Andy Barrie signed off Monday after 15 years as the voice of CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning radio show.
The city’s number-one radio host, whose warm delivery and folksy charm helped Torontonians battle morning traffic jams, face down driving blizzards or make their morning coffee, announced recently he had fallen ill with Parkinson’s disease and the show’s demanding schedule was taking too great a toll on his health.
At the CBC building on 250 Front St. W. hundreds of fans gathered around tea and cookies in the atrium to say goodbye.
Taking over as host on Metro Morning in 1995, Barrie, now 65, has covered a range of stories, from the international terrorism, to local politics to getting down to field level in local sports. Monday, the biggest story for Barrie was in fact his departure from Metro Morning.
“I can’t think of one (story) that has occupied more time on a single show than this one,” Barrie said about his retirement.
Soon after his diagnosis, Barrie realized his demanding 5:30 a.m.-routine would exact a steep price on his body.
“One morning, my mouth just wasn’t working. I thought it was better to get out a little earlier than to wait too long,” Barrie said.
Surprised from the emotion and the recognition received from the hundreds of emails and letters in response to his illness, along with the crowds that showed up this morning, Barrie finds his popularity “strange.”
“I really tend to think of my relationship with my listeners as one-on-one, and then I hear how much I meant to them and I haven’t even met them, and here they are standing up (and cheering).
As disingenuous as it may sound Barrie ensures that Metro Morning was never the Andy Barrie show. Even though he is receiving all this praise, Barrie applauds his producers who hand him the two inches of paper each morning.
“Although I’m the conduit for their work, the producers are the ones who make the decisions,” he said.
With Barrie stepping down, the CBC’s Matt Galloway, already known city wide as the voice of ‘Here and Now’, takes over the morning shift.
“I was ecstatic… If you work in Toronto on the radio, this is the job you want,” he said.
Galloway looks to bring his own dimension to the show. As a city-dweller, Galloway is excited to talk about the city he loves.
“I live in the city and I want to work with and talk about what I see,” he said.
Although Barrie will no longer be found on Metro Morning, he still plans on working with the CBC behind the scenes.
Remembering when he came to Canada from the United States in 1969, and the adjustment period he experienced; Barrie wants to help others with the transition.
“What I want to do is find ways that the CBC can proactively support those new to the country, those who don’t speak one of the official languages, and to educate them on the culture… That’s what I’d like to do.”
When asked about his chances of returning to broadcasting, Barrie didn’t rule anything out.
“There are a lot of voices to be heard, and I would like to listen to them, and I feel that we and I have heard enough of me, for now” he said.