Tag Archives: WBEC

Commercial Radio’s 100th Birthday

Election night at KDKA November 2, 1920

On Tuesday, October 27, 2020, commercial radio will celebrate it’s 100th birthday. It was on this day in 1920 that “the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Navigation, which served as the radio licensing agency of the day, issued the first radio license ever to KDKA,” as told on the station’s website.

Radio Call Letters

Ironically, those famous Pittsburgh call letters – KDKA – don’t stand for anything. They were simply assigned to the station with its broadcast license from a roster maintained to provide identification for ocean going ships and marine shore radio stations. KDKA just so happened to be the next set of call letters up for being assigned with a broadcast license.

WJJW

This story is analogous to what happened at my college back in the 70s. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree from North Adams State College in 1974. During my four years at NASC, I helped to obtain the college’s FCC FM broadcast license and become its first general manager. I vividly remember standing in front of a classroom blackboard with my fellow college broadcasters trying to decide what call letters we wanted the FCC to assign to our station. During this meeting a knock came to the door, and the person who knocked handed me an important letter from the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC. I anxiously opened the envelope to find that the FCC had granted our request for an FM broadcast license and had pulled the next set of unassigned call letters off the roster to go with our license. Those call letters would be “WJJW.” And like KDKA, they would stand for absolutely nothing and there again, never changed.

Call Letters

Some of the radio stations I listened to over the years had call letters that represented something, like WLS & WCFL in Chicago. WLS owned by Sears, chose call letters that stood for “World’s Largest Store” and WCFL, chose call letters that stood for “Chicago Federation of Labor,” the name of their union. WCFL proudly called itself “The Voice of Labor” at the top of every hour when it was required to give its call letters and city of license.

Do you know what the call letters for WKBW in Buffalo and KHJ in Los Angeles stood for? WKBW’s call letters meant “Well Known Bible Witness” and KHJ had call letters that stood for “Kindness Happiness & Joy.” Neither radio station would mention the origin of their call letters during their Top 40 days.  

Radio stations I worked for and managed also had call letters that represented something:

  • WBEC – Berkshire Eagle Company (the local newspaper)
  • WBRK – Berkshires
  • WUPE – Whoopee Radio
  • WFPG – World’s Famous PlayGround (Atlantic City)
  • KOEL – the first three letters of its city of license, Oelwein, Iowa
  • WLAN – Lancaster, PA
  • WSUS – Sussex, NJ
  • WOND – WONDerful Radio (Atlantic City)
  • WNNJ – Northern New Jersey

Call letters today tend to have been replaced by other forms of identification, like “Kiss,” “Froggy,” or “The River,” with the only problem being that they’ve lost their unique, one-of-kind identity that call letters branding gave them.

When I say KHJ or WBZ, you immediately know I’m talking about a radio station and that the station is located either in Los Angeles or Boston. When I say “Kiss” or “Froggy” you have no idea of which Kiss or Froggy radio station I’m referring to nor where it is located.

KDKA Covers Its First General Election

Shortly after receiving its commercial broadcast license, KDKA began planning its coverage of that year’s general election results to begin at 6pm on Tuesday, November 2nd, 1920.

Four men would climb to a little shack on the roof of one of the Westinghouse Electric’s buildings in East Pittsburgh to report on the results relayed to that shack via telephone. Leo Rosenburg delivered the results, becoming radio’s first announcer on the first licensed American radio station. You can hear a recreation by Leo of that broadcast HERE

About a thousand people tuned in to hear the broadcast and they would be some of the first people that year to learn that Warren G. Harding had beat James Cox to become the next President of the United States.

Election Night 2020

One hundred years later, election night will be quite different. People will most likely learn of the results via their smartphone, and probably not until all the votes have been counted. Due to COVID-19, we can expect that the vote counting process will take days, or even weeks, before a victor is declared.

Remember, your vote is important. Many recent elections have been decided by the thinnest of margins.

