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Terry David Mulligan tackles his hardest job yet—writing a memoir.
Terry David Mulligan began a career of risk-taking diversity when he made the move from Royal Mounted Police Officer to Radio DJ. Just in time for the music revolution of the ’60s, TDM was broadcasting on-air during a time when radio was king.
Mulligan soon transitioned into a music television icon, becoming “Canada’s first VJ” on the show Good Rockin’ Tonite and later moving to Much Music as the host of Much West. With a career that has traversed radio, the silver screen and even live theatre, Mulligan has been interacting with and interviewing celebrities for more than four decades.
His new book, Mulligan’s Stew—My Life… So Far, published by Heritage House Publishing, hit bookstores this October. While his book offers a glimpse into a lost and at times mythic period of music history, it also offers the touching and honest narrative of a man trying to navigate through life while balancing the often-conflicting interests of ethics, career, instinct and family.
Granville Online got to sit down with TDM and chat about his book, career and his general keeping-it-realness.
Terry David Mulligan poses with musician Frank Zappa.
G: Let’s start with the big one—what motivated you to write a memoir?
TDM: It was a tough experience for me to write this book. I didn’t actually think about it, I just started the journey. It certainly wasn’t on the top of my to-do list, and was never on a to-do list, to be honest. But then I saw a movie or read a book that had to do with WWII, and how many of those soldiers and nurses came back and never spoke of the war to their families. Their kids never knew what happened to them. They would die with their stories.
G: Is your family one of the reasons your book is so intimate and honest?
TDM: It is. Initially, I had wanted to do that. My address to the publishing house was “I just want to do this as a record for my kids—I think it’s interesting enough that it could be a book—but really I’m talking to them.” [I wanted] my children and their children and their future children to have a record of some of the things that I’ve done. And then it turned into a book.
G: I was very struck by the honesty of your narrative. You seem to be a pretty honest guy.
TDM: You’re bang on. For me to say that, it might sound kind of self-serving, but I know myself better than anyone. [My honesty] is one of the things that ultimately works for me, but it also gets me into trouble because I do speak my mind and have a moral compass.
Terry during his time at Much Music in the ’90s. (Image: BELL MEDIA/MUCH MUSIC)
G: From reading your book, it seems intuition is something you really value. Could you speak to that?
TDM: I can’t tell you where it came from. It was just clarity, something I believed in. It’s an internal dialogue. That’s something about the book that was hard to come to grips with. We all have an internal dialogue and the only person that hears it is you. You know when you’re lying to yourself or when you’re fooling yourself. So a book is like an internal dialogue—you sort of spew it forth and hope that it works. That’s where I was having this push-pull. It’s my life—is anyone going to be interested in this?
G: What role has intuition played in your life? To what extent does intuition play a role in your life now?
TDM: Everything. Everything. Absolutely everything. You certainly get to trust it. But also, if I make a character decision about someone or something, and I find out later that my intuition has failed me, I’ll go back and apologize. It’s important, because to carry that weight inside you is no fun. I want to lighten my load as much as I can and just do the right thing. That’s all. I constantly surround myself with positive people. It’s one of the keys to life itself. People who see life lighter than most do.
G: Outside of valuing a musician for their music, you seem to really value the inspiring characters behind the musician, like Tom Cochrane or Sting.
TDM: I was just drawn to people who were strong, who could talk about their own music and didn’t have to look to the manager or the publicist to explain their own music. You could tell the people that had been shaped and put together by their management teams, and I just didn’t have a lot of time for that.
I was attracted to people I could tell were not playing the music game. You could see—and I never mean to bash this day and age and today’s rock and roll or anything—but many of the groups you’ve grown up with [referring to the interviewer, who is in her mid-twenties] have literally been molded and shaped.
It’s cyclical: many of the girl groups in the early sixties, those wonderful singer songwriters, were totally shaped by the industry. Their music wasn’t really their own, even though some really great songs were written then. And [that trend] is back again. You know, you have to be a really strong person to stay above it.
So I went looking for the independent souls within music—people you could tell were going to do their music no matter what happened. Like Neil Young, ya know?
‘Mulligan’s Stew — My Life… So Far’ is published by Heritage House Publishing and is available now.