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Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

VuoloIt's been almost a month since I was lucky enough to attend The Radio Show which is present by the RAB and NAB (Radio Advertising Bureau and National Association of Broadcasters) and I've been anxious to report back to you about what I saw, heard and experienced ever since.

Attendance, according to the powers to be, was flat or slightly above 2013. It was the first radio convention of this sort which was actually held at a convention center rather than a hotel. The site was Indianapolis, and the Indiana Convention Center. Indy is a very misunderstood city. It is no longer a cow town with a race track. Radio broadcasters now know this, and my guess is that about half of the attendees had never been to The Circle City before. I found out that the primary reason for this destination was that this year marked the 25th anniversary of the Marconi Awards, which is radio's Emmy or Oscars. The man who originally suggested that radio deserved an awards ceremony is Jeff Smulyan, CEO of Emmis Communications, an Indianapolis-based media company. Makes sense.

Several SE Michigan stations and personalities were nominated, including: Jim (JJ) Johnson of WOMC, Dr. Don with Rachael & Grunwald from WYCD, WSPD at Plymouth-Salem High School, WLEN in Adrian, and WXYT-FM Detroit (in two categories) but sadly NONE of them walked away with an award. One of biggest disappointments of the this first class event was that Indianapolis-based Bob & Tom lost out to Rush Limbaugh for Network and Syndicated Personality of the Year...like he needed another award. Bob & Tom were also the only nominees in that category who were actually in the room, and they had to do a morning radio show the next day! Interestingly, those guys actually met at an establishment known as The Bar Harbor up in Harbor Springs, MI.

The big surprise at the 2014 Radio Show was the element of honesty. Usually we hear about how 94% of people listen to radio every day and things are peachy-keen and these are the best of times, etc. This year a riveting keynote by advertising luminary Bob Hoffman of the Type A Group told a packed house that radio needs to stop ignoring the fastest growing demographic, those over 50. Sound familiar? I've also been preaching this for years and often in this column.

The 50+ crowd has the money, and most importantly, has the time to spend it. Radio has to end all of the B.S. and he used the actually word repeatedly. It was a real wake-up call...and it was honest, truthful and needed to be said.

The next morning Marci Ryvicker of Wells Fargo Securities outlined the business forecast for radio and she minced no words in telling the truth. Changes need to be made or the next generation will not even know what radio is. AM radio is already unknown to most of those under 35, and FM is now being challenged by Internet radio, satellite radio and any number of electronic devices cutting a slice into the media pie. Alan Mullaly & Art VuoloA personal high point for me was getting to meet former Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mullally. He was interviewed at the convention by ABC newsman Dan Harris.

 

Michigan Wolverines fans, don't forget that it is now safe to once again bring your small portable AM/FM radio into The Big House. The university has struck a deal with Ann Arbor's 10,000 watt local station WTKA-AM (1050) to run the games without that annoying 7 to 10 second delay. Spread the word to those who sit in the stadium that you can now hear Brandstatter and Dierdorf with perfect sync to the action on the field.

Speaking of action on the field, have you ever seen a media circus and feeding frenzy like what television has managed to create over the scandal in Ann Arbor? Mitch Albom said it best on WJR, "If this game had been broadcast only on radio it would be a non-issue."

My estimate is that the hit on Michigan quarterback Shane Morris has been played in excess of 100 times just on TV alone. The tube has a real talent for being able to create its own news and insight a riot as evidenced by the throngs of students who marched to the newly appointed president of the U of M's house. The only thing missing were the pitchforks and torches. They were demanding the firing of Athletic Director Dave Brandon. I don't know about you, but personally I've seen much harder hits during the 35 years that I have been covering Michigan football. Could the lack of game victories be at the root of all this?

While on the topic of the Maize and Blue, the Rutgers game from New Jersey Saturday night on 10-4 (good buddy) will run on 97.1 FM The Ticket as well as WWJ-AM (950) since the Tigers will not be playing on that day. Depending on how the baseball playoffs go, the following week, on October 11th, the Penn State night game in Ann Arbor could also be on 97.1 FM. WWJ at night in Ann Arbor is almost unlistenable and WTKA drops down to just 500 watts! Reports say that WWWW-FM at 102.9 FM in Ann Arbor will also have the game on the static-free band.

 

Is it just me or are the commercials before and after the traffic reports on WJR longer than the actual traffic reports? Plus the other day I heard Mitzi Miles doing traffic. Add in Kevin O'Neill, Mark Mitchell and others and you've got a plethora of great personalities just doing traffic reports.

 

The DASH Conference is coming to town by mid-October with the latest reports on "The Connected Car" and the new look to vehicle dashboards. I hope to be there and report back to you all of the insightful developments coming into our cars!

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

On Monday, August 25th I had a chance to visit Mackinac Island for the first time in my life! It has been on my "bucket list" for a while. I mean, c'mon, I've lived in Michigan since 1962 and have never seen, nor set foot on, one of our state's most popular tourist attractions. Oh sure, I've sampled the fudge. We've all been drawn to the Ryba's booth locations at the International Auto Show down at the Cobo Center, but I needed to truly experience the real thing.

So, when it was announced that the 65th Anniversary Summer Celebration of the M.A.B. (Michigan Association of Broadcasters) would be held on the island, I knew it would be my opportunity to step on the island and enter the Grand Hotel for the first time. I figured out the hotel got its name when I checked the room rates. Wow! It was slightly higher than Motel 6.

