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  • Writer's pictureAidan G

Ben McCully: Change Is Brewing

Updated: May 31, 2023

Ben McCully has one of the most interesting portfolios I, and probably you, have ever seen: Radio host, car salesman, pro wrestler, brewery tour manager. If that combo of careers doesn't have you hooked on this episode already, I don't know what will.

 

Clearly, Ben has worn many hats throughout his career, which is fitting because he currently lives in Medicine Hat, Alberta. We talk about his philosophy degree from University of King's College, how he managed his career path, what those transitions were like, and his travels across Canada as a radio host (he's worked in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Alberta).


I know it's cliché to say this, but this episode really does have something for everyone- assuming you like beer, wrestling, radio, philosophy, or just really interesting stories.


For more Ben, be sure to check out his LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.


Ben also has a podcast with his 8-year-old daughter, Helena.



 

We also touched on Ben being the General manager of Brew Bus Tours. You can find out more about that here.

 

Come watch Ben wrestle as Asher Benjamin.



 

SHOW TRANSCRIPTION

Tara Sands (VO) 00:00:01

The Sound Off podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill starts now.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:11

Ben McCully has one of the more interesting portfolios I, and probably you, have ever come across. Radio host, car salesman, pro wrestler, brewery tour manager. And if that combo of careers doesn't get you hooked on this episode already, I don't know one that will. Clearly, Ben has worn many hats throughout his career, which is fitting because he once lived in Medicine Hat. And we're going to talk about that. Also about his philosophy degree from the University of King's College, how he managed his career path and what those transitions were like, those travels across Canada as a radio host working in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta. And I know it's cliche to say this, but this episode really does have something for everyone- assuming you like beer, wrestling, radio, philosophy or just interesting stories. Ben McCully currently works at Rock 95 in Barry and joins me from Collingwood, Ontario. I've already detected your accent. You use the word far earlier, and it's fahr. You said fahr. Clearly, you're from out east.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:01:13

Not too far in your car. Picton Nova Scotia, right on the Northumberland Street.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:19

And what did you listen to growing up?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:01:21

Yeah. So the beautiful thing about being on the Northumberland Street is every Prince Edward Island station would come in pretty Crystal clear. And we had a hometown station that I would do projects for when I was in high school and then end up working there was my first gig. My first station was my hometown station. So in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, there was 1320 CKEC Radio ne Glasgow. And then nighttime listening was 720 C. Htn, the oldest station from Charlotte town, Prince Edward Island are coming across the water.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:50

So some Am listening, not necessarily on the FM.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:01:54

Yeah, Am listening. And then eventually Am working. And by the time I left CKC, they had entered into their CRTC hearings for the FM switch. They are currently owned by Stingray, and it's 94.1 degrees, but it began as a privately owned Hector Broadcasting station on the Am dial. And yeah, I mean, that's the typical place to find oldies and the classics from back in the day.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:23

So because you could listen to stuff from Prince Edward Island, I gather you were in Corey Tremere territory.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:02:29

The name I've heard.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:31

By the way, from there, I did notice you went to Kings College in Halifax. So tell me a little bit about why you chose to go to King's College, because I've walked a few kids through that on the tour, and they were all spooked off by the fact that you would be specializing in something like philosophy or journalism like you did, because you specialized in both.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:02:52

Yeah. They have the foundation year program, which is unlike anything I think many other institutions offer. And it's an intensive, very thorough. Basically, this isn't even hyperbole reading a book a week. So that didn't exactly draw me to University of King's College. It was the journalism program. But growing up, before I had a taste for radio, I was convinced that television news was going to be my Avenue. I wanted to be the next Dave Wright or Steve Murphy. I wanted to be the anchor of the television news, but I was a bit biased as well because the University of King's College was where my grandfather and my great great aunt had attended College. And so there was a little family legacy to follow footsteps into. And so Carlton University in Ottawa was a great journalism program. They offered me a little entry scholarship. There was also St. Thomas University, New Brunswick offered me a little scholarship. And then Kings, where my family legacy was, didn't offer me a damn thing. And so in my twisted philosophy, I thought, well, that's the place to go. If these other places want to give me money to go, and I'm not good enough to get money from this place, it must be the best place. And so thousands of dollars and two years more in University than typically radio people go through. So I always joke I wasted a lot more time and money than the typical radio person came out the other side and decided, yeah, I know radio is where I want to go.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:04:24

Funny, you mentioned Steve Murphy because that job just came up and Todd Battis wound up taking over from Steve Murphy. So I think when you're looking back on your career, that was the job I wanted, but you would have had to wait like 25 years.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:04:37

Yeah, it's amazing how I'm not sure if it's an East Coast thing. I know you look at the legendary national anchors and they obviously had long tenures, but it just seems like in this day and age, that's never going to happen again. I think that might be a safe assumption, but yeah, it would have been a long wait. Who knows what I would have had to have done beforehand. But there's so many great East Coast talent that have done cool things, like Bruce Rainey is another name that years ago he was the local sports guy, and now he goes to every Olympics and does awesome commentary on Olympic games.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:12

Scott Russell, Prince Edward Island yes, there's more. And people are probably yelling at their phones and listing off all the great broadcasters who are now doing other things. So there you go. You got yourself a journalism degree. But what was it about radio that pulled you in?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:05:27

