People, I am just bursting with pride and excitement about the news I have to share with you tonight. I am so proud and excited, in fact, that I can hardly believe it is even true.
But it is! People, get ready: I have found Joey Edwards!
Now, if you don’t know who Joey Edwards is, I suppose you won’t be quite as excited as I am. But if you do remember Joey Edwards, the brilliant, wacky and hilarious evening disc jockey on radio station CJBQ (“Belleville and TrentTONNNNN!,” as the station’s jingle went) back in the early 1970s – when I was a kid growing up here at the Manse, when CJBQ was the only station we got (or at least the only one we listened to), and when all the world was young – perhaps you’ll share my delight at having made contact with him and found out what he’s doing, and how well he’s doing, all these years later. On the other side of the world, as it happens. What a story!
But first, the background, so that everybody’s up to speed. As I mentioned, Joey Edwards used to hold down the fort for the evening shift at CJBQ. In addition to playing great music – those were the days when you could actually hear performers like Joni Mitchell singing smart songs like Help Me and Free Man in Paris on AM radio, as I wrote about here (in the post that would eventually lead to me tracking down Joey) – he brought his repertoire of foreign accents and goofy voices, an extremely quick wit, and just a general sense that life was good and a whole lot of fun, to the show. We looked forward to listening to him every weeknight, and appreciated his signature moments: how he always said, “Thanks, Mum” in a Liverpudlian Beatles accent at the end of the show; how he always used the end of The Beatles’ The End (Yes, you know it: “And in the end, the love you take/Is equal to the love you make”) to sign off; and how he was forever sharing the deep and eternal maxim that “A wet bird never flies at night.” Whatever that means.
Anyway. Since a large part of this blog is me regaling you with things I remember from my midcentury youth in Queensborough, hoping those things might in turn bring you some happy memories of that same golden era, Joey Edwards fits right in. Particularly since Joey was, while a star on the radio station down in Belleville, a native of Madoc, which was “town” for us Manse residents (my dad and mum and three siblings) back then, and still is for us Manse residents (my husband, Raymond, and me) today. He was a local boy made good.
I’m sure I was not the only listener sorely distressed in about 1974 or ’75 when Joey suddenly disappeared from the CJBQ airwaves – never to be heard from again. Until, that is, Meanwhile at the Manse found him, about 40 years later. In Beijing, of all places!
Here’s what happened: As I mentioned, back in February 2013 I wrote that post about how once upon a time (my teenage years) there were actually intelligent songs on AM radio. (Along with a lot of ABBA. And don’t you dare say a word against ABBA.) In it I made mention of CJBQ, though not Joey Edwards specifically. But that post garnered quite a lot of comments over time, and through those comments and my responses, people’s memories of Joey Edwards started to be recorded. (You can follow the trail of those comments here.) Some people wrote in saying they’d love to know what ever happened to him and where he is now; and some of those were people who had actually worked with him.
Anyway, long story short: somehow or other Joey came across those comments. One of the absolute highlights in my two years and eight months (and a few days) of writing Meanwhile, at the Manse came one dark early morning a couple of weeks ago when I was groggily making coffee in preparation for another workday: I happened to look at my phone, where notifications of reader comments show up. And there were (my heart still beats a little faster when I remember it) – a couple of comments from Joey Edwards!!!!!
You can be sure that woke me up in a hurry. There I was, standing in the very kitchen where all those years ago I used to listen to his show on CJBQ; and suddenly there he was (or at least, there his comments were). It was kind of magical.
So for those who are wondering: our Joey Edwards is now a very successful entertainment personality in China! He lives in Beijing, is married to Nancy (who comes from the city of Wuhan), and Nancy is the crackerjack manager of his business. Here is a lovely photo Joey sent me of the two of them on a visit to Nancy’s home city:
Joey and I have had a couple of great back-and-forths thanks to the wonder of email. (Which nobody could even have imagined back in the days when he was telling us over the airwaves that a wet bird never flies at night.) Here are some excerpts (Joey gave me permission to share) that I know his fans will appreciate:
I truly am honored that you were my “fan.” Without my Belleville fans’ support, The Joey Edwards Show would not have survived. My show was a very different animal for CJBQ listeners and made the management very nervous. They fought me at every turn. Peter Thompson hired me, initially, another very dear friend, and later, Milt Johnston was my boss when Peter left for big-time radio in Toronto. Without Milt’s undying support of my show, I wouldn’t have been in Belleville long. He was a good man. After about a year on-air, my crazed efforts tripled the listenership – a record for CJBQ and one that was never repeated. After that happened, management “mysteriously” backed off and let Joey do his “thing.” I was making the station money and the big chiefs weren’t going to challenge that …
It was great to be at CJBQ since my home town (Madoc) was only 20 minutes away [Note from Katherine: I think Joey’s been away too long! He underestimates the distance between Madoc and Belleville] and all my family and old school chums and teachers could hear me. My father was a proud man and never patted me and my twin brother on the back but Mum said he was always boasting to his old friends in Madoc that that was HIS son on CJBQ. I was happy that I could do that for him. You may have noted that I always said (in my Beatle voice), “Thanks, Mum” at the end of every show. She always listened for it.
After Belleville, my radio career was a monstrous rollercoaster ride. Over the next 35 years I worked at stations all over Canada, the USA and overseas (New Zealand, British Virgin Islands, Europe) …
I always wanted to see China so I casually checked the Internet for English-speaking radio stations in China and found China Radio International in Beijing, the biggest English-speaking radio station in China. To my incredible surprise, they hired me! … [Later] I started dabbling in English voice recording at that time and – BINGO! – a new career for me was born! With my trained radio voice and all the cartoon voices plus my singing abilities, I very quickly became a highly requested voice in Beijing and all across China. I have my own home studio now and work for countless outside studios. I confess that I miss being on-air but the music that is being played on radio now just doesn’t work for me. Beyonce, Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber?! Give me a break! Some radio stations in Canada & the USA occasionally ask me to do novelty songs for them regarding events in the news.
One thing that Joey does a lot of now is stuff for kids – educational projects and so on. He sent me some examples, and I’m going to share one that samples the “chants” (“non-singing songs, sorta rap for kids,” Joey calls it). They are utterly charming: nursery rhymes that we all remember from our childhood done in Joey’s apparently endless collection of voices. Enjoy:
And now, the conclusion and the best of all – at least for me. Here’s how Joey signed off on that long and newsy email:
Katherine … Thank for your fanship and, most importantly, your friendship. You made me feel like a truly blessed man.
Please keep in touch.
BIG hugs from Joe(y)
And here is the little tiny ditty he wrote and recorded just for me! People, the DJ hero of my early teen years did a song for me! How lucky can a person get?
“Joey Edwards was a lucky man,” he sings. Well, I think I speak for all of Joey’s listeners when I say that we think we were the lucky ones: to have had such a great friend and entertainer guiding us through the music of the day and enlivening our evenings over the airwaves back here in Hastings County in a time now long gone. With Joey, there was never a dull moment.
And what’s not to like about the fact that Joey is still going strong, doing fun stuff and being very successful, way off in Beijing? Really, it’s just a thrill when stories turn out not just well, but supremely well. And this is one of them.
Final word: Joey warmly invites fans and friends to contact him. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell him I sent you. And remember: A wet bird never flies at night.