CBC’s Rex Murphy retires after 21 years of radio

Rex Murphy

TORONTO – Rex Murphy wants his listeners to “have a rest and have someone new” as he prepares to bid farewell after 21 years as host of CBC’s Cross Country Checkup.

The wise-cracking and fiery critic from Newfoundland said he’s retiring from the popular call-in radio program after spending far longer than he ever contemplated in the broadcast chair.

Murphy, 68, made the decision to depart after the 50th anniversary of the open-line show was aired from Saskatoon, Sask., in June.

“That solidified some of my own thinking and I said, ‘Let’s not keep doing this just because you’re there,'” he said in an interview Tuesday, just days after making his plans public.

“I’ll keep at the other stuff, assuming they want me, for another little while. But I also don’t want to hang on forever and I don’t think people should.”

Murphy debuted as the show’s full-time host on Aug. 7, 1994 after several guest stints and quickly became a Sunday fixture for audiences spanning the country.

“I don’t think we were an exciting show, but I think it was a very friendly one, and for that I was very pleased,” he said.

Murphy fondly recalls memorable events that galvanized vast numbers of Canadians to call in, including the deaths of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau in 2000 and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Parliament Hill last fall.

He doesn’t want to play any role in deciding on his replacement, but does hope that going forward the show will keep its “civil, moderate” tone, he said.

“And remember that anybody who comes on and comes on cleanly, and wants to say something,” he said, “let them say what they want to say and let them think what they want to think.”

Murphy’s last day on air will be this Sunday, although he will continue broadcasting his signature commentaries on CBC’s The National.

— By Tamsyn Burgmann in Vancouver