When CKUT it hit the FM airwaves some 35 years ago, it quickly became an important voice for Montreal’s diverse Black communities. This was thanks to numerous radio shows that promoted concerts, festivals and events important to the community. Some of these shows have been on the air ever since!
Howard “Stretch” Carr has been a pillar of the Caribbean community in Montreal for over four decades. He will be joined by special guest DJ Butcher T. to talk about their experiences in the 70s and 80s, leading up to legendary radio shows, Stretch’s West Indian Rhythms and Butcher T.’s Noontime Cuts.
Listen to part of the discussion on ARCMTL’s show on CKUT here, or read the edited transcript of the discussion below.
Louis Rastelli: It’s a great honor to have two of the many DJs that since the very beginning of CKUT have turned it into an extremely important voice for the community, a forum, a place of celebration, a place to promote all the amazing activities, concerts, festivals, the things that happen in the community.
Rito Joseph: We have two of the pioneers of, hip hop, Caribbean music, from the city. Thank you so much for being here with us tonight. For me, I’d like to know as someone being part of the younger generation, I always heard your names. I’d like to know, where does it begin for you guys? The passion of music?
Howard Carr: Well, for me, it started in Jamaica. My first gig, as you may say, was in a band called Viscounts, which was owned and managed by Byron Lee. And, when I came to Canada, it was just the same. Music, music, music. Because I ate music and sports for lunch and dinner. I made the Jamaican National Squad in soccer.
And two years after, I left to come to Canada. And, music was always there. Because where I grew up, we have a lot of entertainers. On a Sunday, we would all go down to the river. Nothing is planned with nobody. And you’d see three guys over there, Toots and the Maytals.
They were just called Maytals then. And they would be singing. You know, and then (the reggae group) Culture would be over this side, and it was like that around the river. So everybody in this town, it’s called May Pen. Everybody loves singing to this day. So we still, and I’m sure you’ve heard the name Vern Maytones.
Vern Maytones is from May Pen. You know, so, singing… I can’t tell you when it started in my blood, it’s been there forever.
Rito Joseph: From the get go?
Howard Carr: Yes, from the get go.
Rito Joseph: Nice, nice, nice. Thank you very much. And, I guess I maybe want to ask you guys at the same time, because I also want to know how it started for you to become a host at CKUT. But, I also want to hear from you how it started, you know.
Butcher T.: You want to hear how it started with me?
Rito Joseph: Yeah.
Butcher T.: Well, okay. Oh, gosh. Um, back in my teens. Wasn’t a DJ, just buying music as a hobby.
Rito Joseph: Okay, where?
Butcher T.: Buying music as a hobby. I’m born here in Montreal. Montreal, Quebec. I had the best of both worlds being born here. Also living in Jamaica, too, because, with health reasons, I ended up living in Jamaica for a couple of years, so knowing the musical culture in Jamaica, living in Kingston down there…
Rito Joseph: No more winters?
Butcher T.: No more winters, exactly. So how I was exposed to music, where I used to live in Kingston, in the Arlington town area, we had a family bar. So, in the morning, I wake up to music. At night, Go to sleep to music. So, I was exposed to listen to R& B, blues, country– you know, some people might say, Oh, Jamaica, you country music? Well, country music is also big in Jamaica. So I was exposed to a lot of country artists, R& B artists.
Back in the days, New York time, they used to call it the block. And everybody had some speakers. Well, in Jamaica now, we call it a street dance. So, you as a neighbor, this neighbor, we pile up the speakers. Boom, boom, boom. And by night time, evening time, it’s a street dance.
Friday night, or it could be a Saturday night. So I was exposed to the Blocko style of music.
Anyways, fast forward to now. Living in Montreal now. Back to Montreal. I used to buy records. It was a hobby. Went to record stores like, at that time they had record stores like Sky Records.
You know, it was known as Sky. Lambert Closse by the Old Forum. You know, I used to have imported records. So, I used to buy my records there. I used to buy my records Downtown Records on Stanley Street. The guy who used to own those, Billy’s. Uh, Ebony Records.
Rito Joseph: How old were you at that time?
Butcher T.: Fifteen, sixteen. You know, sneaking them home. My mother used to say, where’s all these records coming from? And then down the line, my collection started to get big. Like I said, I wasn’t a DJ then, it was as a hobby.
