Aircheck: WSUN and WIOD (Miami), 8/24/1992

Our once every two weeks look back at local and regional state history takes us back to August 24, 1992. As some of you might remember, it was not a normal day, as Hurricane Andrew (a Cat 5 hurricane that everyone thought was a Cat 4 at the time) scored a direct hit on most of Miami and Dade County that Monday morning.

I was working a 6am-noon shift at WEND and the Sun Radio Network that morning. The one thing I’ll never forget was reading the AP headlines off of the computer, amazed at the statewide weather reports. I was seeing reports of wind gusts out of Coral Gables at an amazing 162 miles per hour early in my shift.

(Outside of a small thunderstorm after I got home around 1pm that day, we didn’t get anything here from Andrew in Tampa Bay, as it was a rather small hurricane.)

I’m pretty sure Neil wasn’t on his usual schedule that day with all the news coverage WIOD (and thus WSUN here in Tampa Bay) had. I don’t think he took to the air until after noon that day, and as you’ll hear that day, he’s still on past his usual 2pm sign-off. His usual entertainment type show isn’t there this day, replaced with calls for help in the area and a more serious demeanor. Quite understandable under the circumstances.

With the 24th anniversary of Andrew passing, and threat of a tropical system in the present day that’s yet to have been realized (and I hope stays that way), that all made me think of this.

Aircheck: WIOD in Miami, 10/3/1995

With O.J. Simpson and the “Made In America” documentary part of the national argument once more, I thought I’d look back at one of the landmark moments of the saga.

It’s the day of the O.J. Simpson verdict, October 3, 1995. Neil Rogers, much like talk show hosts across the country this day, can’t stop talking about the verdict that airs in the last hour of the show.

Neil gets very creative with the computerized “drops” (short sound bites) that’s frequently a part of his shtick during the verdict, an acquittal for Simpson on all counts. Usually doing a light, comedic type of talk show which usually spouts that “topics are a bunch of crap,” Rogers shows that when he needs to change gears and get a bit serious, he’s not out of his element at all.

Aircheck: WSUN and WIOD (Miami), 7/1/1992

I got some positive feedback from a recent aircheck of Neil Rogers, so I thought I’d go to the well again.

It’s July 1, 1992, and Neil Rogers is now simulcasting on WSUN in Tampa. After being on in Tampa Bay for a few months, he reintroduces the area to Bob Lassiter, who left WFLA to go to Chicago and talk radio station WLS. After a disappointing experience there, Bob and his wife had moved to Davenport, Iowa.

In early 1993, it was back to the Tampa Bay area for Lassiter at WSUN, initially doing morning drive before eventually going to a 2-6 pm shift before getting booted from the station when they changed to an all-sports station. Eventually, WSUN would change call letters to WDAE, an ID uprooted from 1250 AM where they had been on the radio dial for several decades.

A few weeks later, Neil appeared live on Bob’s show out of St. Petersburg.

Rest In Peace, Stanley

I’m very saddened to learn tonight that Stan Major, who I’ve mentioned on this blog many times, has recently passed away, according to his son Chris. I figured something might have been up for a while now since his blog hadn’t been updated for over a month, but it could have been computer problems or whatnot.

He was simply the best talent I ever had the pleasure to work with, and sometimes in life you don’t know what you have or have had until it’s long in your rear view mirror. (He had to be, he put up with me. Just a joke, Stan!) He was also the best talent Sun Radio Network ever had, and looking back it is no small wonder that a little over three years after he left SRN, the network folded. But that’s just my opinion.

It should also be mentioned that he also had runs on some of the great Miami talk stations (WINZ and WIOD standing out) along with other major US markets too numerous to mention (including WDAE in Tampa), and as a newsman for NBC over a variety of TV and radio programs. He also served NBC as a war correspondent during the Vietnam War, once getting to interview Bob Hope for the NBC Monitor program.

It was nice to get to connect with him one more time through our respective blogs. He gave my blog a bit of a boost, and I appreciated the gesture that he thought enough of me to do that.

Rest in peace, Stan, and I hope you enjoy meeting all the people up in heaven who’ve “invaded” your dreams as you mentioned in your blog entries.

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.

The Sun Years, Part IV: It’s A Lie, I’m Not A Nazi

At 8:08pm on the evening of August 8, 1991, the Jay Marvin Show began on 970 WFLA, a much more powerful station compared to WEND here in Tampa. A rival station would not the kindest way to put it: we were in no way, shape, or form any competition to the area’s talk radio giant, nor were we designed to.

The show that night was designed to be a hit piece on Liberty Lobby and their ties to groups who believed that the Holocaust either never happened or its existence was overblown.  They had Richard Benton, the recently fired SRN affiliate relations director, and journeyman talk host Jack Ellery on to blast the group.  Defending Liberty Lobby was Vince Ryan, who was a host for one of SRN’s shows, Editors Roundtable, one of two shows the group had on the network.  The other was Tom Valentine’s Radio Free America.

Continue reading “The Sun Years, Part IV: It’s A Lie, I’m Not A Nazi”