Jeff Walker: Betting On Yourself
Updated: May 31
There's a lot of potential to make money, or lose it, in Las Vegas. In fact, that's pretty much the whole point of the city. Most people head down there to try their hand at the slots, play a few rounds of blackjack, take in some spectacular shows, or bet it all on a high-stakes poker match. But you don't see many people betting on the city itself.
Jeff Walker is an exception to that rule. A former radio personality in Calgary, Winnipeg and Edmonton, Jeff has turned his voice and experience into a podcast all about Vegas. The Jeff Does Vegas podcast gives listeners a comprehensive guide to the city he fell in love with, from trip reports to restaurant reviews and attraction recommendations. It's become his most successful venture yet, and continues to grow to this day.
In this episode, I speak to Jeff about his long and illustrious radio career, during which he found himself in quite a few "interesting" situations, as well as its rather abrupt end. We also talk about how he fell in love with Vegas, why he decided to start podcasting, how he built up his show, and the effect 2 years of COVID restrictions had on his show- A show which mainly revolved around him flying from Canada to Vegas 8 times a year. Yeah, it wasn't pretty.
With that being said, now that he can head back to Sin City, the podcast is back with a vengeance. You can check it out on his website, or listen to his latest episode below:
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
This week I'm going to have a delightful conversation with Jeff Walker, who's worked in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and most recently, traffic reporting for the Canadian Traffic Network in Calgary. I connected with him on social media a few years ago when we got to talking about Winnipeg and his show, the Jeff In Vegas podcast. Jeff has a hit on his hands, and he does it just by speaking passionately about something he loves to do. And that's going to Vegas. We talk a lot about his time in radio in Western Canada. And yes, we got long winded, but that's what podcasts are for, right? Jeff Walker joins me from the home studio of the Jeff In Vegas Podcast in Calgary. Lochlin Cross is to blame for a lot of things.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:00:55
Yeah, I'm not going to disagree with you on that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:58
How do you know him and why are we talking about him?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:01:01
Loch was my PD when I was at K97 for a brief, not a brief moment. He was there for like a year-ish while I was there and then he was not.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:12
Yeah, 2006 to 2008.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:01:17
Yeah, that sounds about right. Yeah. Nothing but trouble, that guy.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:23
And he'll be the first to admit it.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:01:25
Oh, yeah, I know. I love him. Love him like a brother, but nothing but trouble.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:28
What's your connection to Winnipeg?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:01:30
I'm born and raised. I'm a Winnipeg born and raised boy. That was home for a very long time. I lived in Winnipeg until 2000, when I then moved to- Well I briefly had a hot six months in Vancouver doing overnight at Z95, which was just an incredible experience. And then after that when I realized you can't live in Vancouver on $18,000 a year, even in 1998, I found my way back to Winnipeg and then was there until 2000 when I made my way to Regina.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:04
Does that mean you got to work with Eric Samuels?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:02:06
I sure did. Eric Samuels was the guy that hired me, which was amazing. Eric was so cool to work for and was such a good PD and so supportive and took a chance on this 22 year old kid from Winnipeg who had never held down a full time gig at that point on air, and stuck me in the overnights on Z95, which was again, just like- that was a once in a lifetime experience. Like I said, take this kid and stick them in a major market and put them on overnights and say, okay, be on the radio, do your thing. And yeah, he was fantastic to work with.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:47
What did you learn from him?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:02:50
Oh, man. Learned how to have fun on the radio. Eric was big on that. Eric was one of the only PDs that I ever worked for, or worked with, who would not I don't want to say tell it like it is, but would tell it like it is to other departments. I'll never forget being in a meeting with him and not like a meeting, but just having a conversation and a sales guy walking in and saying, got this great idea for something for a giveaway. And it was like some goofy, like meat. And he kind of looked at the sales guy and went, we're a CHR station, 18 to 25. Why are we giving away meat? And the sales guy just was so blown away by the fact that he wasn't willing to accept money, if that makes sense. And he was one of the only PDS that I ever saw that did that. And so I kind of learned from him. It's like, yeah, this radio thing can be a lot of fun.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:43
What were you doing between 93 and 95 that led you to the what is that? The National Institute. What is that?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:03:50
Oh, man, you Googled.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:52
Yeah, I definitely Googled. What were you doing? What were you learning? Where was this? Where is this place?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:03:56
So I graduated high school in 1993. Silver Heights Collegiate no longer exists in the city of Winnipeg. And then, despite everybody's advice, I decided to go to the National Institute of Broadcasting. Everybody told me, you should go to do Red River. You should do creative communications at Red River College, which I did eventually end up doing. But National Institute of Broadcasting was Paul McCray, who had taken over the business from his dad, and they were downtown in the Exchange District. Albert McDermott was where it was right upstairs from what used to be the Fabulous Futon Factory at the time. Those ads, if you're a Winnipegor and you grew up in the mid 90s, you absolutely know all about the Fabulous Futon Factory. And yeah, I went there and took what they called their broadcast arts program, which was a one year program, a radio and TV. I had no desire to get into television, none whatsoever. Radio was always kind of where I wanted to be. And yeah, I went in there and did their program, and they had a cable FM station at the time so you could pull some air shifts and get some experience. And yeah, I helped out with the music library and that kind of stuff. That was where I went. And from there, I kind of learned that that was probably not the greatest educational decision in my life, but I still learned some stuff. And I got to put together some tapes and meet some people, and it gave me an opportunity to kind of do something and then at least have something on the resume that would get me through the door of a radio station to do some stuff.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:36
I'm having these flashbacks to cable FM. So the cable company would leave a cable and you plug the cable into your stereo, and then you get all these additional Wacky frequencies, and then, of course, your local station appears on different frequencies and nothing seems to match. And it was confusing. And why did we do that?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:05:53
I have no idea. I just remember convincing my dad to go to Radio Shack to buy the cable splitter little thing that you screwed the coax onto the end of, and it split off so that he could connect it to the antenna on the back of his amplifier so that they could listen to me when I was, quote, unquote on the air or on the cable, as it were. And somewhere I still have a T shirt and a sweatshirt from that radio station somewhere in my house, because that's what radio people do. Right.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:24
And you still did the Red River thing?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:06:27
Absolutely. Yeah, I did. So after it just wasn't working for me and really wasn't managing to find anything that was going to turn into anything. And everybody I kept talking to said, you got to do creative communications at Red River College. So I think having already done NIB and already having a little bit of experience, help me with the Kreecom thing, because it was a very difficult program to get into. They only brought in 50 students a year, two classes at 25, I think it was. And there was a waiting list, and it was kind of my parents saying, okay, you either need to get a job or go to school, or you're going to have to start paying rent. And I wanted to go to school and get this sorted out. So I did the creative communications thing and absolutely did not regret it, but I wished I had done it sooner. It was an amazing program. It was an amazing experience. I got to work at the campus radio station, which was just in house closed circuit the second year that I was there, actually manage the campaign station, which was a lot of fun. And I learned a lot about how to put together because we were doing promotions for the station and production and running it like a real radio station, which was what I wanted to do. And yeah, it was an amazing experience. Met some great people, and a lot of people out of that program went on to be very successful working all over the place.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:07:47