And, fast forward a little bit, met Stretch. In the record store, Sky Records. I used to buy my records there. But what happened, he closed and Stretch took it over and it was called Stretch Records. So, that was in 79. I end up talking to him and his partners and got a job. So, that was like a way of getting the really, real up to date music.
And then, as it goes on, I met his, nephew, Andrew, Andrew Carr. And, he introduced me to, breakbeats, you know. I said, what’s breakbeats? Ah, breakbeats is what they’re doing in New York. He’s from New York, Queens. So I said, break beats, what’s a break? I’ll have beats, you know, like, Billy Squire, like, James Brown, Grace Jones, you know, Babe Ruth, I can just name songs.
And, then, down the line, I learned the craft. It wasn’t hip hop, it was just breakbeats at that time. So, at times in the summertime now, Stretch, we’d go down to New York. We drive down to New York and buy records for the store. Then his nephew will be there and he’ll take me around to these parties, block parties. Remember I told you in Jamaica we call it street dance. So, I was exposed to this already, but now I’m in New York now, it’s block parties. So, this is when hip-hop started, the movement was started. I saw how the block party started with the rappers and stuff, you know, with MCs. Started watching this, I said, wow. Came back to Montreal. Got the turntables. Remember I had my turntables, but I needed two turntables now.
Now with one turntable, I put a song on. Like, Billy Squire, the big beat. I’ll start the record. I would hold the record. At that time I have my cassette player, so I would pause it. As I let go of the record, let go of the pause, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Exactly, then I would stop it before the guitar part comes in. Then, started from the beginning. Let it off again, let the pause button, so remember it’s all timing now on a beat.
I’m gonna beat you to the question now. How’d I get the name Butcher T? My real name is Tony. So, he said, man, the way you cut, you know, because I’m editing it, somebody should call you cuts, you know, Cutsanova. I said, nah, it’s not right. You’re like a butcher. Cutting. Butcher. My name’s Tony. Butcher T. That’s how my name Butcher T. came about.
So, from that time now, I’m on, on that path now as, they would call it, the Kool Herc of Montreal because Kool Herc introduced, as they say, hip hop in New York. So, I was like the Kool Herc of Montreal, Butcher T. And I had my emcees, Sean One and Supreme. I started off with them. My first party in Chateauguay.
Rito Joseph: Thank you very much for sharing, your humble beginnings! Stretch, I have a question for you. So now, you encountered this teenager that goes to your new record store, how did you start in that business?
Howard Carr: Well, before that I didn’t buy records. Because I only concentrated more or less on the music from Jamaica. So I had a friend, his dad was a pilot with Air Canada, and I would ask my friend in Jamaica to get some records and send with him for me. I heard Sky was getting rid of the shop because he didn’t have the finances, and then I went down there one day, checked the people, the owners and we got the shop going, It was nice because we had a young DJ-in-the-making, and I didn’t have to worry because I worked and I was still on my job with Canadian National Railroad. And he’s the one who did most of the music stuff. Me, he just said, you know, “Stretch, we should do this, we should do that,” and it was done.
Rito Joseph: But we heard how, you know, he ended up becoming named Butcher T. So, what about you? Why do they call you Stretch?
Howard Carr: Oh, because of soccer.
Rito Joseph: Because of soccer?
Howard Carr: Yeah, sports writer for the Gleaner in Jamaica said my stretch was totally unbelievable. Yeah, so he kind of stuck with me, Stretch, you know. Because of my height too, you know. At that time, I was six foot four. I don’t know what I am now. I’m old so I’ve shrunk.
When I came into Canada first, I didn’t have anybody to look forward to. I didn’t hear my music. I didn’t hear my voice. You know, we did a show once at the hotel on Sherbrooke Street, Ritz Carlton for Esso. And this man who worked with CFQR, 92. 5, he came over and he says something like, “I like your voice and your singing. Would you like to be on the radio?” So I said, no problem, but, you know, I can only do these things on weekends, I’m working. So he says, okay, and, they had me tape two hours.
