David Marsden is a Canadian radio broadcaster. As the driving force behind Brampton, Ontario radio station CFNY in the 1980s, he became an influential figure in the Canadian music industry by giving many Canadian and international alternative rock artists major Canadian radio exposure. During his stint at CFNY, he was known as "The Mars Bar".
Under the name Dave Mickie, he was the original manager of The Revols, a Canadian rock band in the late 1950s whose most famous member, Richard Manuel, would later become part of The Band. He later became one of Canada's pioneering rock DJs on radio, joining Chatham's CFCO in 1963. Bored with the station's commercial easy listening music, he reportedly brought in some of his own records one night, breaking format and hosting in an uncharacteristically dynamic style. He was fired the next morning, but was quickly rehired after the station learned that his experiment had increased the station's ratings.
He was later hired at CKEY in Toronto where he was called "the most controversial thing on Toronto radio." He parted ways with CKEY after just five months. He became host of Music Hop on CBC Television in 1965, succeeding Alex Trebek. He also started writing a column for the Toronto Star in the same year. He was the subject of a chapter in Marshall McLuhan's book Understanding Media, which lauded his unique hosting style:
That's Patty Baby and that's the girl with the dancing feet and that's Freddy Cannon there on the David Mickie Show in the night time ooohbah scuba-doo how are you booboo. Next we'll be Swinging on a Star and sssshhhwwoooo and sliding on a moonbeam. Waaaaa how about that . . . one of the goodest guys with you . . . this is lovable kissable D.M. in the p.m. at 22 minutes past nine o'clock there, aahhrightie, we're gonna have a Hitline, all you have to do is call WAlnut 5-1151, WAlnut 5-1151, tell them what number it is on the Hitline.
As David Marsden, he joined Montreal's CKGM in 1967 and in 1969, he moved to sister station, CKGM-FM. Marsden was instrumental in switching the station's format from beautiful music to free form progressive rock. In 1973, Marsden returned to Toronto with a completely different on-air persona at CHUM-FM. He left the station in February 1975 to devote more time to his radio commercial production company, but mainly because of the tight playlist CHUM-FM was making their DJs follow. Marsden refused to follow a playlist and left shortly after it was instituted. He eventually returned as an on-air personality at CHIC-FM shortly before it was transformed into CFNY.
Creates The Spirit of Radio
After CFNY program director Dave Pritchard left the station in 1978 due to conflicts with the station management, Marsden was promoted to program director. The station's mandate had been to present significantly different programming than other radio stations in the Greater Toronto Area, but before Marsden's arrival the station's format had been highly eclectic. Marsden saw the commercial potential of punk and new wave, and opened CFNY's focus, creating Canada's first alternative music station. Throughout the 1980s, under the slogan the spirit of radio, CFNY was one of the most influential promoters of new international and Canadian artists most radio stations ignored.
In July 1987, Marsden and CFNY general manager Bill Hutton hired Don Berns as the new program director. Initially, Marsden continued as director of operations, and as executive producer of the CASBY Awards, but left CFNY a year later. He joined the CBC and moved to Vancouver to produce the successful TV show Pilot 1. That show won several awards, including a silver medal at the Chicago Film and Video Festival. Following that, Marsden launched another freeform modern rock station, Coast 800, later Coast 1040, in Vancouver.
He was later involved in the creation of Iceberg Radio, the first major Canadian Internet radio project, and returned to the terrestrial radio airwaves as host of a freeform rock show on Oshawa, Ontario's The Rock 94.9 in the early 2000s. He currently hosts The David Marsden Radio Program on Saturday and Sunday nights on The Rock. Marsden currently lives in Toronto.
He has also been profiled in exhibits at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, both for his on-air Dave Mickie persona and for his role as program director of CFNY. He is openly gay, and has also worked as a club DJ at gay club nights dubbed "The Mars Bar".
The David Marsden Radio Program
The David Marsden Radio Program, also known as The Marsden Theatre, broadcasts on Saturday and Sunday nights on Oshawa, Ontario radio station CKGE-FM. Marsden's show has been on CKGE-FM since June 2003, shortly after the station became 94.9 The Rock. Originally, Marsden's show was on Thursday and Friday nights but it was moved to its current time slots in March 2010. Marsden is currently the only free form DJ on a commercial radio station in North America. His show continues to embody the type of radio that he created at CFNY in the 1970s and 1980s.
- History of CFNY-FM
- "Dave Mickie is back, may go on TV," Toronto Star, September 20, 1963
- Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.
- "Crashing waves: Hall-of-famer still spinning revolutions", Xtra!, September 18, 2003.