During my long stay as Chief Engineer at WCAR-AM (while it was owned by Mr. Walter Wolpin), we had many interesting moments.  When WBRB last went off the air (staffed largely by Specs graduates as I understand) and the death of its owner at the time, we explored the possibility of purchasing the station and operating it as a sister to WCAR during the 1990s.   The stations covered completely different territory, and WCAR with its successful format would probably work in Macomb County as well as it already was in Wayne and parts of Oakland County.  In fact, WCAR and WBRB were once “sister” stations when WCAR had the call letters WERB (and later WTKA, the first all-talk station in Detroit) way back in the 1960s and ‘70s. The transmitter had been updated at WBRB (a Harris SX-1A) and it was a newer model than the main one we had at WCAR (an MW-1).  

Once it was decided we were NOT going to put WBRB-AM back on the air, the transmitter was moved by yours truly to the WCAR transmitter site in Garden City, and with help from Harris, it was switched from 1430 Khz to 1090 KHz.  The transmitter is still in operation at WCAR to this day.


TWISTING BACK THE HANDS OF TIME…
I was an employee of Radcomm Communications in 1977, who had just purchased WBRB from Malrite shortly before I came on board.  I was pretty involved over at Southfield’s WSHJ, and a tip from WSHJ GM, Bob Sneddon about the job resulted in three of us being hired.  Leigh Feldsteen was WBRB’s General Manager (and uncle of Gilda Radner the famous SNL comedienne) who did the hiring.  Basically, voice-wise, I was emulating a combination of Ted Richards from CKLW, Mike Whorf from WJR and maybe a little Bill Bailey (who was then doing mornings on WDRQ), But I made it my own, and apparently, Mr. Feldsteen liked my style.    

Fred Sharp (Shapiro) and Shelly Sherman were the other two hired from WSHJ.  I was the only one who got “the full time gig” as WBRB’s new Monday through Saturday midday talent slot.  Fred would later follow me to WAAM in Ann Arbor. 

The Program Director was a old-school type woman who I didn’t get along with too well, but the other Air Talent were great guys.  Although I was barely in my 20s, and they were in their 30s-40s, they treated me as an equal.

I was grateful to have worked under Bob Sneddon’s direction and his rigid formatting guidelines at WSHJ (Sneddon himself was a weekend jock at WXYZ-AM back when they played music).  In reality, things were a little looser at WBRB, but the discipline that Sneddon had given me was that it wasn’t merely about playing my favorite songs, but what I did (or didn’t do) between the songs that made the station (and me personally) successful.

The music at WBRB was truly Middle of the Road with a Full Service approach.  It was NOT Adult Contemporary, Hit Radio or even anything remotely like it. 

I was kind of an “up-tempo” guy, and a major fan of what they were doing at CKLW (and the ORIGINAL WDRQ on the FM side), so it was a stretch for me to fit my style in with Wayne Newton, Frank Sinatra and the few current songs that would cross over.  But I did it!   I used the name “Bob Morgan” on WBRB.  That schtick would evolve into the so-called “world famous” Bob “Marshall” which would be used at other stations with more upbeat formats in later years.


PUTTING IN APPEARANCES…
WBRB LOVED to sell remotes and I’d have to drive to banks, hardware stores, metro beach and everywhere imaginable to do my show.  Air talent was required to wear sport coats and ties at the remote (and we always hoped the air conditioning worked in the remote trailer, but often it didn’t). Imagine watching people splashing about in bathing suits around boats, and here I am in a box behind windows in a business suit sweating profusely, but ALWAYS staying upbeat and pretending I was loving it.  I wouldn’t have said so at the time, but I DID LOVE IT.  I loved every minute.    

AM 1430, “the Voice of Macomb County” played an interesting role in my career.  A funeral home sponsored the roll call of people who had died that day, and I read that list every morning, complete with the wrap-around and commercial part of the presentation.  

We hit ABC news at the top of every hour.  There was no digital clocks, just one big analog clock.  We played 45 rpm records and carts and it was up to us to know how to backtime our show into those live network feeds. Again, I had honed my craft under Bob Sneddon doing this sort of stuff at WSHJ, so it was second nature.  If your song ran out too soon, simply OPEN THE MIC and speak! I would front-sell the live news, promo-ing what was coming in the next hour of my show.  The mechanical stuff came easy.  The fun part of radio was BEING ME.

RETURNING TO THE SCENE OF THE CRIME…
So it was kind of sad when some 20 years later, I would return to WBRB’s darkened studios along with WCAR General Manager Jack Bailey.  The building on Gratiot near 16 Mile Road was to be demolished, but we were there to salvage whatever equipment we could put our hands on.  

I remember it being very dingy and dirty.  The “On-Air” board had been “upgraded” to an LPB 10-pot model (which became WCAR’s On-Air board, the first to carry the ill-fated pre-Disney “Radio Aahs” kids format.  I reminder spending a day cleaning a coating of dirt and yellow “goop” from both the inside and outside of that console before putting it on the air at WCAR).

There was a library of thousands of music carts at WBRB.   Many of the carts and racks were donated to Specs Howard School (completely true, I swear!).  

The original RCA Transmitter (in operation during my On-Air time there) was likely still functional, but abandoned.  But not before its power tubes were salvaged for my personal collection! 

