The Ubiquitous Gregory Charles

Gregory Charles is everywhere. He’s a multi-talented, classically trained pianist and singer who hosts TV and radio shows in French-speaking Quebec, has acted in numerous stage and TV productions, gets tremendous airplay for his recently released easy-listening record album, and makes guest appearances on every second TV and radio show in Quebec (at least the ones in French).

Martine and I will get in the car and start driving into town. Whose show is on the radio? Gregory Charles. Crossing the Jacques Cartier Bridge, whose mug is staring down from a billboard? Gregory Charles.

We go shopping for shoes. Whose voice do we hear smoothly serenading us in from the store’s music system? Gregory Charles. We go to a concert that night and who makes a guest appearance? Gregory Charles. Later, at home, we’re channel flipping on the TV. Oh look, there’s Gregory Charles. Oh, look, there he is again. And again.

The guy is amazing – and everywhere. It seems like there’s nothing he cannot do. He sings, he composes, he plays musical instruments, he acts, he hosts, and he seems able to learn new things at the drop of a hat. “Hey Gregory Charles, how about doing some brain surgery while tapping out a Latino reinterpretation of Lord of the Dance? And while you’re at it, could you juggle these chainsaws?” No problem for Gregory Charles.

If you want the ultimate Gregory Charles experience, listen to his weekly radio show on Radio-Canada, called Des airs de toi, on Saturday afternoons (4:05 PM-7:00PM). Basically, you get Gregory Charles, his piano, and his vast personal library of recordings. He plays records, talks about them, sometimes sings along with them, mixes them up, matches them up, cuts into a solo for a while, cracks a joke or two, and tells a few stories. It’s unusual radio for sure, and not just because there’s no advertising.

Listening to Des airs de toi, you get the impression he’s simply sitting in a room having fun all by himself and you just happen to be listening in. Other times, it’s like he’s the talent at a piano bar and there’s only you, him, and one or two other patrons. It’s very intimate and personal, and spontaneous, which is a nice relief from the standard blah blah blah BLAAAHHHH! type of loudmouth crap you get from most radio personalities. Martine and I have often wondered if such a show would work on English radio. Who would host it? Would English-speaking radio listeners enjoy it? Would the formula even work in English?

Well guess what? CBC has found someone to recreate Des airs de toi in English. The show will air Sunday mornings on CBC Two, and be rebroadcast Sunday nights on CBC One. It will be broadcast from the host’s living room, where he has a grand piano and a vast collection of record albums.He will mix and match music, sing along, tell stories and jokes and whatever else strikes his fancy. Free-form radio in which the host loves his medium, loves his message, and has total creative freedom to basically just banter and jam.

The host for the new show, by the way, is Gregory Charles.

10 thoughts on “The Ubiquitous Gregory Charles

  1. Howdy!

    Sorry to spoil the fun, but it doesn’t sound like ‘unusual radio.’ It sounds like Randy Bachman’s VinylTap (which in my estimation is a horror show of a radio program) or Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on NPR, The Christine Lavin show on XM, the Bob Dylan show on XM, the Jimmy Buffet show on XM, Le Show by Harry Shearer on KCRW (and NPR), My Kind of Jazz with Jeff Healey on CJRT, or numerous other shows that use musicians as hosts/djs.

    You gotta try this ‘internet radio’ thing. There’s way more out there than CHOM or MIX96! :-)

  2. Good point, Zeke, but note that I said “unusual” not “unique.” I would argue that those other shows are also unusual.

    So there. ;-)

  3. You are so lucky that you like Gregory Charles, because I can only stand him small non-singing doses. Needless to say that in recent years my quality of life has slightly diminished.

  4. Ghislaine, have you tried to augment your Quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and the related (Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) with compensatory scrap-booking or remedial making bacterial yogurt from scratchor similar past-times? We can’t all get by simply loving the “Charles”… Please try to “Be Happy”. Maybe you could try writing a Blog! ;-)

  5. He is so ubiquitous I used to think he was two people. In fact, he is perfectly bilingual, can play two pianos and beat up Chuck Norris at the same time, and last year was slowed down (HA!) only a very little when he fell off a stage and broke several important bones. He must be on the juice. He’s very talented and knows what the people want.

  6. It is also confusing, if you don’t know any better, because there is some overlap between his career and that of Normand Braithwaite (musician, TV host, etc.), another of Quebec’s Four Famous Black People (along with Herby Moreau and Corneille).

  7. Normand Braithwaite! He’s lucky I’m not a musician, cause if I were, and I went on his show with my groovy band and he tried to pick up his damned bongo drum and play along with me, he’d get a guitar neck shoved where the sun don’t shine. I can’t believe people put up with his antics.

    Does anyone see the irony that BOTH Canada and Quebec bend over backwards to get Gregory Charles on nation/province-wide shows? Distinct Schmistinct! The only distinction is that neither portion knows how identical it is to the other in all important things (beer, hockey, Gregory Charles, etc.)

  8. I am a devooted listener of CBC radio, both 1 and 2.
    Never have I had this strong a reaction to a program announcer or host.
    Despite Gregory Charles undeniable etensive musical skill and background,
    I personally find it very difficult to listen to his speaking voice in English.
    He sounds depressed, unsure of himself, and far too casual in his speech.
    I even found his comments about gazing at the photo of a beautiful female singer, which he
    said almost lustfully and several times, distasteful.
    His comments are not illuminating, and they are too casual and too personal.
    I suggest he be a producer , a program planner to use his knowlegde in another way.
    But please take his speaking voice in English off the air.

  9. Laura Golden (formerly Linda N. Goldman) is an art therapist, Reiki master, yoga teacher, holistic healer, spiritual counselor, educator, writer, poet & artist. Laura’s passion is the linking of healing, spirituality and creativity for personal growth and planetary transformation. Wow, maybe she could host a radio show on the CBC…

  10. This is in response to Laura Golden’s comments….

    Laura, as a fan of Gregory, I would appreciate it if you would simply do something else or listen to something else during his show. Need I say more?

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