That program, by the way, is still going really strong today. And I'm not sure that they're necessarily turning out radio people in so much as they are just turning out people who can do social media and can do film and video and podcast. And I've been in there a few times, and I think on the last go around, I was on the committee to help work with the curriculum. So I know they're doing some great stuff there.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:08:09
Yeah. And it always has been like that. I mean, even back in the day, off the top of my head, I can't think of the names now, but they would rattle off names of people that have gone through the program and had been involved and graduated. And it was people that were working in every facet of media. And I majored in public relations. You had the choice of doing advertising, journalism or public relations. I didn't want to do journalism. That was way over my head, and I had zero desire to have any involvement in it. Advertising was not really for me, but I always kind of foresaw myself going more so into promotions and radio. It was something I was always really interested in. So I thought the public relations thing would be a great way to go. And it was I mean, it definitely helped me. It helped with my writing. It helped with me kind of learning how to communicate and be a better communicator when they would rattle off, like I say, names of people that were working in all these different places all across Canada and around the world, people that have gotten major jobs in the US and overseas. It really was an incredible program. And it makes sense that they would have evolved it over the years as it grew and as the school grew and as the industry changed, it made perfect sense. They were always bringing in great instructors and people that really knew what they were doing and were really plugged into the industry.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:26
Okay, so we're already very deep into this podcast. And you still haven't escaped from Winnipeg?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:09:31
No, honestly, Winnipeg was home for me. I mean, my family's there. I still have family in Winnipeg. And all the people I graduated high school with, there's very few of us that actually have left the city and moved on. Winnipeg always was. And I don't know what it is about the city, but it was always this place where it seemed that nobody ever really moved too far away from where they grew up. Even my parents, my grandparents lived in the same house on the corner of King Edward nests for 50 years. And my parents never moved far away from where they grew up. And most of my friends, I mean, a lot of my friends live around the corner down the street from their parents and where they grew up. So I never really, in my head, never really completely saw myself leaving Winnipeg, I guess. And then the opportunity to go to Vancouver came up, and it was like, wow, this is a big culture shock and a big change. But, I mean, that happened after already spending some time working in Winnipeg and doing some stuff. One of my first gigs was CJOB, believe it or not, reading the news overnights. Ken Kilcullen hired me. He was the PD at the time and brought me in, stuck me in a studio on the basement, said, Read this news copy. And I did. And just like, okay, let's get you in doing some overnight board oping and reading the news. And that was that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:00
Yes. Those downstairs Studios at 930 Portage Avenue classic.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:11:05
If the walls in that building could talk, they would have some ridiculous stories. And it was weird because it was a building that I always kind of wanted to end up in and work in. And I had that opportunity and it was really cool to finally do so. And, yeah, starting off at CJOB, which wasn't initially where I wanted to be, I wanted to be in the basement with the cool kids in the Rock station. Right. And not upstairs getting reamed out by Vic Grant on a weekly basis over word pronunciation. That guy never slept. I don't think he ever slept. If you fucked up a Newsread at 330 in the morning, that hotline rang five minutes later and he was telling you what you did wrong and that was that. It was so bizarre. It was very odd. Yeah.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:50
Vic ran that a particular way. He ran it well, there were standards. I don't think he was too into the social media ideas that I brought to him, but overall, yeah, he was up and he was engaged with that thing.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:12:06
As I say, it was the most bizarre thing. I don't think in all my years of radio I ever worked anywhere like that where, as I say, if you screwed something up at any hour of the day, he knew and you got a phone call, and if you didn't get a phone call immediately, you got a phone call Monday morning from him saying, I heard that newscast that you did at 330 or 04:00 in the morning and you messed this up and we need to talk about it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:32
I think after that he would make you disappear for a week or two and then you could go back to doing the reading a week later.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:12:39
Yeah, the overnight maybe you just board off this week and we'll try you next week again, you do some writing and maybe cut some tape for us and then we'll see about getting you back on.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:51
So already you've done 680 CJ, you've done Z 95 in Vancouver. Those are two really big radio stations that you would have a reason to be nervous about what happened next.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:13:04
I kind of made this weird progression from CJOB downstairs. I did spend some time at the Rock station before. It was, I think it was Power 97 at that point, because for a while there was just straight up classic rock 97 five, which was again, I'm this 19 year old kid working on a rock station, which was a classic rock station like my dad's music, which was kind of bizarre. I spent a little bit of time there during the Scruff Connors years and the Carter Brown years, and I had Marley Callahan as my PD at one point. While I was there, I went through that interesting experience of finding out my boss had been fired without knowing about it kind of thing. I phoned to talk to Carter Brown at one point and found out that he had been replaced by Morley Callaghan. That was so odd. That was kind of my first weird wake up call in radio. Yeah. I went from there to Z 95 in Vancouver, and, as I say, realized that I couldn't survive on $18,000 a year. And I also discovered I really liked Sunshine, which in Vancouver after the summer ended, there was not a lot of that. And so I thought, you know what? I got to get back to Winnipeg, which was home. I mean, it was an opportunity to land back on my feet, move back in with the family, do that whole kind of thing. And so I went back to do weekends and overnights at Hot 103 at that point, which was so much fun. We were downtown on the top of the building by the convention center, which was kind of cool, and it was Top 40. So that, again, making that move from rock to Top 40 was a little weird. It made more sense for me to be on the Top 40 station, but I do remember Eric Samuels telling me, Jeff, you have to learn how to say Spice Girls without sounding like you're angry about it, because I did. Here's the Price Girls on Zed 95.3. Jeff, you sound angry about it. I get it. It's not Led Zeppelin, but you know what? That's what we play.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:14:57
I think there was a convenient pipeline between Zed 95 and Hot 103 and Winnipeg. That standard would sort of ship people back and forth for some training. So did you get to work with Sharon Taylor?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:15:07
No. Well, I did eventually. When I made the move to Hot 103, Hot 103 was still owned by the Craigs. And so Lisa Akazuki was my program director at that point, and Jeff Leek was the music director while I was there. And that was again, it was a really great environment to be a part of. We were kind of at that point, we weren't owned by any big companies, so we were sort of this independent little guy on the block having the battles with Q 94 because Q 94 was kind of the big hot ACC at that time. And so we were having those kinds of battles, and it was fun to kind of be that renegade station and the little guy having to fight back against the big guy at that point.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:45
So you had another opportunity to leave Winnipeg comes up again, and I think he went to Rocco.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:15:50
