Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Golden Days of Top 40 Radio

The Golden Days of Top 40 Radio - KIBL  Beeville, Texas

From my high school days till now I have always music and loved to dance. While in high school a friend named Johnny Blair and I would play the music for dances in the high school gym. We had no sound system so we put the microphone from the sound system in the gym in front of a record player to get sound. We made $5.00 each and used part of that money to buy records.

After graduation from high school I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living. At that time every male in the country was facing some sort of military obligation. There was no war going on at the time so it seemed like a good time to get it over with.

Since I didn't like marching and sleeping in tents the Army and Marines was out and the Air Force was four years, so was the Navy with the exception of what was then called "The Kiddy Program".  Join before you are 18 get out before you are 21. I joined the Navy the day before my 18th birthday.

After boot camp and some training in Aviation Electronics I was sent to my first duty station in a little town in Texas.

The town was Beeville, Texas half way between San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Texas and was about 65 miles from the nearest water. It was a town of about 5,000 with three restaurants, one movie theater, several bars, a drive in movie and "Chase Field", a Naval Air Training Station with about 15,000 sailors. Not much for a guy to do.

I became friends with a guy (can't remember his name) who lived in my barracks and was a disc jockey evenings at the town's only radio station KIBL. With nothing else to do I began hanging out with him while he was on the air. I answered the phone, pulled his news copy from the AP wire, and sat and watched what he did.

After the station would sign off at midnight I would go into the studio and pretend I was on the air. I would tape record myself to see how I sounded...... I was pretty bad.

If you were in the Navy you had to serve two years ship board duty for every four years you were serving. This guys shore duty was over and he was about to "ship out" as they called it.  He ask if I would like to get his job at the radio station and said he would put a good word in for me. I got the job and began doing the seven to midnight slot on KIBL. I was getting a dollar an hour. Boy was I bad! I still have some of the tapes which I won't let anyone hear.

Now my work day was 8 to 4 Monday through Friday at the base and 7 to midnight at the radio station six days a week. That's 70 hours a week, but I was only 19 so what did I care. Plus between the two jobs I was making big bucks for That time.. $350 a month from the Navy and another $120 at the radio station. That's over a hundred dollars a week. That's what they were making at the coal mines and steel mills back home.

After a few months I began to get pretty good I thought. We played the top hits of the time and girls would call with requests. I did a few record hops. I met a lot of high school girls, but in Beeville they were the only ones available and after all I was only 19.

With all the money I was making I got an apartment in town. I only had to be on the base from 8 till 4 and when I had to "stand duty" I would pay someone to do it for me. Things were good.

When I could I would listen to the stations in larger cities. I could get get stations in San Antonio and Corpus Christi and did what those DJ's did. Most of the time I used their lines word for word. The station in San Antonio was KTSA a station owned by Gordon McClendon. He was the man who invented the pop music, news and weather radio format. "Top 40 Radio"

I learned a lot from them.

For the next two years life was pretty good, but I couldn't wait to get out of the Navy. Finally  I turned 21 years of age. With a little over two years of radio experience and my time in the Navy over. I now knew what I wanted to do for a living. I wanted to get a job as a Disc Jockey on the radio back home.

The Golden Days of Top 40 Radio - WHLL- AM 1600

With my time in the Navy over the program director of KIBL offered me a raise to $1.50 an hour to stay in Beeville, Texas... but I had now found a career and was going back home to find a job at a local radio station. I packed up everything I had, which took up every space in my car except the drivers seat, and headed back home.

Home was Moundsville, West Virginia. I moved back in with my mom and dad and set out to find a job as a DJ at some local station. I heard that one of the announcers Bill Nezum at WHLL, a 5,000 watt daytime station (sunrise to sunset) in Wheeling, was leaving to take a job at a local television station, Channel 7 WTRF-TV.

With my demo tape in hand I headed to WHLL for an interview. The General Manager, Fred Grewe, listened to the tape and liked what he heard. After all, radio in Texas was way ahead of what they were doing in Wheeling, WV. But, the announcer position had been filled by a D J from Clarksburg, WV , Nicky Corvello. Grewe said he wanted to hire me anyway but could not offer me very much in the way of pay just $1.50 an hour. He said he would change the air shifts schedule to give me a job. Instead of three announcers they would have four.

Ed Ross would be the morning man from 6 to 9 AM, I would be on from 9 till noon, Nick Corvello from noon to 3 and the most popular DJ in the area, Don Caldwell would be on from 3 until sign off. Like I said the station was only on during the day. They signed off at sunset. After 6 PM until sunset they had a part time DJ on the air.

