Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wild Bill's Siege

It was early on a Tuesday morning, December, 1977 just outside the town limits of Sunbury, OH. A small brick building with a tall radio tower just behind it was about to become the focal point of the days news.

Everything seemed fine in the pre-dawn of the morning. The signal of the station was broadcasting it's regular programming. The tranmission from the tall tower seemed, well normal. There was no sense that this December day at WBBY-FM would be newsworthy.

Most people in the area were just waking up. Certainly, thoughts of the upcoming Christmas holiday would be on their minds.

Silver Bells or some other holiday classic was probably being played by one radio station or the other including this one. It was only 12 days before Santa's bounty would be found under trees across the area.

Coffee pots were coming alive and warm showers were inviting residents to get ready for the work day. The commute to work would begin in earnest in the next hour or so.

Yet just outside that small brick building, a wily elderly gentleman had already began his day. He had plotted his mission. And for the next 10 hours, he had Sheriff's deputies, lawyers, the court system and most of the Columbus media covering or dealing with his exploits.

Just days before, a restraining order had been issued against him. He was the majority stockholder of the radio station housed inside the small brick building. He also built the building and tower from the ground up. Brick by brick and tower section by tower section.

But the restraining order demanded that he was not to enter the premises or be associated with the operation of the station. The same station, business and premises he had built with his own hands.

The December 9th Columbus Dispatch noted in a column the restraining order named 14 counts that said in part that the elderly gentleman had "brought ridicule and disgrace" upon the station. It further stated the elderly gentleman "has made obscene gestures, made jokes in very poor taste, disrupted businesses, insulted customers of various establishments and refused to leave when asked".

Judge Henry Shaw of the Delaware County Common Pleas Court had issued the restraining order against William "Wild Bill" Bates at the request of the other shareholders of the company. Ironically, the shareholders involved included Ken Bates, the son of elder Bates, secretary-treasurer of the corporation and manager.

Wild Bill's son Ken also brought forward on his own "nine complaints against his father". Among them was a claim that Wild Bill had "made remarks in a broadcast about the judiciary of Delaware County and other officials of Delaware County which caused embarrassment to the station". All made during the elder Bates radio show called "Wild Bills Disco".

That restraining order had never been delivered. Wild Bill had gone into hiding. Waiting for the smoke to clear. Although he remained in touch with various Columbus media outlets, the restraining order servers were unable to find him.

Wild Bill determined that the smoke had cleared enough to allow him to surface at the radio station on December 13th.

At about 5:45am, Bill's where abouts slowly became known to others when the news director of the station arrived and noticed Will Bill. Knowing that a memo a few days earlier had been distributed among employees saying the elder Bates was not to be on the property, she quickly notified the Sheriff's Office.

When law enforcement personnel arrived, Will Bill took cover and barricaded himself in his son's office. He held deputies at bay with a baseball bat. After a legnthy standoff period, deputies decided to use mace to flush him out.

Wild Bill in turn broke out windows to allow for fresh air. He then scooted around inside the building and took the station briefly off the air. He shouted obscenities and finally after 10 hours was persuaded by his attorney to lose the battle to win the war and fight again another day.

The photo shows Bates leaving the station with his legal representative. Wild Bill is the man on the left.

It took time for the whole ordeal to unravel. Wild Bill eventually lost his radio station and his family never realized the promises of the forces that worked in the shadows behind the scenes to oust the elder Bates through their hands.

It's sad. No one won. The behind the scenes forces of this action eventually gained control of WBBY only later to lose it in an FCC decision over candor to the agency.

The station was off the air for almost a decade.

I worked for Wild Bill and noted some of my experience here

Wild Bill continued on with his dancing and public appearances. Anywhere that he could gain an audience. He passed away at the age of 91 on March 20, 2003.

Probably dancing until his last breath.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More to Find

One of the things of wading through all the information on Columbus radio past is once you think you've got everything nailed down, you find something new.

I found something that sent me back to 1950.

Honestly, what started as a search to solidfy my memory of radio in my pre, teen and post teen years has turned into something beyond the original scope. So that's why I'm scrolling through newspaper articles in 1950. The old Columbus Citizen before it became the hyphenated Citizen-Journal.