My first foray into broadcasting, I always say was doing the announcements in my high school, and I had all that family legacy love for the evening news kind of in my head. I used to cut out articles from the local newspaper in Pictou County and pretend I was an anchor in the mirror when I was in elementary school and junior high. But then I started doing the announcements in high school and during my tenure at Kings, I spent my summers. This is how I got into radio fully was doing the Summer Cruiser gig back in my hometown station. And I realized pretty quickly the high, the rush of getting a laugh, of seeing a creative exercise right through to the end and it being a success. When you get positive reaction, the phones light up and the people laugh and compliment. And I realized instead of being person B, that takes the details of event A and conveys it to audience C, I thought, why the hell not be event A, be the creator. And so it was just making ends meet. Summer gig, falling in love and realizing that was the path to choose. Sorry, mom, wasted a lot of time and money.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:40

You realize you're being very philosophical there and you have a degree in philosophy.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:06:45

Well, the foundation of your program, like I said, very philosophical based, but there's no official documentation as part of the degree of being philosophical. But when you read a book a week and you write papers, essays, three to 4000 word essays every two weeks, yeah, it kind of sticks with you a little bit.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:07:03

See, that was the stuff right there that scared the kids off of going to that school because you get told on the tour that it's a book a weekend, it's a lot of essays.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:07:13

And all these years later, I could tell you very little philosophical principles and ideologies from over the years. My retention of the specifics- out the window after 20 years. But I look back at my time at the University of King's College and this is what I would suggest. Anybody suggesting it or thinking they're being scared off. You relearn how to think and retooling my brain is what I took away from my time there. So while Rene Descartes might be one of my favorite philosophers, I can maybe give you two or three quotes. All these years later, I have lost a lot of the specific knowledge, but I still think the way that I learned to think while at Kings, it retooled my brain. It changed the way I think, and that is invaluable.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:08:03

So after you get the Summer Cruiser gig in your hometown, you get a few laughs. You see the process of radio and how it works. What was your next step?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:08:12

Well, every time I would go back and it was kind of a proud moment because they had never had a Summer Cruiser student do more than one summer. But at the end of summer one for me, at the end of the first year of University, they were adamant about having me back the next summer. Please come back. We'd love to have you back. And I thought, okay, great. So every time I went back and I did it three summers, but every time I went back, they would increase my responsibilities. And so I got to voice track an evening show. Then I got to do more actual commercial remotes throughout the week, and I got to partake in planning promotions. And so every time I went back, I would learn a little more about the radio business because they were allowing me to do more. They increase my workload. And so by the time I ended at Kings, and I was like, now what? Where will I foray into the world. They were right there still, can you come work for us? We have a spot for you. And it was kind of fulfilling the destiny of the journey. Three summers learning, and then now, coming out of University, why not make it a full time gig and have my own live show?


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:17

What shift did you get?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:09:19

So CKEC, it was really weird. And I told this story before, but I was a punk kid who didn't appreciate what I had in this old fashioned behind the times radio station. We had touchscreen Scott as an operating system, which was great, but we had still a library with walls of vinyl and CDs. And so I worked like a Wednesday to Sunday shift, and it was block formatted. So it was your Top 40 in the morning, and then there was a midday country show, and then it would go back to Top 40 in the afternoon and evening. But on the weekends there was an oldie show and a country classic show. So it was block formatting. Probably the last radio station because we're talking 2002 and three. So I had the midday gig doing the country show, and then a couple of days of the week, I had the longer shift. It went from the country to the top 40, and I work till six. And then I hosted the Saturday Gold Show on the weekends where I spun vinyl for most of the show, I'd go and peruse the library and build my show with what records I wanted. And my punk kidness at the time was rolling my eyes, going, oh, why wouldn't the station get with the times? But that was my punk kidness. Because with maturity and years under my belt, now I look back and I go, that was such a wicked experience. Why didn't I appreciate that more? Building a show with vinyl records and getting to spin them? Because the art of the DJ, the disc jockey, doesn't exist anymore. There's no discs to jockey. And so I got to do that. And I was one of the last of that generation in that area to do it, and I didn't appreciate it at the time, but I appreciate it so much more now.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:00

What's the moment when you decide to leave Nova Scotia to do radio elsewhere?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:11:07

It was four years of working full time there and getting married, settling down for the wrong reasons, and not having the life that I had envisioned for myself. There was a time when I left University and I took that full time gig at my hometown station that depression set in. And when you did the summer cruiser gig for the summer that you did while you're in College, expecting to come out of University and the world's your oyster, and you can paint your own path, and you still end up at the same hometown station- having fun, mind you. But there was just this depression that set in, and that depression led me to getting married too early, thinking, well, no one else will have me. So I got to lock this down. And then just working on myself, getting my confidence back, waking up, the light being turned on and becoming more myself, and realizing I need to make some changes in my life. And so, as painful as it was, I ended that relationship and looked west. My parents had gone to Fort McMurray, and Fort McMurray, I would later learn, is one of the quintessential second chance places in this world. It is a city that is vibrant and full of second chances. You might say some people run to hide in Fort McMurray, but it's a reset button. And I took that opportunity. I took that reset, and that's really when the radio career started.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:28

But you did more than radio up there, right? Didn't you also sell cars?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:12:33

