On The Radio Columns: October 2005 Archives

Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press, October 9, 2005

By: Mike Austerman

Tongues were wagging last week about the suspension of midday hosts Gregg Henson and Michelle McKormick from talk WKRK-FM (97.1). Seems Henson made some questionable on-air comments on their Sept. 28 program about Top 40 WKQI-FM (95.5) evening jock Tic Tak. The brouhaha made it into national trade pubs and even garnered a comment from WKRK syndicated morning shock jock Howard Stern.

Brass from WKRK owner Infinity aren’t commenting, but one wonders if all the furor is simply a prelude to some pending lineup changes at WKRK with Stern’s leap to satellite radio looming ever closer. WKRK has been airing “best-of” programs from Henson and McKormick during their absence from live radio.

The soothing evening sounds of Johnny Williams has returned to the Detroit airwaves on soft rock WMGC-FM (105.1), pitting him against fellow baritone jock Alan Almond, who returned home to crosstown rival WNIC-FM (100.3) less than a month ago. Both guys have been in town and available for a long time and while it’s great to have their local voices back, what the heck took so long? And if you ever needed evidence that radio is a copycat business ...

Radio Disney has now officially started full-time operations of WFDF-AM (910) from the Detroit area, making it the area’s eighth 50,000-watt daytime signal, on a radio band many considered dead and buried years ago. Station management for WFDF — could that stand for “We’re for Disney Fun?” — promises programming safe for the entire family but targeted at kids ages 6-14 with pop music hits, events, and contests with awesome — a word often heard on Radio Disney — prizes. For now, the best reception will be during daylight hours, as engineers have yet to complete the necessary work to boost the stations after-dark output.

More than 330 people attended the “Last Motor City Broadcast Reunion” on Sept. 24, helping to raise more than $15,000 for the Gail Purtan Ovarian Cancer Fund. The wife of popular oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) morning man Dick Purtan, Gail has survived more than eight years of the deadly disease. In so doing, she’s offered hope to countless other cancer patients.

The event drew an aweinspiring number of famous radio names, including Casey Kasem, former WKNR jocks Gary Stevens, Jerry Goodwin, Paul Cannon and Pat St. John (now at Sirius Satellite Radio). Also on hand were Big 8 CKLW talents Big Jim Edwards, Johnny Williams, Bill Hennes, Brother Bill Gable, Grant Hudson and current all-news WWJ-AM (950) morning co-host Joe Donovan, and scores more.

One of the highlights of the evening was the introduction of WKNR’s original owner, 88-year-old Nellie Knorr, who looked great, spoke to the crowd and hugged all the former Keener Key Men of Music. Famous WXYZ night DJ Lee Alan also provided a solemn introduction to the memorial video, produced by Art Vuolo, honoring the many broadcasters whom we’ve lost. Vuolo also made a video in tribute to legendary names, faces and stations of Detroit radio.

Big Al Muskovito and Jackie Purtan wrote hysterical sketches with TV pitchmen Irving Neusbaum and Mr. Belvedere, and the evening ended with comic/singer Heywood Banks, who was outrageously funny. Everyone agreed it should not be the last time Detroit radio people have a gettogether. Maybe the committee of Vuolo, Mike Seltzer, Terry Holmes, Millie Felch and Dick Kernen will reconsider calling it the “last.” One thing’s for sure, everyone who was there will remember it.

Home improvement buffs take note: The weekend lineup at sports WXYT-AM (1270) has been tweaked. The new schedule: “Ask the Handyman” with “Appliance Doctor” Joe Gagnon now airs 7-9 a.m. Saturdays and 7-8 a.m. Sundays. The men’s lifestyle show “G-3” airs 9-11 a.m. Saturdays, and “Hire it Done” takes the 8-10 a.m. slot on Sundays.

