On The Radio Columns: May 2008 Archives

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioWelcome and thanks for reading the first "independent" version of the On the Radio column. While Art Vuolo has not yet decided if he will continue his contributions, I will be publishing on Michiguide.com a similar type of news and views commentary as what has been published each week in the suburban Detroit Oakland Press for years- Art and I took over the piece from Rob Musial back in September 2001. One of the biggest differences you'll notice about this online-only version of On the Radio is that since the column isn't submitted to a professional editor, there will be more grammar and spelling errors. Also, look for things to become more focused on opinions instead of reporting radio news. And because there no longer is a midweek deadline, the item that is published on the web each Sunday will be timelier, especially when things happen on Thursday and Friday.

Art and I are appreciative of the support readers have given us the past week when Art's final column ran. We are both very disappointed that the paper decided to cancel us due to space and financial considerations. Just like how we've commented on what's happened in the radio biz, neither of us can understand how cutting back on local content can help a product that should be increasing its local content instead of getting rid of it. Why subscribe to a newspaper when the majority of what you receive is wire copy that can be read in a number of other places? Why advertise in the paper when the product has next to no personal connection to its customers?

What I'll miss most about having the columns printed in the Oakland Press is the legitimacy that comes with being published and paid by a well-known newspaper. The extra money was nice, but that wasn't the real reason I did it for just over 6 ½ years. It was just genuinely fun to do.

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One of the most difficult things to cover over the years has been ratings information. Because neither Art nor I are anywhere near what you'd call wealthy, we can't afford to subscribe to Arbitron to get a regular look at the important demographic breakdowns. Any analysis we might do has been totally at the mercy of what people that do subscribe are willing to share or by what's published in other places. And, it seems fewer and fewer people outside of the radio business really care all that much about the relatively minor swings that occur with each ratings book. Susan Whitall of the Detroit News and John Smyntek of the Free Press both do a fine job dissecting the numbers in their respective publications, especially when it comes to evaluating morning drive. Rehashing age 12+ numbers has become repetitive and probably pretty boring to read too.

As an admitted sports junkie though, I'm always interested in what the numbers look like for WDFN and WXYT. Overall, WXYT looks like they are successfully holding on to the new listeners they found by adding the FM 97.1 simulcast last year. That's especially true for afternoon drive hosts Mike Valenti and Terry Foster who reportedly scored nearly a 9 share in last week's winter ratings book and were number one among men age 25-54, the money demo for both 'DFN and the Ticket. They've built a very loyal following for themselves, no doubt because of their on-air product but also because of an Internet presence at www.sportsinferno.com. While WXYT management has banished nearly any kind of reference to the site on the air, tons of listeners still congregate there to talk sports, show their love for Mike and Terry, and generally just to be part of a community that joins together new media and traditional radio. The combination of a dynamic Internet meeting place and interesting radio equals success and is something radio managers should take note of.

 • • • • • • • • 

Interaction and fun is why I've become a religious listener to XM's 60's on 6 during Phlash Phelps' morning drive show. Nearly every day, Phelps serves up a fast-paced program that, when live, combines listener interaction with current events to make it feel every bit like a small-town local radio program instead of a nationwide satellite program. The features that get listeners involved are simple, from guessing the location of a daily featured city from clues given at about 8:20am, to trying to figure out the location of a photo that Phelps has taken of himself from various landmarks across the country on his MySpace page (www.myspace.com/phlashphelps). He also takes listener requests and generally just makes it sound like he's having fun every time he opens the mic.

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I was glad to read that WRIF morning host Mike Clark and former host Drew Lane didn't allow the official break-up of their hugely successful morning show to spin into a big scandal. While some initial miscommunication was all over the news, the guys quickly resolved things allowing each of them to explore the next steps in their careers without having to constantly deal with that issue. Probably one of the most interesting things to watch in Detroit radio the next year will be the development of 'Riffs "new" morning show. With Clark now fully stepping out of Lane's shadow, the pressure to keep the show at or near the top of the ratings and revenue chart is going to be high. Especially considering he and program director Doug Podell now have a new boss in John Gallagher, the former WJR sales manager who is taking over Tom Bender's old job as general manager of Greater Media's WRIF, WCSX, and WMGC. I'm guessing that if there is any kind of sustained weakness in the program, Podell and Gallagher won't hesitate to give Clark any help he might want or need- even if that means adding or subtracting co-hosts . Losing morning listeners is never a good thing for a station's overall health and nobody in town knows that better than Podell.