I gladly took the job after all WHLL was the only station in the area with a top 40 format and they were the number one station. The others were still carrying network programming during the day. Things like "The Breakfast Club" with Art Linkletter and "The Arthur Godfrey Show". At that time WKWK only played music in the evening. They had a show called "Early Date" with Paul Fisher .

In just a few weeks I started to pick up some record hops. I was booked nearly every Friday or Saturday night at some high school or social club. Every dance paid me an extra $25.00 ..Add that to the $60.00 a week I was making at the station and I was making pretty good money. After all most of the factory jobs in the area were paying $100.00 a week at the time.

Six months later I got a raise to $100.00 a week plus another $25 to $50 a week doing dances and things were really looking good.

I bought myself a 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 Retractable hard top, HOT CAR, and as for the girls? Well, there was no problem finding girls to date. I was a popular disc jockey.

I loved my job at WHLL and I became friends with everyone there. The program director was Jim O. Smith and the News Director was a guy named Bill Thalman.

By far the most popular and highest paid DJ was Don Caldwell. He had a weekly dance party on WTRF-TV, the biggest teen dance in the summer at the White Palace and during the winter at the Capitol Theatre Ballroom. He drove a Jaguar XKE and had a really nice house in the Elm Terrace section of Wheeling. He was quite a character. Although he was married he would often come into the station with stories of his extra marital actives every week. Once he even brought in some nude Polaroid pictures of his wife. None of us could believe it.

After dating several girls I decided to get married in 1962 to an 18 year old high school girl I had met at a record hop. She was the head majorette at Shadyside High School. Her name Carole Petrone. We moved into a garage apartment behind my mom and dad in Moundsville. Within one year our daughter Lorrie was born. Now I had a job and a family.

I loved working at WHLL the people were great and we were the number one radio station in the area. The station had every local advertiser and the top agency accounts on the air. At that time WHLL was one of the highest billing stations in the state of West Virginia. I was doing record hops almost every Friday and Saturday night and I was making at least an extra $50 a week. We did some great promotions and made personal appearances everywhere. Everyone knew the jocks at the station. We were big local personalities.

Then one of the other stations in the area changed their format to Top 40 in 1960. It was a 250 watt AM station, WKWK at 1400, but they were on the air 24 hours a day. The station was owned by a group of Wheeling businessmen including the General Manager, Lew Dickey. He hired a guy from Pittsburgh, Chuck Dougherty, who bought in two new disc jockeys from the Pittsburgh area. Bob Campo, who did 6 to 10, Bill Quay who was on from 10 till 3, Chuck Dougherty himself did 3 - 7 in the afternoon. Chuck was a well known DJ at KQV at the time. Two local leftovers, Bill Marlin was on from 7p to 12 M and Roger Miller was on Mid to 6am. By 1961 they applied to increase their daytime power to 1,000 watts. Night time remained at 250 watts after sunset. So when we went off the air at sunset they were still on the air. Not much power, but still they were on the air.

The next time the C. E. Hooper radio listener ratings were taken WKWK was number one and WHLL dropped to second place. Soon after Fred Grewe, our general manager, held a meeting at his house and announced that WHLL was changing formats. We were going from top 40 to something he had heard in Buffalo, N.Y. The format was something a station there, WYSL (whistle radio) was doing. They played symphony music and when the announcers talked it was over harp music. He said we were the first top 40 station in the area and now we were the first station to adopt this new format. None of us could believe this was happening. I thought Don Caldwell had the most to loose, after all he was the best known Top 40 radio personality in the area, so I ask him what he was going to do and he said he was staying. Well he did, for about three months.

Meanwhile, Chuck Dougherty had left WKWK to go to a major market, Philadelphia, Joe Pinto (who later became Joey Reynolds) was doing afternoon's from 3 to 7. When he left Lew Dickey hired Don Caldwell to take his place at WKWK.

During the next year WHLL changed it's format at least four times. They had lost most of their local advertisers and agency accounts to WKWK. The ratings went straight into the toilet.

Soon after Lew Dickey called me about a job at WKWK. Bill Quay who did 12 N to 3 PM was leaving and he offered me $400 a month to take his slot.  Dickey needed someone and I was making $100 a week. That would have been a pay cut. I was married and just had a new daughter Lorrie, to support, so I told him I would come for $450. He said no. I should have taken the job because I was miserable at WHLL and the dances had fallen off and that was costing me money. Our format at that time was big band music. Can you imagine, me a rock and roll top 40 jock, playing big band music?

