On The Radio Columns: April 2005 Archives

The Oakland Press - On The Radio, April 1 2005


By: Mike Austerman

Happy April Fool's Day! As you listen to your radio today, don't believe everything you hear, as pranks could be prevalent - especially as it's also Friday.

ne of my favorite April Fool's gags ran several years ago on personality/ news WJR-AM (760), which ran a story about condos being built as part of the Detroit Zoo's water tower. Many bought the story hook, line and sinker - only to find out it was a well-choreographed whale of a tale.

It'll be fun this morning to find out what the oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) teaser that's been running all week ("You won't know Jack") is all about. Could it be a test of that new format that mixes a wide variety of pop and rock music - or will 'OMC underline its heritage as an oldies outlet? Or is all a hoax?

Remember, he (or she) who laughs last ...

Sparty down: Sports WDFN-AM (1130) is hosting a Michigan State pep rally 3-7 p.m. today at Mr. Joe's in Southfield.

The Stoney & Wojo show will broadcast live from there as part of the high jinks, with one lucky Spartan fan winning a brand new couch in case the old one gets torched as part of the Final Four celebration.

The battle's heating up between terrestrial and satellite radio as the new medium becomes more prevalent.

Ed Christian, president and CEO of Grosse Pointe Farms-based Saga Communications, has started dropping syndicated shows from his group's stations - none are in Michigan - if they're also heard on satcasters XM or Sirius.

According to trade pub InsideRadio, Christian canceled the show by local "Handyman" host Glenn Haege but rescinded the move when Haege agreed to come off the satellite after being faced with the loss of listeners on the 12 Saga stations that carry his show.

Christian promises similar moves by other land-based radio companies and asks the syndicators of the show this pointed question: "Who feeds you?"

"When a person gets in the car the choices are AM, FM or satellite," he says. "So make your choice - them or us. I challenge other group broadcasters to stand up and say, 'Enough of this crap.' "

Christian Adds: "They think they can dis terrestrial broadcasters. Can you imagine CBS saying to 'Survivor,' 'Hey, we don't mind if you run at the same time on Lifetime'? They wouldn't stand for it."

Could be an interesting time in the halls of XM and Sirius if this radio war escalates.

On Monday, National Public Radio begins presenting "This I Believe," a project highlighting the core beliefs and values of America. It's based on the popular 1950s radio show of the same name hosted by broadcast legend Edward R. Murrow.

Every week, it'll feature a different 3-minute essay read by the people who wrote them, with former President Bill Clinton, actor Robert Redford and boxing champ Muhammad Ali slated to contribute.

The essays will be heard locally on Detroit's WDET-FM (101.9) and Ann Arbor's WUOM-FM (91.7) during either "Morning Edition" or "All Things Considered" in the next several months.

In other public radio news, WUOM and Flint's WFUM-FM (91.1) will add NPR's "News and Notes" show by Michigan native Ed Gordon to their lineup beginning 8 p.m. April 18. The show presents newsmakers and opinion leaders on the events, trends and ideas that shape the African-American experience.

Set Your Dials: Financial guru Rick Bloom returns to the local airwaves beginning 3 p.m. Sunday on WDTK-AM (1400). Previously heard on WXDX-AM (1310) and WXYT-AM (1270), he'll provide answers to financial questions and regular features on personal finance ... host Tom Wilson profiles jazz singer June Christy as well as the "Let's Pretend" kiddie show 6 p.m. Sunday on WMUZ-FM (103.5).

Mike Austerman is the founder of Michiguide.com and has covered radio for The Daily Oakland Press for three years.


Last week when I lost my favorite aunt it made me very sad. It was no doubt the way most of the staff of hits WDRQ-FM (93.1) must have felt last Friday when they were summoned into the station conference room and, in one fell swoop, informed that they no longer had jobs. Radio has never been known as a bastion of stability, but as fellow radio writer Mike Austerman noted in last Saturday's Daily Oakland Press, this was the biggest surprise format flip in Detroit since W4 Country changed to "Alice," WDTW-FM (106.7) on Labor Day weekend in 1999. That too, was a real stunner.

W4 had been the top country station in town, and it simply gave the entire country music audience to WYCD-FM (99.5) which today is still the only country in the city. Now, WDRQ has handed the entire teen and young adult demographic to hit-music WKQI-FM (95.5). Channel 95.5 program director Dom Theodore is happy to welcome all the new listeners, but sad to see so many talented broadcasters, many whom he considered friends, out of work at 'DRQ. Even long-time 'DRQ program director Alex Tear was among the casualties.

