Memorable Manitobans: Robert “Bob” Burns (c1934-2010)
In the early 1950s, Burns entertained as house emcee and vocalist at Rancho Don Carlos in Winnipeg. In 1955, he left for Timmins, Ontario and a position as junior announcer at CKGB Radio. After being there for four years, he moved on to Thunder Bay as program director at CFTA Radio. In 1960, on hearing about a new television station coming to Winnipeg, he wrote a letter to CJAY-TV’s new general manager Jack Davidson, got an interview with Stew MacPherson, and was hired as a staff announcer.
He hosted the popular show “Teen Dance Party” on CJAY-TV from the early 1960s until its final episode in August 1968. “The most important part of the show was the kids”, said Burns. “Their love of music and their desire to have a good time”. Cheerfully calling himself Manitoba’s oldest “rocky rolly,” he was always delighted to share his memories of music and artists from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.
When The Beatles flew into Winnipeg in 1964 for a brief stopover on their way to a concert engagement in the USA, 29-year-old Burns was on the scene, interviewing each member of the band for CJAY-TV. Also in the 1960s, he was the Canadian Record Music Association’s representative for Manitoba and Saskatchewan, with the goal of arranging as many recording contracts as possible. Back then, the CRMA produced the Junos as well.
Much of his career was dedicated to helping young, local performers and writers launch their careers. He produced “Shakin’ All Over” for Chad Allen and the Expressions, and was the manager/producer for The Guess Who in their early years. Winnipeg’s Murphy sisters formed a group called Sugar and Spice, and Burns produced their hit “The Cruel War”. Local performer Joey Gregorash was on his list as well.
After his “Teen Dance Party” years, Burns produced the television show “Young As You Are”, then became program director at CKY FM in the mid 1970s. In 1978, Videon’s Sid Boiling asked him to put together a company to help local talent in the performing arts and sciences – doing full recording sessions and marketing them. It was a successful venture. Burn’s next challenge from Boiling was to start up a television station at Kenora, Ontario. He remained deeply involved in the performing arts and, by the mid-1980s, he had returned to Winnipeg. Throughout his final years, he shared his favorite music over the airwaves on CJNU 107.9 FM.
His last gig on stage was at the Winnipeg Super Oldies Rock and Roll Reunion in September 2009, where he shared the emcee duties with other local DJs from past decades. That night, he was able to reconnect for one final time with the grateful musicians and aging fans who were once “his kids.”
He died at Winnipeg on 25 October 2010.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 30 October 2010.
This profile was prepared by Wendy Hart.
Page revised: 11 August 2011
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