Don Berns – Rave In Peace (1947 – 2015)

Dr-Trance-RavesOur friend, mentor and one of the greatest voices to ever grace a radio dial, has passed on to the next existence.

Don Berns, “The Godfather Of Rave”, aka Dr. Trance, aka Foonman…Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Brampton, Toronto – and the WORLD!

Radio, Television, Theatre, Comedy & Community…somewhere there’s a hell of a show going on!

 Please leave comments, memories, etc. at the bottom of the page – and share to your community.

There is also a memorial page at the Humphrey Funeral Home.


72 thoughts on “Don Berns – Rave In Peace (1947 – 2015)

  1. I met Don in 1985 when I was program director of WBRU, the station at Brown University where he had gotten his start in radio. At the time he was at CFNY and it was clear that it was the dream job. To be able to spend some more time with him, I went to Toronto to help him move from one house to another. It was a memorable weekend. I continued to stay in touch with Don infrequently in the passing years. I’m now president of the board of WBRU and serve with Jerry Hubeny, who had trained Don at the station.

  2. I first met Don in the late 70’s. He was at KLIF and I was at KNUS. Then when I moved to KRTH-FM (K-EARTH 101) in Los Angeles, he was in San Diego. I visited him almost every weekend. Later we reconnected when I was doing mid-days at WPEZ and 3WS in Pittsburgh. Don helped me through many dark days. He was an absolute unconditional friend. I am so sad about finding this on the internet. I am relatively new to searching for information about old friends. RIP dear friend.

  3. Don lived a couple of doors down from me when I was I high school & he was on the air during the day at WKBW . I had a crush on his purple & white car . A road runner!!!! His parties were legendary. Never attended but cleaned up many. RIP Don . Thanks for great memories

  4. Just Googled Don Berns and discovered that as 2015 ends, Don had already said goodnight. I’m a Brit who spent 1990/91 sofa surfing in downtown T.O. The soundtrack to the experience was CFNY and Don was a larger than life part of it. Go well into the night. You touched many hearts!

  5. Don was approachable & personable, very agile in any on-air-situation, and incredibly supportive of local talent in his stations’ areas.
    Here in Buffalo, he did more to support local groups than anyone I can recall –
    very supportive of Bands-Of-The-Era including Weekend / Weekend Trip, The Road,
    and several others. He was a one-of-a-kind personality, and he will be missed.
    TomH.,Buffalo, NY

  6. Just now learning of Don Berns passing. He was my all-time favorite DJ. Loved his work at WICE in Providence and used to listen to him in Troy and Buffalo at night after he left here. Don attended a WICE radio reunion in 1986 and did a one hour show. I still have that show on a cassette tape and listen to it every once in awhile. Listened to it this afternoon and wanted to see if I could find him online when I discovered he had passed away. RIP Don… of the all-time greats will be sorely missed.

  7. It was a shock to see an obituary notice for Don in the Brown Alumni Magazine of July/August 2015. I joined WBRU during my college junior year as part of my career exploration. Don, Paul, and others were already accomplished DJs at WBRU and at other commercially owned stations in Providence. He was one of the people at the station who seemed to devote 110 % of their life to broadcasting, and another 110% to being a college student. I was just one of those people who DJed for a few hours a week, and never worked at the station during the vacations or during the summer.
    We were not close even as station co-workers, and I did not keep in contact with him after graduation. But he was an inspiration when I thought about what a person could do with one’s life.

  8. Back in the mists of time (or so it now seems), I took on the task – on behalf of EYE WEEKLY – of convening an unique luncheon of a dozen or so “Movers & Shakers” within the local electronic/rave/dance music community. After having returned from both Burning Man and an extended holiday stay in Ibiza, I felt that it was essential – and long overdue – for one of the free urban weeklies to start paying attention to Toronto’s own burgeoning club and DJ culture.

    The goal of the roundtable invitation was to pick the best brains involved in the scene in order to tailor, appropriately, the paper’s future coverage of what I knew was part of an important evolution in the city’s varied musical history. In selecting the list of invitees, one name kept surfacing as a ‘must have’ participant: that name was Don Berns. And so, at long last, I met this jovial, helpful and respected outsized personality.

    Soon thereafter, there was a crisis within the dance/club community, prompted by some unfortunate incidences of late night overindulgence, causing undue fear and panic within the public, fanned by the unbalanced quasi-hysterical coverage by the mainstream media. I remember the summer day when Don led the response and MC’d an important pro-dance music event at City Hall. Towards the end of it, he made a comment from the stage about the crowd’s ‘accoutrements’, a term I found quirky and exceptionally funny, especially given the large audience of glowing multi-coloured ravers who were present. Afterwards, I teased him about his use of this French polysyllabic “$50 word” (as we termed it) and thereafter, whenever we met, we made sure that one of us would slip it sardonically into our always lively conversations. It became a kind of shorthand, a friendly checking in with each other.

    Over the last dozen years or so, Don and I also exchanged emails weekly, sometimes even more often. Whenever I found an item on the web that included some interesting musical piece (from the ridiculous to the sublime) or featured gorgeous photography (anything from atoms to the cosmos) or a video/article that was out of the ordinary (from the novel to the just plain bizarre), I always made a point of sending it along to him.

    On occasion, I would even email him a photo of some winsome guy found on a ‘cheeky’ Tumblr site. In particular, Don was partial to redheads, a rarity within the gay community; the only person I knew who openly proclaimed this preference. And so about a week before he passed away, I emailed him a pic of someone I thought he might find, er, of interest. He wrote back and jokingly enquired as to how he might encounter this fetching youth; that he had a number of ‘accoutrements’ to share with him.

    That response was pure Don Berns: ever silly, self-deprecating, charming and, as he would have undoubtedly phrased it, ‘always willing to lend a lad a hand’.

