Tag Archives: Bob Steele

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 

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“We Never Called It Content” EXTRA

1My latest blog post has gone viral.  Plus it’s been picked up and re-published by the radio trades, other blogs and today I just finished appearing on a podcast – along with Colin Cowherd – talking RADIO.

The podcast ends with a really interesting segment on why broadcasters use funny voices. It’s FABULOUS!

You can hear this podcast here:  https://soundcloud.com/radio-stuff-podcast/radio-stuff-113

You can read the blog post that started it all here:  https://dicktaylorblog.com/2015/09/06/we-never-called-it-content/

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Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio

We Never Called It Content

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. Two of them that were on Los Angeles radio have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They delivered, according to what I’ve read in the trades, excellent audience ratings. So what happened?

Bill Gates once famously announced “content is king” as we entered the Internet age. Microsoft would give businesses WORD, EXCEL, PowerPoint etc. The business schools graduated a whole gaggle of spreadsheet nerds who excel at these computer tools. The Telcom Act of 1996 was the beginning of the consolidation of radio and when Wall Street would jump into this wonderful new investment opportunity.

When you look at radio stations via spreadsheets, you primarily are reducing everything to numbers. It completely eviscerates the human element from the decision making process.

Nobody turned on Steele, Lujack, Morgan, Dorman, Lundy, Brine, Steele and the rest of radio’s iconic personalities and said, “I’m going to get me some great content.” We turned on our favorite radio station because the people behind the microphone were members of our family. We enjoyed spending time with them. We knew that what we were experiencing, they were experiencing right along with us. They were local & live.

Radio is an art form. When you remove the artists, there’s not much left.

Radio is a pretty simple business. You play recordings people want to hear, you keep your hand on the pulse of the community you’re licensed to serve and report on what’s going on that people need to know and you hire personalities that become the audio glue that keep it all together running smoothly and engage the listener.

To support the expense of doing all of this, you work with businesses to expose their products and services to the audience you’ve attracted to your radio station.

The irony with today’s radio is that more radio stations operate out of a single location than at any time in radio’s 95 year history, but with less people per station than at any time in that same history. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rick Moranis (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) return to make a new movie about today’s radio called “Honey, I Shrunk the Staff.”

Frederick Allan “Rick” Moranis, a native Canadian, was a disc jockey on three Toronto radio stations back in the mid-70s performing on the radio under the name “Rick Allan.”

No one has a clue how much the employment in the radio industry has shrunk as the industry rushed to consolidate. What we do know is when you walk into any of these huge clusters; there are rows of empty cubicles, offices that are no longer occupied – it can be depressing.

I’m not saying that radio, like every other business, shouldn’t be running more efficiently and taking advantage of technology to control the costs of operation. But the buzz you hear is that the fat cutting has become cutting the bone.

As Ken Levine wrote in his blog about the state of the radio industry:

“In the past when a great disc jockey got fired he would simply show up elsewhere. But who knows today? Nobody is hiring. They’re all just firing.”

Today’s radio is being driven by Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations trying to put a pretty face on the new strategy. But radio is more than just studios, transmitters, and now websites/social media, radio is made up of people, albeit fewer of them by the day.

Radio was never a just a job. Radio was a mission inspired by people who were passionate about all the medium could be. Everyone inside a radio station worked towards this common goal, just like the people at Google, Apple, Southwest – to name a few – do.

People didn’t get into radio, radio got into people.

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