Jim Bandstatter (l) and George Blaha (r)On the evening of August 26th, at a spectacular dinner, many names you know were inducted into the MAB Hall of Fame. Both George Blaha and Jim Brandstatter were to be honored in a room filled with distinguished guests including: Sen. Carl Levin, Congressman John Dingell and longtime Attorney General Frank Kelly among others. Blaha is the legendary voice of Michigan State football and Detroit Pistons basketball. Brandstatter is the new play-by-play voice of Michigan football, teamed with the renowned Dan Dierdorf. Jim is also the color analyst for Detroit Lions football.

Other honorees that night included Susan Goldsen, co-owner of WKHM AM & FM in Jackson, Mario Iacobelli, President & CEO of WWUP and WWTV 9&10 in Northern Michigan, and Eric L. Smith of WNMU Public Radio at Northern Michigan University.

Shaky, hand-held video shot by yours truly is available on YouTube. George Blaha is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9-U-K0O4gY and the YouTube link to Jim Brandstatter is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovXdOd6Pxms. The video is marginal, but the audio is good.

Speaking of Robbie Timmons' husband, Jim Brandstatter debuted with his new partner, Dan Dierdorf, as the new voice of Michigan football on Saturday August 30, 2014 as the Wolverines pounded Appalachian State 52 to 14. George called an equally easy romp by the MSU Spartans over Jacksonville State 45 to 7.

Jim and Dan have known each other since they were team-mates on the UM squad back in 1969-1970. They have been close friends for all these years and it showed by what came out of the speaker on their inaugural broadcast. They seem to have a magical chemistry. At times I felt like we were listening to a couple frat brothers swapping stories and kidding around with each other. The presentation is warm and friendly, but when Michigan scores, the man formerly known as "Brando," does not hold back with his enthusiastic response!

For fans going to The Big House, you can now take your small portable radio with ear buds or headphones, because finally you can hear the game without delay! All-Sports WTKA-AM (1050) in Ann Arbor, with a 10,000 watt signal, now offers the game in real-time without the annoying 7 or 10 second delay. Thanks to Cumulus Media and IMG Sports with a nudge from the UM Athletic Department for making this happen.

As an archivist of U-M football since 1969, I was honored to be in the booth as Jim and Dan cracked the mic. for the first time together. Video of that initial broadcast (edited down to under five minutes) is also available on YouTube. It even features the editor and founder of michiguide.com, Mike Austerman. The link is: www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZoBofhDroY

SmithVuoloNext week the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) will hold their annual Radio Show conference in The Circle City of Indianapolis. Gordon Smith, who is the CEO & President of the NAB, was up at the Mackinac Island gathering and I had my picture taken with him. It will be interesting to see and hear what the mood of the convention will be and how they paint the picture of radio's future for the balance of this decade as the medium gets ready to celebrate its 100th birthday on November 2, 2020. I will be in Indy to take the temperature of the industry. My report will be honest. Meanwhile, stay tuned.

 

Photo credit of Jim Brandstatter and George Blaha to Robert Benko

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

Phlash Phelps, one of radio's most creative personalities - who kept getting fired for his on-air antics and burned through 17 jobs before landing at XM on August 21, 2000 - is celebrating 14 years at the sat-caster.

Former Governor Dirk Kempthrone of Idaho, who was also once Mayor of Boise and Secretary of the Interior during the Bush 43 years, is a big fan of the morning host on Sirius XM's Sixties on 6 channel. To honor Phelps, he is having an American flag flown over the Capitol dome to mark the event. The flag will then be presented to Phelps as a special keepsake!

VuoloPhelps was hired even before the official launch of XM on September 21, 2001 by Dave Logan and Lee Abrams who were searching for a wacky DJ (like they were in the 60's) for mornings. The original sign-on date was planned for September 12, 2001, but because of the tragic events of September 11th was delayed by ten days. I had video (imagine that) of Phlash at WKMZ in Martinsburg, WV and from B-106 in Fort Wayne, IN. When Logan and Abrams viewed it, they exclaimed "Oh my God!", not knowing anyone like that still existed. He was hired on the spot.

It's nice to know that entertainment is still a viable commodity on the radio, even if you sometimes have to pay for it.

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

VuoloRemember those commercials that used to pepper the radio air-waves? You know, the one's that started out with the line "people judge you by the way you speak." Well, these days that's truer than ever. Just ask Paula Dean. Remember all the flack about her use of the N-word some thirty years ago...in private? Do you recall all of the sponsors and endorsements she lost over that? The media often eats its young and can be savage. However, most people have short memories and once you drop off the headlines, few people remember.

About a year ago I was often touting the brilliant on-air rants of Darryl Parks, who was VP of Talk Programming for the mighty behemoth Clear Channel Media & Entertainment. Along with his executive duties, Parks enjoyed writing his blog on the stations web site and hosting a two hour Saturday morning show on the mother-ship 700 WLW down in Cincinnati.

At the big radio convention in Orlando last September, the industry was buzzing about the new AM revitalization plan designed to help struggling AM stations. A great number of people felt the program that was being put forth was ineffective and somewhat of "a joke." Personally, I felt that at least they were trying to help. In Mr. Park's analysis he called it "a giant circle jerk." He probably was right in the minds of a lot of radio people. The problem was "he said it in print." It is OK to feel a certain way, but when you print it or vocalize it, the temperature goes from tepid to HOT. There are no First Amendment protections when you represent a huge publicly traded company, especially when it owns more stations than any other in America. Darryl Parks paid the price. He lost his executive position and his radio program. Yup, he lost his job for saying what a lot of his contemporaries were probably thinking.

There are countless such situations within the radio and television business and lots of such examples have unfolded right here in the Detroit area. I will address them in a future column.

Sadly, within the last few weeks we have lost a number of notable members of the local media scene. Among those who have passed away are WDIV Local 4's reporter Jennifer Moore and WJBK Fox 2's Woody Willis.