The only staffer safe for now (though he's not on-air) is morning host Jay Towers, who knows the value of a contract. His partner, the vivacious Rachel Hunter, was vacationing in Florida when the news was came down; she says "we were blind-sided - no one saw this coming." WDRQ jock Stick made a guest appearance on competing WKQI Friday night on the Tic-Tac show. Some will remember that Tic-Tac used to work at 'DRQ, left Detroit for Philadelphia and came back to the arch-rival WKQI. The pair fielded dozens of phone calls from confused listeners who were still thinking this was an April Fool's Day stunt. But it was not.

Renamed "Doug-FM," WDRQ has adopted a format known around the country as Jack-FM," which features a very wide variety of music supposed to make your radio sound like an iPod on shuffle. For the past couple of weeks, Mike and I have been predicting this format would invade the Motor City - it was just a matter of time - but the casualties left "on the beach" is sad ("on the beach" being radio biz slang for out of a job).

Steve Kosbau, the president and general manager of both WDRQ and adult-hits WDVD-FM (96.3), says making this change was not a snap decision. When this came down, he indicated it was the hardest thing he's ever had to do at a radio station, but business decisions often are exceedingly difficult. Now, radio competitors and listeners are trying to predict whether or not this was a good move on the part of ABC/ Disney, which owns WDRQ in addition to WDVD and news-talk WJR-AM (760). No bodies were seen flying out of the Fisher Building, so we'll wait for the dust to settle, the iPod to reshuffle and the next ratings trend to see if it worked.

 * * * * 

Quick Hits: Channel 95.5's Mojo in the Morning numbered new listeners who segued over from 'DRQ and one lucky listener was awarded $5,000 - not a bad pay-off for switching stations ... Eddie Haskell was once programming director of country WYCD here and is now out in Albuquerque, N.M., where he named his station "Fred-FM." Do you sense a trend here? But XM satellite radio, which has an alternative rock channel named "Fred," promptly served legal notice. With the station's new billboards were already up around town, Eddie stuck giant Post-It notes over the first two letters and re-named the station "Ed-FM." Creativity lives. You can tell the battle lines between satellite and terrestrial radio have definitely been drawn when the skirmish garners a front-page story in The New York Times, as it did on Tuesday.

And things are really heating up regarding the sharing of "content" by sat-casters: Did anyone else catch Michigan actor Jeff Daniels say on TV during Opening Day at Comerica Park that his XM radio lets him hear the Tigers' broadcast live with Jim Price and Dan Dickerson from sports WXYT-AM (1270) while he cruises on the freeways of L.A.? That's cool - but the deal XM cut with Major League Baseball to do this is driving terrestrial radio crazy.

 * * * * 

Set your dials: Big band lovers will want to dial in host Tom Wilson's tribute to George Gershwin at 6 p.m. Sunday on Christian WMUZ-FM (103.5) ... local recording artist Rufus Harris started a new Internet radio station - www.justradio.net - and it's been named "Best of 2005" by Live 365, the world's largest Internet Radio Network. The Web station features music by Christian artists. Kudos to Harris.

 * * * * 

Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.


Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press

By: Mike Austerman

When WDRQ-FM (93.1) abruptly changed its format from Top 40 to pop two weeks ago, the move rightly grabbed the headlines and attention of area radio fans. But another change at about the same time didn't get the attention it deserved. At Christian WMUZ-FM (103.5), a new morning show hosted by Jon Culbert and Rhonda Hart debuted on April 4. The pair hope their show, 6-10 a.m. Monday through Saturday, will be a destination for Detroiters seeking a spiritually uplifting experience, thanks to its mix of contemporary Christian music and comedy segments, news, weather, traffic and guest appearances.

Culbert was bit by the radio bug as a student at Port Huron Northern High when he worked on the school's station. He's since worked in country and news/talk formats and says with Christian radio, "I can express, more fully than ever before, the personality that God created and the convictions I have."

Co-host Hart boasts more than 25 years in the business, having worked locally for WABX, WRIF, WYCD, WOMC and WCSX. Sayeth she: "I'm excited to join WMUZ, where I'll have the opportunity to openly share my faith." WMUZ's former morning host, Sean Harriott, left the station in November.