And when I realized I could only play the same music that I’m hearing on whatever station, I told him no, I after the first week I wasn’t interested. And then one Saturday we were there (at CKUT), the broadcast booth was down in the basement on McTavish. We were on one hour then. And when I was finished, I think it was Nadine. She came and said somebody wants to talk to you outside. So, I went outside. It was the station manager. She said something about extending (the show) because the phones are ringing and that’s where it started from.
After the chat with the station manager, she said she would offer me the two hours and I told him we needed a DJ. And at the back of the studio, there was this big window, and those days we were playing 12 inch, right? And every evening they’d be taking out these crates of records. Because there was nothing organized with music. Soca, reggae, soca, reggae. And that’s how it went. It was just plain madness. If you listen back, I wouldn’t advise it, but if you listen back to the early years, you’ll hear the hype. You know, we were into a lot of hype, and people weren’t hearing that in this venue, so they wanted to hear more, and we gave them more. Tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight. Things like that, you know, we would be going crazy. People love the hype, and this is why it became such a successful venue. And I can tell you this one (points to Butcher T.), I couldn’t get him to talk.
Rito Joseph: But, I mean, why did you want him to talk? I guess he did the talking by playing the records.
Howard Carr: Because I wanted him to do what DJs are doing now. What he’s doing now. You know, I asked him, I say, if I go away for the weekend, you have to play the music and talk. And I couldn’t get him to talk and we’d argue after the show and we’d talk and talk.
Till one Saturday, my boy just bust out, man. “This is CKUT now to put…” I said, what? And I can’t stop him from talking now. Yes. Check him out on Noontime Cuts. You’ll hear one of the better voices in this city on radio.
And I can proudly say that was my first DJ. And, it’s a sort of a brotherly love that we did, on that station, you know. We had Mike Mission that followed us and he would come in and we’d slap each other and hug each.
Rito Joseph: That’s who I got to hear growing up. It was Mike Mission. I came up on that. I’m the generation that I heard Mike Mission on it. So now you guys starting at CKUT. What’s the year approximately?
Butcher T.: Well, we started at Radio McGill in 86…. The radio show was called West Indian Rhythms now for the community. You’re getting your soca, your reggae, little bit of afro, you know, at that time we used to just call it African music, you know? And, now in the community, as people tuned in wanting to hear their cultural music, you’re not getting on a regular radio station. But at West Indian Rhythms, boom, you’re guaranteed to get your Soca and all that Caribbean music.
Now, there was a thing called Soulful Radio. It had a whole bunch of lists of urban music shows on CKUT. I used to make cards and flyers to expose the urban music being played. Now in those days, parties now, were parties. So in the community we play a lot of Caribbean music. You know, different social clubs, Jamaica Association, Côte des Neiges. And we expose the music, the culture, on the radio and also outside the community.
Those days, I would just say, it was nice. People were partying and enjoying themselves, you know. Now, that was very important for the community. Plus, on West Indian Rhythms, we had Caribbean News. You didn’t get no Caribbean News. in the city, local radio, whatever, but on West Indian Rhythms, you are guaranteed to get Caribbean news, sports.
And this is what the community needed, you know, and like Stretch was saying, as a West Indian, he wanted to hear his music. So it was a responsibility, it’s a responsibility. Yeah, because with the news, with the music, you have to keep them up to date and let them know what’s happening out there. “Hey, there’s a Caribbean restaurant here, or a Caribbean place to buy your hair products…” We expose that to a lot of people out there, which is needed.
Rito Joseph: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. So, at some point, it feels like CKUT might have been a go-to station for more than just music.
Butcher T.: Well, you know, exactly. You know, CKUT is a podium. It’s the people station.
Rito Joseph: Amazing, amazing. So in terms of how many times per week …
Butcher T.: Oh, once a week, once a week. First time we was like an hour, and then they extended it to two hours, and now fully three hours.
Rito Joseph: You don’t want it to extend to four. Why is that?
Howard Carr: It’s a lot of work. You know, I mean, you guys are sitting at home or wherever in your car and listening to the program. And, you know, you say, ah, it should go on longer, but it’s a lot of work. Trust me. You select out the music or whatever and you talk to your DJ.
I always work with a DJ because I’m very lazy. Okay, so he selects his thing. But you have to know what you’re saying to the people. The biggest gross, apart from the Haitian show earnings in that station is our program. Because our program is for the teenager, the middle age, and for the old folks.
