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radio career spanned 30 years.
had many memorable moments that I hope to be able to share.
When I first got into the business, it was strictly for the fact
that it was an “entertainment” business where I could get on the
radio, play records and talk to my friends; two things I loved doing.
I had dreams of being a radio legend.
In the early days, I was so excited just to be on the radio. I’d practically live at the studios just to get another
chance at broadcasting. I
would have done it for free during those days, but they actually gave me
a paycheck to do it! (Not much of one, though).
In later years, the paycheck would become more important and my
desire to do more than required became less and less.
This change wasn’t because I didn’t love the business
anymore. I loved what I thought radio “should be” just as much as
ever. But, more and more I
was put into situations where I had to worry about radio station profits
and “the bottom line” when all I wanted to do was have fun on the
radio. Radio is also a very
hard business to enjoy. Announcers
seldom get weekends off. Most
announcers work six-days-a-week.
through tough negotiating did I ever get weekends off as an on-air
person in radio. When it
comes to Holidays, if you should get Christmas off, management acts like
they’re doing you a favor. This
attitude also prevails on weekends when you’re asked to do “live”
remote broadcasts. I couldn’t
even begin to count the number of times I’ve stood in the hot sun at a
gas station, furniture store, car wash, laundry or whatever to peddle
their wares. Most of the
time you received no payment for these duties.
(Just part of the job).
when I had the power to negotiate for weekends off, owners and managers
would want me to do “remotes” on the weekend for no pay on my day
off. The older you
get the more you want to spend time with your family, so when you tell
station owners or managers that you have plans or simply refuse, they
label you as having a bad attitude and not being a team player.
These petty issues are the types of things that drove me crazy
throughout my career. I
wanted to be in radio, but I wanted to be treated like employees in
other businesses are treated.
It seemed an unreasonable request.
most businesses, when you attain a certain pay grade you can usually
count on your salary only increasing in the future.
Radio is a very volatile business.
You can be on top of the world one day and out of work the next.
Much of my career was spent as Program Director for radio
stations. This job is similar to being a college or pro football coach.
You are loved as long as your station (team) is winning.
There are many situations in radio a Program Director cannot
control, but he will still end up as the scapegoat.
Lets say I’m Program Director for a large market radio station
that is the highest rated and top billing radio station in the city.
The station is making megabucks.
Then, the station across the street is bought by another company
that comes to town and starts giving away buckets of money on the air.
Your manager is too busy watching his bottom line to cut into his
profit margin. You’ve
still got the same radio station. It sounds great, but the guys across the street are buying
your audience. A few months
later the audience ratings come out and the guys across the street have
gone up in the ratings, and your station’s audience share has gone
down. Management then
begins to look at making changes, starting with the Program Director who
obviously isn’t doing a very good job.
It sounds ridiculous, but this scenario has repeated itself over
and over in radio.
a family man, I couldn’t put myself and my family through the ups and
downs of radio any longer. With
that said, I begin my radio story.
Growing up in New Orleans in the 50's and 60's, I was enamored by Top 40 radio, namely WTIX on 1490-AM before moving to the "Mighty 690" and WNOE at 1060-AM. Both of these radio stations where fiercely competitive in those days and many great DJ's graced the airwaves. Knowing I wanted to be on the radio since Junior High, I would hang around the stations when I got the chance and had several encounters with both air staffs. More than likely, I was a pain-in-the-butt to them. Great air talent like Skip Wilkerson, C.C. Courtney, Lou Kirby, Jim Stewart, Dan Diamond and countless others had a major effect on my choice of careers.
my brother Tom and me drove to Dallas, Texas, in early September of 1964.
They were taking me to Dallas to find a suitable living facility
for the next three months while I attended Elkins Institute of Radio’s
back now, I realize that this must have been really hard on my Mom.
Not because she’d miss me that much, but because I had made a
decision not to go on to college like Tom.
Both Mom and Dad had college degrees, and I’m sure they assumed
that their children would go on to get their own degrees.
That is, until “Bad Egg” Mike came along.
They didn’t understand this radio “thing” at all, but I had
been so obnoxious and insistent about going that they finally relented.
had its own building on Inwood Road in Dallas.
We found the school (oh, excuse me…institute) and parked behind
the building. It wasn’t
what you would call an overly impressive complex.
Just a single story building about the size of a big house.
What they did have, though, was a control room filled with all
sorts of outdated radio gimmickry that I didn’t have a clue about!
Gosh, this is going to be fun!
signing in, the secretary showed us a list of homes and/or living
arrangements that had been used for previous students.
Many students boarded in people’s homes.
Others boarded at the Lee Park Inn, a boarding house across the
street from Lee Park. (I
bet you were wondering how they came up with that name.)
The Lee Park Inn was a huge old home converted into a boarding
house. Breakfasts were
included. Dinner was a
little more in price. Private
rooms cost you more. Most
of the broadcasting guys shared rooms.
family ran Lee Park Inn. The woman did all the work, the husband drank most of the
time, and their son, Junior, just liked to get in trouble. Usually, he wanted me to get in trouble with him.
He was about my age. Junior’s
dad once showed everyone in the boarding house his latest invention, a
collapsible golf club that could easily be stored in a brief case.
He was trying to get the patent on the club and was convinced he
would make millions. I was
convinced he was a drunken idiot.
turns out I was the most right.
Cutler was my instructor for broadcasting school.
One of the other guys at Elkins, Mike Mizell, actually looked and
sounded more like a radio announcer but Wade turned out to be a good guy
and great instructor. He
put up with a lot of garbage from a room full of radio “wannabees.”
Wade worked part time at KVIL in the exclusive Highland Park
section of Dallas, just down from Southern Methodist University.
A few of us befriended Wade or either he felt sorry for us, I’m
not sure which; but he would let us come to the studios while he was
on-air. Wade would let me do some segues (go from one song to another)
on air. You can imagine how nervous I was. I felt like all I had to do was skip a record and poor Wade
would be fired. It was
1964, the Beatles were all over Top 40 radio stations and I was at KVIL
playing Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, etc.
It wasn’t a bad sounding station, really.
I would have work there but I’m sure they wouldn’t have me.
Charles Stymlie who was also working at KVIL.
Charlie would become a radio legend as Charlie Van Dyke in every
major market in America. At that time he was just a pimply-faced part timer at KVIL
working on weekends until he got out of high school.
in radio school, I continued to see Susie in Hurst, Texas, which was
about 35 miles from the Lee Park Inn to her house.
During the first part of my stay in Dallas, I didn’t have a
vehicle, so there were times that I hitchhiked to see Susie.
This was a dumb thing to do.
I was picked up by many strange people but always seemed to get
there. Going back to Dallas
after midnight on the weekends was extremely difficult.
It was harder to get rides, and several times I walked just about
the entire distance. Hormones
are a terrible thing.
of my fellow broadcasting school cohorts, Dave Roederer, had met a 10th
grader at some function and told me she had an older sister named Sandy,
who was in the 11th grade.
He couldn’t see the girl he wanted to date, unless the sister
went along so he wanted me to double date with them.
He guaranteed me that she was really cute.
Meeting Sandy was a complete surprise.
She WAS really cute and we hit it off immediately.
Sandy Smith would become a standard for other women in my life in
the future. She had many qualities that I would look for in future
romances. In fact, two of
my three spouses had the same look and qualities of Sandy Smith.
I wish I knew what happened to her.
father let her daughter’s date us only because we would all be
together and the odds of anything happening would be pretty slim.
This, of course, didn’t mean I wouldn’t try to get Sandy
alone. After I had gotten a
car (a 1955 Chevy bought from boarding house junior), I went to a house
in Sandy’s neighborhood where she was babysitting.
I parked the car a couple of blocks away and walked to the house
and Sandy let me in. We
talked for a while, when there came a pounding at the front door, “Sandy,
open the door. Is Mike in
there with you?” It was
Sandy’s Dad and he was mad! I
excused myself and escaped out the backdoor.
Her dad gave chase around the neighborhood, but I finally lost
him after jumping a fence into someone’s back yard.
(Thank goodness they didn’t have a large, vicious dog!)
I sat in the backyard in a dark corner with my heart pounding.
Her Dad was yelling, “Don’t even think about seeing her
cried and I apologized to her Dad and he did soften up a bit, but seeing
her after that incident wasn’t as easy.
After I got my first radio job, I sent Sandy a diamond pendant
for her birthday. She loved
it, but her Dad made her send it back, saying it was too expensive a
gift. I was in DeRidder,
Louisiana, and she was in Dallas.
distance and strain of working around her Dad ended our romance.
As I mentioned, Sandy would have a definite influence on my next
romance when I get to college. That story comes later.
two months in Dallas going to radio school, I talked my parents into
sending me money to buy Junior’s 1955 Chevy Belair two-door hardtop.
This way I could drive myself home.
I needed a car to get around anyway.
When it did come time for me to drive the thing home, there was a
problem with the transmission.
was a three-speed manual shift on the column, but it kept “popping”
out of gear. It would disengage itself.
I explained the problem to Mom, who instructed my brother Tom to
fly over and get me home. The
trip from Dallas to New Orleans was a long one.
The car would jump out of gear about every thirty seconds.
Tom grew an immediate dislike for my car.
graduating from broadcast school, I wanted to return to Dallas for my
engineer’s license. At
that time, if you worked on radio stations with multiple radio towers,
you need to have an FCC “First Class Engineer’s License” to be
able to take transmitter readings.
Since Elkins offered this engineering course at New Orleans
facilities, my Mom and Dad didn’t see any reason for me to go back to
Dallas to take the course. The
wanted me to stay in New Orleans.
like a logical request today, but in 1964 I was obstinate and would not
be denied my return to Dallas.
told Mom and Dad I would just go to Dallas, get a job, and pay for my
own way to school! Sometimes you just need to take a stand and show them that
you are able to stand on your own two feet.
When would my parents realize that I was an adult now and fully
able to accept responsibility?
loaded up the old Chevy and took off for Dallas, returning to New
Orleans less than two months later.
That’ll teach them to question my independence.
Institute in New Orleans offered a 6-week course to teach you everything
you need to know to earn an FCC first class license.
It was more like teaching you all of the answers to the FCC test
because when I took the exam at the FCC’s New Orleans office, I didn’t
even have to look at the questions! They were the same tests I had taken over and over at Elkins.
When I got back to Elkin’s
offices they asked me if I saw anything on the test I hadn’t seen at
Elkins. What a scam. Government deregulation meant the eventual phase out of
the engineering license and also an end to Elkins Institute of
a radio job, I advertised in “Broadcasting” magazine in the “Jobs
Wanted” section. I
received several interesting requests for my audition tape that I sent
out, but no one was knocking down my door.
WNOE, the big Top 40 radio station in town had moved from the old
Sheraton Charles Hotel to their own building at 529 Bienville in the
French Quarter. Feeling
pretty cocky, I made an appointment to see Greg Mason, WNOE’s Program
Director, whom I had met before by “hanging around” the studios.
Greg sat me down in his office and I explained that I wanted a
job at WNOE. He wasn’t
amused. He was quite amazed
that I was wasting his time.
was distant and cold and I felt like crawling under a rock somewhere.
I can remember feeling really embarrassed. Sensing my hurt feelings, he walked over to me and said he
would listen to my tape if I wanted to follow him into the Production
Room. I sulked down the
hall behind. My audition
tape was pretty basic; something I had put together in the Elkin’s
studios of a “mock” radio program.
To this day, I don’t know if Greg Mason was trying to apologize
for hurting my feelings, but he seemed to be genuinely impressed with my
tape, saying he wanted me to keep in touch.
It did ease the disappointment somewhat.
my first radio job didn’t come from my ad in “Broadcasting” but
from my former instructor at Elkins, Wade Cutler.
He steered me to a job in DeRidder, Louisiana.
DeRidder is not a big town.
In fact, one of my co-workers once referred to it as “Dead
Critter”, Louisiana. But it was radio…almost.
KDLA-AM was a block-formatted radio station, which played gospel,
country, and easy listening music at different times of the day.
The station was located over the Rexall Drug Store at the main
intersection in town. The
town was one of those built around the railroad tracks.
My pay was $55.00 a week and all the 45-RPM records you could
steal. I had a hard time
finding any I liked. The
station and town were so small we had to pay music distributors to send
us records. Out of a box of
50 records, you might find 2 good ones.
first day in DeRidder, I met the station’s Program Director, Lamar
Tuminello. We met at the
café/diner across the street from the studio/drug store.
Lamar was a likeable fellow; a young married man with a newborn
child. He invited me over
his house that afternoon, because he knew of some suitable living
accommodations. The woman
who lived across the street from him had a garage that was converted
into an apartment behind her house that rented for $45 a month or two
small one-bedroom apartments.
only difference between the garage and the apartments was that the
one-bedroom apartments had tiny living rooms.