Yeah. So in between radio gigs, after I was fired for the first time, I had been doing weekly remotes at this Ford dealership. And you want to talk about characters. The manager of the Ford dealership that I would interview on the radio whenever I was doing remotes, Jeffrey Watson. He was a Las Vegas born character that just I fell in love with. And so he was immediately like, Come work for me, sell some cars, get rich. And so I jumped at the chance to have, obviously, an income in between radio gigs. But my heart was always in radio, and I was lucky enough, although maybe again, another foolish financial decision. I was lucky enough to have the competition just down the street from where I was let go from scoop me up pretty quickly. So it was a four month stint of selling cars. My heart wasn't in it, but it was a learning experience.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:23

So why did you get fired from the radio gig?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:13:25

The official reason is because I rigged a contest to meet Taylor Swift. But I went to a media meet and greet with Taylor Swift that I had prearranged for myself. And so I'm not exactly sure I have my personal beliefs of it being just a personal difference in Philosophies with the general manager at the time. And so I think this was the umbrella they chose to put everything under. Taylor Swift at a concert in Edmonton. And we sent listeners all week. And I think one of the winners never picked their tickets up. And I ended up in a meet and greet, and they put two and two together too. Oh, he must have rigged it. But I was in a meeting, meet and greet with Chris Sheets from Kissing. So I was in this media meet and greet, met Taylor Swift. That's a whole other story. But I think they wanted someone else to be in the role. This is just my opinion and conjecture and found a reason to say, see you.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:14:17

What's it like? Meeting Taylor Swift.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:14:21

That's a much better conversation. I'm half joking and I only half joke when I say that we shared some moments. I forget the tour. I think it may have been the Speak Now tour. So she's headlining, world renowned Superstar. We got to meet. And when you get to be in the meet and greet on this particular tour, you also asked to be involved in the show later on. So she does her main stage set, and then she comes to the back of the arena and does four songs acoustically on this little mini stage sitting at the bottom of this tree that revolves. And we were asked as the meet and greet people to be the circle around that revolving tree. So us radio guys and girls get to be the single file laying around the tree, and she's singing to us and the other 12,000 people that are there. And she came off the stage. This is the half joking part. She comes off the stage and she runs around the circle, high fiveing everybody that's in the circle. I just happened to be the last person, by the luck of the draw. So I was the person that she didn't just high five. She clasped hands with and then raised the hand up over the head and was like, thank you. And so I get to hold hands with Taylor Swift during a concert for 2.6 seconds. So we really shared a moment.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:33

You mentioned that Fort McMurray is a place for second chances, but it's also a place to grow. It's one of the things I find with anybody who's worked radio in Fort McMurray is how they grow exponentially with their talents and the community and everything about it, even with all the wild and wacky things that go on there with oil and prices and housing and all that stuff. So what were some of your Fort Mac takeaways?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:15:58

It really was its own bubble. And so you felt like you were in a different world, which led to creativity. You took more risks. You get to just kind of go after it. And because there's so much money and because there's so much corporate sponsorship, there are gala events almost every other week. And so all the free tuxedo rentals and the events that I got to host, the events I got to be part of the artists that would come just because of the atmosphere led to some really great confidence building experiences. I got to host more than I've ever hosted. And I'm not just talking MC in a concert, but hosting gala dinner fundraisers where hundreds of thousands of dollars, close to a million are on the docket. United Way in Fort McMurray, I think still I haven't been there for a few years, but while I was there, it was doubling any other United Way in Canada. As far as the amount raised every year, it was the number one city in Canada for fundraising for the United Way. So these big deals really got me out of my shell, into the community. I hosted karaoke night there. I just really love the city and so many people come out of Fort McMurray with a different experience, with a different opinion. And unfortunately a lot of those people might be the people that actually worked for a living. I talked about living in Fort McMurray and one of the most common questions is what camp did you work? I'm like, I lived in the city and I sat on my ass and listen to music for a living. I didn't work twelve to 16 hours a day doing manual labor. So the people who work at the camp that never come into the city, they might leave Fort McMurray with a negative opinion of it. But there was just so many resources that led to so many avenues to expand. I got involved in community theater. I starred in a couple of piano theater productions and because of the money, once again, the Keyano Theater, part of the Keyano College is world class, phenomenal facility with some of the best people running the show. And so that was a really cool growth experience because I did a little community theater back in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. But this was sold out giant theater for a week run, learning skills that obviously you don't get elsewhere. So many opportunities for growth.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:08

We're going to touch on theater just a little bit more in a second. But you started at Rogers, then you went to work at the Newcap station. Did you get to interact with Terry Bill and Steve, three of my favorite people at Newcap at the time.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:18:23

