By: Art Vuolo
The year 2007 was one of the most tumultuous ever in the history of Detroit area radio. Sadly, we said goodbye to former J.P. McCarthy producer Hal Youngblood, along with Jim Davis, Marv Welch and out in Ann Arbor, Mr. Talk Radio, Ted Heusel.
Almost back to back were the double losses of Paul Christy of WNIC (100.3 FM) and WYUR (AM 1310), plus the untimely death of traffic reporter and WMUZ-FM (103.5) morning co-host Rhonda Hart.
Our very first helicopter traffic reporter Barney Stutesman of WXYZ flew over the rainbow, and we said farewell to Dr. Wendell Cox, who co-founded WCHB-AM and created Bell Broadcasting Co. with Dr. Haley Bell. Jim Harper’s longtime producer Mike Bradley lost his mom, and Paul W. Smith lost his dad, William D. Smith, but it was great to hear his recording of “A Letter to a Friend” which is also available on the web site www.wjr.com. The memorable Gregg Henson’s father died shortly after his mother. Gregg is currently in Austin, Texas.
• • • • • • • •Many of our friends had their voices removed from the local airwaves, either by moving on, or in most cases not being renewed, or being let go by their respective stations. Names now missing include Michelle McKormick at 97.1 FM, along with Johnny Dee and Shila Nathan, followed two weeks ago by Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle. Johnny Williams left Magic 105.1, Dana Masucci departed the midday slot at WOMC (104.3 FM), only to be followed a few months later by Tom Ryan and Mindy Markowitz, which really upset a lot of listeners, including me. Before that Ryan was told to talk less and play the oldies. We waved goodbye to Opie (Gregg Hughes) and Anthony (Cumia), who never really took root in Detroit, along with syndicated sports guys “Mike and Mike” at WXYT. Grad Brady and Matt Shepard are among the more recently departed, and the familiar voice of David Hall at Rock Financial is now just a memory.
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This past year started off with marathon shifts by Jay Towers and Bill McAllister at (what was then) Live 97.1 Free FM. Now they’re back but with more respectable hours. There was a huge push for HD Radio at the North American International Auto Show, and the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings joined the Lions on FM. Could the Pistons be jealous as the only local professional sport left on AM? Sports fans were also disappointed to hear Rob Parker of “Parker and the Man” ousted from FM and have to search for a new home, which they finally did at WCHB-AM (1200) complete with No. 1 sub Bernie Fratto.
A woman died in Sacramento, Calif., at a radio contest gone horribly wrong, and stations around here did a lot of rethinking about such promotional escapades. John Mason came back to the airwaves for at least a little while at WGPR-FM (107.5), and Steve Schram, enjoying greater stability at public radio in Ann Arbor, put up a higher tower for WVGR-FM (104.1) over in Grand Rapids. At country WYCD-FM (99.5), Ron Chatman was bumped up to director of digital technology but was gone by the middle of August. WJEW debuted at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield Township, as the brainchild of Corey Berkowitz, and is still alive and kicking at www.wjew.net.
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Oakland County continues to be generous as area stations sponsor a plethora of fund-raisers like WWJ’s Winter Survival for T.H.A.W.; WMCG’s Toys for Tots campaign; WYCD’s St. Jude’s Leukemia Drive, topping $572,000; and WOMC’s Dick Purtan Salvation Army Radiothon, which raised a staggering $2.4 million.
WBFH-FM (88.1) at Andover High School continued to win awards, and Dennis Miller’s new radio show began on WDTK-AM (1400). Home improvement hero Murray Gula found a new home at sports WDFN-AM (1130) but was sidelined for about seven weeks with a five-way bypass surgery. WNIC’s Kevin O’Neill (not to be outdone by Gula) also had a five-way heart surgery that had him off the air for nearly two months.
Newsman Bob Schuman left WYCD for Jacksonville, WOMC returned to the moniker “Oldies 104.3” and Mojo producer at Channel 955, Chad Mitchell, took over the morning show on The Fox country WDTW-FM (106.7). Now, we’re perplexed by the exit of Sara Hudgins from Mojo’s show.
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We watched as the Federal Communications Commission finally approved a multibillion-dollar sale of ABC Radio to Citadel Communications. Yours truly wound up in a New York area hospital for a few days, and Mr. Positive segued from WKQI over to WRIFFM (101.1.). WJR celebrated 85 years in May, and WWJ hit 87 in August. Matt Drudge walked away from radio, and Ford Motor Co. embraced HD Radio. Adam Helfman drifted from CBS Radio to Greater Media, as rumors circulated about WRIF’s Drew Lane writing a new book and being AWOL.
“Deminski and Doyle” shifted from afternoons to mornings at WXYT-FM and then out the back door. Don Imus returned to radio but not in Detroit, the Millennials born between 1980 to 1995 don’t come to radio for music anymore and FCC rules on newspaper and radio-TV cross-ownership were relaxed by Commissioner Kevin Martin, not Murphy as reported here a week ago. It’s just that Kevin Murphy, recently made CBS market manager for Detroit, has been in the news so much.
• • • • • • • •Finally, we end this crazy year in radio with something truly fun. Tomorrow, 6 p.m. until just past midnight, the legendary Lee Alan will be on The Horn at WOMC ringing in 2008 with an in-studio party not to be missed.
Happy New Year!
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Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, December 30, 2007