Baseball season is over (and a disappointing ending at that, for Tiger fans), but the radio game rages on, and what a game it is!
This is almost like an update to my commentary of a month or so back, noting the eighth anniversary a talk show that Detroit has embraced.
How much does Detroit love the show? Enough for important people at the management end to take notice.
In a move that caught afternoon drive superstars Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle by surprise, the “Free FM” talk format was gone almost in the blink of an eye.
Doyle & Deminski, affectionately referred to as “D & D”, have been moved to the morning slot at 97.1.
WKRK (soon to be known as WXYT-FM probably by the time you read this) has become a dedicated all-sports super-station station with the exception of their program.
The positioning slogan is Detroit’s Sports Powerhouse, currently simulcast on both FM and the 50,000 watt (or somewhere in that range) AM counterpart at 1270 AM.
It is rare that a format change as extreme as this actually ends up giving listeners what the really want: The cream of the crop of the “old” format.
To the credit of CBS, even the D & D support team remains intact.
There is always fallout to format changes. We note, with sadness for example, the departure of Jay Towers, Bill McAllister and Shila, as well as Johnny D, who preceded the “Motor City Middays” program.
As noted by D & D during their very first morning show, talk show hosts – as least the good ones – form a bond with their listeners that actually continue when the show goes away.
Towers kept in touch with listeners through the shows’ MySpace page (www.myspace.com/motorcitymiddays) and quips “maybe we’ll move the show to Scranton” (Shila’s home town).
Johnny and Shila (on separate programs) were only allowed a few months to form that listener bond, but they were already starting to develop a following.
Sure, “the Gospel According to Johnny” seemed a little corny at first, but after a while, the guy won me over! He made me laugh.
On Motor City Middays, the picture painted on radio of Shila “the new girl” by Towers and McAllister soon won us over as well, big time…Aside from their appearances at various remote events including Motor City Casinos’ Radio Bar (shhhhhh….don’t tell anyone, I wired that place myself!). We wish them all the absolute best.
Yes, there are still “Gregg and Michelle” fans too, who replaced “Scott and Casey” (who were the only talk show hosts to appear on the cover of a Buddy’s Pizza menu as part of a promotion).
But if any of these people felt like your good friends, D & D felt like two of your favorite uncles who were much cooler than your own parents!
This is the way radio was WAY BACK. For example, the stingy character, Jack Benny, seemed like someone you KNEW – with all his weaknesses – but underneath all those flaws was someone very lovable, harmless and “goofy” in another light, yet one of the sharpest comedians of all time. A master of timing and dry wit, he built a sit-com around everyday activities, creating a persona of himself, surrounded by a cast that supported the program over a very long period.
Benny started on NBC, but spent the later decades of his career on CBS, on both radio and television.
Some fifty years after the last Jack Benny radio show was aired, CBS has discovered that “hot talk” simply doesn’t work very well in some markets.
But as I noted in my last commentary about D & D, PERSONAL, down-to-earth radio WORKS, if you LET it, regardless of whether the call letters are WJR, WKRK ort WAAM and also no matter WHAT you call the format:
News-Talk, Hot-Talk, or the nearly extinct Full Service.
Some of the most fondly remembered and longest running programs
originated in CBS studios. Toss in a talent like Jack Benny…or even (for dramatics) Orson Welles, or (dare I suggest?) Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle.
Let them work their magic by building the program and listenership and eight years of success is only the beginning.
A generation from now, an eccentric group of radio fans (like me) will be trading AIRCHECKS (recordings of the program) of D & D featuring the episode of Rudy climbing into the dumpster behind the building, and describing the aroma, and listeners calling in guessing if Rudy will puke!
Oops. The listener guessed wrong.
“You LOOSE. You GET NOTHING. Good DAY sir!”
But it’s not all fun and games. Recalling Jeff’s emotion-choked description of events leading to his fathers’ death, or on a lighter side, Doyle’s list of criteria that finally allowed a family pet into his house were among the many moments the guys allowed us to peek into their personal lives. Again, if it touches the listeners, they will be there in growing numbers every single day, because they actually care about the hosts. They will be sad, happy or wildly amused by the trials and tribulations of life we share. It’s like a soap opera, only real. You could call it reality radio, but I prefer calling it simply Good Radio and I’ll take as much of it as I can find.
It should be noted that Jeff and Bill are still without a contract following the wrap-up of the current one at the end of the year. The coming months will be the time listener support can truly be a factor. And listeners will be subjected to, as Jeff says, “the same crap we’ve always done.”
Hey it worked so far!
Detroit is fiercely loyal to their local morning guys, and the best this town has to offer are now D & D’s competition. Yet with D & D to kick off the day, the station has potential to see morning show success it has never experienced with syndicated programming, including Howard Stern.
Sure, the contract isn’t locked down yet, but for now, D & D still deserves ANOTHER congratulations just for being survivors.
And it wasn’t ONLY the listeners who made it happen.
It was the on-mic talent.
Because in this market only the best of the best survive, just like during Jack Benny’s days.
Good luck and thanks again, CBS.