On The Radio Columns: September 2005 Archives

Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press, September 5, 2005

By: Mike Austerman

It’s nice to start off the week with some good news. Dave Wagner, whom classical music fans no doubt remember from his days at the former WQRS-FM (105.1), has been named program director for Classical/ Jazz WRCJ-FM (90.9), effective Tuesday. In addition, he’ll become the station’s morning voice later this fall when the station switches from satellite feeds to local-based shows.

One of Detroit radio’s most popular personalities, Wagner’s vast musical knowledge and wry sense of humor entertained listeners for 17 years at WQRS. “It’s great to have classical music back in Detroit, and I’m so proud to be part of the team to make this happen,” says Wagner.

As program director for WRCJ, his role will be similar to the one he held at ’QRS before the classical music died in 1997 in a format change. Wagner will guide the mix of daytime classical and nighttime jazz and the overall content of the station, which is operated by Detroit Public Television and licensed to Detroit Public Schools. The 35-year radio veteran with experience at commercial and public radio stations has been working as program director at classical station KMZT (K-Mozart) in Los Angeles since 2001, in addition to his role as a music professor at Madonna University in Livonia. We’re looking forward to the Sousa Alarm going off at 7:15 a.m. weekdays when Dave returns.

Last week in New Orleans, radio stations were able to get themselves back on the air, at least periodically, to provide essential information on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the thousands in harm’s way — and stranded in the disaster area afterward. A battery-operated radio was literally a lifeline for many who were truly living in hell with no other means of communication.

For a medium often attacked as nonessential and not tuned in to what listeners want, countless examples of heroism by radio people in the stricken areas proved otherwise.

Locally, Oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) hosted the Labor of Love Hurricane Relief radiothon over the weekend to collect money for The Salvation Army’s hurricane relief efforts. Stop by any Standard Federal Bank branch in Michigan to make your donation — they’ll gladly forward your check made out to “Salvation Army — Hurricane Katrina.” If the bank’s closed, just drop your donation in the night deposit slot.

Other stations also jumped in to help, including ABC Detroit outlets news-talk WJRAM (760), Disney WFDF-AM (910), adult hits WDRQ-FM (93.1) and pop hits WDVD-FM (96.3). They’re taking donations at their Web sites and giving out The Salvation Army’s 24-hour donor phone line — (877) 725-6424. Times like this make radio shine, showing how it can rally people so quickly and effectively.

Breaking News: Coming Sept. 19 to public radio WUOM-FM (91.7) will be a talk show hosted by veteran political observer Jack Lessenberry. The show, which airs 1-2 p.m. weekdays, will look at issues of the day and chat with authors, guests and callers. “I wanted to call it ‘Hot Air’ since it follows ‘Fresh Air,’ but they wouldn’t let me,” jokes the often acerbic Lessenberry.

After nearly five months, National Public Radio’s “This I Believe” project has generated more than 5,000 submissions from listeners documenting their personal values in 500-word essays and interviews. The essays have contained revelations about parents, personal struggles and the impact of race and wealth on their characters. They air Mondays on NPR, alternating between “Morning Edition’ and “All Things Considered,” heard locally on WDET-FM (101.9) and WUOM. “Folks are embracing the chance for their voice to be heard,” said executive producer Dan Gediman.

Pop WDVD-FM (96.3) morning host Blaine Fowler hosts the third annual Hands-free Apple Pie Eating Contest at Rochester’s Art & Apples Festival on Saturday. Registration starts at 11 a.m., and four contestants will vie to see who can eat the most pie without using their hands in 96.3 seconds. The winner scores a $100 gift certificate — and a tummy ache.

Set Your Dials: Hosts Tom Wilson and Sarah Swanson go back to the early days of Detroit radio to play the jazz swing music of The Sophistocats at 6 p.m. Sunday (9-11) on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press, September 12, 2005

By: Art Vuolo

Today marks my 10th year of living in Oakland County, and I still can’t afford it. However, those of us in local media are very excited about the final Motor City Broadcast Reunion, now less than two weeks away. Organizers, including yours truly are encouraged by the phenomenal number of legendary broadcasters coming back to Motown Sept. 24 for this historic gathering. Many radio stars who never even worked at local stations are anxious to attend because of the rich heritage of Detroit radio, known far and wide across America.