  9. Wow. This man’s music fueled so many great parties. Flight of the Ornithopter is the stuff of rave legends. Rest in peace Dr. Trance. You will not be forgotten.

  10. so sad to hear of the passing of the great Don Berns…my memories of him take me back to his days at KB radio…motivated me to search out and play my tapes of him doing his year end reviews of the early 70’s…sad day indeed!

  11. Don was a mentor of mine during my 20-year career as a DJ, dating back to the early 90’s when Don was a host on Energy 108. I was also privileged to have seen Don on several theatre stages throughout the GTA. A tremendous talent who will be greatly missed. #RaveInPeace

  12. I just learned about this. I’m so saddened by this news! Growing up in Buffalo, I listened to Don Berns on the old WKBW radio station. In those days radio personalities actually HAD personality and Don Berns was my favorite! I still recall that crazy laugh of his. There was a time he was reading a commercial, as the DJ’s had to do, and the advertising spiel for some dept. store began with “Bathing suits are half off.” Don paused, and then that insane laugh broke out. Every year at Christmas he would read this nutty poem called “The Night Before the Morning After.” It began with ” ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, there were empties and butts left by some drunken louse…” My brother recorded it one year on cassette tape, but I believe the tape is long since lost. When they moved Don to nights, my sisters and I used to listen to the radio at night in bed when we were supposed to be sleeping. Don used to close his shows with a long list of “good nights” to various people. My sisters and I sent in a request to him to add “Monsignor Money” to the list (it was a name we had for a church pastor that never talked about anything in his sermons except how the congregation wasn’t giving enough the collection basket.) Imagine our screams of delight the night he added, “Good night, Msgr. Money!” to the list. He usually closed with “A Dr. and Mrs. Berns Production.” When he left the Buffalo area I called him to express my dismay, and was amazed that he took my call. I knew he was into acting and singing, and I still can hear his voice saying “I can’t be a DJ forever.” Well…be that as it may, or as it was, his loss to radio is a great loss to his fans. RIP Don!

  13. The first time I ever became familiar with the name “Dr. Trance” was through an audio recording of the “Dr. Trance Show” that I’d taped from Energy 108 during my 2nd visit to Toronto in early August 1995 (my very first visit to Toronto was 2nd-4th July 1995). I live in Dallas/Fort Worth, and back in the 90’s we had sort of “our own version of ‘Dr Trance’ here in Dallas/Fort Worth – DJ Jeff K who hosted a weekly Saturday night rave/techno/house/trance show called ‘EdgeClub’94’ on 94.5 FM KDGE Dallas/Ft Worth from ’91-’96. Still, I probably wouldn’t have ever known about ‘Dr. Trance’ if I’d not visited Toronto and recorded a few minutes of his show.
    However, it was only last year (May 2014) that I was finally able to “put two and two together” and figure out and confirm that “Dr. Trance” was indeed Don Berns. First, I googled “Dr. Trance Toronto rave 90s” and then found “Don Berns aka ‘Dr Trance’. Still, I wanted to be certain so on 13 May 2014 I emailed Don Berns via Facebook Messenger and sent him my mp3 recording. Don promptly and enthusiatically replied back and confirmed: “That is indeed me, Philip…and DJ Echo is Marc Paquet… ”
    Don and I also corresponded back and forth a few more times times. Unfortunatley, we never did figure out who the other guy “DJ Digital” was from the “Dr Trance” show segment I’d recorded from Energy 108 back in August 1995. I’d originally thought and was hoping that his friend DJ Echo (Marc Paquet) might have been the same “DJ Echo” associated with a (for many years unknown) didgeridoo hard techno track that I’d recorded from a Sydney radio station 2 years later in March 1997. At the end, an Aussie female dj announces “that’s a guy called ‘Echo’…Morrow”. DJ Echo? Well, not quite! I finally found out just this past February (2015)that the name and artist of the mysterious ‘didge acid techno trance’ track that I’d recorded in Sydney back in March 1997 is called “Didgeridoo” (Corroboree Mix) – Edwin Morrow (1995). Edwin Morrow aka DJ Edwin was a Brisbane based DJ who sometimes went by the name “EGGO”. Back in the 90’s he was the resident DJ at a Brisbane night venue called The Beat-and was well-respected within the Brisbane dance music community. Sadly, I also learned that DJ Edwin Morrow passed away on Sunday 17 March 2014-he was only 45 🙁 Hence, when the Aussie female dj mentioned at the end “that’s a guy called ‘Eggo’ Morrow”-it wasn’t ‘DJ Echo’ from the Dr. Trance Show. On 10 February 2015, I followed up with Don via FB Messenger to let him know that I finally found out (after 18 yrs) that the name of that track was “Didgeridoo” – Edwin Morrow-it was released in 1995 on Central Station Records Australia. I also thanked Don once again for confirming the info for me regarding the “Dr Trance” show.
    At 7:53 AM 16 February 2015 – Don replied back to me on Facebook Messenger:
    “That’s a very strange story – thanks for sharing!”

    And these were the the last words he shared with me. I’m very grateful for the words we shared during the past year. He seemed to be very nice and knowledgable.
    A few weeks later, I was quite shocked and sad when I discovered via the Remembering Energy 108 group page on Facebook that Don Berns aka Dr. Trance had passed away. I first discovered “Dr. Trance”on Energy 108 back in August 1995 by luck-and only because I’d decided at that time to press the “Record” button on my AIWA Recordable Walkman and capture those 9 raving minutes.
    Finally, I’d like to express my condolences and sympathy to Don’s family, his closest friends and also everyone else in the Toronto dance/rave/techno/trance music community who were lucky enough to experience and enjoy Don’s talent…
    whether it was on the RADIO and/or at the RAVES-my heart goes out to you.
    Thank you for the music!
    RIP Don Berns “Dr. Trance” from Toronto
    Also.. RIP DJ Edwin Morrow from Brisbane
    Two legendary ravers – ‘Raving In Paradise’

  14. R.I.P. Donny Boy..!! I remember pulling you aside just before you took the stage at a Better Days Party in 94 and telling you to get up there and Go Fu*king Mental! It was such a good vibe at that party And as you Bounced back and forth across the stage Going Bananas and Spinning one of the best sets I heard in quite awhile I realized it was something I would never forget! Everybody noticed you were really going for it that night my Friend..!! You Will Be Missed..!!