The apartments were $55 a month, so I took the garage.
After a month, I decided to step up to the apartment.
at KDLA was a real challenge for me, because I wanted to be Top 40, not
play old albums by Mitch Miller, the Buffalo Bills, etc.
But, for the most part, I followed the rules.
There was one incident I’d rather forget, though.
KDLA was a daytime radio station, meaning we signed off the air
at sundown. It was just
before signoff. I was about to play my final record.
I decided to talk over the instrumental opening of the last song,
giving the weather and saying goodbye before Perry Como started singing.
If there was one thing I was good at, it was talking up to the
vocals. Seconds after my
goodbye, the studio door slammed open and there stood a red-faced Ralph
Hooks, KDLA’s General Manager.
you don’t get to speak much to these guys because they’re far too
busy to speak with air talent.
Ralph Hooks coming to visit me!
launched into a tirade that I thought would never end.
“What in the *&^$&*, ^%&&^# do you think this
is”, he said, “one of those Top 40 radio stations?”
I can honestly say that there was no confusion on my part as to
KDLA being a TOP 40 station, but Ralph wasn’t convinced.
I avoided Ralph Hooks every chance I got after this.
15 minutes on KDLA we had slogans to read off of 3 X5 index cards.
One of the slogans was “Progressive DeRidder’s Voice of
Community Service, 1010 KDLA”.
What a stupid slogan.
thing is for sure. Nothing
is progressive about DeRidder, Louisiana, especially in early 1965.
announcements at KDLA were recorded in a makeshift Production Room that
was actually a storage closet off the main studio.
There was never any music put behind local commercial
announcements. There was a
microphone that hooked directly into the cartridge recorder.
In 1961, the morning man for the radio station, a part-time
preacher, recorded a commercial during which he accidentally knocked
over a Coke bottle that fell to the floor.
The loud crash during the commercial ran for years on KDLA.
I asked Lamar why he didn’t do it over.
Lamar didn’t see a problem.
(Hey, in DeRidder they like that kind of stuff.)
It was a real challenge to run a good air shift at KDLA. Not only did you have to put up with people walking through the control room to get to the production room while you were on-the-air, but you were actually running two radio stations. There were two turntables for the FM on your left side and two turntables for the AM on your right side. Invariably, you would be reading news on the AM when the album you were tracking on the FM ran out. So you would have to "pot-down" the volume, get a new album on the turntable (or switch to the other turntable) all while reading your newscast. (I'm sure I butchered the daylights out of the news copy anyway, so more than likely nobody noticed.)
days you hear radio stations do tests of the “Emergency Broadcast
System.” At KDLA in 1965
we were still doing the predecessor to the EBS test, Conalrad.
I was alone at the studios on a Saturday afternoon and a Conalrad
text was on the log to be run.
studios were over the drug store, but our actual transmitter and tower
were down the highway outside of town.
So, we had this old dial-up device.
It was a telephone dial mounted on a rack.
During this test, you had to turn the transmitter off, back on,
off, then back on again. Then,
the 1000-cycle tone would irritate everyone for around 20 seconds.
So, I was all ready for the test.
I started the tape, “For the next 60 seconds…”
When it got to the part “This is only a test”, I dialed the
number to turn off the transmitter, then I dialed another number to turn
the transmitter back on. Nothing
happened. I dialed it again.
Lord Have Mercy! After
two hours, the transmitter finally came back up and I fired off the
tape, “This has been a test of Conalrad.
Had this been an actual alert…”.
Had it been an actual alert everyone would have been dead because
of that piece of garbage dialup system.
I felt like calling Ralph Hooks and giving him a piece of my
mind. I didn’t.
my time in DeRidder, I was still getting over Sandy Smith.
One of the good things about DeRidder was Carleen Trout, a pretty
little blond haired girl whose Dad ran the F. W. Woolworth store in
downtown DeRidder, just down from the radio station.
I had spotted Carleen in Woolworth’s where she was working
part-time. I spent a lot of
time in Woolworth's. So much
time that I’m sure the store help, including Carleen, thought I was
some sort of pervert or weirdo.
just go in the store to stare at Carleen.
Finally, one day as I was hanging around the Woolworth store,
Carleen came up to me and asked, “Can I help you find something?”
I told her that by now I probably knew the inventory about as
well as she did, but thanks anyway.
She giggled and we were off to a good start.
Thank goodness she finally said something.
I’d probably still be standing around in Woolworths!
and I spent many great afternoons together, but because I was older, she
still in High School, and yet another set of over protective parents, we
never did get serious with each other.
the months that I was in DeRidder my Dad got me to give up my ’55
Chevy for a 1957 Chevy, because he was tired of having his guys at
Domino Sugar keep the ’55 running.
I wasn’t satisfied with the ’57 though, although it was in
great condition and a good running vehicle.
I had had some money given to me in form of Savings Bonds from my
grandmother over the years. I
left DeRidder late one Friday Night and drove to New Orleans, getting
there in the wee hours of the morning.
I got to our Music Street home and sat at the dinette table and
looked at the Used Car classifieds in the New Orleans Times-Picayune
newspaper. I spotted a 1960
Corvette at a dealership on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans.
I drove downtown around 6 AM and found the Corvette on the
showroom floor of the dealer.
was a red convertible. I
drove home, waited till Mom and Dad woke up, and then convinced them
that this is the car for me.
didn’t have quite enough money for the purchase, but surprisingly Dad
paid the balance. Probably because of my age, this would turn out to be my
favorite car of all time. I
would own 3 other Corvettes, but this was my favorite.
my months in DeRidder, I befriended Kelly Harper, a good church-going
man who worked part time at the Funeral Home and the rest of the time at
a small country store up on Burdick’s Lake that was founded by his
parents. Kelly was a good
friend to have. He’d
lived there all his life and knew everyone in town.
Kelly loved the radio business, and though he didn’t have the
talent to do the job, he liked being around it.
announcer at KDLA, who only lasted a couple of months, named Sal
Monastery, was also from New Orleans.
Sal couldn’t stand DeRidder and was looking for his first
chance to get out. Sal was
much more “worldly” than I. He
wanted to take me to a bar he knew of in Ville Platte, Louisiana, where
there were lots of women. We
hopped in my Corvette and drove around 80 miles to Ville Platte. We found a little “honkytonk” place about two hundred
yards off the main highway. Sal
was the man! We strolled
into the place like we knew what we were old-timers at this.
The place was full of activity and very dark.
As soon as we entered, all the women in the place lined up at the
bar. If I had known what I
was doing, I would know that what you’re supposed to do is go to the
bar and choose the woman you’d like to buy a drink.
Obviously, Sal wasn’t too experienced at this either because,
like me, he went over and sat down on a couch against the wall.
The women then came to us, asking us to buy them a drink.
If I would have known the routine, I would have picked a much
prettier woman to buy a drink. Actually, you don’t buy them a drink. They get ice water with a straw that you’re paying $2.50
for. From that point on,
the woman starts negotiating with you for further services they provide.
I’m not sure if this experience was something that Sal enjoyed,
but I can honestly say that I was humiliated and disgusted by the whole
ordeal. I just cannot get
excited about getting intimate with someone I don’t even know,
especially knowing that the only reason the woman is doing this is to
earn a living. I felt sorry
for me and I felt sorry for them.
the deed was done, Sal and I hung around and talked with all the women
until the place closed down.
had a better time just talking to them after they knew there was no
money to be made. Sal left
KDLA a month or so later, and I have never entered such a place again.
several months of working in “progressive” DeRidder, I decided that
maybe my parents were right.
I should continue my education.
in high school, Paul Cutright and I had visited the campus of
Southeastern Louisiana College in Hammond.
I remember on our way to Hammond in Paul’s parents Pontiac
station wagon, we had had a flat tire on the Lake Pontchartrain
Causeway, the world’s longest bridge.
At this time the 27-mile bridge was only a two-lane span across
the lake, so we pulled over as far as we could.
Upon discovering that the spare tire was also flat, we climbed
onto the back of the station wagon and waved at cars as they flew by.
Finally, someone pulled up behind us to help.
It was New Orleans' jazz trumpeter Al Hirt in a car driven by his
brother, Andrew who was the headmaster of Ecole Classique, an upper
class academy in New Orleans.
were on their way to Al’s summer camp in Mandeville.
They loaned us their spare (which fit) and gave us directions to
his camp to return the tire when we got our flat repaired.
We found Al Hirt’s camp and returned the tire.
Both men were really nice to us.
They invited us in for a Coke and played us a tape of Al’s
forth-coming album, “Cotton Candy.”
He had just flown back in from recording the album in Nashville
and Andrew had picked him up at the airport.
It was a real treat. Paul
and I thanked them and went on our way.
parents enrolled me at Southeastern for the semester starting in
September of 1965.
of Tom’s friends, Jack Siakkanen and Donnie Boihem were already
students and Southeastern and living off campus in a house owned by a
widow, Hunter Dobson. They
lived in a small attached apartment at the back of the house.
Mrs. Dobson lived in the downstairs area, but there was plenty of
room upstairs for seven or eight boys to live.
There was a private entrance, one bath, kitchen, etc. and it was
right on the main road leading to the College.
I parked my Corvette under shady oaks that lined the road back to
the campus. Hammond was a
typical small College town, except most of the students were from New
Orleans and the campus emptied on weekends, unless there was a football
game or other event that kept them there.
classes had started, I had visited the Episcopal Student Union to see
what they had available. While
there I met a local girl who was also incoming freshman at school.
I don’t recall her name, but she would eventually introduce me
to someone who would become very important in my life.
the first day of classes at Southeastern I was reminded of why I was so
glad to get out of high school. This was not going to be easy and I was beginning to think
that this might interfere with my social life.
By the time I got to Biology class I was already depressed and
ready to go back to radio. Then,
I spotted a girl sitting a few rows back and to the left of me in the
“auditorium style”-seating seating classroom.
She reminded me of Sandy Smith.
She had the same sweet smile and wholesome All-American look.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.
During the class I would continue to turn around and look at her.
Days before, upperclassmen had shaved the heads of my roommates
and me, as part of the freshman ritual.
It was a stupid ritual that has since been considered hazing and
gotten rid of. So,
any thoughts I had of her being attracted to me were quickly erased.
I was depressed about the schoolwork and depressed about looking
like a “geek”. By the end of class I was still staring at her like an
imbecile. I followed her
from class and out onto the campus green and was surprised to see her
talk to the local girl I had met at the Student Union.
in the day, I caught up to the girl and asked whom it was she was
talking to earlier in the day outside class.
She told me it was Melanie Allison, daughter of Dr. Preston B.
Allison, Dean of Education. I
felt even more like a geek.
lived just across campus from the girl’s dorm.
I continued to stare but was afraid of making a move; afraid of
proving to her that I actually was the “geek” I appeared to be.
Odom, whom I had dated in high school, was also going to Southeastern.
We were still friends and got together over a six-pack of beer.
I explained my embarrassment about trying to approach Melanie to
her. She told me to call
her. And, after a couple of
beers the idea sounded better and better.
were sitting in my Corvette (top up) drinking the six-pack outside a
small establishment that sold the stuff (mostly to college students)
because the drinking age at the time was 18.
There was a pay phone in front of the car, and the beer was
giving me a little more confidence. So, I got out of the car, and opened the phone book
attached to the booth (there was actually one still intact), looked up
Preston Allison’s number, dropped in my dime (remember those days?)
and asked to speak to Melanie when her Mom answered.
Melanie came to the phone and I explained whom I was and how
foolish she must think I am to call.
She was very nice, but I was sure she thought I was an absolute
we met face-to-face on campus, I tried to convince her that I wasn’t
near as “goofy” looking when I have hair.
I don’t think she bought it, but she would go out with me
sometime anyway. Melanie
and I continued to date while I was at Southeastern.
the seasoned radio personality that I was, I ventured over to the local
radio stations in Hammond. There were only two.
AM, WFPR, that reminded me of KDLA, DeRidder, and a new FM station,
WTGI. Somehow I convinced
the owner of WTGI, Mr. Verlander, to give me a part time job at the
station. After a month or so, I started working more and more hours
and studying less and less. (How
can you study less than not-at-all?)
Bickham was originally the engineer for WTGI, but became Manager of the
station when Mr. Verlander saw how much money he was losing.
Ben didn’t have too much respect for Mr. Verlander.
He used to call him the “GOM”.
The initials stood for “Grotey Old Man”.
Once, Mr. Verlander overheard Ben refer to him as the “GOM”
and asked him what that meant.
told him, “Well, Grand Old Man, of course!”
and I would often “park” behind the station late at night, since the
studios were outside of town in the woods.
