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May. 28, 2022 | Saturday
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Local spotlight: Duff Roman
A personalized poster, created by the Rolling Stones, to celebrate their Duff Roman-produced concert at the El Mocambo in 1977. (Tim Taylor/Special)

Duff Roman is a music industry pioneer. For the past sixty years, he has led, pushed and prodded the blossoming Canadian music scene into the vibrant industry it is today.

In mid-March that industry will say a heartfelt thank you, by presenting the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award to the 80-year-old former broadcaster and entertainment entrepreneur. Roman will receive the award, presented by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, at the 48th Annual Juno Gala, on March 16, in London, Ont.

The Juno award, presented annually, recognizes individuals whose work has significantly impacted the growth and development of the Canadian music industry.

There isn’t much in the music industry that Roman hasn’t tackled—radio announcer, industry executive, music and concert producer, after-hours club owner, music technology entrepreneur, association executive and industry advocate.

According to the Juno citation: “Duff has been a consummate figure in Canadian broadcasting, with industry insight and a dedication that knows no bounds; his lifelong work exemplifies the true spirit of this award”.

It will be Roman’s second Juno Award.

Roman arrived in Toronto in 1959, at the tender age of 21. He’d had a telephone call, to his home in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, from Jack Kent Cooke, the budding international music entrepreneur, to be part of his radio team at CKEY in Toronto.

“I’d worked on air at a number of western stations from the age of 16,” says Roman, from his Niagara-on-the-Lake home.

“I’d wanted to be on radio from the age of ten, long before I really knew what it was. It was my dream.”

After four years, he moved to CHUM, later becoming program director and ultimately head of the CHUM radio network.

Along the way, Roman and his brother started Roman Records, producing and launching such groups as Little Caesar and the Consuls, Levon and the Hawks, The Paupers and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee, David Clayton-Thomas.

In the 1980’s, Roman led the industry’s creation of the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR), an organization that injects some $20 million a year into the recording industry.

Roman and his wife, Sandra (also a former broadcast executive), moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake two-and-a-half years ago. Sandra now volunteers for the Shaw Festival.

“We felt it was time to leave Oakville and NOTL is really something that touches you”, says Roman. “We love the local music scene, too. It is wonderful that you can still today hear live music without a cover charge.”

And don’t think Roman has slowed down in retirement. He and a partner have developed a new FM-based technology that he thinks has great potential for communicating with a variety of existing household devices.