  15. A nice read. I first had the pleasure of hearing Don “On Air” through the transmission waves of the late great CFNY! (back in the late 80’s) gracing his presence with some very note worthy tunes! he had also surprisingly arrived one day at my old highschool ‘back in the day’ with the radio crew to speak to us about careers in Radio broadcasting. I would for sure say – that he definitely was one of the more colorful personalities that I can remember! I later connected with Don in Toronto with likeminded DJ friends at 23Hop (it was an interesting experience to say the least!) most definitely fresh and unique! Anyway, to make it short (Without getting too detailed) I would really consider Don to be a highly successful person! and by that I mean; His presence has inspired many people and gave them memorable moments, in one way or another…This is the ultimate true success story in my mind! So, I just wanted to leave a personal note and say Thank you Don, for the laughs! insight and for being inspirational! along with our good friend Glen! God Bless…

  16. Don was a true godfather of the Toronto rave scene. He is one of the few that introduced me to electronic music. In fact if it was not for Don I doubt I would ever drop a needle on the record , He was a very inspiration figure in my early days and involvement with the Toronto rave scene. I will miss him for sure but will never forget the moments and good times the whole crew had at Wemf… there is always this picture of Don in My mind where he is walking around Wemf with his cute dog stopping and talking to everyone making sure everything is ok… When Don was around we all knew this event will be great ! and it always was… Thank you brother for the Good times.. Rave on.!

  17. I woke up the morning of March 2nd, and the first thing I read was that my friend, Don Berns, passed away unexpectedly the previous day.

    I first met Don in the late 1980’s, when Don had the unenviable position of program director at CFNY, at the time when upper management had pushed for a shift to top-40 music. You always knew when he was coming your way, with that booming voice and huge laugh. He had this amazing talent – he could be dead serious and all business: a knowledgeable, intelligent deal-maker one minute, and the next minute the guy on stage who is the life of the party, leading the crowd and pouring energy into the room.

    Don reinvented himself several times – he developed a love for electronic dance music, and adopted his alter-ego, Dr. Trance. Working as a club DJ in Toronto at the time, we spent time talking about mixing, music and more. He had a very unique viewpoint, a viewpoint based on years in the industry, and on a love of the music.

    Don was one of the organizers behind the 2003 CFNY reunion, and I have to say without his organization and the huge amount of work he put into it, it would not have happened. He put many hours of stress and hard work into every aspect of the preparation, but to see him laughing and joking on stage during the event, you would never have known he was anything but just a guy that showed up to have some fun and joke with old friends.

    I remember in the early 2000’s, after not having seen him for some time, he stopped by my office one day, we were collaborating on something that escapes my mind at the moment. I was shocked – Don was half the man he once was! He told me that his doctors told him “lose weight or die” – and so he chose the former. He said he had never felt better. I was so happy for him. This was about the time that he was doing afternoon drive on 103.5. I called him one afternoon to talk about some song he had just played on the air, and after talking for a minute, he said, “hang on” – and next thing I know I was on the air with him, discussing the song and where the band had come from. Afterwards, he said “can you call again tomorrow? Let’s do this every day.” So I became a daily caller on this show, talking about “old school” dance music. I have to say, it was tough work to keep up with him on the air – he was sharp, brilliant, witty.

    Don did a ton of voice work. You could hear his voice on radio and TV everywhere. I remember once seeing an insurance commercial on TV here in the US, which featured a little dog. At the end of the commercial, the dog spoke a few words, and I knew that voice straight away. That kind of thing happened all the time. Incidentally, he later told me that he spent eight hours in the studio for that commercial, saying those same few words over and over again for the commercial producers, and in the end they ended up using the very first take. He became the voice of countless radio stations, TV networks and documentaries, all over North America.

    He started doing comedy and stage work: I used to go down to the Bad Dog Theatre on the Danforth to watch him do improv workshops all the time. He was so sharp, his instant, brilliant and ascerbic wit never failed to have the place helpless in laughter. He went on to do larger and larger stage productions, and more parts in TV and films.

    We lived reasonably close to one another, and I have fond memories of time spent at his beautiful home, dogs running around, swimming in the pond, always lots of people there. He had a sizeable portion of the old CFNY vinyl library at his house, and we would talk music for hours.

    Living in Cleveland now, I rarely got to see him; while we talked, it’s probably been four years since I saw him last. I just talked to him last week. We had made plans to get together. And now he’s gone. I can’t believe it.

    Don touched SO MANY people. He was larger than life, a very smart man with a love of life and people – and of music. He leaves a huge, gaping chasm behind that can never be filled – he was one of a kind.


    I run the web site, and there are a few of Don’s old air checks on there should you care to listen (and laugh) one more time: Don Berns Airchecks

    1. Thank you for this excellent read. I’m going to have to look up his resume and seek out some of his contributions to film and television. 🙂

  18. This is Matt, Don’s “man wife” lol for about 20 years. Just getting the time now to view everything posted on this page. Before I begin, thank you all for keeping his life not forgotten.

  19. I met Don on his first day at CFNY in 1986. I wasn’t long out of radio college and this big personality with that booming voice came down the hall with a smile ear-to-ear and his hand out to shake mine. He asked me about me, my aspirations, what I was doing for the station. I asked about his career. It was my first of many great conversations with him.

