Tag Archives: Junior Achievement

My First Radio Broadcasting Mentor

William Mahan/Berkshire Eagle, 1957

His name was Dana Jones and he was the original disc jockey when radio station WBEC (Berkshire Eagle Company) signed on the air in 1947. I wasn’t even born until 1952.

In this picture, Dana is holding his news copy between his teeth, while he cues up his next record, adjusts the volume on his control console and begins his morning radio program.

I got to thinking about Dana on this Labor Day weekend, because growing up, a new school year for me, always began after this holiday weekend.

Dana Jones would have twenty years of radio broadcasting under his belt before I would finally meet the man I grew up listening to on the radio. That happened when WBEC’s management approached the Junior Achievement organization in Springfield, Massachusetts about creating a JA radio company. I interviewed for, and was selected to be a part of this new Junior Achievement service-oriented educational learning experience in broadcasting. We would broadcast every Saturday morning over AM1420 WBEC, and that’s how I finally met Dana Jones.

Dana Jones

Dana was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 14, 1922. His family moved to West Stockbridge, Massachusetts in the early 30s and in 1940, Dana would earn his high school diploma from Williams High School in Stockbridge.

Pearl Harbor

When America was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor, Dana would enlist in the Army and served in New Guinea, the Philippines and Morotai rising to the rank of sergeant. In the 50s, he enlisted in the Marine Reserve.

WBEC Signs On-The-Air

When Dana left the Army, he first went to work in Pittsfield, Massachusetts at its largest department store, England Brothers, but with a voice destined for radio, he was hired away by the Berkshire Eagle newspaper to anchor mornings on its latest media venture; radio broadcasting.

When WBEC went on-the-air on March 25, 1947, Dana Jones was the first voice heard, and he would anchor its morning show until 1980.

Dana did news, weather, sports, interviews with visiting dignitaries and politicians, remote broadcasts, farm reports and even hosted a children’s show called “Storytime.”

1950s in The Berkshires

In the 50s, if a family in the Berkshires owned a television, the only TV station they could receive was the General Electric Company television station out of Schenectady, New York. WRGB was one of the very first TV stations in the world, tracing its roots back to a GE experimental television station founded in 1928.

GE’s television station didn’t begin its broadcast day until 4pm in the afternoon and Pittsfield’s major daily newspaper, The Berkshire Evening Eagle, came out each day around 4pm, so when you woke up in the morning, if you wanted to know what had happened while you were sleeping, it would be the radio that would bring you up-to-date.

Storytime

Every school day morning at 7:45am, Dana Jones would say “Good morning boys and girls, it’s story time,” and for the next fifteen minutes families would be treated to stories about Wilber the Whistling Whale, Johnny Appleseed and many other stories that showcased radio’s “theater of the mind.”

Snow Storms

When snow covered the Berkshires in white, those tubes on the radio could not warm up fast enough to tune in and hear what schools would be cancelled that day on the account of snow. It would also allow kids more time to listen to Dana Jones and his “On The Sunny Side of the Street” music show that came on after mom’s got their kids off to school.

The Life of a Morning DJ

Dana Jones rose every morning at 3am. Monday through Saturday, he would arrive at the radio station at 4am, where he first would turn on the transmitter to warm up its tubes, go through the Associated Press teletype for the latest news, weather and sports, and write and record the comedy bits that would be a part of his radio show featuring two iconic characters he had created; Grampa Crabgrass and Uncle Ephraim. Sign-on was 5:30am.

Saturdays

On Saturday mornings, my mother got up early and drove me out to the radio station by 6am where I would sit in the studio with Dana while he did his radio show. Our Junior Achievement company members usually arrived by 8:30am and I would then join the rest of the JA members to prepare our weekly sixty minute 11am radio broadcast.

Every weekend, I couldn’t get to the radio station early enough, to be enveloped in all things radio, and will always be grateful to both my mother and Dana Jones for catering to this high school kid’s passion to be on-the-air.

Seems Like Old Times

While radio had paid for my college education, it had not been as kind to Dana having been shown the door at both WBEC and later at the Berkshires first radio station WBRK, becoming very discouraged about the radio business.

I remember sitting at his kitchen table and putting together the deal to hire Dana, a man I so respected and admired to become the morning anchor on my new radio station.

I was launching a new radio format on 1110AM WUHN in Pittsfield that would feature Al Ham’s “Music of YOUR Life” big band and standards type of music, the very songs that Dana played when he began his radio career as a disc jockey. I wanted Dana to do everything he excelled at, including his comedy routines with Grampa Crabgrass and Uncle Ephraim. My vision for mornings on this radio station made Dana’s eyes light up and he got excited about radio once again.

