Music Memory – Terry McElligott

Music Memory is sponsored by the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, offering the “Music For Memory Project”: a program based on the effects of music and stimulation on people with dementia, by providing them with iPods containing personalized music. For more information, visit

This week we hear from Midday Jazz host, Terry McElligott.

“I grew up in a house that, for a number of years, had neither record player nor record collection. We had radios. Several radios. And they made my music memory.

In the kitchen, we had a Marconi AM table model, a small ivory-coloured box that had tubes, not transistors. It had to warm up prior to performing, coming to life, as if by trickery, half a minute after you switched it on. One year, we acquired a strange new box that played crystal clear sound, the first FM receiver I recall.

In those days you heard a lot of classical music on late night radio – if the stations stayed on the air past midnight. The sonic tapestries coming from distant places were the closest I could get to actually visiting. I’d tune in BBC, Voice of America, and Radio Moscow, learning about Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Vaughan Williams, and Aaron Copland. Tuning in was a very strong lucid dream, just like it is today.

One day, I stumbled across an FM station that played music I’d never heard before, music that top forty stations of the day would not touch. The hosts introduced me to Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, and a zillion other tunes that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. It was the next step in a trip from being a listener to being inside the box in a time of radio reinvention—just like the times we are in now.

I think I hear Joni coming out of the box right now…”