    Don was full of life and full of emotion. His temper was as big as his personality but we all knew his heart was bigger than all of it. Don loved radio. He cherished music. He adored building and working with a team. He was a big ham who never took himself seriously.

    He did take his craft very seriously and defended great radio, his team, and the industry he loved so much. He then reinvented himself and crushed the clubs as Dr. Trance and again made his first love – music – the star.

    Anyone who truly knew Don knew he had a heart as big as his adopted home of Toronto. I thanked him often for giving that radio student the shot behind the microphone at the station I loved so much and the countless breaks after that.

    I last saw Don a few years ago and that big kid was alive and well and I know he’s got the dance floor packed where he is now.

    Thanks Don. Trance well, my friend.

  20. So sad to hear of Don’s passing. I had a few opportunities to DJ alongside him at a few parties and he even invited me to play a few of his shows. My favorite memory will always be the night he had me on his Saturday night “Dr Trance radio show” on 103.5.

    I was nobody, but he really treated me like a somebody.

    Always felt good to be around Don and I was always be excited to go anywhere I heard he was. Last time I saw him was playing at a Dark Rave at one of the last nights of the Big Bop back in 2010 – was as friendly as ever! He even came out to play the Happy Face twins birthday on a night he could have probably been booked a million other places. He was just that kind of guy.

    The world will not be the same without him. Rest in Peace, Don. You will be missed by so many people…

  21. This is Bobby Christian, a long-time friend of Don’s now living in Colorado.
    First I would like to request that any info about arrangements for Don’s memorial be posted here. Or could someone please email me at It’s hard to stay current this many miles away.

    I first became friends with Don when he was doing afternoons on WTAE in Pittsburgh and I was Program Director of the sister FM, 96-KX. We never stopped being friends. Over the years I visited him in Toronto, and he visited me in Colorado. We saw hockey games and Cirque de Soleil, hit casinos and even a few bars. We spent a decadent several days in Vancouver with another now-departed friend, Jay Stone. We traded emails several times a week for as long as there’s been email, up to and including last Saturday. I will miss Don every time I check my mail and find there’s not one from him.

    I got to see Don as Dr. Trance at a couple of raves and a few other club dates during my visits and I was blown away to see his mastery of the music and the crowds. His mixes were truly a case of the whole being far greater than the sum of the parts. You could feel the genuine affection from the partiers when they came up to talk to him.

    The “I Love My Willie” shirt you see him wearing on the numuzk page was my birthday present to him in 2001.

    He had that sick, twisted, totally-off-the-wall sense of humor that endeared him to everyone (Preaching to the Perverted). And those of us with a similar Python/Firesign-based warp could spend hours at Foonman Manor batting one-liners back and forth. There was no reference to any 1950’s or 60’s pop lyric too obscure for Don. He would usually start singing the next line of the song! He’s the only other person I knew who could sing all the words to “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight.” Our duets could frighten people!

    I have enjoyed reading all of the posts here. It’s a testament to the man how many people felt moved to post who never actually met him but whose lives were touched, even changed, by Don’s generous spirit and amazing talent. Many others who haven’t been in contact for years still remember the influence he had on their lives and careers.

    I consider myself privileged to have been Don’s friend for some 35 years. He brought laughter and joy wherever he went, and I enjoyed that radiance for more than half my life. I will miss him greatly. He was a loyal friend. We could tell each other anything. I’ve never known anyone else like Don Berns and I know I never will. Truly a unique soul. God speed, my friend!

    1. Hi Bobby,
      I know how Don felt about you, as I heard your name being mentioned by him many times over the years. He will be greatly missed, especially by me. I’m sorry I missed seeing you the last time you were here, but if you ever feel like singing Does Your Chewing Gum…I know all the words, taught to me by the one and only Don Berns. We used to sing it in the car.

  22. I’m so sorry to hear of Don’s death. I recently had occasion to leaf through some CFNY memorabilia, and came across a number of letters Don sent in response to my overwrought concerns about the station’s evolving format at the time. He was such a decent person, taking the time to write back in a very kind and personal way. More importantly, of course, is how many lives he touched through music – a wonderful gift from him to us all.

  23. Don was a truly a kind hearted gentleman, and one of the greatest voices to bless the radio airwaves in broadcasting history. I had the chance to voice a few spots with Don over the years. I remember at one session I was so nervous to be working with such a great talent – but he quickly turned my anxiety into laughter and made me feel right at home. He truly was one of the nice guys in the business. God Bless You Don – my heart goes out to your family and friends. Rest In Peace

  24. I am one of the late comers to Don’s life, compared to all of the stories above.

    I first met Don when he came to pool that I managed about 8 or so years ago. We hit it off immediately and the fast and furious jabs, jokes, and all the stories were amazing. I will miss his crazy humour and ability to light up any room with that voice.

    He has touched so many lives and I don’t think we will ever be able to truly explain how much he meant to us the individual and us the collective.

    RIP Sir!

  25. [Originally posted on where there is a message board thread containing many good messages: ]

    I am absolutely heartbroken. Don was a very good friend and I miss him very much.

    He touched so many lives and had such an enormous impact on so many communities. He was a founder and Godfather of Toronto’s Rave Scene. He was a huge radio personality. Actor. Improv. CFNY. Effective. Host of the biggest Pride events. One of the greatest voices of all time. a.k.a. Dr. Trance. a.k.a. Foonman. He rocked more dance floors than anyone I know.

    He emceed my wedding. He was the best host I could imagine. My wife fell in love with him instantly, as did we all.

    I am happy that he met my daughter, which was the last time I saw him, at Katrina & Jelo’s baby shower last month.

