Kingston’s Bill Welychka discusses debut memoir ‘A Happy Has-Been’

Bill Welychka (left) and Paul Langlois with Welychka’s newly-released memoir, A Happy Has-Been, in downtown Kingston. Submitted photo.

Few career journeys better encapsulate the changing landscape of Canadian media than Bill Welychka’s. For over three decades, Welychka has been a staple of the Canadian television industry, hosting national and regional programming for a wide range of entertainment and news outlets. Locally, Welychka is most known for his work with Global Kingston, where he currently co-hosts Global News Morning and occasionally fills in on weather during CKWS News at 6:00. However, Welychka is also widely recognized for the 10-plus years he spent as a MuchMusic VJ in Toronto. 

Welychka’s career has now been fully recounted in book form, as the television and media personality has penned his debut memoir: A Happy Has-Been: Exciting Times and Lessons Learned by one of Canada’s Foremost Entertainment Journalists.

For a career that has spanned multiple decades and has seen Welychka appear on some of Canada’s most prominent television news programs, some may wonder why the host openly embraced the term ‘has-been’ in his debut book release.

According to Welychka, the memoir’s self-deprecating title is all in good fun.

“I had no idea people would react one way or another to it,” he said. “I’ve had people actually get mad at me… It’s self-deprecating, I am aware of that. I don’t take myself too seriously.”

His career has been spent in several different markets, and Welychka explained people aren’t always aware he’s still working in the television industry: “There’s a lot of people who only know me from [MuchMusic]. If they hear my name recently, they’re going to think, ‘What ever happened to that guy — is he dead?’” 

As for what inspired the book, Welychka said the idea of writing a memoir had been percolating for some time. After writing a few entertainment columns for the Kingston Whig-Standard and appearing on various podcasts during the pandemic, Welychka realized he had enough material to release a book about his career.

“Stories started coming out of me that I’d forgotten about,” he said, “and I started writing those down. It was easy to look back.” 

While some of the events included in the book are more than 30 years past, Welychka said it was easy for him to remember key dates and events from his storied career because he is “really weird with trivia. The weirdest things will come back to me very easily, like dates, times, and people.”

Welychka spent approximately a year and a half writing the book, mostly on weekends. Once the memoir was finished, he worked hard to secure a publisher who could ensure the book was released in 2024.

“I went with an independent publisher who said they could have it out by August, and it came out in August. It was just an important year. It’s the 35th anniversary of me working in television,” he noted. 

Aside from Welychka’s own personal milestone, 2024 also marks a special year for fans of MuchMusic: a feature-length documentary, 299 Queen Street West, is due out later this year. The film recounts the history of the famous television channel, including iconic clips and interviews from the many personalities who called MuchMusic home for close to 30 years. Welychka, who was interviewed as part of the film, felt it made sense to release the book in close proximity to the documentary’s debut.

Despite feeling comfortable recounting decades’ worth of stories, some more intimate than others, Welychka’s biggest challenge was navigating the world of literary publishing, which was completely foreign to him: “the whole publishing world, dealing with the publisher and hearing back and forth from the editor about what works and doesn’t work.” However, he said, “for the most part, it was fun.”

In A Happy Has-Been, Welychka provides readers with a first-hand account of his days at MuchMusic, including his brush with celebrities from Madonna to members of The Beatles. However, according to the writer, the book is about more than the glitz and glamour of his time interviewing rock stars.

“What I didn’t want the book to be was ramblings of some old guy, like, ‘Let me tell you about the time I interviewed Mick Jagger, or Madonna, or David Bowie,’” Welychka said. 

But the book still includes stories featuring some of the biggest names in music from the past 30-plus years.

“There’s a lot of information about those artists and what they’ve said in interviews to me, but I really wanted anyone [to be able] to pick up this book,” explained Welychka. “If you don’t know who I am, it’s an interesting read. If you do know who I am, it’s an interesting read.”

While the content itself is accessible to a wide range of readers, the material is presented in a light and easy format. Welychka remarked, “There’s 22 chapters in there, and each chapter sort of stands alone. It’s the kind of book that you can read a couple of chapters, put it down, and then pick it back up again, and not have to look back at the previous chapter. So it’s a fun read.” The memoir also has a foreword written by Paul Langlois of The Tragically Hip.

In addition to the stories from Welychka’s days in major media markets like Toronto and Ottawa, A Happy Has-Been also includes plenty of local content for Kingston readers. While the host might be best known for his time with MuchMusic and national programming like Breakfast Television, Welychka has since become a popular television personality in Kingston. 

“I’m still working in television. I’ve never stopped working in television. I just am now in a smaller market that I absolutely love and cherish, and I love where I’m working and who I’m working with. So it’s a bit of a nod to all of that,” Welychka said of his time spent working in the Limestone City and its role in the book. 

Since 2012, Welychka has been a familiar face on a number of different programs on Global Kingston. When asked what makes Kingston such an enjoyable place to work, the host pointed to the strong sense of community that exists throughout the city.

“Talk about the spirit of a community. How many people show up for charity [events] or donate to charity? How many people are willing to take care of others or elevate the people around them? That’s what, to me, a community is: are these people taking care of the young and the old, the sick and the poor? People step up, and I love that about Kingston,” he said. 

Submitted image.

Since releasing A Happy Has-Been just over a month ago, Welychka has received an outpouring of support from readers throughout the country who are discovering the book and his story.

“[It’s been] so heartwarming to hear stories about what MuchMusic or my interviews meant to people,” he said. “[It] really blows me away. I’ve never taken my role for granted, and I’m grateful for everything.”

In terms of professional reviews, several outlets have already praised A Happy Has-Been, including The Wire MEGAzine, which wrote: “This notable book is a must-have piece to add to your collection of highly addictive reads. It will thrill all his fans!”

For the last several weeks, Welychka has been on a mini book tour to promote the memoir, which included recent stops in cities like Toronto, Peterborough, and Ottawa. As for what it’s been like connecting with readers of the book face-to-face, Welychka said, “It’s rejuvenating [and] almost beautiful to meet people and hear their story. My story really is no different than anyone else. Everyone has a story… I love hearing everyone’s story. For 35 years that’s what I’ve done: I’ve told people’s stories, whether it was David Bowie or a local real estate agent.”

Locally, the book has been well received by Kingston readers, with independent bookstore Novel Idea already on its second run since its initial shipment sold out. A Happy Has-Been will also be celebrated during some upcoming events in the region. On Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, a book signing and meet-and-greet will take place in Indigo in Kingston’s Cataraqui Centre (945 Gardiners Road). Then, on Sunday, October 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Welychka will appear at the Kinsmen Dream Home (1600 Boardwalk Drive).

A Happy Has-Been is available now in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats, wherever books are sold. More information on the book, including Welychka’s tour schedule, can be found on the writer’s website. 

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