Broadcasting legend Bob Layton celebrates 50 years in the industry

Click to play video: 'Get to know Bob Layton'
Get to know Bob Layton
WATCH ABOVE: You hear him every morning on 630 CHED, but learn more about Bob Layton including how he starts his day, his love for ventriloquism and what he thinks the best part of living in Edmonton is – Apr 2, 2020

On Friday, trusted voice Bob Layton celebrated 50 years in the broadcasting industry.

Possibly best known for his bass-filled “I’m Bob Layton,” he got the bug for news when working in the post office and on strike.

LISTEN BELOW: Bob Layton joins 630 CHED Mornings to reflect on 50 years in the broadcasting industry

A reporter came by to interview the workers while on strike and he says the workers didn’t like how they came across.

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“I said to the guys, ‘I wish I was the news guy on the radio because I’d tell it like it is.’ A couple of weeks later, I’m driving along, there’s an ad on the radio for the Columbia School of Broadcasting. And there it was.”

Bob Layton awards a student with his certificate at the Bob Layton School of Broadcasting in the mid-1970s. Courtesy: Mark Summers

Layton graduated in 1969 and went on to work at CKNL in Fort St. John, B.C. in 1970. Even while he was in northern B.C., Layton says his goal was to work for 630 CHED in Edmonton.

“Now, CHED was THE station,” he said. “Everything that happened revolved around CHED. Nobody listened to anything but CHED.”

He says he and a coworker used to drive the Alaska Highway until they reached a point where they could get CHED’s signal and sit in the car and listen.

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The two would go back to the station and make audition tapes and send them to CHED. They’d get letters back saying the station didn’t hire anyone unless they had five years’ experience.

Bob Layton at work in CKNL in Fort St. John, B.C. in 1970. Bob Layton

Layton kept sending in letters until the station invited him to come to Edmonton for a couple of days to give him a shot.

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Fifteen months after starting in Fort St. John, he made the move to 630 CHED — where he has been a constant presence ever since.

The 630 CHED morning team, including Bruce Bowie, Bob Layton and Eileen Bell, at an event with Wayne Gretzky. 630 CHED archives

Though he was finally at the station he wanted, he said he was originally hired to write newscasts, not anchor them.

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One day, the anchor he was writing for moved to B.C. and Layton was given his shot on air.

LISTEN BELOW: Bob Layton on 630 CHED over the years

There are a lot of events to experience in a 50-year career, but Layton says there is one that stands out to him immediately: the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“Everything changed at that point,” he said. “Everything changed in the newsroom. The style of things changed.”

As for stories he personally covered, raising money for Edmonton’s first police helicopter tops the list.

Over two years, Layton says several million dollars was raised to purchase Air 1.

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“It was a great lesson about the power of radio and what can be accomplished.”

Visitors to Global Edmonton from Kids with Cancer with Bob Layton in 2014. Global News

Under his leadership, 630 CHED — and now Global News Radio 880 Edmonton — has won awards for best documentary, best newscast, best website and best radio feature.

WATCH BELOW: Bob Layton’s award-winning editorial from 2018

Click to play video: 'Bob Layton Editorial: Time to crack down on smoking-related fires'
Bob Layton Editorial: Time to crack down on smoking-related fires

In 2005, Layton was presented with a Centennial Medal for community service by late premier Ralph Klein.

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Layton is also the winner of four national awards — and numerous regional ones — and was honoured with a prestigious RTDNA lifetime achievement award in 2010.

In 2018, Layton was inducted into the Western Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

“Bob’s love for radio, dedication to his craft and incredible drive have all served to set him apart during a truly great career in radio news,” said director of talk and talent Syd Smith. “A storyteller through and through, he is a trusted voice on radio and a trusted colleague and friend at Corus Edmonton.”

Bob Layton was appointed to the Western Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame Thursday, June 7, 2018. Corus Entertainment

Over such a long career, Layton has seen the industry change over and over again.

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He says he’ll never forget the day the engineers came in to take away the newsroom’s old typewriters to replace them with computers.

“I’ve seen so much change and it’s all been for the good,” he said. “You have to just be careful in this business that you stay ahead of the curve and learn what’s out there, that you need to learn to be successful for yourself and for the station.”

Bob Layton speaks at the volunteer appreciation night for 630 CHED Santas Anonymous volunteers in 2017. 630 CHED Santas Anonymous

His biggest piece of advice for those looking to get into the industry? Just that — stay ahead of the curve.

“Don’t consider it a job,” he said. “When you first get into it, it’s going to be a very steep learning curve.

“It’s a career, not a job. And you’ve got to jump in with both feet and stay ahead of that curve.”

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Layton likes to joke that now that he’s achieved 50 years in the industry, he thinks he’s got another 50 in him. With a laugh, he says his wife says no — but they’re discussing.

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