Guests are coming from Boston to Seattle, Naples to northern Michigan. At the risk of being labeled a namedropper, some of the heavy-hitters include:
• Nationally syndicated talk host Joey Reynolds from New York.
• Energetic personality Tom Kent from Cleveland.
• Kipper McGee, the new program director from WJR-AM’s (760) sister station WLS in Chicago.
• Ann Arbor native and Chicago radio icon John Records Landecker.
• From New York-based Sirius Satellite Radio, Southfield native Pat St. John.
• 32-year Big Apple veteran Jim Kerr, who’s originally from Westland.
• Casey Kasem, another nationally known Detroiter, also is expected.
• Local TV personalities such as Diana Lewis, Mort Crim and Chuck Gaidica are scheduled to be on hand.

Even though the event is not open to the public, many of the returning “radio and TV greats” will be in a special to be broadcast on oldies WOMC-FM (104.3). Both my colleague Mike Austerman and I appreciate the radio fans who read this column, but we also know that there are a lot of local radio people who scan our words each week. If you work in local radio or television or related industries and want to attend, please log onto www.vuolovideo.com and click on “reunions.” Time is very tight, but we don’t want any of our friends currently working in local media left out. The event is a benefit for the Gail Purtan Ovarian Cancer Fund.

Sunday was the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and today the effects of Hurricane Katrina cannot be ignored. Radio stations all over our area and throughout the country are banding together to raise amazing amounts of money to help the victims of this national catastrophe. In New Orleans, both Clear Channel and Entercom Communications said “competition be damned” as they joined forces. The Big Easy’s 50,000 watt news-talker, WWL-AM (870), has been doing an incredible job of helping people communicate along the Gulf Coast. The station is now streaming online at www.wwl.com and it’s “riveting radio.”

The National Association of Broadcasters, in partnership with the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, are distributing 10,000 battery-operated radios to evacuees who thirst for information in the stricken areas. The NAB’s commitment to supplying the radios is in addition to the $100 million that broadcasters have pledged to raise for Katrina relief. Even the two major satellite radio companies, XM and Sirius, have pitched in to help.

There’s some big local news in urban radio. Several weeks ago, listeners heard top-rated Tom Joyner segue “across the street” from pop-urban WMXD-FM (92.3) to urban-hits WDMK-FM (105.9). Since that change, Mix 92.3 has been auditioning morning personalities. Well, the “mothership” Clear Channel, in concert with Inner City Radio, will syndicate popular African-American funnyman Steve Harvey to do morning radio in major markets throughout the country. In Detroit, that makes Harvey the new morning drive-time host on 92.3 FM, pitting Harvey directly against Joyner. We’ll be watching the ratings on this situation closely.

If you were one of the 111,000 plus who packed The Big House in Ann Arbor for that exciting Michigan vs. Notre Dame game Saturday, you may also have been one of the thousands who took along a radio headset so you could stay tuned to the U-M Football Network. Whether you listen on “The Big Stick” WJR or local affiliate sports WTKA-AM (1050), the team of Frank Beckmann and Jim Brandstatter is hard to beat. Brandstatter has a new book, “Tales From Michigan Stadium, Vol. II” (Sports Publishing, $19.95), which is a follow-up to his first edition. At less than 200 pages, it’s an easy read and well worth your time — especially if you’re a fan of Michigan and Brandy’s colorful commentary on the broadcasts. It’s available at most major bookstores and online at www.umalumni.com.

For fans of the “Brandy & Bo Show” on WJR, sorry to report the program will not be on the air this season. Former coach Bo Schembechler, now a young 76, is scaling back on his media obligations.

Art Vuolo writes a radio column for The Oakland Press. E-mail him at www.vuolovideo.com.


Country WYCD should tap local roots



Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press, September 19, 2005

By: Mike Austerman

Country WYCD-FM (99.5) once again is looking for a new program director with last week’s exit of Chip Miller after less than a year at the station. Word is the decision for the quick exit was mutual after WYCD couldn’t nail down a long-term commitment from Miller, who’s seeking to get into station ownership in Tennessee.