Do your civic duty and please VOTE.

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Time for a New Adventure

Dick Taylor WBECI just recently moved to Virginia from Kentucky.

I moved to Kentucky from New Jersey 7-years ago to pursue a bucket list career goal of mine, to teach at a college or university radio broadcasting. That opportunity came for me at Western Kentucky University (WKU) in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

I knew absolutely no one when I interviewed for the broadcast professor opening, but the person I would be hired to replace – retiring broadcast professor Bart White – would become a good friend over my tenure at WKU.

Long Ago & Far Away

When one moves, it means going through all of your stuff to decide what gets packed up and moved again and what gets donated or tossed into the dump.

One of the little pieces of memorabilia that I came across was a newspaper article on my being promoted to the position of Program Manager for WBEC Radio in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. That occurred on August 8, 1975. (Picture of me on-the-air at WBEC above from the 1970s)

I had just graduated from the Masters Degree program with a perfect 4.0 grade point average from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in Educational Communications and teaching certifications, but I found myself in a field that tight school budgets were eliminating from their programs. Going back to the “three R’s” they would say, Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic, instead of employing modern teaching technologies in the classroom.

One of the radio stations I had worked at while going to college was WBEC and being offered this position was a dream come true. It was the very position I had always wanted.

A Lot of Career Success is Luck

WBEC was a station that was very programming oriented. During my tenure as the Program Manager, and later promoted to Operations Manager over both the AM and FM properties, I went to a lot of programming conferences and competed in both air personality as well as program director competitions. I was lucky to be in the position I was in at the station I was employed by.

But as time went along, I found myself more captivated by what happened off-the-air versus being an air personality, the position that attracted me to radio since I was old enough to remember.

I decided I wanted to be a general manager.

General managers didn’t come out of programming at that time but instead they came out of radio sales. So, I decided my next job would be in radio sales.

When I got a call from a general manager I knew that they wanted to hire me for a programming position, I said I wasn’t interested. I wanted my next move to be in sales. He said, “let me get back to you on that.”

Two weeks later, he said “Let’s get together, because I have a radio sales job for you.”

Moving to his stations and the company that owned them was lucky again, as this was a very sales focused organization and I would be exposed to monthly IBIB (International Broadcasters Idea Bank) reports, lots of sales training by any sales consultant to get within 200 miles of New England and annual trips to the Managing Sales Conference run by the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB).

AR to MM

I quickly rose through the ranks from account representative to sales manager to director of sales to station manager to general manager.

General managers were renamed market managers as the age of consolidation took over after the passage of the Telcom Act of 1996.  That’s when a single company went from being able to own only 12 AM radio stations, 12 FM radio stations and 12 TV stations in the entire USA. The Telcom Act of ’96 would unleash a buying spree funded by Wall Street that would see the largest operator owning over a thousand radio stations.

Radio Ink Best Managers

In 2009, Radio Ink named me one of the best radio managers in America. I was very proud of that honor, but I had been thinking about a change for some time and I was ready for a fresh adventure.

After all, I had invested early in my life, earning the qualifications to teach and I wanted to pay-it-forward to the next generation of broadcasters by teaching at a college or university.

I was lucky once again to see an ad in Radio Ink by WKU looking for a broadcast professor to teach at the School of Journalism & Broadcasting courses in sales, management, media process & effects, radio performance and the history of broadcasting in America.

7-Years a Professor

In May of 2017, I completed my seventh year of teaching at the university. The students I’ve mentored over that time have become extended members of my family. I went to every graduation ceremony – they’re held twice a year – because I was invested in each and every one of them.

Bowling Green, Kentucky is a lovely place. But it is far from my friends and family back on the East Coast.

New Adventure Time

In the book “The Adventure of Living,” Paul Tournier writes: “Many people are never able to come to terms with the death to which every adventure is inevitably subject…The Law of Adventure is that it dies as it achieves its object.”