Oh boy, do I have stories for you. Not only did I interact, I co hosted the show in a very unique experience and environment. So we simulcast the Terry Bill and Steve Show in Fort McMurray on KRock at the time and there was a lot of controversy around that decision when KRock launched and they wanted to simulcast this legendary show out of Edmonton. Obviously there are pros built in there, a legendary show, no names, but there were lots of people that spoke of, well, you need a local show. Where's the local content going to be. So they decided to kill two birds with 1 stone and make me the local co host. So Terry Bill and Steve would do their show and it would throw to me for the Fort McMurray audience. So when they would go to commercial in Edmonton, it would actually be me coming on saying, thanks, guys. And it was just local. I had easy show prep because I could only speak about what was happening in town. So there's no bits to do, no interviews to do. They paid me almost too well to just do 45 seconds to a couple of minutes. I had to do morning show math just as a sidebar. This is how wonky it was. I had to take their commercial logs and compare it to our commercial logs and do math every break to okay, this break is going to leave me 30 seconds. I have a 30 second break. This break- Oh, I got to kill two and a half minutes. And then there were some breaks where there was no time for me. It would go right back to the Terry, Bill and Steve show. So it was a really unique experience. But I got on Terry's bad side trying to have a little fun. I'm not sure if he would remember this. He probably would because he was going into a subject matter. I can't remember what it was, but I would hop on the KRock Twitter and I would say, I would just kind of tee it up. And I used creative language one time to tee it up. I said, Is Terry saying he's against this? Da DA DA. Find out more in a minute. Just clickbaity stuff back before clickbait was a term, and I wasn't saying anything negative. I was just trying to throw the question out. So you would tune in. And so they come back and they're on the air and Terry says, who's this Dick Knuckle up in Fort McMurray saying that I'm this. And they're like, that's McCully, he's the KRock guy. They do a bit kind of disparaging me because of this tweet that he misinterpreted. So that would happen a couple of times. And I was all in on this because I thought, hey, we got some cool content here because there's not many morning shows where there's legit heat and people with like a dis- I was like, let's steer into that. And I'll never forget Steve Jones coming to tour Fort McMurray one time and talking about that dynamic we had. And he was encouraging. He was like, I like it. It's great. My local PD was a little nervous. I think. I think he didn't want to rock the boat too much with the Legends Terry, Bill and Steve. And so it didn't last too, too long. But it was fun. Terry would refer to me as that Dick Knuckle on the air. And then I set up a secondary Twitter account, Dick Knuckle. So I was known as Dick Knuckle throughout the listening audience. And I had the gracious opportunity to come down and be a part of one of their anniversary shows, their 500 show or something. And they had a big party in the afternoon. They had me come down and Terry and I got to clear the air. And I was like, I was just all in on the creative side of that. He was like, I figured you just got me on a cranky day. So, you know, we buried the hatchet eventually, but, boy, do we have some fun going at each other. When I got to co host the Terry Bill and Steve Show.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:45

Those are some of the best moments with Terry Evans when he goes sideways on just a little something and then comes back and says, yeah, you just caught me on a different day at a different time in a certain time in a certain place. Yeah, it's early in the morning. I mean, realistically, who doesn't feel that way first thing in the morning, right?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:22:02

You get some punk kid on another station shooting off about you. It must be a punk kid that needs to be put in their place.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:22:11

What was that moment when you had to leave Fort McMurray, and where did you go?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:22:15

Well, I did two different stints in Fort McMurray, so when I was working for Rogers, I was doing evenings on the country station. And then I had gotten a gig in Ottawa working for the legendary Shay 106. And it was just two years, but it felt like being reeducated and learning real radio all over again with the team that was there. And so the morning show would come up at the same country station. This would be the one that I would eventually get fired from. And so I went back to Fort McMurray to take over the morning show that they offered me. And then it was okay so that for a year and then KRock for a couple of years. And then I left Fort McMurray for the second and final time because it was time to start a family. My wife and I had been in a long distance relationship, and she was also in radio. I met her in Fort McMurray. She had gotten a gig with Newcap in Sudbury, Ontario. And so we were long distance, but got together whenever we could, including a trip to Cuba, which we came home with the ultimate souvenir. And that is now my eight year old daughter. So when it was family time, and this is where I'll give Newcap all the credit in the world. And this is why I don't like when people bash the big guys and just paint them all with that corporate evil brush. Even Rogers, I had so much fun and learning and growth and the resources that we had, I'll always cherish. But Newcap created a job for me in Sudbury so that we could be together. They were in the business, they said, of keeping good talent and keeping families together, and I'll never forget that. So I moved to Sudbury because they created a job for me in the radio station. And we got together there and just kind of been chasing the Dragon ever since. So to speak. Because Fort McMurray was not a situation I was looking to leave. But out of necessity and a changing of priorities, family, I had to leave. And so I've been chasing that perfect spot ever since.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:24:13

Wait a second. I don't have any of this in my show prep in my notes here. So, A, who's your wife? And B, how do you ever make a relationship like that work where you're many times zones apart?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:24:25

Thanks to Newcap, we made it work by getting together and not having to explore doing it for too long. Jen Arruda, for a very brief time, was known on the air on the Rock station in Fort McMurray as the Barracuda Arruda, lovely Portuguese girl who has left the radio world to take on a better calling in the healthcare industry. She's now a nurse at the Collingwood General Marine Hospital here in central Ontario. So the joke was she saw the writing on the wall and made a major life change and is now doing phenomenal work and has been like, when is it your turn? And I'm sure we'll get to the point where I thought I was making that decision and then got sucked back in because of that pursuit of the perfect gig. But she's been the rock and the mother of the year eight times over and inspiration on expanding out of radio and finding value and worth in other endeavors. But we didn't have to be long distance for too long because we were too excited on that Cuba trip. It was inevitably bound to bind us together.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:30

Coming up, we're going to be cutting some promos and getting a little theatrical. We may even break KFAB. We're going to find out if Ben has a face or a heel. Ben also has his hand in management of the Beer Bus company. I'm going to ask about that. And did you know he's a podcaster as well? Wait until you find out who his cohost is. And Ben heads east to Sudbury, but he's not quite done with the west yet. Hang on, there's more. There's always more at soundoffpodcast.com like, say, a transcription of the show.


