The Oakland Press - On The Radio, December 31 2004
By: Art Vuolo
So ends another crazy year in local radio. It ended with four more of your favorite folks fired from one local station owner - Infinity Broadcasting. They were country WYCD-FM (99.5) morning guys Wilhite & Wall; oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) midday mainstay Tom Force; and Doug Massey, the smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7) swing man who also worked at talk WKRK-FM (97.1).
The biggest shocker was Force, who spent more than 10 years at the mega-power oldies station. I'm not sure anyone, including Tom, saw that one coming. Long time Detroit radio fans will remember Force as Zack Burns on the first incarnation of hits WDRQ-FM (93.1).
My biggest concern is, why do radio stations do things like this just before Christmas? Personally, I question the timing.
The WYCD morning show team of Darren Wilhite and Tim Wall never seemed to really embrace the Detroit area, so they probably will not be as missed. My hope for 2005 is that new WYCD program director Chip Miller puts the right person in that job, and not some out-of-towner who can't pronounce Lake Orion or Gratiot Avenue.
Last March, I saw Dr. Don Carpenter at the Country Radio Seminar wearing a T-shirt that said "Hire me" with his phone number and Web address. We can only hope.
Let's do a quick look-back over the past year across the dial. Sadly, the year was barely started when the cast and crew of Dick Purtan's people faced another terrible loss with the untimely death of Mark "Doc" Andrews at age 50 from colon cancer.
The only good thing to come from that tragedy was that, in his memory, WOMC listeners gave more than $1.5 million at the Salvation Army Radiothon, making it a national record.
Only three years earlier, Purtan's longtime producer and head writer Gene Taylor died after an asthma attack.
Too bad neither got to see Dick inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.
Actually, I'm certain that both had the best seat in the house.
The biggest single word to define 2004 was "indecency." Thank you, Janet Jackson. Fines for WKRK, WKQI-FM (95.5) and others helped keep the FCC in the black. Major names such as Mel Karmazin, Howard Stern, Opie & Anthony and NPR's Bob Edwards all defecting to satellite radio - plus the addition of NFL football and Major League Baseball - have many "regular" broadcasters nervous.
The satellite traffic and weather channels added to the concern, and Detroit was the first city with XM and Sirius traffic channels on highway signs. Yikes!
Changing hands were talk/oldies WPON-AM (1460), with little noticeable format modification, and black-community WQBH-AM (1400), which did a major flip to conservative syndicated talk.
Besides the WYCD morning show, other AM drive changes happened at pop WNIC-FM (100.3) when Chuck Gaidica switched with the most deserving Chris Edmonds, and at sports WXYT-AM (1270) Sprindler & Lund replaced Don Imus.
One of the better moves happened at news-talk WJR-AM (760), when a quality talk show with Frank Beckmann was added following morning master Paul W. Smith, keeping "the Great Voice of the Great Lakes" live and local. Kudos to PD Steve Stewart, and when you watch the Rose Bowl tomorrow, turn down the sound at kickoff and crank up WJR radio.
Now, let's look ahead to what 2005 might bring us. Please realize these comments are mine and do not represent the staff or management of The Daily Oakland Press.
In 2005, I predict a local station adopting a Spanish-language format; another FM station trying country music; Lee Alan making a comeback on a local station; WRIF-FM (101.1) bad boys Drew & Mike facing stronger competition; the Canadians at the CHUM Group finally doing something brilliant with their 93.9 FM frequency; and Christmas music will not start in early November. We can only hope.
A final Detroit Radio Reunion is being planned for the last full weekend in September. We'll certainly keep you informed as that develops.
Yes, that is a new photo of your radio reporter, as the last one lasted for more three years. My colleague Mike Austerman and I hope you enjoy a happy and prosperous New Year - and be responsible this evening.
Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.