EDMONTON RADIO: Morning men

The pairing of Scott McCord with Yukon Jack on The Bear’s new morning show promises to deliver your maximum recommended daily dose of testosterone. These are two of the manliest men on Edmonton radio. Their voices are deep and gruff, and they talk of manly things, like sports. They speak their minds. Sometimes they lose their tempers.

“It’s pretty testosteroni, let me tell you,” agrees McCord. “We speak from experience.”

The Worst Show Ever – that’s what they’re calling it because manly self-deprecation is also part of the game – launches on Tuesday, July 4 at 5:30 am. This will be an “inclusive” sort of man show, McCord says: “I hope that my role on The Worst Show Ever is going to help steer it a little bit away from that rah-rah dick joke gutter humour that sometime permeated what was happening before. I hope sincerely we can be a little bit more cerebral.”

He alludes to sexist stunts of the past. The most egregious has to be the “Win a Wife” contest in 2011, sending winners on an all-expenses-paid trip to Russia to meet eligible bachelorettes through a professional dating agency. Stick your air quotes where you want. They also did a Dirty Deeds prank for AC/DC in 2015 where one challenge was to call your wife and tell her your dog died – on the air. And in 2014, some U of A students staged a boycott after contests like “Best Buns” and “Babe of the Day.”

It is no secret that the Bear’s core audience is guys.

A number of these bits fell under the jurisdiction of previous Bear morning show host, the notorious Paul Brown. He left the 13-year-old show that bore his name in November, with plans to make it in Hollywood apparently on hold since being hired as the morning host at 96.9 JACK FM in Vancouver.

Brown was – is – a natural comic talent of the pretend drunk variety. His laconic drawl is so unlike the usual radio announcer style, and it neatly balanced his partner Yukon’s more in-your-face approach. Brown was always willing to set himself up as the dolt, the idiot, the guy who didn’t know what was going on – and he was the one who usually went over the line, often causing Yukon to lose his shit. They were like a comedy team.

Now with McCord moving from his afternoon “Funhouse,” we’ve got two similar-voiced guys who’ve both been known to lose their shit on the air from time to time. Or say the word “shit” on the air. They also share a passion for pro wrestling and have the ability to interpret real life events in the context of WWE plotlines, McCord says. They agree, “Wrestling is real, life is fake.”

So where’s the contrast, the balance, the chemistry?

McCord replies, “I think the friction between Yukon and I is going to come from the fact we’re in two different stages of our life. He’s got two children. I’m about to have my first child in December. Part of the reason why I moved to the morning was simply to spend more time with my family. I’ll be getting off at 11 or noon instead of 7 or 8 pm the evening when my kid’s already in bed. So I’m tiptoeing through this portion of life that Yukon’s already got figured out.”

Bear listeners are going to hear all about it.

“I have no reservations about putting it out there that I’m a first time father,” he says. “I’m as nervous about it as I am excited. So I would hope people can go on that journey with me. There are a lot people my age, who did the career thing first, tried to pay of the house as much as they could, and then had a child. It’s a little bit more daunting to be a father at the age of 37 when you’ve been serving yourself your entire life. Then all of the sudden this beautiful little baby comes into your life – and it’s a complete paradigm shift. This child is my life.”

Aww … there are few things more endearing to women than a devoted dad. There’s another point for inclusivity.

As with most morning shows, there are sidekicks: In this case it’s Ryan “RyMy” Maier, singer in the band Whale and the Wolf, and a holdover from The Paul Brown Show. Gillian Foote is currently on maternity leave. RyMy provides another important guy voice: the Voice of Freedom, i.e., no kids.

From left: RyMy, Yukon Jack, and Gillian Foote (currently on maternity leave)

McCord says, “There is a part of me where I look at RyMy and think, I kind of want that in my life. If I had the opportunity and I was skinnier and better looking and I had the voice for it, I could give it up to go be a singer in a band. But I can’t do that now, because my life is dedicated to my child, and obviously the show as well. It’s interesting that we all kind of want to be each other, in a roundabout way. That’s where the snake eats its tail.”

That’s some kind of special male bonding right there.

It’s a curious fact that while female listeners are the most coveted demographic in radio – evidenced by at least seven local radio stations that play Lorde and Ed Sheeran – the voices you usually hear on morning radio are from men. Most radio, in fact. Commenting on a dearth of women on the air in general, former 630 CHED announcer Lesley Primeau cited a scientific study that showed that listeners are more likely to trust a voice with a lower pitch. It’s biological. Two women who host their own radio shows in Edmonton – Melissa Wright on K-97 and Lauren Hunter on Sonic 102.9 – are what you might call “husky-voiced.” It it sexist to point that out?

Consider Edmonton’s morning radio shows. We have Terry Evans and Bill Cowen on K-97; Pepper and Dylan back on the air on the rebranded 91.7 KISS FM; and the bulletproof Garner Andrews from Sonic standing athwart them all with the top-rated morning show. Enter The Worst Show Ever.

McCord says, “Yeah, it’s three guys and we all have different interests and pursuits and I certainly hope if you’re a female listener you’re not going to listen to what we have to say and be completely turned off, or worse, turn the station and write in a complaint. I hope we can be a lot more inclusive as we go forward with the show, because I think that’s also emblematic of where Edmonton is at. Edmonton used to be – well, it still is, it’s a blue collar cigarettes and beer and whiskey town, but at the same time we’ve grown up a lot.”

He can only speak for the 13 years he’s lived here. Born and raised in Vancouver, McCord got into radio simply because a friend told him he should be on the radio, enrolled in the Columbia School of Broadcasting literally the next day, worked weekends on the air in Vancouver, moved to and “fell in love” with Edmonton at the Bear, then did brief a stint in at the Bear in Ottawa, a morning show on CRUZ 95.7 FM Edmonton, then back to the Bear for the afternoon Funhouse in 2015. Landing a morning show is the pinnacle of free radio stardom; you work your way up from weekends and midnights to afternoons, and finally, if you’re lucky and talented, to mornings. Listeners are vulnerable in the morning. They need an invisible radio friend more than ever.

McCord says, “I really hope we’re able to hold up a mirror to Edmonton and show them, warts and all, this is the city we have have become now. We’re not the little prairie town that could. The eyes of the world are on Edmonton now and hopefully The Worst Show Ever can reflect that.”




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