I would leave Pittsfield to take over as general manager of WIIN/WFPG in Atlantic City in 1984. Dana continued working at WUHN until 1988 when the station’s owners decided to change its format to something that would appeal to a younger audience. Dana would retire from radio broadcasting at age 66.

He died at the age of 83 of a heart attack on November 25, 2005.

He was a gentle giant in the industry and in person, and he possessed a voice that was undeniably Dana Jones.

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People Attract People

110One of my favorite activities each Memorial Day Weekend is to listen to WABC Rewound streamed over Rewound Radio. What makes this weekend so special is that people from all over the world are listening to the stream at the same time. It’s a coming together of people of all ages to celebrate one of the greatest radio stations America ever produced.

Why WABC Rewound is So Popular

This year, I streamed WABC Rewound driving back to Virginia after spending a couple of weeks in my home state of Massachusetts. Over 7-hours and four states, the stream via my iPhone7 pumped through my Honda Accord’s premium 7-speaker, 270-watt audio system was rich, full and continuous without buffering or interference of any kind. That all by itself is something to note. Streaming audio today is becoming seamless.

But it wasn’t the music that attracted me, though the records are the “music of my life” from my days in high school, college and as a disc jockey. No what attracts me – and everyone else that faithfully tunes in each year – are the personalities.

Herb Oscar Anderson, Bob Dayton, Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, Bruce Morrow, Charlie Greer, Bob Lewis, Chuck Leonard, Johnny Donovan, Harry Harrison and George Michael, plus the newscasters that delivered news every hour.

We are attracted to the people. People we grew up with.

The New Yorker magazine wrote back in 1965 that listeners to WABC were part of the WABC family. We were “cousins” of Cousin Brucie. We were part of the Ingram tribe as he called us “Kemosabe.”

Mornings went “all the way with HOA” as New York’s morning Mayor Herb Oscar Anderson started our day before Harry Harrison moved from WMCA to WABC.

Contests, Features & Promotions About People

WABC invited listeners to vote for their “Principal of the Year” (16-million votes cast in 1964), mail in for a “Kissin’ Cousin Card” or a “Kemosabe Card” (drawing in 150,000 requests in a single week).

Herb Oscar singing “Hello Again” live on the radio and reading lost dog announcements, celebrating birthdays.

Each personality became a member of the family. Your family. And like a member of the family, you took them everywhere you went. To the lake, on a picnic, in your car, to wake up with or go to sleep with. They were companions and we were part of their community.

Father Peter Gregory

“Without people, there wouldn’t be a priesthood,” was the often-heard proclamation of Father Peter Gregory of St. Charles Church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Father Peter has been the pastor of St. Charles for nearly three decades. “The church is people,” he told a reporter who interviewed him on the eve of his retirement.

I bring up Father Peter because at a time when many churches in Pittsfield have closed their doors due to a lack of followers, St. Charles is doing quite well.

It’s not the most glamorous of structures – other churches in the city I might rate more inspirational – and it’s not in the best neighborhood, no what it has had is a spiritual leader that believed in people and whom people believed in right back.

A Mount Rushmore Sized Opportunity for Radio

I love reading the weekly Mid-Week Motivator articles from a good friend and former consultant of some of the radio stations I managed, Tim Moore.

Recently Tim asked “Why is Talent Development in Neutral?”

He wrote that his life’s education seems to have been about understanding the challenges and concepts of what it takes to be a winner. It meant he would constantly be looking for character and excellence in people who hadn’t found it yet.

The irony about today’s radio, Tim says, is “glaring opportunity, constricted by the inability or lack of will on the part of many companies and their leaders to insist on the culture of better.”

Air talent goes un-coached while radio has a huge opportunity to build relationships with its listeners. Building the same kind of bond, I had with the personalities of WABC, WKBW, WTRY, WPTR, WBZ, WRKO, WDRC, WBEC, WBRK, WLS, WCFL and so many more.

Focus Groups

Over the years, I’ve been to many diary reviews and a few focus groups. What you see are the attraction of radio listeners to radio personalities.

While a particular format may be what initially attracts a listener to a radio station, it’s the radio personality that is the glue that will cement the listener’s loyalty.

Tim says” It’s the personality of a station that locks-in listeners’ interest and daily habit.” “The implications are simple, obvious, yet largely ignored: without better talent (defined as more relatable, interesting, and reciprocal people on the radio) we are treading water,” says Tim.

Who Influenced Dan Ingram, The Real Don Steele, Dale Dorman or…?