We would pull around behind the station and not bother anyone.
Ben Bickham came to me one afternoon while I was on air and
warned me the “GOM” had put roofing nails all over the ground
out behind the station to ward off parkers.
He was afraid they’d hurt his septic tank.
Ben didn’t mind us going back there and thought the “GOM”
this period the Vietnam War was going strong.
Ben Bickham got me into the Air National Guard at Hammond
Airport. I spent six years
in the Guard. Not 6 “wonderful”
years, but 6 years that kept me from going to Vietnam as so many others
did. I am eternally
grateful to Ben.
May of 1966, I was sent to Amarillo Air Force Base for Air Force Basic
Training. A spinal
meningitis outbreak at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, forced us
to be sent to Amarillo, Texas.
Texas is the only place I have ever been where you can watch a whole
train go by all at once. Basic
Training was reduced to only 4 weeks at the time because of the Vietnam
build up and the troubles at Lackland.
Training and later Tech School at Shepard Air Force Base were times I
would like to forget. I
missed Melanie. We would
write and I would call her every chance I got.
As a surprise, she sent me an 8X10 photo of her, done by a local
Hammond photographer. Melanie
was a pretty girl, but this picture of her was incredible.
She looked so good that other guys in my flight at Tech School
asked if they could borrow her picture for a few minutes. Yikes, I’ve got to get out of this place!
I was on my 120 days active duty for Basic and Tech School with the Air
National Guard, my Corvette was parked on the patio at our Music Street
home in New Orleans. I left
explicit orders with my Mom to not let anyone touch my car while I was
gone. I’m not sure
if anyone wanted to touch it, but I wanted to make sure.
She obviously did a good job.
The car was covered with dust and leaves when I got home.
was a real “home-body” person so I was surprised that she was
waiting at New Orleans Airport with my Dad when I got back after 4
months. Normally, it would
be my Mom who would pick me up, but since I was a “soldier” coming
home, I think my Dad wanted to do it.
I felt proud stepping off the plane in my crisp Air Force blues.
I could feel a difference.
was a difference in the guy who stepped on a plane here 4 months ago,
and the man who was stepping off the airplane now.
The difference lasted for about 10 minutes after that uniform
came off and I was back to my old lifestyle.
Let the good times begin!
wanted me to go back to Southeastern.
Of course, she was the Dean’s daughter and making great grades.
It was easy for her like it there.
It’s all she had ever known.
I still loved her, but radio was my “thing”, so I got a job
at KMHT, Radio Marshall, in Marshall, Texas.
This was a long drive from Hammond, but I would have to make the
trip at least once a month for Guard Drill, and would usually stay at
Melanie’s parent’s house.
taking the job in Marshall, my Dad convinced me to trade the Corvette in
on a new ’66 Mustang. It
was a 2-door hardtop with a 283 V8 engine, so I didn’t mind so much at
the time. But I should have
known it was a mistake to get rid of my 60 ‘Vette when as soon as I
traded it, some guy bought it “on the spot” for his daughter.
I wish there was a way I could have kept it.
parents were nice people, but her Dad had his Doctorate in Education and
her Mom had her Master’s degree in Education.
He was Dean of Education at Southeastern and her Mom was in
charge of Physical Education.
were very brilliant people, focused totally on education.
Therefore, Melanie and her younger brother Kevin had been raised
in a very focused environment with a goal of learning everything you
can, making the best possible grades. Then, I came along.
sure I was the Allison’s worst nightmare; a heathen boy from New
Orleans that would corrupt their innocent daughter.
In a lot of ways, they were correct.
Looking back, I can now sympathize with the Allison’s.
Why should Melanie waste time with someone who desires a career
in the radio business? She
shouldn’t have, but did. I
loved sweet, innocent, unspoiled things and would do everything in my
power to have her.
in Marshall, Texas, had excellent studios.
It wasn’t overly large, but owner Tony Bridge took pride in his
facility of concrete block and glass.
For the most part, Mr. Bridge appreciated my work at KMHT.
But, there was one occasion when I had to fill in for the Newsman
that would sour his feelings for me.
The noon news on KMHT was a 15-minute newscast.
We took 5-minutes of news from the Texas State Network (TSN),
then 10 minutes of local news, obituaries and weather.
Most of the time, during the lunch hour, only the air talent was
in the station. I can’t
remember who the other announcer was, but on that fateful day he was
working on making me laugh while I read the news.
And, he was doing a pretty good job of it.
Struggling to get through the local news, I finally “lost it”
during the obituaries. It’s
not a good time to be laughing when you’re talking about someone’s
dearly departed. Mr. Bridge lambasted me for that one. He made me call the family and apologize.
The family was much more gracious to me than I probably would
Simpson was the son of the owner of Simpson’s Sporting Goods in
Marshall. I met him at the
station and we became friends.
girlfriend, and eventual wife, was named Gaynell and attended East Texas
Baptist College in Marshall.
and I went to see Gaynell at her campus dorm one Saturday.
At the dorm I met Joanne Stubblefield.
Joanne and I would date while I was in Marshall.
She eventually left ETBC to go to school in Houston.
I felt like it had something to do with our relationship.
I drove to Houston once to see her.
She said she wished I hadn’t come and didn’t want to see me
anymore. Dumped again. I suspected that it had something to do with Melanie.
I was driving to Hammond once a month for drill.
a few months at KMHT, Tony Bridge gave me the opportunity to work at
sister station, KLUE in Longview, Texas, about 40 miles away from
Marshall. It was a bigger
market and played more of a Top 40 format than Marshall, so I jumped at
the opportunity. KLUE did
not have the luxurious studios of KMHT but has a sound that more
appealed to me. What I didn’t
realize at the time was that Mr. Bridge treated people at the Longview
station like dirt. I think
he had the feeling that people at KLUE goofed-off all the time so when
he came into town he’d have to “straighten them out”.
He was an entirely different person that I knew in Marshall.
I left KLUE abruptly one afternoon, when Mr. Bridge, on one of
his usual tirades, threw a broom at me and told me the transmitter room
was a mess. He wanted me to
go sweep it out and empty all the garbage cans, then pickup all the
trash outside the studios. I
felt that this was uncalled for.
felt insulted that he would ask me, a true talent, to stoop to doing
menial jobs. Picking up
I quit KLUE that day.
I would probably handle this situation differently, but in 1966, this
was a serious deal.
I remember once being moved to the morning show for
the vacationing Program Director. One of my duties at KLUE was to
go to the Police Station before my shift (at 4 in the morning) and copy
the police blotter to read on the sponsored morning newscast. Yes,
I had to read the news. I wasn't a morning person at the time (not
much of an afternoon person either), but I got to the station and when
it was time for the news slaughtered the English language and stumbled
and stuttered for 5 minutes. I couldn't read the stuff I had
written down from the police blotter. I was completely incoherent.
No one could possibly have understood anything I said during that 5
minutes. Totally embarrassing. Ugh. Until my Beauty
Pageant fiasco at WSGN in Birmingham, this was my radio "worst".
I remember once being moved to the morning show for the vacationing Program Director. One of my duties at KLUE was to go to the Police Station before my shift (at 4 in the morning) and copy the police blotter to read on the sponsored morning newscast. Yes, I had to read the news. I wasn't a morning person at the time (not much of an afternoon person either), but I got to the station and when it was time for the news slaughtered the English language and stumbled and stuttered for 5 minutes. I couldn't read the stuff I had written down from the police blotter. I was completely incoherent. No one could possibly have understood anything I said during that 5 minutes. Totally embarrassing. Ugh. Until my Beauty Pageant fiasco at WSGN in Birmingham, this was my radio "worst".
to gain employment, I got a job at KNCB in Vivian, Louisiana, a small
town about 40 miles from Marshall and about the same distance to
Shreveport. KNCB was owned
by the preacher of the Baptist Church in Vivian. He lived next door to the station, and in what I thought was
a unique thing to do, he owned four mobile homes behind the station next
to the transmitter tower that he would offer to his employees as
rentals. The deal was that
he would pay you less but give you a place to live.
of the other announcers at KNCB was a guy named Jim Sharpe.
Jim and his wife lived in one of the trailers, but I believe she
left him not long after. Jim
and I would drive over to Shreveport and hang around KEEL.
Jim landed a part time job at KEEL, working mostly on the
weekends, and still working during the week at KNCB.
He arranged an audition for me with KEEL Morning Man and Program
Director, Larry Ryan. When
I got to the studios, Larry gave me a script to read since most of my
airchecks were totally useless.
owner of KNCB in Vivian was pretty lenient in letting us run the type of
airshift we wanted. At that
time I wanted to sound like Johnny Stevens on WNOE in New Orleans, so
everyday I would attempt to be someone else on the radio.
Years later I would listen to some tapes I had of KNCB.
These were quite possibly the most horrendous airchecks of my
radio career. So, Larry
Ryan of KEEL was trying to do me a favor by letting me read a script. Unfortunately, the script was near impossible to read.
I think it was one of those scripts you give to a guy to
embarrass himself when you’re trying to “blow him off”.
It worked! I
was humbled when I left the studio.
one of my weekend visits to Shreveport, I noticed a 1966 Blue Corvette
Coupe on a used car lot. I’m
sure I got a real “shaft job” trading my paid-off ’66 Mustang for
the ’66 Vette, but I had such good memories of my ’60 Vette, I would
have made any deal (and probably did).
The ’66 Corvette turned out to be a good car.
Going to Marshall one weekend, I topped a hill only to see a
large German Shepherd standing in the road.
I hit the dog which threw me into a spin on the two-lane highway.
The Vette handled it well.
spun around several times, but I traveled straight down the highway,
finally coming to a stop. Unfortunately, I couldn’t believe the damage to the right
front quarter panel of the car.
fiberglass was totally destroyed.
friend David Simpson loaned me his family pick-up to drive during the 3
to 4 weeks my car was in the shop being repaired.
It seemed like it took forever, but the job done by the guy who
fixed it was flawless. After
driving the pickup truck for a month, it was really a special feeling to
get back behind the wheel of the Corvette.
continued to see Melanie each month as I drove back to Hammond each
month for weekend Guard drill.
Allison's’ were so nice to give me a place to stay on those weekends,
although I was convinced they only did it to keep Melanie happy.
She was still in school, making excellent grades, of course.
had really blossomed in College and I’m sure she was asked out by many
guys, but she remained faithful to me during all this time I was going
from town to town, radio station to radio station.
mentioned earlier that Melanie had sent me a picture that other guys
wanted to borrow during my active duty training in the Air Force.
That same picture was used when she ran for Southeastern’s
student body Vice President.
was a smart girl and very involved, but I am convinced that the people
who didn’t know her voted for her because of that picture on all of
her campaign literature. She won the election and it wasn’t even close.
1967, I was hired to be the overnight announcer at WAAY in Huntsville,
Alabama. I was hired by the
General Manager of the Top 40 radio station, so the Program Director,
Jim Kell, admitted to me that he didn’t know what to expect when I
showed up at the station ready to work.
Jim told me he wouldn’t have hired me based on the aircheck I
had sent, but he was pleased with my work after I got there.
toward Birmingham on Highway 11 in West Alabama in 1967, I started
looking for radio stations to listen to around Epes, Alabama.
The first station I found was the “Big Bam” WBAM in
Montgomery, Alabama. The
BAM was a 50,000 watt daytime station. Big signal, bad air talent.
The second station I tuned in was WVOK in Birmingham.
Same thing. Big
signal, bad air talent. Little
did I know at the time, WVOK was WBAMs sister station.
I was really feeling that Alabama radio might be a little
strange, but as I got closer to Huntsville and found WAAY, my opinion
changed. WAAY was a pretty
exciting sounding station, with lots of voice promos and jingles.
This was the type radio I wanted to be doing, so I adapted to the
monthly trips back to Hammond were killing me.
It seemed I was getting further and further away from Hammond.
Radio people said I should transfer to a unit in the area, but in
radio, who knows how long you’ll be there.
So, it was my decision to stay in the Hammond unit.
I’d just have to stay close enough to make it back to drill
the two or three months I worked the overnight shift from Midnight to 6
AM, one of the know-it-all daytime announcers told me that after
midnight as long as I wasn’t running any commercials, I could take it
up to full power. At night,
WAAY had 500-watts of power, barely enough to cover the city limits.
During the day it was 5000-watts non-directional, a huge
difference. So for months,
every night at Midnight, I’d switch over to the daytime transmitter.
I’d get calls and letters from all over the Southeast.
I eventually moved to midday's on WAAY and didn’t think much
about it again until a year or so later after I had left WAAY.
