On The Radio Columns: June 2006 Archives

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, June 4, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

Some weeks back, I was trying to guess in what direction Clear Channel Detroit was going to take former classic hits WDTW-FM (106.7) best known as “The Drive.” Now we all know that they flipped back to country music. Last week, Mike Austerman expressed his personal disappointment at the station’s decision not to reinstate the WWWW-FM call letters and the strong brand of W4 Country.

The original name at 106.7 was WDTM, doing mostly classical music up through the end of the 1960s. When radio pioneer Gordon McLendon, one of the originators of the Top 40 music format, bought the station in 1969, he renamed it WWWW because in the newspaper listings it stood out the most. The station originally was a clone of his San Francisco beautiful-music FM, KABL. It later switched to solid gold oldies, then to rock with Howard Stern. Finally, in the early ’80s, it flipped to country music, which lasted almost 20 years.

Interestingly, the name never changed, until September 1999, when it abandoned country. So, why after 30 years did management feel they couldn’t bring back a set of heritage call letters?


 * * * * 


Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the death of oldies radio in both New York City and Chicago, when Infinity Broadcasting (now CBS Radio) switched two legendary stations to the “Jack-FM” format. New York is still without an oldies or country station on “regular” radio. Oddly enough, two oldies start with “The Third of June” as their opening lyric; “Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry in 1967 and “Desiree” by Neil Diamond in 1977. Spooky.


 * * * * 


Here’s a name you haven’t heard in a while — Crazy Al, the wacky ’50s-style DJ who once graced the airwaves of Oakland County on oldies/talk WPON-AM (1460). Broadcasting his daily show from high atop a high-rise in downtown Pontiac to the world over the Internet, this one-of-a-kind personality is now starting to land terrestrial radio affiliates. His first is WBCB in suburban Philadelphia’s Bucks County and Trenton, NJ. He also could wind up on oldies powerhouse WLNG-FM on Eastern Long Island. “Crazy Al’s Radio Party” can be heard at www.industrialinfo.com. Check it out mornings 6-11 a.m.


 * * * * 


Another name you may recall from the “glory days” of Detroit radio is Lee Alan, who recently relocated to Las Vegas. His superb program saluting the music of Frank Sinatra will start today on Sin City’s KJUL-FM. You can hear the program 8-10 p.m. online at www.kjul1047.com. Alan was a major radio star at WXYZ-AM (1270) in the early- to mid-’60s. In more recent years, his voice was heard on countless car dealer radio commercials.


 * * * * 


Unfinished business; Belated kudos to Deminski & Doyle, the afternoon duo on hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1). In a recent newspaper poll, they were voted Detroit’s No. 1 afternoon drive radio show. Who said a boy from St. Louis and a kid from New Jersey couldn’t make it in Motown?


 * * * * 


Quick hits: Fierce competitors news-talk WJR-AM (760) and all-news WWJ-AM (950) were on hand Friday, broadcasting live from the 2006 Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel. We are lucky to have two excellent information stations in this area ... At soft rock WMGC-FM (105.1), the fifth annual Women Who Make Magic awards banquet will be June 12 at Andiamo in Warren. This event benefits HAVEN, whose mission is to eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault throughout Oakland County and surrounding communities. Call (586) 268-3200 for tickets ... Rocker WRIF-FM (101.1) is zeroing in on HarleyFest, which will host a true bike-rstyle wedding for one lucky couple. The wedding day is set for June 17, and this promotion benefits the Karmanos Cancer Institute. Learn more at www.wrif.com ... Blues/jazz WGPR-FM (107.5) and mid-day host Maxine Michaels have parted ways due to what has been described as her inability to correctly execute the format. No official word yet on her replacement.


 * * * * 


Mitch albums used to be known as sing-a-longs, not as a writer or a broadcaster. This Mitch is a man named Miller and his music is featured 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5) with Tom Wilson’s “Somewhere in Time.”


 * * * * 


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

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, June 11, 2006

By: Mike Austerman


On The Radio

There’s been a revolution going on at classic Top 40 WOMC-FM (104.3) recently. Instead of making noise with a shocking format change that instantly alienates listeners — similar to what happened last year at former oldies outlets in New York and Chicago — WOMC has quietly broadened their playlist and managed to create a rejuvenated sound for itself while retaining its listeners.