The Golden Days of Top 40 Radio - WKWK AM & FM

Then in Aug. 1963 Don Caldwell was arrested while he was on the air for having sex with a 16 year old girl. Statutory rape. Within the week Lew Dickey called me again and offered $450.00 a month to do afternoon from 3 to 7 replacing Caldwell. I jumped at the job because he given me the salary I wanted. I was happy to leave WHLL. Things had become unbearable for me there.

The Caldwell scandal rocked the area. I swear if World War lll had started it would have been on the second page of the paper and the Don Caldwell story would have been on the front page. The reputation of all disc jockeys in the area dropped from a local star to lower than scum. The record hops became fewer and the attendance at the dances there were went down. Parents felt that all disc jockeys were the same. It was tough being in the radio business.

Don Caldwell remained in the Ohio County jail for nearly a year without bond. The crime of statutory rape was a capitol offense in West Virginia at the time meaning he was facing the electric chair. The case finally went to trial in the summer of 1964.

Don Caldwell coped a plea to a lesser charge, Sodomy, an unnatural sex act. According to West Virginia law at the time, meaning anything other then the missionary position while engaging in the act of sex. A crime punishable by a one to 20 year prison sentence. Caldwell got 20 years in the pen.

A year or so later he wrote to Hugh Hefner at Playboy Magazine and told him about his arrest. Playboy was doing a series of articles about antiquated sex laws in the U.S. and Hefner sent a team of attorneys down to Wheeling. They went over his case, found some discrepancies in Caldwell trial and had the case thrown out.
Caldwell was released from the WV Pen and moved to Cleveland. He got a job selling cars, got married and had a baby. Soon after he died at age 43 of a ruptured appendix. His wife remarried and still lives in Cleveland. Don's daughter lives somewhere in California.
It's 1964 and "Beatlemania" and the British invasion became real shot in the arm for pop music and for Top 40 radio too. It was nuts. The request line at the station rang constantly and every request was for a song by the Beatles or some other British group. People could not get enough of it.

The line up at the station IN 1963 was: Bob Campo 6 to 9 in the morning, Ken Kadar our news director covered the morning news, Herb Allen (The Program Director) 9 to 12 , Don Amon 12 to 3 and the afternoon news, I was on the air from 3 to 7 , Don Guthrie 7 to Midnight and Randy Chamberlain 12 to 6 AM. We were known as "The Good Guys". Implying that those jocks at the other stations were bad guys.

By this time my salary had grown to whopping $500 a month and the record hops every weekend paid me another $400. We were getting $50 a dance by then. I built a new house in Shadyside, Ohio and my wife was pregnant with our second child. My son Bobby was born in the Spring 1965.

By the mid 1960's Lew Dickey had bought out all of the other investors and decided to sell the station to a New York Company called Resources and Facilities Corporation. He used the profit to buy a station in Toledo, Ohio. I had heard that the original purchase price for WKWK was a mere $50,000 and Dickey sold it for $300,000

Lew Dickey later bought a Television Station and became a millionaire.
Lew has since passed away. But his son Lew Dickey Jr. is now Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer at CUMULUS MEDIA INC and makes over 20 million dollars a year. Cumulus Media operates 460 stations in 89 markets across the country.

Gene Johnson, who was sales manager at that time became the new General Manager at WKWK. By this time Herb Allen who was the Program Director of the station had left and a guy from Lew Dickey's station in Toledo, Ohio Frank Sweeney became the Operations manager and named me as Program Director. I got a $25.00 a month raise.

The guys at WKWK who worked at the station were always good friends as well as co-workers. We not only worked together, but we also spent time together. All of them were came to my house for birthday's, at Christmas and at other times too. I think that was sort of unique. The station was the number one rated radio station in the area through out the rest of the 1960's.

Radio was fun, the people were just great and I couldn't have been happier. The 1960's was absolutely a great time to be in radio!  Especially the late sixties. The music was the best ever. There was British Music, Soul, Motown and so much more.

Bob Campo was WKWK'S music director. Every week he would send out a list, the WKWK Hit List , to all of the stores in the area that sold records. We would announce on the air all of the stores where you could pick them up. Along with the hit list the stores would receive was a report sheet of record sales for the stores to send back to us. Bob Campo would use those reports along with phone requests to compile the Top 40 Hits for the following week. The Hit List was a true representation of what the listeners were buying and requesting in the Wheeling area.