The station engineer called to tell me I had made a mistake and
put down daytime readings on the transmitter logs during the time period
when I worked overnights. I
told him about cranking-it-up every night and he just about had a heart
attack. He told me he just
hoped the FCC never wanted to look at the transmitter logs from those
Kell, Program Director of WAAY, at one time worked for WSGN in
Birmingham. After I told
him of my disappointment from some of the stations I’d heard driving
to Huntsville, he told me to listen to 610 AM, WSGN the next time I
drove through Birmingham. On
my next trip to Guard Drill in Hammond, I got to Birmingham on a Friday
afternoon in Afternoon Drive and Jim Tabor, WSGN’s Program Director
was on the air. WSGN was
one of the best sounding stations I had heard in a long time.
I noticed a definite similarity to KLIF in Dallas, a station I
had listened to while in radio school.
I later discovered that WSGN was patterned after KLIF.
Jim Tabor grew up in Dallas a big KLIF fan and had the means to
fly back and forth to Dallas quite often to get the latest ideas.
It was a great sounding station.
next trip to Hammond for Guard Drill, Melanie and I approached her
parents about getting married.
was ready and I thought I was, also. I remember her father pleading with her to wait until after
she graduates. It seemed a
reasonable request, but Melanie said it would be graduation, then it
would be after she got her Masters, then after she got her Doctorate! Melanie was very insistent.
I sat there and kept my mouth shut!
She told her Mom and Dad if we didn’t get their blessing on
this, that we would elope. Somewhere
along the way in the last three years Melanie developed a backbone. I had never seen her so determined. And, she won. The
date was set.
We were married in the First Baptist Church in Hammond, and since Melanie has grown up in Hammond, just about the entire town had come. It was much bigger than what I expected. During the reception on the ground floor of the building my brother mentioned that my friends had really trashed my Corvette good. In typical wedding fashion, they had white shoe polish and garbage all over my car. I was really upset. I got Tom to take it to the car wash and clean it up while the reception was going on. It ruined my entire day. (Now does this sound like a guy mature enough to be getting married?) He did get most of the shoe polish off, but we got pounded with rice when we left the reception for the car and the car got filled with rice. I didn’t like that either. I would be picking rice out of the carpet for months! We honeymooned for one night in Biloxi, before driving on to Huntsville to an apartment I had rented for us. In radio, you don’t get much time off for honeymoons and such. I had to be back at work Monday.
and I had barely settled into our apartment before it was time to move.
I had sent an aircheck and resume to the new Program Director of
WSGN in Birmingham, Walt Williams.
It seems Jim Tabor had left the station to work at his hometown
KLIF in Dallas. It was always his goal to work there and he finally made it.
working a weekend air shift at WAAY one Saturday afternoon, and Walt
Williams walked into the studio through the back door and hired me to
come to Birmingham. I was
later to find out that the job was between Dale Doreman, who sent an
aircheck from Schenectady, New York’s WOLF.
Walt played me the tape and while I thought it was tremendously
funny, Dale would have never “fit” on WSGN.
Dale Doreman didn’t have a great voice, but did go on to be a
tremendously successful morning man in Boston.
He had tons of talent.
put Melanie and I in the Tutwiler Hotel in Downtown Birmingham until we
found a place to stay. It
took us about a week to decide we would purchase a mobile home and place
it on a lot on the eastside of Birmingham in an area across from
Eastwood Mall. In 1968,
this was a growing area close to Irondale.
Melanie enrolled at the University of Alabama Birmingham to
continue her education and also got a job working for Protective Life
was located in the Penthouse (27th floor) of the City Federal
Building. You entered the
studios from an elevator on the 26th floor.
This was the lobby area, a big open room with couches, effect
lighting, and large pictures of the Disc Jockeys lit by track lighting.
It was really impressive.
offices and studios were up a flight of stairs where you entered a
wide-open floor with floor to ceiling glass overlooking an outside
walkway around the top of the building.
Jim Tabor had done an excellent job of building the station’s
image. At the end of every
newscast the temperature would be given as “From the Penthouse, Direct
line temperature is…” WSGN
was number one in Birmingham.
Tabor had left the station leaving an opening in afternoon drive.
Dave Roddy, a long time popular night DJ in Birmingham moved to
afternoons and I would fill his old slot from 6 PM to 10 PM each night.
The lineup included Steve Norris in the morning, Walt Williams
from 9 until Noon, Glen Powers from Noon until 3, Dave Roddy, Me, and
Joey Roberts who worked overnights.
News people included News Director, Dave Perry, Pete Taylor, and
One of my most embarrassing moments (maybe number
one) happened when the GM at WSGN asked me to do him a favor and MC a
High School Beauty Pageant at Mountain Brook High School. Mountain
Brook is/was an excellent school in a totally upper-crust area of
Birmingham. Undoubtedly the richest community in Alabama.
The Pageant was on a weeknight. I was working 6-10 at night and
told Ben McKinnon, GM, that I didn't think it would be wise to miss my
airshift. He made it clear this was a personal favor I would be
doing, so there was no debating what I was going to do. I thought,
how bad could it be? I mean, how hard can it be Emceeing a
high school pageant? I showed up at the school at the appointed
time. Whoa. Nice school. Every convenience.
Little did I know that Mountain Brook's pageant was similar to "Miss
America"! They did swimsuits, talent and formal wear. And
guess who was supposed to fill-in with snappy adlibs during all that
down-time? It was a long night. I don't know what I said or
did that night on stage, but I do know this: It was bad. I left
that night feeling like I had been in a fight and was completely
demoralized. I think the audience actually felt sorry for me.
It was bad. Really bad. I swore to never do a pageant again
(and I didn't). It was that bad.
One of my most embarrassing moments (maybe number one) happened when the GM at WSGN asked me to do him a favor and MC a High School Beauty Pageant at Mountain Brook High School. Mountain Brook is/was an excellent school in a totally upper-crust area of Birmingham. Undoubtedly the richest community in Alabama. The Pageant was on a weeknight. I was working 6-10 at night and told Ben McKinnon, GM, that I didn't think it would be wise to miss my airshift. He made it clear this was a personal favor I would be doing, so there was no debating what I was going to do. I thought, how bad could it be? I mean, how hard can it be Emceeing a high school pageant? I showed up at the school at the appointed time. Whoa. Nice school. Every convenience. Little did I know that Mountain Brook's pageant was similar to "Miss America"! They did swimsuits, talent and formal wear. And guess who was supposed to fill-in with snappy adlibs during all that down-time? It was a long night. I don't know what I said or did that night on stage, but I do know this: It was bad. I left that night feeling like I had been in a fight and was completely demoralized. I think the audience actually felt sorry for me. It was bad. Really bad. I swore to never do a pageant again (and I didn't). It was that bad.
man, Glen Powers, received a promotion about 6 months after my arrival
at WSGN, taking the Program Director job at our sister station in
Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
When WSGN Program Director Walt Williams left in 1970 to take a
programming job at WRVA in Richmond, Virginia, Glen came back to WSGN as
Program Director. I don’t
think I ever gave Glen a chance.
I had also applied for the position of PD, I was jealous that he had
gotten the job. Also due to overall immaturity on my part, my 3 years at
WSGN came to an end over a disagreement with Glen.
immaturity in 1970 also led to my divorce from Melanie.
I proved that her parents were right.
We shouldn’t have gotten married.
At least, not when we did.
we waited, I think Melanie and I could have made it.
She was a sweet woman with a lot of good qualities that my
immaturity wouldn’t let me appreciate.
It would have been better for her if I had not come into her
life. In later years, this
would be more evident to me. Still traveling back to Hammond,
Louisiana, once a month for Air National Guard, I would normally stay in
a motel. Melanie asked me to stay at her parents house. She
would be there visiting. Our divorce wasn't final yet and it would
be just the smart thing to do. I could sleep in her brother's
room. Should'a known. I got back from drill on Saturday
evening and her Mom and Dad were waiting for me in the Living Room.
I could see the "I'm Sorry" look in Melanie's eyes as we were "grilled"
for over an hour. It wasn't my finest hour. The Allisons
were good people. They had big dreams for Melanie and I had ruined
Still traveling back to Hammond, Louisiana, once a month for Air National Guard, I would normally stay in a motel. Melanie asked me to stay at her parents house. She would be there visiting. Our divorce wasn't final yet and it would be just the smart thing to do. I could sleep in her brother's room. Should'a known. I got back from drill on Saturday evening and her Mom and Dad were waiting for me in the Living Room. I could see the "I'm Sorry" look in Melanie's eyes as we were "grilled" for over an hour. It wasn't my finest hour. The Allisons were good people. They had big dreams for Melanie and I had ruined them.
than 6 months following my divorce from Melanie, I married Susan Searcy,
a friend I had met through some of the other guys who worked at WSGN.
My marriage to Susan would last 13 years and produce three sons,
Kristopher Michael, Kevin McDonough, and Kerry Martin.
my 3 years at WSGN, from 1968 to 1971, Program Director Robert Mitchell
offered me a job at WTIX in New Orleans.
I had always wanted to work in New Orleans but was disturbed by
the fact that the “Real” Robert Mitchell wouldn’t pay me any more
money than he was offering. At
the time, I was making a whopping $185 a week at WSGN, and WTIX was
offering me $160. If this
wasn’t bad enough, it was also stipulated in the deal that I would
start in Midday’s at WTIX, but if I didn’t work out in that time
slot, they would move me to 9 PM to 1 AM following “Skinny” Tommy
Cheney. I wanted to work at
WTIX badly, but turned down the offer.
It may have been a good move for me.
I’ll never know if it was the right decision, but I felt they
should at least pay me more than I was making in Birmingham.
Another opportunity came up for a Program Director opening in
Montgomery, Alabama, at WHHY. I traveled to Montgomery and met
with manager Bob Robinson in their downtown studios in the Executive
Building. In years down the road, Bob Robinson and I would
reminisce about my interview. I felt I was a high-powered jock
from the big city. Bob felt like he was a cheapskate manager of a
number one radio station. I didn't want the job and he didn't want
me. Strange how years later, Bob learned that he had to spend
money to make money. I think Bob Barron and Larry Stevens finally
convinced him. Oh well, we would meet again as you will see later.
Another opportunity came up for a Program Director opening in Montgomery, Alabama, at WHHY. I traveled to Montgomery and met with manager Bob Robinson in their downtown studios in the Executive Building. In years down the road, Bob Robinson and I would reminisce about my interview. I felt I was a high-powered jock from the big city. Bob felt like he was a cheapskate manager of a number one radio station. I didn't want the job and he didn't want me. Strange how years later, Bob learned that he had to spend money to make money. I think Bob Barron and Larry Stevens finally convinced him. Oh well, we would meet again as you will see later.
in St. Louis (actually St. Charles), Missouri, also offered me a
position, but WSGN PD Walt Williams, convinced me that KIRL, although
doing well for a suburban St. Louis station, couldn’t really compete
with the major players in St. Louis.
I turned them down, too.
leaving WSGN, I went back to Huntsville for 6 months and did the morning
show at WVOV. This was a
10,000 watt station that was now doing pretty well competing against
WAAY, even though it was a daytime station.
I took over the morning show, with Larry Horne in midday, and
Program Director Mark Damon working the afternoon show till sign off.
I went through one ratings sweep in Huntsville.
As incentive to do a great job, the three of us were offered a
chance to compete for an all-expense paid trip to New Orleans.
(This wasn’t really too appealing for me).
The deal was that the jock with the highest ratings would win the
trip. I argued that it
would be fairer to give the trip to the jock with the biggest “increase”
over the last ratings.
the station was a day timer, the highest ratings almost always fell in
afternoon drive, because morning drive had no lead-in.
I was all for just going ahead and giving the trip to Mark since
that’s the way the deal was headed anyway!
When the ratings finally did come out, I was number one in
morning drive. They never mentioned the stinking trip again.