Then there are the dearly departed who are still very much alive, but absent from or ears and eyes for any number of reasons. TV weather guy Dave Rexroth may not be back in front of Channel 7 cameras before September, at the earliest, due to his left eye injury.

Alan Lee at Fox 2 is stepping away after 18 years of early morning wake-up calls. After twenty years at WCRZ (107.9 FM) Carz 108 in Flint, morning host Rod Pahrain is out of a job. His last appearance on the Detroit dial was way back when WABX (on 99.5 FM) was trying out top 40 hits. Even the building, at 8 Mile and Coolidge, that 'ABX was in back then, is gone! After only a couple of years, Cumulus has transferred WJR programmer Kevin Metheny out to San Francisco to help restore KGO and KSFO to their "glory days." Good luck. Then the Fisher Building felt another rumble as, Scott Meier, the top man for Cumulus Media in Michigan was spotted at the elevator leaving the building for good. What is happening? Somebody cue up the top instrumental from 1961, "The Theme from Exodus." This is nuts. Who's running the store? Who's guiding the ship?

In the last few years we have seen a plethora of top name talent exit the airwaves and many have gone off into the sunset under the guise of "retirement." Trust me, hardly anyone can even afford to retire anymore. What's far more often the truth is broadcasting companies simply don't want to pay the large dollars that big name talent commands.

Should you need a reminder, the roster of top-rated personalities who have left the radio dial in the last five years include: Dick Purtan, Jim Harper, Drew & Mike (although Drew did return to ESPN 105.1 FM), Ken Calvert, Steve Costan, Chris Edmonds, Murray Gula, and Frank Beckmann (on U-M football games). The TV exit door was even more jammed with the likes of: Diana Lewis, Eric Smith, Don Shane, Cheryl Chodin, Robbie Timmons, Jerry Hodak and soon to leave Chuck Gaidica. Now, many of these people said that they were "retiring," but if the truth be told, not very many people really WANT to retire. More often than not, they were simply making too much money. How many times have I said it? It's almost always about the money.

The listeners and viewers hate change. We are all creatures of habit and don't like being moved out of our "comfort zone." All I can hope for is that some of the new people who have replaced or succeeded many of our favorites will do a good job and become embraced by the audience. It's all we can hope for. And, by the way, can someone teach TV people how to properly pronounce the letter "W"? If you're going to work on this side of the Mississippi River it's kind of a prerequisite. As an example, I hope the executives at Cumulus Media in Atlanta are smart enough to hire a new program director for WJR who is from Detroit, or loves Detroit and/or knows Detroit. If they import someone from the west coast who doesn't know what pop is, or how to pronounce Lake Orion or who truly believes Detroit can come back without changing its name to Gilbertville, then God help us all.

St.John-Alan

If you have fond memories of listening to Lee Alan, on The Horn, at WXYZ-AM 1270 in the 1960's you will really enjoy listening to Southfield native Pat St. John on SiriusXM Satellite Radio 1 pm till 5 pm weekdays (EDT) on Channel 6. This is where they feature the music of the 1960's and it's real obvious that Pat was a Lee Alan fan. He even uses Lee's old opening them "Zing Went the Strings" plus his cadence and on-air style will remind you of those old days on Wixie Radio. He's not trying to imitate Lee, it's just that Mr. Alan was a great influence on his radio career, which started at WSHJ (Southfield High School). Pat also worked at The Big 8 CKLW and WKNR Keener 13.

SiriusXM management has given him extraordinary freedom to play songs, and create segues that you just don't hear on radio anymore! If you have satellite radio in your car or at home, this show is worthy of your time and has a LOT of Detroit flavor attached to it.

Former CKLW audio engineer Tom Ryan, not the one who played Sargent Sackto on TV, has noticed that the audio on WMYD-TV Channel 20 is seemingly out of phase and causing what some of us of a certain age called "duo-phonic." It's especially noticeable on the Entertainment Tonight program on TV 20 and even I wonder if anyone actually cares. WMYD was recently acquired by WXYZ-TV and gives Channel 7 a place to air their news at 10 pm to better compete with Fox 2.

Please remember that my thoughts and opinions are strictly mine and any comments, agreeing or disagreeing, you might have are always appreciated via e-mail. In the meantime, stay tuned!

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

It was an honor to count Casey Kasem among my many friends in radio and he will be remembered, especially in the Detroit area, as one of the kindest and nicest guys ever to grace the radio dial. He was a true gentleman in every aspect of his professional and personal life. In 1988, 1998 and 2005 Casey came back to the city he grew up in to be a part of three of our four Motor City Radio Reunions. He never forgot his roots.

KasemVuoloIn the past 24 hours much has been written and reported about this amazing man and I am not going to rehash all of the "bio-info" previously penned. Instead, I want to tell you about what was NOT told in other popular media venues.

I met Casey nearly thirty years ago when he was the network voice at NBC out in Burbank, CA. I left word that I wanted to meet him and he actually called me back while I was staying with a friend in LA. I laid down to take a quick nap and the phone rang with a voice that said "Hi, this Casey Kasem" and I thought it was a joke and nearly hung up the phone! It was really him and we've know each other ever since. I had his home address and phone number and even the "inside private line." That was very cool.

Because of the relationship I had with him, I was pressed into action to try to get him to come to Detroit for the 1988 Motor City Radio Reunion at the Michigan Inn in Southfield. He readily accepted. Prior to the big event Casey spent at least an hour at the studios of WCZY (Z-95.5) in Oak Park. That station is now WKQI (Channel 9-5-5). Dick Purtan was at the controls and the studio was jammed with Detroit radio stars who came back for the reunion party. People like: Gary Stevens, Scott Regan, Bob Green, Big Jim Edwards, Michael Stevens, and Paul Cannon. Casey was picked up at the airport by voice-guy Jim Ochs who regularly did an impersonation of Casey on Purtan's radio show. They went back and forth with a routine probably confusing the listeners as to who was the REAL Casey Kasem. It was outrageously entertaining radio!