Tiger fans rejoice, not just because a new season is here, but also because the new sports talk WXYT-AM (1270) RADIOGUIDE is now available at over 200 area Little Caesar's Pizza outlets. Featuring the Tigers' schedule and a list of all the radio stations that carry the games, it's a home run for fifth year sponsor GMAC Mortgage. The guide also lists the news, talk, sports, and NPR stations nationwide. Get yours for $1 for postage and handling to: WXYT RADIOGUIDE, P.O. Box 880, Novi, MI 48376.


Show 'em the money! That's what listeners have done for public radio WDET-FM (101.9), pledging more than $600,000 during the station's recent spring fund-raising drive. The station boasts that it raised nearly $200,000 from listeners before the on-air campaign even started - a 95 percent increase over last fall's early bird drive. You still can contribute and be eligible for a 'DET vintage logo T-shirt featuring the station's 1952 logo or tickets to WDET's farewell to outgoing Detroit Symphony Orchestra conductor Neemi Järvi. Call (800) 959-WDET or visit wdetfm.org through April 30.


Metro Detroiters have once again displayed incredible support, as listeners to News-Talk WJR-AM (760) raised $1.32 million for the Salvation Army project to aid tsunami victims. "On behalf of the many unheard voices from across the world, the Salvation Army thanks WJR and its listening audience," says Russ Russell, an executive director for the organization. "Because of the outpouring of support, we will be able to build 650 homes for the displaced victims of the tsunami."

Between this effort and February's Bed and Bed Club radiothon by WOMC's Dick Purtan, more than $3 million was raised for Salvation Army programs at home and abroad. Way to go, everyone!


Wake up, baby, it's the King! Beginning at 9 a.m. this Sunday, the king of rock 'n' roll has a new home on Nostalgia CKWW-AM (580) as the hour-long program "Elvis Only!" captures the essence of this American pop culture icon. Each show will feature music, stories, and features produced and hosted by Elvis expert Jay Gordon.


Set Your Dials: This week, "Somewhere In Time" hosts Tom Wilson and Heather Novak feature the sounds of the Fox Theatre's mighty Wurlitzer organ, Detroit's largest, 6 p.m. Sunday on WMUZ.

Mike Austerman is the founder of Michiguide.com and has covered radio for The Daily Oakland Press for three years.


Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press

By: Art Vuolo

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the changes is? Traditionally each spring, we tend to see the one thing you, the listener, hate most — changes on the radio dial. The clearing of the staff at classic hits WDRQ-FM (93.1), now known as “Doug FM,” was probably just the beginning of more to come. The music on “Doug” is pretty good, but the promos, known in the business as sweepers, proclaim that “we play everything.” If I called in and requested Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”, do you think they’d play it? Neither do I.

Just thinking out loud: If radio’s greatest enemy is the iPod, why are so many stations now being programmed to sound like an iPod? If I want 10,000 of my favorite tunes in a random order, I’ll buy an iPod — and, unfortunately for broadcasters, nearly 6 million people have.

Rumors seeping out of the Golden Tower of the Fisher Building indicate significant programming and personnel changes may be coming to Michigan’s top-rated station news-talk WJR-AM (760). All of the major broadcasting companies are making cutbacks, which often means more people in the unemployment line. WJR seems to have cut back significantly in sports, although they remain true blue to U-M football and basketball. Some of the most credible voices on the station are in the news department, which has always been home to some of the best broadcast journalists in the Motor City. My hope is that it remains the same. Some months ago, there were whispers about syndicated conservative talk host Sean Hannity moving to a new time on ’JR. The whispers are getting louder.

In the past year, a number of salespeople and reporters have segued between WJR and all-news WWJ-AM (950). Now Metro Traffic has cut a number of jobs among its staff providing traffic reports to local stations. Names you might know, such as Terry T. Brown, Sandra McNeill and Liz Graham, were all shown the door last week. Just a few days ago, many were saddened by the untimely death of former traffic reporter Rod Holden. His real name was Dan Koti and he was only 42. Arrangements were with the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield.

On the lighter-side, classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7) is shaking up its onair staff, but according to program director Bill Stedman, this is a good move with no casualties in the hallways. In fact, a new personality (and former Detroiter) is being added from 10 p.m. till 1 a.m. weeknights and his name is Alice. It’s legendary rocker Alice Cooper, who’ll do a live show nightly, originating in his toxic studio in a mysterious location in the Arizona desert. He’ll offer tunes not always heard on Detroit FM radio and he’s genuinely excited about this new opportunity.