One familiar face was there. Jo Reed, radio and tv reporter. Same picture I believe that was used until her retirement in 1970 too! Her column was pretty much limited to the Sunday edition of the paper.

But even more interesting was the info I found.

I did know that WTVN radio was known as WHKC prior to the mid 50's.

What I didn't know was that it had an FM component at the time. WHKC FM broadcast at 98.7.

My understanding was WTVN/WHKC AM had no sister FM until WTVN FM signed on at 96.3 in late 1959. Prior to that, 96.3 was known as WLWF and appears to have simulcast Cincinnati sister station WLW radio. I'll have to go digging to see when Crosely gave up or sold the license. (UPDATE) WLWF was granted permission by the FCC to go silent on May 14, 1953 along with sister FM stations WLWA in Cincinnati and WLWB in Dayton. The Commission granted cancellation of the licenses and deletion of call letters.

But back to the 98.7 frequency. I'll have to do some digging, but it appears that it disappeared sometime in 1951 or 52. (UPDATE) WHKC-FM was granted the ability to go dark by the FCC on June 30, 1953. The station and the license ceased to exist. It was announced on July 7th.

Even more strange was WRFD-FM. No not the one at 97.9 on the dial that later became WNCI. The one on the air for what appears to be only during 1950. After that, I can find no information on it until it re-appears in 1961.

And for the record, WBNS FM was known as WELD. Carried the same programs as sister station WBNS AM and was on 97.1.

Looks like more time in the library is in my future.

Friday, November 12, 2010

WTVN Mornings-Late 50's

Before Bob Conners, John Fraim, Dave Logan, Johnny Dollar, Tom George, Dave Hull and Bob Ancell (did I overlook anyone?), Maurice Jackson was the morning man at WTVN.

Maurice joined the station in the spring of 1956, having worked at WVKO in the city prior to his voyage to WTVN. Interestingly, Maurice was at WVKO prior to WVKO AM signing on the air in 1951. Of course that was at the time that FM wasn't the preferred frequency to listen to the radio and even with a daytime only signal, the arrival of WVKO AM was a big deal.

Maurice left WTVN in August of 1960. Taft broadcasting had hired Lawrence Rogers to come in and shake things up in the organization. When Rogers landed at 610, he found a station that in his book "The History of Television" was bleeding red ink and it was in his estimation due to two "low class hot shots" Maurice Jackson and Spook Beckman.

Jackson formed his own consulting group, went to work for WHOK, later sold time at WMNI and eventually found his way to San Antonio and later Phoenix in 1966. There the trail goes cold.

(EDITED TO ADD on 04-08/11) I found a note in a column in the Citizen-Journal where Jackson sent a card to radio/tv reporter Jo Bradley Reed over the 1966 Christmas holiday that he was in Kansas City working at KUDL and was loving it. Now the trail goes dead again.

I don't ever recall hearing Maurice Jackson on the air. He departed WTVN just before I turned 5. But through the years I heard of him. If I ever mentioned WTVN mornings and the name Maurice Jackson would be spoken just as quickly as someone would say the Earlyworm or Irwin Johnson when talking about WBNS.

Update 10-10-2012  Finally found out what happened to Maurice.  Jackson had moved the Space Coast (Cocoa, FL) sometime in the late 60's.  He lived there for about 20 years.  He hosted a radio show at then WKKO radio 860 AM.  Later he was an account executive for the Orlando Sentinel's Brevard County bureau and at his death he was working for Stateside Auto Supply on Merritt Island.  He died of a heart attack in Birmingham, AL on May 13, 1988.  He had returned to Birmingham to attend his High School reunion.  He was 70. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mr. Ohio County DJ

Jack Bartley was well known around the Xenia/Dayton area as a country radio announcer and performer. He came to WRFD in 1970 when the station converted to Country. He stayed until the station made the switch back to oldies in the spring of 1972.

Jack eventually found his way back to the Xenia/Dayton area and worked for WBZI radio doing mornings. After finishing his morning show on New Years Eve 1988, he passed away later in the day.

Jack was a great entertainer.

Anthony in the Morning

Len Anthony came to Columbus and WRFD in October of 1970 replacing Tom George in the morning slot. Anthony would later become program director when Bill Preston stepped down.

