U-KNOW/ CASBY AWARDS - CFNYfm 102.1
In 1982, while being employed full time as an illustrator-creative director at Archar Inc., I received a phone call from an associate of mine Bob Betts. I got to know Bob when he was a sales rep for Archar but he had recently moved on to a speciality marketing firm in Toronto. Bob told me he had just left a meeting with CFNY-FM’s public relations director Brian Lyon. Bob said CFNY was looking for an artist to design Canada’s first ever people’s choice music award, referred to as the U-KNOWS at the time, and would I be interested?
I immediately said I would love to have the opportunity to create a national music award. As a big fan of CFNY and its alternative music programming and endorsement of ‘street level’ Canadian artists this was a natural fit.
My portfolio interview with Brian went well enough for him to introduce me to CFNY’s legendary DJ/ program director David - the Mars Bar - Marsden who was the brain child behind the U-Knows, a pun on the mainstream Junos. David and I instantly ‘clicked’. David said right-off-the-bat that he did not want the award made of Lucite as many awards at the time, including the Junos, were. He wanted “something of substance”. David and Brian mentioned that the previous inaugural U-Know award in ’81 was constructed by having a plastic model of the CN Tower affixed to a vinyl record. Charming. They now wanted something more, something that would make a statement.
Within a couple of evenings, I came up with three designs each having a unique twist. Presenting my sketches to David and Brian in the following days the one that stood out for them was to become the award. The difficulty at the time was, what materials will we employ in their construction. Brian immediately thought the top should be constructed with non-porous grade aluminum. We all agreed the aluminum should be 24 carat gold plated. Brian knew a speciality millwright firm in Guelph Ontario by the name of Cooke and Denison that would be ideal. He also knew of a firm in London Ontario that specialized in gold plating. I wanted the base to be a special wood. After some research I came across a small one-man firm in Mississauga specializing in wood craftsmanship. The owner/operator Walter Kramer took me through his shop and showed me a rather large piece of Indian Rosewood that he claimed to be at least 300 years old. The beauty of it was perfect for our award. And Walter had enough to last us for a number of awards over the course of several years.
All of the construction elements were now in place and ready to go. Brian and I visited Cooke and Denison and presented my sketches to the owner who had his top millwrights take a look. Their first impression was this was not a simple job due to the complexities of my design - a pentagonal trapezohedron.
Because of the uniqueness of my design each and every award had to be hand crafted and fitted. Weighing in at 8.5 pounds and costing over a $1,000.00 each David got his wish of having an award of substance and impact. Carole Pope of Rough Trade, upon receiving one of the first U-KNOWS in ’82 for Best Female Vocal, exclaimed “this is f*cking heavy”. The crowd laughed. Then she reiterated “no, I mean it, this thing is f*cking heavy!” Success! I looked across the crowd and saw Marsden beaming from ear to ear. He loved it and so did I.
By 1986 the U-Knows was changed to the CASBYs (Canadian Artist Selected By You) through a nationwide contest because CBC was broadcasting the awards for the first time. I assume that CBC was not thrilled having the moniker U-Knows as it was a parody of the Junos which they had broadcast for years.
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Alas, all things must pass. CFNY became a victim of its own success. The station changed ownership and by 1988 the U-Knows/CASBYs changed also. From 1982 to 1987 I was involved with overseeing the construction of the awards from start to finish. No longer.
I’m proud to say that my involvement will be cherished for all time and I have David Marsden to thank for this amazing opportunity. I heard just recently that Carole Pope donated one of her CASBYs to the Canadian Museum of History. As an artist I’m thrilled to have one of my art pieces in a museum.