    The last time I spoke with him was just last week. He was about to enter a new retail lease for one of his business ventures. He was excited and, as always, full of life and energy. We ended the call strategizing about how to ensure we would get midnight sneak preview tickets to ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ – i.e. how early would we have to start checking every day so that we could buy our block of tickets before others, to get the best seats in the house at the first showing at Scotiabank IMAX.

    He, along with Jelo and Timmy, were the only ones I knew that got as excited about stuff like that as I did. I loved talking comic books and superhero movies with him. He was living proof that one need not grow up as one grew older, and I loved that about him.

    We will miss his pond parties. We will miss his wonderful sense of humour. We will miss his companionship, his emails and his hugs.

    Deepest condolences to his family and best friends.

    We love you, Don.

  26. I remember the first time I met the legendary Don Berns… I was working at RPM and I heard his distinctive voice and stuck my head out of the coat check window and yelled.. “I know that voice!!” He came right over to me and I introduced myself… He was laughing in that deep and distinctive tone he had while he shook my hand and gave me a kiss on my cheek. He said… “very nice to meet you Jenn”. I will never forget that day.

    A couple of years later, Don became Dr. Trance and I was known as Jennstar and so began many years of late night fun and revelry… Don always encouraged me to be myself, live my dreams and most importantly have fun. His heart was always full of love and he shared his joy with all he encountered. He opened doors for me and I checked off a couple of important boxes off my bucket list thanks to him. I will forever cherish recording my tiny little segment for the Dr. Trance show with Bobo at the Other Studio – what laughs we had.

    Even though at the moment I am sad, I am also so very happy at the memories I have – like being sent down a hill in a bunch of inner tubes at Wild Water Kingdom. I am so honoured to have know Don – what a remarkable man having touched so many people over so many decades.

    In my heart always…

  27. News Feed
    Jay Kaufman
    2 hrs · Fergus · Edited ·

    I’ve been trying to think of what to say for hours. I’m so sad. cry emoticon I’ve been wading through copious amounts of posts, memories and anecdotes after having recently learned of the passing of my friend, Don Berns. Some of you may have simply knew him as Dr. Trance. I knew him as Don, and I’m proud to say that I did. I don’t know where to begin, where to start and where to end with the stories that involve Don. He was that integral to my life and helping further my love for music – especially of the electronic variety…

    It began before we knew each other through his involvement with CFNY 102.1 FM when it was known as ‘The Spirit Of Radio’ instead of The Edge (check out I was just a kid – an odd one at that – where I would literally spend hours by the radio recording the station’s output of new wave, synth pop, indie rock, industrial and early house music and ‘rave’ music. It was here, thanks in part to him and his role as program director, that I first heard house music. It was here that I first heard his booming baritone voice that nearly every single Canadian would instantly recognize from a voiceover, commercial, documentary, infomercial hawking fitness equipment (a long standing ‘funny’ if you knew Don) or ‘You’re watching TSN/Global TV, etc.’. It was also via the radio, that I first heard one of his many specialty radio shows like the Dr. Trance Show or Technopolis and discovered trance music. He helped shape my love for electronic music through this medium.

    Then one day, I met him. I was probably 16 and a tad too young to be out at a rave on my own, but there I was having the time of my life because of Dr. Trance. By this point I’d started to DJ and throw small events in my hometown, thanks in part to Don and the music he played on his various radio shows on CFNY, Energy108, Hot 103.5 and later on Global Groove Radio.

    Rave being what it was, I dressed up in a lab coat borrowed from my science-teaching dad and made a patch over my heart that said ‘Loop Dokter’ – my DJ name at the time. A DJ name which I might add was pretty much stolen and influenced by his Dr. Trance moniker. I watched him play his set and as soon as he got off the decks, I immediately accosted him and handed him a mix tape I’d put together in the hopes that he’d listen to it (he did!) and that he’d like it (he didn’t – BUT he told me why). Dr. Trance could make or break a DJ back then if you wanted to play in Toronto. He broke me a bit by telling me that I needed to work on my mixing – which is slightly amusing now because Don was never the best at beatmixing!

    Over the years I grew to idolize him less as I got to know him more and we slowly became friends. Even though he was easily 20 plus years my senior he never cared and I never saw the point to care either. He had a youthful vigour for life – and a great taste in music, albeit some absolutely shockingly bad taste as well. We always enjoyed ribbing each other over just about everything including our tastes for certain cheesy synth-laden tunes that the opposing person didn’t like.

    We got into pun-offs. All those who know me well know how I love puns, but I don’t know of a man other than Don who possibly loved them more than I. He was witty. He was wry, hilarious and always smiling. That booming voice commanded people to listen and laugh along with him. Finally, after thinking it would never happen, that booming voice asked me if I’d play on his radio show – twice. It was a great honour that I still relish to this day. He even asked me if I’d fill in to co-host his show because he felt I had a future in radio due to my own little Dr. Trance-inspired radio show that he’d managed to hear, but sadly that never came to be due to me being vested in other pursuits.

    The last time I think I saw Don, he invited me out to a weekday night in which Slave To The Square Wave were playing. He told me to come because he knew I loved 1980s synth pop and that I would like these guys. I went and got to hang with him and fellow CFNY legend David Marsden – who were both really good friends. We had a blast. That was probably 10 years ago…

    As time went by, Don stepped away from radio and DJing to do more voiceover work and act in theatre and improv, but he never forgot those he met in his past ventures. I tried to convince him to come out of retirement to help me with a radio show I was conceiving because as luck would have it, we ended up living about half an hour away from each other. It never happened because he’d found his second calling. He did on occasion, make it out of retirement to play as Dr. Trance if you asked him kindly enough. Sadly, I never made it out to those nights because of well, ‘life’. Such a terrible excuse!

