From the 1970s to the mid-1980s,
had you asked listeners about the most popular programs on CKUA,
invariably an arts show would have been chosen. In successive editions of
The Edmonton Access Catalogue, for instance, the show known simply as
DeKoven Presents continually received the most mentions. Described as "the
spiritual leader of barococo music" - the period between 1640 and 1750 -
Seymour DeKoven's had as his home base the Fordham University public radio
station WFUV in New York - the Bronx, to be specific. The show represents
not only the love affair CKUA's listeners had with decidedly eclectic
content, but the penchant for monetary support requests.
DeKoven would hardly be the only show upon which popular attention would
be lavished. Included in those same Edmonton Access Catalogue listings
were The Acme Sausage Company, Natch'l Blues, The Old Disc Jockey,
Continental Musicale, Matinee, Later That Same Evening, By Request,
Talking About Books, and Ragtime to Rolling Stones. If there was a theme
to appreciative write-ups on programming, it was not that CKUA was known
for its news, sports and weather coverage, but for its support for culture
and the arts.
And had the Edmonton Access Guide continued to publish, it would likely
have included Arts Alberta (hosted by Tommy Banks), H.P. Sauce (hosted by
Holger Peterson), Wayside Station (with Bob Chelmack), and such CKUA hosts
as Tony Dillon-Davis, Sev Sabourin, Bill Coull, Richard Moses and Mark
From CKUA's earliest days, the arts would be a major focus. In fact, the
very first sound heard by listeners on Nov. 21, 1927 when the station
signed on was a rendering on the grand piano of God Save the King. That
debut broadcast would conclude with a performance of Chopin's
Revolutionary etude. Entertainment and education would co-mingle over the
decades beginning with Edmonton's earliest on-location broadcasts of
choral, orchestral and organ music events, and continuing with weekly
in-studio concerts featuring the University of Alberta Radio Orchestra,
Edmonton's first resident radio orchestra, and an array of musical
There would be ethnic music represented by the likes of Gaby Haas'
Continental Musicale (in 1986, declared to be the longest-running radio
show in the world), and a nod to other cultures, such as the Edmonton love
affair with Hawaiian music from 1949-52. The music of the islands was
showcased three times weekly from CKUA studios on Hawaiian Sunset with
George Lake and the Hawaiians. Never mind that these "Hawaiians" were
residents of landlocked Edmonton.
Beginning in the '30s, Edmonton would become a hotbed of radio drama with
the plays of Elsie Park Gowan and Gwen Pharis Ringwood. Gowan's work, in
particular her 20-part historical series, The Building of Canada, would
receive a second airing on the national CBC network.
Even CKUA's educational mandate would be fulfilled in a musical
partnership with Athabasca University, a distance education institution
modeled on Great Britain's Open University. From Ragtime to Rolling
Stones, a 104-part radio series, doubled as a university-level musicology
course. And in 2002, AU professor David Gregory would pair up with his
CKUA producer Brian Dunsmore yet again for the 48-part series, The Long
Weekend, which covers popular music from 1918-39.
Indeed, by 2003, there would be 50 shows on CKUA's roster. Of them, 43
addressed the arts and cultural life in Alberta, as well as around the
world. They would cover musical genres such as jazz, world bea, classical,
Celtic and contemporary. At least one show, Arts Alive hosted by Chris
Allen, would be a continuation of what many listeners consider to be the
apex of CKUA's arts coverage - the long-running magazine show of the '80s
and '90s Arts Alberta, hosted by Tommy Banks.