Later that evening, at the main event, we held a "Casey-Off" to see who did the best impression with Casey being the judge. It was between Ochs from WCZY and Kevin O'Neill from (at the time) WOMC. Both are considered to be among the best in the nation at sounding like Casey. Being the consummate nice guy that he was, Mr. Kasem called it a tie and both walked away winners.

In 1998 Casey was recognized at his table, but no major showcasing was thrust upon him...just a few creative zingers from Dick Purtan, who wound up emceeing all four radio reunions.

However, in 2005 we did another sound-a-like contest with Ochs, O'Neill, and the popular 60's on 6 DJ from Sirius XM, Phlash Phelps. All three, plus Casey went behind closed doors and the audience had to guess which was the REAL one. It was tons of fun and an evening we will never forget. Casey really enjoyed being there that night, had his photo taken with dozens of attendees and then at the end of the evening said something that stunned me personally. While being interviewed by Phlash, he said "I have a long-distance dedication to Art (Vuolo) who is the Mr. Radio to all the world. He's so dedicated and thanks to him I can be with my friends I've been with tonight, that I haven't seen in years...thanks to him I'll carry these memories with me till the day I die...thanks Art." I recently watched that video and it gave me chills to realize that he is talking about yours truly. It was humbling and truly very special.

All of these special moments are on a special video tribute which I am proud to have been able to produce in memory of man who made countdowns more famous than the NASA engineers in Houston. The video has been posted on YouTube and the link to watch it is: http://youtu.be/hRgT6OyPgp8. It's labeled Casey Kasem Detroit Tribute.

On Father's Day I received an e-mail from a good friend by the name of Sean Compton who was with Clear Channel Radio at the time when Casey retired and the baton was passed to Ryan (How Many Jobs Can I Do) Seacrest. I want to share his posting with you because it truly sums up what kind of a man Casey Kasem really was.

Sean wrote: "Casey Kasem was the definition of a gentlemen. I was a kid with big radio dreams growing up in a small Indiana town, it was Casey's American Top 40 that became a constant part of my listening routine each weekend. By the time I was in my mid twenties I had the privilege of working with him and more importantly becoming a friend. When my wife was pregnant with my first of three sons I heard from Casey every week asking me how she was doing and when my he arrived it was Casey who was one of the first to congratulate us. Professionally, Casey was loyal, not one show ended in his 39 years of hosting America's most listened to program without him giving credit to his co-creators and entire producing staff. Casey was a perfectionist, it took him 18 hours to track his first 3 hour countdown, he read and edited every script in great detail. He was a great businessman and knew his value. He also never used his platform to promote a personal agenda or show favoritism. Personally, Casey was humble, funny and a great father to his children. I'm sad that we no longer have Casey Kasem with us but grateful he lived a long wonderful life that made our lives better."

I could not have said it better. Today Sean is President of Programming at cable super-station WGN America from Chicago.

Speaking of television I must say, in closing, something about Detroit TV news and their coverage of radio news and events. The WYCD Downtown Hoedown garnered an unprecedented 55 minutes of TV time over a three day run! Very impressive indeed.

The YouTube video highlighting Casey (linked above) was provided to all three local TV news departments. All three came out to my home on Sunday, June 15th to interview me and obtain a copy of video which showed Casey in LOCAL Detroit venues. Other than WDIV Local 4, none of the video clips on that DVD were used by any local station. Every station in town seemed to roll with stock footage from Hollywood that had nothing to do with Detroit.

I was very pleased they all cared enough to garner the footage but used less than 5% of it. I truly do not want to seem like a whining complainer, but why can't a story about a man who has more local ties to Detroit than any other city in America, feature LOCAL content to illustrate how, with all his fame and notoriety, Casey Kasem never forgot the city he called home.

Our beloved friend Casey is now counting 'em down up in Heaven with countless rock and roll stars already there, but for us still down here listening to radio and recalling the over three decades he entertained us, we thank God for those years and realize that for now the countdown has ended, but the signal and the memories will go on forever.

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

VuoloAs I sit here at my computer with a large box of Kleenex at my side, feeling far less than 100% with a form of "pink-eye" and a very sore throat, I know why my later in life mantra is "Golden Years...my ass!" Then I reflect on the news I got today about the untimely passing of two people I knew, one from radio and one from music and high school, and it puts all things in perspective.

My hope is that, by looking at my picture, it's hard for you to believe that in July, God-willing, I'll be attending my 50th Class Reunion of Ann Arbor High School (now known as Pioneer). Bob Seger was in my gym class ... but another AAHS graduate who had a national pop-single was Deon Jackson.

Deon JacksonDeon sat in front of me in English class in 1964. He was on the bus with me to Detroit's historic Fort Wayne facility for our US Military Draft Physical and was managed by the same man who discovered Del Shannon, Ollie McLaughlin of "Ollie's Caravan" on local station WHRV 1600, now WAAM, in Ann Arbor.

He was best known for the pop hit, "Love Makes The World Go Round," on the Carla label in 1966. The song reached #3 on the R&B charts and #11 on Billboard's Hot 100! Three more singles, however, failed to crack the top 60, but Deon kept performing-- a fact that he kept secret from his students at a Wheaton, Illinois school where he later served as a counselor. They finally discovered him in 2008 on YouTube.

He died in his sleep at his home in suburban Chicago April 19. He was 68. That 50th Class Reunion of AAHS is coming up in 90 days. Deon almost made it. Damn shame. I was really looking forward to seeing him again.