I did, yeah. I got a call New Year's Day from Tom Newton. It was January 1, 2000, and I had applied for a job in Regina. At some point in November, I think I'd gone out there, I'd driven out there and met with Tom and the crew at Rocco, and that was fine. And then it just kind of went away. And then January 1, 2000, Harvard flipped their country station to be a full on CHR station. And they were modeling themselves after Kiss 92 in Toronto. And so I got a phone call from Tom Newton on New Year's day asking me if I'd be interested in coming out to work at Z 99 in Regina. And he woke me up, I think, at about 10:00 in the morning on New Year's Day. Of course, it's the year 2000, so we had been partying the night before, so I was pretty hungover. And it was an interesting conversation, the offer that he originally made. I said no because it wasn't that great of an offer because, like, no, I'm good, thanks. I'm fine where I am. So I think he made a comment, something about sharpening his pencil and coming back to me. And he called me back a little bit later. And in the meantime, Andy James was doing mornings at Hot 103. And so I called Andy because Andy was such a good guy. I bounce stuff off of him every once in a while. And so I phoned him, and I'm like, dude, they're calling me on New Year's Day to offer me this, like, what is going on? And he knew Darryl Holine at the time, and Darryl Hale was like an imaging producer, head guy at Rocco in Regina. And he said, yeah, I kind of had a suspicion they'd be calling. Julien was telling me about these changes that were coming to the competition, and they were making all these changes at Zed to rebrand as a CHR. And then he said to me, he goes, what did he offer you? And I told him, and what did you say? I said, no. What are you crazy? He goes, I don't know who's crazy are you for saying no or them for offering that to you? Because what they were offering me was actually looking back on it. Not awful. And Tom called me back a little bit later, and he had Michael Zappy on the phone with them, too. And they made me an offer. And I was like, yeah, okay, like, when can you be here? And so I was out there by February 2000.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:05
And did you bring your bomber shirt with you? And did you survive Regina?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:18:09
I was greeted with a lot of Saskatchewan rough rider memorabilia, merchandise and was told, you cannot. This was kind of the interesting thing about that building and that place was I was kind of told, you have to be a homeowner. You can't have your own opinion here. You have got to be a home team guy. We cheer for the Riders here. This is rider country. You cannot go on the radio and say, you are a bomber fan. You have to be a rider fan. The bomber gear kind of just stayed hidden in the dresser and did not come out the entire time I lived there. So much like radio gear. I have a closet full of Saskatchewan rough Rider stuff that I haven't worn in a very long time.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:54
Well, eventually it will get cold. You'll need to start a fire.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:18:58
Exactly, yeah. Maybe drive my car off or something along those lines. So, yeah, you're right.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:19:06
You run out of diapers.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:19:08
Precisely, yeah, exactly. Something I need to wipe up a mess from the dog, whatever it takes.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:19:15
And then you were doing afternoons, you did a lot of music and scheduling, so you come fully equipped at this point. I always think that if you can do afternoons and then you get your hands on the music scheduling system and learn some selector music master that you come equipped enough that you wound up going to Edmonton and progressing even further west.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:19:33
I did. But here's the interesting thing. Going behind the curtain in the world of radio, I walked away from the Ralco gig. I completely stepped away from it because they were doing this weird thing and looking back on it now, looking where the state of radio is now, without a market voice tracking and all this weird stuff that's going on now that is just sort of being a natural progression of the business. Rocco was kind of very early adopters of that. And I had been pulled off of the afternoon show and was doing music and then doing some voice tracking for out of market stuff for Saskatoon and for Prince Albert and some voice tracking evening stuff for Regina. And it was a very, very weird situation. And they pulled this thing where they were going to have me doing the music for Saskatoon and the guy from Saskatoon doing the music for Vagina. And none of this made any sense. We were busy. They had us out constantly making appearances. And I'm totally okay with the appearance stuff. I get it. It is what it is, right? Radio. That's what it is. They get you out of these events, and it doesn't matter if you're introducing a magician at the local casino or you're hosting the baby crawl race, which, by the way, is one of the most exciting events I did ever host in Regina. But it kind of got to a point where it felt like some of us were being penalized because we didn't have kids or we didn't have families. And it was like, well, Jeff doesn't have kids or things to worry about in the evening, so he can go out and do this. And the next thing you know, you're doing it four nights a week and you're not seeing spending any time at home. So a combination of all these things and the amount of work that was going in, and I had a discussion with my wife and I just said, I can't do this anymore. Like I'm burning out. I'm not happy. I'm stressed. It was starting to affect my life. And my wife just kind of looked at me and said, I would rather you go take a job working retail if it means you're going to be happy than to have you burning out and have it affect us. And so I walked into the boss's office on a Monday morning and I just kind of went, you know what? I'm out. I'm done. I can't do this anymore. They were not extremely understanding about it at first, and eventually kind of came around on it and said, Well, yeah, work out your two weeks, and that will be that. I had nothing to go to. So I did. I went and worked at Best Buy for a while, and it was good to kind of clear the head, right? Like you're not getting phone calls at home, you're not dealing with anything to do with work. It's like you clock out and you're done and that's it. And the people aren't phoning. You going, hey, I can't find these TVs. Where did we stock them? It wasn't like you're getting calls saying, we're short four minutes on the music. Can we add this? Can we do that? So I stepped away and kind of stepped out of it. And then my wife actually got a job offer in Edmonton. She's a speech therapist, as I like to say. She's the one with the real job of the two of us. And so she got an opportunity to go to Edmonton. And Jay Lawrence, who I knew through the Milk prep boards and Milkman and Ottawa and that kind of thing. He was the music director at Kroc in Edmonton at that point. And Kroc was going through some interesting times at that particular juncture in history. Terry, Bill and Steve show had kind of blown up. The radio station was in sort of this weird world of disarray. The program director. I think Terry had been the PD at that point for a little bit, but had, in all of that, had stepped away. There was this weird thing where, like, everybody was on holidays at once. And so I reached out to Jay and I sat down with him and he kind of said, Would you be interested in picking up some shifts? And I said, sure. Which was like three weeks straight of working on Krok and being able to do stuff with them, plus filling in on Big Earl and Cat Country and doing some stuff with that stuff, which was hilarious because I knew nothing about country music. Not a thing, nothing. And it just kind of went from there. It was like, okay, well, I can do some music scheduling and I can do this and I can set up remotes and I can go out and host events. And so, yeah, from there just kind of rolled into a full time gig, and it was great. I loved it there.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:53
So in that time between when you left the gig at RollCo, did you ever think about calling the program director at Power 97 in Winnipeg and saying.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:24:06
Do you have a job I didn't at that point because we were pretty established in Regina already. My wife, as I say, she's the one with the real job. And we've always kind of made decisions on moves. And I mean, radio is one of those things. I just always knew you bounce around, you move around. But at that point, we kind of thought we have to make these decisions based on whether or not she's going to be able to get a job. And Winnipeg, there was just nothing for her at that point. We had already done long distance relationship. She went to school in North Dakota to get her Masters for speech. And so we had done the long distance thing. So at one point, I was living in Regina, she was in Winnipeg, at one point I was in Regina, she was in Grand Forks. And so we just thought, we are not doing that again. We just can't. And so, again, it just kind of came down to I would rather stay here and just ride out, see if maybe the competition will pick me up, if Harvard would pick me up at that point in Regina or if she got this gig, as I say, she got this job in Edmonton. And so we were able to go out there and I thought again, worst case, I can go do retail or go do something just to earn a few Bucks to pay the bills while we're in Edmonton.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:23
For the record, I would have hired you.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:25:28
I appreciate that. Now, 16 years later, I appreciate that. Thank you.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:35
In just a second. More fun times as we continue with the tall tales in life at K 97 in Edmonton. And then Jeff jumps to Jack in Calgary and finds himself in a very competitive radio market and back on the air. This is followed by the inevitable because it happens to all of us in radio. Right. As a reminder, there's more. Oh, there's always firstname.lastname@example.org, including a transcription of this episode.
