Radio Host JJ Pearson Recalls the Glory Days (and Welcomes the Future) of “Punk on the Rock”

By JJ Pearson |

Saltspring was more than a place for me. It was a lifelong dream to land on the rock with a little cafe or bed & breakfast since I was an 11 year old boy.

I was at my desk in the storeroom of my cafe in Indianapolis and I was less than satisfied with the growth of my little business empire , so I googled “business for sale, Saltspring Island.” I found what I thought was the perfect situation. I convinced my wife and family that it was the thing to do. My wife let me leave and my brother and his wife agreed to help me on what was planned as a possible three-year mission to establish my business of a bistro simply called “Beach,” named after our family’s vacation home on the Stacy family’s “Rainbow Beach Resort” next to Booth Bay. Eventually my wife, niece, nephew, four dogs, two cats, two Rats, a turtle & two fish were going to make the big move once I had the business established.

Right from the beginning it was obvious that I was severely under-funded for the endeavor which made the day-to-day operations rather stressful. Couple that with living in the converted attic of an outdoor workshop I affectionately called “the barn.” My only escape from the stresses were my nightly swims at the public pool on Rainbow Road and cuddling with my brother’s dog “Lila.”

I had been tuning into Green FM’s Saltspring Island radio at the restaurant daily  to give the place a local feel. I loved how one hour you could be listening to classical or jazz and then the next program was Farsi techno dance shuffle. You never knew what you were going to get when it came to CFSI.

I can’t remember exactly  how it first came about but  I was approached by the people at CFSI about using my Beach Patio for a weekly live remote during the now infamous Saturday Market. For my troubles I was offered some advertising spots and was told (rather matter of factly) I could probably  have a radio show if I wanted.


Me being a born-and-raised show-off, ex-touring punk rock drummer, guitar slinging, singing, cooking-crazy man I thought, “I have arrived at nirvana.”

Radha brought me in and gave me the crash course Radio DJ training program which consisted of her holding my hand (spiritually & physically) for a few nights to figure out how to run the SAM radio controls and away I ran!

Wednesday nights At 9:00 were mine!

“Punk on the rock” was my vehicle to bring my road stories and some of my favorite music growing up to my new friends and family on Saltspring. I loved preparing for my show, planning my playlist and trying to remember some funny anecdotes of my punk rock touring days. I threw in a generous portion of  selfish self promotion of my restaurant and some of the music I had recorded over the years and away I ran.

I had my theme song picked, I had my intro worked out: “Coming to you LIVE from HIGH atop the Merchant Mews Complex in beautiful Ganges, on the Island we call The Rock in the Salish Sea, it’s Punk on The Rock and I’m your host JJ Pearson!!!!”

I have arrived!!

After the inevitable demise of my little dream restaurant, my dear friend and aforementioned radio teaching guru Radha told me (I left the island and went back to Indianapolis to lick my wounds) I could still do my weekly show. I could inter webs in the shows, weekly, and Rahda would program them into the station’s playlist and “Voila” I was still in the radio show business!!

It was a sad day when Radha told me that no matter how hard all the people on Saltspring island radio tried  & that due to absentee ownership and lack of funding that Green FM was closing down. Maybe someday she would be able to get some people in the community together and make it happen again.

I sure do hope that Radha is successful in putting together the right people to successfully build another cultural-mosaic community radio station, not only for my selfish wishes of having my own show but for a forum to highlight the true beauty of that wonderful happy place known as Saltspring that we islanders call “The Rock.”

Survey Results Very Positive

THANK YOU to the Gulf Islands Community and all of those people who took part in the recent Gulf Islands Community Radio Society’s survey. We finished compiling 429 surveys which were gathered from late October through December!

One thing that is apparent is the local station is missed and the vast majority of people are enthusiastic and behind bringing a live station back to the Gulf Islands!

The three top features requested were all local:

  • Local Updates on ferries, weather, emergency preparedness.
  • News About the Gulf Islands
  • Gulf Islands Community Events Calendar

Of key interest were the words used to describe local community radio.  Here are some of the keywords repeated most often in the comments:

  • Local (137)
  • Community (110)
  • Inform/Information (51)
  • News (47)
  • Music (40)
  • Connection/Connecting/Connect (39)
  • Events (36)
  • People (34)
  • Radio (34)
  • Island/Islands/Islanders (33)
  • Our (29)
  • Issues (27)
  • Interest/Interesting (24)
  • Need (21)
  • Content (19)
  • Service/Serve (17)
  • Support (11)
  • Friend/Neighbour (11)

The biggest single favourite genre of music was Classical Music, however, there were 5 different breakdowns of Rock/Pop genres, and the Rock/Pop combination was about double that of the Classical Music genre. Following these genres were Jazz/Blues, followed by Folk and then Worldbeat.

There were 22 foreign languages represented from respondents, where they noted they were fluent in languages other than English.  The highest ranking in order were French, Spanish, German, Russian and Japanese.