 

 

Lee MarshallNow, I just got word that Tony the Tiger has also lost his voice with the shocking news that Lee Marshall has died of (ironically) esophageal cancer. He was only 67. You probably didn't know that Lee was the most recent voice of the famed Kellogg's Frosted Flakes mascot, but he was, following in the footsteps of the original voice of Tony, Thurl Ravenscroft! You might remember Lee best, if you are of a certain age, as one of the big-voiced sensational sounding news hounds at The Big 8-CKLW. He was one of over twenty news guys under the leadership of another local radio great, who died far too early in life at only 46, and that was the unforgettable Byron MacGregor. You hear his wife Jo-Jo Shutty MacGregor on WWJ doing traffic reports. Lee was also featured in the sensational documentary "The Rise and Fall of The Big 8-CKLW" which aired several times on Detroit Public Television.

 

 

In my last column about the new broadcasters for Michigan Football, I indicated that prior to the upcoming team of Jim Brandstatter and Dan Dierdorf, there had only been two other announcers who covered nearly seventy years of calling the Maize and Blue action; Bob Ufer and Frank Beckmann. It's true that Ufer was THE original, and longest running (37 years), voice of Meeechigan Football from 1945 until midway in the 1981 season when he died on October 26th.. It's also true that Beckmann began calling the games at the start of the 1981 schedule, but Bob Ufer's last game was on a bleak and rainy mid-October day versus Iowa, and U of M lost! So, from 1945 through last year only two men had the job on what was once called The Michigan Football Network starting on WPAG (now WTKA) in Ann Arbor, then shifting over to WJR from 1976 through 2005 and since 2006 on WWJ.

Back in the early days, in the old press box along Main Street, the top floor had as many as a half dozen, or more, radio booths as a number of stations were able to broadcast the games. Michigan's own public/NPR station WUOM-FM (91.7) featured Tom Hemmingway for nearly 25 years. WAAM in Ann Arbor did the games, as did WTRX in Flint and many others. Slowly, over the years, it went down to just two; WJR with Ufer/Beckmann and WWJ with Don Kramer and later, Larry Henry. After 1996 the NCAA decided only one station could have the rights and WJR won out for the 1997 season. Interestingly that didn't last even ten years, as in mid-October 2005, WJR stunned Wolverine fans by dropping UM for the MSU Spartans! If you go to my web site: www.vuolovideo.com and click on UM Football, at the end of the page is a story about how all that happened entitled "Why WJR repainted the Blue Room with Green Paint." My hope is that this clarifies the purists who reminded me that there were more than just two who sang the praises of the Yellow and Blue.

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

This is Holy Week, today is Good Friday and Holy Cow, what a week it has been for one of the most decent guys in sports broadcasting, Jim Brandstatter! Those of us who are Michigan Football fans should be delighted that the man who Frank Beckmann affectionately called "Brando," has received the nod to succeed him as the new voice of the Wolverines' football team. Add to this exciting news the fact that he will be joined by his former teammate and longtime friend Dan Dierdorf and you have instant chemistry in the radio booth!

VuoloPerhaps the reason I am personally so excited to see this happen is due, in part, to the fact that it was my pleasure to help out via my extensive archive of U of M games. In 2003, when back surgery prevented Frank Beckmann from making the trip to Evanston, IL for the UM-Northwestern game, Jim was pressed into service calling the game, with Steve Courtney doing the color commentary. Brandy called me and asked if I had that game? I said I have just about all of them. After checking, that game was still on the original video cassette (a Beta tape none the less!) So, I copied it, with Jim on the audio, onto a DVD and watched it at the same time. I thought "wow he's damn good at actually calling a game!" When he came over to pick up the disc he was truly amazed at the library of Michigan video I've accumulated over the past 35+ years. A copy of that DVD was given to Michigan Athletic Director, Dave Brandon and the rest...is now history.

In an e-mail I received from Jim Brandstatter on Thursday he said, "Thank the Lord you still had a copy of that Northwestern game when my copy didn't work so well...that was big...I had no idea at the time, but it turned out large." My pleasure Brando.

In an e-mail that I sent to Dave Brandon, I said that the most popular buzz-word in media these days is BRAND. Branding is what stations all strive for and the Michigan brand is iconic. Brandon starts with brand, and Brandstatter starts with brand, and together they'll build a brand that M-fan's will love! Michiguide founder and webmaster Mike Austerman pointed out a unique alignment of Jim's and Dan's in local radio booths. The Lions have Dan Miller and Jim Brandstatter, the Tigers have Dan Dickerson and Jim Price and now we will have, at The Big House, Dan Dierdorf joining Jim Brandstatter covering the Maize and Blue. We believe this has never happened in any other region of the country.

There was a lot of speculation as to who would get the job up on the fifth floor of the press box in Ann Arbor. Other than Brandy, some of the names mentioned were: Doug Karsch, Matt Shepard, Dan Miller, Mark Champion and Larry Henry. Some wondered if age would become a factor. Jim and Dan are not youngsters, they played for Bump Elliott and Bo Schembechler in 1968-1971, that was a few years ago. Sports broadcasters get better with age. Names like Harry Carry, Ernie Harwell lasted into their 80's. Vin Scully (LA Dodgers) and Marty Brennaman (Cincinnati Reds) are still going strong with Scully pushing 90 years old! With age comes extensive knowledge of the game and its history. Bob Ufer's total recall of past Michigan games was encyclopedic. Imagine if he had lived beyond his 62 years? God bless his cotton-pickin' maize 'n blue heart. Between Ufer and Beckmann only two announcers covered Michigan football from 1945 through 2013, which is almost 70 years. Unheard of.

