On October 14th, 1984, Neil Headrick turned on a microphone at CKBI in downtown Prince Albert for the first time.
“The mic light came on and my throat closed up,” he recalled.
He was working in the music business, first at Woolco and then at Sound City, when he was recruited by friend and broadcaster Jim Scarrow to play ‘oldies’ on Sunday morning.
“I finally got over it and introduced the first song I ever played….’Rock Around the Clock.’” That was also the last song the ‘Doc of Rock’ chose to play in his final Sunday morning show 32 years later.
“This wasn’t a job. If people knew how easy it was, they’d be shocked to know I get paid to do this,” Headrick said. “It’s not an ordinary vocation.”
The broadcaster saw a lot of changes in his career. When he began, vinyl records were used to play music.
“Then 8 tracks, then cartridges, then CD’s. None of that exists anymore. It’s all digital and streaming now,” he said.
What didn’t change, according to the man who hired him, was Headrick’s remarkable performance.
“More than that he is a remarkable human being. He is one of the kindest, most considerate and gentlemanly people I know,” Jim Scarrow said.
Ken Landers was the operator for Headrick’s show when he started at CKBI in 1984. “As a 21-year-old broadcaster at the time, I had no idea about the history of rock and roll. Neil shared that with his listeners and with me,” said Landers.
Headrick was only the second morning show host in the history of CKBI. His predecessor, Jack Cennon, was on the air from 1948 to 1986. When he announced his retirement, Headrick’s Facebook page lit up with hundreds of comments including “we’re going to miss waking up to you on the radio. We trusted you to get our day going,” or “Congratulations on a marvelous career being the voice of Prince Albert.”
Headrick said his career was nothing short of marvelous. He interviewed the likes of Ron James, Micky Dolenz of ‘The Monkees’, Johnny Bower and Gordie Howe. “I got to interview Buddy Knox. He had a big song called ‘Party Doll’ in 1957 and when you’re a kid…that’s a big deal,” Headrick remembered.
When asked about other highlights in his career, Headrick said there were too many to choose from. He reminisced about having supper with famous American DJ ‘Wolfman Jack’, becoming the ‘Mutton Chops Champ’ at the Prince Albert Winter Festival in 1974, getting a tattoo of Elvis live on the air when he turned 60, hosting trips to ‘somewhere hot’ every year since 1989 and taking his kids backstage to see Mr. Dressup in the 1980s.
His daughter, Jennifer McDougall, said one of her favorite memories had to do with the first time Headrick’s face appeared on a billboard.
“His picture was on a bus and a lady phoned in devastated that he was bald,” McDougall said with a laugh. “She had been listening for years and then saw a picture of my Dad and said, ‘Oh my, I thought he had hair.”
Some longtime listeners may remember the time Headrick broadcast from his home. It was Friday the thirteenth and he refused to leave the house.
“So, our engineer at the time, Dale Zimmerman, came to my house and set up a whole studio and we broadcast the whole morning from my kitchen on Bradbury Drive,” he said.
There were several more hijinks for Headrick over the years. Scarrow recalled a prank one April Fool’s Day when Headrick told listeners the old Molson Brewery was about to be imploded and urged people to avoid the area at 11 o’clock.
“Neil had the opportunity to drive by the site around 11 and to his surprise…hundreds of people had gathered to witness this apparent implosion..including police who set up a barricade,” Scarrow explained. “His(Headrick’s) demeanor has always been relaxed and fun loving. Even when things go off track, as things can when you’re doing a live radio show, he keeps his cool and always manages to pull it back on track with a joke and a smile.”
Headrick said he is looking forward to retirement but says sleeping in will take some getting used to. “I got up at 4:29 every day for 30 years…so it is going to take a while to break the habit,” he said.
More than anything, Headrick knows he will miss his loyal listeners.
“If someone hears you every single day, they get to know you,” he said. “So, when those people come and talk to you… it’s wonderful and more important than any big celebrity.”
Headrick revealed the secret to his successful career has been simple. “Be who you are. Be a friend.”
Neil Headrick will hang up his headphones and turn off the mic at CKBI for the last time on Friday, December 23.