The majority of folks listen to FM radio at 322 responding yes to FM.  Following close behind are the AM camp with 210 folks saying they tune into AM radio. Internet Streaming and On-Demand (via Internet) were following with 92 and 72 respectively.

CBC had the most listenership and was by far the most preferred station. But there were a few notables, those being the former CFSI being the front-runner after CBC.  After CFSI as a favourite was NPR (National Public Radio) followed by “The Q” on 100.3 and “The Peak” on 102.7, CJJR “JR FM” on 93.7 for those listening to country and western, then a tie for The Co-Op Radio CFRO on 100.5, CFMI on 101.1 and CFOX on 99.3.

The number one reason for choosing the favourite station was the music. Other areas that were of key importance were Programming Content, News, and Quality of Service.

Community was seen as the primary difference between the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island – mostly that the Gulf Islands are smaller and close knit. Being geographically isolated was cited next, especially from the smaller islands’ respondents.  Lifestyle was also a key indicator of the difference as well as culture and services (or limited services).

Respondents noted that local community information was they key piece missing from current radio services available to the Gulf Islands.  Also noted was that there was no programming for their needs. And a good number of folks cited they simply weren’t aware of what all was available to them.

Most popular programming features chosen were Local Information (ferries, weather, and power outages), followed local news about the Gulf Islands, and a Gulf Islands Community Events calender.  Following these top three were: News (Canadian & International), Environmental Issues Programming, Traditional Music Programming, Modern Music Programming. Rounding up the programming features were: Instructional, followed by Talk and/or Call-in, Youth Programming, Seniors Programming, and bringing up the rear was Religious/Spiritual Programming.

We had good representation from the outer islands, having made two different Queen of Nanaimo runs to Tsawwassen and back, and through those trips making connections with several of the smaller islands’ residents who took upon themselves to solicit more surveys from their islands.

Thanks again to all who participated in the survey.

Connection is Part of Community Radio

By AmanDa Paska |

Community radio opened up for me new senses of meaning, adding purpose to my life.

When I think about a radio station within a community, I think about all the connections that I make when I have the chance to produce a show or co-host with someone. It feels so good to take part in a community. When networks spring up and endless possibilities and what to do next is your only problem, it makes it easy for you to live passionately and with enthusiasm.

It has shown me the depth of layers within the community if only you stop to listen to a program that reaches out and says something meaningful that may contribute to your life. There was finally a way for me to use my hands and mouth to share stories and share music that send chills down your spine, because that’s what happens to me when I listen to the radio. To be a part of that was better for me than anything and gave my life meaning and purpose.

I have begun to understand the responsibility behind the production of something that goes beyond walls into cars, homes and businesses alike. Music and talk radio unify our community and cultivating that seems to me to be growing healthy relationships.

Community Involvement and Connection through Radio

By Hannah Brown |

The years of Salt Spring Radio were fun and hopeful years.  People involved with the station had many dreams for its role in the Salt Spring Community.  Many of them were realized.

Our fire captain, Chief Tom, sometimes stepped in to co-host a show and, at other times, would come in to share safety concerns within the home and community and to suggest emergency measures to help in times of disaster.  Working farmers  hosted show and shared with us their wisdom and hopes for the future of food production here on the island.  Active musicians played for us and enhanced our programmes.  Visiting actors and musicians from around the world were invited in to promote their upcoming shows.  It was a potpourri of delightful offerings to our community and they responded in kind.  Island interest groups were always welcomed to express their views, respectfully.  Our MP, Elizabeth May, phoned in every Sunday to speak about current issues in our riding and beyond.  Local concerts were often taped and re-presented by the station.  We even re-ran, no less than three times, the wedding ceremony of two of our broadcasters, Sue Walker and Larry Woods.  It was, in all ways, a model for community involvement and connection, at all levels.

While shopping, many people, would come up and tell me how much they enjoyed our programming, often people who I had never met before.  The radio was our commonality.  People gave suggestions for programming that they would like to hear and freely voiced their opinions on the opinions expressed in the broadcasting that they had heard.  I, myself, loved tuning in to hear the voices and programming of people known to me.  It was a delight to phone into the station and comment on something they’d said or played or to just tell them how much I was enjoying the show.  There’s not a doubt in my mind that community radio has a very active role to play in and for the community.  I think that many many would agree with me.

As a broadcaster, it allowed me to pursue one of my hobbies…researching and listening to music of the early blues Queens and to share this with an appreciative audience.  I also had the fun of co hosting a morning show with two of my friends, Radha Fournier and later Catherine Gardiner.  Banana Joe, our wonderful community PARC’s Employee and expert in Tropical Plants would phone in, every Friday, with a weather report and comment on community events.  It is a time that I remember fondly.  In the end it’s a win win situation for all in the community.  I hope that our capable and hardworking group of radio aficionados is able to resurrect community radio here on Salt Spring.