Most radio people my age grew up with the most talented and engaging radio personalities to grace the airwaves of American radio. They were our teachers. They were available for us to listen to and mentor under 24/7, 365-days a year.

In addition to them, we had program directors – many of them off-air – who coached us and inspired us to be better.

I’ve often wondered about the iconic radio personalities that did it first. Who did they learn from? How did they become the engaging, relatable, interesting personalities that attracted our ears like metal to a magnet?

And can a talent voice-tracked over multiple radio stations ever be as compelling to not just listeners but to the next generation to want to pursue radio as a career?

Again, Father Peter understood his church’s most valuable asset, it’s youth. “It’s the kids and youth who are the future of our church,” he said. “I’m now dealing with kids whose parents I had as kids.”

The Community Band

Once upon a time, every community in America had at least one town band. Most of them are long gone.

When I was managing a radio cluster in Lancaster, Pennsylvania I came to know and love the New Holland Band of New Holland, Pennsylvania.

The band was not only strong and vibrant, but performed at a level that would have made John Phillip Sousa proud. Its concerts are very well attended and it’s produced some of this country’s finest musicians, some of whom now perform as part of the President’s band.

Why did the New Holland Band not just survive but continues to thrive? It understood it’s all about people. The band’s members are made up of a diverse group of professional, semi-professional and student musicians. The oldest member of the band has been a member since 1959 and the newest member since 2016. It’s this blending of youth with experience and wisdom that keeps the New Holland Band fresh, contemporary and relevant.

Junior Achievement

It was the initiative of one of my hometown radio stations (WBEC) that convinced the Junior Achievement to create a JA Radio Company.

Junior Achievement was founded in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1919 by Theodore Vail of AT&T, Horace Moses of Strathmore Paper Company and Massachusetts Senator Winthrop Murray Crane (who’s family paper company, Crane and Company make the paper all U.S. currency is printed on).

The JA website states: “Junior Achievement is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. Junior Achievement’s programs—in the core content areas of work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy—ignite the spark in young people to experience and realize the opportunities and realities of work and life in the 21st century. Our Purpose: Junior Achievement inspires and prepares young people to succeed in a global economy.”

WBEC’s management realized that getting high school students actively involved with the radio station would engage their parents, siblings, families and friends too. Many of them who owned local businesses. It was both mentoring a new generation of radio broadcasters as well as leveraging the people attract people principle.

Human Development

As Tim Moore says “Human development is the essence of life. Weak excuses such as ‘we don’t have the time to develop talent’ are just chin boogie.”

All my radio life, I’ve invested my energies in the development of people. Many of them today are owners and managers of their own broadcast operations.

I’m also proud to have spent the past seven years of my life as a broadcast professor paying-it-forward to a new generation of broadcasters.

Radio is a people business.

It will never attract people to its product like it once did without a serious commitment to talent development.

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Being Grateful

15There are times when the stresses that are part of everyday life can occupy a place way beyond their level of importance in the grand scheme of things. Its times like those that you need to take a time-out and remember all the things in your life you have to be grateful about.

 

This year, I’m grateful for three wonderful grand children that are all happy, healthy and developing into unique individuals.

 

I’m grateful for their parents who make their children their first priority and love them with all their heart and soul.

 

I’m grateful that my two sons have set exciting and meaningful goals for their lives and in so doing are working hard to make our world a safer and better place for all of us.

 

I’m thankful for my two older brothers that always have been there for me through ups and downs, thick and thin.

 

I’m grateful that I’ve come to accept myself for exactly who I am, while still having boundless curiosity and a desire to never stop learning and growing.

 

I’m grateful that I’ve learned how to slow down. Life is meant to be savored. It’s not getting to the finish line first but about enjoying the journey.

 

I’m grateful for having enough. Less is more. Too much of anything is usually toxic.

 

I’m grateful for each day when I can add more value to the world than I consume.

 

I’m grateful for learning that every situation provides an opportunity to learn something; even the difficult ones, life goes by so fast.

 

I’m grateful that a career in radio that I started in the 10th grade in high school would allow me to pay for my college education, graduate school and raise a family. It’s a career that was all I ever wanted to do besides one day paying-it-forward through teaching the next generation of broadcasters.

 

I’m grateful that I finally started a blog this past year. It’s been one of the most personally rewarding and enriching things I’ve undertaken this past year.

 

I’m grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve met on this journey called life, people who were only strangers until we said “hello,” and then became friends for life.

 

One of my mentors, Zig Ziglar said: “You can get anything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” I’ve tried to live those words every day.

 

I have so many things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving 2015. I’m sure you do too.

 

Remember you may make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.

 

Today, I’m grateful for YOU.

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