Lifelong love of music puts Coral Andrews in the driver’s seat

Coral Andrews of CKWR’s The Afternoon Drive.
Photo Credit: Nadezhda Lyra of Mirrored Muse Imagery
by Steve Beilstein
For the Kitchener Citizen
September 12, 2019​​

Coral Andrews. You know her from 98.5 CKWR’s show The Afternoon Drive. For years, her energetic personality paired with her vast understanding of music, has made the hectic commute home at the end of a stressful day not only tolerable, but downright enjoyable.

Her presence on the radio is only one of many hats she wears. From writing a story about a local band for the Waterloo Region Record, to interviewing A-Listers like Monty Python’s Graham Chapman for international magazines, Andrews has done it all. Well read, well educated, and well spoken, her career choice seems tailor made for her.

Originally from Hamilton, she comes from a family who love music.

“My parents listened to a lot of soundtracks, so I really got into that,” Andrews explains. “My dad’s father
​was a very talented pianist. He was
​also a producer in theatre in England. So music was instilled in me at a very young age.”

When she was young, her parents moved the family to England where she was introduced to the British music scene. She was immediately enamoured and began what turned out to be a lifelong love affair with music.

​One of her mentors while she lived in England was a friend of her father’s.

“My dad’s best friend Brian Richmond got my brother and me into Manfred Mann and The Beatles, because his brother David Richmond was one of the original members of Manfred Mann. He’s been a guest on my radio show,” Andrews says.

After her family moved back to Kitchener, she got a job at the original Tu Lane Restaurant. Many bands would stop there to eat.

“I was working the night shift and I met a lot of bands when I was 15 and 16. My brother was in a band, so I thought this was cool,” Andrews chuckles.

However, one fateful day, October 3, 1970, her life almost ended.

Heading out to see the movie Woodstock, she attempted to catch a bus from Edgehill Drive just off of Highway 8, but the bus left without her. She tried to cross the road, but she never made it.

“It was raining. It was windy. It was eight o’clock at night,” Andrews remembers. “I started walking across the highway. I didn’t make it. A car went through a red light. It hit me and sent me toward Cambridge, and they found my purse and shoes 80 feet away from where I was standing. Then another car coming back from Cambridge caught my coat in its license plate and dragged me toward Kitchener.”

“It broke my pelvis, cracked my head open, and two weeks later I found out I had a broken ankle. After that everything changed. I had to learn how to sit up. I had to learn how to redo everything all over again. It’s like a before and after in your life.”

“I decided I’m going to get into music. I’m getting into theatre. That’s what I want to do. I don’t care what anybody thinks. I almost died,” Andrews said.

After that night, she put every ounce of energy into pursuing her goals.

While in hospital, her mentor Brian Richmond brought her a Bass Ukulele, which she learned to play.

Andrews went to Conestoga College and earned a diploma in Journalism. She pushed forward and things began to happen quickly - like fate had opened a floodgate to success.

Listening to all kinds of music became an obsession. She discovered a club called The Back Door below the Metro Tavern, where she was working as a waitress. That changed everything.

“I went down one night and said ‘this is really depressing’” to the DJ Mel. “He said ‘If you think you’re so good, then you do it’. So I did. I learned how to DJ,” Andrews laughs.

To add flair, she began dressing like the artists she was spotlighting each night. She became popular very quickly.
In the mid-eighties, another DJ asked her if she had ever thought about doing radio, which landed her the late night show on 98.5 CKWR from midnight to 3am.

“I wasn’t trained at all. There were two turntables and a microphone. The first thing I said was ‘booger’ because I was a huge fan of WKRP in Cincinnati,” Andrews laughs. The DJ on that 70s sitcom had been fired from a radio station for saying ‘booger’ on the air.

She did volunteer shows for local community stations CKMS and CKWR for almost 40 years before a paid position came up, and the Afternoon Drive was born.

In addition to her radio shows, and DJing, Andrews is also an accomplished journalist.

From the Waterloo Region Record, to Graffiti and Saturday Night magazines, she has interviewed some of the most prolific people in the entertainment industry, including Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, Bernard Fowler of The Rolling Stones, Lena Lovich, Lynn Redgrave, Cynthia Lennon (John Lennon’s first wife), to name a few.

She is a popular host when 98.5 CKWR emcees public events such as the Multicultural Festival and Strummerfest.

More recently she was asked to speak at a private event, talking to the Pathfinders, Girl Guides, and Rangers about her long and successful career in broadcasting and journalism. It was a chance for her to be a mentor to the younger generation.

Writing a book is another project that is underway.

With no signs of slowing down, you will always be able to count on one thing from her. When your work day is finished and you crawl into your car for the drive home and tune your radio to 98.5 CKWR, you will always hear these comforting words.

“Hi, this is Coral Andrews for 98.5 CKWR. Welcome to the Afternoon Drive.”
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