Set Your Dials: Tom Wilson’s “Somewhere in Time” show takes a look back at songstress Peggy Lee at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press, October 16, 2005

By: Art Vuolo

Talk about a quarterback sneak. Late Thursday, personality WJR-AM (760) dumped the Wolverines and picked up the Spartans as the station inked a five-year deal to broadcast Michigan State football and basketball games beginning next fall. University of Michigan officials didn’t see the play coming — they’d been negotiating to keep U-M on The Great Voice of the Great Lakes “and we thought we had a deal,” said a disappointed Michigan athletic director Bill Martin, who first heard about the change on WJR radio.

’JR apparently saw Green — or more green, as it were — coming from East Lansing. Though no money figure’s been revealed, the deal was sweeter to go with MSU rather than continue to broadcast UM games on ’JR, which the station has done since 1976. Locally, MSU games have been heard on sports WXYT-AM (1270). You can bet that Rich Homberg, general manager for news WWJ-AM (950) and hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1) is running like an Olympic track star to Ann Arbor with an offer they can’t refuse. Stay tuned for the second half.

In another surprise move, Chris Felcyn from public radio WDET-FM (101.9), has jumped from his long-running Sunday morning “Listening Room” show over to host middays at classical/jazz WRCJFM (90.9) when they go local and live next month. Classical station veteran Jack Goggin also has signed up to do fill-in at ’RCJ when needed. Why don’t they just reclaim the old WQRS-FM call-letters? They’re available.

After extensive separate conversations with Gregg Henson and Michelle McKormick, I’ve gained a great deal of perspective regarding the radio debacle which led to Henson’s demise on WKRK-FM. I also spoke, at length, with Tic Tak, the night jock on top 40 WKQI-FM (95.5) who could not have been kinder and more understanding about the entire situation. Henson admits what he said was bad judgment on his part, but it’s amazing how intolerant station management has become. Recent FCC changes and fines have greatly changed the radio industry. One look at his Web site (www.gregghenson.com) and it’s evident he has a huge following. Perhaps he’ll resurface soon.

Speaking of Tic Tak, the popular Channel 955 night jammer has a Friday night feature that you need to hear to believe. Frankly I’ve heard it and am still not sure how to describe a strange character by the name of “Mr. Positive.” He offers encouragement, via poetry, to the mostly teen and young adult audience. Make a note to check it out between 8 and 8:30 p.m. next Friday night and see if you can figure it out. I’m still workin’ on it.

The biggest station owner locally, Clear Channel, has the industry buzzing over the recent firing of two program directors for accepting “pay for play” better known as payola. Detroit manager Dave Pugh assures me he’s running a clean ship and it was no one under his command. The two were from New York’s WWPR and San Diego’s KHTZ. As previously mentioned there’s little, if any, “wiggle room” left in the business.

Click On: The popular ABC TV show “Lost” has infected the J.J. & Lynne morning show on classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7). Joined by listeners, the duo compares notes and theories on a new Internet blog. Check it out at jjandlynne.blogspot.com ... Public WDET-FM (101.9) is now offering “on demand” podcasting and a streaming archive service. Learn more at www.wdetfm.org ... Remember Crazy Al from WPON-AM (1460)? He’s offering his 8-11 a.m. Internet oldies show to terrestrial and/or satellite radio. Tune in at www.industrialinfo.com.

Unfinished business regarding the Detroit Radio Reunion: Former Keener 13 owner Nellie Knorr, a special guest at the event, recently suffered a heart attack, so keep her in your thoughts. Better news — see dozens of photos of the reunion and its many attendees at www.vuolovideo.com. Just click on “reunions.” That’s also where to go to get audio and video of the reunion and the oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) broadcast about it that day. Too bad no one from Fox 2, Local 4 or Channel 7 showed up to give this star-studded fund-raiser even 20 seconds of news coverage. A sad commentary, indeed.

Set Your Dials: For the hits of World War II on Tommy Stark’s Wurlitzer organ on “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. tonight on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


WVMV smoothes its way up to 1st place



Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press, October 23, 2005

By: Mike Austerman

The smooth jazz sound of WVMV-FM (98.7) was the ratings winner over the summer as the station finished tops among listeners age 12 and older in the recently released Arbitron quarterly ratings book. News-talk WJR-AM (760), the top station in the spring, slid to a second place tie with urban WJLB-FM (97.9). The remainder of the top 10 included oldies WOMC-FM (104.3), news WWJ-AM (950), Top 40 WKQI-FM (95.5), country WYCD-FM (99.5), adult urban WDMK-FM (105.9), rock WRIF-FM (101.1), and adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3).

