Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Good Morning Morning People

Nancy Bugbee was morning host on local radio station WDLR in Delaware for a short period of time in 1974.

She served a number of purposes. First, she was halfway decent on the air. Second, she had ties to nearby Marysville which had ad dollars available. And finally, a female disc jockey was something of an anomoly during that time.

She would often open with the line Good Morning Morning People.

An earlier attempt at wooing Marysville Business in July of 1964.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

For a Time It was Ohio's Country Giant

New Years 1970.

A new decade and a new format for an old friend.

The week between Christmas and New Years day is sort of an awkward time. And it's also prime time for radio stations to change formats and the hosts behind the microphones.

And so it was for WRFD radio.

Although the news of the day in one edition of that weeks Citizen Journal was that WNCI, WRFD's sister FM station was going to make the switch, that wasn't the real story.

That was corrected the following day, although WNCI was also going to get a formatic face-lift too! But that's a story for another day.

So in the new year and new decade of 1970, WRFD made the transition from standards and MOR music to Country and Western music. No longer would Herb Alpert, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Doris Day flow through the speakers of Columbus radio at 880 on the dial. At least for the next 6 years.

And no longer would Columbus wake up to Johnny Martin and drive home with Spook Beckman, at least at 880 on the dial. Johnny would later explain in a letter to the CJ that he was joining Lew Davis, former WRFD farm director at a financial services company and Spook Beckman asked to return to selling air time.

Instead the twang of Buck Owens and the voices of Uncle Tom George, Bill Preston and Jack Bartley among others would now be the daily diet of audio on the frequency.

George had recently come over from WMNI who themselves had made the move to country in 1965. I'm not sure about Bartley and Preston. Maybe someone will be able to fill me in.

So why the change? I'm not really sure. My guess is station or corporate leadership felt that with WRFD's extensive farm programming, it was a natural fit. Or that WRFD's still popular MOR/Standards blend was waning in popularity and a change was needed.

But maybe Country wasn't the right choice. By the spring of 1972, the station was in transition again. This time away from slide guitars and to the do wops of oldies. Len Anthony, brought in from Cleveland/Akron during the country years, was now in charge of the transition to oldies with the help of sister station WGAR.

Len was part of the team who hired me in May of 1973 to spin the church tapes and mow the front lawn. By time I was on board, Len was gone to Denver.

I just found that Len later migrated from Denver through South Dakota and finally landed in Atlanta where he had a successful career as one of the cities radio entertainers (he hated the term disc jockey). But a career that was cut short by a heart attack at the age of 52 in 1999.

In the years beyond that, WRFD left the oldies format in 1977 and returned to adult standards with it's Unrock format. With that format, Spook Beckman returned to the airwaves. His midday show along with the farm revenue began to make things look up at the station.

But Spook was wooed to bigger things at WCOL and WRFD once again returned to trying to find it's place among the radio listening and more importantly advertising audience. (My Sunday show wasn't strong enough to save the day.)

The Unrock format died without ceremony and for a time an adult contemporary format was in place. There was even talk for a while of returning to county as it believed that done right, WMNI was vulnerable.

But that was not to be.

Enter Salem Media of Ohio who purchased the station in the early 80's with a rapid switch to religious programming. It's true. Not only can God save souls; it appears that with WRFD's current success, He can save radio stations.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bill Smith Says Goodbye Columbus

WTVN radio has brought me the best of times and the worst of times.

The best of times for some of the great programming that I so wanted to be a part of growing up.

The worst of times in two instances. The first was when I was let go by the station after having only worked there a little over a year. And mostly through my own actions. (ok, so I wasn't grown up at the time.) The second was when they let Bill Smith slip through their fingers.

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am a huge fan on Bill Smith. I remember listening to the station during the summer of 1974 and Smith wasn't on the air. Mid July and no Bill Smith. A day, then two and then a week went by and no Smith holding down the evening shift. I was needing a fix. And it wasn't coming.

On July 18th, I knew why.

David Drake of the old Citizen Journal wrote in his morning column that Bill and station management couldn't come to an agreement on salary. Bill had quit. Drake had noted that WTVN's ratings were at their highest in that time period with Bill at the helm.

But that was to be no more. That summer turned out to be one of the longest summers ever.

About a month later, Drake again in the CJ told central Ohio listeners that Smith had landed a part time gig at WBZ in Boston. A station even more of a legend that WTVN.

But it meant that I could only hear Bill when the sun went down in the winter months and you could hear the waning moments of his Sunday show or when he filled in for someone in a late shift. I remember more than once listening to him on the way home from a shift at WBBY as he was filling in for weekend overnighter Robin Young or some of the periodic Sunday shows during early sundown. It was almost as good as the old days.

Then things got worse. Well maybe not for Bill but for me. Bill began working for FM stations in the Boston market. No more sky wave hit skip from a 50kw flame thrower to bring great tunes and a master spinning them my way. For almost 35 years, no Bill Smith drifting through the night skies entertaining us.

In recent days I've been exchanging emails with Bill. He's shared some of how he began his broadcast career and other insights.

He's one of the best!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On Parr

A veteran of five years in radio, Mr. Parr joined the staff at WRTA in the spring of 1965,coming here from WKVA in Lewistown. He has also worked at WPAM in Pollsville and
WBUT in Butler, where he served as program director.

A native of Pittsburgh where he went to school with and later married the former Donna Warner, Mr. Parr and his family, now reside at 2609 Wren Ave.

The couple has two children, Dana, 2 and Dari, 7 months.