He would later be the program director that led the transition to an oldies or all the hits all the time format in the spring on 1972.

Was Radio Really This Laid Back

Scan the AM and even to a point the FM dial today and you probably won't find a station positioning themselves as a station with music to relax to.

This was an advertisement for WBNS radio in February, 1960.

No hot talk. No Howard Stern, Bubba the Love Sponge, Mike and Mike, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ed Schultz or Randi Rhodes.

Just a fellow by the name of Don Smith hosting an evening music to relax to.

Novel concept?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Progressive Rock 24/7

While sister station WRFD was being Ohio's Country Giant, FM radio station WNCI was making moves of it's own.

By spring of 1969, the station was already moving the music toward a more hard edged sound with Bob North and Charlie Pickard handling mornings and afternoons and E. Karl hosting the Incredible Progressive Rock Circus in the evenings.

This ad appeared in the August, 1970 Columbus Dispatch announcing the station starting around the clock progressive rock. An ad in June announced the station would soon be going 24/7. DJs were Bob North, John L (Lazar), Charlie Pickard, E Karl, Dave Anthony and overnights with Gregg Campbell.

Of interest, although still located at the WRFD broadcast house, the station had just flipped on the stereo switch.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Announcing Ohio's County Giant

Ad from newspaper announcing the Monday morning debut of country music on WRFD in January 1970.

As I understand it, the balance of the line up was Jack Bartley in middays and Bill Preston hosting afternoons.

I was told by a now deceased staff member George left after a personal issue and was replaced by Len Anthony.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Diane Townsley

A photo from a January, 1970 edition of the old "Columbus Citizen-Journal" of WBBY radio host Diane Townsley.

Diane was not long out of high school when this article was written. At the time the station had been on the air for less than a year. Diane was hosting a weekend request show. A few months later, she was elevated to the midday slot, entertaining mid Ohio.

I was never quite sure when she left or why.

She was fun to listen to and was something unique at the time. On the air as female disc jockeys were virtually unheard of at that time and in the Central Ohio area I believe at the time she was the only one.

Hey Diane. If you see this, drop us a line someday and let us know what's going on.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Media Reporting

As I cull information to refresh my memory, I am so thankful the old Columbus Citizen-Journal had an active radio-television column. In the 60's, Jo Bradley Reed was the columnist. She steppped down in March of 1970 and was replaced by Sherry Woods.

Woods had made a periodic report or two prior to taking over the column, but became the almost daily reporter with the comings and goings of local personalities and of course the gripes and concerns of local readers. And as often as I could get my hands on the paper, a must read for me.

Of course the columns didn't capture every move of every person, but they have been a nice chronicle of most of the major radio folks.

Sherry left the CJ in 1974 for Miami, Florida to take a similar job there at a Miami newspaper. From there she began writing romance novels. First under "writers" names or pseudonyms , and later under her given name Sherryl Woods. She is one of the more published novel writers and is still active to this date.

Sherry spends her time between the beaches of Virginia where she was raised and Miami in the winter all the while writing. Some day I'll have to try to make contact to get a better understanding of how she covered her beat and what did and didn't make the paper. Maybe I can even jog a memory or two to provide a missing detail on a station move or personality who came or went.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's sort of funny. When I first set out working on trying to piece together some of the radio memories from my youth and early career, my focus was entirely on about a dozen people or events.

I changed that about 4 or 5 months ago to try to catalog all the names, stations, faces and places concerning radio and radio personalities. The data bases that I am aware of don't list the comings and goings of people I listened to or in some cases worked with. So I decided to create one myself.

I started at 1970 and am currently up to September, 1977. I will go until the CJ folded and the internet has a search-able way to find the info on the internet. Once I have all that, I'll go back and do the 60's.

So what have I learned?

1) Until 1976 or 77 the Dispatch did very little coverage. Cynthia Robbins would write an article or two periodically in the early mid 70's, but it wasn't until Bud Wilkenson was hired that they wrote on a mostly daily basis.

2) The Citizen Journal did a pretty good job for some stations, but didn't always capture all the information. Examples? Jim Lohse becoming program director of WTVN in 1968, Keith Curtis replacing and then leaving about a year later Lohse on the air and Dave Parr replacing Curtis. While I have that information from memory and other sources, the paper didn't mark those events. Or WCOL, WVKO and WMNI didn't get much coverage, while WTVN, WBNS and WRFD did.