If you prefer progressive talk radio — free on WDTW-AM (1310) — via satellite radio, you’ll have to choose XM. The satcaster just signed an exclusive deal with the left-leaning Air America network, which will be pulling out of Sirius Satellite Radio in the coming weeks. XM also has struck a deal with AOL, which will allow online users to enjoy XM programming via AOL Broadband.

Set Your Dials: Bob Crosby and his Dixieland-style Bob Cats Band will be featured at 6 p.m. Sunday on WMUZFM (103.5) ... and on WDET-FM (101.9), the new blues-rock band the Muggs performs live at noon Saturday; the legendary Gretsch Drum Night at Birdland concert (featuring Art Blakey, “Philly” Joe Jones and Pontiac’s own Elvin Jones) will be heard at 10 p.m. Saturday; and jazz vocalist Janet Tenaj performs live at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.


Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press

By: Mike Austerman

One of the few report cards most listeners can understand about radio stations is their ratings. This winter’s top rated station among listeners age 12 and older was news/talk WJR-AM (760), finishing well ahead of oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) and all-news WWJ-AM (950), which tied for second place. Rounding out the Top 10 most listened-to stations were adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3); smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7); urban WJLB-FM (97.9); rock WRIF-FM (101.1); country WYCD-FM (99.5); and rival soft rockers WNIC-FM (100.3) and WMGC-FM (105.1), with WDRQ-FM (93.1) finishing its final ratings book as a Top 40 station
in 14th place.

WRIF’s Drew & Mike continued to lead the morning race, followed closely by WWJ newshawks Roberta Jasina and Joe Donovan; WJR’s Paul W. Smith (who’s broadcasting from around Michigan this week); WOMC’s Dick Purtan; and the syndicated Tom Joyner show on WMXD.

Mark Scott, once one of Detroit’s most controversial and opinionated talk radio hosts, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack at the age of 69. Scott came to Detroit nearly 20 years ago from Dayton and was a top-rated talk host on WXYT-AM (1270) during its days as a talk station. In its heyday, his show focused heavily on the 1993 police beating of Malice Green and the resulting trials of Larry Nevers and Walter Budson, a topic that never seemed to grow old with Scott, who spoke often in their defense. A former Marine, Scott often broadcast his show while wearing military fatigues and talked about a possible government conspiracy to take away the right to bear arms. Services are at 7 p.m. tonight at the Griffin Funeral Home in Canton Township. In a sad and ironic twist, Dan Koti, the man who ran the control board for Scott’s WXYT show and was known most recently as WWJ traffic reporter Rod Holden, died just a week before Scott, at age 42.

Kudos to rocker WRIF for its extensive coverage of last week’s first Motor City Music Conference. In addition to live broadcasts, the ’Rif showcased many of the local acts that performed as part of MC2 during a three-hour special last Sunday. It’s great to see such involvement by corporate radio, but it’d be even better if these bands could somehow get consistent regular airplay on WRIF instead of playing “You Shook Me All Night Long” for the 13 millionth time.

Free money alert! Magic WMGC will be giving away up to $15,000 in mortgage payments as part of its Magic Money Makeover contest, which runs through Sunday. Visit detroitmagic.com for entry and other info.

Ready, set, bowl! WXYT afternoon hosts Doug Karsch and Art Regner will host “The Big Show for the Big Cure,” a 28-hour bowl-athon at Troy Lanes, beginning 3 p.m. May 12 and ending 7 p.m. the next day. It’ll benefit the Henry Ford Vattikuti Urology Institute. Make a donation of $12.70 and bowl as many games as you can in one hour. Also, men can get free prostate cancer screenings. In addition to all the strikes and spares, there’ll be hourly auctions, on-site games and activities, autograph sessions, band competitions and more. Visit www.wxyt.com for more info.

Set Your Dials: Host Martin Bandyke welcomes the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex after 2 p.m. today on WDET-FM (101.9). The drummer for Smashing Pumpkins and Zwan, Chamberlin will highlight his new solo project before his show tonight at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit (see Gary Graff’s “Sound Check,” Page E-3) ... host Tom Wilson explores the Charleston and Black Bottom and the changes they introduced to American dancing at 6 p.m. Sun. on WMUZ-FM (103.5).







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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the On The Radio Columns category from April 2005.

On The Radio Columns: March 2005 is the previous archive.

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