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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, February 20, 2024
Broadcasting legend Duff Roman appointed to Order of Canada



Niagara-on-the-Lake resident David Mostaway (known to the world as broadcaster “Duff Roman”) has been appointed to the Order of Canada by the Governor General.

Roman is being recognized for his “contributions to the Canadian music industry as a broadcaster and executive, and for his steadfast promotion of Canadian talent,” the official citation reads.

Roman said seeing an email with the letterhead of the Governor General gave him a mild case of “shock.”

“I’m not a person who is sitting here pining away for recognition. Heaven knows I’ve been treated well by the radio and music industries,” Roman said in an interview on Sunday.

He said he is very happy to be considered worthy of “such a high honour.”

Roman is happily retired in NOTL and says he loves his life here. He has two children and two granddaughters and he is proud of them all.

He said he is always listening for new Canadian artists and enjoys listening to rhythm and blues with his wife Sandra. 

Roman, 83, is known for his tenure with CHUM-FM as a broadcaster and has been an instrumental force in promoting Canadian artists throughout his long career in the music industry.

Canadian content rules require that about one-third of artists broadcast weekly on radio stations be Canadian.

While this law has been beneficial for the promotion of Canadian talent, without proper funding there wasn’t really much “talent” to choose from, Roman said.

“There was some pretty weak stuff that was getting onto the air to reach that 30 per cent minimum,” he said.

Roman said a good friend told him and other broadcasters to quit whining and to get some money together to produce quality Canadian content.

And so Roman set about creating one of the most essential programs for Canadian artists the country has to offer.

The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings, or FACTOR, is a private non-profit organization that financially aids Canadian musicians seeking to record, tour or promote their material.

Roman started FACTOR in 1982 with $200,000 from CHUM-FM and Moffat Communications. Today, the program works in conjunction with the Canada Music Fund and doles out some $23 million in grants to Canadian recording artists every year, he said.

Artists who have used FACTOR to aid in the expensive recording process include Bedouin Soundclash, Alexisonfire, The Trews, Sam Roberts, July Talk and many other notable Canadian musicians.

When Roman approached the federal government initially with the idea he was told the program would need to encompass Canada’s francophone culture.

Roman spent a lot of time in Quebec speaking with French radio stations to understand what the musical topography was like in the province, he said.

“Basically, we helped put together their organization similar to FACTOR. They call theirs Musicaction. CHUM actually loaned them the capital for the first two years of operation to produce French-language recordings,” Roman said.

Irony arose when the radio station Roman was associated with in Montreal, CHOM-FM, was not allowed to play the recordings, he said.

CHOM-FM was a radio station that used the “joual” dialect, a vernacular in Quebec which uses French and English interchangeably, Roman said.

“Francophone broadcasters really felt that you had to be fully into French-language broadcasting to use any French-language recordings,” he said.

“So, essentially we had to back off. The (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) wouldn’t let us play any French music.”

Roman has very fond memories of his early years as a disc jockey, particularly DJ’ing live for an audience.

“We had a really good time taking our recordings and our amps and doing record hops and entertaining at schools and all over Ontario,” he said.

“I would often be on a bill that had a live group and then I’d sort of take over the dancing part of the night with my top 40.”

The broadcasters were as important as the artists in the early days of radio.

“It was the golden age of radio, the peak of top 40 radio. There was no internet, there was no competition. There were no iPhones, which allowed focus to be on the radio stations,” he said.

“Kids had to come to the radio stations to see if there were going to be any rock stars there, and they’d want to meet you because you had contact with the rock stars.”

“We had kids constantly camped on Yonge Street waiting for anybody to come out of the door and it was just fun. It was great fun.”

In his starry past, Roman also briefly had a record label called Roman Records with his brother. He recorded early demos by Levon and the Hawks, later to be known worldwide as one of Canada’s premium musical exports, The Band.

Roman said being constantly surrounded by the music scene and being the person who determined what would be good for popular radio gave him an advantage over other record producers.

“I was at the other end. I knew what the broadcasters were looking for,” he said.

Records “found their way into the wastebasket pretty quickly if you couldn’t catch their attention in the first 20 seconds or so.”

Having previously recorded some tracks with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, Roman said he was one of their first calls after The Band parted ways with Hawkins.

“They asked if I would be interested in recording them. I said, ‘You bet.’ I went in and did six tracks with them.”

Those six tracks found their way into the hands of Bob Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman.

“And that sort of started the chain reaction of, ‘Who are these guys?’ ” Roman said.

Eventually, the Hawks would be on tour with Dylan as his backing band and the rest is the stuff of music legend.

“I feel sometimes like Forrest Gump, sort of being everywhere,” Roman said with a laugh.

When considering the state of radio today, Roman said it is “caught up in a technological war” and related its plight to that of the newspaper and television business.

“I say this lovingly, but people aren’t waiting for the first edition of the newspaper to get their news any more. They’ve already got it on their iPhones and iPads and desktops before the newspaper even comes out,” he said.

“Similarly in radio, the internet and streaming have opened up Pandora’s Box.”

Roman said radio stations are struggling to capture young audiences' attention.

Younger generations “know what they want and they want it now. They’re not patient enough to wait for their favourite recording to come up in rotation as they would have been when it was only CKEY and CHUM,” he said.

He has been working on a series of rereleases titled, “Roman Records Presents,” featuring archived recordings from his record company including the aforementioned sessions he did with The Band.

The releases will feature music from the '60s and '70s from artists such as David Clayton-Thomas, The Shays, Jon and Lee and the Checkmates among others.

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