3) There was no article when WNCI dropped "The Young Sound" for progressive rock. I'm guessing it happened about the same time that WRFD went country, which was the first of the year in 1970, but can't find a sure change date. WNCI was a pioneer in this area for that kind of change.

4) Radio station WBBY had a decent amount of coverage when they first came on the air, but sort of fell off the cliff after that. A lot of memorable personalities came and went from that station and nothing was noted. For example, Scott Stevens, Rick Seiler, Jay Wayne, Bob Smith and Chris Ward. Joe Gallagher was never mentioned. Diane Townsley got some early mentions, but nothing ever mentioned when she left or where she went.

5) My interest was higher in the late 60's and early 70's time frame. That was more of my coming of age days. As I work in the later 70's, it just doesn't seem as interesting. I'll have to think about why.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Power of Advertising

The little block advertisement to the left supplied wagging tongues in Columbus with a lot to chatter about as well as had many Capital City announcers wondering if they were on the chopping block.

The ad appeared in Billboard Magazine on September 13, 1975.

DJ chatter about the ad gave Citizen Journal Radio-TV editor David Drake enough ammo to write a column a week or so later about the ad with denials from all area program directors that they had placed it.

I'm not sure if anyone ever owned up to the advertisement. As my review of the comings and goings or radio hosts continues, maybe I'll find the article that links the ad to the smoking gun radio station.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

John & Bill

One of the more popular morning shows in the late 60's and through the late 70's was anchored by radio host John Fraim with news provided by Bill Patterson. Photos from a 1974 newspaper advertisement campaign.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Beginning of the Best Buckeye Coverage

Starting with the 1973 football season, Ohio State contractually had just one station to anchor statewide coverage of home games. The prior year, at least 6 local stations described the grid iron coverage to listeners.

WTVN won the rights to the games. It was the first time in many years that WTVN had carried the games.

Tom Hamlin and Dale Conquest were selected to provide play by play and color coverage. Neither had worked together prior to the announced pairing, yet they had seen and heard examples of each others work.

They promised lively coverage that wouldn't be cluttered by X's and O's.

Conquest however drew a kiss of death. In addition to his Buckeye football coverage, he was also settling in to be sports director for sister station WTVN-TV. He didn't stay long. The next year he was replaced by Marv Homan, the Sports Information Director at OSU, on the radio broadcasts. Homan and Harman would broadcast the 1974 and 1975 season for WTVN and the Ohio State Radio Network. In 1976, announcer change would happen again with neither Homan or Harmon in the booth for WTVN.
But my favorite radio station had the rights.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

OSU Football

Tomorrow night, Ohio State opens it's 2010 season against Marshall. The game will now be carried on television and one AM/FM combination radio station.

There was a time when just about anyone who had a microphone and a transmitter could broadcast the games from the Shoe. Prior to the 1973 season when WTVN was awarded sole rights to home OSU games, WBNS, WBBY, WVKO, WMNI, WRFD and WOSU all had play by play announcers describing the X's and O's from the Shoe's pressbox.

While the WBNS ad shows Ted Mullins, 1973 would be the first and last year for Ted broadcasting the games. Prior to Ted taking the microphone, the calls were handled by Bill Corley with color provided by Bob Adkins, Irwin Johnson and Les Spencer.  Sherry Wood's "Citizen Journal" radio column described some of the letters she received from readers who were less than happy with Corley missing from Saturday afternoons and replaced with Mullins. Corley and Adkins as well as Irwin Johnson when games were play at home and Les Spencer when the games were away in the early years were probably the most listened to of all announcers.

Another who made the gridiron calls at that time was the late Ed Johnson of WRFD. While Ed was known to central Ohioans as the voice of agricultural broadcasting, he also did a year or two behind the microphone doing play by play with his rural drawl. For WRFD's final season to broadcast the Buckeyes, 1972, Stan Savran was brought in. And by the end of the season, management had invited him to move on as WTVN was awarded exclusive home broadcast rights. Savran's talents would no longer be needed.

