While certainly not the pride of Lethbridge (quite the opposite), Brocket 99 is one of those enigmas that started as an inside joke and ended up being an underground phenomenon. If you’re from Southern Alberta, or have spent any good amount of time here, you’ve probably heard of a phony native radio station called Brocket 99.
But before I continue, I’d like to add a caveat to this article. I don’t agree with its portrayal of our aboriginal community, and only offer this as an insight into a subject unfamiliar to many. For years I’ve heard mention of Brocket 99, but had never been exposed to it. That is until a few weeks ago, when my curiousity finally led me to downloading (discretion advised), listening and learning more about it.
Lethbridge is a multi-cultural community with a flourishing population of First Nations people, many from surrounding reserves in Southern Alberta. Brocket is a small town on the Piikani Nation Reserve, located roughly 70KM west of Lethbridge on Highway 3 (between Pincher Creek and Fort Macleod). Brocket 99 is a fake, satirical FM radio station (that broadcasts in mono) set upon this reserve.
There are many stories as to the origins of this recording. Some say it was a group of university radio students, expelled for trying to sell the tape in the U of L bookstore. More popular is the rumour of it being our local celebrity and former radio DJ, Mark Campbell. Mark, being interviewed on the Michael Anthony Show, was quoted as saying:
The tape sounded an awful lot like me so the people in Southern Alberta who had heard me, and they had only heard me because I was just here longer than anyone else because I never left. So people would automatically assume. (They would say) ‘Hey that tape there. That racy native tape. That’s Mark Campbell.’
Although Mark flat out denies any involvement in the production, it seems he does have some knowledge of those involved. In particular is one fellow who goes by the name of “Ernie Scar,” the main host for Brocket 99.
Back in 1986, a cassette tape of a fake radio show called “AIDS Radio” fell upon the ears of Ernie, a local DJ. A spoof of a gay radio station, it featured characters with names like “Hugh Jardon.” The tape provided inspiration for Brocket 99, a show hosted by “indians” that parodied the stereotypes of our aboriginal population, and radio stations in general.
A few copies of the 45-minute cassette were made for friends, who made copies for their friends. Going viral, it became notorious for being offensive and politically-incorrect. Even condemned as racist material, the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission once sought the public to come forward any information.
In an interview with Ernie Scar, he disputed its roots in racism and questioned the show’s popularity:
This is actually quite absurd, and to a degree even distressing that someone can be considered a star over an underground, infantile, profane gag.
Yet the tape still continued to surface over the years. Fast-forward to 2009 and it’s still talked about. There are even two documentaries – one produced in 2007 and the other in-development. The latter features Ernie Scar himself. But unfortunately, I was unable to get a hold of either. My hopes are that they do become publicly available, since there is a lot of insight to be gleaned from the people interviewed.
The question remains of why this thing has not died out yet? Is there some relevance to this day that keeps it going, and what is it? Or is it just entertainment, appealing to some sub-culture of Lethbridge?
So there’s a little background to Brocket 99 – I’ll leave you to formulate your own opinion on this subject. Let me know in the comments what your thoughts are.