I was on the air from 3 to 7 PM and every Friday I would count down the songs from 40 to Number one. The listeners couldn't wait to find out what position their favorite song was in. And every week, one song was selected and played as "THE WAX TO WATCH". A record we thought was headed right to the top.

Back then WKWK was a Top 40 radio station that played the popular music of OUR AREA what ever it was. We played anything that was a hit. You might hear the Beatles and the next song might be by Frank Sinatra and next The Kinks. . Things are different today. Now each station plays to a different audience. One plays country, one plays hip hop, one plays hard rock and another plays oldies and so on. And all of those stations are owned by one company so they control everything. Until 1997 a company could one radio station in each city. The competition made for better radio. Now they don't have to compete. Every station says they are number one. The number one country station..the number one oldies station and so on.

In those days the Major Market radio station like the ones in Pittsburgh and New York didn't break new hits, Small Market Radio Stations did. WKWK was selected as one of the small market stations that reported to several major trade publications. One was called "The Gavin Report." Every top radio station in the country subscribed to Gavin, but not everyone reported. Because of that we got a lot of attention from all of the Major Record Company Reps. There was not a week that someone from one of the major record labels didn't come down to Wheeling from Pittsburgh to try to get a record played on the air.

Also because of that we were able to get many recording stars to appear in Wheeling. In the early 60's "The Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars" appeared at the Wheeling Downs Race Track. Many record stars like the Supremes and the Beach Boys were a part of the Dick Clark shows. Dick Clark even mentions his visit to Wheeling in his book. Seems the plane he was on was coming into the Ohio County Airport with landing gear problems, and they were not set up to handle that kind of emergency. Bob Campo spent that the day hanging around with Dick Clark and the original Beach Boys. .

Later there was the "Motown Review" headed by Diana Ross and The Supremes and featuring most of the Motown recording artists of the time. Bob Campo also had several big recording stars like The Skyliners, Fabian and Kurt Russell at his record hop at the McMechen Roller Rink. Kurt Russell had a record out at the time and was in the area filming the movie "Fool's Parade".
One WKWK show in the mid 60's at the Capitol Music Hall headlined Tom Jones along with Peter and Gordon, Gene Pitney and Mel Carter. Another of our shows at the Wheeling Downs Roller Rink had Gary Lewis and the Playboys, The Shirelles, The Dixie Cups, and many more. Add to that list The Four Seasons, The Shangri-Las, The Righteous Brothers, The Human Beinz, Steam, The Marcels, Bobby Vinton, James Darren, Lou Christi, The Skyliners, The Vogues, The Lettermen, Bobbi Martin, The Jaggerz, Del Shannon, The Carpenters and many many more I can't remember. Most of these stars would never have played in a small town such as Wheeling had it not been for WKWK Radio.
It was in 1968 that Frank Sweeney suddenly announced that he was leaving WKWK as operations manager and was going to another station in Wheeling. The station was WNEU, a 500 watt daytime directional station. I was simply blown away. Why would he do that. Now I was to become Operations Manager at WKWK. Within a few weeks one of the jocks Don Guthrie and the General Manager, Gene Johnson, also left for WNEU. I found out later that Frank and Gene were offered partial ownership of WNEU. Working under Frank Sweeney for several years gave me the opportunity to pick his brain. I learned a lot from him. I was confident that we would remain the top radio station in the area. I really think that Frank Sweeney and Gene Johnson thought I would change everything when they left. Rather than do that I simply refined and fine tuned the existing format.

The new line up at WKWK was Bob Campo 6 to 9 AM, I was on from 9 till noon the air shift Don Guthrie vacated, Jim Roberts was on from noon to 3 and covered afternoon news. Don Nelson moved in to my shift from 3 to 7 and Joey Sherwood was on from 7 till Midnight. As I recall Randy Chamberlain was still going Midnight to 6AM

We had a solid new line up and now what we needed was a fresh new image. So we bought a new jingle package from a company in Dallas, Texas called TM. The jingle package was Phase ll, which became one of the most successful radio jingle packages of all time.
Our parent company , Publishers Broadcasting, who owned the station at that time brought in a new General Manager, George Pleasants. At this point I was informed by Milt Ford from Publishers that I was to have complete control over programming. Something that was almost unheard of in a market the size of Wheeling.