So we try our best to maintain that after all these years. It’s 30 odd years, right? Yeah. And it’s gonna go on more because I have a young DJ training now that I’m beating in his head every Saturday. Learn to talk on the radio. And he has a nice voice. He’s like this one, you know. But it’s, it’s gonna be, it’s gonna go on forever.
Because we still haven’t got a voice on commercial radio. So, you know, we have to expose ourselves and show that we do have the quality that we can bring any type of radio in this city. And, that’s one of the things that we search for, anybody asks us to do a little exposure, we’ll do it.
We’ll talk about CKUT and so forth. You know what I mean? And I’m happy to see a youngster like you (Rito) and a youngster like you (Louis) doing this because it’s beautiful. It’s also a beautiful location and I know nothing about it, the Afro-museum. It’s a beautiful location. So you’ll be hearing more at CKUT about this hall. Beautiful.
Rito Joseph: You, Louis, you have questions?
Louis Rastelli: Yeah, having been there a bit more as a teenager, in the beginnings of CKUT and all that, I’m curious to know from you, who are the other people that got you started and invited you in. I’m assuming Pat Dillon was one of these, you mentioned Nadine. What do you remember of the station and their efforts to bring in all these different people? And who were some of these other DJs that you remember being important to the to that era?
Howard Carr: Well, you know we didn’t see the others that they were bringing in. But we knew of one, that was on Thursdays, as a matter of fact, I spoke with her today. Her name is JD, Janice Dale, right? And, strictly reggae, for an hour, and then it went to two hours. It was called Positive Vibes.
At the time we had a manager, she fired a guy so that I could get the slot. Her name is Susan Elrington. Never forgotten that. She called me up and this is how we talked about it. She said she wanted a Caribbean show. But this guy was doing a show like what Butcher does now–
he had funk, he had soul music, played one or two reggae, one or two Calypso. Funny enough that guy’s on radio still in Toronto. But, she asked him to leave and getting fired from a station that you donated time to, whoa! But anyway, he left and we took over and we never looked back. And I am really seeking the younger ones to continue with that.
Louis Rastelli: But you’re never going to stop though, are you?
Howard Carr: Oh yeah, I have that in my mind. Sometimes, you know, I just need a break from the hassle. But I, would not stop unless… You know, I have somebody to replace, to maintain the sound of that program. The DJ that is with me now, 15 years…
Louis Rastelli: DJ Nicholas.
Howard Carr: Yes, he’s very nice, very good for his age group, you know. But, CKUT will be there for a while. You know what I mean? And if you listen to the Haitian show, they never change the style. It’s been like that since I’ve been at that station. And it works. CKUT, you can go right down there and you have music from Asia. You have music from every part of the world. One day I tune in fooling around with the radio. What the hell is this? From China. That is CKUT, and we’re very proud of it, and we love it, and we’re gonna keep it going.
Louis Rastelli: Butcher, a big part of both your shows is to talk about “tonight there’s this show, there’s this club night, there’s this festival, there’s this thing.” Did you interact a lot with some of the other DJs, but outside of the station?
Butcher T.: Outside and inside. As we do the program we announce what parties are happening in the community or downtown. Everybody’s always coming to the station, always, when you’re doing your show, somebody’s coming in at random. Or opening, just opening up the door with a flyer. “Oh, can you promote our party?” And then you don’t know the person at that moment, but you get to know, “Oh, you’re a DJ, Oh, you’re a promoter.” So through the times that we play, you get to know everybody.
And you know, and throughout the years, oh my gosh, there’s so many of them. Old school ones. And the new school ones. And again, you still have to thank CKUT for providing that forum for us to get to know each other, like yourself, Louis, I mean, you’ve been on just like me from 1902 [laughter]. No, a long time.
You know what, I don’t even count the years. I mean, I say 86, but it’s like it was just like yesterday. There’s so many different DJs that come through and hosts and a lot of interesting people I meet, interviewing artists from different parts of the world coming in, musical or people who write books or people who are into health and stuff like that. You meet a lot of interesting people. And it’s like, to promote CKUT again, it’s like home, you know, now with technology, we’re like molecules all over the place.
Louis Rastelli: You can listen straight to this show, that show.
Butcher T.: Exactly, you know.