Mary Anne Ivison (VO) 00:26:04

Transcription for the Sound Off Podcast is powered by Poddin. Your podcast is an SEO goldmine. We help you to dig out. Start your free trial now at poddin.io.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:16

The Sound Off Podcast. So you relocated to Sudbury, and then how long were you there together before you decided to up and go to Collingwood where you are now?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:26:26

Well, we were in Sudbury just over a year, so we saw the birth of our daughter there, and it was a really interesting experience because they had created this position for me of doing weekends on Rewind, their classic hit station, so Newcap owned Rewind and Hot 93.5. So I was doing the weekend announcing, but also doing production throughout the week. So it was a split shift kind of dual role position they created for me and my first weekend on the air, I wasn't an official employee yet because I had driven across the continent, packed up all my stuff from Fort McMurray, moved to suburb, arrived on a Friday evening. The program director was out of town and out of range in the wilderness, in a cabin somewhere. And the weekend guy, the guy that was supposed to be on the air that weekend, ended up in the hospital with kidney stones. And so one of the random announcers who worked for Rewind called me and was like, hey, I know you don't start until Monday, but we can't get a hold of our program director. Can you hop on the air and do the shows? Even though you're not really officially part of the team yet, you haven't signed anything. Can you fill in? So I filled in on the weekends. Program director comes back from his weekend away in the woods and was like, what the hell happened? Great job. Thank you. And we were off and running, and so it was just funny to my first official gigs was before I was an official member of the team. I eventually got promoted to afternoons on Hot 93.5, which was a great spot, a great day part on a nationally recognized station. They were trendsetters in so many ways. G-Rant had gotten a promotion of the morning show, which opened up afternoons for me. Unfortunately, I only did the position a few months before getting fired for the second time. And that was over a very valuable lesson in social media. Do you want to hear that story?


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:28:21

Oh, yeah.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:28:23

So in the pursuit of being as local and as relatable to the audience as possible as a new dad, I was searching for local parenting kind of stories and issues. And there was this network called Care.com, which was basically the Facebook of childcare providers. So if you were a child care provider looking for work, you would create a profile in this website. If you had children that needed childcare, you could create a profile on this website. So it brought people together. We had become members because we were like, okay, well, when you're back to work, we need babysitting. And I'm perusing profiles on Care.com, and I come across what really looks like a teenager's Facebook page because her profile picture was very attention getting. It was obviously a night out in a gorgeous dress that didn't leave much to the imagination. And it just struck me as odd that's the profile picture you chose. And so this was the conversation that my wife and I were having. And I was like, this is good content. Listen to the conversation we're having right now. Is that appropriate? Is that not appropriate? Like you're looking to look after kids, and this is the way. So I took this subject matter to the air, and the person that we were discussing somehow knew exactly who we were talking about. Outed herself in the comment section of our Facebook discussion about it. And this was very early on in social media. So I know as a company and as a station, we didn't have any regulations, rules, procedures. And so we were in new territory. Some people were accusing me of being a cyber bully. And so the company, I think, made a decision to make an example and say, look, this is a person in our listening area that you were talking about, even though you took pains to keep them anonymous. They didn't stay anonymous, but they're very upset at this. And I didn't pass any judgment. I just spoke the facts of the issue and then opened the phones. Do you think that's appropriate? What do you think? I personally never passed any judgment or opinion, but I think made an example of. And so that was what I got fired over. So then we went to Medicine Hat. So we didn't even go to Collingwood after that. Medicine Hat came first.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:30:39

And tell me about the Medicine Hat experience, because now you're rolling all the way back out west.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:30:44

Yeah, it's amazing because if you remember starting in Nova Scotia and moving to Fort McMurray, moving to Ottawa, moving back to Fort McMurray, then moving to Sudbury, then moving back to Alberta. But this time, Medicine Hat. Four of those moves, I use the same moving company, this little mom and pop shop. And so it was averaging every two years, this guy shows up on my door because he did a great job the first time. So when I had to move again, I would call him, and this guy shows up at my door, does a double take you again. Wow. And that scene repeated itself three or four times because I've used the same company to move back and forth across the company. And on the last one, when we headed to Collingwood from Medicine Hat, he told me, he said, I'm writing a book about your life. I come into your life every two years and pick up all your belongings. There's something philosophical about this. There's some story here from my perspective of seeing you change your career levels. And he said he was going to write a book. I don't know if that ever happened, but probably not. Medicine Hat was an experiment. It was the exact opposite of what drew me to Collingwood. I had a former colleague that I had worked with in Fort McMurray selling me on the sunshine and rainbows of this perfect position, perfect opportunity, small company that's just kind of starting to grow. Get in on the ground level and you could be running the show someday. It's all awesome. And it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, but it was sold to me as such when we moved to Medicine Hat- first of all, we were both guaranteed jobs. And that's why it was Medicine Hat. You of all people know the difficulty of two radio people finding two openings in the same place to move across the country for. Medicine Hat, Alberta was the only place in Canada that provided that opportunity for Jen and I. So we made the move because we were both guaranteed jobs. She was at the tail end of her maternity leave. So upon arriving, moving, starting at the station, my former co worker, now new boss, gets let go. The owner of the company comes to me and says, yeah, I'm so sorry, there is no position for your wife. There will be no position that I can see moving forward. And so my immature not getting it in writing and taking my friend word at face value was a hard lesson learned because we've just moved across the country and didn't get what was promised. And the environment, the atmosphere that I was told this company was not the case at all. Luckily, my wife got on with the competition. She worked for the country station in Medicine Hat. Did a great job. So we weren't hurting, we weren't in a desperate situation. It was just a real kick in the nuts when that happened. So basically, almost upon arriving, we've got kind of a bad taste in her mouth about the company and situation and there would just be things here and there that just piled on to, well, this isn't the place for us. So we look back east once again. Jen, being a Toronto born and raised second generation Canadian because her parents immigrated from Portugal, she grew up coming to Wasaga Beach in the summer, was very familiar with this area. So when the morning show and Wasaga Beach opened up, she was like, you have no idea how great of a place that is that is so close to Toronto. Let's do it. Let's go for it. And she had already made her mind up. I think at the time, she might say different, but she decided radio wasn't going to be for her. She already knew that a change was coming and so she encouraged me to go for that job and that brought us here.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:34:12