Keep in mind that very few people listened to FM radio back in the 50's and 60's. In fact most home, car, and transistor radios didn't even have the FM frequency. FM radio was just in it's infancy in 1968. Since WKWK owned an FM station and it seemed logical to me that we should start to promote WKWK-FM.
It was a 50,000 watt FM station at 97.3 that duplicated the programming of WKWK-AM. So, at least 12 times a day we began to run a promotional announcement that said,
"If you hear it on WKWK-AM you can also hear it on WKWK-FM with 50,000 watts at 97.3 ."
To our surprise people started buying radios that had the FM band so that they could pick up our FM signal. We even had a contest and gave away FM car radio converters. Local retailers said that FM car radio converter sales were up. Car dealers told us that people were ordering optional FM car radios when they purchased their new cars.

Up to that time our closest competition had always been with WWVA. A Wheeling station broadcasting with a 50,000 watt AM signal. Their format was country music. Keep in mind that in those days country music was more like hillbilly music. It very limited audience appeal, especially in the local area. We never did try to compete with them directly because they were going for a totally different audience. However if you wanted to listen to the radio at night they were about the only local radio station anyone could pick up. Remember our night time signal was only 250 watts.

It was WKWK-FM that made the big difference in the late 60's and into the 70's.

The most respected radio rating company at that time was Pulse Inc. When the next Pulse ratings came out in 1969 our FM was making up a third of our listening audience. Our overall share of the listeners in the three county metro area was 31% and WWVA had 29%. These two radio stations made up 60% of the people who listened to radio. Since WWVA broadcast religious programming in the evening and there were times when our evening ratings were as high as 70%.
There were very few times in the late 60's and early 70's that any other radio station in our market did anything to challenge us. As I recall there was only one time when WOMP-AM & FM in Bellaire made a run at it. During that time they were using the theme Five More Hits Per Hour.  Since they had no commercials they could do that. My main competition was a guy named Jum Dandy. He was a great Disc Jockey. However the people who owned that station ran out of money, couldn't pay their bills and the DJ's all left because they were not getting paid.

For the remainder of the 60's and well into the mid 1970's WKWK-AM & FM continued to have the top listener ratings.

As the 1970's began WKWK-AM & FM remained as the top radio station in the Wheeling Metro Area. We continued to have really creative contests and made dozens of personal appearances in the Wheeling area.

Don Nelson who was on the air from 3 to 7 PM  departed for greener pastures and eventually got into television. He worked at an ABC Television station Channel 13 in Houston. He retired from that station in 2015 after 40 years. .

Bob Campo had left the morning show by that time and his slot was filled by Brent Walton aka. Buffalo Bill Robbins from 6 till 9 AM. Jim Ullom was the News Director and covered the morning news. I was on from 9 till Noon, Michael V. Gannon did Noon to 3 and the afternoon news, Jim Roberts was on from 3 to 7 PM, the world's fastest talking disc jockey, The Dougger 7 to Midnight and Jim Ferguson was on from 12M to 6 AM.

The late Vince Ritzenthaler became the General Manager during those years and the late Tom Schlosser was sales manager. The station was still owned by Publisher's Broadcasting during the early 70's and they were happy with the results of local management. I was happy because they gave me free rein when it came to programming.

It was around 1973 that we moved the studios from the second floor of the old Pythian building to the third floor of what was then called the Medical Towers Building on 12th. Street in Downtown Wheeling. It was a class set up to say the least. Anything would have been an improvement on the Pythian Building. We had the entire floor. It was bright clean and actually looked like a radio station.

It was around that time that the "Good Guys", with the help of some ringers, played the Pittsburgh Steelers Football Team in a basketball game at Wheeling College. Not all of the Steelers played basketball, but we did have Jack Ham, L.C.Greenwood and Frenchy Fuqua to name a few.
The game was at the Wheeling College field house. The profit all went to charity and there was a standing room only crowd. It was a great promotion and of course the Steelers won.

We were always doing great contests and promotions on the radio station. I think the absolute best contest we ever did was one called "The WKWK Sign Up Contest". Listeners we ask to make a sign saying "I Listen to WKWK Radio" and put it somewhere where it could be seen from the street. The disc jockeys on the station took turns and drove around the area in a car we traded out with a two way radio. We would pick out a house with a sign and pull up in front. The guy on the air would put us on the air on the two way and we would say something like; "I'm sitting in front of a house at 414 Main Street in Bridgeport and if someone who lives there comes out to the WKWK Prize Car in the next five minutes they will win such and such a prize." 

