Lost and found.
I just dug through a bunch of audio tapes tonight that I didn’t even know that I had saved. I had assumed the tapes were lost in our 2000 move to Vermont. Mostly airchecks from my radio days at WCAP (980 Lowell), the former WSSH (99.5 Boston), and former WHDH (850 Boston). The one I’ve got running now is a March 14, 1987 aircheck from WSSH. It’s ‘scoped’ from 7PM to 1AM which means that the tape only recorded whenever I keyed the microphone and then went into ‘pause’ mode whenever I turned off the mic. So, you get my voice talking into and out of a music set.
I now notice how often I mentioned that a certain song was “on compact disc.” That’s because the technology was just getting going. In fact, most of the songs you hear were played on “cart” which was a tape cartridge that resembled an 8-Track tape. (Ask an old guy if that still eludes….)
Time had a way.
I forgot how much I really enjoyed working at WSSH. Like WHDH, it’s no longer a radio station! ”Wish, ninety-NINE point five, WSSH” was based in Lowell, Mass. and had just moved closer to Boston, in Woburn, Mass. about the time I started doing weekends and fills there. A couple of years later, around 1988, the station sold for a Boston radio sales record $19.5M to Nobel Broadcasting out of San Diego.
Interpret ‘em, don’t read ‘em. No, wait. Read ‘em, don’t interpret ‘em.
I recall the last shift under the original owner, Arnold Lerner, and the first shift under the new management very clearly for one obvious reason. The music didn’t change but one fundamental did. The original program director, Mike Colby, was a visionary, a wonderful guy with lots to teach, and I learned a ton during a relatively brief tenure. Mike had liner cards that we were encouraged to ‘interpret’ versus read verbatim. The very successful “Forty Minute Music Sweep” ran from :55 to :35 each hour. You played two songs and talked over the intro simply with, “Wish, ninety-NINE point five, WSSH” and the next two would be split with an interpreted positioning statement or ‘liner’. It ran that way, right down the music list until :35. A quick back-sell, message, into three commercials. Two songs, then three more spots, one song and then three spots. So, all nine commercials were tucked into the :35 to :55 window and the 40-minute sweep would kick-off again.
Enter the new owners and new program director. The first thing I notice is the sign on the studio wall that said, “READ the liners. Do NOT interpret them.” I also noticed that the 5×7 liner cards were now latched together with those ring things so that one could not pull them out of order. Oh, and no more “talk-ups” over the music. Just read the liner and hit the song. If memory serves me on this, WSSH and Magic 106.7, the prime rival, were in a solid battle for ratings, with Wish leading in a number of key demos and dayparts. It was not long at all until the old 99.5 took a dive in the numbers.
Double You. And ninety NINE point five.
The other memory is that Mike Colby liked us to emphasize ninety-NINE point five because there is a ninety EIGHT point five, then WROR (98.5 Boston) and Mike didn’t want rating service diary keepers to get confused. Mike had a way with stuff like that. I recall an aircheck meeting with Mike in his office one day. I was a nervous wreck as I knocked on the Program Director office door. Mike sat behind his desk and over both corners behind him loomed large speakers hanging from the walls near the ceiling. Mike plunks in my aircheck and hits ‘play’. All I get to hear is my voice say, “Wish ninety nine point five, WSSH” when he hit pause and then begins the lesson on the letter W – how to say it, how to inflect it, how to emphasize second NINE in ninety NINE. Actually, it was a very positive experience, believe it or not. It was not until many years later when Howard Stern’s movie came out where, as he played himself in the biographical film, he is being coached by his PD on how to say wNbc, “double you ENNNN b c” over and over. I am sure any radio types reading this post have similar recollections. And I must say, inasmuch as it was awkward to get through that kind of review the first couple of times, it was a blessing to have a boss who ‘owned’ as much of the station’s sound as they did. It separated the mediocre stations from the good ones.