Vuolo Commentary: February 2014 Archives

 

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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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Vuolo Commentary category from February 2014.

Vuolo Commentary: March 2014 is the next archive.

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