    A few years ago, I found myself in Orangeville for a job interview… A place I knew was very close to where Don lived in Caledon. I called him up out of the blue to see if he wanted to meet up while I was there. Alas, he couldn’t, but we talked for two hours laughing, reminiscing and shooting the shit as I sat in my car in the parking lot of the company I interviewed with a suit and tie on. He always made time for people even when he didn’t have the time. On that day we made promises to finally get together since we now lived within half an hour of each other, but it never happened due to that thing we call life.

    Finally, one of the first DJs that was asked to help test the Indie88 frequency in Toronto was Don Berns. Indie88 is a direct result of The Spirit Of Radio having come before it and plays a very similar format. So naturally, Don Berns was the right guy to get a couple of hours in which he could play the tunes he loved – and screw up a lot live on air. Radio had changed a lot since Don had manned a console, but he took it in stride as he always did. Throughout that time, the live chat was flooded by fans and former colleagues from all over the world wishing him well and of course, ribbing him for his mistakes. I was one of those people making comments in the live chat and he did one thing he’s never done before – he thanked me and name checked me live on air for all of the support I’d given him over the years. It was like the world came full circle.

    Just a few weeks ago, as we often did, I ribbed him about a record he played often but would never give to me – He of course, being who he was, had some rare as hens teeth Japanese import that had a mix on it that only him and God had. I wanted it. I still do. Right now I can hear him saying in that booming voice, “You’re not getting it!”

    My point about all of this is that through time, the people you find dear sometimes inadvertently drift apart because of this thing called life. Life can get in the way far too often; until one day when it’s gone and you no longer have the opportunity to share your life with them because life has run its course. Take the time to get reacquainted with those that have been a big part of your life, because you never know what tomorrow brings.

    I’m heartbroken and sad, but I’ve got a big smile on my face because I know if there’s one thing Don has always been good at doing, it was bringing people together to have a good time.

    Don, I’m truly gonna miss you man! Rave In Peace, Don Berns! May we meet again somewhere, wherever that may be.

  28. A longtime friend, and a massive supporter, we have known Don since the mid eighties. He was instrumental in our early success. We salute his memory and will raise a pint in tribute.

    Spirit of the West

  29. I listened to Don on KB radio in Buffalo-and LOVED him-and loved him even more when I saw him as Snoopy in at the Jewish Center in the 70’s-talked to him on the phone a couple times-when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up-and he was tremendously kind and patient. I was bummed when he left Buffalo for Toronto-but SO happy that he made a great life for himself there and that folks there appreciated what a lovely man and talent guy Don Berns was. RIP Don Berns.

  30. I only met him once at a party he played in Vancouver in the late 90s. He was wearing a shirt with “Big daddy” on the front. I was in awe of this man and his energy and his skill in making a room go off… He was definitely an inspiration to me and my friends and will never be forgotten…

  31. It is rare in this life when you listen to a radio station and have such a connection with a DJ that they personify an entire genre of music. As a teen, listening to 102.1 CFNY, Don was that connection for me. It is even more rare to be able to meet and work alongside a personal idol. Again, for me, that was Don. I worked at Hot 103.5 with Don, and was star struck. He was larger than life, funny, passionate, and just a hell of a guy. He will be sorely missed. RIP Don Berns/Dr. Trance….thank you for the smiles!

  32. It’s taken awhile for this to become real for me. It must or will be the same for everyone he touched. My first memory of Don Berns is from late one night in 1984, when David Marsden was showing Don (and me) up the CN Tower in Toronto. I had no idea what the two of them were talking about, it was all jokes, innuendo, music and Firesign Theatre references. Thirty-one years later, he is still making me smile wide. Now I get most of that conversation, and tonight I am listening to the Firesign Theatre’s ‘Further Adventures of Nick Danger’, and thinking of Don. What’s all this brouhaha? Brouhaha? Ha Ha Hah!

  33. We sat on opposite sides of the desk. I had to convince Don why CFNY should play the songs I was promoting. It was a game, and we both knew it, but we played it well. But the lines were erased when we would spend Friday nights at the home of Lorraine Segato and Karen Wookey playing charades. I’m certain I have never laughed so hard or been so entertained. Thank you, Don, for the music, the mirth and the friendship.
    Kevin Shea

  34. 50 or so years ago I hired Don to be our evening personality at WICE in Providence, because I knew he was going to be a star. And he didn’t let me down. Friends to the unexpected end, the brilliance of his mind and his accessibility to all never ceased to amaze me. Don’s life was truly the ultimate trip. Farewell, big goy, er, guy.

  35. He was such a HUGE influence on my 15 year old son who had the pleasure of working with Don in Puss in Boots. He was an inspiration a talent and such a blessing. His post and continued support of my sons career helped develop and enrich our lives. He was a true light in this world. He will be missed but never forgotten. He will live on through all the lives he has touched!! <3

