WCAS Cambridge History - page 3
Other Names of Note
Other names which deserve a mention before I close, mostly people who arrived a little later: Judith Brackley came in to handle News and Public Affairs; she had strong ties to community activists (and made them stronger) which is exactly what we needed.
Don Cohen came in to do some on-air shifts for us; what a surprise that he moved from the head-banging WNTN to acoustic based WCAS without a misstep, and enlarged our thinking about what might fit the format.
Gene Kelly, the most brilliant production guy I have ever worked with, did commercials and our classic sign-offs ("Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to...uh, it's just OFF we go. <click>"), all for less money that he could have made collecting bottles out of dumpsters. Sometimes I could hide a few hours work on a time card for him for "producing commercials" without getting yelled at. Occasionally we would find an advertiser who appreciated his work and who would pay him a minimal amount themselves, neatly ducking the questions about "expenses" from the TV lords who owned us. Nearly all of the money Gene got, so far as I can tell, ended up at the Plough and Stars on Massachusetts Avenue, an Irish bar many of us visited. Often.
Jim Chevalier hosted "Live At Passim's" for many years, from the first broadcast until after I was gone and he asked little and delivered more than his $8 weekly paycheck warranted. He wanted to be a performing folk artist, but I believe he wound up an actor and writer. Not a bad end, I suppose.
[Thinking about Gene and Jim (not to mention Frank and Moe) I wonder how they made it. I was broke, and I was better off than all of them. I got paid for 40 hours a week. They got half that - or less. Are there varying degrees of "broke"?]
Lisa Karlin came in to interview; she was finishing up her final year at Brandeis but took over an air slot for a while. I knew we wouldn't have her long, her voice came out of the radio with "star" written all over it. Female on-air talent was hard to find, and I knew she'd be stolen. She was.
I should not forget the sales guys, but I have. "Rick" and "Peter Stassa" and "Alan" are the only names I can come up with, and were it not for them, Kaiser would have turned off the power long before they actually did. I hope they and the others who inhabited that tiny room up front did well in their lives. They deserve it, as did we all.
Eventually I burned out. I was doing the morning show, being Program Director during the day, and going to concerts and clubs at night, the only perk of the job, and one I was determined not to miss. A union was formed and I was not part of it, since I was in "management" and (correctly, if uncontrollably) part of the abuse which led to its formation. The knowledge that I was the weakest DJ on the station, and head-to-head against the hugely popular Charles Laquidera on WBCN weighed heavily on me, as did the union thing. WCAS was sold again, this time to Mel Stone, who I had worked for in Bangor ME as a Top 40 jock, and to Dan Murphy, who had an interest in folk music. They promised to retain the format and named their company "Wickus Island Broadcasting", the first that name had been used since the original format in the '60's. After I left, the station relocated from its seedy Mass Avenue studios to a nice brick building a couple blocks away. I never saw the new digs, but I heard they were great!
I lived out of my bank account for a few months, dropped it to "zero" by handing it week by week to the owner of my rooming house and a few cheap restaurants and eventually I secured a job as Production Director at KDKA, Pittsburgh. Luckily, I had a car accident just before I moved to Pittsburgh, the insurance check gave me just enough money to put a security deposit on an apartment and to go to Sears and buy two suits, which I wore in rotation day-after-day as I joined corporate America.
Many years later I would go on to become Vice-President/General Manager of KDKA, of WMAQ in Chicago, run one of Boston's most successful advertising campaigns in "Maynard In The Morning" for WBZ, reformat WBZ as Program Director and put it back to #1 in the market and do some other things my mother would be more likely to tell you about, but on reflection, I think I am most proud of taking a complete nonentity like WCAS, devoid of any advantage at all, and with the help of a few other idealistic nitwits like myself turning it into a living, breathing radio station. Occasionally I will see it mentioned in an Amazon review, or in a newsgroup as "the legendary WCAS" or something, and I beam.
The station lasted only a few more years, I think, but it was enough.
Even More Other Names
There are many other names which have come to be associated with WCAS, since they largely come after my time I include them only so that Google (or whoever) will find them and bring this history up in your search.
Dick Pleasants (I have a vague memory of Dick preceding Donna Halper in the Sunday afternoon slot, but it couldn't have been for long. He probably got tired of the drive from the Cape. If that's true, then he would have had the first "true" folk music program on the station. *addendum: I'm sure now that Dick had that Sunday afternoon program, but I think we crossed paths by only a few weeks or months. The "For City Folk" format, dreamed up by a couple of Dartmouth grads, Stu Zuckerman and Dave Graves, was already in motion by the time I got there.)
Ina May Wool (artist)
The Pousette Dart Band (artist)
Hester Fuller (hi Hester! I think you were an intern at the time, no?)
Rae Ann Donlin (co-owner of Passim's, a delightful lady, always.)
Sidney Blumenthal (yes thatSid Blumenthal) was an intern in our news department. (News Department ha! One person and a bunch of rookies, otherwise known as "interns". Unpaid, of course.)
[If I have left someone out, contact me and I will include you. It's been over 30 years, I'm doing my best.]
a link to the present through the past
Feel free to write me with corrections or additions here.
Some people did!
For those interested: I am retired. I went from WCAS to Group W, Westinghouse at KDKA, Pittsburgh, where I rose to Program Director. Then a corporate transfer to WBZ Boston as Program Director. Then a corporate transfer to KDKA Pittsburgh as VP/GM. Then a corporate transfer to WMAQ Chicago as VP/GM. Besides "Maynard In The Morning" in Boston, I helped invent "Traffic Every 10 Minutes" in Chicago, which morphed in competitive fight into "Traffic On The One's". Perhaps you have a variant in your town?
Along the way I secured broadcast contracts with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Bulls, White Sox, Pittsburgh Penguins, and ran broadcasts for the Celtics and Bruins. I don't much care for sports, but if you're going to work at boomer AM stations like KDKA or WBZ, it's part of the deal. At WMAQ we were the first major market station to affiliate on radio with CNN (just prior to the Gulf War which made us look prescient), and did a bunch of other I'm proud of.
Then came a new President of Group W and a personality clash. Oil, water, that sort of thing. I left and started my own business, publishing newsletters for the aviation and media industries. A year later my wife was offered a plum, as VP of a new and untried cable channel, which would come to be known as HGTV. We moved to Knoxville, where she went on to help program the new channel, and where (a few years later) I started the Home and Garden Radio Network. We got to 400 stations when she and I both left (in 2001) to tour America in a motorhome, and to take it easy. She has returned to work, as Vice President of Television for Jewelry Television, a shopping channel which deals with her second love, "jewelry", and I am safely ensconced on the back porch, enjoying my life and writing things which are of interest to me, including this abbreviated, if overlong and overdue history of WCAS.
Joyce and I live in Knoxville, TN. No kids, six cats and a dog.
Thanks for visiting
Having listened to the audio links on the page Dan Murphy put up (www.740wcas.com), I now realize that the "second" protest was not about "another religious group", but was of an amendment that Wickus Island Broadcasting put in to the FCC about their application to include paid religious broadcasting (if necessary.) That amendment was later withdrawn in the face of more community protests.
The "Rick" on the sales staff was Rick Page, and there was also a Rich Brody, as well as Alan Mandel. My apologies for not recalling the names.
Don Cohen reminded me of a couple of other names which I omitted, Corilee Cristou, who I think came in to do some weekends while I was still there. I also neglected to mention "Toni", the receptionist cum traffic & billing person.
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