I'm also going to be real interested to see if Lane shows up locally doing an afternoon talk program. With Deminski and Doyle also being on the sidelines for now, that's a ton of compelling talk talent that would like to be on the air during similar timeslots on stations that right now probably offer a completely different format. If someone could find a morning show that could successfully get after WRIF's morning audience and figure out a way to get Lane along with Deminski and Doyle in the lineup, you'd have a very compelling competitor for male listeners. And a very interesting war for listeners between WRIF, WXYT, WDFN, and any newcomer to the party.

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Mike Austerman is the founder of Michiguide.com and covered radio for The Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioSo, here is my first on-line only On the Radio column, as Mike indicated last week please be forgiving when it comes to spelling and grammar. I am not smarter than a 5th grader. For as long as we can do this without compensation, we'll try to remain a part of your Sunday ritual.

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Death is one of things that I don't do well with, and the last 50 days have been unkind to the radio business. Things started to "go south" literally when legendary DJ Jack Armstrong died unexpectedly of a heart attack in North Carolina. Jack, 62, was the fast-talking DJ that XM's Terry "Motor Mouth" Young patterned himself after. Terry, you may recall, worked at the old WDFX-FM 99.5 The Fox (now WYCD) preceding Karen Delesandro. These days she's doing the morning show in Milwaukee on top-rated WMIL-FM (106.1). Next, as was covered in my last column in the newspaper, we lost WRIF Sales & Special Events Manager Bob Kozaitis in a terrible roadside accident. He was just 36. Then 2 weeks ago today, Big Ron O'Brien, only 56, died of pneumonia in a Philadelphia hospital. He had been the afternoon jock at Oldies 98.1 WOGL in the City of Brotherly Love. For those you with a vivid Detroit radio memory, Ron was known as "Biggie" O'Brien at the old WCAR-AM 1130 (now WDFN) when it tried to be a hit-music top 40 station in the early 1970's. A video tribute I produced is on YouTube: click here to view it. Then a week ago the Voice of America, Paul Harvey, lost his beloved wife Lynne "Angel" Harvey from leukemia at 92. Insiders are still wondering what Paul Harvey will do. Will he return to his daily news and commentary broadcasts or officially retire. His ABC Radio contract goes to 2010. I had the privilege of videotaping his last address to the radio industry at the R&R Talk Radio Seminar in the LA area back in 2003. My hope is that death can take a holiday and we don't lose any more radio friends for a while.

 • • • • • • • • 

Remember Chuck Swirsky? He was the unique voice in the WJR sports department back about a dozen years ago. He was also characterized by Dick Purtan's crew as "Chuck on a car phone." He came to Detroit from WLUP (The Loop) in Chicago. Chuck also did a stint on Chicago powerhouse WGN-AM (720). Well, now he's back in the Windy City after ten years of doing play-by-play for the Toronto Raptors, mostly on television. The Chicago Bulls basketball team lured him with an offer as their radio play-by-play voice. Radio announcer Neil Funk moves over to the team's television crew.

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Another name from the past is Tom Corbett, an Ann Arbor native who jumped many years ago from WAAM-AM (1600) to the news room at WJR-AM (760) and then over to WWJ-AM (950) until he left radio for the financial world in New York and now Chicago where he is a media analyst for Morningstar Financial, Inc.

Tom recently checked in to let me know that Mike and I shouldn't feel too badly about losing the newspaper column, since that industry, like so many, is facing hard times. The Oakland Press is owned by the Journal-Register Company, a publicly traded publisher that has hired an investment banking firm to help restructure the debt it incurred when buying a string of small dailies here in Michigan. With more and more people reading columns, like this, via the Internet, newspapers are trying to deal with the financial ramifications of this decline head-on, before it becomes a full-blown crisis, said analysts. "They see the iceberg ahead and they hired consultants to try to manipulate the rudder and change course before they hit it," said Corbett, an equity analyst who covers the media industry for Morningstar.

