Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, April 30, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
Most listeners probably didn’t notice, but WOMC-FM (104.3) has followed a nationwide trend and dropped the term “oldies” when describing itself. Instead, it’s opting to use the somewhat clumsy phrase “Motor City’s 104.3 WOMC.” Although the station’s music hasn’t dramatically changed, the overall sound of the station has shifted from 1950s - ’60s tunes, from when the station went all-oldies in 1989, to the current focus on late- ’60s and ’70s tunes. “We are proud of our heritage in the Motor City, and oldies seems too limiting for what WOMC is overall,” says Steve Allan, ’OMC’s program director. So instead of hearing Buddy Holly and Elvis, you’re much more likely to hear Chicago, Donna Summer and the Steve Miller Band along with traditional tunes from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Motown artists.
Along with the new name, WOMC also has launched a simulcast of the station on its Web site, www.womc.com. One of the neat features of the online programming is hearing comedy segments from morning man Dick Purtan and crew instead of commercials. Interesting, too, is how close the new name for WOMC is to the one being used by CKWW-AM (580), which goes by “Motor City Favorites” and does play the music of the 1950s and early ’60s along with softer rock tunes through the ’80s and ’90s.
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While we’re on the subject of WOMC, I’d be remiss without offering my kudos to Purtan on his induction to the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame last week. About 800 people attended the luncheon in Las Vegas, including Dick’s six daughters and their spouses, his wife Gail, his 94-year-old father, Paul Purtan, and Paul’s wife, Christine. Purtan joked with the crowd, “We had six beautiful daughters and we paid for seven weddings. My wife, Gail, should get all the credit for the family. It took her 54 months and me only six minutes.” He is the only Detroit-based radio personality to be inducted in the NAB’s Hall of Fame. Fellow radio writer Art Vuolo was on hand, and he says, “It would make any Detroit radio listener proud to have seen this very classy event and hear the accolades heaped upon one of Detroit’s most beloved radio personalities.”
Hard to believe, but Purtan’s been waking us up on ’OMC for 10 years already — and just recently signed on for 5 more.
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Checking the mailbag, Betty writes that classical/jazz WRCJ-FM (90.9) “has been my favorite station for some time, but lately I have been upset at all the talk that has taken the place of the beautiful music. I am really am not interested in all the yak, yak between hosts and recipes — I can go to a cooking channel for that. Please, can we have a return to the beautiful music with only brief interruptions to let us know what piece we are about to hear? I would have sent a donation, but changed my mind when the music was replaced by yakety-yak and recipes.”
So I posed Betty’s question to Dave Wagner, WRCJ’s program director and morning host. He comments that “the recipe feature that we have on middays is one of our most popular features, and I think it is something that (host) Chris Felcyn handles with charm and grace. I don’t think our commentaries are particularly long and I’m proud of the amount of music that we play each hour, more than 50 minutes of music per hour in both our classical and jazz portions.
“We also feature recordings by Detroit musicians and ensembles,” he adds. “However, one person’s ‘yakety-yak’ is another person’s information and entertainment. We do listen and try to respond to all of our listener comments both positive and negative, and will continue to strive to be the best classical/jazz station that we can be for our listeners.”
I’d hazard a guess that over the long term, a radio station that spends even just a small amount of time interacting with its listeners with some local talk and features will develop a much bigger fan base than one that is essentially a jukebox. That’s an important factor for a station such as WRCJ, which is relying on financial support from those loyal listeners. It’s wonderful that Detroit once again has its own fine arts station — and one that’s not afraid to make an effort to connect with more than just its music.
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This week’s University of Michigan broadcast sports update includes affiliate announcements for Flint’s WTRX-AM (1330) and Toledo’s WTOD-AM (1560), but still no word on a new metro Detroit station. The Toledo announcement is especially curious — WTOD doesn’t broadcast after sundown, which rules out coverage of all but a few basketball games and would be the ultimate in frustration for listeners to 3:30 p.m. football games late in fall that go past the station’s required sign-off time.
Meanwhile, murmurs persist that there might be two stations signing on locally — one with a big-name FM morning host, the other with a big AM signal, eh? Stay tuned!
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Set Your Dials: Tune in to “Somewhere in Time” on WMUZ-FM (103.5) at 6 p.m. today, when hosts Alison Harris and Tom Wilson feature the swing band of Ziggy Elman.
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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.