Pop Culture

Published August 17, 2023

Former Much Music VJ Bill Welychka releases memoir "A Happy Has-Been": Talks about his connection to Barrie

I remember buying Paul McCartney's Greatest Hits at Sam the Record Man at the Five Points in Barrie"

The 90's music and television scene was a special time in Canada, with the prominent Much Music being played in the background across most TVs nationwide.

If you tuned into the beloved music station, chances are you caught a curly-haired VJ (Video Jock) named Bill Welychka.

Barrie 360 had a chance to talk with him about his connection to Barrie, having what he called "the best job in the world," and why he's happy being a "has been."

Through the 90s and early 2000, Welychka introduced music videos, interviewed musicians across the globe, and worked behind the scenes creating round-the-clock content for music lovers on Much Music & Much More Music.

Bill Welychka during his days as a VJ and music journalist on Much Music. Photo supplied via Much Music

Today, he works as a journalist and news anchor for a television station in Kingston, where he loves being involved in his local community.

Throughout his career he's conducted nearly 5000 interviews and has recently shared some of those stories in his memoir "Bill Welychka: A Happy Has-Been. Exciting Times and Lessons Learned by One of Canada's Foremost Entertainment Journalists"

Welychka spent the latter half of his High school years in the Barrie area, graduating from Innisdale high school. The experience came with some complications.

"My mom wanted to move to Barrie from Thornhill to retire, and those are delicate years for a teenager," he explains. "I was removed from everything I thought I knew and loved. Making new friends can be difficult for a teen, so I became a loner."

At this time, he discovered his love for the band "The Cure," which he still loves today.

Bill Welychka during his days as a VJ music journalist on Much More Music. Photo supplied via Much Music

"The Cure" was all about individuality, and I know it sounds dramatic, but it represents a period of soul-searching for me when I was young."

However, warming up to his new city didn't take long.

"It was only during my first summer in Barrie that I realized I loved this city," he says. "It's the perfect place to be on a hot summer day. I still keep in touch with some friends from school, and my mom is buried there."

"I actually remember buying Paul McCartney's Greatest Hits at Sam the Record Man at the Five Points in Barrie," he says. Jokingly adding," I assume it's not there anymore. There aren't many record stores around anymore, sadly."

The list of people Welychka has met and interviewed is long as it is impressive. However, some got away.

"I never interviewed Paul McCartney," he says. "I interviewed Ringo, Yoko Ono, and John Lennon's kids. Everyone around the Beatles I've spoken to except Paul McCartney. I think he would be a great interview. I would also like to interview Lady Gaga."

After being with Much/ Much More music for over 15 years, in 2005 he left his job to pursue new opportunities.

"I was done with music journalism, and I wanted to reinvent myself," he says.

After local television stints in Edmonton and Ottawa, he happily landed in Kingston, where he works as a news anchor and host for a local station and is heavily involved in his community.

The idea to write a book came organically. For several years he's written a column for a Kingston paper, sharing stories about his past. The column became a hit, eventually being syndicated across Canada. In 2021, during the pandemic, he realized he had a great foundation for a book.

As for the title," Has been," he says it's tongue-in-cheek.

Bill Welychka during his days as a VJ music journalist on Much More Music. Photo supplied via Much Music

"Some people only know me from my work on Much, and then I fell off the face of the earth," he explains. "I'm not national anymore, but I'm still on television on a smaller scale. So some people assume because of this that I'm a 'has been.' "

Being out of the national spotlight hasn't changed his passion for telling people's stories.

"Nothing has changed regarding being curious about people and having a chance to tell their stories or promote events and charities. The audience size has changed; I don't mind that."

"And we get back to the book's title, 'Happy.' I'm the happiest I've been in my entire career of 35 years of doing this" he says."

Although he left the music side of journalism, his love of music is still strong. He's not surprised he remembers buying Paul McCartney's Greatest Hits at the Five Points because music makes us remember important and random life events.

"The powerful thing about music is how memories return," he explains. "When I was constantly driving from Ottawa to Barrie the year my mom was dying of cancer, I wouldn't even remember the drive sometimes because I was so immersed in music and thinking of my mom and the music. It was my travel companion. It's beautiful, and I couldn't live life without music."

His memoir a Happy Has-been is out now. You can get more information at billwelychka

feature image provided by Will Welychka

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