Of course we traded out advertising for all of the prizes with a local store. At least 70% on the time we had a winner. Nice part was we could put the winner right on the air. There were thousands of signs throughout the area. It was like having hundreds of billboards everywhere. People who didn't listen to the station tuned in to see what was going on. I was told about a really big sign in the yard across the street from where Gene Johnson the General Manager of an opposing station lived. Every morning when he went to work there was that sign staring him in the face.
Another successful contest during the early 70's was the annual "Mr.Touchdown" contest. We had all of the area schools compete to have one of their football players named "Mr. Touchdown. The idea was to raise money for the local The United Way. Each dollar raised was one vote for a football player from their school who would be named "Mr. Touchdown." The school that raised the most won. We gave them a big trophy and a free record hop. Most years the amount raised was in excess of $40,000.

In early 1975 we were told by the station owners Publishers Broadcasting that the station was up for sale. I had been through two ownership changes before and it really was no concern to me when the announcement came. But we were in a sort of limbo during that time. No advertising trades for prizes for contests and the spring ratings were coming soon. The guys put our heads together and decided to announce with a big newspaper ad and on the air, that we were not doing any contests on purpose. That the radio ratings would be taken soon, but we believed that our listeners were loyal listeners. We believed they listened because they liked what they heard and could not be bought. Guess what? It worked!

In the April/May Arbitron WKWK had 38% of the morning listeners, 31% of the mid day listeners, 40% of those who listened in the afternoon and a 36% share in the evening. It was the highest ratings in the history of the station. One third of all of the people who listened to radio listened to us. It was unbelievable.
I still have a copy of the ratings from that time.

About a month after the ratings were announced we found out that the new owners were two brothers named Bill and Jim Glassman who owned several other small stations in the mid West.
If I had been a little smarter at the time I would have called one of those other stations they owned and found out what they were like. I didn't and that was a Big mistake!!
The Glassman's talked about all of the improvements they were going to make, new equipment, a promotional budget, new jingles and more. Everything we wanted to hear.
The week they took ownership control the first thing they did was to require the entire air staff sign non-compete contracts. If you were to leave the station you could not work for another station in a 50 mile radius. I wasn't worried because I didn't want to work at any of the other stations in the area. Vince Ritzenthaler resigned as General Manager and Tom Schlosser took his place.

Everyone signed that contract except Brent "Buffalo Bill" Robbins. He said he would never sign a non-compete. I tried to talk him into changing his mind, but he wouldn't hear of it. He was the smart one as it turned out.
No sooner did we sign those contracts when they announced they were doing away with the entire sales staff. All of the announcers, including me, were expected to do radio sales. You were to sell the advertising, write the commercial and record it, then do your regular air shift. I suddenly I realized that this ownership change sucked. There was no new equipment, there was no new jingles or promotional budget and they had us all by the balls.
The programming control of WKWK that I had for the past 8 years went right out the window. Gone!

These two guys were the owners from hell!!!!!

They traded out a bunch of junk to give out as prizes. They advertised for announcer/salesmen with ads on the air. That made everyone feel insecure in their job. They didn't care what I or anyone said they knew better.
The Glassman brothers were destroying the top rated radio station in the area and there was nothing I could do about it. I later found out that their "Daddy" was in the oil business and bought his boys some radio stations because that's what they wanted. They knew nothing about radio. The other radio stations they owned were in markets of 15,000 to 20,000 people. Worst of all those two guys were control freaks.

By late 1975 I had realized that signing that non-compete contract with the Glassman's was a big mistake. I contacted a local attorney, Art Recht, who looked over the contract and saw that it described my job title and salary. He recommended that I resign my position and agree to stay at the station as an announcer/salesman. Then the Glassman's would they ask me to sign a new contract and on that date I would just refuse and be fired.

In the meantime, I had been talking with Brent Walton (Bill Robbins) who was now working at an oldies station WEIF in Moundsville. Management there said if I were fired they would give me a job. $400 a month less, but I would have a job.

On Feb. 1st. 1976 I was FIRED from WKWK....I don't think I realized how getting fired from WKWK would affect me. The day it happened I actually cried as I packed up the things from my office and walked out the door. I had poured my heart and soul into that station for 12 years. Now it was all over!

The Golden Days of Top 40 Radio - WEIF

I moved to my job at WEIF in Moundsville a few days after leaving WKWK I was the mid day jock and the format was Oldies. WEIF was a 1,000 watt daytime station owned by Fred Grewe who gave me first first job in the Wheeling area at WHLL back in 1959.

