In memoriam: Dave “Bookie” Bookman was one of Toronto’s greatest supporters of independent music

For over 30 years, as a host on Edge 102.1 and Indie88 and with his Nu Music Nites at the Horseshoe, Bookie has been crucial for discovering new music

When I was 17, I started the unofficial Dave Bookman fan club. It was just me and my friend Wendy and we didn’t really try to expand it, but Bookie deserved one with thousands of paid members.

For music fans growing up in a pre-internet Toronto, Bookie was crucial for discovering new music. In his 30-plus years on the radio, he was one of the medium’s most reliable sources for music recommendations. His voice was always eager to spread the word about some new band or reinforce the greatness of an old favourite. Whether you knew him or not, he was a good friend.

Bookman died on May 21 at the age of 58, after spending weeks in hospital following a brain aneurysm. He will be remembered for many things, but perhaps more than anything as one of the greatest supporters of independent music that Toronto has ever known.

Bookie began his career on the airwaves hosting shows like High And Outside and Don’t Look Back on the University of Toronto’s campus radio station CIUT, while also working as a buyer at A&A Records downtown.

Around the same time, he also flirted with a music career, first as a member of the Bookmen, who released a folk album in 1987 called Volume One: Delicatessen. Years later he formed an “electric sonic folk-pop” band called the Midi-Ogres, featuring Dave Bidini (Rheostatics), Stephen Stanley (Lowest of the Low) and John Deslauriers (Doughboys).

But it was working as a DJ on CFNY 102.1 (now The Edge) where Bookie became a household name for fans of alternative music. Hosting the station’s Indie Hour in the 1990s, he shone the spotlight on countless up-and-coming acts at a time when Canadian independent music was mostly ignored by the masses. Without Bookie raving about them, I may never have heard favourite acts like the Inbreds, the Killjoys or Hayden, among many others.

Bookie would also host Live In Toronto and later the rush hour slot before he parted ways with The Edge in 2012. The next year he joined the fledgling CIND-FM, aka Indie88, a new rock station in Toronto. He thrived in this new environment, taking it upon himself to continue the mission he began all those years prior by playing his favourites, both new and old, on his Sunday night show and the vinyl-focused Crackle & Pop.

As important as he was to the airwaves, Bookie was just as important to Toronto’s live music scene. In 1994, he teamed up with local gig booker Yvonne Matsell to present Nu Music Nites, a free night of music every Tuesday at the Horseshoe Tavern. When Jeff Cohen and Craig Laskey of Against The Grain (now Collective Concerts) came aboard they began to attract buzz bands coming through town, hosting acts like Spoon, Linkin Park, Arkells and Placebo (featuring Leslie Feist), as well as now legendary intimate gigs by the Strokes, Foo Fighters and a solo set from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.

Whether it was his love for Wilco, the local sports teams or his daytime soap The Young And The Restless, which he adamantly tweeted about, Dave Bookman always showed his passion for what he loved, be it on social media, at the ’Shoe or on the air. Courtesy is contagious, Bookie wrote in his bio, and his courteousness rubbed off on so many of us. It’s no wonder he was honoured last year with the Canadian Independent Music Association’s Unsung Hero Award, because that’s what he was to so many of us.

To quote the band Stars in their tribute following his passing, Dave Bookman was the spirit of radio. He and that jovial, wholehearted voice of his will forever be missed.

@nowtoronto | @yasdnilmac

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