I’m enjoying the shift in music that now includes a blend of 1960s classics — especially Motown and the Beatles — along with up-tempo hits from ’70s and early ’80s. Even Elvis still gets his spins on ’OMC, but instead of “Hound Dog”-era tunes, you’ll now hear the “Kentucky Rain” Presley.

“We see this is an evolution of a heritage radio station and have worked very hard to make that happen smoothly,” WOMC program director Steve Allan explained. “Our listeners have remained quite loyal to the Motor City’s 104.3 and we appreciate that.”

The updates are encouraging. Many times, it seems local programmers simply plug in the flavor-of-the-month that’s pushed by corporate-based managers. Instead, ’OMC’s changes are driven by Allan with an eye on what local listeners enjoy hearing. With the oldies format losing outlets in many other markets, ’OMC’s progression keeps a favorite station viable and focused on Detroit, even if it means fewer spins of songs from the late ’50s and ’60s. A stronger 104.3 ensures fans of legendary personalities Dick Purtan and Tom Ryan that their favorite drive-time hosts won’t be replaced by a computer anytime soon.

“I think WOMC’s musical evolution has added a certain freshness to our sound,” Allan continued. “We are playing a lot of songs that have never been aired on 104.3 and the feedback we are getting from our listeners has been overwhelmingly positive. Yes, we do think this has made WOMC a stronger station. We believe — and our market research supports — that this fresh music has made WOMC more appealing to a larger audience. Combine this with personalities like Dick Purtan plus the addition of Michigan football and we feel like WOMC is a radio station that Detroit will continue to embrace for many years to come.”


 * * * * 


On the flipside is the change that sports WXYT-AM (1270) just made. New to mornings is syndicated shock-jock duo Opie & Anthony, who are rapidly gaining affiliates across the country in one of those situations that smacks of corporate-pushed programming. With no more sports talk during the morning drive, former co-host John Lund was let go, while fellow co-host Scott Anderson was moved to 1-3 p.m., where he’s joined by newcomer Dan Wetzel.

The move is a head-scratcher; Jamie & Brady on sports WDFN-AM (1130) now have a virtual monopoly on morning sports gab, while O&A compete for the same audience that sister-station talk WKRK-FM (97.1) targets with “Rover’s Morning Glory.” That’s also the same group of listeners that rock WRIF’s (101.1) Drew & Mike have had a stranglehold on for years.

It seems that CBS Radio is caught between giving Rover a fair shot and, at the same time, pushing O&A into as many markets as possible. O&A fans are very loyal to the show and claim it’s one the funniest programs on the radio, which contrasts from the lack of any emotion from the few that listen to Rover locally.

So why didn’t they put O&A, this month’s flavor, on 97.1 and bump Rover to 1270 if they wanted both programs on in Detroit badly enough to disrupt the format of WXYT? O&A’s show doesn’t mesh well with the station’s all-sports lineup the rest of the day, and it especially seems to clash with the family-friendly playby-play of the Detroit Tigers.

For their part, the Tigers claim to be pleased that WXYT continues to be primarily focused on sports and concedes that the station makes their own programming decisions. The Tigers hope fans continue to tune in to the games, even with the change in mornings.

Interestingly, the deal that landed the Tigers and Red Wings on AM 1270 nearly six years ago runs out with the conclusion of the current baseball season, and one of the big provisions of that deal was that WXYT change its format to focus on sports talk. All this makes me wonder if more changes will be coming to either 1270 or 97.1 — or both — sooner rather than later and whether the Tigers and Red Wings might go shopping for a new home after this summer.


 * * * * 


Modern rock CIMX-FM (88.7) is turning 15 years old, and the station’s longevity will be celebrated at the huge 89X Birthday Bash on June 18 at the State Theatre, the Fox Theatre and the Woodward Outdoor Stage. Gary Graff’s Oakland Press column in Friday’s Marquee will have a rundown on some of the bands scheduled to appear.