Mary Anne Ivison (VO) 00:26:03
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Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:17
And weird times in 2008 ish at Kroc. I think that incarnation of the Terry Evans Show, I think it had Melissa Wright and another female, Karen Kay.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:26:29
Yeah, that was probably one of the most interesting times in my radio career. Looking back on it now, the revolving morning show, because we went through prior to Terry coming back, we had Bill Cowan and Jim Jerome were in there. At one point, Ross McLeod was on there. They stuck me on the morning show to try and sort of play Traffic Cop with Bill and Jim. And then at one point, Steve came back and Steve and Jim did not get along at all like the tension in the real world and on the radio was just palpable. And I think that was when Lachlan crossed was the PD at that point. And we were convinced that Steve was going to murder Jim one day. It was insanity. Phil Aubrey was in there at one point on the morning show and then moved to afternoons, I think, before he went back to Winnipeg. It was just this weird revolving door. And yeah. And then Terry came back and we had Melissa Wright and Karen Kay on there. And that just did not work. People did not like that little group at all. And then finally they brought Bill and Steve back and we had the full Terry, Bill and Steve show back together again. And it was what it was. And K 97K Rock listeners were hilarious because a lot of them, I don't think, ever noticed that they were even gone. It was that whole thing of how close attention do the listeners pay? Well, they were gone for three years, and I don't think anybody noticed. It was just so bizarre.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:28:10
Man, the names you mentioned in that whole segment. First of all, I can tell you right now that Steve, who I knew is Kodiac Steve on Jungle Jim Jerome, that's not going to work. I could have said that before. I wouldn't even charge a consulting fee for that one. And then the incarnations of the whole thing. And then Lachlan Cross, who had left Power 97 and gone. And then he took Phil Aubrey a few months later when I guess the new PD showed up and Phil ran away from me and went right to Edmondson. So then that happened. So, yeah, all that sort of dysfunction you're talking about, that actually happened.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:28:46
Only it's ten times worse than I remember looking back on it now. And I'll be honest, I haven't really talked about it in a very long time. And so now it's just kind of all falling out of my mouth in the order that it happened. Whereas I say it's like, yeah, this happened, and then that happened. And then, oh, my God, that led to this. And then we did this. It was nuts. It was an absolute nut show.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:29:12
But everybody that was mentioned is all doing great things right now.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:29:17
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:29:17
Whether it's a podcast, a morning show in Winnipeg or in Edmonton where everybody is doing great things right now. So there was all this talent. You get an A for talent, you get an F for chemistry.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:29:29
That's exactly what it was. And again, it was just like people even within the building would just kind of look and go, what in the blue blazes of hell is happening in this place? And it was nuts. And I can't remember. I know, like Pat Cardinal came in at one point, too, as the just to add to it, just to add to it. I can't remember if Pat was there when Lachlan was there again. I feel like I've blocked a lot of this out of my memory. I think Pat and Lock were there at the same time. And I know after Lock left, then Gruff Kashkowski came in as the PD. And I love Gruff. He was so much fun to work with. And so I think maybe Pat was after Lock in the timeline, I can't recall. But I mean, Pat was amazing to work with just an incredible guy and an incredible programmer. And I can't say enough good things about Pat. I learned so much from Pat. Just being able to sit in a room with him and listen to the stuff that he had to say was just amazing. And I mean, anybody who was a radio nerd of any sort, which I absolutely was and still am to a degree, knew who Pack Cardinal was. You knew that he was the guy that he owned the city of Toronto and launching Jack FM and doing that whole thing, and you just knew who he was. And to have the opportunity to be able to work with him was just such an incredible experience. And so to add to the madness of that mixture of volatile personalities and volatile radio, it was a very weird time to be a part of that building and a part of that station, but so fun.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:31:16
And it wasn't his first go around in Edmonton because he'd already been number one with Power 92 for a zillion years. I know because I was in the city at the same time and it was impossible to beat what he was programming on Power 92.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:31:30
Well, and I mean, he came in too, at the same time, they were flipping Big Earl over to Capital FM and that was when he hired Robin Audi back into the building and onto there and having them as the morning show. So again, all of a sudden you have this banging of egos in that. You've got Terry Bill and Steve down the hall in the rock station, and then you've got Rob Christie and Audi Lynn's down the hall and the other station, which, by the way, again, two guys who I absolutely loved having any opportunity to talk to. I cannot picture two more polar opposite human beings than Rob Christie and Audi Lynn, but the chemistry that they had on the air was just amazing and they brought kind of this neat little refresh into the building as well. But again, you had that weird sort of battle of egos between Terry Bill and Steve and Robin Audi, and it was a bizarre building to be a part of, but it was so much fun to be involved with.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:32:29
Bizarre building you're broadcasting out of a mall.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:32:32
Oh, my God, yes. So everybody thinks it must be so cool to be able to do radio in West Edmonton Mall. And it is for about a week and a half. And then the novelty of that kind of wears off. Course, they wanted to be accessible. Right. So you've got the storefront studio and you've got the doors open. So when you're doing breaks, you've got mall atmosphere in the background and inevitably people think you're an info desk. So they're walking and asking you where the gap is and you're just focusing on your next break. I'm sorry, Becky, I don't know where the gap is. I'm trying to introduce this Rush record. This is not cool. Oh, is this a real radio station? Yes, it is. And I'm trying to work. It was just the oddest thing in the world. And where the novelty really wore off was when you were working at noon to six shift on Boxing Day. That was you went to work at 07:00 in the morning on Boxing Day so that you could get a parking spot because otherwise you're going to the biggest shopping mall in the world on Boxing Day to do a radio show. No, this was way before voice tracking. This was way before stations would just say Effort, we're just going to run music. We have a live body on Boxing Day. Yeah. But at the same time, amazingly fun. No other environment like it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:55
97.3 was called Krok. And the listeners were calling at K 97 for about the eight years that it was called K Rock. And 96.3 was the frequency in Edmonton that was traditionally bad music and bad radio lives here.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:34:09
Yeah, the whole time. Again, I got hired, it was K Rock and yeah, you're right. Everybody with the phone. Oh, hey, is this K 97? Sure, why not? Yeah, it is. Okay. And then eventually somebody decided, you know what, effort. We're just going to go with it. Let's come up. Let's embrace that heritage of K 97. Let's embrace it. So they did a logo flip and a rebrand and everything. I mean, it was really cool. But again, it was kind of like the Terry Bill and Steve thing, right? People didn't notice that it was ever Krok. They just kind of thought, okay, well, yeah, it's still K 97. It's what it is. So, yeah, again, amazing experience to be a part of.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:34:52
And then you went to Calgary.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:34:53
I did. It was one of those kind of weird situations. And actually, it's funny Winnipeg plays into this story. So I had applied for this job, this posting came up for music director for JACKfm in Calgary, and I thought, why not? What the heck? Edmonton was good, but there were some tough times there. The station felt like it was underperforming and it kind of felt like things were not necessarily going in the right direction. And admittedly, money was a thing, too. That was at a weird time like that, 2008, 2009, there was no pay raises of any kind, and the company was sending out notes on how to clip coupons and save money. Like it was just a really bizarre and so this opportunity came up to apply. So I applied and Gavin Tucker reached out to me and I was getting ready, actually, to go on a two week vacation. Winnipeg.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:35:45
Who does that?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:35:46
Well, I mean, that's kind of what everybody said at that point. We had reasons. I think we had a wedding to go to, and I think my little sister was graduating from high school or something. So it was like, okay, we've got reasons to go. And so we went and he reached out to me and said, I'd love to chat with you. And I said, Well, I'm going to be away. And he said, Well, I'm going to be in Winnipeg, too. So we ended up going for lunch and having a conversation and had that whole chat. And it went really, really well. And so while I was in Winnipeg, he reached out to me to offer me the job to be the music director at Jack. So that was interesting to go back to Edmonton and have that conversation with Gruff and sit down and say, I got a job offer. And he looked he goes, Winnipeg. I said, no, Calgary. And he was baffled at that. Do you just spend two weeks in Winnipeg? I kind of figured that was where you'd end up. And I said, no, got this offer to go to Calgary. And I took it. And yeah, it was, again, another experience because I was going into from Newcap, which was even though it was a national company at that point, it still had that small company feel. People knew your name, right? That was kind of always the way I sort of looked at it was when the CEO or the President, somebody like Steve Jones knows who you are. That's cool. When you go to Rogers, the CEO of Rogers doesn't know who the hell I am, right? They don't care. They don't know you're. Just an employee number, basically. And so it was a very different experience to go into a place like Rogers and a big company like that, where it felt like there was so much more bureaucracy with things, if that makes sense. At Newcap, if you want a vacation time, you just stuck your head in the boss's office and went, hey, I want to take next week off. You got the shifts covered. Yeah. Okay, cool. Music is done. Yeah. Okay, cool. Get out of here. Whereas with a company like Rogers, I've got to submit this form in triplicate, and it's got to go through the PD and the GM and the office manager, and it's got to go to an HR person in Toronto. And they've got to calculate this. And it felt a lot more bureaucratic. It was a very different environment, but at the same time, going into a station, Jack FM, in Calgary, at that point, it was a monster in this city. It was something that had been you had Matt and Eric doing the morning show, and they were essentially by that time, they were a heritage morning show. In Calgary. They had been here for a very long time, very competitive radio market. And it was an opportunity to kind of up my game and feel I was just going to be going in to be a music director at that point, which was also something I wanted to be able to do. I wanted to kind of step away from having the dual life of being on the air and being the music director. I always kind of found that one of those duties suffered a little bit in time management. Right. Like you could either do a really good radio show and the music was kind of like, I'm just going to hit auto scale and massage it afterwards, or you could really focus on music. And Jack was kind of trying to work on getting some of these specialty weekends going and things like that and building the library and really focusing on the music. So it was like, okay, this is going to be my opportunity to just sit and do music and this is going to be great. And that changed. It was about a year, year and a half, and that changed. And they started rumbling with the idea of putting announcers back on the air outside of the morning show in terms of the performance of the radio station.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:39:23