Going there was like going into total obscurity. WKWK was the highest rated station in the market and WEIF was the lowest rated station. In addition to the $400 a month pay cut, the dances I did to supplement my income were just not there, but at least I had a job.

The Golden Days of Top 40 Radio - WOMP-FM

After about six months at WEIF I got a call from Bob Andre, who was the General Manager at WOMP-FM in Bellaire, Ohio.  He wanted to replace his program director, a guy named Roy Stewe.
With all of the changes at WKWK ...WOMP-FM was starting to gain a lot of listeners, but Andre was not happy with him. He wanted me to take a job on the air at WOMP-FM and to eventually replace Stewe who did not do an air shift. He offered me more money and even more after I became the Program Director. In September of 1976 I left WEIF and took a job doing 10AM to 2 PM at WOMP-FM. Within a month after I started at WOMP-FM Roy Stewe left a note on his office door one morning saying he'd quit.

He was one strange guy.

I took over the Program Director job the same day. I made some programming changes, mostly with the music. Stewe was playing some off the wall stuff. I changed the music to more main stream.

The line up at WOMP-FM was: Paul De Meyer in the mornings, I was on the air mid-day, Joey Dee in the afternoon and Phil Kirzyk ( Now at WDVE-FM in Pitsburgh) in the evenings. Frank Rebicki did overnight's.

After that WOMP-FM really started picking up listeners. The phones were hot, the advertising increased and everyone in the area was talking about us. In the meantime, my old station, WKWK, was loosing a lot listeners. Most of the guys who I had hired to work there had left or were leaving.

In the months that followed WOMP-FM had moved to number three in the radio ratings. Needless to say I was really a happy with the way things were going.

In the meantime there were a lot of personnel problems at WOMP-FM. I had found out that some of the jocks were doing drugs and some were dating teenage girls. Things were getting pretty much out of control.

I just felt that I couldn't do it any more. The General Manager at WOMP-FM then hired Roy Stewe back as Program Director. I couldn't believe it.

On August 16, 1977  I left my job at WOMP-FM and my career in radio.
It was the day that Elvis Presley died.

With my two kids now in high school and talking of going to college, I decided my radio days were over. I had to get more secure a job with better benefits and to make a steady income. I spent several days putting in my application at every factory up and down the Ohio River, after all that's were the money was. The way I felt was, if I wasn't going to do the job I loved I was going to make some real money.

I was hired at a plant "Allied Chemical Company" just below Moundsville, WV
I went from a radio personality to a plant laborer. But my starting salary was DOUBLE what I was making in radio.

Several years later I lost that job at Allied Chemical when they shut down their operations in 1984. I did think about returning to radio after all it was the only other thing I knew. But it was 7 years later and radio in the area was still paying very little compared to other industries. I had been making great money and had good benefits. It was impossible to return to radio in the valley.  I would be going back to low pay and no benefits.

In 1985 started my new career with Prudential Insurance and Investments. I loved the investments, hated selling life insurance. I was with them for 12 years when I retired.
It was 1997.

During those years I feed my need and my love for for radio by working part-time in the business. Not because I needed the money, but because I still loved it. I did a weekly oldies show at a couple of radio stations and later did weekends back at WKWK.
By then those two guys who owned WKWK had sold the radio station. The program director at the time Doug Daniels offered me a part time job on the weekends. When the station moved to the Capitol Theater building I was doing a show every Saturday called "Super 70's Saturday". 

Soon after Larry Anderson the Manager offered me a job at the oldies station owned by the same company that owned WKWK.  It was 95.7 WEEL-FM 

The good thing was it was 30 hours a week. Bad thing was it was what I called  virtual radio. NO LIVE DJ's . The whole station was run by a computerized process called "Voice Tracking". 

It worked like this:
I would pre-record just the 10 breaks and the computer would put the music, jingles and commercials all together when it was aired on the station. I got so good at it I could stand at the mike with a computer and do a five hour show in about 45 minutes. I did that for about a year and a half, but it just wasn't any fun. The music was pre-picked, there were no phone calls from listeners, no contests or promotions and the station had a very low priority with the general manager. In fact I think it was his lowest priority!

By 1999 I left that job at WEEL-FM and returned to the investment business as a broker dealer for a company called Jefferson Pilot Securities.