So if you're following along on the Radio home game, the company that lured you out to Medicine Hat, that has now been bought by Vista. But here you go. You're moving back east into a great area and I think you start working for Bay Shore Broadcasting, correct?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:34:29

Yes. And the exact opposite philosophy being used. And this is what impressed me and this is what really sold me in coming here. When I moved to Medicine Hat, my old friend had sold me on the Sunshine and Rainbows- we're awesome. Come be awesome with us. When I was offered the position in Collingwood with Bay Shore, I really respected and appreciated the operations manager having the almost opposite tone. We're small, the resources aren't great. We don't do this well. We don't do this well. We don't do this well. We can grow in this area, but that's where you come in. You can help us with that. So it's not sunshine and rainbows, but there's potential and we want you to help. And I respected that because you don't hear that. You usually hear the opposite. Sunshine, rainbows, and it's the best place in the world. So just out of respect, I was like, I'm in, that sounds good.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:35:25

And now you're working for Central Ontario at Rock 95. So first of all, Congratulations for working there. It's a great company. What precipitated the change just to move over to Rock 95?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:35:35

In simplest terms, when someone tells you that things aren't great and it's not sunshine and rainbows and are very honest, you should believe them. And it was a rough ride. Five years of doing the morning show for Bay Shore Broadcasting, living in paradise with different priorities than maybe my 20 something self, where it's like climb the ladder, get to the best gig. You're going to work in Toronto someday, kid. I have a family and we live in paradise. And so that balanced what wasn't the best work environment and there were just too many shit sandwiches to eat. And if I can be frank, it all started really a couple of years before I left, or I should say a year before I left. It really all started. And that was when my mum passed away. My mom got sick back on the East Coast and she called from Palliative Care to say, It's time, come see me. My brother and I both immediately hopped on a plane and went home. My program director at the time is very supportive, but our company had a three day bereavement policy. Three days, that's it. My mom is still alive and it's just on death's door. I got the privilege to go home to say goodbye, but on one hand I had the gall to go home to say goodbye before she passed because obviously I was home for a lot more than three days. Five days after we got home, my mom passed away. She passed away in St. Patrick's Day with the most beautiful attitude, like there's nothing to be too sad about. She knew it was time she was embracing of it. She was so positive. She taught my brother and I lessons that I will have for the rest of my life. But while I was home because it took her five or six days to pass, it was a week later, the funeral. I was an executor of her will and there was a house to sell and arrangements to be made. I was home for the better part of three weeks. While I was home, obviously I got paid, but I got a reminder, you were only supposed to be home for three days. We didn't have to pay you. So how are we going to recoup that money back? Do you just want to use up your vacation for the year, which I may have not been in the most mentally stable place to make such decisions. But I was like, this is not a vacation. I lost my mom. This summer, I'm going to need vacation. I need some time when I come back, I need to process this. I need my vacation. So I didn't agree with losing my vacation. I thought my delusions of grandeur were that this family environment that's been sold to me. We're family because there was no- no one had to step into my role and step out of another role. I had a cohost that just took over the show. She was the boss at the time, and my co host, she did the show. No other musical chairs needed to happen. There was no extra dime spent by the company that they lost from me being away. So my delusion of grandeur was, they're just going to let this one go. No, I didn't want to let it go. So they docked my pay to get the money back. They paid me while I was home, and that was a choice I made. I could have chosen to lose all my vacation time for the year, but I wanted to fight that. So the company's option was to take pay off of me for the next few pay periods to recoup their money. So I lost money because my mom died, basically, and that's when I decided I need to make a change. But I took time to make that change because there wasn't a lot of other opportunities out there. And again, we were living in paradise. But my mental health has been kind of an issue my whole adult life. I referenced it earlier. When I left University, I had an episode when I faced some discipline with this company that was, I believe, unwarranted. Long story short, I had a new manager from a different station who I've never met before upset with me because I missed a shift of voice tracking. And the way they spoke to me that first time, it wasn't like, this is the fifth time. This is the first time. I didn't like how they spoke to me. So I brought it up with upper management, and we were told we were going to have a meeting to discuss this issue. And when we went to sit and have that meeting, it wasn't about that issue. I was ambushed with a performance review that was four pages long that had everything I had done wrong in the previous five years out of nowhere, completely ambushed. And I just couldn't handle that because it was unprofessional, unwarranted, and dare I say, half of which I truly believe wasn't actual issues. It was stretches, to say the least. So that was when I knew it was time to make a big change. And I thought at the time it was a career change because I thought radio, maybe it was the depression talking, but I was like, radio is dying, and this is a clear sign that maybe it's not for me because of how I feel I'm being treated. So I thought I was retiring on my own accord and under my own volition, I stepped away and thought that was it. And so I went on stress leave, which eventually became permanent and had a fantastic summer bonding with my daughter and family time and had just started putting the pieces together of what was next when Central Ontario Broadcasting came calling like an Oasis in the desert.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:40:43