Instead of a launching another nationwide search, maybe WYCD should start by looking at two highly qualified country programmers with strong roots in the area: W4 Country alums Barry Mardit and Joe Wade Formicola, both of whom know what it takes to win with country in the Motor City. Already blessed with a strong on-air roster, WYCD could easily reach new heights with the experience and loyalty of guys like Mardit or Formicola. Maybe that’d be too easy.

Premiering at 1 p.m. today on Public Radio WUOM-FM (91.7) is a new, local call-in talk show hosted by Jack Lessenberry. Famed for his acerbic weekly Metro Times column, the veteran journalist and social commentator promises an edgy and fast-paced program that’s “a little fun, as well.”

The “Where Are They Now?” file: Former Pop WDVD-FM (96.3) morning man Rocky Allen is back in New York City at WPLJ-FM, where he enjoyed considerable ratings success in the 1990s doing afternoon drive. Allen, who’d been living in Rochester Hills, will once again help commuters get home during afternoon drive in the nation’s No. 1 radio market.

Lansing temporarily lost its only Top 40 station last week when WHZZ-FM (101.7) suddenly became Mike FM, yet another station that’s jumped on this year’s hot format of “playing anything.” So now in Michigan, we have Doug FM in Detroit, Joe FM in Saginaw and Mike FM in Lansing — how long before George moves to Grand Rapids?

Quickly taking the Top 40 torch was Oldies WJIMFM (97.5), leaving the Capital City without an oldies outlet. Longtime WJIM morning voice Rich Michaels moved to sister station Classic Rock WMMQ-FM (94.9) along with the broadcasts of Michigan State University football and basketball. I can already hear the howling from MSU fans used to getting the games on 97.5, which covers a lot more ground east of Lansing than 94.9 because of the proximity of our own Classic Rock WCSX-FM on 94.7.

Is anyone else having a hard time keeping up with all of the technology that can deliver content that used to be the sole domain of radio? Podcasting, the ability to download programming from multiple sources for playback whenever you want to hear it on your computer or MP3 player, has really caught on. Radio stations themselves have recognized this and are now offering podcasts from their Web sites. Check out www.wwj.com, the Web site for All-News WWJ-AM (950), for extra reports that don’t make it on the radio. Now how long will it be before radio stations charge us to download the content we want?

Urban stations WDMK-FM (105.9), WHTD-FM (102.7) and WCHB-AM (1200) get kudos for helping the UniverSoul Circus collect a tractor-trailer full of food and clothing, which was shipped over the weekend to hurricane victims in Louisiana.

WDFN-AM (1130) handyman Glenn Haege will host his annual Fall Home Show from Oct. 7-9 at the Ford Arts Center in Dearborn. It’s the area’s only free home show that features numerous home improvement experts discussing products and services with area homeowners. Haege will broadcast his weekend show live from the event 5-8 p.m. Oct. 7, 10 a.m. -6 p.m. Oct. 8 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 9. Check www.wdfn.com for more details.

Top voice talents Randy Thomas and Peter Rofe will be teaching aspiring voice actors Friday and Saturday at the Sheraton Hotel in Novi. Geared toward beginners and experienced pros alike, this class can be invaluable to those seeking a voice career. Call (248) 737-3000, Ext. 11, or contact barryzate@aol.com.

Just out is the latest WJR/ Michigan Radioguide produced by my radio column colleague Art Vuolo. Sponsored by GMAC Mortgage, the guide lists every station in the state by region and also the University of Michigan football and men’s basketball schedules for the season, along with affiliate station listings. Get the guides free at Big Boy restaurants across the state or for just $1 mail to the following address: WJR Michigan RADIOGUIDE, P.O. Box 880, Novi, MI 48376-0880. Be sure to include your return address to get yours ASAP.

Set Your Dials: Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates is the featured essayist on NPR’s “This I Believe” series during today’s “All Things Considered” news show, 4-7 p.m. on WDET-FM (101.9) and WUOM.