Rito Joseph: It feels as if from you guys’ perspective, CKUT is a cultural intersection, intergenerational, different musical genres, different ethnic groups, and it also feels like it brings people together.
Butcher T.: You know, it does. You know what, just to let you guys know, you guys are lucky to have me sitting here, you know why? Because remember he (Stretch) forced me to talk on West Indian Rhythms, right, as an emcee. Thank Stretch, because this is not my thing sitting down here talking, you know, in front… like when I’m doing my program it’s like I’m in my own little world. But now, it’s like a vibe inside here. It’s like a comfy vibe. So I’m just going with the flow right now. So I’m enjoying myself.
Rito Joseph: You’re doing great. I also would like to know if people in the crowd have questions? Do you still have a lot of phone calls from the show? People like calling during the show.
Butcher T.: Okay, we’re going back, back a little bit before the COVID. Oh yes, used to get a lot of calls at that time. You know, people calling in, either requesting a song or, if I’m playing a song now. Because on my program, Butcher T’s Noontime Cuts, or even West Indian Rhythms, just playing a song for somebody, and somebody calls and says, “Oh my gosh, you played this song, you brought me back.”
Or if it’s a new song, Oh my gosh, this song that you played, the lyrics in this, it’s like, wow. And you know, it gives me a good feeling, or I, I can even talk for a stretch, it gives you a good feeling, knowing that you’re touching somebody musically. So passing COVID now, a lot of the DJs or hosts or whatever are doing everything remotely now. So you get emails and stuff like that, you know. People say, “Hey, can you play a song for me or send a shout out?” So I still get the calls personally on my personal phone or on an email.
Howard Carr: But the thing with me, I turn off the phone. Now, believe you me, if you were to answer the calls that’s happening while we’re doing the program, then you wouldn’t be doing the program. Trust me. So, I will see, if I don’t know the name, I’ll answer the phone. But if the name shows up and I know, because some people just want to talk.
You’d be surprised, you know, you’re laughing, but there’s a lot of lonely folks out there on a Saturday afternoon. One Saturday I received a call and I decided to answer it. And a voice said to me, “thank you for taking me back to my country. I’m feeling that sunshine on my face and it’s beautiful out there.” I say, oh, that’s nice. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. And, we talked a little while I’m listening to the music. And that weekend, no DJ was there. But I had a tape, so I was playing over the tape. Okay? And I’m listening, I’m listening to her.
And then, she said,” I must tell you, seeing the sunshine and feeling it on my face makes me want to go back home.” And then she said, “you know, I’ve lost my sight five years ago. But just feeling the music, I saw my country.” And that really hit me right there in the old heart. And this is why I do what I do.
Because there’s people out there who are maybe not lonely, but they don’t have too many friends. So this is what we do. You know, it’s not just a party level. You know what I mean? So, CKUT has brought a kind of a lifestyle to people that I, I am surprised. The other day somebody called me, they want to give me a plaque for my 30 odd years in CKUT doing what I do. To me it’s like nothing. I enjoy what I’m doing. You know what I mean? CKUT is, uh, the love of my life. And it will always be.
Adrian Warner: This is a question for both of you to answer. Both of you have been at CKUT for many years, from the beginning to now. And you have seen, witnessed, experienced the evolution of technology at the station. There’re photos of you, Butcher T, with records behind you. At this present day and age, some people don’t know about records, cassettes, CD, 8 track, etc. How have you adapted to the evolution of technology doing DJing? Did you see it coming? Are you happy with it?
Butcher T.: Wow. That’s a good question. Man, Adrian, you hit me heavy. Let me rewind. Remember, I’m not originally a DJ. I just collect records. I love buying records. Even today, I still have all my vinyl, you know, I’m a vinyl junkie and, I adapt, so with technology now. With Serrato and stuff like that, I still download my music and even at the station now, I mean, although I have my Serrato or my virtual DJ, once in a while I’ll grab one or two vinyl records out of my storage and I’ll play it on my program. And even if I’m doing a wedding or something like that, or a party, boom, I adapt to today. Get my Serrato out and play my music or whatever. I still know the touching of vinyl. That’s where I first started. I go with the flow. Stretch? You ready for this one?
