In 1966, my father was transferred to the Midwest, where I lived for the next couple of years. I had grown up with Cousin Brucie and the New York radio gang, and thought that by moving away from the East Coast, I would be losing great radio as I knew it.
Wow, was I wrong!
As soon as the sun would fall below the horizon, WLS’s monster signal would come roaring into my radio, carrying with it the incredible talents and energies of its legendary staff. They set me absolutely on fire! I did more than listen…I studied these air personalities intensely to learn what it was about them that gripped an audience and wouldn’t let go. I wanted more than anything to emulate them.
In mid-1968, I landed my first radio job…doing menial work in a station that included washing the boss’s car. As I begged daily for my “first chance” on the air, I continued to press my ear to the radio after dark for my continuing “jock” education from the crew at “89.” A couple of months later, I was given that proverbial “break” – midnight to 6am on Monday mornings! I was soooo scared that first night that I’m amazed that any words came out of my terrified mouth! That was my start in “the biz”…and it went on and up from there.
About 12 years later, I almost went to work at WLS, when John Gehron was the Program Director. At the time, I was in Detroit, doing mornings at the city’s top rocker, WLLZ-FM. As fate would have it, though, ABC snared me from the opposite direction – bringing me to New York and a correspondent position at ABC Radio News.
In 1987 and 1988, when I was the Operations Director at WPGC AM/FM in Washington, DC, I had the fun of doing the FM morning show with WLS alumnus Bill Bailey! The coffee cup from that show is beside me now as I write this. Bill, I believe, is working in Detroit presently.
Now, I’m on the air at the Voice of America in Washington, rattling radios from Belfast to Bangladesh. Sure, it’s an environment far removed from my radio roots, but you’d be surprized as to how many old rockers walk VOA’s halls.
I wouldn’t have had this journey had it not been for 89-W-L-S…
PS: Two things continue to stick in my mind from the great ‘LS era of the late ’60’s – Hearing the top of the hour ID…going into a Buckinghams single such as “Kind of a Drag.” Priceless! Also, the thunderous spots of “Mr. Norm’s” Grand Spaulding Dodge, “where you can drive home tonight and eat Chevys for breakfast.” 426 Hemis!
…and “where you’re never too far away to save!” -Scott