For­mer CHOM FM cou­ple die in Mex­ico car crash

Montreal Gazette - - CITY - T’CHA DUNLEVY

A broad­cast­ing cou­ple from CHOM FM’s early days died in a car crash in Mex­ico on Mon­day.

Les­lie Sole and Terri Michael were killed in a head-on col­li­sion in Cabo San Lu­cas, where they had re­tired.

The pair met at CHOM in 1975, where he served as pro­gram direc­tor and she was the first solo fe­male host of Cana­dian morn­ing and af­ter­noon shows.

They moved on to Toronto a few years later. Sole worked his way up to CEO of Rogers Tele­vi­sion, and Michael had a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in ra­dio and tele­vi­sion. (Michael con­tin­ued to host the show To­tal Re­call: 40 Years of Rock, on CaboMil 96.3 in Cabo San Lu­cas.) They cel­e­brated their 39th wed­ding an­niver­sary in Oc­to­ber.

Reached Fri­day, for­mer CHOM per­son­al­i­ties shared their mem­o­ries of the cou­ple.

“When Les­lie ar­rived from CJOM, CHOM’s sis­ter sta­tion in Wind­sor, he brought a great sense of di­rected spirit,” said for­mer CHOM DJ Andrew Forsyth, from his home in Dun­das, Ont. “It was still very free-form when I ar­rived there in ’75. Les­lie al­lowed us to do a lot of things, but he got us to do it with con­scious­ness, with spirit. He re­ally made it much more of a main­stream, ac­ces­si­ble ra­dio sta­tion for Mon­treal.”

One of Sole’s ini­tia­tives was to make CHOM’s broad­cast­ing bilin­gual. The idea was a hit with Mon­treal­ers un­til ri­val sta­tions be­came un­happy and took le­gal ac­tion, forc­ing the sta­tion to be­come English only.

“When we ran French ad­ver­tis­ing, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Forsyth said. “Com­pet­ing sta­tions were very up­set with that. They went to the CRTC, which told us to stop, cease and de­sist.

“Les was very sup­port­ive of the fact that we would speak the lan­guage of the street. We would say, ‘Vous écoutez CHOM 97.7, and here’s some Led Zep­pelin.’ Be­cause that’s the way our au­di­ence spoke, and Les was the guy that re­ally sup­ported us do­ing that.”

That lin­guis­tic open­ness car­ried over into the mu­si­cal se­lec­tion, as CHOM re­flected the cul­tural cross-pol­li­na­tion in­fus­ing the Que­bec mu­sic scene at the time.

“It truly was the spirit of Mon­treal, un­der Les­lie,” Forsyth said. “The (French) mu­sic was easy to play — Har­mo­nium, Beau Dom­mage, Robert Charlebois — all great Québé­cois artists who worked with what we were play­ing else­wise.”

Forsyth crossed paths with Sole from time to time in Toronto over the en­su­ing decades, and was al­ways struck by his for­mer boss’s en­hanced sense of what was pos­si­ble.

“He’s one of the very few peo­ple I’ve run into in my life­time, where you know this per­son just has got this big­ger vi­sion of what is go­ing on,” he said.

“Les was very good at in­ter­pret­ing what Ge­off (Stir­ling, CHOM’s orig­i­nal owner) wanted, taking his very philo­soph­i­cal ideas and putting them into prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion.”

Rob Braide started at CHOM in 1977, just af­ter Sole and Michael’s de­par­ture. The cou­ple’s re­la­tion­ship had be­come a point of con­tention with Stir­ling, Braide re­counts.

“A lot of peo­ple said Ge­off Stir­ling was a great guy and a vi­sion­ary, ( but) Les lost his job at CHOM un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously when Jeff de­cided there were no re­la­tion­ships among em­ploy­ees,” said Braide, who went on to be pro­gram direc­tor at CHOM and CKGM, and, later, man­ager and vice pres­i­dent of CHOM, CJAD and Mix 96.

As Braide moved up the broad­cast­ing ranks, he and Sole de­vel­oped a friend­ship through mu­tual friend Gary Slaight.

“He was al­ways a good per­son to have at a party,” he said, “a great guy with lots of en­ergy and spirit.”

Braide re­mem­bers Michael as “bub­bly, out­go­ing, very beau­ti­ful — a fash­ion­ista. She was on top of pop cul­ture, had a beau­ti­ful voice and a quick smile; every­body re­ally liked her.”

Braide was fa­mil­iar with the story of how Michael landed her job at the sta­tion, through her friend­ship with CHOM an­nouncer Live Earl Jive’s fu­ture wife Bev­erly.

“They’d hang around the stu­dio while Earl Jive was on,” Braide said. “One of the se­nior guys heard Terri’s voice and said, ‘We’ve got to get her on air.’ ”

Earl Jive, now based in L.A., told that story on so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing an ear­lier post in which he shared news of the cou­ple’s pass­ing.

“This is the sad­dest post­ing of my Face­book life,” he said. “Last night, Bev’s best friend since child­hood, broad­caster Terri Michael, and her hus­band (my PD at CHOM) Les Sole, were killed in a head-on col­li­sion. They are sur­vived by their son Johnny. We are dev­as­tated. RIP Terri & Les.”

We would say, ‘Vous écoutez CHOM 97.7, and here’s some Led Zep­pelin.’ Be­cause that’s the way our au­di­ence spoke.

Les­lie Sole

Terri Michael


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