You mentioned Heritage, and it was one of the better ones outside of Toronto, which did well. I think this was the best or the second best Jack FM property in Canada.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:39:33
Yeah, there's Jack in Vancouver. And at that time, Jack in Vancouver was not performing all that awesome, from my understanding and from what I remember. I mean, the advantage was they had the same frequency. So any production that we did for Calgary, we could just slip out to Vancouver. That was cost saving.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:39:51
An advantage until you're in Vancouver and you welcome the stampede to town.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:39:56
Yeah, exactly. Or you're in Calgary and you get the welcome to the PNE. Yeah, that doesn't exactly work out, but yeah, the station was a monster at that time, but after a little bit, it was doing that thing right where it was starting to slip a little bit. And they were playing around with music and refocusing and doing a lot of music testing and music studies to try to figure out what it was they could do to make the station great. And of course, everybody's a music director, everybody's a critic. You're getting opinions from everyone from the morning show down to the guy that sweeps the floors. Right. And so it was a discussion of, well, the stations become too mainstream. When Jack first launched, it was that, oh, wow factor of you never knew what you were going to hear next. You'd hear Lady Gaga, followed by AC DC, followed by Prince, followed by that whole thing. And when I got there, Jack had become a little bit more mainstream. So then we started playing with the oh, well, we're going to throw one of these a song from the 50s or the 60s in they're never going to hear Sugar Sugar by the Arches coming after we play Imagine Dragons. Right. Like, it was just kind of such a bizarre thing. And so the station was slipping. It was a weird time to be there. So they decided, you know what, let's put somebody on in the afternoons. Let's try and add some personality. And apparently that personality was me.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:22
It was fun.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:41:23
It was fun to be back on the air. I did really enjoy that. But at the same time, we shifted our music scheduling a little bit and made some changes there. And yeah, again, it was an interesting time and an interesting place to be at that point.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:37
Really busy. You have to have personality in that market, because I'm just thinking in that era, Jerry Forbes, Don and Joanne Terry Demante was brought in from Montreal for that period. X 92 Nine is getting started and revving up. That market is busy.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:41:55
It's funny when people think about competitive radio markets in Canada. I think the brain automatically goes to Toronto and Vancouver. And in all honesty, two of the most competitive markets in this country, from my understanding and from my own experience, are Edmonton and Calgary. You've got a ridiculous number of frequencies in Edmonton and a ridiculous number of stations in Edmondson. And same thing with Calgary. You've got this. I mean, it's been a long time since I've focused on the business and actually looked at how many stations are here. But I mean, you mentioned, as you say, like X stations, like X, which is now basically a heritage radio station here in town. It's been here for a very long time. And as you say, a station like CJ that had Forbes and Friends that was here forever, and a monster of a station that's a monster of a morning show that's never going to be matched again. You had Matt and Eric on Jack, and it was just such a great team for those two because again, you have polar opposites of two guys that got along so well and had such great chemistry on the radio. Yes. It was a really interesting market and a super competitive market to be in. So any little slide garnered the attention of everybody.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:43:09
And it was in that era, too that when I was looking for talent in Winnipeg, I had to go to Red River and train these people directly or I had to find them in Morden and in different places because people like you were in Calgary. It was like this big sort of talent section into Calgary and Edmonton because all these licenses were being passed out. Then I had to look at other places to hire my talent for Power 97.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:43:34
Yeah. And again, like you say, I mean, it was this weird spot where stations were launching and they wanted people and they were bringing in people and they were bringing in. It was all levels of people too, right? Like, it was experienced people, people like myself that have been around for a while and then as well, like brand new talent that were fresh out of state and fresh out of the Radio College of Saint. And Nate here, I mean, I look at a station like Amp here in Calgary where you've got a morning show host, Katie Summers, who does mornings on Amp, who's been here. She's been a part of the radio station. Now, I want to say I just saw her post something on Facebook about ten plus years or something like that at that station, which I mean is unheard of in this business, particularly when you're young talent and you're coming into a brand new station like that. Like a station like Amp, you look at all the different things that they've done and all the sort of changes that they've gone through musically and ownership wise and management wise and all that kind of stuff. For somebody to be at a station like that for that length of time is incredible to me. I mean, that's awesome. But again, it's incredible to me. So as you say, like to pull talent out of a city like Calgary cannot be an easy thing.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:44:46
I see there's a hole on your resume between January 2015 and June 2015. Can you explain what you were doing in those six months?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:44:54
Collecting unemployment in a severance. And it's funny. So the story of my firing at Jack FM, the station had gone through some changes and management wise, Gavin Tucker was out. That happened. I think I want to say August 2014 again, that was one of those things where you get that phone call at home from the GM. Hey, how's it going? I don't know. You tell me. Like that was that call. Gavin was out. Kelly Kirsch was taking over and Kelly was going to be running basically all of the radio stations. He was going to be running sports and he was going to be running. It was Kiss at that point, I think, or CHFM at that point. And Jack and so things were slipping. Things were sliding, ratings were down. Numbers were down. The writing was on the wall right at that point. And everybody kind of I'm not going to lie and say I didn't see it coming because I think we all kind of saw the changes coming down the road. I'm on vacation in Vegas, not Winnipeg this time. And one of the guys that would fill in for me when I would go on vacation was also down in Vegas at the same time. So he says, hey, let's go for a beer. Yeah. Okay. So we meet up for a beer and we're having a conversation. He goes, when are you headed back to Calgary? When you go back to work? I said Wednesday or Thursday whatever it was. So Thursday, fly back Wednesday night. He goes, oh, that's weird. He goes, Because Kersh just texted me and asked if I could work for you on Thursday. And I went, oh, okay. Well, maybe he's just messed up on the days. Like, who knows? I don't know. That happens. He's a busy guy, right? Maybe he's messed up on the days. And I look at him and I go, oh, I'm getting fired. So I fly home Wednesday night, Thursday morning, I get a text message from Kelly. Hey, can you come in for an early meeting? Kelly's never texted me, ever, especially at that time in the morning. And I instantly knew. I figured it was like an 80% chance I was getting canned or we were doing a bunch of consultant stuff. At that point, we were having meetings for all these changes. Apparently I was one of those changes. And at that time, the radio station jacket moved downtown. And at that time, parking in downtown Calgary was like $35 for a day. And so I thought, okay. And I was taking the bus to work every day. At first I thought, effort. I'm just going to drive down. And then I thought, no, I'm not paying $35 to get fired. That's not happening. So I said, I'll be there when I be there when I get there. So I took the bus, got there. And of course you knew, right? Every radio person that's been fired just knows. You walk in the door and it's like all the oxygen sucked out of the reception area, right? Like the receptionist won't make eye contact with you. So you walk past the receptionist, you get in the elevator, you go up the stairs, the doors open. There's the PD standing right there at the doors. We're going to go have a meeting with the GM. Yeah, of course we are. And walked in, and that was that. It was the standard going in a different direction. It's nothing personal. Blah, blah, blah. That whole thing. And I just kind of went, what do I have to sign? Like, here's my key card, here's my Fob for VPN access. Do you need me to sign something? Do I get an envelope? How does this work? And that was the end of it. That was the end of my time at Jack FM in January 2015. Yeah.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:30
So Congratulations, you got six months off and then you wind up at WestJet. That's a pretty good little score.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:48:37
It's funny. If you talk to any former Calgary radio person, WestJet seems to be where a lot of us land is at WestJet. For the longest time, WestJet was known for hiring for personality. And, I mean, you're not going to find people with bigger personalities than radio people, right? Or performers. And so aviation was always sort of another passion of mine, aside from radio and music. And so WestJet was always kind of on the radar and I took some time in between gigs and I applied. And the application process for WestJet at that point was a very long, drawn out process. I had applied. I think I applied for that job, and I want to say April. And then we interviewed in May, and then it was the beginning of June before they hired us on to start training. And yeah, it's an interesting company, and it's a great company to be a part of. And culture wise, it's a good place to be, and the people are awesome. And of course, the benefits of being able to travel and being able to do that are huge for a huge part of being a part of that company. So, yeah, it was a good place to land, and it was an opportunity to sort of reset and take some time off and yeah, jump into the WestJet world.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:49:55
Did you know that the job with WestJet would lead to more travel and other opportunities?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:50:03
Getting into WestJet, I started off working in the call center, which I mean, most people that start working at WestJet, that's usually where they end up or where they start. It's usually either call center or working at the airport as a CSA customer service agent. And so that was where I got in, but that wasn't where I wanted to stay. I knew kind of what I wanted to do. And again, the Red River creative communications person in me was like, hey, I'd really like to get into doing social media stuff with WestJet. I think that would be a great opportunity. Well, instead, I've ended up working in the operations Department and the operations team. And so with that schedule, both in the call center and in the operations center, in that team, you work a rotationary schedule, so you have a lot of time off and a lot of spare time. And in that spare time, what do you do? You travel. So, I mean, I was making trips back to Winnipeg. The first year that I was at WestJet, I was back to Winnipeg more in that first year than I've probably been in the previous ten. Just because that freedom to be able to hop on a plane when there's space available and come home when there's space available was there. I mean, it got to the point where with my wife and I, our nieces and nephews would phone us and ask if we could. Are you guys coming for dinner this weekend? Well, no, you can just get on a plane and fly out here. Uncle Jeff, what's the problem? It's my birthday this weekend. Can't you just get on a plane and come out for my birthday? So it kind of got to that point. And yeah, we use those travel benefits like crazy, and it gave us the opportunity to go all over the place and connect with people that we never would have connected with before, which was fantastic.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:51:44
Okay. Wait until you hear what happens next. This job Jeff gets at WestJet is going to create an opportunity to enable things to take off in podcasting. Stand by for the departure.
