Ken “The General” Grant, an iconic voice in Ottawa radio, passed away at the age of 88 on December 13, 2023, leaving the airwaves silent. Grant’s rich voice was a fixture on CFRA in the mornings for those who grew up in the Ottawa region in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. His well-known farewell, “Forward ho!” turned into a beloved daily ritual for thousands of kids making their way to school.
“I woke up with the General” was the slogan echoing across the region, encapsulating the profound impact Grant had on the community. This phrase not only reflected the listeners’ mornings but also inspired Grant’s 2015 memoir, aptly titled “I Woke Up with the General, Too.”
Grant’s dominance on the airwaves was unparalleled, a feat unlikely to be replicated in the national capital region. In a 2015 interview with CTV News Ottawa, he shared his perspective on consistently being number one in the ratings, saying, “I sweated those ratings out every time they came out, and they’d come out and say, ‘Okay, you’re number one again, thank you very much.'”
Former CFRA morning host Steve Madely dubbed Grant the king of morning radio in Ottawa, revealing that one-third of all radios in the city would tune in to his show. Grant’s influence extended beyond the radio booth; he was a dedicated community figure, making hundreds of appearances annually, even well into the evenings, despite his early mornings.
Grant’s commitment to community service was remarkable. Known as the first in North America to promote the Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy, he played a pivotal role in Ottawa becoming the first Canadian city to raise $1 million on the annual Labour Day telethon. His cookbook publication contributed $50,000 to the Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre.
A strong supporter of Canada’s military, Grant often led troupes of entertainers to remote bases, bringing laughter-filled shows to servicemen and women. His contributions to various causes showcased a man who used his platform not just for entertainment but also for making a positive impact in the lives of those in need.
Hired at CFRA in 1961, Grant spent over 30 years with the station before moving to Oldies 1310 and ultimately retiring from broadcasting in 2001. The origin of his nickname, “The General,” was a stroke of chance. A few weeks after he was hired, newscaster Campbell McDonald signed off a news story about former U.S. President and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant with, ‘And now, here’s our own general, Ken Grant.’ Embracing the title, Grant adopted a Civil War general persona, complete with costume, and it became an integral part of his identity.
Despite his fame, Grant remained remarkably humble. In an interview with CTV News in 2015, he emphasized his commitment to paying for his own tickets, whether at a football, baseball, or hockey game, and at the theater. This humility, combined with his enduring sense of humor, endeared him to fans and colleagues alike.
In his last year, as Grant battled declining health, he maintained his trademark sense of humor, joking with healthcare professionals. Steve Madely reflected on Grant’s enduring humor, stating, “He filled everything he did with that sense of humor. He was always joking. In this past year, as he was in declining health, in and out of hospital, he maintained that sense of humor. He was always joking with doctors, nurses, and PSWs.”
Ken “The General” Grant’s legacy extends far beyond the airwaves. His impact on Ottawa’s radio scene, coupled with his dedication to community service, ensures that his memory will endure in the hearts of those he touched with his voice and his unwavering commitment to making a difference. The silence left by his passing is a poignant reminder of the indelible mark he made on the Ottawa community and beyond.