Play Records & Meet Girls

50th Anniv WRKO logoLast summer, WRKO held its 50th Anniversary Reunion in Boston. The original five personalities that kicked off “Now Radio in Boston” were all there; Chuck Knapp, J. J. Jeffrey, Al Gates, Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg and Joel Cash.

Radio’s Best Friend, Art Vuolo, recorded the anniversary dinner and Saturday night reunion broadcast over 680AM-WRKO. I bought the two-DVD set, enjoying it all thoroughly.

Growing up in Western Massachusetts prevented me from hearing WRKO’s 50,000-watt Boston signal because of its directionalized North/South pattern and so hearing this incredible radio station was a delight only when I traveled to the eastern end of the Bay State.

Now Radio

For those that aren’t familiar with Boston Radio, WRKO brought the formatics of 93-KHJ Los Angeles to Boston under the leadership of General Manager Perry Ury. Before the station’s switch to Top 40 in March of 1967, the station was known as WNAC.

The Big 68 became WRKO with the launch of the new format and RKO Radio Consultant Bill Drake.

WRKO General Manager Phil Zachary

At the time of the reunion, Phil Zachary was Entercom’s Market Manager for Boston and overseeing WRKO. Phil was promoted to Market Manager of Entercom’s Hartford, Connecticut properties after the Entercom merger with CBS Radio.Phil Zachery

It was what Phil shared at the WRKO 50th Anniversary Dinner that most resonated with me and it’s what I’d like to share with you in this week’s blog.

Phil started off his talk by saying, “I got into radio as a disc jockey to play records and meet girls, like most of you, but I wasn’t as good as most of you, so I ended up as a manager,” adding that he’d been in radio for 41-years, 33-years as a general manager.

What WRKO Meant to Me

Phil grew up in Connecticut listening to parent’s favorite radio station 1080AM-WTIC, so he wasn’t one of the original members of the staff when WRKO was launched as Now Radio back in 1967. But he wanted to share with the audience what WRKO meant to him. Here’s what he shared:

“I was 13-years old and living in Hartford when this station (WRKO) came on the air. If you wanted to be in radio, there was no better place to grow up because there was WPOP, WDRC, 13-WAVES in New Haven and WPRO in Providence and everyone was working to get to New York or Boston, so I heard a lot of you guys as you were working your way up and I got to tell you I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you.”

“To me, you guys (the radio personalities) were superstars. It is what caused me to say, this is what I want to do for a living. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

“I have 300-employees now in this region and the thing I lament so much, and the thing you really need to celebrate here tonight, is that you are artists, you were real craftsmen, you were entertainers, you were right every bit, every bit, the equal of that music you played. And to this day, I can’t hear those records without hearing you between those records. And without those elements in-between, without who you were in-between, those records were meaningless to me. They don’t mean anything to me. And they don’t mean anything to a whole generation of people who grew up believing you were a part of those groups. That that’s who you were.”

“I have to sit here and thank you with all my heart, not only for making my young life so special but for allowing me the spark and the privilege to earn my living for the last 41-years in this business. You did that for me. You put me up here at this table. I am so thrilled and proud to be here with all of you because I listened to every one of you on the radio. Every one of you!”

“And I said, ‘How can I ever be as good as Mike Adams, how could I ever be like Chip Hobart, how could I ever be like J. J. Jordan…how could I ever be THAT FREAKIN’ GOOD…and that’s what’s missing today, is we just don’t have those types of people, and we don’t have those program directors.”

“There isn’t a day that I come off that elevator and the first thing I say to myself is, ‘holy shit, I’m general manager of WRKO,’ but the second thing I say to myself is, ‘holy shit I could have been on WRKO if I had a great program director, that cared about me, that called me on the hot line and said don’t do that again.’ And that’s what’s missing now, is that we don’t have artists anymore. We don’t have kids that come on the air before the Polish show on Sunday morning and play the tapes and play on the cue speaker the show they really want to do. We don’t have that anymore and one of the reasons we have the show on Saturday night (WRKO 60s Saturday Night) is because I can’t let that die. It can’t go away.”

“So please know how much you mean to me, how much you mean to our business and how honored we are as Entercom to be a part of this celebration.”

Thank You Phil

My own personal story is a parallel to what Phil shared. And I am in complete concert with all that he said.

We are real radio guys.

Radio’s legendary personalities have been lovingly captured by Art Vuolo and I encourage you to check out his website HERE and order some DVDs.Art Vuolo DVD recording

For those of us who made radio a career 50 years ago, it will remind you about why you got into this wonderful crazy business.

For those of you who want to know what radio was like before the internet and social media, it will be a wonderful, inspiring learning experience.

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After this article was written, a research report on the power of personalities was released this week. Tom Taylor’s NOW (4-24-2018) writes: “On-air talent is a huge draw” for AM/FM radio listeners, says Lauren Vetrano, Director of Content Marketing at Cumulus/Westwood One. She presents results from a new study with Vision Critical/MARU, and says “We asked 2,617 consumers how they felt about radio personalities. The results show a strong affinity and trust that marketers can use to their advantage in audio creative.” 68% of respondents “were able to name their favorite AM/FM radio DJ, personality or show.” More than half (52%) “say the main reasons they choose to listen to their favorite station” are specific people or shows. Lauren says “having a connection is about more than just preference…listeners develop loyal relationships based on humor and trust.” Read “The relationship between personalities and listeners is personal” by clicking HERE

You might also enjoy an article I wrote on this same subject back in September 2015 titled “We Never Called It Content.” I wrote:

Larry Lujack, The Real Don Steele, Robert W. Morgan, Dale Dorman, Ron Lundy, Salty Brine, Bob Steele, and so many, many more. These names I’ve dropped are all no longer on the radio. Terrestrial radio anyway. We radio geeks like to think they are now Rockin’ N Rollin’ the hinges off the pearly gates.

