On The Radio Columns: December 2005 Archives

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, December 4, 2005

By: Mike Austerman


Now that it’s officially the Christmas season, let’s dive right into a bunch of holiday happenings up and down your radio dial:

First up, last week’s mall crawl by Jim Harper and gang of soft rock WMGC-FM (105.1) netted a total of 18,347 new unwrapped toys, $20,385.25 in cash donations, and $2,768 from the sale of Magic 105.1 bracelets toward the 2005 USMC Toys for Tots drive. Each year, the men and women of the Magic Morning Show compete to collect the most toys. This year, the women won, forcing the men to get their legs waxed during Friday morning’s broadcast. Aren’t you glad this is radio and not TV?


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Top 40 WKQI-FM (95.5), also a big supporter of the Toys for Tots campaign, encouraged listeners to help “Stuff a Bus” (or two ... or seven ...) full of those ever-popular new, unwrapped toys. Channel 955 evening jock Tic Tak gamely braved the elements and spent last week living in and broadcasting his 7-11 p.m. weeknight show from a bus parked at Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights, attempting to break last year’s record of seven stuffed buses. And a partridge in a pear tree.

The Mojo in Morning crew at WKQI also ran into a bit of a speed bump with its latest Phone Scams CD. Seems the cover had depicted a picture of Spam luncheon meat — with the ‘p’ replaced with a ‘c’ in an obvious play on words. But Spam manufacturer Hormel got word of the artwork and threatened to sue to protect its trademark, forcing a quick cover-up job. You can get your hands on the unSpammed version for $10.95 at www.mojointhemorning.com or at area Post Bars. Order by Dec. 12 and you’ll have it in time for a stocking stuffer.


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Flutist and smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7) morning show host Alexander Zonjic will perform two holiday concerts to benefit poor children in Nicaragua who live in garbage dumps. Helping Zonjic are special guests Joe McBride, Penny Wells and a 70-piece flute choir under the direction of Barbara Ogar. “It’s going to be something spectacular with a flute choir of this size,” Zonjic says. The first concert is 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Ford Center for the Arts, 5801 Michigan Ave., Dearborn. Tickets are $25, $35 and $100; the third price includes an afterglow with the artists. Call (313) 943-2354. The second concert is 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Chrysler Theatre, 201 Riverside Drive West, in Windsor. Tickets are $35-50 Canadian and $100 for the afterglow. Call (519) 353-6579.


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You’ve no doubt heard Marty Bufalini hosting traffic reports on all-news WWJ-AM (950). But he’s also written a radio play based on the movie classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The premise is that you’re in a 1940s-era radio studio watching a live production of the script. Bufalini developed the play as an homage to the days of radio dramas, complete with microphones and costumes from the 1940s. About 90 percent of the sound effects also are produced live on stage. Bufalini promises “a unique, family-oriented fun take on a great and familiar holiday story” in the two shows, at 4 and 7 p.m. Dec. 30 at the Fries Auditorium of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial, 32 Lakeshore in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Tickets require a minimum donation of $15 ($10 for seniors and students) at the Grosse Pointe Theatre hot line at (313) 881-4004.


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Darren Davis, the program director of soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3) and regional vice president of programming for Clear Channel Detroit, is leaving town to take on a similar role with Clear Channel in Chicago. What you need to know about Davis: He’s the main proponent of the early start to Christmas music on WNIC, which this year kicked off Nov. 1.


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Set Your Dials: “Somewhere in Time” host Tom Wilson gets in the spirit of the season with a Big Band holiday celebration featuring Glenn Miller at 6 p.m. tonight on WMUZ-FM (103.5) ... reporter Daniel Zwerdling investigates the death of a detainee in a half-hour segment on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” dinnertime news show Monday ... adult pop CKWW-AM (580), which starts its all-Christmas music for 12 days beginning Dec. 15, also is featuring holiday-themed episodes of classic radio shows on “When Radio Was” at 11 p.m. weeknights throughout December. From the comedy of Jack Benny, Charlie McCarthy and Burns & Allen to the drama of “A Christmas Carol,” the radio will be aglow with memories of Christmas past. Visit www.am580radio.com for the schedule.


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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, December 11, 2005

By: Art Vuolo


Is Christmas really just two weeks from today? Guess I can finally start to listen to all-holiday music WNIC-FM (100.3). (When the ’NIC jocks go home, I’m certain they don’t play Christmas music.)