In 1971, while at WVOV, I called Dave Scott at KIRL in St. Louis. He remembered me from WSGN and still wanted to hire me and had an opening available. He told me to be there on a certain date and I made arrangements to travel to St. Louis, or St. Charles that was located just across the river from St. Louis. When I got in town I went straight to the radio station that was located at the transmitter site on a highway just outside St. Charles. I announced my arrival to the receptionist. Dave came out and greeted me and asked me to step outside the studios. He was acting very secretive as he directed me to a small trailer behind the main building. He told me to go to the St. Charles Hotel. They were holding a room for me. He would call me there. I would wait in the Hotel for three days before finally getting to go to the studios. Dave explained that he was getting rid of his current air-staff and had to wait until the right time to do it. When I got to the station, Dave and I were the only on-air people. He called in a guy that he had used part time to round out the staff temporarily. I would soon find out that staff changes at KIRL occurred very frequently. Program Director Dave Scott and Owner Mike Rice would tire of air personalities quite often. People were always coming and going from KIRL. For the first couple of weeks at KIRL, I was there by myself. My wife, Susan, was pregnant in Alabama and I was to move her up soon. But, since I was alone, I spent many hours at the studios working on production and getting a “feel” for the station. Dave and Mike seemed to like me. I stayed at KIRL for a year and 7 months. It could be a record at KIRL. There might be a couple of other jocks to claim staying longer, but I haven’t met them. During that period from 1972 to 1973, I had a chance to work with many jocks that came through KIRL. Many left before they got fired, but most were fired. Many of them went on to become great air talents. Surely, it was not big deal to get fired from KIRL. I did eventually leave on my own accord, to return to Alabama, but I did want to relate an example of the "listener pacifier". The KIRL request line was answered by an answering machine with the message, "Hi, Welcome to the KIRL Request Line! Let us know what song you'd like to hear at the sound of the tone, and we'll get it on as soon as possible; and thanks for listening (BEEP)! Then the listener would leave their request and no one would ever hear it. There wasn't ever a recording tape in the machine. (To be fair, you could override the system and answer the request line manually, but most of the time people made requests thinking somebody was listening or cared.)
In January of 1973, Susan was induced into labor (for Doctor’s convenience) at St. Charles Hospital and Kristopher Michael Flaherty was born on the 23rd. This birthing experience would prepare me for future births. We didn’t do Lamaze classes, so I wasn’t allowed to be in the labor or delivery rooms. The nurse told me to just go out and wait in the waiting room. I waited and waited. Two or three hours later, after I flagged down a nurse to find out what was going on, she told me that I was a father of a baby boy. No one had even come out to tell me. I later found out that labor did not go well and they were going to do a cesarean section, but somebody was already in the c-section unit, so while they were waiting, Kris was born. For the birth of my next three sons, I would be there to know what decisions were being made.
was one incident that occurred at KIRL that added a new radio “low”
to my collection. It was no
secret that I had sent out tapes from KIRL to other stations.
One reply letter was sent to KIRL studios by mistake and was from
WIBG in Philadelphia. Owner
Mike Rice saw the envelope and questioned me about seeking employment
elsewhere. I joked around
and told him it was nothing.
days of receiving this letter, Susan’s father died in Clanton,
Alabama, and we needed to travel home for his funeral.
I told Mike of his death, and he wouldn’t believe me.
He laughed and said he knew I was going on a job interview.
Although I promised that I would not use the death of my wife’s
father as an excuse to go on a job interview, Mike persisted in giving
me a hard time. He told me that if indeed my father-in-law had died, that I
should bring back the newspaper obituary.
If I produce the obit, he’d buy Susan and I a pizza.
I brought back the obit and he bought us a pizza.
1973, we moved to Montgomery, Alabama.
I had accepted a morning show position with WCOV Radio.
It was also the CBS-TV affiliate at the time and I also anchored
the Noon TV News. Unfortunately,
WCOV was a middle-of-the-road radio station, meaning their format
consisted of a strange mix of music, news and talk.
The station had been “top dog” in town just a few years
before, but now was seeing harder times.
WCOV Program Director, Madison Davis, hired me so the station
could get a “major market” air talent and provide a spark for the
station. I’m not sure
what they were expecting me to do, but I was sure that I was not enough
to overcome years of stale programming on outdated equipment.
6 months time, I was doing midday’s across the street at WHHY, hired
by Larry Stevens, the Top 40 station’s Program Director.
Larry and I became immediate friends and went on to work many
years together. Between
1973 and 1977, WHHY was a great radio station.
Great attention was paid to the “sound” of the station, from
music, to promotions, to jingles, to jocks.
Larry Stevens could be demanding to work for, and many didn’t
make it at WHHY, but Larry knew what he wanted to accomplish with WHHY
and there was no stopping him. Larry was a friend and mentor to me and actually was the
catalyst for many of the good jobs I would get in the future. Larry taught me radio basics I would use at every station.
WHHY studios were in a converted house on Norman Bridge Road. At the time, this was a very visible location as much of the traffic of Montgomery passed by the studios. On one occasion I remember stomping into Larry Steven's office. Something had me riled and I was busy making my point to Larry when he stopped me mid-sentence and said, "Uh, Kris. You've got a booger right there on your nose." Needless to say, I never got my point across.
It has been my good fortune to work at some good radio stations, but I must say between 1973 and 1977 I never felt more accomplished after an airshift than at WHHY. I felt at home and really felt I did some of my best work there.
From the time I had worked at KIRL in St. Louis, I had kept in touch with Dan Mason who had worked at KIRL for about six months. Dan was super enthusiastic about radio and it made me feel good to be around him. He was a very positive person. Dan had gotten the overnight position at WZGC, Z-93 in Atlanta. Because of his enthusiasm, he had convinced management to appoint him assistant Program Director of the station after being there only a short time. In less than a year, Dan was Program Director of Z-93. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! That was Dan Mason. Due to Dan’s hard work and the timing of FM penetration, the station exploded in his first Arbitron rating. The station leaped to number 2 in the market behind old-line WSB. Dan scored at 12.7 in his first book. He was immediately the new “Wonder Boy” of radio.
After his one rating book, First Media’s WPGC in Washington needed a Program Director. WPGC was Z-93’s sister station. J. W. and Richard Marriott of hotel fame owned first Media. Dan moved to Washington and became National PD for First Media. Quincy McCoy was hired at Program Director at Z-93, Atlanta. He hired Don Cox to do afternoons. First Media was a very “mom & pop” squeaky-clean operation. So when Don Cox started giving away lollipops on his afternoon drive show, calling them “Cox Suckers,” something had to be done. Quincy McCoy and Don Cox were both out at Z-93 when Dan called me in Montgomery. He told me the whole story. I was happy in Montgomery and wasn’t looking for a move. I had just moved into a new home. (Well, new for us).
It was decided that I would go to Atlanta to meet with Z-93 General Manager John Frankhauser. John was to be on a panel at a Radio Convention in Atlanta at Dunfey’s Royal Coach and I was to meet up with John after he finished his panel. This had to be discreetly done since the Z-93 job was highly sought-after and we didn’t want rumors started. So, John and I walked around the Royal Coach parking lot talking. John was a character! He was down-to-earth and wasn’t trying to impress anybody. He, of course, wanted to know my programming philosophy. Although I didn’t have one, I told John about WHHY and what had been done in Montgomery to dominate the market. At the time I thought good radio was good radio and the things done in Montgomery could work in Atlanta. In reality, I would find out that Montgomery, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia were two different worlds. When it came to the bottom line, I told John that I was good friends with Dan and that I would do with Z-93 what Dan wanted me to do. Dan needed someone he could trust in Atlanta. Little did I know that one year later at that same convention I would be accepting a plaque from “Charlie’s Angel” Cheryl Ladd for Major Market Program Director of the Year.
Z-93 was a great radio station in 1977. You could feel the energy. Dan had done a great job formatting and positioning the station and putting his staff in a position to be winners. He was a great motivator and everyone there loved him. I saw my role as emulating Dan the best I could and do the things that needed to be done to keep Z-93 on top. But, after I was there a couple of months and got the “feel” of the station, I wanted to make some changes. I wanted out of working 9 till Noon on-air. I couldn’t get any work done and people were always coming into the studio. During my years of traveling around listening to radio stations I had heard Randy Reeves on WCGQ in Columbus, Georgia. Randy had a smooth as silk voice and tremendous presence on the air. Randy was an off-air Production Director for WGST, an all News station in Atlanta. I hired Randy to work middays at Z-93. Randy was then and still is one of the best voices in the radio business. He can be heard doing voiceovers in just about every city in America today. When I left Z-93, Randy confided in me that he was intimidated by me when he first came to Z-93. I was shocked. Randy Reeves is a real radio guy. I would put him on any radio station, anywhere. He was a great hire.
With Randy on board, that freed up my daytime so I could work the 6 to 9 PM shift on Z-93. This was good for my career. Not particularly good for my family life.
Another change I wanted to make was the morning show. Dr. Don West (Stephen Wesley Harding) and Bob Middleton were doing the morning show at Z-93 when I got there. Both these guys were tremendously talented. I think one of my shortcomings (I have several) is not being able to adjust to working with talent who have successfully worked with another PD. Let me explain. Dan Mason knew these guys well. He knew what motivated them. They didn’t work together well before Dan started working with them and molding them into a good morning show. By the time I got there, they were losing focus. Dan was a creative “idea” man who was always feeding them ideas for the show. While I can be creative, I am not very creative under pressure. There are probably plenty of good Program Directors who could have worked with Dr. Don and Bob and gotten them back on track. I failed them because I didn’t know how to handle them. That was my fault and two very talented people would be out of work because of me. At that time, I could hear in my head what I wanted the morning show to sound like on Z-93, and they couldn’t possibly fill the bill.
Enter Ross & Wilson. (Ross Brittain & Brian Wilson)
After a few months, John Frankhauser left Z-93 to purchase a station in Lubbock, Texas. I would miss John. Bud Polacek became the new GM of Z-93. Bud was a salesman for a Florida television station before coming to Z-93. Bud once called me into his office and suggested the use of slogans on Z-93. Slogans like: “Doctors like the way we operate at Z-93”, or “Lawyers like the way we plead our case”. Looking like a buffoon, I sat with my mouth open for what seemed like 5 minutes. I tried to be diplomatic in telling him I didn’t think that sounded like Z-93. I should have threatened to throw him out the window! Bud and I never did “gel”. He was a starched-shirt, all business, micro-manager. I was a radio guy.
Z-93 needed a morning show. I received a tape from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from a morning team on WJBO, Ross & Wilson. Even with the different format I definitely thought these two had the “moxie” for a major market morning show. I told Bud that I needed to fly into Baton Rouge to listen to their morning show, then meet them for breakfast and talk. Bud wanted to go. Okay, whatever.
We flew into Baton Rouge and went to a hotel near the Old State Capitol building on the Mississippi River. We got separate rooms (thank goodness). My ex-wife Melanie was now teaching in Baton Rouge. I found her in the phone book and called. We met for coffee somewhere, then talked all night long. Melanie was a sweet woman. When I left her early that next morning, I felt like we were friends again. I couldn’t know that she would overdose on pills a few months later. That was the last time I saw her.
Getting back to my room around 5:00 AM, I was just in time to start monitoring the Ross & Wilson morning show. By this time that motel bed was starting to look pretty darn good, but I couldn’t get any sleep now. I took a shower, listened some more, then met Bud downstairs for breakfast. When Ross and Brian got off the air at WJBO I called them and asked them to meet us at the hotel.
Ross Brittain was pretty radio savvy. He was from Atlanta and knew the market well. It was Ross who sent the tape and offered up their morning show to Z-93 for $20,000 a year. At the hotel, I asked Ross & Brian if they were ready to start at Z-93. They wanted to know the deal. I said we would give them the $20,000 a year he had requested. (Even in 1977 this amount of money was ludicrous). Brian said, “Whoa! Wait just a minute. Ross did you tell them we could come for $20,000 a year?!! You’ll have to excuse Ross and I for a few minutes while we discuss this.” Ross & Wilson left the table and came back a few minutes later and said they couldn’t possibly consider leaving Baton Rouge for less than $30,000 a year. Was I in the “Twilight Zone”? I just hired a major market morning show for $30,000 a year!
Believe me when I tell you that Ross & Wilson wouldn’t make $30,000 a year for long. These two immediately became best buds with Bud Polacek. They came to Atlanta and took over. Ross & Wilson (who would eventually leave Z-93 for Z-100 in New York) were super talents. They were outrageously funny on air. Ross & Wilson had Atlanta talking and had other radio stations feeling the “heat”. The downside of all of this was the “good cop, bad cop” routine you were up against when dealing with them. Ross had programmed radio stations and understood where I was coming from. Brian Wilson on the other hand could care less. Many times I would just talk with Ross and let Ross try and control Brian. After leaving Z-93, and going to New York, Ross & Wilson would split as a morning show. Talent and ego are hard things to keep in check.
I had lucked into the greatest air staff in all of Top 40 radio: Ross & Wilson in the morning, Randy Reeves midday, Dale O'Brien afternoons, Kris O'Kelly from 6-9PM, Steve Taylor 9 until midnight. Z-93 was one exciting place.
Another good thing to happen at Z-93 was Bill Stoephaas. Bill was Sales Manager at Z-93. Bill was one of the few Sales Managers that I’ve dealt with that understood radio programming. He would constantly work to make a sales promotion, a programming promotion. If the promotion didn’t attract audience, he wouldn’t do it. Wow. How refreshing! Bill was a master at putting things together. Any success I had at Z-93 would be because of my friendship and relationship with Dan Mason and Bill Stoephaas. With those two behind you, you couldn’t lose. Bill and I would hookup again later in radio.