Tara Sands (VO) 00:52:00
The the the sound off podcast.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:52:02
Kendall, you mentioned the WestJet social media. I can't help but think of the Christmas miracle that comes out and Richard Bartram and the work that he puts in to doing that every year. He's the brother of Blair Bartram, who is also phenomenal radio programmer and marketer, and he's now producing the morning show at Chef Eye in Toronto. But I think of WestJet. I do think of the social media and the fun that you mentioned and being bright and energetic. But I'm so glad that you discovered that there were other places to go than Winnipeg when the seat was empty on a WestJet plane, because I think you found Vegas.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:52:37
I found Vegas in a big way. I mean, Las Vegas was a city that my wife and I had gone to a couple of times and really enjoyed it. We always had a lot of fun there. And then once this ability to hop on a plane and travel came up and I thought, oh, this means I can go to Vegas. Like whenever, oh, I have three days off. I'm going to hop on a plane on a Monday. There's lots of open spaces and go for a few days and go see some friends and have a few drinks and see a couple of shows and eat some meals. And the next thing I know, I'm going to Vegas eight times a year. And all of a sudden I'm the de facto Vegas expert amongst our group of friends and amongst our family. And people are reaching out to me and saying, Where's a good place to stay, what's a good show to see, Where's a good place to eat all this kind of stuff. And so, yeah, so that was how things kind of led to me doing a Vegas podcast.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:53:37
The Jeff in Vegas podcast launches. So why did you want to do this podcast?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:53:44
I always kind of wanted to do a podcast, and I dabbled a little bit after I got canned from Jack, as every radio guy does, right? Every radio guy thinks, well, I'm just going to take my radio listeners and they're just going to follow me to the podcast, and that's going to be that. And I think that works well for some guys. That works very well for some guys very well for me. It did not because I made a conscious effort to keep my radio life separate from my personal life and my social media. And a lot of that just had to do with some negative experiences that I've had with social media and people not stalking me, but harassing and things like that. And so I made a very conscious effort to keep those two lives separate. So trying to make the world make it into the world of podcasting or online stuff when you don't really have a following just doesn't work. And so the more times that I was going to Vegas and the more people were asking me these questions, I thought this could make an interesting podcast. And I kind of looked at what was out there as far as Vegas related podcasts. And most of them are gambling. Basically, all of them are gambling podcasts. There were a couple of shows of people that were doing like trip reviews and interviewing or going to shows and reviewing shows and things like that. But there wasn't any real long form interview stuff. So I thought I could take these experiences that I'm having and these questions that people are asking me about hotels and shows and things like that, throw it into a podcast. And you know what, if ten people listen to it, I'm happy with that. I'm okay with that. And then I was also because of the amount of times that I've been going and the people that I've gotten to know through my time in radio and a couple of interviews that I've done with Vegas performers, much like radio, where everyone knows everyone, Vegas performers, a very small community of people, and everyone knows everyone. So I was able to leverage a couple of those contacts into other contacts and into other interviews. And again, it was kind of the situation where there really at that time weren't a lot of people doing interviews with Vegas performers or Vegas entertainers or subjects that were sort of Vegas adjacent and touched on that world of Las Vegas. And there weren't any Canadians doing it. That was the other thing. It was like, oh, there's no other Canadians doing a podcast like this that I could find. And so I thought, why not? Let's try it out and see what happens. And so the very first episode I posted was posted originally at the end of December 2018. And it was a trip report episode, and it's some of the worst clap trap I've ever put out, looking back on it now just in the way that those reports and those reviews have sort of evolved. It's an entirely different animal from what I'm putting out now. But it was again, it was a learning opportunity, and it was that whole thing of, you know what, now when people ask me stuff, I can tell them and then I can also direct them to this podcast.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:56:46
Nobody has a good episode, one of anything. No, an episode five doesn't sound like 1020 or 30 either. So how many episodes have you done with this, by the way?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:56:57
I am up to currently working, I think, on an episode 114, something like that. And then I've also put out various bonus episodes and things like that. It's been a fun evolution, and it's been a really interesting experience. And it's gotten way bigger than I ever anticipated. It would become when you get that first person reaching out to you that isn't a family member to ask your opinion on something or they're reaching out to you for questions on whatever or I've even had the weird experience of being in Las Vegas and having somebody say, Are you that guy that does that podcast? I listen to your podcast. It's so cool. And so that's a really weird experience to have, too. So, yeah, it's been a lot of fun putting it together.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:57:47
Where do you stay when you're in Vegas? Do you have a place you go all the time or frequent?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:57:51
It's usually wherever my wallet takes me. Quite honestly, I will bounce around usually Flamingo Valleys, places like that. For the longest time, I was diamond with Caesars, not because I gamble a lot, but because I bought my way into it with a program called Founders Card, which meant I didn't pay resort fees when I stayed at those places. So any of the Caesars resorts were zero resort fees. So, like, when my wife and I went in December, we stated Valleys, and it was legitimately $6 a night for us to stay there. So that's kind of my thing. As I said, I'm Flamingo Valleys guy. They're great locations. They're middle of the Strip. They're perfect place to stay. You've got that opportunity. You walk out, you go left, you go right, you're right in the thick of the action. That's my favorite spot.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:58:37
So for my 50th wife gets to take me to Vegas. She says, you got to go to Vegas. You've never been before. So I reach out to you and I ask you a few questions about where I should go and what I should eat. And I listen to a few of your podcast episodes, and I thought, man, this is the best podcast. He's an expert in this thing that people want. And everybody aspires to have the best time in the three or four days that they want to go to.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 00:59:00
Well, I appreciate that. I really appreciate those words and the kindness on that, because at times you kind of question, right when you're putting out these podcasts, it's like, is anybody listening? Is anybody actually paying attention? And numerous times like yourself, I've had listeners that have reached out and said, hey, I heard your Trip Report episode where you talked about staying at Planet Hollywood and eating at Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen. You know what? My wife and I, we went and we had dinner at Hell's Kitchen, and it was the most amazing experience. And I just want to say thank you for that. So the thing is, as I say, there's so many Vegas podcasts that are gambling focused, and I get that gambling is obviously the lifeblood of Las Vegas. That makes sense. That that's where so many people would go. But at the same time, based on what I see in the various Vegas Facebook groups that I'm a member of gambling is not always a big thing for people. The level of disposable income that people have for gambling is not that high anymore. And as I say, I think so many people are now going Vegas is about the experiences, and they want to go and they want to eat at the latest celebrity chef restaurant, whether it's a Gordon Ramsey restaurant or that Salt Bay guy that dribbles the salt down his elbow onto your steak or whatever. They want that experience. They want to go to a Golden Nights game and experience hockey in Vegas. They want to go to a Raiders game and experience that maybe that's their first NFL experience. And where better to do it than Las Vegas? So I think it's a very different group of people that listen to my podcast versus listening to some of the other Vegas podcasts that are out there.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:00:40
What's your favorite meal in Vegas?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 01:00:42