Ray Anthony, one of the remaining members of the original Glenn Miller band, will be featured on “Somewhere in Time,” at 6 p.m. Sunday (9-25) on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press, September 26, 2005

By: Art Vuolo

This past weekend was one I’ll personally never forget as the Last Great Radio Reunion took place. Since I was one of the organizers, it seems more appropriate for my colleague Mike Austerman to fill you in on the details in his next column. Suffice to say it was amazing to gather over the weekend with several hundred of the biggest names to ever grace the Motor City radio dial. I’m still recovering.

Missing from the fun on Saturday night was Country Dan Dixon, who played the Nashville sounds on WDEE, WCXI and CKLW-FM (800) in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Now working on XM Channel 10 “America,” he’s currently hospitalized in Washington, D.C., with complications from diabetes, so keep him in your thoughts.

If you’re heading up to East Lansing for the always exciting UM-MSU football game this Saturday, and you’ve taken out a loan for the $70 face-value tickets, let me share some good news: Take your radio headset to the stadium. State fans can hear George Blaha on the Michigan State Network over classic rock WMMQ-FM (94.9) or on news-talk WJIM-AM (1240) since the MSU games are no longer on WJIM-FM (97.5), which is now a top 40 hit music station. On the flip side, Michigan fans can get their fix as well as Frank Beckmann, Jim Brandstatter and Steve Courtney on the Host Communications/WJR-AM (760) Network can be heard on sports WQTX-FM (92.7). So both sides can be satisfied hearing their favorite broadcasters along with their favorite football team.

And fans of both schools can join Mitch Albom live at Andiamo Italia Banquet Center in Warren for a huge UM-MSU indoor tailgate party with fun, food and fan fare on WJR from 3-6 p.m. Friday.

Classic Rock WCSX-FM (94.7) is seeking unsung heroes, asking listeners who they feel are not getting the recognition they truly deserve. Send your suggestions to: heros@wcsx.com or by mail to: WCSX One Radio Plaza, Detroit, MI 48220. Winners will be recognized at a banquet at Petruzzello’s in Troy on November 17th. Sounds delicious to me.

The last of the summer ratings monthly trends came out last week — with no shocking surprises. WJR remains on top, but a tie for second place has urban WJLB-FM (97.9) and oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) just a tenth of a point behind the mega-power AM 760. Third place is also a tie between Smooth Jazz WVMVFM (98.7) and all-news WWJAM (950). No stunning news here. And the official summer quarter ratings book will be released next month.

Speaking of ratings, the radio industry continues to watch the movement (if any) of the so-called “we play anything” Jack-FM format. Even though our Jack, WDRQ-FM (93.1) — known here as Doug FM — is holding somewhat steady, in New York (radio’s most watched barometer), the new Jack station, WCBS-FM, is tanking. As a giant oldies station before the format switch, it had a solid 3.5 market share rating but that’s dropped from a 2.5 to a 1.7. Which must leave the Infinity bosses in the Big Apple wondering if the switch was such a good idea.

As news junkies know, the BBC World Service news agency has had its programming available for about four years on satellite radio. Now, the prestigious broadcasters from England will offer their slant on the news direct to your computer at www.bbcnews.com. Unlike the Beatles, this British Invasion is hitting our shores via the Internet.

On Tuesday, National Public Radio launches its sixth volume compilation CDs entitled “I Heard It On NPR.” The CD is subtitled “One World Many Voices.” Learn more at www. npr.org — and tune in our local NPR station is WDET-FM (101.9).

Set Your Dials: Singer-songwriter Michael Penn stops by the Martin Bandyke Show, at 3 p.m. Tuesday on WDET ... WJR morning man Paul W. Smith broadcasts live from the grand opening of the EDS Agility Alliance Development Center in Auburn Hills on Thursday ... with Big Band music scarce on the radio dial, tune in as host Tom Wilson presents more of Glenn Miller at 6 p.m. Sunday on WMUZ-FM (103.5). Call in your requests at Pennsylvania 6-5000.

This month marks four years that Mike and I have been writing about your favorite radio stations in The Oakland Press and we’re pleased at the response we have received from you, our readers. Here’s to the next four years and all the changes yet to come. Stay tuned!







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About this Archive

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

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

On The Radio Columns: October 2005 is the next archive.

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