 • • • • • • • • 

XM Satellite Radio has hired a talk show host who once graced the airwaves of WXYT-AM (1270) back when it was a full-fledged talk station. He's Joe Madison, one of the brightest and best such hosts covering issues of the African-American community. The talk radio star and renowned social activist has joined XM Satellite Radio. Beginning Monday, June 2, Madison, also known as "The Black Eagle," will broadcast live each weekday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. ET from XM's Washington, D.C. studios on The Power (XM Channel 169), the only national radio channel exclusively dedicated to African-American talk programming.

Madison joins the XM in-house programming team after a 10-year run with D.C.'s WOL-AM, where his popular morning show has been simulcast on The Power since XM's launch in the fall of 2001. Named one of Talkers Magazine's Heavy 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts nine times and widely regarded as the nation's leading African-American activist talk radio host, Madison uses his microphone to bring attention to social injustices here and abroad while challenging listeners to take action. Madison has done well since leaving the Motor City.

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Michigan Radio, the public radio service of the University of Michigan, and the Ann Arbor District Library are honored to host an evening with journalist Cokie Roberts as she discusses her new book Ladies of Liberty: Women Who Shaped Our Nation on Monday, May 19 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. The event, which will include a book signing, will be held at The Michigan Theater, 603 East Liberty in Ann Arbor. Admission to the event is free. On a personal note, I had the opportunity of videotaping Cokie Roberts about 9 years ago has she conducted a one-on-one interview with Don Imus at a talk radio conference. She is among the best in the business. Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor operates NPR affiliate WUOM-FM (91.7) along with WVGR-FM (104.1) in Grand Rapids and WFUM-FM (91.1) in Flint.

 • • • • • • • • 

Those friends who have checked out the Internet station of one-time Detroit DJ Rich "Brother" Robbin at W4 in the early 70's, have flipped out over the variety of oldies he features 24/7 at www.richbroradio.com. Two songs that I heard flung me back to my high school days in the mid-1960's, were; "Funny Man" by Ray Stevens and "That Stranger Used to Be My Girl" by Trade Martin. Internet radio, as I've indicated before, could be yet another threat to regular radio.

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With the economy in rough shape these days and jobs, especially in the radio business, at a premium, great gigs are hard to come by, but if you're a Canadian or just want to work across the boarder in Canada's largest city, read on. Pat Holiday, the one-time Big 8 jock at CKLW in the station's glory days, who also worked at WNIC-FM (100.3) in the mid-1980's, is now the General Manager of CFRB-AM (1010) in Toronto. He has a rare opening for a program director at their AC formatted FM station. Details can be found at www.999mixfm.com/dreamjob/.

 • • • • • • • • 

Your most humble radio reporter has been invited to a couple of significant radio events over the course of the next couple of days. CBS Radio in Detroit is hosting a special reception that will feature radio division president Dan Mason and hopes to illustrate for the advertising community the power and effectiveness of radio. It should be interesting. I'll be listening and taking notes.

On Tuesday evening, the 13th, the Detroit Historical Museum will be hosting Detroit's Classic Radio Voices. Those being honored include: Bob Allison, Sonny Eliot, Ernie Harwell, Dick Purtan, J.P. McCarthy, and Martha Jean "The Queen" Steinberg. Sadly we lost J. P. back on August 16, 1995 and Martha Jean died on January 31, 2000. I'm sincerely looking forward to this event which should be one to remember.

 • • • • • • • • 

We used to close most of our newspaper column's with a plug for Tom Wilson and his popular "Somewhere in Time" program. So, our on-line version should be no different. Hear the music of Tommy Dorsey from Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford and others at 6 pm Sunday night on WMUZ-FM (103.5) and on WRDT-AM (560).