That's a really good question. I've eaten at the Golden Steer, which is off the Strip Steakhouse, probably one of the coolest hangs in the world. I mean, it's the oldest Steakhouse in Las Vegas. It was a legitimate mob hangout. Frank Sinatra hung out there, Liberace hung out there. When my wife and I ate there, we sat in Joe DiMaggio's booth. They come out and they make the Caesar salad right table side for you, and you have like four or five servers looking after you at all times. The atmosphere was incredible. The food was amazing. We also really enjoyed Oscars Steakhouse at the Plaza downtown that is not owned but managed under the name of Oscar Goodman, who was the Mayor of Las Vegas for a very long time, was also a mob attorney for a very long time in Vegas. And so, again, just the food was amazing. The atmosphere was incredible. The experience was incredible. As much as we love the big celebrity chef places and we have eaten at Health Kitchen. And again, that was an amazing experience, but it was an amazing experience because it was a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and the food was great and everything. But I kind of loved that sort of off the Strip local feel, old Vegas feel. It was a little cooler.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:01:56
So if you weren't sure anybody was listening to your podcast, you made sure that everybody was going to listen to your podcast by bringing a sex worker onto your show.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 01:02:09
Yeah. I mean, anybody that's been to Vegas, let me rephrase any man that's been to Vegas, particularly if you've ever gone solar or have ever spent any time on your own, whether your wife's up in the room and you're going to sit at a slot machine and gamble or the bar, play video poke or whatever, has had this experience where a beautiful woman sits down beside you and starts striking up a conversation. If that isn't something that normally happens in the real world to you, there's a very good chance that this person sitting down as a professional, they are there to try to make some money. And I mean, you can't deny Las Vegas is the city of sin. You get hit with it as soon as you get off the plane. There's billboards for strip clubs, there's ads for topless shows. There's all of this stuff. You've got the three quarter naked show girls walking up and down the strip. You've got all this stuff. And so I thought, I think it would be an interesting conversation, and I didn't want to make it anything salacious. That was my goal when I had that conversation. I didn't want it to be salacious. I didn't want it to be childish. And giggly. And I listened to other interviews that other escorts had done on other podcasts. And that was what it was. It was always this weird giggly discussion in these strange conversations about the weirdest clients you've ever had and all that kind of stuff. And I thought, I don't want to do that. Like I want to tell a story. And so this particular escort started following me on Twitter, which I thought, okay, it just must have something to do with me having Vegas in my name or whatever. And in the interest of politeness, I followed her back and I discovered she actually she had a really interesting personality. She posted a lot of really funny stuff and not just stuff related to that industry. And then I discovered she had actually been on a couple of other podcasts. So I thought, you know what? I'll reach out and see what happens. And I listened to those podcasts and she was great, but she was really good. And so I thought, you know what? I'll reach out and see what happens. And she was all about it. And so we had the conversation. I posted the episode, and there's no question it's my most listened to and most downloaded episode in the entire run. I think it's well over 2000 downloads now, which when most of my other episodes are 657, 50, maybe 1000 if it's something really interesting. This one is the granddaddy of all of the episodes. And I mean, it's an interesting one to listen to. It still gets a lot of downloads and a lot of listens.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:04:46
Well, thanks a lot for supporting me with my trip to Vegas for my 50th birthday. It was February 28, 2020. And a week or two later, they shut her down. And Vegas was especially hard hit. But you were also hard hit because you kind of had to put the podcast on ice, didn't you? I did.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 01:05:06
And it was a tough decision to make. I tried like everybody else, we all thought this was going to be temporary, right? So I thought, you know what? I can come up with some stuff.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:05:17
Two weeks to crush the curve.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 01:05:18
Yeah, two weeks. Two weeks to flatten the curve, right? That's what it's going to be. And so I kind of looked and went like, I can keep putting out some stuff. And then, of course, with the shutdown affecting so many of my friends who are entertainers, they had to find new and interesting ways to try to earn income and try to keep making a living because there were no government supports, there was none of that kind of stuff. So they needed to find that out. So they were doing online shows and online streams where they were taking tips and stuff. And I thought, okay, well, I can have them on and I can have conversations with them and talk about how this is affecting them and stuff, but you can only do that for so long before that's really kind of getting depressing. And so I thought, damn, how am I going to keep this going? So, yeah, I thought, I got to take a break. I got to step away from this. I can't do this any longer. I'm not able to travel with all the different restrictions that are in place. I can't go I was laid off from WestJet because, of course, the company, the travel industry was decimated and cut back. So there was massive layoffs there. So that ability to travel was gone. And so I just thought, I've got to put this on ice for a little bit. I just can't do it. I'll stay active on social media, but I just can't do this anymore. I got to step away from it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:06:35
When did you make the decision to restart it and bring it back and fire it up again?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 01:06:40
So I noticed even though we weren't open and Canada wasn't open, the rest of the world was starting to open up and people were starting to go back to Vegas. And I noticed that I was still seeing downloads on my podcast. People were still listening. People were still asking me questions. They were still reaching out to me and communicating with me. And I thought, okay, numbers are starting to go up again. It's starting to climb. If I hit 100,000 total downloads when I hit 100,000, I will go back to doing new episodes. I'll start planning for that and amazingly managed to hit that 100,000 Mark. And again, I look back now and I kind of chuckle about I'm happy thrilled about hitting 100,000. But I look back when different Facebook memories come up and stuff and I look back and it's like, wow, I was just as excited about hitting 1000 downloads as I was about hitting 100,000 downloads because I never expected it to get this big. I never expected it to be anything more than a passion project, a hobby. That was all it was going to be. And again, like I said earlier, if ten people listen to it, you know what? I'm happy about that the ten people managed to find my podcast and listen to it. And yeah, so when I hit that 100,000 Mark. I thought, all right, let's start putting stuff together. And again, things were starting to open up too, right? So I thought, okay, I can start reaching out to people, and if I'm going to start making trips back down to Vegas, then maybe I can start planning a few interviews again while I'm down there. That was the other thing too. Behind putting it on ice was the fact that I was running out of content. Previously, when I would go to Vegas again eight times a year or seven times a year, go for three days. I would minimum get three interviews while I was down there. So I'd get three episodes plus a trip report episode. There's four of those 28 potentially. That's over seven years or seven trips a year. That's 28 episodes. That's half of my episodes for a year. I try to put out an episode every week. So all of a sudden that content is gone, it's dried up, and it's harder to arrange things over online. And it's not as fun and it's not as interesting. And some entertainers and some people are not as savvy to do that stuff. So again, as I say, that was part of the reason for putting it on ice. So as I was looking at it and going, okay, people are going back. I'm going to have that ability to go back. I've hit this 100,000 Mark. You know what? Let's start her up again and let's start working on it again. So that was what I did.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:09:15
What was it like to go back to Vegas for the first time?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 01:09:18
It was amazing. It was emotional, quite frankly, because it had been almost two years. It had been a full two years since my wife had been down in almost two years since I had been down. My last trip was in January of 2020. My wife and I had been down in December 2019. So it was the first trip in two years. The people that I have down there, I jokingly refer to them as my Vegas family. And because they are. And I mean, when I was going as often as I was, I was seeing them more than I saw my real family. And this was a group of people who were nice enough to invite myself and my wife into their lives and make us feel like we were part of their family and part of this intimate little group that they have together. And to land in Vegas and finally be there. We kind of took a risk and book this December 2021 trip in like May of 2021 when things were still not looking awesome. But we thought, you know what? By the end of the year, it's got to be back to normal. Of course, it really kind of was, but wasn't. But when we finally when we got on the plane and we landed and we looked out the window and we both just kind of went we're home. Like, it just felt right. We got right into the groove and getting to see our friends. We went out for a big event. One of my friends does a charity show twice a month down there, and they do this massive anniversary show every year at the theater at what used to be the Hard Rock, but now Virgin Hotel. And so we were able to see all of our entertainer friends there. There were tears, there were hugs, there was crying, they were laughing. And it was just it felt so good to be able to be back and then to be able to get an episode out of that trip and a Trip report episode and get back into that groove of writing and putting stuff together and getting episodes put back together. And then at that point too, to start planning for the next trip. That was always kind of a running joke. It's like I'd be sitting at the airport waiting to go home, and I've already looking at my calendar and looking at events and starting to make plans for the next trip. I was doing that as we're sitting in the airport getting ready to come home after that trip. And I just thought, like, it feels so good to be back. Like, it really just felt right.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:11:37