Jim Brandstatter hosted the long-running "Michigan Replay" TV show for many years and still does "Inside Michigan Football." He worked at WILX-TV 10 in Jackson/Lansing where he met local news anchor Robbie Timmons, who he married in August of 1980 and they live in Commerce Township. When I first met Jim he was at WDIV-TV Channel 4 and yet Local 4 had no coverage of Thursday's breaking news. Fox 2, WJBK-TV had nothing on their 5, 6 or 10 pm news, and Only WXYZ-TV Channel 7 made mention of the announcement. Why is local TV so afraid to report stories about local radio?

Dan Dierdorf's radio days began at one of America's most legendary stations, KMOX-AM (1120) in St. Louis where he has lived for many years, but he has a place in northern Michigan and said an opportunity like this to work with his friend of 40 years will probably keep him in Michigan during the most beautiful time of the year. Both Jim and Dan were interviewed simultaneously on WJR by Mitch Albom on Thursday, and that station is the voice of the Michigan State Spartans! Maybe we CAN all get along after all.

With Dan Dierdorf's extensive work with college and pro football, nationally on both ABC and CBS, he will be great this fall. Yes, we remember that Frank worked with former assistant coach Jerry Hanlon and former player Bob Thornbladh, but his many years with Jim Brandstatter were magical. We can expect many great broadcasts for Season 135 as a new era begins with a couple of great Michigan men. Now coach Hoke, let's just win the games!

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

Let me sound-off about audio during a sporting event. Radio has it hands down over television. Proof? Have you ever noticed that when a sports team advertises on TV, the audio is just about always from RADIO.

VuoloWhen the Detroit Tigers promote their team, they use radio announcer Dan Dickerson, who is almost a baseball version of the late Bob Ufer of Michigan football fame. The radio guys just sound better. They are, for obvious reasons, more descriptive of the action and they're usually, like us, rooting for the home team. The national TV guys are "supposed to be" impartial. Often, however, don't they often seem to lean toward one team over the other? Doesn't it always seem like it's NOT your team too?

When MSU was in the Big Ten Championship football game last December 7th (a day that will live in infamy), most Spartans fans felt the FOX-TV guys were lame. One of them actually sounded like he had money on the Buckeyes. I've been personally archiving U of M football and some basketball games for years and always use RADIO audio as soon as the play gets underway. I even do a few of the Michigan State games, like that Championship contest and The 2014 Rose Bowl. I've had MSU friends say George Blaha and Jayson Strayhorn were more fun to listen to than Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit from ESPN.

Personally, even as a Wolverines fan, I was sorry to see UConn oust MSU out of its run for the Final Four earlier today. The game, however, was far more entertaining with RADIO audio with the always excitable Will Tieman at the microphone. Will is famous for his screeching yell "He Got It!" especially when three-pointers are scored.

On the flip side of the coin, University of Michigan basketball play-by-play master Matt Shepard, flanked by 1989 NCAA Champion U-M player Terry Mills, has really gotten good. Shepard's huge roster of adjectives to describe noteworthy scores is epic. He uses phrases like: ring it up, jam it, bingo, gimme that, splash and got it! Radio is just better than TV. The only issue is all of the broadcast-delays causing video and audio to often be out of sync. Since both Michigan & Michigan State are out of the running for this year's Final Four, we'll have to wait until late autumn to hear the local college basketball calls again.

The biggest question regarding radio play-by-play and sports in our area right now is WHO will succeed Frank Beckmann as the new voice of the Wolverines? At least five hats, that I have heard, have been tossed into the ring. Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon will probably make the call. We'll talk about it here...soon. Stay tuned!

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

After having written nothing since November of 2013, this is my second column within the past 30 days, but I have more to say and also offer my observations of the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show out in Las Vegas where a comfortable pair of shoes is mandatory!

My regular schedule has me in Sin City for "Media Day," which was Monday January 6th, the day before the trade show opens officially. It is always packed with huge crowds. The CES draws more people than any other confab in Las Vegas at over 150,000 attendees jammed into some two million square feet of space visiting a fraction of the 3,200 exhibitors! On Media Day you get to wait in lines that rival those at Cedar Point on the 4th of July so you can squeeze into rooms that are almost always standing room only and hear about the newest innovations from mega-companies like Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Dish Network and LG. Factoid: LG does NOT stand for "Life's Good" which is just a marketing term. LG was formed by the merger of two Korean companies; Lucky and Goldstar. Lucky brands were primarily sold overseas, but Goldstar was a player in the VCR wars of the 1980's. Now you know! Dish Networks gave away the most goodies, but most remembered was when film director Michael Bay walked off the stage, in a huff, at the Samsung presser because his teleprompter failed. It's not known if the man who hired Bay was reprimanded for his actions, but most of us felt he should have received a promotion, since the event drew more publicity than anything else at the 2014 CES Media Day.

VuoloTuesday at 10 am the show opened, the stampede began, and the price of hotel rooms more than doubled! My room at $29 Sunday night jumped to $49 Monday night and the day the show opened skyrocketed to $199 plus tax. Yikes! Why do they do that? Because they can. In four days you simply can not see it all. We in the press are treated well with places to get online with complimentary Wi-Fi service and a decent box lunch is provided each day, but the time simply flies by. What I liked the most was the opportunity to speak to key representatives of large companies who you would never be able to interact with outside of this venue. Personally I made many invaluable contacts.