 * * * * 


Set your dials: Heather Novak and Tom Wilson feature a battle of the bands between Glenn Miller Orchestra and Andrej Hermlin’s Swing Dance Orchestra on “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


 * * * * 


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

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, June 18, 2006

By: Art Vuolo


On The Radio

Each year, there are an amazing number of radio conventions covering most formats across the dial. For country broadcasters, it’s the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, offering unprecedented interaction with country music stars. The Radio & Records Talk Radio Seminar has provided many memorable moments and major star players. And each spring, the National Association of Broadcasters meets in Las Vegas, but with a heavy emphasis on all aspects of TV. Summer brings the second talk get-together at the New Media Seminar in New York. July spotlights The Conclave up in Minneapolis known as “The Learning Conference.” August features the Morning Show Boot Camp designed for DJs who wake you up each day. This year it’s in Chicago. The season wraps up in September with the NAB Radio Show; this year, it’s in Dallas, co-located with the Radio & Records Convention for a combination supershow. Toss in smaller meetings for alternative rock, Christian and Hispanic formats, and that adds up to a lot of hotel bills.

The New Media Seminar, presented by trade publication Talkers, was at a hotel overlooking Ground Zero in Manhattan, featuring a whirlwind schedule of sessions and talk radios biggest personalities. Sadly, again this year, Detroit was very poorly represented. One of the conference sessions was a real eye-opener regarding the enormous amount of competition facing radio. Radio’s biggest enemies are unquestionably the iPod and wireless Internet. In fact, the C. Crane Company has a new radio that tunes in stations that stream on the Internet without a computer. Some of the less optimistic feel radio is about to go “pop!” Actually, radio will simply re-adjust to the new technologies just as it always has.


 * * * * 


One of the real highlights of the New York trip was hanging out with the legendary Joey Reynolds from the WOR Radio Network. He’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and was the first to play “Sherry” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Oddly enough, he’s not recognized in the top Tony winning Broadway show “The Jersey Boys,” the story of Valli and his band. Although not carried on a local station, you can hear Reynolds midnights on www.wor710.com, and you also can order Joey’s hot new DVD at www.officialjoeyreynolds.com. It was radio that made the super groups national icons, and the DJs who played their music are owed gratitude for all they did, back when gut-feeling programmed the stations instead of a computer.

One of the hottest personalities on XM, Phlash Phelps on the ’60s oldies channel — who is as wacky on the air as Reynolds in his younger days — saw “The Jersey Boys” with Four Seasons producer Bob Crewe, who proclaimed him creative, funny and a sensational talent. Phelps is scheduled to appear at the GM display in Birmingham on Aug. 19 as part of this year’s Woodward Dream Cruise.


 * * * * 


From the “Strange but True” department, today XM is wrapping up four days of coverage of the U.S. Open Golf Tournament. Many find golf on TV boring, so how does it work on radio, where you can’t even look at the birdie?

Clear Channel Radio, the broadcaster that seems to own everything, is testing one-second commercials. Didn’t they try that with one-frame ads in movies about 30 years ago? Remember a split-second “Have a Coke”? Bob Dylan, who is now an XM DJ, had it right — these times, they are a changin’.


 * * * * 


Rick Gillette, a one-time programmer at the old Power 96 WHYT-FM (96.3) —now WDVD — is returning to the Midwest in a similar role at Chicago’s Kiss-FM WKSC-FM. Perhaps he could pick up some of the available jocks from what used to be The Drive WDTW-FM (106.7), maybe Chicago native Joe Thomas or Heather McGregor?


 * * * * 


Finally, kudos to KC, Ken Calvert of classic rock WCSXFM (94.7), as the “Casual One” gets honored by Catholic Social Services this Wednesday. Your old teachers at Brother Rice High School would be proud.


 * * * * 


And happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there.


 * * * * 


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

 

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, June 25, 2006

By: Mike Austerman


On The Radio

Now that summer is in full swing, many of our local radio stations are celebrating in similar ways — by either giving away gasoline or hosting golf outings. Among those giving away free fuel are sports WDFN-AM (1130), adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3), and classic rock WCSX-FM (94.7).