Everyone can understand the circle of life. People retire, people pass on.

But this past week saw the “forced retirement” of more big names in radio.

To read the entire article, click HERE 

15 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

15 responses to “Play Records & Meet Girls

  1. Rick Starr

    I was there at the launch of WRKO, then in Kenmore Square, Boston. A personal memoir: https://www.facebook.com/notes/10153325580643431/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rick Michael Singel

    Dick, wonderful piece. Rick, I read the first paragraphs of your piece and can’t wait to have the time to finish it. I am not in the business but a fanatic follower of all things AM for 50 years.
    I just loved radio back in the day. I can’t believe I am saying this, but the rise in the volume and repetition of commercials is about to end my string. I actually resent the trashing of this fabulous form of entertainment.
    If I were in the business, I can imagine being bitter.
    Thank you both for your great insights

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We’ve all learned a lot since ’67, The Summer of Love, The Red Sox, FM and much more. Keep radio going with all platform delivery. The best is yet to come!.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Paul David OBrien

    Dick,
    What does CRMC/CDMC stand for?
    Paul David O’Brien

    Like

  5. Hal Widsten

    Phil said it for all of us who love the business. The research says what we all know. Maybe….just maybe when the debts are discharged the big guys will be able to bring back what the listeners….and we Radio folks…love.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Outstanding article. Just goes to show the difference between the radio industry then (1960’s, 1970’s, etc.), and now. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Deborah Gardner Baxter (WSGN)

    What so many of you didn’t realize was just how important you all were to us 10-18 year old girls. You guys said the words that we longed to hear. Played the songs that made us feel “in love”. Most of you had faces suitable only for radio, but oh lord…those voices! Thanks for spinning the records and leaving us the first love notes of our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Picture it. 10 years-old. Lakewood, NJ. My dad had purchased an old car radio and someone (not sure) made it to work with an AC plug. It wasn’t geounded too well as I got shocked a few times. But the BIGGER shock was when I heard “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes on WMCA for the first time. When the song was over, I told myself I want to be like that guy who can play that 45 every day. I believe it was B. Mitchell Reed. I wanted to hear it again, and went up and down the nighttime AM dial. Lo and behold I heard it again on WKBW on skip from Buffalo…though I didn’t know what skip was…then. But the DJ said funny stuff after the song was over. And just after I told myself I wanted to play records; I then wanted to not only be a DJ–but one that could be cool and funny. That was Joey Reynolds. Little did I know that just 10 years later in ’73 and already on the radio for three years (I started at 17) that Joey would enter my life and become a mentor and a true friend for life. He had left WIBG in Philly and was visiting a friend who was working at WHLW AM 1170. He was intrigued that this 5K station was a daytimer. He charmed the owner of the station and literally took over all programming…and Sunrise-Sunset..11-7 Jersey Shore was born. It was an avant garde music/talk station. It made noise. I moved on to WPST FM programmed by Tom Taylor, respected radio writer. He helped tame me and helped me be more natural on air. Great boss…he believed in me after turning me down three times prior. I owe him. Joey and I reunited in 1986 when he was picked to replace Howard at 66 WNNNBC after a very successful stint at WFIL in Philly on the reboot of Famous 56 WFIL. I was invited to be Joey’s sidekick and combo//production guy. Joey wanted me to work at WFIL but the GM thought I sounded “too young.” I got to WNNBC just I months later. It was an incredible time, getting to meet almost every star you can imagine. But, when GE decided to begin the process to get rid of NBC’s radio division, Joey was a casualty, along with Soupy Sales. I was still under contract so WNBC PD Dale Parsons asked ME to do a recreation of top 40 radio in the ’60s. I was sad that Joey was gone; but I got the chance to BE both like B. Mitchel Reed, Joey, Dan Ingram and Hy Lit all rolled into one with a show called The Time Machine heard overnights from Hudson Bay, Canada to the Carribean. After WNNBC signed off (I was on the last day) I soon helped create New Jersey 101.5 with consultant Walter Sabo…another hybrid music/talk station similar to that station Joey started 17 years prior.
    I would move on to work in Philly at two talk stations WWDB FM and WPHT AM and in Dallas on KLIF. Sirius wanted me to help launch their ’60s channel in ’02. That was fun. Did some local NJ radio then Joey called me (again) and we did a TV show on WNBC TV’s digital channel 4.2 from the NASDAQ building in Times Square. At the same time, I worked at WCBS-FM for 8 years after being invited on as a “radio great” by former PD Brian Thomas. Quite an honor. He hired me to do swing and weekends. What a thrill. After 8 years, I couldn’t be just a card-reader…and guess who called me again…Yep.. Joey and I did a paid radio/video show at WABC radio. So not only have I been blessed to be a radio person for almost a half century, I got to learn from some of radio’s greatest talents–I got to work with the guy who made me WANT to be on the air all those years ago.
    I got to heard on WNNBC, CBS-FM and WABC and othwr legendary stations.
    And BOTH of us ain’t done doing what we do! We still create great audio and video entertainment that the industry seems to have forgotten how to do, with fresh thinking for adults audiences.
    So I am a lucky man to have had this great career, teach new talent, create new innovative formats and simply have fun every time the mic or camera is turned on!
    Thanks for asking!
    Oh…and BE BIG!

    Liked by 1 person

    • WOW! Thank YOU Big JAY!

      It was a thrill to read your personal story. I knew so little of all you’ve accomplished in your radio career. I’m so proud of you.

      Thank You for stopping by the blog and sharing all your wrote. Stay BIG!
      -DT

      Like

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