By Tyler Laing
The man who hosts CFUV’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Breakfast on Friday afternoons goes by many names. If you tune into his show (or if you’re at all familiar with the DJ at The Fox Showroom Pub at the Red Lion, who happens to be the same man) you’ll likely know him as the Reverend Donnie Black.
Though he was born Loran Werrun, our host had been carrying the nickname Don for some time. Then, while trying to establish the name concept for his most recent musical endeavour—the rock ‘n’ roll outfit Zappnin Black—Don had an idea. This was right around the time when Joey Ramone passed away, and the Rev, as he’s often called, is nothing if not reveren- tial toward the greats of his genre.
“I came back to the guys and said ‘Hey, we should be so-and-so Black,’” says Donnie, since the members of the Ramones each took Ramone as their stage surname. And if the Ramones could do it, so could Zappnin Black—leading to Tommy and Johnny and, of course, Donnie Black.
The group did a photo shoot for a magazine cover sometime later, and Don- nie put a white collar on his shirt, deciding then that he would be Reverend Black. When a buddy of his later saw the photo and asked about the collar, to which Don- nie responded, “Well, I am the Reverend Donnie Black,” this friend told Donnie about a Universal Life church in Modesto, California, where he could go to become ordained.
“So I go, ‘Well, what does it take?’” says Donnie, “and he goes, ‘You just have to know how to spell your name.’ So I went online, I searched the Universal Life Church, I ordained myself and then I became the Reverend Donnie Black.”
Shortly after this persona manifestation, while Donnie was rocking out with his band and volunteering at CFUV
to become one of the station’s hosts, Jay Saloy, then host of Rock ‘n’ Roll Breakfast, invited Donnie to join him as co-host for a session . . . which led to Donnie becoming Jai’s full-time co-host . . . and then eventu- ally to Donnie taking over the show when Jay moved to the east coast almost five years ago. Before long, Donnie’s one-hour slot had become a two-hour slot, and nowadays he sometimes gets three if the host of the show after him can’t come in.
A characteristic of Donnie’s show—and something that reverberates with his Reverend-ness—is the way he celebrates the deaths of rock ‘n’ roll greats. “I used to think it was morbid . . . and yeah, death is a morbid thing, but we are not harping on the fact that they died,” he says. “We are celebrating their memory and their legacy and their life, and music is a wonderful thing because it lasts forever, so long as we can play it.”
When I spoke with Donnie prior to the publishing of this article, his uncle, who also happened to be his godfather, had passed away the day before. He admitted to having a lot of experience with people in his life dying of cancer. Though he doesn’t see his show as a plat- form from which to preach to the public, certain experiences—such as the death of someone close, or denouncing alcohol after a lifetime of excess, which Donnie did over the air nearly six years ago—can lead to a message for the audience. “The only thing I have control over is the music that I’m playing whereas, opposed to the rest of the world, we don’t really have control over anything,” says Donnie. “Do good. Do good for yourself, do good for others, love your life while you got it because you hon- estly don’t know what’s going on tomor- row . . . you’ve been given a gift, whatever it is. Use it.”