I’ve experienced this “death” multiple times over my life.

Something in your gut just tells you, it’s time for a new adventure.

In June, I moved to northern Virginia.

I became engaged the weekend before Valentine’s Day 2017 to a wonderful woman who is a member of the same Pittsfield, Massachusetts high school class as I. Ironically, we went to opposite public high schools.  At that time our city had two public and a parochial high school, but we now all reunion together every five years – and so we never met until our 45th class reunion.

Another part of my new adventure is this blog that I started writing almost three years ago.

I remember Ron Jacobs (first program director of Boss Radio 93-KHJ, Los Angeles, creator of The History of Rock & Roll, co-founder of America Top 40 with Casey Kasem, etc.) telling me during a phone call that he enjoyed writing more than being an air personality, program director or anything else he had accomplished in his life. I now completely understand where he was coming from as I’ve developed my own love of writing and mentoring others. Ron said he enjoyed reading my blog and that’s why he sent me his phone number one evening and asked me to give him a call at his home in Hawaii and chat.

Got a career adventure I should be considering?

Shoot me an email & let’s talk.

I’m ready for a NEW ADVENTURE.

Dick.Taylor@wku.edu

 

“Twenty years from now

you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do

than by the ones you did.

So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.”

-Mark Twain

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Celebrating A Reunion

PHS 45th Reunion InviteIt was 45 years ago that I graduated from high school.  It’s really hard to believe that much time has passed, but this weekend I’m back in my hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts – in the “Heart of the Berkshires” – celebrating that teenage milestone.

This invitation has been on my refrigerator for months.  The anticipation has been building steadily and now it’s almost over.

Friday night we all went to the wonderfully restored Colonial Theater to see Mary Poppins.  Saturday night was our big reunion dinner/dance.  This morning we will meet one more time for Sunday brunch before we depart, all hoping we’ll be able to make it to the 50th reunion in 2020.

2020 is the year that commercial RADIO will become 100 years old.DT WBEC (1970s)  I was fortunate to start in radio back in 1967 while just starting high school.  I earned my 3rd class Radio Telephone FCC Operators License in February 1968 allowing me to professionally start working in radio shortly thereafter.  Radio would help me pay for my college education; bachelors and masters degrees.

My first radio station was WBEC – AM1420 in Pittsfield.

I had visions of being a big time disc jockey working at one of the major market 50,000-watt clear channel signal radio stations like WBZ in Boston or WLS in Chicago or WABC in New York.

But that never happened.  Instead I would move into radio sales and very quickly into radio station management.  It is in this senior management position that I would spend over thirty years of my radio life.

WSM(15)But never give up on your dreams.  Because when I began teaching at Western Kentucky University’s School of Journalism & Broadcasting, I invited radio & TV professionals into my capstone class.  One of those professionals, the operations manager & program director of Nashville’s legendary 650AM – WSM invited me to be a guest disc jockey on this 50,000-watt clear channel signal radio station.

Those high school dreams really can come true!

For four hours on Sunday, July 13, 2014 I was in the air chair doing “The Dick Taylor Show” on this iconic radio institution.

This weekend we all remembered the good times, like the price of a gallon of gas (35-cents) or the price of a 1st class postage stamp (6-cents).  But 1970 was also the year that the Beatles broke up and four students were slain by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio.

The movies featured: M*A*S*H, Patton, Love Story and Airport.PHS 40th Reunion Picture

The record of the year was “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by the 5th Dimension.  The song of the year was “Games People Play” by Joe South and the album of the year was the self-titled album by Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Five years ago, we all stepped out of the dinner/dance hall for a group photo.  We looked FABULOUS!

We’re Baby Boomers.  A generation that was so big that the city had to handle our class size over three high schools – Pittsfield High, Taconic High and St. Joseph’s High.

We may have been separate back then and even competitive, but today we celebrate as one big high school class.

We’re the high school Class of 1970.

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