The Gleaner
Arts & LifeSharing Our Stories

Sharing Our Stories March 20, 2024

Story told by: Sonny Joe Cross
Edited by: Santana Deer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Translated by: Sahawisó:ko’ Arquette

Music is my medicine 

I went to the back door of K103 Radio station at 10 o’clock one night. I had a Hank Williams record with me and asked, “Could I pay you $10 to play two or three songs?”

I knew it wouldn’t be allowed if I had asked at the main entrance. They would think I’m crazy. So I bribed them all – everyone except the manager.

Soon the manager got calls from people saying, “Gee, you got a nice program.” It was funny but I got nervous. I didn’t know what to do.

 

Sonny Joe stands in front of his extensive vinyl collection which he uses for his radio show at K1037 PHOTO Simona Rosenfield

 

The manager had no idea. Next thing you know I was there every day of the week. The people loved it.

I struggled growing up and into my later years. After going through residential school, I was drinking and fighting. You know, terrible things.

I was about 37 years old when I decided to put the bottle away, and all the nonsense. The only thing that saved my life was the music. That, along with my wife and three daughters – they supported me the whole time. I was more satisfied playing my music instead of spending time at the bars, you know?

When I came back from New York, I had 10,000 LPs. It was around the time people were giving up vinyls. It never cost me a cent out of my pocket.

 

Plaque awarded to Sonny Joe for his 10 year dedication to K1037 for his show Memory Lane in 2001 PHOTO Emma McLaughlin

 

When I started at K103, every Sunday, 50 people would call me and request different songs. They were so nice, all the people. They would tell me, “Sonny Jo, don’t get sick and stay healthy so that you can continue playing music for us.”

So I recorded all their favourite records, everything the people would want. I even had CFCF come to my house and took a picture of me and all my records.

 

PHOTO Courtesy of Sonny Joe Cross

 

I had stopped playing music at the radio station in 2014 because of my knee operation. Now I record from home and put it on a cassette and reel it on Sundays. I’m thankful they let me do that because I love to play music and I do it all for free. I believe in doing things from the heart, not from the wallet.

Last October 2023, it was 33 years that I’ve been on the radio. I just love it. All the music I play is mine, not the station’s.

 

Sonny Joe demonstrates one of the numerous honours given to him for his volunteer work at K1037 PHOTO Simona Rosenfield

 

I loved when the listeners would tell me, “I never heard of that.” A lot of the music I played wasn’t played in Canada those times, so it made my program even better.

Today I own about 40,000 LPs. They’re everywhere around my house.

What can I say? That’s what I love.

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