Back to Ed Johnson for a moment. Ed also broadcast many high school basketball games on WRFD's sister station WNCI and was also sports director for both stations. I personally don't remember Ed on WNCI. But I simply can't picture in my mind Ed, with his rural tone and drawl, giving sports reports on a progressive rock FM station.

Back to OSU. Martin Petree manned the mic for WMNI and for the few years that WBBY carried the games it was Joe Hill. Not to be forgotten was WVKO/WSPO. Station president Bert Charles was the play by play announcer. If I recall, it was OSU sports information director Marv Holman who did the play by play by WOSU. He later would join WTVN along with Dayton broadcaster Tom Hamlin when Dale Conquest left. That arrangement lasted until the 1976 season when Ken Coleman and Bob Conners occupied the press box.

Powerful WRFD with it's power line up.

I've lost the trail on morning man Robert W. Knight and evening host Mick Titer. Mid-day host Greg Campbell entertains the Heart of Ohio mid-days on WVNO (Mix 106) and afternoon host Len Anthony passed away several years ago while in the Atlanta area.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We Bring Back Yesterday

Taken from a newspaper ad in February or March of 1971. Click on the image twice and you can enlarge it enough to ready it.

Great line up. Denny Erwin in the morning, who made a fortune later in life as a Burger King franchise owner in Central Ohio. Denny must have replaced Hugh Strider who made an appearance many times as a BBY personality before becoming widely known when the station took on jazz as Zoot Strider. Rick Seiler doing mid-days. Rick would later join future WBBY hosts Jay Wayne and bob Shaw(?)starting up WWWJ in nearby Johnstown.

What more can be said about Dianne Townsley. A young Westerville High School grad who had hosting a radio program as a career goal at a time when women platter spinners were a virtual unknown commodity. Her Sunday request show, Date with Dianne was a popular staple on the station.

Rounding out the broadcast day was a fellow I never heard of. Chris Ward. Maybe someone will clue me in as to who he is. My first recollection of an evening radio host was when Joe Gallagher hosted the show.

WBBY was also unique (or for the time, maybe not so unique)for carrying Ohio State Football. That was prior to the University bidding carriage of the games to the hightest bidder. Prior to that happeing, WBBY aired the games as well as WBNS, WRFD, WMNI AM&FM and WSPO.

The Big 104 was a unique station. A key daypart female host. One of the early stereo broadcasters in the area. An active player trying to find an audience niche when FM had yet to break free as the band to listen to. And a fun place to work.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bob O'Brian

Usually, I've spent time writing about people who were part of growing up listening to or working in radio.

Bob O'Brian was different. I was already an adult when he happened on the Columbus radio scene and working weekends at WTVN.

O'Brian arrived in October of 1977 to host afternoons at WBNS-AM. He would replace Jack Evans and Dick Zipf who were moving to mornings at the station(for the long term this time) from the afternoon drive shift.

I'm not sure what was compelling about Bob except I enjoyed listening to his show. Does there have to be a reason?

Bob also "broke" for Columbus audiences a song still remembered by many "Franklin County Woman" performed by local band Rainbow Canyon CD. You can see Bob and two members of the group in the photo in the WBNS studios when it was located at 62 East Broad Street across from the statehouse.

Bob was only around for a few years. He left in April of 1981 to return to family in the Phoenix area. He was replaced by Dennis Carter earlier in his career in the afternoon slot. When he left the station for good, he was hosting mid-days and responsible for on air production.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Yeh Boy II

Sometime during the late 70's, WBNS did an advertising promotion using Dick Zipf's popular phrase YEH BOY!

I remember billboards with the phrase papered all over town. In the back of my mind, I thought it was also used in the print media. However a scan through the periodicals of the time reveal no printings of it except for a car dealer who was cross promoting with the station.

Below is some of the copy from an advertisement in the Citizen Journal from April of 1978.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Gap

Earlier, I wrote of our journey to Duffield, Va to see the Natural Tunnel. To add to an already ambitious trip, it was decided to include a visit to the nearby Cumberland Gap.

The Gap was strategic in the early days of settling beyond the original colonies. It allowed passage between Virginia into what later became Kentucky and on to the Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio and what later became Louisville. It was an important southern entrance to that region of the continent.

Originally it was thought a necessary piece of real estate in the Civil War. It changed hands three or four times before General Grant decided the condition of the roadways made it non -strategic to the Confederacy.