Radio: The Voice of the Community

By Peter Harnisch ~

My dream of becoming a radio host was realized when I was given an opportunity to host ‘The Shift’ on formerly Green FM on Salt Spring Island. And what an experience it was! ‘Green’ myself, my idea for a show was accepted and I was trained to do live radio! Absolutely thrilled, I was given creative freedom to develop the show, host some amazing guests and play some really cool music. What really made the experience magical was that I was able to work with many talented radio hosts that had a wide variety of shows and that I was being supported and trained by then fabulous station manager Radha Fournier.

Community Radio has such great potential and I feel that it would benefit Gulf Islanders in so many ways. The diverse and somewhat eclectic programming offered material that was current, relevant and touched the pulse of the Gulf Island communities. I so loved that the radio hosts and shows spanned the interests of a broad section of the community. The radio hosts were ‘real people’ that I would frequently run into on Salt Spring Island and we would often exchange programming ideas over coffee as to how we could bring new and exciting content to the listeners. Community radio helps give a community a voice so bringing radio back to Salt Spring Island has my full support!

World Class Radio Show in Our Own Back Yard

By Jason Cressey |

I started the ‘Off The Beaten Track’ show as soon as CFSI began broadcasting – realising a dream I had to unite two passions (travel and radio) in a weekly half-hour slot.  Going into the studio, armed with notes, photos and music that I’d picked up on my travels was a wonderful way to relive memories and share the passion, experiences, tips and insights I’d gained in 25 years of travelling to nearly 150 countries.  Over my five years with the station I reported on destinations from Antarctica to Nanaimo – both far and near – and the audience feedback I received was always very encouraging.  I had people who overheard me speaking to friends on the ferry come over and say “I know that voice – and that accent!  You’re the travel guy, aren’t you!”.  Always very rewarding and humbling to know the shows were being appreciated by many travellers – both adventurers and armchair alike!

The folks at CFSI were always so helpful from the beginning at showing me how things worked and allowing me to eventually prepare shows and edit pre-recorded pieces that were often described as being ‘good enough for syndication’ – a quote from two or three people during my time at the station.  I miss the experience and the opportunity to be a part of radio on Salt Spring – and I’ll be among the first in line to resurrect my show when radio returns to this wonderful island.

Overall, my experience with CFSI was my first sustained experience with community radio and, for me, was a very positive one at that.  To be able to go and pursue the passion of radio in my own island back yard, and to connect the big-wide-world with my local community, really mattered to me.   Community radio fills a different need – and a different niche – to large-scale commercial radio… it’s like talking and listening to friends: my experience of both broadcasting on an tuning in to CFSI was always one accompanied by a warm and familiar feeling.  It’s like a radio-wave comfort blanket that gently settles over the island, and our community would be all the richer for it to return stronger and more cohesive than before.

Local Radio Experience results in Studying Broadcasting at University

By DJ Andrew Walker |

I joined CFSI FM back in early July of 2012. A few days prior to receiving my own show at the tender age of 17, I had moved with my family from Calgary to Salt Spring. Yeah, THAT old story…

For me, I have always had a passion for music, as well as radio. So when I heard there was a community station on the island, I drove to the studio to see if I could do anything to help out. There, I met the station manager (Dave Gordon), Operations Manager (Mike Cherry) and the owner (Gary Brooks). I just remember being completely star struck, seeing all three of them in a small room chatting away.

From that moment on till the last week of summer every Saturday night, I played non-stop dance music for two hours commercial free. I had listeners ranging from the island, to around Alberta, and the occasional listeners overseas. The very last week of August, I was moved to Thursday nights at 10pm, which was fantastic because the high school there had Fridays off and I could imagine the high schoolers wouldn’t know what to do on a Thursday night, so it gave me the opportunity to play party music and showcase what I was all about.

Flash-forward to September of 2013, I decided to kick things up a notch. I changed my show completely, renaming it “Euphoria & Entrancement” and had the first hour dedicated to house music, and the second hour dedicated to trance. I also brought in world famous DJs from across the globe to even do a half hour guest mix (electronically) on the occasion.

For me, September 20th 2012 was probably the most memorable night I can remember at CFSI. A few days prior, the community was in shock hearing about the tragic death of Ryan Plambeck. I decided to give back by dedicating the first song on my show to Ryan, “Don’t You Worry Child” by the EDM group Swedish House Mafia, followed by a moment of silence. The request line as well as Facebook and Twitter for the station was INSANE. I took as many call ins and dedications live on air as well as song requests. That is one night I will never forget.

Thanks to CFSI, I am now enrolled in my second year at Mount Royal University studying Broadcasting. As well, I was signed to a DJ company that throws some of the biggest events across Alberta that draw thousands of people. I also have been able to have more special guest DJs/Producers on my radio label that I could not have done if it weren’t for CFSI and their great staff.

The people of Salt Spring, as well as the rest of the Gulf Islands need a radio station. I was in shock when I found out that CFSI was no more this summer! I believe that every person on the island has a story to tell, and we have an audience for that. If it goes through, I can’t wait to hear what interesting stories and music they have to show!

Best of luck! You at Gulf Islands Community Radio Society have my full support!

Andrew Walker
Founder/DJ at Euphoria & Entrancement

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Andrew working his musical magic