You mentioned earlier that you did some theater work back in Pictou County, and that theater work actually sort of rears its head. Because you're a wrestler, aren't you?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:40:54

Quite the pivot, yes.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:40:56

How does one become a wrestler?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:40:58

Like so many things in my life, happenstance fate, maybe, if you believe in that and taking advantage of opportunity. I've been a very lucky guy. I've had some Forrest Gump moments in both radio and wrestling and domino effect of happenstance led me to becoming a wrestler. I've been a trained pro wrestler for as long as I've been a professional radio host. The only thing that stopped me from pursuing wrestling instead of radio was that hometown radio station I had committed to going back to. Remember. They had asked me back the second summer and the third summer. So when they asked me back for the third summer and I had committed and signed on, I'll be back. I had gotten trained that year of University. And actually before I was supposed to report to the radio station, I wrestled full time. I toured. We were on the road six nights a week doing shows all over the Maritimes. And we were one of the last of the generations because the wrestling industry today, in 2022, nobody tours full time unless they're the big show, WWE. So we were one of the last of the generations of wrestling full time. But I had to leave to go back to radio because I had committed and my word was my commitment and my word is bond. So I did that. And I've just been doing both balancing back and forth ever since. I became a wrestler because I was in high school interning with East Link Television, and it was part of the course curriculum of going and basically working in the industry you're going to go into. And so I was a reporter for the local Community Access Show of showcasing events and what's happening in town. And when the wrestling was coming to town- as a huge fan all my life, I was like, I'm doing a story on this and I set it up to do a story, but I didn't get to do it. I set it up, but they actually went with somebody else. There was another kid who just joined volunteering with East Link Television. They were like, we're going to give it to you. So I was heartbroken, but that kid fell to the pressure when the camera was on. He was stumbling over his words, and he couldn't do it. For lack of a better term. He kind of choked, and he was teary eyed, and was like, I can't do this. So they turned to me and said, Ben can you step in? There's moment of fate number one. I step in. I do the report. I interview the wrestlers. We do this great story. The story gets in the hands of the promoter of the wrestling show. And he calls me up, and he says, Congratulations with his thick French Canadian Cape Breton accent. You're our ring anouncer. So I was voluntold based on a story I did. I'm now the ring announcer for this wrestling promotion. So I'm still in University. Fast forward a year of me ring announcing for this company, going from show to show, being told I'm going to be paid, but they never gave me money. Again, this is kind of a precursor to what would happen later in life. I stood up for myself, and I said, you said you were going to pay me. I'm skipping classes. I am losing money. I'm eating scraps off the wrestler's plates in the restaurants because I can't afford food. Come on. So I knew they had a training school coming up. Two of the main guys that wrestled for this promotion had a training school coming. And so I just had the idea, hey, look, I know you don't want to pay me. You clearly don't want to pay me because I'm fighting with you for money. Train me. Because at the time, it was like 2000, 2500 or $3,000 to become a pro wrestler. It's an expensive endeavor, but I convinced the promoter to let me train for free in lieu of paying me to ring announce. And they thought, oh, great, now we officially don't got to pay this guy. He won't last a day. And I was one of two people that made it all the way through to the end and was good enough to become a pro and work for them.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:44:36

I have these memories of Grand Prix wrestling and Randy Poffo, y'know, Randy Savage, who toured the Maritimes way back when. I mean, the Maritimes is a hotbed when it comes to wrestling.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:44:47

It's emotional for me. They were heroes, the larger than life heroes. While some people read comic books, I watch wrestling, and the guys that trained me got their start in Grand Prix wrestling, and I would work for No-Class Bobby Bass, who was a Grand Prix wrestling mainstay, became the promoter of the company I work for. So that transition of generations, I got to ride that wave. These legendary names that you're talking about watching train the new generation, that generation trained me. And we kind of set out, blazing a new path. But based solely on Atlantic Grand Prix. Andre the Giant, Randy Savage all came through the Maritimes wrestling for that company.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:27

So the trick question that I had set up for you. It's not even really a trick question, and I think you've actually already answered it. But how is the world of professional wrestling so much like radio, with the travel and the theater and promotions?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:45:41

Yeah, it's very much like radio. It's much more like being a musician, but personality has to be front and center first and foremost. Anybody can learn how to fall and not injure themselves. There's a huge difference between being hurt and being injured. Everything in a wrestling ring hurts. We won't go down the F word fake path, but everything's pretty real as far as what it does to your body. Anybody can learn how to fall properly, but it's a whole different beast. Connecting with an audience, telling a story. It's not just two guys in their underwear rolling around. If you love wrestling and you can't put your finger on it, it's because there is a story and there is a formula that every wrestling match has, and some people don't understand that. But yeah, you have to have the personality. And for me, I'm a five foot 7, 200 pound guy. That would be the last person in the room you'd say, that guy's a wrestler, but it's the gift of Gab. It's being able to talk on the microphone. It's being able to elicit a reaction. It's going back to what got me into radio. Oh, I said something on the mic and I got a laugh and that addictive feeling. I'm a bad guy. I'm a hipster character that is better than everyone I'm talking to. And it's my job to go and say something to make them react negatively. And it's artistic, it's beautiful. It's storytelling like radio. And when you have done your job, you have 1000 people screaming and booing and sometimes throwing things at you, and that's a good job. You don't want that reaction in radio, but you do want to make people think, and you do want to get reaction. So very similar in that regard.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:47:25

You live in one of the nicest parts of the planet up in Collingwood, Ontario, and you're the general manager of the Beer Bus Company. What is that?


