Aircheck: WHBO, 12/6/1989

Time for another aircheck from the vault of local radio history. I thought we’d have a little fun while the nervousness and anxiety of the elections and that guy with the funny hair is upon us.

This radio find comes to us from the late fall of 1989 and 1040 AM on the radio dial, which was then WHBO in the Tampa Bay area. It’s also something you don’t see so often any more these days: an AM pop music station. A few still exist here and there across the country, but the good music stations now a days are either on your FM dial or the Internet.

Howard Hewes is the afternoon drive-time “Poobah of Doo Wah” here spinning hits from previous decades. I had the pleasure of working with him over at Sun Radio Network when he used the moniker of Joel Vincent when he tested the waters of talk radio back in the early 1990’s. Like many DJ’s who could tell a good story if he had a 10 seconds or if he had an hour, Joel was a natural in either format. Always treated me well in my radio travels.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you who I voted for in the Florida primaries, and who I would have voted for if I were a Democrat or a Republican.

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Thanksgiving, Shortwave Radio, and Uncle Neil

Last week, I had mentioned that one of the shows I ran the board for at Sun Radio had been unearthed: Stan Major’s debut on October 1, 1991. I had the honor of exchanging comments with Stan on that post, and I had reminded him about the show we did on Thanksgiving morning of 1991 on WWCR (World Wide Christian Radio), a shortwave station based out of Nashville.

Getting WWCR to carry the show, even for one night, was a big deal. Only two other shows from Sun had aired on WWCR: For The People with Chuck Harder (which by late 1991 was long gone), and Tom Valentine’s Radio Free America. Remember, the Internet wasn’t as easy to get for the home computer hobbyist (if you were one in the early 90’s) as it is now. These days, all you need is one station and the ability to promote your show and promote the hell out of the Tunein website or the IHeartRadio website or app. The bigger the show in those days, the more affiliates you had to have. In that particular time frame, overnight talk shows were ripe for the pickings. Larry King was in his swan song years at Mutual, plus Tom Snyder and Deborah Norville had shows that could be competed with.

I’m very proud of the work I did with Stan, especially. At Sun Radio, like Mutual or ABC at the time, his crew of the show consisted of one person: me. Larry King would have a person who ran the board, a person who screen calls, and probably a person or two who did whatever gopher work was needed. (I also didn’t have a union behind me either to insure I got paid well, working in Florida, as I would have if I were working out of NYC or DC.) That’s not me trying to brag, that’s a fact. Thank God I (or any of the other board ops) had a medical emergency (or fell asleep, as I once did for a few minutes on another show) of some kind, because whoever the host was would have been s*** out of luck had that ever happened.

My work on this particular show was not as good as I remembered it, to be honest. The last 15 minutes of Stan’s weeknight shows during this time frame where a Chinese fire drill, and I felt more like an air traffic controller than I did a board op! Not only am I answering phones (doing very light screening) and running the board, but I’m also getting the next show prepared, hosted by Max Stewart, calling him up on the Comrex. With that many balls in the air, s*** tended to happen, like leaving the outro music pot a little too hot at the end of the show.  Ouch.

At the end of the show, I get a call on the hotline we had set up for the evening from none other than Neil Rogers. This was three months before WSUN picked up Neil’s WIOD show out of Miami, so what I knew about Neil came from Stan. Neil asks me for Stan, and even a few moments after the show Stan is long gone. Neil’s in disbelief, but I’m telling him the truth. On top of this, Stan was filling in for Joel Vincent (Howard Hewes) for a 8pm-10pm shift the following night (Thanksgiving Night), on top of his normal 12am-5am shift, or 12 hours in a 29 hour stretch.

The call the farthest away that night wound up being someone in Scotland, but Stan also wound up getting calls from Canada and England as well.  Out of all the shows I did in seven years behind the scenes, it is the one that sticks out in my mind the easiest.

Again, thanks to John Baker, the Neil Rogers Archives and Stan Major for making this recording possible.

Casey Reaches The Stars

The irony of Casey Kasem passing away on Father’s Day and on a Sunday morning didn’t escape me. On our local station here in Tampa Bay, Casey was heard on Q-105 from 10am to 2pm on Sundays for what seemed to be years on end.

I once nearly had a chance to speak with Casey, if you can believe that.

In early 1991, I was working at the Sun Radio Network, producing for Howard Hewes/Joel Vincent, Chuck Harder, and Sonny Bloch on an early week 12pm to 6pm shift. This was a little over three years before I worked with Chuck at People’s Radio Network up the road in White Springs, Florida. I’m working at Sun’s studios in eastern Clearwater, with Chuck at a studio in Cedar Key hooked up to us via a Comrex device.

One day, Chuck asks me to get a hold of Casey Kasem out in his offices in California. I guess Chuck was trying to get him to pop in for his “For The People” national broadcast, but it would wind up being a game of telephone tag. Knowing of Kasem’s work, I would have immediately recognized the voice, that’s for sure.

It was a shame that his life ended with squabbling and arguing, but everyone but the immediate family were mere spectators in that battle. Hopefully now, he can rest in peace.

The Sun Years, Part III: A Menagerie Of Transitions

So here I was in the spring of 1991, working for the Sun Radio Network in Clearwater, Florida.  As I’ve mentioned before, Sun also had it’s own radio station locally at the time, WEND, and also owned a satellite chain that carried Sun programming 99% of the time, North America One (at one point, NA1 was its own entity entirely, but merged with Sun before I was employed there).  SRN had a quality lineup of hosts who brought in stations, large and small, from all over the country.

The network had one significant problem: it wasn’t just losing money, it was hemorrhaging it, to the tune of $202,000 a month.  It takes a lot of money to keep a national network on the air between cutting edge (at the time) phone technology, paying building rent, and paying employees.  To help pay for this white elephant came an organization from Washington D.C. called Liberty Lobby.  According to a 1991 interview with Richard Benton, who was with SRN’s affiliate relations director at the time, Liberty Lobby paid about $166,000 of that $202,000 of debt SRN was piling up, and was doing so every month.

Continue reading “The Sun Years, Part III: A Menagerie Of Transitions”