 • • • • • • • • 

Be sure to let your family and friends know that although the On the Radio column is gone from the printed newspaper, it remains available (at no charge) each Sunday here on Michiguide.com.

Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com. Contact him at artvuolo@aol.com.

 

By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioWhere's the buzz? There certainly hasn't been any about local radio in recent weeks. The biggest recent attention-drawing event unquestionably was the WYCD-sponsored Downtown Hoedown. I got a kick out of seeing the WYCD logo being used during Channel 4's weather forecasts - it was a great tie-in.

I don't know if it's because of reduced budgets or if it's because of all the backlash in recent years over controversial content, but something is most definitely "missing". Station logos used to be easy to find - either on bumper stickers, t-shirts, or just on TV commercials. And just look at last week's Detroit newspapers, there was hardly a word written about radio, short of a live appearance by Steve Harvey at Cobo.

It was only mildly surprising to read about the WDVD 'Cares for Kids' 13-hour radiothon in the trades. They raised $122,000 for a great cause, but didn't get even one inch of ink beforehand in the papers or here on Michiguide.com. I bet there would have been a lot of parents that don't usually tune in to 96.3 that would have done so if they had known this event was taking place. How much does it cost to send an e-mail out a week in advance to help generate at least a little extra coverage that might reach potential listeners?

 • • • • • • • • 

One of the newest ways stations have tried to reach out to a new generation of listeners is to publish podcasts, either on station web sites or by publishing them on services like iTunes. Only trouble is, the effort is sometimes half-hearted, at best. For instance, check out the listings for WCSX's JJ & Lynne. They seem to have given up on the effort in 2007, yet old podcasts remain- maybe as kind of as a reminder that it's not being done any longer. Content from huge morning names like Dick Purtan, Jim Harper, and John Mason is nowhere to be found on iTunes.

WXYT and WDFN personalities are much better at providing iTunes podcasts. You can check out recent segments from DFN's Jamie Samuelson (but they might want to take Greg Brady's photo off there), Sean Baligian, and Stony and Wojo. The Ticket's Karsch and Anderson and Valenti and Foster also post some of their more interesting segments for on-demand download. A note for WDFN though- please start using the 'Release Date' field... it makes it much easier to find the newest content. Also, why isn't WXYT's Jay Towers, Bill McAllister, and Sara on there? The newest morning show in town should be doing all it can to grab as many ears as it can.

WJR has perhaps embraced using iTunes to distribute some of its programming better than anyone else locally. You can grab a ton of content from Paul W. Smith, Frank Beckmann, Mitch Albom, and Lloyd Jackson very easily. It's all labeled, dated correctly and easy to find. AM rival WWJ is no slouch either, offering specialty features like John McElroy's Automotive Insight, Jeff Gilbert's Worldwide Automotive Report, and Matt Roush's Great Lakes IT Report in addition to capturing some of the station's more interesting daily interviews and local discussions. Interesting how the 'old folks' stations are doing as good a job as anyone else in town embracing new technology.

Other iTunes podcasters I have found include Channel 95-5's Mojo in the Morning, 106.7. The Fox's Chad Show (again guys, add that release date field), and from WRIF, Peter Werbe's Nightcall program and Trudi Daniel's take on the news. The easiest way to find these things is by using the station's call letters in the iTunes Store search function. Then subscribe and you'll always have quick access via your computer even if you don't own an iPod. Another option is to visit stations' individual web sites where there is often even more content available for download without using iTunes.

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Hearing that CBS is purchasing CNET for $1.8 billion is interesting. Coupled with the company's new marriage with AOL for online radio, it appears that CBS is very serious about embracing the Internet as a way to help build its business. While CNET and its sister web sites certainly are no longer considered revolutionary, coupled together with its other web properties, TV and cable networks, and radio one can see that CBS is serious about finding a way to keep itself relevant as the media world continues to morph away from rigid programming routines into becoming more and more on-demand. The next logical steps for CBS are to embrace a social networking platform and to maybe purchase a big time online advertising company. At least they are making moves in an attempt to stay relevant.