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:47:33

I spent a really good amount of time, and this is probably part and parcel to why I stayed in my not positive situation as far as radio goes, for longer than I probably would have liked or my pride would have liked. But I was the general manager of the Beer Bus Company, so I handle all the day to day bookings of this tourism based brewery tour company in this growing, bustling Northern tip of the Niagara Escarpment that is South Georgian Bay. We've got so many breweries, wineries and cideries up here, and the beer bus would go to them all. Whether it was a Bachelor or Bachelorette priority, company retreat, corporate group, or just a whole bunch of couples booked individually into our bus, we would take you, showcase the best flavors of the region, get you feeling really good, and then take you home safely. And so I became a Cicerone certified beer savvy tour guide. And not just driving the bus, but guiding the experience, telling the stories of the local spots and the local flavors, taking everyone and touring through all the facilities, getting them drunk, and showcasing how awesome South Georgian Bay is. And so, just like wrestling very similar skill set to radio: storytelling, connecting with an audience and getting them to believe in what you're saying and when you believe it, like, I believe in the local breweries. I haven't bought a national brand beer in probably five years. I probably have. But you know what I'm saying? I drink craft beer because I believe in it and it's an amazing area. And so the Beer Bus has been a fantastic experience. So shout out to Paul Izdebski. He's the owner. He started it up and was kind of running the show. They moved back to Toronto and he needed someone to run the company. And so it was like the Hair Club for Men commercials. Do you remember that? Not only am I the hair club President, I'm also a client. I started as a customer. I took a tour, fell in love with the concept and said, Can I help? So I started doing tours, and I was the guy he turned to when he needed someone to come and run it. The pandemic took it away. And so its future is uncertain. But I feel like it's got a bright future in kind of a reset mode once we get everything reopened again.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:49:48

You also co host a podcast with your daughter. Daddy Daughter Day is immensely cute. I gave it a listen to a few episodes. It's really good.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:49:59

I appreciate that.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:50:00

I mean, your daughter's carrying you through the whole thing.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:50:03

Absolutely.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:50:04

Yeah. I mean, she's really good.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:50:07

She comes by it honestly. Obviously, being the child of two radio hosts, you're going to be privy to certain things and be in a certain environment that confidence will grow. And I have been exploiting my daughte- I mean, having her as a guest on the radio since she was three months old. She had a pretty cute giggle and laugh when she was three months old. And I came up with this idea of using a baby to predict the winner of all the major sporting events. So she predicted the Super Bowl based on showing her pictures of the quarterback. She would giggle at one and whimper and cry at the other. So that tells you who her favorite was. That evolved over time. And when she had that little toddler accent, which I call like the Brooklyn accent, it just became cuter and cuter to have her on the radio to give her opinion on things. And we really steered into that during this pandemic, like through the eyes of an eight year old or a six year old at the time seven year old, now an eight year old. How does this make you feel? And just because she's been doing it, she's got an amazing personality. She's a shining star and she inspires me, even. Her energy is amazing. She reminds me of me as far as the imagination. We take screen time away from her when she makes bad choices. And it's the greatest thing ever because it forces her to go play. And then we marvel over the play that she does. And so it was born out of that that we decided we can have you on the radio for 45 seconds at a time, but you've got a lot to say and you've got a take on things. And she would just blow us away when she would weigh in on things. She has what she calls big ears, so she hears what mom and dad talk about. We don't shelter or hide things from her too much. And so she's got opinions on the world around her. And so I thought, let's steer into that and entertain some people with how an eight year old looks at things like the war in Ukraine and high gas prices.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:51:58

And she's keenly aware of things like even the mention in one of the episodes, she said Chinatown. But if I say Chinatown, is that going to be perceived as maybe racist or offend people? And no, you walked her through it and said no, it's actually called that. But to have that awareness at eight years old, obviously the product of media people.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:52:18

Yeah. And I'm not sure if media has had any influence in our parenting style. Probably. You could break that down, the psychologists or counselors who are listening. But it's just a conscious effort to not insult her intelligence. We obviously don't want to live too openly. We'll talk about anything and everything, here put on this serial killer podcast. But we don't shelter her too much from the world. And we talk to her and communicate regularly about what to expect from the world around her and how to treat people. And so she's got a very mature head on her shoulders, but she balances it well. She still plays with so much vigor and imagination. I know that we're not growing her up too much, but not many eight year olds can go to school grade three and say, yeah, I recorded my podcast last night.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:53:12

Ben, thanks a lot for taking the time to join me here on the podcast and share all this. It's been a world of knowledge. Thank you.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:53:19

Well, it's been therapy for me. Thank you for letting me just kind of trace back the steps and figure things out in my head. I feel like I can have a cigarette and a nap now, and I'm better for it.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:53:29

It's true. Podcasting is therapy. It's wonderful.


Ben McCully (Guest) 00:53:32

I really appreciate the opportunity. It's great to converse with you and connect with likeminded people.


Tara Sands (VO) 00:53:37

The sound off podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Social media by Courtney Krebsbach. Another great creation from the Sound Off Media Company. There's always more at soundoffpodcast.com.

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