Certainly one of the problems of doing trips as we do is that we only get to see the highlights of the attraction and spend little time in getting a better feel for the area. But as the old saying goes, the only thing standing in our way is time and money. And at least seeing the highlights lets us determine as time and money permits what places we will return to in the future.

Below are some of the pics to share.

Natural Tunnel

We enjoy so much taking our day trips.

Yesterday we got, shall we same very adventuresome. We traveled to western Virginia to see the Natural Tunnel. The Natural Tunnel, dubbed by William Jennings Bryant as the eight wonder of the world, is a naturally formed cave. A cave so large that a railroad bed was built through it. It is said to be over 200 feet wide in places and up to 80 feet tall. All naturally formed.

Although since the tunnel is an active working rail road site and visitors are not allowed actually inside of it unless escorted under special conditions, the tunnel is said to be a trove of fossils and other prehistoric evidence on the floor and walls.

It is said Daniel Boone was the first white man to see the tunnel.

The railroad first saw uses for it in the late 1800's building a rail bed in 1893. Service began in 1894, and it was largely used for passenger service. Today, it's only used to haul coal.

Although the site is primarily known for the tunnel and the beautiful state parkland that surrounds it, the area is also known for one of the great legends of men and women relationships. It is the real Lovers Leap

Tradition holds that Cherokee maiden and a Shawnee brave fell in love after they met at nearby hunting grounds. While the Indian nations were often at war, the grounds were mutually used without interference by crude treaty. The treat however still forbade intermarriage between the tribes. It is said the two lovers jumped to their deaths hoping to meet in harmony in the after life. The assumed place of their leap which is the pinnacle of the wall to the basin below is known as Lovers Leap.

Finally, we had a wonderful lunch provided by the Scott County (Virginia) Telephone Company. They were having a customer appreciation picnic, but everyone who came to the park was invited. We were among the few, and probably only if you went by the accent of those who spoke, Yankees there.

One of the more amusing moments was when a pre-teen boy who had a helium balloon was sucking in the air to make his voice sound funny. With the deep southern twang he already had, it sound was unbelievably funny.

More photos from this beautiful area are below.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Kid In Town

On Valentine's Day, 1977 the FM band in Columbus was rocked with the New Kid in Town.

WTVN-FM and it's beautiful music faded away and legally became WLVQ-FM with the playing of the Eagles hit "The New Kid in Town." For listeners and fans, it would just be called Q-FM-96.

I've not often written of the FM band or WLVQ. Growing up, in my world AM was the king of radio. Actually it still was in my opinion, despite the obvious slump in ratings and revenues for the past 30 years, until probably the first of this year.

The story of how the transition began is actually quite interesting. I found the below on consultant Lee Abrams blog. I've always enjoyed being a fly on the wall type of person and this is almost as good as being there. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing it.

Miami reminded me of a key career break. In 1972 I was consulting WQDR in Raleigh. We went to #1. It caught the attention of a guy named Gordon Hastings from Katz, then the leading ad rep firm. Gordon was a big believer in the commercial viability of FM which was still in the financial closet. I met Gordon and I guess I impressed him. He then talked to Carl Wagner who ran the powerful Taft Broadcasting Group. Carl was a bad ass former pro catcher. Mean--but fair and smart. Gordon set up a meeting at about midnight at the New Orleans Hilton at a convention. Taft owned 7 major FM's, most of them with big signals, Taft muscle, but kinda sitting there. Carl and I hit it off. I think he was impressed by my knowledge of baseball as much as my ideas on developing FM stations. We shook hands and he told me to wait for a call.

A week later, Carl calls and invites me to the Taft Managers Conference at the Sonesta Beach Hotel in Key Biscayne (Miami). Taft managers were an old boys club. I got the feeling that their bonuses were based more on their Golf scores than on performance. I dressed up as best I could but must have looked like an alien to these guys. At the opening cocktail party I think they thought I was brought in as an entertainer. One exec asked me if I was with the band. I told him I was in Led Zeppelin. The response was "Really? My daughter has one of your albums".

