly can. So you and Ernie both played at St. Andrews’s 100th anniversary – that’s so cool! I have to admit I don’t remember (it’s getting to be a while ago now); where on earth was the camcorder when we needed it?

  8. Further to earlier comments, I am an old radio friend of Joey Edwards from our days in Peterborough who, shamefully, has lost touch. I would be glad to hear from him again. The last information I had regarding his location was from several years ago when he was working in the British Virgin Islands.
    Cary Jensen

    • The British Virgin Islands, my goodness! Joey trekked a long way from his native Madoc! I sure wish we could find out where he might be right now – I bet there are a lot of former listeners (like me) in Hastings County and environs who would be thrilled to hear his voice (and jokes, and Beatle imitations) again. If I learn any more on his whereabouts, Cary, I’ll let you know – and I hope you’ll do the same!

  9. Hi Katherine! Again, THANK YOU for the wonderful letter you sent to me. Please feel free to use any of the material I sent back to you on your blog. And you can send my email address (madocman48@gmail.com) to any former listeners who might be interested in dropping me a line. It would be terrific to hear from any of them. My CJBQ years were very special to me…Cheers, Joey

    • Thank you, Joey! I will do a whole post very soon about finding the deejay we loved to listen to on the radio way way back in those happy 1970s days. And finding him more than halfway around the world, to boot!

  10. Hi Katherine! I just read the “Joey” blog you created. It was terrifc. You made me a legend all over again. Well…..”legend” may be pushing it. I have received a few emails from dear, old friends in the Madoc area, thanks to your blog. Please keep in touch….Hugs, Joe(y)

    P.S. By the way,it is true that “a wet bird NEVER flies at night.” I threw enough water on the feathery little freaks back then to know that it IS a fact! (Of course, they may have been penguins!)

    • Colourful? Well, only if you consider a lifelong career in the newspaper biz (in Port Hope, Ont., Kingston, Toronto and Montreal) colourful. For sure it’s had its moments! But most colourful of all, for me, has been returning to the area that you and I both grew up in. Best adventure ever!

      • I hear ya, Katherine! I’ve been tempted to move back to Madoc and just fish the rest of my days away. Wrestling a giant pike to the bottom of Moira Lake is my idea of a great adventure at this juncture in time. Sure miss those uncomplicated days back in that sweet little burg.

        By the way, I wrote voluminous letters to my old friend, Cary Jensen, but, alas, the emails just kept coming back! His email address is not working…for me, anyway. Very sad, indeed. Oh, well, that’s life. Maybe he’s become a priest and considers me, at this point in his life, the anti-Christ!

      • Joey, I hope that as of this evening you’ve received an email from Cary – I tried my play-the-intermediary-and-solve-the-email-problem thing, and (judging by an email I got from Cary today), I think it worked!

      • Thanks, dear! Yes, I did hear from Cary. I was worried because everything I sent to him came back. I hope it’s okay now.

        Sent from my iPad

        >

      • Be warned, dear! I’ll be sending my latest “I Hate Winter Song” to you soon…hugs, Joey

      • I’m sending my “anti-winter” song today, dear. BE AFRAID! BE VERY AFRAID!!….hugs, Joey

      • Got it, Joey! “Winter in Canada really sucks” – for about 5.5 of winter’s six months, I would totally agree with your sentiment! The first snowfall is pretty, and Christmas is nice, but it’s all straight downhill (and of course I don’t like to ski) after that.

      • Yes, Katherine, the two days you mentioned pretty well highlight winter for most of us and that’s viewing it from inside a nice warm house!

  11. Hi: Some might remember me. Your Truely Pooley. I was at CJBQ in 72-73 and Joey took over the evening shift from me when I went to London radio. The last night I was on air at CJBQ Joey and I produced the famous John Lennon inteview. John was supposedly at the radio studios that nigh. I still have the tape and the tape of the phone calls we got. We had people at the back dor of the station wanting to see him too. It was a highlight moment in my radio career. I worked with Joey again for a time at CHNR in Simcoe , Ontario. It is nice to know where he is and that he is doing well

    • Oh WOW, Al! (Or should I say Your Truly?) So great to hear from you! Now, I will confess that the famous (infamous?) John Lennon Night at the CJBQ studios in beautiful downtown Belleville was before my radio-listening time, but am I ever intrigued! Do you have those recordings digitized, perchance? I’m sure my readers would get a huge charge out of hearing them. If they aren’t digitized, and if there’s anything I (or the equipment of the journalism program at Loyalist College) can do to help make that happen, please let me know! Such great entertainment deserves to be preserved for posterity!

      • Hi: No , the tapes have never been digitized. They are still in my basement hopefully in some decent state of repair. I will try and search them out. I believe there are still listeners of CJBQ that still believe they were listening to John Lennon that night. Joey and I were very carefull that we actually said “John Lennah”. Never know, we could have been sued or something.lol

      • Al, that sounds like the best stunt ever! If you do have those tapes, I’ll be happy to apply whatever expertise I can search out (not having any myself) toward getting them digitized. What fun it would be to share them with the world!

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