The Voice, Wit and Warmth of Don Berns Forever Remembered
Submitted by Cashbox Canada
Don Berns, a radio and dj icon with the legendary voice will be heard no more. Don Berns passed away on Sunday, March 1st, 2015. He had recently posted on his Facebook page that he had just had some type of minor surgery. Sources say he had complained on Saturday about back and arm pains. On Sunday, Berns was found dead in his Toronto home from an apparent heart attack. He was in his 60s.
Berns lived in Toronto and aka ‘Dr. Trance’, most knew him as the "Godfather of Toronto's Rave Scene." He also was active in Toronto theatre and had an incredible sense of humour that he loved to share with his friends whenever he could. He loved improv, and also had a busy voice-over career well- known for his work with TSN.
Growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, Don Berns spent time on radio in the 1970’s in Buffalo, New York. He and Jack Armstrong were the two new voices of WKBW 1520 AM. Berns hosted mid-days while Armstrong rocked Eastern America and Canada at night. Together, they brought new energy to WKBW. Berns' trademark ending each day was "The Don Berns Show is a Dr. and Mrs. Berns production." Berns earned his way into the Music Director’s chair at WKBW and became very active in the live music scene, supporting and promoting local talent.
Four years into his stint at WKBW, Berns made the announcement he would be joining an album rock format station WPHD 103.3FM. Moving out of his Top 40 radio voice, he was a natural to go to the ‘new sound’ of FM. His time there was short due to a station change to Top 40 so Berns returned to his high energy delivery until he left Buffalo for Dallas, Texas.
After moving around from San Diego, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, Berns made his way to Toronto, where he fit right in at the zany CFNY 102.1 FM. In 1992, when CFNY went through a format change, Berns went to the then-new Energy 108. He also spent time at Power 88.5, Hot 103.5, and CHIN FM.
Berns was referred to as the “godfather of the Toronto rave scene,” and with good reason. The DJ was one of the people responsible for bringing parties into bigger and better venues in the mid-’90s, and he gave voice to ravers through both his work behind the scenes, and his booming voice on the radio and in clubs.
Berns’s various promotions—including Nitrous, Atlantis, and Effective—took parties out of disused factories and warehouses and put them in high-profile spots such as the Ontario Science Centre, the CN Tower, and the Toronto Island Airport.
Along with Chris Sheppard, he was instrumental in getting early techno tracks on the station. He would talk about his love of raving on air and, through his media platform, exposed the scene to thousands. Berns wasn’t what you expected a raver to look like circa 1991. Already in his 40s when he started going to parties, he was frequently twice as old as everyone else in the room. That said, he was exactly what the scene needed—a big personality with a big vision; a man who appreciated showmanship and atmosphere, and felt like raves deserved to be in every major venue in the city and that every major venue in the city deserved a rave. At a time when other people in his age group were trying to shut raves down, he was an outspoken voice championing them as a cheerful, low-testosterone, low-aggression alternative to the club scene.
An openly proud gay man, Berns was also well known as a fixture at Toronto Pride events for more than 20 years. A true entrepreneur, visionary and lover of music, Don Berns will be missed by us all.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced. Friends are said to be planning a memorial in the Toronto area on April 18th.