Music Day at a Major Market radio station is chaos. All the record people are in the lobby waiting to be seen to hype their records. Susan, my second wife, is home pregnant with our 2nd child and about to deliver at any time. We lived in Stone Mountain, about 30 minutes outside downtown Atlanta. She called and told me not to rush, but it was time to go to the hospital. Our first child, Kris, took forever in delivery, so I took my time, joked around with the record guys awhile, and finally left to go to my car in Peachtree Center’s parking deck. When I got home Susan was sprawled on the couch, sweating profusely, and saying that the baby was coming. I calmly assured her that we’d go to the hospital where she’ll have a lot of labor time ahead of her. She couldn’t walk to the car, so I got one of the workmen who were painting our home at the time to help me get her to the car. During the trip to DeKalb General Hospital in Decatur, Susan was breathing rapidly and screaming that the baby is coming! I kept trying to calm her. By the time we were half way there I was running red lights. We made it to the hospital emergency room where they threw her on a cart, checked her out and said she was "crowning”. All I had time to do was throw on a hat and hospital cover-up, run into delivery and yell “push”! Kevin plopped right out. She was actually holding him in all that time. Just a slight miscalculation on my part.
When I first started at Z-93, Dan Mason told me to stay away from Independent record promoters. He said they would offer me all sorts of things but to not take them because it would ruin my reputation in the industry if people thought I could be bought. The biggest Independent promoter in Atlanta was “Ole Bear” Jimmy Davenport. Bear was a likeable man with a great home in Marietta, north of Atlanta. He was the owner of WFOM Radio in Marietta and famous in Atlanta for his music meetings at the station where all the record promotion people would vote on which songs Jimmy would add. Old Bear was liked by most everyone. Many of the record people, independents and labeled promoters, hung around Jimmy’s house. It was like a party all the time. I liked him but never gave him my adds early or played his records just because of who he was. One day at lunch before the Spring Arbitron ratings were published, Jimmy told me that he thought I was a nice guy and trying hard, but that I should be prepared for Z-93 to take a tumble in the ratings. When the ratings book came out, Z-93 had a 12.3. Old Bear never said another thing to me about ratings. As I mentioned earlier, the next Summer I was presented with the “Major Market Program Director of the Year” Plaque at the Radio Music Conference at Dunfey’s Royal Coach. That was the same year that “Old Bear” was beaten up at the hotel by outsiders who had sneaked into the hotel. The Royal Coach was a sprawling hotel that was nearly impossible to secure. Needless to say, the convention was moved in later years.
I thought it would be a good idea to invite Dr. Don Rose from KFRC in San Francisco to go on-air with Ross & Wilson at Z-93 on the Friday morning of the radio conference. I put signs all over the hotel promoting Dr. Don with Ross & Wilson so all the radio people would listen. It didn’t quite turn out as I had envisioned. What resulted was a battle of one-upsmanship. There was no format. These guys went on for two or three hours just clowning around. It was really funny, but the format was destroyed in the process. I’m not sure our listeners knew what was happening. I just hope they got the commercials in.
My second ratings book came back as a 12.0. Great ratings, great business. Z-93 was pulling in a ton of money. I was still working all day doing programming, etc. and pulling a 3-hour airshift weeknights from 6 until 9 PM. I can’t say enough about the talent on the station. Ross & Wilson doing mornings, Randy Reeves middays, and Dale O’Brien in afternoon drive. Every one of those guys was tops in his time slot. They gave Z-93 an unforgettable sound.
News in the morning was hosted by a female who is now with the ABC Radio Network. I won’t say her name because I’m not sure how she would feel about this story. This woman was great on air. One Saturday at the station I was taking care of business and she was at the station getting some public affairs show ready for Sunday. She had a woman with her that was an absolute knockout. I called the newsperson over and asked her to get her friend out of there. She was distracting me. She said, “Kris, didn’t you know I’m BI”. Immediately, I’m thinking “you’re what?” Then it hit me, and I said you mean she’s….? She nodded her head. Wow. You never know.
For a while, Z-93 also did news briefs in the afternoon. I had a guy named Bill McQuage that handled afternoons, and even did morning news when the anchor wasn’t there. Bill was very professional and very smooth on the air. But, I made the decision to cut afternoon news altogether. I called Bill into my office and told him I had something bad to talk with him about. Then, for some unknown reason, I got tickled. I started laughing and the more Bill looked at me the funnier it got. Bill finally said, “Well it must not be too bad.” I told him it was pretty bad. I was going to have to let him go. Bill was crushed. I could see it in his face. I wasn’t laughing any more. How did I ever get to be a Program Director? I’m sure Bill went on to other jobs where I hope more professional programmers treated him better.
To make matters worse (if that wasn’t bad enough), I was chosen to be on a panel at a News Directors convention going on in Atlanta. The panel was named, “How to convince your Program Director that News is important.” Since I had just fired my afternoon news guy, my butt was on the spit and ready to be barbecued. I tried to make the most of an awkward situation and failed miserably. I was lucky to walk out alive.
Z-93's new GM Bud Polacek who did television sales before taking the GM job at Z-93, called me into his office on day to talk about programming. He suggested we do something his TV station did which was to promote the station through one-liner drop-ins, like: "Doctor's like the way we operate, Z-93". He had many more which were just as bad, but I think you get my drift. I wasn't sure if he was joking, but he seemed dead serious. Today, I'd tell him we'd do that when I was DEAD, but at the time I tried to be diplomatic and explained that I didn't think this was the correct approach for Z-93. OMG. I felt like I had been transported to another planet.
Z-93, Atlanta, was a great place to work; great for the ego and very professional. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paid very well at all. In 1979, after two successful ratings books, the Major Market Program Director of the Year at the number one Top 40 Station in the Southeast was making $22,000 per year. That was pitiful money even back in those days. If I thought we got Ross & Wilson at bargain basement prices, then what was I doing there? My counterpart over at 94Q (WQXI) was pulling down around $60,000 a year and I’m making $22,000! In addition, I was getting worn out by the long hours and my wife was extremely upset about what was happening to our family life.
There were other things I was into also. I found it very profitable to do dances. I contracted with a guy who would take his sound equipment, including turntables, mike, speakers and such and set it all up. On Friday and Saturday nights I would book a dance for $600, give him $200 and take the $400 for myself. All I did was show up, give a way some prizes, spin a few tunes, and collect my money. Pretty easy money, but it involved more of my time.
Something had to give so I went to Manager Bud Polacek. I explained to Bud that I had come to Z-93 at a low salary as a favor to Dan Mason and figured I would get raises along the way to get me up to a reasonable level; comparable to what my competitors made. Bud gave me the old, “Let me see what I can do” line. When he did come back to me the next day in my office he said he had approval to raise my salary to $24,000. I wanted to throw my desk at him. I didn’t. Instead, I called Dan Mason and told him my sad story. Dan said what I might have to do is get another job offer to shake them up. I can remember how I felt at the time. I was hurt that I would have to resort to playing games to get a decent wage. I didn’t feel I was being unreasonable. Larry Stevens and I remained close and it was about this same time that Larry was looking for a midday person. Over the next few days, Larry offered me the same thing I was making at Z-93 to return to Montgomery and do middays. I was tired and knew I couldn’t keep the pace I was going for much longer. I was afraid that if I cut back on my hours and ratings went down I would be blamed, then fired. I agreed to go back to Montgomery. I called Dan Mason and explained the situation. Dan told me that I should never go backwards. He told me to stick it out and get a better offer. Either I’d get a better deal at Z-93 or move on. “Just don’t go back”. Dan’s words would come back to haunt me and really play with my head. I left a dream job, but low pay and long hours can play with your mind. I went back to Montgomery.
Going back to Montgomery and WHHY was somewhat of a wake-up call for me. I discovered that many of the friends I had made in Atlanta weren’t really friends at all. I was naïve enough to think that some of the record people were really friends of mine. But, the instant I had no way to help them succeed, I was forgotten. In the future, I would handle things differently. I also had to wake-up to the fact that things don’t stay the same. When I returned to Montgomery, WHHY-AM wasn’t dominating as they once did. FM was now on the scene and eating into WHHY’s dominance. WHHY had a 100,000-watt FM station that was playing album rock. I tried to convince Larry Stevens to switch the Top 40 format to FM. We could dominate again. Montgomery wasn’t as progressive as Atlanta. Bob Robinson and Larry wanted to keep the AM going for a long as possible to milk every bit of revenue.
When I first arrived back in Montgomery, ratings had just arrived and in a “freak” book, the FM beat the AM. Everyone was convinced that diary keepers had such an FM mindset, that they recorded WHHY-FM in their diaries instead of WHHY-AM. The FM had been programming an “eclectic” mix of album cuts. Certainly, it wasn’t a format that could garner anything close to the ratings reflected in the Arbitron. Larry asked me to program the FM. Like an idiot, I accepted. First, the FM had inflated ratings from the last book. It had to come down. Second, they weren’t going to let me program Top 40. What was I thinking?
Susan was pregnant again with our third child. Kerry, my third son was born on April 2nd, 1980 at Baptist Hospital in Montgomery.
It was frustrating programming a station to not pull audience from the AM. I became depressed; very depressed. The next ratings book came out, and of course, the FM went back down to reality ratings. I became even more depressed. I kept remembering Dan Mason’s words, “You should never go back.” This was a situation I couldn’t get myself out of. I felt trapped, so my mind took control. In 1981, I lost my voice. Talking on the radio became a real chore instead of something I enjoyed doing. I went to a throat Doctor to be checked out. Vocal cords checked out fine. I went to a Speech Therapist who taught me to breathe again. I was trying to talk using residual air, instead of breathing normally. My throat was constricting when I tried to speak. Eventually, I would find out all of this was caused by anxiety and depression. But, it came too late for my radio career. Larry Stevens had to let me go. I understood why, but being let go from my job didn’t help me in controlling my anxiety.
Larry Stevens did help me find another position. I became the coordinator for the George Lindsey Celebrity Golf Tournament in Montgomery. This event was held the third weekend of April, each year. Actually, the pay wasn’t bad. The event had a corporate sponsor, Drummond Coal out of Jasper, Alabama. This was George Lindsey’s hometown. He grew up with the Drummonds and they helped by supporting his Tournament, and paying me a full time salary year round to coordinate the event. Drummond Coal was very good to me, allowing me to do afternoons on WBAM-FM after about a year when my anxiety was starting to lessen. It was a very difficult time for me. Between 1981 and 1983, I would make a lot of changes in my life.
I continued to work afternoons on WBAM-FM trying to recapture my announcing skills. In 1983, I got a divorce and remarried three months later to my current wife, Kathy.
During the summer of 1983, Bill Stoephaas, my old friend from Z-93, Atlanta called me from New Orleans. Bill was now General Manager of WQUE-FM, Q93 in New Orleans and asked if I’d be interested in the programming position. This was a great opportunity. Kathy and I were newly married. It would be a fresh start for us, and a re-start for my programming career. Besides, New Orleans was my hometown.
Kathy and I came to New Orleans and the station put us up in the Hilton at the foot of Canal St. on the Mississippi River. Kathy was reluctant to leave the room without me. People had told her such terrible things about New Orleans. I think I finally convinced her it would be safe to venture out into the lobby while I was working. After a couple of weeks, she got over that fear really fast. We leased a town-home and settled in. WQUE was an AM and FM. The FM was an adult contemporary at the time. It was pretty laid back, but we had this tremendous morning show that was anything but laid back. Bill said we would have to decide whether to get rid of the morning show or go straight Top 40 and take on Market leader, WEZB, B-97 FM. Easy choice.
The former PD of the FM when they were Adult Contemporary was Phil Zachary, who was promoted to GM of the AM station. The AM had been News-Talk. Phil was going to go Top 40 with the AM and get rid of the pricey news people. Phil wasn’t too thrilled that Bill and I were going to take WQUE-FM Top 40. But, there wasn’t much he could do about it. As I mentioned earlier, Bill Stoephaas is a class guy. Great idea man; very positive. Phil Zachary was just the opposite. I remember once in a staff meeting we were discussing coordination of events, budgets, etc. After the regular meeting was over, Phil asked Bill and me to stay behind. After everyone left, he shut the door and proceeded to “dog cuss” us to the max. He was screaming at us about something trivial. Bill sat there and took it. I took it as long as I could, finally standing and saying, “Phil, you’re an a-hole.” Phil was screaming as I left the room, “Oh, that’s great I got a friggin’ PD calling me an a-hole. I’m a GM with this company.” I later apologized to Bill who admitted to me that Phil is definitely an a-hole, but I shouldn’t have said it to his face. I told Bill that life was too short for me to have to sit and allow someone to act like a spoiled child. I’d rather go back to Alabama than put up with that stuff. To keep peace though, a couple of days later, I did go to Phil and apologize for calling him an a-hole. He didn’t have the class to apologize for being one. We did pretty well avoiding each other after that.