For the golfers, WDFN’s second annual $1 million golf scramble is tomorrow at Majestic Golf Course at Lake Walden in Hartland. The event’s highlight is a chance to knock in a hole-in-one to win a cool million bucks.

Dick Purtan of classic Top 40 WOMC-FM (104.3) presents his ninth annual outing at Oakland University on July 10 to benefit the Gail Purtan Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Then, country WYCD-FM (99.5) afternoon hosts Chuck Edwards and Linda Lee host their sixth annual St. Jude Golf Classic at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Macomb Township on July 17. WYCD’s event features a hole-in-one competition, silent auction, and appearances from stars of country music, with proceeds benefiting St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

And on July 23, news-talk WJR-AM (760) will once again attempt to set a world’s record for the fastest round of golf at northern Michigan’s Alpine course at Boyne Mountain. WJR is looking for volunteers to participate in the free event.

For details on all these events, visit each station’s Web site. Don’t know what they are? You can access a list of Detroit radio stations with links at www.michiguide.com/dials/detroit.html.


 * * * * 


The spring ratings period wrapped up earlier this week and we’ll know next month who the real winners and losers were when those numbers are released. In the meantime, the ratings trends for the month of May show that adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3) led the way among listeners age 12 and older, followed by a surging rock WRIF-FM (101.1), which will no doubt benefit from WDTW-FM’s (106.7) change from rock to country in May. Contemporary hits WKQI-FM (95.5), all-news WWJ-AM (950) and WYCD all finished in a tie for third place; in fact, the May trend showed that the stations in positions 2-8 were only separated by 0.4 of a rating share, which might make for a very interesting final spring report card.


 * * * * 


In recent weeks, a lot of the shine has come off the satellite radio industry. Several radio trade and business publications have been expressing concern about the long-term financial prospects for both XM and Sirius. The honeymoon is over, even with XM’s pending arrival of a channel featuring Oprah Winfrey and Howard Stern’s arrival at Sirius. Both companies have made statements that it might make sense for them to merge, but analysts are uncertain if the Federal Communications Commission would allow such a transaction to take place. Now it looks like the companies are backing off from preventing subscribers to own a radio that would be able to pick up channels from both services.

A company called Interoperable Technologies claimed to be working on such a radio with the support of both XM and Sirius, but the Web site stating such a device would be available later this year was removed this week. It’d make a lot of sense to give consumers as much flexibility as possible with this emerging technology. Anybody else remember when it was tough to get an FM radio in your car?


 * * * * 


Checking the mailbag, Shelly from Rochester inquires: “I have not been able to identify why I have not enjoyed (WJR’s) Mitch Albom’s shows in the past four to six months. Is it the new time slot? Has Kenny’s (Brown) participation changed? Is it because the woman has been given more time lately, yet they canned Rachel for what seems to be the same role? Is it Bruce who mostly says ‘Yep’ in agreement with Mitch? All equally annoying elements, but I’m not sure.

“Then tonight it hit me: Mitch’s endorsement of Toyota just rubs me the wrong way. Mitch is a Detroit guy, Detroit newspapers, Detroit television, Detroit author, Detroit celebrity, and although the rational part of me says Toyota is a terrific automaker, they are not Detroit. I find myself shutting him off after the first hour because I can’t take anymore! Is it me?”

What do you think? Do Detroit radio personalities violate the trust of listeners when they endorse products that aren’t totally Red, White, & Blue? Or it is just another sign of the times?


 * * * * 


Finally this week, a tip of the hat to the students and staff at Bloomfield Hills’ WBFH-FM (88.1). The station and its students won a total of 11 national and 42 state awards this past school year, setting a record for the station that surpassed the former record of six national and 35 state awards won last year. The 11 seniors on the radio staff graduated this month, having won a career total of 73 state broadcasting awards and nine national awards for a total of 82 awards. We’ll be looking forward to their contributions in the years to come.


 * * * * 


Set your Dials: “Somewhere in Time” looks at the music of Detroit’s Theodore Salavatore Fio Rito and his band at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).


 * * * * 


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

 

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the On The Radio Columns category from June 2006.

On The Radio Columns: May 2006 is the previous archive.

On The Radio Columns: July 2006 is the next archive.

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