So the two concerns that I would have if I were booking a trip to Vegas is there going to be enough people to serve me? And I know there'll be enough hotels, but what will the prices be like of those hotels when I get there? So those are the two things that I would look at and go, Do I want to go to Vegas?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 01:11:56
Yeah. Right now our experience when we went in December, hotels again. We booked that trip way back in May, and we had a trip to St. Martin canceled by Covet. So in April of 2020, that's a bucket list trip of mine as an aviation or anybody that's ever looked up the beach in St. Martin knows that airplanes are basically landing on your head. I wanted to go lay on the beach and let airplanes land on my head for a week. That was going to be my trip that got canceled. So we had a big travel credit from that cancellation. So the Vegas trip we did in December, we did it right. Like, we stayed at the Cosmopolitan. We got a Terrace Suite. That was our hotel stay. We ate at a lot of really nice restaurants. We blew it up big. When I went down in March recently, that was a slightly different experience. I stayed at Valleys. I noticed a change in customer service. That was a big thing. I noticed, for example, at the hotel and at the all of the Caesars resorts, with the exception, I think, of Caesars Palace. They've now gone to the self checking. So you're doing it at a kiosk. So there's no more asking for a high rise or sliding the guy at 20 to try to upgrade yourself to a suite. There's none of that. It's like checking in for your flight at the airport at a kiosk. It spits out a room key. It spits out the directions to your room. You put your credit card and your passport in, and that's that. You kind of get what you get. I noticed service at restaurants would seem to be a little bit slower, but then at the same time they were like trying to push you out because they want to turn those tables as fast as they can. I've noticed hotel room prices going up, but I think a lot of that just has to do with the fact that Vegas is getting busier and that there are more events happening. You've now got things like the NFL draft that just happened back at the end of April that jacked up the room rates. Nfl games Jack up the room rates in a big way. Fights conventions are now coming back. So as those conventions are coming back, the room rates are going up. So, yeah, I think all of that stuff starting to come back is causing a real increase in the room rates. There are still deals to be had, depending on the days of the week that you go. I mean, I've traditionally always done kind of Sunday to Thursday or Monday to Wednesday trips. The crowds are less and the room rates tend to be more reasonable.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:14:20
I think one of the more interesting changes that I'm paying attention to with Vegas is the arrival of the Raiders. And we say arrival. They've been there for a couple of years, but not really with the fans. So now let's watch and see what happens when the fans come in. And now you've got some casinos who are buying up some season tickets, who are trying to lure in some of the bigger fan bases. So when the Rams come to town and the Cowboys, the packers and the Buffalo Bills and the Bills Mafia, when they wind up on the schedule, I can see package deals. And I don't think the Raiders are ever going to have a crowd that's going to have more than 65 or 70% Raider fans in the building. It's going to be at least 30, 40% of the other team. Listen, if it's the Cowboys of the packers, it's going to be completely the other way around. It's going to be a home game for both those teams. So it'll be interesting. I mean, if you're a Raiders fan, this is not going to be a good thing, but I think the rates are going to be sharing space and it's going to feel a little bit like a neutral field going forward.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 01:15:23
And that makes sense. I've done a couple of episodes and interviews with sports guys in town and talked about the arrival of pro sports in Vegas. Which has been a huge thing since 2018 with the Vegas Golden Knights coming in. And it makes sense because I think NFL fans, particularly I'm not an NFL fan. I don't watch the games. I don't watch it. Yeah, for me, it's like I'm just not an NFL guy, but I get passionate fan bases, and I understand that. And I know that a lot of NFL fans have got that thing in their mind where I'm going to go to an away game, I'm going to travel and go see my team somewhere. Well, if you are a Bills fan, for example, are you going to go see a game in Green Bay and freeze your ass off, or are you going to go to Vegas and make a vacation out of it? I think that's what they're seeing. A lot of, as you say, is those large groups. And the first year I was lucky enough to go to quite a few Vegas Golden Knights games in their first season. And I mean, that was an amazing experience as a person that's been to a few different NHL arenas and been to a few different games. There is nowhere that does hockey like Vegas, honestly. And actually, I've been to more Vegas Golden Knights games in the last, whatever, five years. Then I've been to Calgary Flames games since I've lived here, moved here in 2010. The first season was on average, like a 50 50 split of tourists and local fans. And then when you would get those, particularly the Canadian teams that would roll in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, those franchises, those teams would roll in and the place was full. The first jets game that I ever went to in Vegas, it was like being at a Winnipeg Jets home game. And I mean, they did it right out front of New York, New York. There's the stage out front of the New York New York Hotel. They had a tragically hip tribute band playing like it was nuts. As I say, they did it right. They knew exactly what they were doing. But the second year after Vegas did so well, in that first season, there was a shift. There was a big shift, and there was way more locals and way less visiting fans or felt like way less visiting fans. But I don't know if the Raiders will experience the same thing. I think a lot of that with the Golden Knights had to do with the fact that it was their team. It was a, borrow their phrase, a Vegas born team, as opposed to the Raiders, which are a relocated team. So I think you're right. I think they're never going to totally feel like a home team.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:17:55
What's your advice for anybody in radio who thinks they can just jump into podcasting?
Jeff Walker (Guest) 01:18:01
Do your research, find your niche. Honestly, I see it all the time in the different Facebook groups and podcast groups that I'm a member of, where people are like, well, I've got a microphone and I've got a computer and my buddy and I are pretty funny. We're just going to sit down and talk about stuff and get an audience. I think those days are long gone. The guys that are good at that are doing that and are going to continue to do that and they'll be the ones that do that. Personally, I would say find a niche. Find something you're passionate about. I always used to joke with people when they'd ask about starting a podcast and finding something you're passionate about. I used to joke about calling it mashed potato passion. You could do a mashed potato podcast. If you're passionate about mashed potatoes, do that. There's somebody else that's passionate about mashed potatoes. Talk about the best mashed potatoes you've ever had. Do an interview with someone like that kind of stuff and it makes sense. Find something you're passionate about because there's going to be somebody else who's passionate about the same thing and go with that as your niche. Work on that. Do your research, figure out who your audience is, figure out what you're passionate about and talk about that. That's how you start in my mind anyways a successful podcast that's what I've done with mine. I've decided that Vegas is what I want to talk about so here we are talking about Vegas.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:19:20
Jeff, thanks so much for being on the podcast this week and Congratulations, by the way, and all the success of the Jeff and Vegas podcast.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 01:19:27
Thank you, Matt. And you know what? Your podcast is a lot of fun and it's been fun to kind of rehash these memories that I blocked from my mind.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:19:36
Just send me the bill for the therapy.
Jeff Walker (Guest) 01:19:38
Tara Sands (VO) 01:19:41
The sound podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill produced by Evan Surminski social media by Courtney Krebsbach another great creation from the the soundoff media company. There's always email@example.com.