Q-93 instituted “30 Minutes of Non-Stop Music”. Originally, it was to be “30 Minutes of Continuous Music” but it was decided a great amount of people in New Orleans wouldn’t know what “continuous” meant, so we went with “non stop”. The morning show of Walton & Johnson, became the “Q Morning Krewe.” Our ratings promotion was “Thousand Dollar Thursdays”. We did heavy TV on Wednesday, saying if you had a 9 and a 3 anywhere in your dollar bill serial number you could win $1000 if you’re caller 93 at 7:15 in the morning. I always looked forward to getting off the elevator in Tidewater Place on Thursday mornings and seeing all of the idiots standing around with their dollar bills in hand telling the others they were there to pickup their thousand dollars. I was amazed. The promotion was a huge success. So much so, that B-97 started doing their own “Thousand Dollar Thursdays.” Whoops! We had it registered. We sent them a “cease and desist” notice and they had to discontinue calling it “Thousand Dollar Thursdays.”
One of the AM jocks, Bumper Morgan, was in the production room doing a promo while I was on-air in the FM control room. After about an hour, Bumper stuck his head in the door and asked me if I could feel the vibes coming from the production studio because he was laying down some great stuff. I believe it was at this time that I questioned my sanity for getting back into radio.
When the Arbitron ratings were released, WQUE-FM went up over two points and B-97 FM came down close to three points. All of a sudden, the gap between the two stations was considerably narrowed. Obviously, WQUE-FM’s success was noticed also by Dan Vallie and Bob Reich of E Z Communications, owners of crosstown B-97 FM. National PD of EZ Communications, Dan Vallie called me and asked me if I would have dinner with them to discuss possibilities with B-97 FM. Clear Channel Communications hadn’t felt it was necessary to lock me into a contract, so I agreed to meet with them. We met for dinner at the Marriott Hotel on Canal St. Bob Reich, GM of B-97 and Dan were already there when I arrived.
The only other major market interview I had ever been on had been the walk around Dunfey’s Royal Coach with John Frankhauser of Z-93 Atlanta. This experience would be a little different.
Dan liked to probe. Even if he didn’t hire me, he would still try to find out as much about me as he could. Dan knew that I once programmed Z-93 but he didn’t know that I was from New Orleans and knew the city so well. I felt this was to my advantage, because I felt like New Orleans has always been MY town. I know these people. Dan Vallie asked me if I considered myself an optimist, realist or pessimist. Believe me when I say I always give the wrong answers to this kind of question. Being honest, I said “realist”, because that is what I am. Dan responded by telling me that he was an optimist because he always believes that good things are going to happen with everything he does. He thought I should be also. Sorry, Dan. When he asked me how long I thought it would take to beat B-97 in the ratings, I gave him my “realist” answer of two books. Maybe he wanted me to be an optimist and say one book. I’ll never know if I got that answer correct.
Anyway, I got the job. They asked me how much I wanted; I told them and they gave it to me. Kathy and I were also buying a home in Slidell, so I got them to throw in appliances, too.
The hard part was now ahead of me. I would have to go face Bill Stoephaas and tell him I was leaving. In fairness to myself, I did go to Bill and ask him to do a contract with me (with a salary increase, of course). He told me Clear Channel wouldn’t allow it. This all took place after ratings were published. I felt like if they didn’t care enough about me to give me a contract and another station was giving me everything I wanted, I’d be a fool to stick around. Still, I felt bad about leaving Bill. He was always straight-up with me and very easy to deal with.
Another small problem was the fact that WQUE-FM did owe me several thousand dollars as a ratings bonus incentive we had worked up. Days before I told Bill I was leaving to “cross the street”, I told Bill that I needed a letter from him stating that I was to receive this money as a bonus. I told him I needed it to furnish the mortgage company I was financing my new home through. It was a lie, but I just couldn’t walk away leaving several thousand that I’d felt I had earned.
I quit. Bill couldn’t believe it. Mr. Clear Channel, Lowery Mays, happened to be in town and I had to tell him, too. He wasn’t very nice to me. From that meeting, I left Tidewater Place on Canal Street and drove over to the Superdome Hyatt Regency studios of B-97 FM, where Bob Reich presented me to the staff as B-97’s new Program Director.
B-97, New Orleans was a great radio station. Now, I was presented with the task of programming against a radio station I had programmed to beat B-97. B-97 had a much bigger cume than WQUE, so I knew if we could do some things to get people listening longer, B-97 would prevail. The downside was the morning show. B-97 had “Scoot in the Morning.” Everyone knew Scoot. He was easy enough to listen to and a lot of people were “comfortable” with him. But Q-93 had Walton & Johnson. These guys were risqué, clever, and had people talking. The “Q Morning Krewe” continued to eat into B-97’s morning show, but the rest of B-97’s dayparts seemed pretty solid.
The B-97 morning show had “Scoot” a very hip morning guy who was up on all the latest trends. Scoot may have been a little “too hip” for most of our listeners. B-97 also had “Skinny” Tommy Cheney working middays. “Skinny” was New Orleans through and through. He worked at WTIX back in the AM glory days and was well known in the market. So, Dan Vallie and I decided to move Skinny into mornings with Scoot, for “Scoot & Skinny in the Morning”. It seemed like an odd combination that could gel into something exciting. I’d like to say that the combination “clicked” and B-97 scored big numbers, but it would be a lie. Once again, I came into a situation where I took over a station with a previously successful morning show and couldn’t figure out how to make it work. Scoot and Skinny were both canned. I felt badly for both of them. They were both professionals and had many years of New Orleans radio to their credit. I let these two down, and now I had no place to put them.
B-97 needed something to combat the “Q Morning Krewe”. B-97 had to protect massive revenue that the station generated. Dan Vallie helped negotiate a 5-year, Million Dollar contract to bring “Cajun Ken” Cooper back to New Orleans. “Cajun Ken” was B-97’s original morning man. He had since left New Orleans for Los Angeles and Chicago. His coming home would be introduced with great fanfare.
During my time in New Orleans, Kathy and I would travel back and forth between New Orleans and Montgomery, Alabama. Kathy was from Montgomery and all her family was there. I also had three sons still in Montgomery so we traveled back and forth many weekends. During one of those trips I happened to hear a Newsperson on WKRG-FM, G-100 in Mobile, Alabama. I hired her to do morning news with “Cajun Ken” Cooper on B-97. Her name is Cami McCormick. Cami would go on to do afternoon news on the CBS Radio Network. As of this writing, she is still at CBS. She was excellent.
At B-97, I had a great support staff. This is something I didn’t have at WQUE. I handled music and all of the format prep and jock prep, plus did a midday airshift following the “Q Morning Krewe.” At B-97, I didn’t work an on-air shift, but would fill in when needed. Plus, I had a Music Director and Research Director on staff. Much of the day to day mundane work had been assigned to other people to handle. It took me a while to get used to the fact that I wasn’t preoccupied with “garbage” work. There were days when I went home from work and felt I hadn’t done anything that day to improve the radio station. So, from that day forward I always went into work with the goal of improving the on-air sound each day.
On a normal day at B-97, I would arrive at the station to find a list on my desk from Bob Reich. This list would be a list of words that I would say to Bob which would remind him of what he wanted to talk with me about. The word might be “condom” which would have nothing to do with the subject, but would remind Bob. Bob Reich was the original B-97 manager. He was hard working and demanded that those who worked for him to also be hard working. Bob would have a meeting with Sales people every morning at 7:15 AM. Not at 7:18, but 7:15 AM. You did not want to be late for a meeting with Bob. He would embarrass the hell out of you. He said if he could get there on time, you could also.
There were times that Bob Reich would call me to his office and we would step inside the door. Then he’s turn around and slam the door as hard as he could. He’d look at me and smile and say it was too quite around the station. He wanted to get everyone talking. What a guy. Bob Reich also liked the “good life.” When you were with Bob you were living “large.” I enjoyed him. He was real character. I seem to work better with a manager who is very involved in programming. They keep me on my toes. Had a great working relationship with Bob Reich, but it would be too good to last. Bob leaves to take a position with E Z Communications in Fairfax.
New GM is Marc Leunissen who was former Sales Manager for WFMF in Baton Rouge. Marc once hired a new Sales Manager for B-97. After a few months, it wasn’t working out and Marc told me would have to let him go and he wanted me to be in his office to witness the Sales Manager’s dismissal. Well, that was bad enough, but the Sales Manager had a station leased vehicle, so Marc asked me to drive him to the home he had just purchased. Good gosh, what do you say to a guy who just had his guts ripped out?
The Rolling Stones came to New Orleans. Although no radio station had an exclusive on “presenting” the Stones, I felt it was important to our audience to feel that B-97 was the Rolling Stones station in New Orleans. Both WQUE and B-97 were going to be doing “Rolling Stones Giveaway Weekends” and we were given complimentary giveaway tickets to the concert by the promoter. This was probably the same amount given to WQUE. My plan was to give away two tickets every hour during the weekend, plus every album recorded by the Rolling Stones. There were two problems. I didn’t have enough tickets and the record company would have to give us a ton of albums. I went to Marc and told him of my plan and how important it was for WQUE not to steal this image from us. I needed station money to buy enough tickets to complete the package. Marc said that I would have to make do with what I had. I couldn’t believe it! I personally went to the ticket office and bought the amount of tickets to complete the weekend. Then I placed a call to the record company and asked for packages of every Rolling Stone album to giveaway each hour. The record guy was in shock. He asked me if I knew how many albums the Rolling Stones had recorded? I didn’t know but I did know it was a lot. Plus, I needed a full set to giveaway each hour all weekend long. He said that would probably amount to more albums given away in one weekend than the Rolling Stones had ever sold in New Orleans in their career! I told him that if the label had a problem with it to send me the bill. (B-97 was a P-1 (Parallel One) reporter to the trades. I knew he couldn’t let me pay for the albums). We got the albums and smothered the market with our promotion that weekend. After the weekend, I called Dan Vallie to see if he could get me reimbursed for the money I spent on tickets. He talked to Marc Leunissen who came to me and said he would reimburse me this time but to never go behind his back again. I don’t think I had to go that route again, but I didn’t feel that Marc understood that B-97 was number one because we acted like we were number one. That station was not going to fall on my watch.
Although the “Q Morning Krewe” continued to be a good morning show, “Cajun Ken” had stopped the bleeding and B-97 was maintaining our market position.
Kathy and I were at Lakeside Mall in New Orleans one weekend and I saw Bill and Cindy Stoephaas coming toward us. This was after I had crossed-the-street to the competition. Cindy and Bill had met at Z-93, Atlanta, and married. I worked with both of them. As we passed each other I said, “Bill, Cindy, hey!” Cindy pulled Bill along without allowing him to speak. I thought it was silly at the time, but I’m sure Cindy expected more loyalty to Bill than I had given him. She’s right, of course. Bill Stoephaas had never done anything to me except be a friend and help me any way he could. I regret how that all worked out and now wish I had handled things differently. Radio jobs come and go, but good radio friends are hard to come by.
While at B-97 I received several calls from John Bomer, who was General manager of WKXX-FM, Kicks-106 in Birmingham, Alabama. John would ask advice in certain situations or what I would do if I was faced with a certain problem. I never was quite sure why John called until he asked if I would be interested in a position with SunGroup Broadcasting. The plan was to meet him and Company President Frank Woods at the AFLAC hotel at the airport in Dallas-Ft. Worth.
I did meet with them in Dallas. Flew in and out of Dallas the same day. I was not unhappy at B-97. Kathy was pregnant and we were expecting a child in the next few weeks. We were now settled into a new home in Slidell, outside of New Orleans. All of these things put me in a position to be picky about making a deal. What they were offering was a position of Vice President in charge of Programming. I wouldn’t have to be on-air, but the major problem at this time was ratings for Kicks-106 in Birmingham. They wanted me to base in Birmingham and get Kicks-106 back into competition form. Kicks-106 was a former number one station that was now getting “kicked” by I-95, WAPI-FM whose morning show was anchored by Mark & Brian. They would eventually move on to Los Angeles.
