Aaron Rand says goodbye to The Q listeners
By Walter J. Lyng
On the night of Thursday, May 26, Aaron Rand will be able to turn his alarm clock off because for the first time in a long while, he won't have to get up the next day at 4 a.m.
A fixture of CFQR FM in all of its forms over the last 26 years, Rand will host his final morning show on Thursday, leaving behind a legacy paralleled by few.
“I realized I've been doing this getting up routine on and off since 1977,” he says. “That's a lot of getting up at four in the morning. This has been basically my life.”
Faced with having to drastically change his hosting approach in order to keep up with the rapidly evolving radio industry, Rand decided to instead go gracefully into that good night, letting his career speak for itself.
“I haven't had a fight with anybody,” he says. “Business is business at the end of the day and this is a business that, for the owners, has to make money. It's not the same way radio used to be 20 or 30 years ago when I got into this business, but I think you have to understand that as well.”
Focusing more on music rather than the banter of hosts, local FM radio has seen a lot of its stars moving on in recent years. Rand suggests the shift has been inevitable, considering all of the new technologies radio has been forced to compete with.
“I always try to understand what's going on with the people who want to take over and what they want to do but I think this is, in fact, systematic,” he says. “I don't think it has anything to do with just this radio station.”
The admiration and respect garnered by Rand is evidenced by how much his employer, The Q station manager Mark Dickie, sings his praises.
“We're sad to see him go,” says Dickie. “He's done tremendous things for the radio station and he's done tremendous things behind the mic for Montreal. I think you can count on one hand how many guys in Canada have been sitting behind one mic for that length of time. He is the last great radio star in English Montreal radio. You put Aaron in the same category as the George Balcans, the Ted Blackmans, and the Terry DiMontes.”
Rand's last show will certainly be a special one, featuring music personally selected by him as well appearances by Montreal characters such as concert promoter Donald K. Donald. Most notably, however, the final show will mark the return of Rand's former co-hosts Paul Zakaib (a.k.a Tasso Patsikakis) and Suzanne Desautels. Having spent 25 years working with Zakaib, the reunion seems especially fitting.
“That was probably the toughest thing I had ever been through in the business,” says Rand of Zakaib's departure in 2009. “You work with someone for 25 years and you wake up the next day and you go to work and that chair that's had someone in it the whole time is suddenly empty. That was real tough to pull off but they say you have to be a pro and carry on.”
While he hasn't figured out exactly what he'll be doing after he's done with the Q, Rand says he knows for sure what he won't be doing.
“I plan not to retire,” he says. “That's the only thing definitively that I can tell you I have planned. I don't think I want to get out of the business. I still like what I do.”
Although radio remains his first love, Rand says there are other interests he might pursue.
“I'm working on building the world's best car wash, but that's been for about 20 years,” he says. “I wrote a screenplay about 15 years ago for a short film that I've been playing with and never really did anything with, other than just sit there and say 'I wrote this.' I have a lot of things to keep me busy but the first thing that ran through my mind when this all went down was that I'd like to just go somewhere and sit for two or three weeks, just chilling, and to think about what I want to do next.”
Since he announced in February that he was leaving, Rand has received many messages from loyal listeners, expressing a combination of shock, sadness, nostalgia and sometimes humour.
“It's amazing to read emails sometimes from people who say, 'Wow, I remember listening to you on CKGM,' and I'm like, 'Oh my God. How old am I?'” he says. “I got a really funny message from a woman who said, 'I can't believe this is happening. Now I'm going to have to talk to my husband in the morning.'”
Rand says he appreciates their commitment.
“The one thing you don't necessarily understand is how attached people become. When you get up and listen to the same show every day for years and years, it's like a member of the family, almost.”
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