A graduate of Capital University, Columbus, Ohio, he was affiliated with radio stations in Pittsburgh and Lewiston prior to coming to WRTA last June, 1965.

So read the newspapers in Dave's homestate of Pennsylvania prior to him coming back to Columbus.

I first became aware of Dave when he was music director and evening host for WTVN in the early 70's. Maybe even the late 60's.

Dave later moved to host afternoon drive on the station when Bob Conners left for WBNS in 1973. About a year later, he was replaced by Phil Whitelaw as Dave moved to host mornings and become responsible for programming beautiful music WTVN-FM.

I briefly worked for Dave hosting overnight Saturday-Sunday mornings on WTVN-FM. The sounds of the Hollywood Strings, George Melachrino, Frank DeVol among others were played from large reel to reel tapes. And the one liner I remember was the ever popular "At FM 96 the difference is the music."

I was only on the station for a short time as I was moved back to hosting the overnights on 610. I remember Dave as just a nice, easy going guy.

When WTVN-FM became Q-FM-96 Dave came back to the AM side as sports director and later once again music director.

If I recall, he spent some time at Channel 6. Later he was the press box announcer for many years at Ohio Stadium. A quite different job from the more colorful play by play task. Got to see every play of OSU when playing at home. The Columbus Dispatch did a nice column on Dave and his press box work in 1991.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Whatever Became Of?

As I reminiscence through my old radio logs (memory), I realize there are so many people I haven't taken the time to write about.

Now there are several reasons for that.

One is I try to back up my memory with factual information. In most cases I'm going back 30 or 40 years trying to piece together the whens, whos and whats. They say the second thing to go is the memory, and I've forgotten the first.

I've found the newspaper archives at the library and on line searches to be helpful with that. There is nothing more fun than to watch the microfilm go by on the reader at the library. I think at the end of the day my optometrist will probably chastise me for watching the combination of light, film and images whiz by as I go looking for the sections of the paper I know contain the morsels of information I'm looking to find. Sometimes I remember approximate months or dates. Other times, it's like throwing a dart at the dart board. Thankfully the Citizen Journal had a radio-tv column (the Dispatch early on did not) that did a fairly good job of keeping track of the comings and goings of local media folks. I remember David Drake of course, but my new friend is his predecessor Jo Bradley Reed. She has columns going back to the early 60's (that's as far as I've looked). Her columns have more than once sparked another memory to track down.

Second is I try to maintain the positive side of things. Sure, I've written about someone being fired or a pairing of personalities that has gone south. You can't write about WBBY without including Wild Bill and some of the things that took place during those times or Bob Conners and the Perfect Partner that wasn't so perfect. So my objective is to share these memories and not cause harm to someone.

Finally, it's time. Time is an evil foe. There's only so much time to devote to this. Inspiration also comes into play. I feel for those writers who have to mass produce on a deadline. I simply couldn't do it. This is a labor of love and fun to do.

Finally, I just can't piece together all the people to write about. There are about a half a dozen works that are in various stages of how to present them. People like Bill Corley of WBNS, Dave Logan of WTVN, Phil Whitelaw of WTVN, Fred Anderle of WTVN and WOSU, Gene Warman and John Potter of WTVN. There are some additional people from WRFD that are in the early stages of jotting down memories. Uncle Tom George, Handsome Howard Hewes, Jeffrey P Morgan and Jack Bartley among them. Or WLW's Music Professor, Bob Beasley, Jockey Joe Kelly and JFPO.

And there are so many people I've not been able to find a lot of information on. Marcy Rodgers of WBBY, Dianne Townsley of WBBY, Rick Seiler of WBBY and WWWJ. John L of WNCI. John Canterbury of WNCI or Sean McKay. Whatever became of some of these and other folks? Anyone who can help?

And then there are the WCOL folks. They have been pretty well covered in Rick Minerd's books and Mike Adams WCOL history site.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New Morning Host Would Become #1 and Unseat Earlyworm

On December 6th, 1965 a familiar voice changed microphones. It wasn't a move across the street or uptown. But rather from one studio to another.

John Fraim had been named the morning host of WTVN radio. Citizen Journal reporter Jo Reed reported in that mornings paper that the 38 year old former news director for the station would now be "a platter spinner and disc jockey conversationalist".

Fraim replaced interim morning host Dave Logan who had in turn replaced a handful of hosts since 1960 that included Maurice Jackson, Dave Hull and Johnnie Dollar.

Fraim had an interesting background. Besides being a news reporter/director for such stations as Cincinatti's WSAI, he was interested in exploring underground caves, even needing to be rescued Eureka cave in Kentucky when he and others in his group became disoriented. The rescue was even reported in a 1959 edition of Newsweek Magazine.

From that December 6th morning in 1965 until sometime late in 1979, Fraim would begin a reign to be the top rated morning host in the Columbus market, and during that time unseated longtime morning kingpin, Irwin Johnson. Johnson, known to his fans as the Earlyworm, had hosted mornings on across the dial WBNS for many years. Johnson had been a WBNS host since the 1940's and had developed a loyal following.

Fraim would later join WRFD for a short time after leaving WTVN and soon after be wooed by WCOL to host mornings on that station.

WCOL gave Fraim a birdseye view of the city when he broadcast from the former observation deck of the Leveque Tower downtown. After a few years there, he was news director for WBBY until that station was closed by the FCC as an indirect outgrowth of the Wild Bill incident and the character issues of the owner as seen by the FCC.

Fraim now resides near Laurelville, OH.