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We said a couple of weeks ago that new additions to the Dr. Don morning show were looming at country WYCD-FM (99.5). So starting at 5 a.m. Monday, Rachael Hunter will co-host with Dr. Don, and Steve Grunwald will be the show’s new producer. Both did the morning show on the old WDRQ-FM (93.1), which is now Doug-FM. Hunter said she’s “looking forward to reconnecting with my listeners,” while ’YCD’s new program director Tim Roberts says the move will bring new energy to the station. News guru Bob Schuman continues with the new show.


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On Saturday morning, newstalk WJR-AM (760) morning host Paul W. Smith presided over the 40th anniversary of the famous Christmas Sing at the Somerset Collection in Troy. (For those with long memories, the event began with ’JR’s legendary J.P. McCarthy and for years was sponsored by the Action Line staff at the Detroit Free Press.) Anyway, on Monday, Smith hits the road again to broadcast his morning show live from Pricewaterhouse Coopers offices in downtown Detroit.

Meanwhile, WJR is helping Volunteers of America adopt 2,500 families so they can have a merry Christmas. To help out, call (248) 353-4862.


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Good news for fans of Larry McDaniel’s “Arkansas Traveler” bluegrass show and Matt Watroba’s “Folks Like Us” folk music show, which were cut from public radio WDET-FM (101.9) some 15 months ago. New WDET general manager Michael Coleman is putting both shows back into the weekend lineup soon, but the station has parted company with longtime afternoon host Martin Bandyke.


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The radio world is buzzing loudly about HD — and that does not stand for Holi-Daze. HD is high-definition radio, and, like HDTV, it’s far better than what you’re used to getting. Basically, it makes AM sound like FM and FM sound perfect. It’s also another way the industry is trying to combat new forms of competition, especially satellite radio. As part of the fight, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has rolled out a new campaign, ditching their previous slogan of “Radio: You Hear It Here First.” The new tagline is “Radio: You Shouldn’t Have to Pay for It.” This comes as only 2 percent of the available audience is listening to satellite radio, though traditional broadcasters are reacting as though that figure was 50 percent or more.

The HD Radio Alliance has an impressive roster of most all of the biggest companies in the radio business, and they should be encouraged by the results of a new J.D. Powers survey, which states that “high-definition radio outranked satellite radio after consumers weighed a one-time cost of $150 against satellite radio’s $12.95 per month subscription fee.” The jury is still out, but 2006 will be a pivotal turning point for radio’s new technologies.And a good backdrop for national shock Howard Stern, whose last live broadcast on free radio, heard locally on hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1), is set for Friday. After that, he’ll start Jan. 9 on Sirius.

Tom Bender, who runs rock WRIF-FM (101.1), pop WMGC-FM (105.1) and classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7) is a big fan of HD radio and told broadcasters at a recent seminar, “We get this wrong, and we’re out of business.” Strong words from a respected local professional.


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Once the program director of the old WWWW-FM here in Detroit, Dave Van Dyke now runs Bridge Ratings & Research, and he has another statistic to make radio executives nervous. His research shows that 85 percent of 12 to 24-year-olds prefer listening to their MP3 players than traditional radio (based on a national sample of 2,000 12 to 24-year-olds). Kind of scary, since radio keeps chasing younger audiences with little concern for the older people who still believe in the medium — and have the money to buy what the advertisers are selling.


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Speaking of younger listeners, Detroit’s nationally famous rap singer Eminem seems to be exclusively talking on-air to “Mojo in the Morning” on hits WKQI-FM (95.5). Why ’KQI? Seems Em’s daughter is a big Mojo fan, and that’s why he went on with Mojo to reveal that he’d like to remarry his ex-wife, Kim.


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On Dec. 2, WTVS-Channel 56 aired the superb documentary “Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8 CKLW” — and the public TV outlet drew a record audience and above-average pledges. The Big 8 doc ran again Saturday night, but if you missed it, it’s available on DVD with a $75 tax deductible donation to Detroit Public TV. Call (248) 305-3900.


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Set Your Dials: Host Tom Wilson replays the music of Fred Waring & His Pennsylvanians at 6 p.m. tonight on WMUZ-FM (103.5) ... catch old holiday radio shows on “When Radio Was” with host Stan Freberg at 11 p.m. weeknights on nostalgia CKWW-AM (580).