 • • • • • • • • 

If you're up early enough, head out to the Detroit Zoo this morning to join Ernie Harwell and WJR's Paul W. Smith who are scheduled to appear at the 12th annual Detroit Zoo Kidney Walk. Registration begins at 8 am with the 1.5 mile walk scheduled for 9 am. More info at www.kidneywalk.org.

 • • • • • • • • 

Ann Arbor's 107one is continuing its partnership with the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, which this year runs from June 13 through July 6. For the third year in a row, the station will collaborate with the festival to present three nights of national talent as part of Top of the Park, the festival's free outdoor concert series. This year's lineup will feature The Terraplanes and The Ragbirds on Monday, June 16, The Mason Jennings Band and Money Mark on Friday, June 20th and Serena Ryder and Bump on Friday, June 27. Activities take place at Ingalls Mall, located directly in front of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, on Washington Street near the Burton Memorial Tower. Top of the Park opens nightly at 6:30 p.m.; music begins at 7:00 p.m.

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Set your dial: WDET's Ed Love presents "Billie Holiday...The Final Years" this evening at 8 pm during his Evolution of Jazz program.

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Columnist Mike Austerman covered radio for the Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008 and can be reached by completing this form.

 

By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioIt's the gateway to the summertime, Memorial Day weekend. Please remember while downing the brats and the beer what Memorial Day really means. Fly your flag and pause to reflect. Radio-activity, as Mike stated last week, has been amazingly slow for this time of the year.

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One of the traditions in my personal life, since I grew up in Indianapolis, it to head down to the Indy 500, which is held only a couple of miles from our former house in The Circle City. This year, as in past, XM Satellite Radio is sponsoring female driving whiz Danica Patrick's car, and this year the race will air on XM Channel 144. Locally the race will be heard on WRIF-FM (101.1) Sunday afternoon.

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For several months now, I have wanted to say something about radio legend and the news and commentary Voice of America Paul Harvey. There was never enough room in the printed newspaper column we had, but now, former INSIDE RADIO editor, Jerry del Colliano, has said it all. He has given me permission to share part of his essay on the subject. He said:

Look, I know Paul Harvey is old. He is a remarkable throwback to another generation - a style still appreciated today on many stations but out of sync with new age talk programming. In Cincinnati, 700 WLW reluctantly opted to drop Harvey for similar reasons. The man is an icon - still gets consistent ratings and still earns Citadel - the company that bought but has since shamed ABC Radio - lots of money. Paul Harvey's contract is up soon and he had previously let it be known that he is not ready to hang up his microphone. Citadel apparently does nothing to re-sign him.

Harvey's wife of many, many years (and one-time contributor to his shows), Angel, died of leukemia in the past month. Citadel does nothing to re-sign him - a comforting and appropriate gesture he has earned. Is that going to break the bank? But Citadel CEO Farid Suleman doesn't have stars in his eyes. He sees only dollar signs. What could he save if Harvey wasn't replaced? Don't think that hasn't occurred to this boy wonder.

ABC took care of Paul Harvey and in fact spent the last 20 or more years trying to find a suitable replacement for him when the inevitable day finally arrived. They couldn't find the next Paul Harvey. Even Harvey's son, Paul, Jr., knows he's not his dad - although an able newsman and outstanding writer. The Paul Harvey tragedy is symptomatic of how FaGreed Suleman is gutting Citadel like a dead fish.

Learn from Paul Harvey when he closes each show in his inimitable way - "Paul Harvey (big pause) - Good Day! (with his voice rising at the end). Make your sign off: Farid Suleman (short pause), Good Bye!

Read the entire piece at www.insidemusicmedia.com from 5-20-08.

What has me concerned is that Citadel now owns our own WJR-AM (760) along with FM stations; WDRQ (Doug FM 93.1) and WDVD-FM (96.3). One can only imagine what additional budget cuts might do to any of these stations. Doug is OK, because it's basically a music machine that cranks out their "we play everything" menu from a computer hard drive, but WDVD is finally making noise and getting noticed. The morning show with Blaine, Lisa and Allyson is pulling in some impressive numbers, but all this "content" costs money. You need to spend it to make it, but some management types are very tight with the purse strings.