As with B-97, I asked for the big bucks. I had nothing to lose. If they didn’t want to pay it, I would be happy to stay at B-97. Unfortunately, after balking at first, they decided to pay me the money. President Frank Woods sent me a hand-written contract stipulating the terms. There were some pluses about going back to Alabama. Kathy would be closer to Montgomery and her family, and I would be able to visit my boys more often to watch them play sports, etc. I agreed to take the position.
Kyle, my fourth son, was born on March 1, 1986 and we moved to Birmingham not long after he was born. Time was an issue since there wasn’t much left before the Spring Arbitron ratings sweep started. We put together an “Incredible Prize Catalog” and bulk mailed to everyone in the Metro area. I changed the music format to become “Kicks-106-in-a-row, with 6 songs in row every time the music starts.” The station was now headed in the right direction. That’s not to say there weren’t some problem areas.
The morning show had no direction and maybe had never had any. The show was not tight or polished and was terribly inconsistent. A change should have been made immediately, but with the ratings so close, I stayed with what I had. In retrospect, I should have made a change immediately. It would have been easier for the two guys involved, and would have gotten me off the hook a lot sooner. I did change up some other dayparts only to help the sound of the station, but as I tried to improve the facility, I was quickly realizing that this situation could turn into a nightmare.
After only a couple of months at Kicks-106, Frank Woods came to town and fired GM John Bomer. John had been with the station for many, many years. He was the only General Manager that most of the employees had ever known at Kicks. It was a shock to everyone when he was let go. I began to wonder why every time I took a job they would change managers on me! John’s replacement was the AM Sales Manager, Rice Baxter. Where John could be polite and diplomatic, Rice was pushy and overbearing. Rice was the type of person who could destroy creative atmosphere, which is something I feel is a must at any good radio station.
All of a sudden, I’m wondering why I ever left B-97. I’m making a few more bucks, but for how much longer?
When Rice discovered how much I was making, he became even more resentful. He resented how much they were paying me, he resented the format, he resented all the jocks. He just wasn’t a fun guy to be around. If I was going to survive this situation, I would try my best to avoid Rice and deal with Frank Woods, directly. I expressed my concerns about Rice to Frank. He told me to not let him bother me. Just do what needs to be done. But, more and more I had to go to Rice to explain why I needed money for voiceovers or jingles or anything else I needed money for. I should have insisted on controlling my own budget, but with John Bomer this wasn’t a problem. John was of the mindset to give me everything I needed to get the station going in the right direction.
Ratings came back! Kicks-106 gains 3 full ratings points while I-95, WAPI, drops 3 points. It’s party time! From everyone’s perspective Kicks-106 is back in the game and better days are ahead. I was less optimistic about the future. (There’s that old “realist” problem again). Kicks-106 had blown the entire promotion budget on that pricey “Prize Catalog”. We’d have to go through the Fall ratings with little or no promotion.
After the Fall ratings book came back and the station fell a point, I called Dan Vallie (forever looking back) and asked him to help me get out of Birmingham. EZ Communications had a station in Jacksonville, Florida, which was oldies based and in need of a programmer. I flew into Jacksonville and met with the Station’s Manager, but I really didn’t feel this was a good fit for me. I still considered myself too contemporary to be comfortable in an oldies format. I asked Dan to keep in mind for other things.
A few weeks later he called me about an opening in St. Louis, Missouri, at KYKY, Y-98. KYKY is the old KSLQ, once a great FM rocker in St. Louis, with studios actually in Clayton. I made arrangements to fly into St. Louis to meet with Y-98 GM Karen Carroll. On the day I was to meet with Karen, St. Louis was socked-in by snow and my plane couldn’t land. We flew on to Cincinnati, where I got a flight going back to Birmingham through Atlanta. I called Dan from the airport and told him the situation. He said we’d try again another day. Dan called back a couple of days later and told me to just take the job. I didn’t need to do the interview with Karen. The job was mine. He’d send a contract. It was less money than my VP gig, but good money just the same. I signed a three-year contract without meeting the GM.
Never… let me repeat that…Never take a PD job without first meeting the General Manager. Another huge mistake. The former PD at KYKY was Jim Richards. Jim is a nice enough guy, but he did such a great job of spoiling this woman she couldn’t get past him. Jim was promoted by EZ Communications to the Pittsburgh station, WBZZ-FM, because of the job he did in St. Louis. He did a wonderful job. There is no questioning that. But Karen was in love with this guy and resentful that the company had taken him away from her. Now I had to deal with the fallout! Y-98 had a great morning show, Phillips & Wall. Guy Phillips is perhaps the funniest guy I have ever met. He cracked me up. I’m not talking about on the air, I’m talking about in the hall, at meetings, wherever! Guy Phillips should have been a big TV Star in the vein of Milton Berle. He is amazing. I was so enamored with this guy’s talent, it was impossible for me to critique him, except to say this bit was a little long or you might have inserted this here. I’m sure Guy would probably say I was the worst PD he ever had. But, at least it was short. They canned me after 4 months. I hadn’t even finished unpacking yet! Actually, they did me a favor. I was relieved to be getting out of St. Louis. There were days when I would go to Karen’s office to discuss a programming issue or promotion with her and would have to wait while she and her female Sales Manager discussed what they were going to wear to that night’s social function. Oh please, give me a break. The EZ Communications FLY-IN was in St. Louis that year at the Doubletree Hotel. Dan Vallie and Jim Richards paid me a visit in my room to let me know that I was being cut loose. They were probably expecting me to be upset, but I was relieved and told them so. It wasn’t a good fit. I should have never taken the job in the first place. No hard feelings… Yada, yada…
Besides, since I had a three-year contract, I got a nice departure bonus for the road!
Kathy and I decided we were going to settle down. We were going to chose where we want to live, get jobs like semi-normal people and make a living. We booked a moving van to take us back to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1987. That’s where we’ve been since.
When we got to Montgomery we both got jobs. The only thing available at the time was an opening for morning guy at Easy Listening WREZ-FM, paying a whopping $14,000 a year. Somebody check: I think that was below minimum wage. David Joy was Program Director of the station. I had know Dave from the old WHHY days in the 70’s when he was afternoon drive guy, David J. Beecher.
WREZ was family owned. The guy who was manager was the husband of the owner’s daughter. This had to be the tightest man with a dollar I have ever met. He had the air conditioning on a timer so that it wouldn’t come on until office hours around 8:00 AM. So between 7:00PM and 8:00 AM you could dehydrate in the on-air studio for all he cared. It was fun to see if you could sound natural and friendly while beads of sweat ran out of your hair and down your face. Most of the production was done “straight read.” No need for fancy production on “relaxing WREZ”. This was truly “Radio Hell.”
Fortunately, or unfortunately as it turns out, WREZ was sold after a few months of torture. The new group that bought the station took the lock off the air conditioner. There is a God! The staff all felt a change coming.
New owners gutted the facilities and built new studios and were going to debut an uptempo adult contemporary formatted Sunny-103. The switch was made without notice and we didn’t answer the phones for three days to avoid having to listen to the complaining old ladies. I did the morning show and was partnered with a female named Marie. The format debuted at the right time in Montgomery. The format was an instant success and paired with a lot of money spent on promoting, Sunny-103 was suddenly the talk of Montgomery radio. I put a real guilt trip on the Station Manager Jim Jacobs who bumped up my salary to above minimum wage. They put together a ratings incentive package for the first ratings sweep so I could make some extra money for food. The station promoted like crazy. I knew these guys couldn’t spend money forever. My partner, Marie, left the show after one book. Her husband had been transferred in the Air Force, so I was alone on the show for a few weeks while we waited on ratings.
Kathy and I decided to take a few vacation days and use one of the station trades in Atlanta, the Perimeter Center Marriott. After we had arrived at the hotel, I got a message that the station’s PD had called. I figured he was just looking for something and would find it. Heck, I’m on vacation! Leave me alone! That night we got back to the hotel and there was another URGENT message at the front desk, saying to call the PD immediately. It was extremely urgent. It was night, so I decided I’d call him the next morning. After showering the next morning, I called the PD and was cussed-out for not calling him back sooner. He wanted to know what in the **** is wrong with you, you don’t return **** calls. I apologized and explained that I figured it wasn’t that urgent and I’d call this morning. What could be so urgent? He explained that he needed to talk to me to tell me that they were making a change on the morning show (and it didn’t involve me). Oh, great. I get cussed-out for not calling back to hear that I’m fired?!! He said he was just trying to prevent me from spending a lot of money on vacation when I might need it for other things.
The ratings came back and the morning show had terrific numbers. Of course, I was long gone. Jim Jacobs had told me he would give me a month’s pay instead of 2 weeks severance if I would forego the ratings bonus. I took the cash at hand. The ratings bonus would have been much more.
My next stop was WBAM-FM and Bob Brennan. WBAM was the 2nd rated Top 40 in town and had been for several years. Bob Brennan hired me to do mornings (fresh off my great morning numbers at Sunny-103). About three weeks later, the format was changed to Oldies-98, “All Oldies, All the time”. Here we go again. New format, another station.
Bob Brennan was a great person, but never did have much success as owner and operator of WBAM. One of the many things I "tired" of while in radio was remote broadcasts. Most stations would pay you a little for your time to do a commercial remote broadcast "live" from a sponsor's location. I would have rather NOT have done them and done without the money, but it really got worse when WBAM told us that because the station's business was down, we would have to do the remotes free. These broadcasts were usually on your ONLY day off. You would have to come to the station, get everything you needed, then setup at the business and stand around doing cut-ins every 15 or 20 minutes. Listeners and announcers hated them. I always swore that if I ever owned a radio station, there would be no commercial remote broadcasts. One Christmas in the early 90's, Bob agreed that I should be part of a broadcast on Storer Cable of the local Montgomery Christmas Parade in Downtown Montgomery. This would be taped and played back on the cable's local origination channel. Again, I was committed to doing this on my own time, and there was no pay. I was teamed with an announcer from another radio station, Doug Sinclair. When Doug and I met, I found that he was excited as I was in doing this parade. We climbed on top of the cable truck with microphones in hand and began to talk about that evening's happenings. We got a little out-of-control in our crowd estimates. Each time we talked about the crowd, the size grew by thousands. Toward the end of the parade our estimates placed the crowd at around 2 million. Because of the length of the parade, which seemed like hours of poorly decorated pick-up trucks, Doug and I went a bit over the edge in describing the parade. Needless to say, Storer wasn't too happy and told Bob that they might not ask Doug and I to do the Christmas Parade again. We were heartbroken, of course.
Another great promotion was the "Oldies-98 Loyal Listener" campaign where we went to different locations (usually someone we were trying to get to advertise, not an actual advertiser) in the Oldies-98 van and do "live" cut-ins to get people to stop by and sign up to be an Oldies-98 Loyal Listener. This was another huge waste of everyone's time. There was no prize or any commitment by listener or radio station.
The best Oldies-98 promotion took place during the first Gulf War in the early 90's. Once again, this involved no pay for the air staff and we were required to go to some location for 2 hours each weekday and broadcast, asking our listeners to come by and sign our "Oldies-98 We Support Our Troops" document, which was one long roll of paper. We did this for about a month. Most people, being patriotic, were more than happy to show their support of our troops. A lot of time and effort was spent gathering thousands of signatures with our pledge to send the list to our troops in Iraq. Months later, while cleaning out the van for another remote, I threw away the wadded-up mess of signatures. Another radio stunt.
I don't want to infer that these are the only kind of promotions that Oldies-98 did, or that they were the only station to do this sort of promoting. In my years in radio, I ran across many instances of useless hype.
Sunny-103 was the hot new adult station that lightly mixed in oldies for flavor. After a few weeks of “Oldies 98”, Jim Jacobs at Sunny-103 made the fatal mistake of changing his format to combat “Oldies 98”. He started promoting that Sunny-103 was the Oldies station in Montgomery. I couldn’t believe it. He should have ignored WBAM. Because of his miscalculation, “Oldies 98” did much better in the ratings than they should have, and Sunny-103 started to lose audience. Sunny-103 would never be a factor in the market again. Of course, Oldies 98 would go the route of most oldies-formatted stations. It came on strong at first, then dropped down to a mediocre rating. Bob Brennan would eventually cut all of the air staff salaries, then eventually lease the station to another owner/operator in the market. When Oldies 98 went off the air, I went with it. It was time to move on to something else.
Thirty years spent in radio from 1964 to 1994. It was fun at times and not-so-fun at times. There was good pay and bad pay, good stations and bad stations.. My radio career was up and down and all over the place. If I had it to do all over again, I might do things differently. Or, I might choose a different path entirely.
One thing is for sure. FCC deregulation of radio has all but killed a competitive medium. Almost all of the radio people I speak with agree with that. It’s too bad
|Please continue by reading "Later Days" which is my last installment...|
|Last updated October 8, 2003|