Along with the comfy footwear, you need to have an ample supply of business cards. There are enough members of the Jewish faith to warrant several kosher delis, plus my estimate is that clearly 25 to 30% of the attendees are Asian and a multitude of foreign languages permeate the event. It truly is a very International gathering. You also see hundreds of brand names that you never seem to see in stores, but there they are at CES every year. A newish brand, now known by many more thanks to a huge "free promo piece" they received on 60 Minutes last November, is the Go-Pro Camera developed by billionaire Nick Woodman. He was at their booth which was almost as big as the crowd that packed the area to hear him speak. Sony was also showing off a tiny video camera to compete with the Go-Pro.

Every year the electronics industry feels a need to bring out something new and innovative that will, in theory, have everyone buzzing about. This year it was 4K TV which was originally dubbed as Ultra High Definition television. The picture is billed as four times the resolution of today's HD-TV. The majority of households throughout the United States seemed to convert from CRT (cathode ray tube) sets to HD flat screens almost overnight. It was much faster than the changeover from black and white to color TV, or vinyl records to CD's, or videotape to DVD's. Now, they expect the consumer to make another expensive leap to 4K but there's one major problem, or as we say today...issue. No TV stations are broadcasting any programs in 4K. So, get ready for another tug-of-war similar to back in the 1950's when the makers of color TV sets, like RCA, were screaming to the TV networks for more shows in color, while the networks, like NBC (oddly enough related to RCA) were demanding the production of more color TV sets, which by the way were very expensive. When radio stations, late as the mid-1960's) gave away a color TV as a prize, it was a very big deal! Some of these new 4K sets also featured a curved screen, almost Cinerama-like. My feeling is that most people are very satisfied with today's HD-TV, but I've been wrong before. In my next column I will have more news from the CES and what to expect on the electronics horizon.

 


 

In local radio news, hats off to Classic Hits WOMC-FM (104.3) for managing, in concert with Kroger stores, to raise a staggering $1.5 million in cash and food for Gleaners Community Food Bank! WXYZ-TV did a fine job of collecting over a half million dollars for the Michigan Humane Society...but don't ever say radio can't hold up against TV. It can and it does repeatedly, especially in the Detroit area.

 

Do not forget to donate to the annual Salvation Army Radiothon, heard on WJR-AM (760) on Friday February 21st. Both Michiguide webmaster Mike Austerman and myself hope to be out at The Oakland Mall in Troy at some point during the fundraising effort. From 4 to 8 p.m., there will be a chance for all of us to see one of Detroit's most loved radio personalities as Dick Purtan emerges from retirement for this worthwhile cause so near and dear to his heart. He'll be joined by former Purtan's People contributors Al Muskavito and Jackie Purtan. WJR's very popular "Hall of Fame" morning host, Paul W. Smith will anchor the event in this its 27th year! The Radiothon starts at 6 am and runs through 10 pm and will be video streamed on www.wjr.com.

 


 

If it's not deemed too overly self-serving, my presence on YouTube has ballooned since last we shared this space. Back on Saturday, February 8th I was privileged to have a guest spot on a talk show over KDKA in Pittsburgh, long regarded as the nation's first commercial radio station! Other than a few technical issues, it went well. A video of that program is available on YouTube if you simply use this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyzrC8vUCZ8. Switching channels, the memorial tribute to Chicago's Larry Lujack has garnered a phenomenal 3,500 hits and I hope you will want a copy of the full version, so I can make a significant donation to his favorite charity "Save The Children." The tribute is on the home page of www.vuolovideo.com. Also on YouTube, I just posted (now that I know how to do it) one of my earliest tributes to WGN Chicago's Bob Collins. His untimely death came as the result of a plane crash in February of 2000 and it's worth watching (just 4 minutes) if only for the powerful on-air eulogy broadcast nationally by the iconic Paul Harvey. The tribute can be seen at this link: youtu.be/OGvnu1fCBc4.

Before flying from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for the CES, I was invited by former Detroit radio DJ, Kurt Kelly to guest on his Hollywood interview show on his Live Video.com. Kurt was a personality at the old WTWR (Tower 92) back in 1980. Today, he is a successful voice-over talent in La-La Land! My voice was gone and I looked terrible, but if you feel you can take it, the 38 minute video can be seen via this link: www.kurtkelly.com/watch/art-vuolo-sits-down-with-host-kurt-kelly-on-actorse-chat. If there's a next time I promise to be more prepared.

Proudly, what started out, five years ago, as just six people getting together for lunch in the L.A. area between Christmas and New Years, has turned into an annual reunion of radio junkies now known as The Radio Dream Lunch. If you're still tapped into YouTube there's a video of the latest gathering which, while being wildly entertaining features a few names and faces you might recognize. Use this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI_Egrrzuqc.

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

Vuolo Commentary: State of the Art

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Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

Well, if you see this in time, mark your calendar or hang a sticky note on the frig door that your favorite (but absent for far too long) radio reporter will be a guest at 5 p.m. Saturday February 8th on KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh! I will be the guest of native Detroiter Stoney Richards who, for true radiophiles. was Chuck Richards back in the 1970's on W-4 106.7 FM. Today he's the successful afternoon drive personality on Country Music Y-108 in The Steel City. You can easily tune in via any computer, smart phone or similar device. You need only to search kdkaradio.com and you'll be able to listen live.

VuoloOn the program I will be discussing, of all things, the state of radio these days and there is much to talk about. One of the most recent alterations was the deletion of all on-air DJ's on Sirius XM's 90's and 50's channels. Personally I didn't frequent the 90's channel much, but the 50's on Channel 5 played a lot of music that you just don't hear anymore because it appeals to an audience who are too old. Ouch! Most of today's "oldies" stations find that any word with OLD in it as being poison to selling advertising. So, we call them Classic Hits these days and remind me how overused the word "classic" is?