These days the music that you hear played on a radio station is selected by someone at the corporate level or some consultant in some distant city. Most stations now have no voice in what they play on the air. In some cases the music the Disc Jockey is going to play on his show is preselected by the computer. 

"Voice Tracking" .....In most cases you think you are listening to a live show done locally when in fact it was recorded in less than a half hour, put together by the computer, played on the air and no one is in the studio. Often the DJ wasn't even in town of in the same state. Walk by the windows next to the Capitol Theater and look in at the Clear Channel Stations. There is nothing in the studio except a computer. How sad it's come to that.

In 2004 I totally retired and I'm loving every minute of it!.
I still do some voice over commercial work for several advertising agencies. I can do them from a studio in my house on my computer. If I want I can even do it in my underwear.

Oh and I still DJ an occasional class reunion, wedding, party or alumni dance every so often. Even now after playing DJ at over 3,000 dances I still love playing music and getting people up to dance.


(as I see it)

AM/FM radio has about five good years left, if that.  Listener ship has declined substantially. What we consider to be radio today will be on the Internet. And the Internet websites will be media stations. The Internet is not only going to change radio; it's going to change humanity. That's how profound this revolution in communications will be.

There are some wonderful people in radio and some terrible people. I'm a radio guy, but I've learned not to judge the quality of human beings by their media image, or by whether or not you agree with them.

AM and FM radio is also faced with technological change taking away its monopoly on mass-appeal music entertainment and local information. When is the last time you heard about a big storm coming? When is the last time you could call a radio station and ask to hear a request?

You've also got competition from cable and satellite television; you've got iPhones  iPods and podcasts and iTunes, and you've got Sirius/XM satellite radio in the mix too. You can also add in streaming music from Spotify, Pandora and many many more!

The baby boomers of the 60's and 70's grew up with DJ"s on the radio. Local radio personalities meant something in their life. People of that generation loved listening to their radio.

Look owning a radio license should be a privilege. It should serve the community. People should have to jump through hoops to have this privilege." But it's not such a privilege anymore.
And it's surrounded by competition that's not really regulated by the FCC. 

The costs can be contained by going with syndicated hosts. It is true that music is readily available on the net or from personal computer files and the cost of presenting music on the air is becoming more expensive. Not only are the ASCAP and BMI fees in place, but now artists are asking radio for performance payments.

Could be that FM will go the way of AM. The music will disappear to be replaced by News/Talk.

Now the entire radio experience on FM or AM is totally different today from our Golden Days  of "Top 40". The broadcaster today is a chain operation totally devoted to nothing but 
the bottom line. That situation exists because the today’s listener doesn't care............They just take what they can get.

Whatever the future of radio, it will be delivered to the public in the most cost effective formats possible. Not necessarily the format that the radio listener wants.
Radio will never die, but it may take on many new forms in the future that we won't even recognize.

I really feel sorry for those few D J's on the radio these days. Insecurity forces them to do anything to stay in the radio business. ( a lot of ass kissing if you know what I mean)


As for me I've got some great memories and life is good!
But you know what?  I still miss it! 


Written Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Up dated on April 2015.


Sid Grubbs said...

Been reading you AUTOBIOGRAPHY and info. REALLY NICE,BOB Sid grubbs THEMOJOMAN(reg.ustm)
It's SAD todays young people will never know,WILL THEY? So many guys I worked with all over are SITTIN HOME. Cleveland Wheeler is sitting on SIGNAL MTN.(Chattanooga) Fred Winston (WLS-WCFL CHICAGO)on his farm in Illinois. THE MACHINES and THE GEEKS that run them have taken over. WHO'D EVER BELIEVE PUTTING A FUEL PUMP "IN THE GAS TANK". Hang Loose. MOJ'

TheMojoMan said...

OH YEAH,I always made 4-5 times as much as I made at a STATION,,when we'd run record hops and BATTLE OF THE BANDS wherever I worked. When I was in TOLEDO,me and the owner of THE TOLEDO SPEEDWAY would book THE MC5 or TED NUGENT or BOB SEGER and really clean up $$.That was when Nugent and Seger were beginning. Both from Detroit area.

Anonymous said...

bob, was so glad to read and listen about your life.sorry is right but no compet. any more. u as far as i,m concernered, was and still are the greastest dj.when i was young, i followed you to where ever you was djing with my cux. john billingsley, who dj,s himself at various functions. i know because of u, he does this. your number 1 past present, and always in the future. take care, to one of THE GOOD GUYS