  36. a few words about my dear friend Don Berns:
    Before i met Don, i knew of him. Long before i moved to Toronto, Don had taken another Thunder Bay DJ under his wing: “DJ Ryan7”. Ryan described Don as a larger than life character – who was the driving force behind the rave scene in Toronto. When i moved to Toronto in May 1994 and started going to raves, it was Don’s sets that i anticipated more than anything. Many ravers out there reading this – can attest to the fact that if you saw his name on a flyer – it was the party to go to…. i often went to shows based on just his name on the line up. Even as a complete random – talking to him was a pleasure. Don would always give you his ear – and have a snappy comeback. At one event, i had the nerve to request a record (Chitarra by Futura) – he then had his friend Claudio go to his car and get his second box of records so he could play it…. blew my mind.
    It was Don who “discovered” me – and is a great true story: In the summer of 1994, a group of friends and I went to a party called “Aqua: A family affair”. I got the opportunity to play records in the 2nd room in the morning. Then, to my surprise – Dr. Trance came downstairs. (***I later found out that the main room he was playing in, was shut down because everyone left. Word had spread that some DJ had started to play downstairs and the room was going crazy – he thought that maybe John E or Mark Oliver had shown up and went downstairs to investigate). As a rookie, I was further motivated to play now that a promoter of large events (Atlantis – at the time) and a DJ/radio icon was watching me. After a few minutes he came up and asked me who I was. “I’m a roommate of Ryan7” , to which he replied “Oh, that explains it – well… make sure I get your number… I want you to play for us”. Taking a room from nothing – to closing the party with everyone lighting sparklers – cheering – and Dr.Trance right there to see what I was capable of. I will never forget it. My life changed forever that night – thanks to Don, an icon.
    There are so many stories out there – of people who, because of Don – were motivated and inspired to continue – to work harder – to succeed. As a rookie DJ in 1994 – mine is one of them. Don would actually listen to your tape. If it sucked…. he would tell you. If you showed talent – he would work to help you “make it”. Don worked hard to promote new DJ’s and – as in the case of The E! Network – also new rave companies. He would promote events on the radio and play for next to nothing at small events to add his star power, to help them out. The E! crew owes him more than i can properly write down… and that sentiment is shared by so many. Don also led the movement towards a more positive rave scene in general… who can forget his “support the positive, ignore the negative” monologue on NRG 108 – his work with iDance and of course the Pride/LGBT scene. His actions and words led the way for so many to feel accepted, and become better people… an inspiration to us all.
    There will never be another person like Don. In private he was just as personable as his larger than life “persona”. Inviting some homesick DJ’s from Thunder Bay over for Christmas dinner (the stuffing was delicious!) – floating in the pond with Mr.Biggs & friends (we miss you Glen) or dancing to Moby… Don was a light. For me, as the years have ticked away; Don has continued to be someone i asked advice from – and was my “go to” guy for little things that were extra cool: voice over for my sisters wedding video trailer, DJ id’s or the object of dozens of humorous pics on Facebook… i will never have another friend like Don, it was my plan to have him as best man at my wedding – he is simply irreplaceable.

  37. I lived with Don at The Foonman Home for the Terminally Bored in San Diego in 1977. He called me “Sherette”. We performed together back in Buffalo, NY. Then Don moved out west. When my life went bad, I called him one night and I was on a plane to California the next morning. I was broke and broken. He literally saved my life. He encouraged me to perform again. He was my rock and best friend. Don…who is going to make me laugh on facebook? Who is going to say, I remember and keep me humble?

  38. Words can’t describe this larger than life guy. First met him in CMT’s Sweeney Todd and as sinister Judge Turpin, he scared the heck out of me. But it was all show, of course, and Don’s mastery of the stage. He was equally at ease playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, the regal Duke of Plaza Toro in G&S Gondoliers (now that’s versatile!), and the blustery Babcock in Mame. I think Edna was closest to the real Don – her sense of humour, grace, passion, protectiveness… Don was always a partner on stage and made all feel at ease. HIs work on CMT’s 70th anniversary is typical of his generosity. His “hey Sweetie” phone calls, and his huge laugh… Miss you Don.

  39. There ya go upstaging all of us once again. Now who am I gonna go head to head with for sarcastic whit? You were the KING of the show my friend, a CLASS ACT. Gonna miss your laugh and smiling face and amazing generosity. One can only hope you are givin’ them HELL on the other side with the volume turned up to 11 🙂 <3

  40. I will leave it as it was said on the air
    “Some DJ’s are hot but only Don Berns”
    RIP my friend you will be missed

  41. What a shame, I loved Don’s personality, professionalism and the fact that he was a bit of rebel too…and loved to have fun. He used to call into Talk Radio when the Motts were on CFRB during the day and share ideas, an opinion, he was intelligent, funny, kind, warm and talented.

    A true entertainer and a true class act. RIP Don, and Yasher Koach on a good life!

    David Cohen

  42. I am sad to hear of Don’s passing but happy to say I knew him. I called him friend. A truly talented and giving person. He is greatly missed.

  43. Don was my cousin. My first memory of Don was his showing up in a really flashy car at our grandmother’s 75 birthday party in 1970. My dad and I visited him in 1993 in Toronto when I graduated law school. He took me to my first and only rave while I was there (my dad skipped it). I last saw him at the end of December at our cousin Jimmy’s birthday party in New York. We had a great time hanging out and cracking jokes rapid fire one after another in the Berns tradition. He promised to visit us in Stamford this year and spend a few days. Now that will never happen. I am heart broken to lose my cousin.

  44. There are a handful of people without whose influence I wouldn’t have taken up radio.

    Don is one of those people.

    No one-trick pony, his mix of humor and musical insight on WKBW made his show a must-listen. I never heard him on CFNY or as Dr. Trance, or saw him at a rave, but I assume if he put the same passion into those endeavors as he did on ‘KB, it was nothing but the best.

    RIP Don. And thanks for being, well, a Dr. and Mrs. Berns Production.

  45. A very sad start to the week hearing that Don passed away on Sunday. His time ended far too soon.
    I had the pleasure of playing alongside him many times at many, many raves and clubs in Toronto especially through the 90’s and 2000’s.
    Don was arguably the DJ that planted the seed for the Trance scene in Toronto via his radio show in the 90’s, this being at a time when electronic underground music was hardly supported on mainstream FM radio, it was a major outlet and source of information.

    I head back to Toronto to play on Saturday night, its now going to be a very poignant visit for me, and I’m gong to play my heart out in memory of my long term friend and colleague Dr Trance. I’ll miss you my friend.

    John 00 Fleming

  46. You will be missed by many, this news comes as a total shock. Thank you for the many laughs and good times over the years. May you rest in peace, trance on!

  47. It was my pleasure and joy to work alongside Don Berns for a few years in the mid-90’s at Hits 103. 5. When the opportunity knocked to have Don as the afternoon drive guy I didn’t hesitate to say “yes”. It was a blast to have him as part of the on air staff. I learned a lot from him. He was the best!

