Canadian Radio Veteran Bobby Gale Dies in Road Accident

Brandy Gale
Bobby Gale

Canadian music industry veteran Bobby Gale, radio host, promoter and devoted Roxy Music fan, died in the wee hours Saturday (April 13) after attending a concert in Montreal by New Zealand's Aldous Harding. He was 62. Ontario Provincial Police say Gale experienced car trouble on the highway in Kingston, Ontario, around 4 a.m. and left his vehicle (he had apparently gone to buy gas). He was hit by a tractor trailer and pronounced dead at the scene. The driver was not charged.

His long-time friend Jim "JJ" Johnson, a radio exec and consultant, broke the news in a Facebook post on Saturday. "I am sick to my stomach right now," it began. "The radio and music industry lost a good one last night. Bobby Gale, the legend, a friend of thousands and a personal friend for 45 years was killed last night on the highway back from a concert in Montreal. He was devoted to music right to the end."

Gale, whose snazzy attire and dyed-black hair recalled the look of his idol Bryan Ferry, had an unmistakable speaking/radio voice. "Bobby" or "Bobby Gale," he would say quickly, when you'd pick up the phone, and go right into a pitch for the latest act he was working. He was hard to say no to, if he wanted you to meet a band over lunch or check out their show -- or, by all accounts, add their song to radio playlists -- you always felt he knew something you didn't, based on his decades of experience in radio.

An only child, Robert Bruce "Bobby" Gale grew up in Windsor, Ont., across the river from Detroit.

"I'm a music junkie," he told All Access in 2010. "Essentially, I was nurtured by a mother who was like an older sister. She bought all the latest vinyl, and we faithfully watched Bandstand, Sullivan, Lloyd Thaxton, Shindig, Hullabaloo, etc. daily or weekly. Radio (Top 40: CKLW/WKNR/CHLO) quickly became a great source of many new songs and artists. My mother dated radio guys; some I now realize were/became legends. I knew as I entered my teens radio would be my ticket to ride (especially to get out of Windsor!) I did everything within my power to make radio my career. But I have to add that it was my burning desire to turn everyone onto music that made this pursuit to be on-air relentless."

"My career began by creating doorways and relationships...when CKWW-FM Windsor decided to follow the move to flip FM's from Elevator Music to Prog Rock, I was already fully in touch with that 'format' thanks to WABX Detroit," he recalled. "When Dave Loncao (now Nickelback's hitman!) was setting up the (formerly CKWW-FM) CJOM library in 1970, I was hangin' around, and was asked if he/they could borrow several of my albums to quickly build the library. Try to imagine how special that was for a teenager and radio wannabe! It seems surreal this many years later."

Gale started in radio in his teens, in 1970, at WGAL/Windsor, a Patterson Collegiate Radio station he created. He would also guest on CBE/Windsor. Throughout the 70s, he went from CJOM to CSRW in Windsor to W4 in Detroit, "when legends Howard Stern, Dan Carlisle, Jerry Lubin were there," he wrote on his now removed LinkedIn. "Paul Christy (WCAR) was my PD."

He then bounced from CHIQ in Winnipeg for over a year to CHOM FM in Montreal, where he worked on air and as music director for almost two years. From 1979 to 1980, he did afternoon drive/evenings on Toronto rock station Q107 before switching to the other side, working for PolyGram for 11 years, leaving his last position as central region promotion/publicity manager in 1991.

A year later, Gale created his own radio promotion company BG Enterprises, which he renamed plug Music Inc.  His LinkedIn profile described the business as "providing veteran experience in radio/video/tour promotion - including publicity, A&R, marketing & artist direction - akin to that of a major label."

Over the years, his clients included Canadian acts 54.40, Alexisonfire, City and Colour, Bruce Cockburn, Cowboy Junkies, Randy Bachman, Cancer Bats, Edwin, Luke Doucet, Emm Gryner, Andy Kim,  Mad Violet, Danny Michel, Melissa McCelland, Kinnie Starr, the band The Weekend, Daniel Powter, Ellen Reid, esthero, Junkhouse, Matthew Good Band, Moist, Robin Black & the Intergalactic Rock Stars, rusty, Scratching Post, Skydiggers, The Pursuit of Happiness, and Wild Strawberries.

In 2013, he added another company to his services, forming Global Live Artist Direction (GLAD), which included management, media relations and bookings for clients Wild Strawberries, boywonderbread, GeL and more. In 2015, JJ Johnson, then interim general manager of 99.3 County FM (CJPE) -- located in Prince Edward County, Ontario, where Gale had lived since the mid 2000s -- brought Gale back on-air.

In a 2016 interview for FYI Music News, Gale told Martin Melhuish, "After the first couple of weeks on air, J.J. came back and said, 'So, what do you think?'" recalls Gale. "I told him I was not really enjoying it the way I thought I would. 'I can't be playing all these records that I don't feel passionate about. Let me have carte blanche and I promise you a great radio show. I've got a concept; you'll just have to trust me. It'll be great.' He told me he would talk to Deb [Simpson, then GM], who was just joining the station as GM, and within a couple of days he came back and said, 'We're going to treat your show as foreground; it's all yours. Give it a name, go with it and have some fun!"

Gale then rebranded and reformatted his show Sunday Glide -- producing, hosting and curating what he called a "unique AAA blend billed as "left of centre faves by leading edge artists." The weekly live show, on which he played a range of artists such as Lana Del Rey, Florence + The Machine, Beach House, Simple Minds, Kate Bush, Frank Zappa, Hayden, esthero -- and, of course Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music -- also included interviews.

On Sunday afternoon, JJ hosted a tribute to Gale on County FM.  In his Facebook post, he wrote: "Bobby's mom tells me there will be no funeral or celebration of life, and that Bobby's ashes will be buried in the family plot around Windsor where he grew up. Please take a moment to post your feelings and I will make sure she sees all the messages. God bless Bobby Gale. Rest in Peace old friend Mailing address: 99.3 CountyFM, 38 Cold Storage Rd, Picton, Ontario."