The next morning I did "the pitch". In a suite overlooking Biscayne Bay. On orders from Carl, the Managers of every Taft station were sternly told to listen to me. The pitch went fantastic, but I was still an outsider. But then after the morning meetings, there was a Tennis tournament. I loved Tennis, so I asked if they needed another entry. They put me with Ed McLaughlin who was the other non-Taft person at the meetings. Ed ran ABC RADIO and later managed Russ Limbaugh to fame. I'd known Ed for awhile since I worked for ABC at WRIF in Detroit. He and I absolutely kicked ass and WON the tournament. It was all over. Even if I looked like a drug addict to them, I proved myself on the court--the next best thing to beating them in Golf. They even invited me to appear in the Taft Company picture, though they probably airbrushed out my beard.

Within three weeks I signed WDVE Pittsburgh, WLVQ Columbus, KYYS Kansas City and WGRQ Buffalo. All four stations had huge increases and we were off to the races.

Now--I had a problem. A good one, but a problem. I had six clients. It was a business. But I had no experience in running a business of this nature. I needed capital, connections, an infrastructure, and guidance on how to maximize this thing. I'd known this guy Kent Burkhart. Most people in the business did. He was one of the FIRST Top 40 Program Directors ever...oddly enough at WQAM (my all time favorite Top 40 station) in Miami, and then went on to run the powerful Pacific and Southern group. He was a legend. He had left Pacific and Southern and started a consultancy. Every week I'd read in the trades where Burkhart signs another station. So I send Kent a proposal. Basically, I do the FM's while you do the AM's...and run the business aspects. He suggested a meeting in Minneapolis. We met at his client KSTP. We put a deal together in 30 minutes. I moved to Atlanta a week later and Burkahart/Abrams was born. Kent also turned over WYSP in Philly and WKLS Atlanta to me as they were FM's. We formally introduced the "Superstars" format. That name is kinda hokey and we NEVER used it on the air, but to station heads that were still suspicious about this underground FM thing, it was a comforting and relatable term that translated into "mass appeal".

The basics of the concept were pretty simple. To change the familiarity factor from song title to artist so instead of hearing the same songs, you’d hear the same artists, but the whole library of songs instead of just the hit single so it was familiar by ARTIST, yet interesting because you’d hear ALL of that artist. It was aimed at the vulnerable Top 40 listener. The person who listened to Top 40 but liked every 4th song. Stones and Cream--cool. Bread and Osmond’s...not cool. Eliminate the Bread and Osmond’s and focus on the artists that were defining the new "Album" movement. Then between the big names, introduce the coo new stuff so the sound was anchored in familiarity, had depth and selectively introduced new artists so they'd get enough exposure to actually get noticed. We accepted the Underground stations as a fact of life and were ore concerned about getting people to FM who found Underground radio too out there. In the process we took out a lot of the Underground Free Form stations who were simply too elite. The good ones that were focused remained important factors.

Our "position" was to be as accessible as possible without losing the progressive identity.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Breakfast News Service

For a little over a year, from December 1971 to 1973, WBNS-AM instituted a morning news block called the Breakfast News Services. BNS. Get it?

Among the people involved in the program were Dick Boyer, Chet Long, Ted Mullins, and Wayne Byers. In addition, News Director Don Smith, Bob Jeffrey, Ed Ross and Bill Hamilton were involved in the all news in the morning effort.

The program ended in March of 1973 with the hiring of Bob Conners as morning host for the station.

This was during the time the station was making the transition from standards, big band and CBS network programming to a more contemporary sound.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

March WBNS Line Up

WBNS AM listeners had a new line up at the top of the dial as of March 5, 1973.

Well, at least in the mornings. The host line up was already in place for the rest of the daily schedule.

Long time host, and holder of the morning show duties after the morning news block known as Breakfast News Service (get it BNS), Bill Hamilton, was severely missed by his fans.

Hamilton had worked for the station since the late 50's and had handled afternoon drive duties from November 1966 until Early Worm Irwin Johnson's retirement in 1969.

Hamilton then took over mornings until the Breakfast News Service program cut into his time and then was totally out the picture when Bob Conners was hired to do morning drive as depicted in the ad.

Coffee Club

Another piece of Spook Beckman information. As of January 1965, Spook took his talents back to the studios of WLW-C with a new show called Spook Beckman's Coffee Club.