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

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, December 18, 2005

By: Mike Austerman


Raise your hand if you were surprised to hear the changes at public radio WDET-FM (101.9) this week. Me, too. After all, it was just in September, 2004 when several popular NPR and weekend shows were dropped as former general manager Caryn Mathes tried to develop a more consistent focus for the station’s Adult Alternative music programming.

Those changes, however, brought a softness in both ratings and pledge drive support so new boss Michael Coleman undid those changes — and then some. Back on the schedule at the Wayne State-owned station are popular NPR programs “Fresh Air,” “Car Talk” and the “Tavis Smiley Show,” along with local music shows hosted by Matt Watroba, Larry McDaniels, Robert Jones and Chuck Horn. In addition, “News & Notes” hosted by Detroit native Ed Gordon, “Democracy Now” and other talk-based shows have been added, replacing all of the station’s daytime weekday music programs.

Coleman believes the changes will help give Detroit the kind of premier public radio service it deserves. “Our entire community needs access to intelligent, thoughtful and diverse voices about the issues and challenges facing all of us,” he notes.

But while many may rejoice at the return of Click & Clack the Tappet Brothers and Terry Gross, other fans of the old ’DET will argue that the dramatic cutback of music and departure of longtime hosts Martin Bandyke, Judy Adams — who’d been program director — Willy Wilson and John Penney has squelched an important part of our area’s music culture. ’DET had been the only station offering daily music programming covering local artists with a variety of styles — and providing a spotlight likely to never be replaced.

So now WDET is just like most other public radio stations across the country — with a focus on mostly syndicated news/ talk and public affairs during prime listening hours. And although Ed Love keeps his evening jazz show and Liz Copeland is still on board with music overnight, much of WDET’s uniqueness is gone. And how’d you like to have pledged in the fall drive for a music show that now has disappeared?


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Just Askin’: With both WDET and WRCJ-FM (90.9) airing jazz in the evenings, isn’t there an opportunity for an agreement between them? Ed Love could move to WRCJ instead of the satellite-provided jazz service, making room on WDET for Bandyke and/or Adams on WDET. And maybe WRCJ would be interested in hiring Wilson and Penney to bolster its weekend lineup. The stations could cross-promote one another, generating wider interest and monetary support. Could be a win-win situation… which is probably why it’ll never happen.


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Now that Howard Stern is done on regular radio — his “best of” shows are set to air on talk WKRK-FM (97.1) through the end of the year — it’s going to be interesting what happens after he moves to Sirius satellite radio starting Jan. 9. Stern’s audience, which had been about 12 million listeners daily, will be notably smaller since Sirius has about 3 million subscribers and it’s anybody’s best guess how many of those will tune in to Stern. And how outrageous will he be as he attempts to build an audience and move his free radio fans to Sirius in order to make his contract worth the reported $500 million he’s getting in the next five years? If he goes too far over the decency line, industry insiders believe Congress and the FCC will act to put the same kinds of restrictions on satellite radio content that exist on AM and FM radio — restrictions Stern claims have limited his creativity and ability to do the type of show he wanted.

For now, with the threat of FCC fines lifted, Stern will be able to show us if he is indeed the self-proclaimed “King of All Media” or if he’s someone whose better days are gone and who used government interference as an excuse.


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Glancing at November’s monthly ratings report card, there are a few eyebrow raisers as we await the final fall quarterly numbers available next month. The very early returns show that soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3) didn’t get a boost at all in November with its all-Christmas music marathon, while competitor WMGC-FM (105.1) enjoyed increased numbers with its regular music rotation. It's still too early though to get the full picture on that situation. The introduction of morning man Steve Harvey on adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3) helped push that station’s ratings back on an upward trend and further ahead of competitor WDMK-FM (105.9), the home of Tom Joyner. At Top 40 WKQI-FM (95.5), the Mojo in the Morning crowd is celebrating improvements in every category and has achieved a Top Five ranking in every demo and the No. 1 rating in every female demo. Meanwhile, rock WRIF-FM (101.1) duo Drew and Mike continue to reign overall in morning drive.


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Set Your Dials: For holiday music from organists Elani Eddington and Scott Smith of Lansing at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, December 25, 2005

By: Art Vuolo


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours from Mike Austerman and me, your local radio reporters for more than four years. Today, let’s look back on the many changes Detroit radio has undergone in the last 12 months.