The biggest news of the summer was the dramatic ratings swing for WDMK, which more than doubled its overall listenership with the addition of the syndicated Tom Joyner morning show. Joyner’s former home, WMXD, saw a notable decrease in its listeners, but still maintained a Top 10 position, offering a strong base for new morning man Steve Harvey upon which to build. All in all, it sets up an interesting fall ratings battle.

In the closely watched morning race, top billing once again goes to WRIF’s Drew & Mike, followed by Joe Donovan and Roberta Jasina on WWJ, Dick Purtan on WOMC, Paul W. Smith on WJR and then Joyner. Meanwhile, WRIF claimed supremacy in daylong ratings as well as in mornings in the advertisercoveted 25-54 age breakdowns.

Jay Towers now sits in the seat Gregg Henson formerly had as co-host of Motor City Middays on hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1). Towers, who was morning show host at Top 40 WDRQ-FM (93.1) until April when the station went jockless as Doug FM, joins Michelle McKormick, who remains with the show.

All that controversy over Henson being fired because of remarks he made about fellow radio personality Tic Tak of WQKI? Turns out that might have just been a little attention-getting ploy as Henson claims he was let go for a different reason.In my opinion, management thought Gregg wasn’t going to fit in with the station’s new direction of being less shocking and more attractive to women listeners.

What’s clear is that Towers’ approach will be much different from Henson’s as their radio personalities are 180 degrees apart. Couple that with morning man Howard Stern’s pending exit to Sirius satellite radio and the dramatic shift in topics I’ve observed with afternoon guys Deminski & Doyle and it seems pretty clear that 97.1 is well on its way to becoming a “kinder and gentler” talker. As for Henson, he’ll be moving to Austin, Texas, where he’s scored a gig with an all-sports station.

Public WDET-FM (101.9) is now providing an “On Demand” service that allows listeners to subscribe to WDET news stories, special features from their favorite music programs, NPR news and other station information. Find more details at wdetfm.org.

WJR is building a remote broadcast studio at the GM Wintergarden inside the Renaissance Center to be used for special events in addition to live broadcasts. Scheduled to be operational in time for Super Bowl XL, the new studio also will serve as a remote location for the station’s news operations and provide visitors an insider’s view into the world of broadcasting. The new locale also will make it real easy for Paul W. and the ’JR hosts to score interviews from GM execs. Cue the Cadillac brand manager!

Soft rock WMGC-FM (105.1) will host its second annual Halloween Dance Party on Friday at Andiamo Italia in Warren — but you’ll have to tune in to the station to win tickets to the event. Featuring a spooky ambiance, huge costume contest, Andiamo’s famous chocolate fountain, hors d’oeuvres and plenty of great music, it’ll be a howling good time and great way to celebrate Halloween. And dress up this time — vacation getaways will be awarded to the top three costumes.

Thanks to an incredible outpouring of support by listeners, WJR, Radio Disney WFDFAM (910), pop WDVD-FM (96.3) and WDRQ raised more than $1 million for survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. All of the funds raised have gone directly through the Salvation Army to those affected, and donations are still being accepted at the three stations Web sites (wjr.com, 963wdvd.com, 931dougfm.com) or by calling (877) SAL-MICH (725-6424). Unfortunately, the needs will likely only increase with the pending strike of Wilma.

Set Your Dials: Check out the South American big band sound of Xavier Cugat on “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5) ... Adult CKWW-AM (580) will broadcast its “Jukebox Classics Oldies” program live from Casey’s Bar & Grill in Windsor from 6-8 p.m. Thursday. The event features classic cars, prizes, munchies and more along with hosts Howling Harry and Bel Air Bill playing requests.


Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press, October 30, 2005

By: Art Vuolo

The chatter continues about the defection of news-talk WJR-AM (760) from the Wolverines to the Spartans and what the future might hold. Many readers seem more concerned about the current broadcast team of Frank Beckmann, Jim Brandstatter and Steve Courtney staying together than which station winds up carrying the games. For the record, ’JR signed a five year deal to air Spartan games, beginning next year. U-M fans just want it be an AM and/or an FM station with a strong enough signal to make games easy to pick up both locally and out in Ann Arbor. Got suggestions about which station(s) should get to broadcast U-M football and basketball games? E-mail ’em to me at artvuolo@aol.com.

Another big story garnering far too much press concerns who’s replacing Howard Stern on nearly 30 Infinity stations, including hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1), when the legendary shock jock departs for Sirius satellite radio. (Not helping was that conference call last week in which a couple of Infinity corporate honchos sounded like their greatest concern was the stockholders rather than the listeners.) When the dust settled, it was revealed that comic Adam Carolla would air on Infinity’s West Coast stations, rocker David Lee Roth would get the East Coast, and a number of Midwest outlets will get a new guy named Rover.

Well, clear the doghouse and refill the water bowl, folks, as Detroit gets Shane French, a boyish-looking young guy who calls himself Rover. He’s radio’s current “flavor of the month” and he’ll relocate from Cleveland to his native Chicago to do the shows. Incidentally, the last syndicated show out of Chicago heard on WKRK was Steve Dahl, who was dubbed “Steve Dull.” And that saga did not have a happy ending. One syndicator I spoke to noted, “You don’t want to be the show that follows Stern. You want to be the show that follows the show that follows Stern — and fails.” He’s right. Stern’s last live show is set for Dec. 16 and Rover starts on Jan. 3. Good luck.

The new moniker for WKRK — “Free FM” — could be a knock at both subscription-based satellite radio and the McDonaldization of radio, as stations across the country are truly sounding the same these days. Also, as I read about ABC-TV late-nighter Jimmy Kimmel acting as a consultant for the new spate of morning shows, I thought, “Why?” With so many talented and creative radio broadcasters currently unemployed, this makes no sense at all.

With Jay Towers now on ’KRK’s Motor City Middays show, some of you have asked whatever became of his former radio partner, Rachael Hunter. Amazingly, this talented woman has yet to be picked up by a local station. And I don’t think she and Jay are the close friends they once were, either.

Last month, oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) morning man Dick Purtan emceed an unforgettable Motor City Broadcast Reunion at the Sheraton Hotel in Novi. Now, cable TV viewers in select parts of Oakland County can tune in to the event as Bright House Network subscribers in Farmington, Farmington Hills and Novi airs the event on Channel 12 from 8-10 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays over the next few weeks. Learn more at www. swoccstudios.com. Plans are also being made to release the gala on a special two-hour DVD with part of the proceeds going to the Gail Purtan Ovarian Cancer Fund. Details coming soon — and in time for the holidays.

Sad to report that early 1970s “Big 8” jock Hal Martin from variety CKLW-AM (800) has died of cancer 58 in Dallas. His real name was Michael Spears and he’d hoped to make last month’s radio reunion, but couldn’t. He’ll be missed. More on his career at www.michaelspears.com.

Pop adult WDVD-FM (96.3) morning guy Blaine Fowler reports that the station’s recent radiothon raised $26,524 to fight breast cancer — up from $14,000 last year. Good going, guys — and all who pledged.

In other benefits news, tickets just went on sale for the country WYCD-FM (99.5) Country Cares For Hurricane Relief Holiday Concert on Dec. 8 at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Martina McBride, LeAnn Rimes and the 2005 “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood are scheduled to perform. Learn more at www.countrycaresconcert.com.

Set Your Dials: For the music of Grand Rapids’ Beltline Big Band and their Glen Miller favorites at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5) ... Standards CKWWAM (580) will air the original “War of the Worlds” at 10 p.m. Monday — Halloween night. This is the radio play that sparked panic when broadcast by Orson Welles on Oct. 30, 1938. It’s a classic, not to be missed.







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About this Archive

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

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

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