With this "cost-cutting" budgetary move by satellite radio, a number of popular jocks were shown the door, including: Pat St. John and Jim Kerr, both with Detroit area roots, Dave Hoeffel, Ken Merson and "Mr. Music" Norm N. Nite. Norm did his show each weekend from the Alan Freed Studio at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. As one of pop music's true experts, his was the only LIVE show on the channel. All of the rest pre-recorded their programs via that method known as "voice-tracking" which is another way of saying they weren't making very much money. So how come they were all dumped?

 

As those of you who have read my musings in the past know, I have strong opinions about the state of the industry these days and I am not afraid to state them. I also attend a great many radio conferences. Most of the time I see the same people, talking about the same thing and seemingly never practicing what they preach. Every broadcaster screams the same credo LIVE & LOCAL, yet music FM's continue to voice track the majority of their programs and talk AM's lift most of their content from a program syndicator via a satellite. The large corporations which own the majority of the radio stations across this country are far more concerned with the bottom-line and the stock value of the company, than what type of product comes out of the speaker.

 

Again, if you see this in time, CKWW-AM (580) is doing a Beatles Invasion Weekend on February 8th and 9th like many stations are celebrating the 50th anniversary of when the Beatles premiered in America on The Ed Sullivan Show. The DVR's will be set for 8 pm on Sunday night when CBS recreates that special night in 1964. Now, I bet you wished you owned a DVD-RECORDER! When the hard drive needs more space, this will be a tough one to delete. Interestingly CKWW is heavily accessed via the Internet, since its anemic 500 watt signal limits its over-the-air availability. I still wish Bell Broadcasting, which owns both CKWW and CKLW would simply flip the formats of these two stations. The 580 signal is fine for the local news and talk of AM 800 which only appeals to the Windsor community. Just thinking out loud.

 

Make a note that on Sunday morning between 7:45 and 8 a.m. Warren Pierce will feature former WKNR great Bob Green talking about when Keener 13 brought the Beatles to Olympia for a Detroit concert back in 1964. So, on your way to church, breakfast or the bathroom, be sure to dial up Warren and Greeny Bob on WJR-AM (760).

 

Detroit's newest country station, WDRQ-FM (93.1), disguised as Nash-FM, is adding live jocks ... but the all-important morning show will not be local. The station will feature Blair Garner and America's Morning Show. Blair did a hugely popular overnight show for 25 years called "After Midnite." He left that program to anchor this new morning show on WNSH (Nash-FM) in New York City, but the program originates from Nashville. Now, Cumulus Media, which owns WJR, WDVD and WDRQ in Detroit is adding the show to dozens of Nash-FM clones all over the country, including The Motor City. Oddly enough Blair Garner was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame the same evening as WJR's Paul W. Smith back on November 10, 2013. Now, they'll be opposite each other in Motown. Friends, you simply can't make this stuff up.

 

Speaking of Paul W. Smith, his new contract with Cumulus had people throughout the entire radio industry talking. These days if you get a one year deal, you're doing OK, a three year contract means they really believe in you, and a five year contract means they love you and feel that you're the best in the business for the future of the station. Paul W. got a seven year renewal! It had to give this Monroe, MI native a great feeling of confidence, as this unprecedented deal keeps him comfortably ensconced onto the eighth floor of the Fisher Building past the year 2020 which interestingly will mark the 100th anniversary of commercial radio in the U.S.

 

One floor below, on the FM side, WDVD (96.3) morning host Blaine Fowler, got a new deal as well for three years which proves he is also doing a great job, along with co-host Allyson and studio-mate Dana. Blaine is a good fit on the pop music station. He's from Michigan's Upper Peninsula so this winter has been no problem for the boyish-looking radio personality.

 

Before we leave the Golden Tower on Grand Blvd., I have to say, with no disrespect to Mitch Albom, that when he is away from the microphone his "B-Team" is simply the best! Big Al (formerly with Dick Purtan) along with Ed Kelly (top-notch voice guy) then add in Kevin O'Neill on traffic and this trio is so wildly entertaining that it actually becomes "destination listening." One day I sat in the Costco parking lot, with the engine running, for ten minutes because I could not tear myself away from the radio. When was the last time you found a program that riveting, and on an AM station to boot? Just a few days ago, with Mitch back at the helm, his playing DJ with O'Neill (who can't be stumped on music trivia) were having fun with lesser heard songs like "Tighten Up" by Archie Bell & the Drells and "Killer Joe" by the Rocky Fellers. It was outrageously fun to listen to. Talk radio just needs to lighten up and give politics a rest every now and then.

 

Sorry to see Mark Pasman get dropped by Greater Media's classic rocker WCSX-FM (94.7). His Sunday night show was a 20 year staple on the station. In recent months, a scary number of people have exited those Royal Oak Township studios. Think about it: Jim Harper, Drew & Mike, Ken Calvert and others. Some have returned in limited or alternative capacities, but come on. If WRIF, also a Greater Media station, drops their Sunday night talk show with Peter Werbe, then I'll know that the world is coming to an end.

 

Finally, since my audio and video archive of radio people is rather extensive, it seems like my responsibility of late is to create nice video tributes to people whom we have lost and the list is growing far too fast. My tribute to Bill Bailey (WDRQ in the 70's) was watched on YouTube over 2,500 times. My latest is for Chicago Super-Jock Larry Lujack, of WLS and WCFL. Old Uncle Lar was known throughout the Midwest thanks to the massive signals of both of these iconic stations. If you visit my web site www.vuolovideo.com, an edited version of the video is available to watch. Copies of the un-edited 73 minute version are available and 25% of every DVD ordered is going to Mr. Lujack's favorite charity Save the Children.

 

Next time I write, I will offer my views of things I saw in January at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. My sore legs are still recovering. Stay warm, stay informed and most importantly keep the radio on!

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

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