Howard Carr: I, I’m ready for this one. That was a good question. But, you know, I still just enjoy the people. It’s like I come here and this is a nice ambiance for me. I don’t like big crowds, you know, I’ve emceed some shows in Montreal here, and you don’t really feel the people because it’s so much noise and, I love doing what I’m doing because of people like you, who took time out to come and listen us talk. Thank you.
Nigel H. Thomas: I only have a comment. I reckon that Stretch probably knows who I am. I just want to say thanks for how you keep the community informed about what is going on. Stretch has had me on his show many, many, many times to talk about my books. And I deeply appreciate that. And, of course, other events that we’ve been organizing. Thank you very much.
Howard Carr: I didn’t get the last book, eh? Alright. I also wanted to thank you both for inspiring me, influencing me from teenage years to now. Yeah, thank you for your contribution. You know, I admire young people like you. Because, go ahead Butch, applaud for me. Because I know when I’m resting in my grave that you guys will be carrying on stations like CKUT.
And maybe we’ll have a commercial station doing the same thing CKUT is doing. And you guys are going to run it and we’re going to make a mark. You’re going to make your mark on the international broadcasting scene. You have no idea how popular this radio station is throughout the world. In Europe, CKUT is all over the place. Since even before the internet came into power, came into being. Make sure you have a radio station like CKUT.
Unknown questioner: Hey, um, I just want to also say thanks. I had immigrated here from Toronto just over a decade ago, and West Island Rhythms was the first thing that felt like home for me, and I’ve been with your shows, all three of you. You know, working and getting about town, hanging out, doing things, family, time and everything. It’s been a great background and lots of love. Just wanted to echo that as well.
Butcher T.: You’re welcome. That means you’ve been taking our musical medication for a good long time.
Louis Rastelli: That’s really great. There’s maybe one last point. I’m very impressed with you as a fellow DJ in CKUT, I think Stretch is the most tech savvy one. You get long distance phone calls, you throw them in. You get people popping up on Zoom. You got your DJ, I don’t even know if he’s in the same room as you now, but you’re like the conductor pulling it all together. It’s incredible.
Howard Carr: You should see the madness that goes on. It’s all good, you know what I mean? It keeps me alive and awake. I enjoy doing it. Some of the conversations are like, Stretch! Stretch! Don’t play that again! I don’t like it! Next week: “what happened to the song?” “What happened? What song?” “The song I tell you I didn’t like. Play it again!” That’s, I swear, that’s what goes on there. And it keeps me awake, you know what I mean? I take a drink to numb my pain, and then another drink to smile, and another drink, and by the time I’m finished, I am drunk. No, I’m only kidding.
Rito Joseph: You know, in order to end on a positive note, we’re doing this because we also want to keep our local culture alive. You know, we have a history here. You guys are some of the people on whose shoulders we’re standing. So, do you guys have a word for the future generations?
Howard Carr: You know, it’s kind of hard to tell you what’s a word for the future because they have to be involved in whatever they want to do. As an instructor at my job and I, I will bring up the conversation to these guys.
What do you want to do? Say 20 years from now, 10 years from now, in this company. And there was one guy who said, my ambition is to reach out and go further in this company. Today, he is a big regional manager making nearly $200 000 a year with the National Railroad. So, with a young man like you, I’m not telling you about the money because I don’t know. Reach out. Teach yourselves the good things. And if you’re in doubt, don’t be afraid. If you try something and it doesn’t work once, twice, try it again. You know what I mean? Don’t be scared of reaching out in life. To show, you know, what I know and what I can do. Because when you reach my age, you’re gonna say, well, I did it my way.
And with that, can I say goodnight to you guys? (Sings) “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention…” And that’s it. Because I didn’t get fully paid. Anyway, folks, it was nice being here. Next time, don’t be shy. Please. I will sing. I’ll bring my friends and we’ll sing.
Rito Joseph: Maybe Butcher T. also has a word for the, the future generations too, because I know he’s shying away now, but he probably has a word and then we’ll let you guys go afterwards.
Butcher T.: A short word for the future, right? Yes. For the future, you know what? This is the future. From the time Stretch was just talking and then handing it to me, that’s the future right there. Every moment’s the future. But if you want to say hold on to everything that’s happening, what we’ve been doing on CKUT, you take it as a blueprint and you just continue and evolve. Yeah, you evolve.