    1. I worked with Don alongside Ken. We had a great time in the 90’s doing the Hot 103 thing. Don was always one of my favorite voice talents to work with. Always a great sense of humor, always a true professional. He was one of the folks that made radio interesting. It was certainly partially his fault for me getting into radio initially, having listened to his shows on CFNY many years previous.

      I wish the very best to his family, or anyone else who considered him a friend. A great man & the industry will be at a loss without him. RIP Don, you’ll be missed by many.

  48. What a sad piece of news. Don and I go back almost 50 years to WBRU at Brown, where we were both students and were both instrumental in setting up the station as the progressive rock powerhouse it became. We shared other call letters on our resumes (WICE and WDRC) although not at the same time, but we always stayed in touch, trading notes professionally and personally, seeing each other occasionally and even exchanging e-mails the day before he died.

    This is a major shock. Don’s humor and intelligence are both justifiably legendary, and his ability to reach out and help people seemed to come second-nature to him. I get that he’s gone, but the reality hasn’t sunk in. Don was always at the musical edge, yet remained a grounded human being. He is missed by me and so many others in so many ways. His spirit lives on….

  49. I never met Don personally. I know him most from ‘the spirit of radio’ days at CFNY and more recently at His weekly shows there were fantastic as was all the music he turned me on to back in the 80s. RIP Don…. you will be greatly missed by many.

  50. “Doctor Trance. Lenny Zukemeister. From the Foonman Home. This has been a Doctor and Mrs. Berns Production.” Don personally and professionally influenced so many people who listened to him on the radio and saw him perform. You could hear that he loved doing what he was doing, and did it well. To talk and write about Don in the past tense seems… just not right. He will long be celebrated for the generous, compassionate, funny and daring person that he was and will always be in our memories.

  51. I knew Don from his days at WTRY. What a major talent and heck of a great guy. RIP my friend

  52. What a shock today. Don was a great talent. I feel privileged that I got to hear him for those years at WTAE in Pittsburgh. I am honored that he allowed me to be a facebook friend and shared his postings with me, We will miss him.

  53. There are simply not enough words to describe how important Don was to me let alone the countless people he gave a start in the business when no one else did. A master of humor. An icon. As good a friend as anyone could ever hope to have. A total sweetheart. I’m so glad he knew that I thought the world of him. They broke the mold when they made him and none could ever replace him or even come close. So many laughs and so much joy he brought into this world. Such a life well lived and what a major void his passing leaves. Matt I’m so sorry and as we all move forward with a heavy heart we all have massive memories of a wonderful marvelous Angel…till we meet again my nurse always know what you have done for us……

  54. Don – even though we were only at best casual friends, you always made me and my wife (and probably everyone else) feel like close friends.

    When our paths crossed. here and there, it was immediately “game on” – let the laughter and jokes begin.
    I’ll always treasure the time we upstaged the comedian on stage at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre.

    You were very warm and outgoing – touching everyone in your universe – making them feel comfortable and happy.

    Now it’s time to entertain the people on the other side of the Pearly Gates.
    God speed!

  55. I will Always Remember seeing Don at the Delaware Park Concerts when I was Just a Lad and Being Impressed by his Booming voice. He was Bigger than Life and everyone’s Inspiration & Mentor in our region of the world.

  56. Don, You were a mentor to myself and many others in Radio and the Rave scene, your dedication to getting the Toronto Rave scene known internationally was astounding, and very admirable. and we thank you. Your memory lives on forever in our Hearts.
    Dance away my Friend.

  57. What a special time in my life organizing the effective raves with my good friend Don . What a wonderful man and talent. Rest in peace

  58. We were always proud to be Uncle Bob and Aunt Ruth. We love you, and our great family.

  59. What a talent! What a voice! One of the many jocks that inspried me to get into radio when he was at WTAE in Pittsburgh. Although we never met, I had a tremendous appreciation towards him.

    1. Jim,

      So VERY happy to see that he inspired you. In 1988, I met him at the Gavin Convention in San Francisco. I introduced myself to him as a young jock. He and I instantly became friends and shared one liners all night at the bar. He asked that I send him my air checks. Don would hand write pages of his critiques making me a better on air talent. I moved east and we saw each other regularly in Toronto at his raves. 3 weeks ago, we spoke and tossed one liners back and forth. After hardy laughs, he had to go and said “I am proud of you, Victor”. We lost a great man who loved to help and inspire others. I’ll be eternal grateful for his friendship.

      1. Great story Victor, and it’s so wonderful that you spoke with him just a few weeks ago. Your conversation with him and his kind words at the end are precious! I was always amazed at how fluid he was in communicating. I’ve been in radio for 36 years, 23 of them in morning drive and I know how difficult it is to be witty, topical, conversational, engaging, and informative all the while being fluid in conversation. HE made it sound effortless. Jim

        1. Jim. You are so correct. He was not a DJ….he was an on air TALENT. He was a communicator. He knew how to have an intimate conversation with you on and off the radio. He made you feel special.

          Don was a blessing in my life. When my phone rang, and the caller ID said Don Berns, it NEVER went to voicemail. I knew that when I said “Hello”… was going to be a great conversation and a good day.

          Every email was read and replied to. I could not wait for a “pun war” to begin. Sometimes, they would last for days.

          Here is a funny “pun” exchange we had after I sent him a video of a line of ducks behind a marching band.

          Don: That duck video is great. Really quacked me up.
          Me: Oh come on. Youuuu’rrrreeee disssspicabllle
          Don: What? Did you get that line from the web?
          Me: Next time you throw me a line like that, say “duck!”
          Don: Or “get down!”
          Me: LOL!!!! Brilliant! I’m buying that one! Put it on my bill.

          Corny….yes. But it’s little things like this that I will greatly miss.

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