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Last March over in Grand Rapids at the MAB Great Lakes Broadcast Expo, I met Citadel boss Matt Hanlon . Seemed like a nice man. He's very focused and intense, but well-liked by his west Michigan employees. Rumors flew when Citadel bought ABC that Hanlon was going to displace Mike Fezzey, president and general manager of WJR. Not true, but the reports were circulating. Radio people seemingly love to spread rumors and speculate on what the future holds.

We radio reporters would never stoop to that level.

 • • • • • • • • 

Nearly ten years ago when I was interviewed by leading trade publication Radio & Records I stated that what's wrong with the radio business is that there's TOO much business and NOT enough radio. Sadly those words have as much credence, if not more, today than they ever did.

 • • • • • • • • 

About two weeks ago CBS Radio president Dan Mason was in town and hosted an eye-opening presentation in Southfield at Arturo's Restaurant. It was followed by the brilliant stand-up comedy of South Lyon, MI native and EMU grad, John Hefron. You may recall when John was doing schtick on WKQI's morning show in the days of both Danny Bonaduce and Steve Cochran. The musical entertainment was provided by country super star Gretchen Wilson who stayed over from the WYCD Downtown Hoedown.

The presentation, geared mostly to the local advertising community, explained how radio is still very viable, surviving movies, television, records, tapes, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD's, the iPod and satellite radio. Mason sang the praises of local radio and how CBS does not necessarily own all the great ones. He cited Citadel's WJR and Clear Channel's WJLB. A very classy move indeed. CBS Director of Digital Technology, David Goodman, spoke about the things that make up radio's DNA: the wireless, communities, personalities and content. Of all the new things, Internet Radio is growing the fastest.

Interestingly there was NO mention the entire evening of HD (high-definition) Radio.

Also, noteworthy was the fact that not once was WXYT-AM (1270) mentioned or referred to. Only WXYT-FM (97.1) known as The Ticket was acknowledged. We can only guess what might happen to the AM side in the not too distant future.

It was emphasized that stations need to pay close attention to their web site, which can offer ways to buy music, link to other sites and operate in ways similar to Facebook. Internet radio with CBS even brought back New York City's famous WNEW-FM, a rock radio institution. CBS spokesman Michael Weiss indicated that the company's business was up 29% due to their bringing back popular formats at several stations in New York and Pittsburgh among others. America On Line, (AOL) recently ended their association with XM Radio and aligned themselves with CBS.

 • • • • • • • • 

Radio-Geek Alert. For those who love the way it was, you'll want to tune to WABC in New York or WLS in Chicago on Monday the 26th. Both stations will be doing special retrospectives. In the Big Apple WABC will feature loads of airchecks from their "glory days" as Music Radio 77, and a special Don Imus segment while at WNBC, since the I-Man now works for WABC. You can tune in via www.wabcradio.com. In Chicago, you can hear the real thing as WLS brings back many of the greatest jocks to ever grace the airwaves of the Big 89 across the Midwest. The line-up on Monday will be: Chuck Knapp, Larry Lujack & Tommy Edwards, Fred Winston, Bill Bailey, John Records Landecker, and Jeff Davis! Bill Bailey is going to Chicago from WLHT in Grand Rapids and he is the same Bill Bailey who once worked at WDRQ in its early top 40 days. Landecker is actually an Ann Arbor native, who is legendary in The Windy City. The Big 89 Rewind can be heard right on your radio at 890 AM if you're over on the west side of the state, or clear as bell on-line via www.wlsam.com. It should be tons of fun and very entertaining.

 • • • • • • • • 

Somewhere in time has the music of Harry James with Tom Wilson at 6 p.m. Sunday the 25th on WMUZ-FM (103.5) and over WRDT-AM (560). Drive safely this long holiday weekend and keep the radio on.

 • • • • • • • • 

Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com. Contact him at artvuolo@aol.com.

 

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the On The Radio Columns category from May 2008.

On The Radio Columns: April 2008 is the previous archive.

On The Radio Columns: June 2008 is the next archive.

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