R.I.P. Kerry Gray

Another member of HTZ-FM family has passed away. KERRY GRAY died today after a long battle with cancer. I hate cancer. It’s taken down some of my dearest friends and family and Kerry was definitely a big part of ours here at the Whitehouse of Rock. Kerry was the Program Director here between 1999-2003. Listeners rarely saw or heard him on the air but he is a big part of our HTZ-tory.

 

“Hey buddy…”

 

Kerry Gray was a human cyclone! To work with Kerry was to keep-up with him. He was unceasing. Everything he did and said was seemed stream-of-conscience. I came to his house one night and found him sitting on the floor; the television was on with the Leafs, radio on in the background monitoring another competing radio station and his stereo pumping out reggae. Newspapers, magazines, trade papers, charts, notes, clippings were strewn about floor.  Vinyl, cds & aircheck tapes were piled everywhere…all this while he took loving care of his young boy Declan.

Kerry Gray had no OFF switch.

 

“Are you going to eat that?!”

 

Although he was recommended for the HTZ job by an American radio-consulting firm, Kerry had no interest in conforming. He hated consultants. Kerry was hell-bent on breaking the rules and HTZ-FM was twisted enough already that he could mould it into his own form. He positioned us as a kind-of lifestyle channel: the radio version of Maxim & High Times magazines. He challenged us all to step up our game. If every “break” between the songs couldn’t be an event, it had to be engaging. Throw out the clichés. No more blah-blah-blah. He wanted us to double our efforts – the goal was to get people talking about what we did – not who we were. Screw the heritage…”what did you do and say on your show TODAY that will make people want to listen to you tomorrow". Jocks became jesters, stunts & promos took us to new highs (and lows) and the music got wider  and even louder . He brought us The 4:20, Metallica Mondays and Tragically (Hip) Tuesdays and got me to do the most-topical specialty weekends you could imagine. It was Kerry’s idea to celebrate the premiere of the latest Lord of the Rings movie with a GORD OF THE RINGS music weekend….

 

P.         “What do you want me to play???”

K.         “Songs by guys named GORD”

P.         “…like Gord Downie, Gordie Johnson, um , Gordon Sumner?”

K.         “Exactly”

 

He inspired me. He still inspires me. Everything seemed possible with Kerry and it was always fun. After HTZ he returned to a job in front of the mic at stations in southern Ontario and across US and, most recently, in Minnesota. He brought love and friendship everywhere he went. His enthusiasm was there until the very end when cancer finally beat him.

 

When I think of Kerry I think of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, because he loved them so much and couldn’t stop dancing when he played them.

 

Crooked was the path
And brazen was the walk
A cocky swagger, up the ladder
And could he ever talk