The year 2005 saw the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts celebrate its 35th anniversary while Arthur Penhallow marked an equal number of years at rocker WRIF-FM (101.1). Elsewhere on the dial, Eric Harthen, the man of many voices, segued from hits WKQI-FM (95.5) to oldies WOMC-FM (104.3), and we heard the return of Dr. Don to country WYCD-FM (99.5) and, just recently, the addition of Rachael Hunter and Steve Grunwald, both refugees from the old WDRQ-FM (93.1). Rumors about the return of Eli Zaret, Denny McLain, Lee Alan and David Newman sadly did not materialize, but all are major broadcast talents.

One rather dormant frequency got a complete make-over as WXDX became WDTW-AM (1310) and took on a heavy dose of left-leaning talk from Air America, though recently, Nancy Skinner, its only local host, departed. And listeners (and especially the staff) of WDRQ were stunned in early April when the entire on-air crew (except Jay Towers, who had a contract) lost their jobs as the Top 40 hits station became “Doug FM.” And Gregg Henson made remarks that helped ease him out of the building at hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1) — only to be replaced by talk wanna-be Towers who joined the more seasoned Michelle McKormick.

Summer began with Canton’s country WSDS-AM (1480) switching to Hispanic programming, ending Detroit’s status as the only major market with no Spanish language station. Three veteran news voices also departed from news-talk WJR-AM (760) — Dan Streeter, Rod Hanson and Gene Fogel. The urban radio scene also witnessed a major round of musical chairs, as personalities and call letters were juggled between FM stations 102.7, 105.9 and 92.3. The mostly black format at WQBH-AM (1400) also was dropped by new owner Salem Radio, which installed a great number of syndicated conservative talk shows; the 1,000-watter is now known as WDTK.

Over at Christian WMUZ-FM (103.5), we heard a new morning show premier with Rhonda Hart and Jon Culbert and the station also became the new home of Tom Wilson’s “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. Sundays — with a 1940s Christmas music show tonight. From the recovery room, country WYCD host Jyl Forsyth is doing fine after complications from asthma, and former WDEE and WCXI jock Country Dan Dixon (now at XM Satellite Radio) is about to return to the air after six months in recovery from serious foot surgery. Sabrina Black, wife of WRIF jock Steve Black, is still successfully battling cancer, as is Dick’s wife Gail Purtan, a tenacious survivor of more than eight years.

From the court room, we heard about lawsuits with WYCD’s Erin Weber over the perfume co-worker Linda Lee wore that “made her sick.” There also were labor union suits among employees at news WWJ-AM (950 and sports/talk WXYT-AM (1270). Amazingly, WKRK remained free of lawsuits this past year — as did radio across the country, which received no significant fines for indecency. Speaking of indecency, Howard Stern left earth — radio, that is, to become a Sirius satellite host starting Jan. 9.

The year also brought the emergence of Radio Disney at WFDF-AM (910), the dumping of U-M sports in exchange for MSU football and basketball on WJR and the return of classical music on WRCJ-FM (90.9). High-definition radio also premiered, first from Greater Media Detroit, with others following. Recent weeks brought a huge programming shake-up at public WDET-FM (101.9), while pop WNIC-FM (100.3) began beaming holiday music the day after Halloween. And WJR’s Murray Gula took his “Home Improvement” show from radio to WXYZ-Channel 7, with more specials slated for 2006.

Sadly, we lost several radio greats over this past year including controversial ex-WXYT talk host Mark Scott and Dan Koti, better known as traffic reporter Rod Holden, on WWJ.

Contemporary WDVD-FM (96.3) extended Blain & Lisa to 10 a.m. weekdays and added Jesse in afternoon drive. The no-last-names station also awarded a new car to a 28-year old mother of two in a recent philanthropic Christmas promotion. Speaking of giving, in February, Dick Purtan’s annual Salvation Army Radiothon on oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) raised a staggering $1.7 million, bringing his total to more than $10 million since 1988.

Finally, your “On The Radio” column shifted from Friday’s Marquee section to Sunday’s Entertainment section in The Oakland Press, picking up new readers.

Here’s hoping you got a gift you could actually use, and that there was at least one new radio under your tree.

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

 

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About this Archive

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

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

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