We even salvaged light fixtures from that building.  At the time, most of the equipment was stored at a warehouse owned by Great Lakes Beverage (another of Mr. Wolpin’s businesses).  Some of the equipment was driven by Jack Bailey and myself to the WCAR Garden City site in a BEER TRUCK owned by Great Lakes Beverage.

I was at the transmitter site at 14 Mile and Gratiot as the original WBRB AM directional array was taken down.  It is adjacent to the FM tower of 102.7, which originally was WBRB-FM, and sold back in the days before FM signals had much value. 

I suppose if I hadn’t worked there in 1977, it wouldn’t have been any big deal.  But to me, it firmly and completely closed that chapter of my life.  What I have left is tons of experience, fond memories and maybe some really old airchecks, that probably weren’t good enough for demos that would get me work in years that followed.  No one ever took photos.  We were just doing a job, and at least I lived to tell about it!

 

 

4/3/2008 14:52:23

The calls for 1090's talk era are switched around. They were actually WTAK. Home of Warren Pierce, Paul Winter, Lou Gordon, JJ Scott and some others. Later to become WIID. I remember Warren doing "Tradio" on WERB. I also remember in the era of the Pueblo Incident, Warren doing a running bit about the Bob-Lo Boat Incident complete with stories about "Queen" Mary Morgan. Callers played along in the mockery. Pierce also used to do a remote from Jim's Garage Bar downtown near Cobo Hall. Paul Winter ran an ongoing remote from the Tel-Twelve Mall. Sort of funny since the 1090 signal was a tad weak and frayed around the edges at both locations. And it did go off-the-air at sundown.

I think for a time WERB also had one of those "beep" things on the phones that were called for by the FCC to warn callers that they were being recorded or broadcast.

Lou Gordon, for his commentaries, used to phone-in or use some low-grade Bell line from his home or office in the David Stott building downtown, as I recall.

Warren Pierce later went on to be a booker or producer on Lou Gordon's Kaiser Channel 50 TV program.

My Dad used to own a hobby shop in Garden City. Before WERB was there, his radio-controlled model airplane club used to fly planes in the field that later became the antenna farm for that station.

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Chuck from Monroe
8/25/2010 08:06:17

I remember listening to WBRB back in the 70s because I liked the local flavor of the station. I lived a half mile across the county line in Troy at the time and I could barely pick up the station. The election night reporting was great on WBRB and I recall terrific coverage of the aftermath of a tornado in the Anchor Bay area. I would say my favorite memory though is of the 10AM call in show which was unintentionally hilareous. I am a conservative Republican but some of the callers made me seem like a Markist-Lenenist.

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Bob Eccles
12/7/2010 13:02:47

I worked at WBRB from when it went back on the air in the fall of 1985 'til 1988. It was a wonderful place to get hands-on experience in the radio biz. Lots of stories, but no room to tell 'em here.

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3/5/2011 13:46:27

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Paul Caron
3/5/2011 13:48:40

I did sports at WBRB when it came back on in '85, did play by play HS football and hoops the next 5 years and did a 1 hour talk show nightly my first year there. It was a great place for experience, and people actually listened to our game b'casts. Too bad it couldn't survive.

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Terry Rybak
7/19/2011 19:46:08

I worked at WERB in 1965 while attending college. Mal-Wright Broadcasting owned WERB AM and WBRB AM. Programming was "top ten" with a call in "for sale" show called "Tradio". I worked with Vic Caputo, Jim Brooker, Don McCloud, Paul Winter, Bill Phillips. The station had four towers, aiming the signal North and East from Garden City. We ran 250 Watts daytime only. My High School electronics teacher, William Lively, helped with the station proof of performance when it was to be licensed. I would like to hear from anybody else who worked at WERB. Is Richard Wright, my old boss and the chief engineer, still around?

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9/16/2011 17:39:46

My mother worked at WBRB in the 60's. Her name was Ruth, but her show was called the Rosy O'Grady Show (I think) and she later married one of the night DJ's named Bob Beretin (sp?). I spent quite a bit of time at the station in the location trailer while I was in elementary school. Twas fun to run across this site. Thanks!

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Dave
8/22/2012 10:31:48

Bob Bereten, a dj at WBRB and WHFI was my cousin. He passed away in 1993.

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terry rybak
9/22/2011 16:10:03

I remember Rosie O'Grady, she would type up stuff for the DJs to read, besides doing her own show.

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Joe Maxwell
2/1/2012 12:38:19

I worked at WBRB through the middle 70's and was the Program Director when we chose the Spirit of Macomb moniker (cited in the graphic at the head of this blog) tying into the new jingle package we had commissioned from Pams Productions (one of their pre-fabs).. In fact my last act as I was leaving the station to move on to WOMC was to introduce the new identity at the end of my last air shift. We had been an important contributor to Macomb County being the 1st in the country to get every governmental entity on the bicentennial bandwagon

Tradio & Sound Off (or as we "lovingly" called it off the air) Spout Off, were a lot of fun to do, just mixing it up with the listeners. There were some strong opinions expressed & sometimes you found yourself playing devil's advocate just to agitate the mix a little bit. But overall it was a great experience and, I think, provided an excellent forum for public discussion of events going on around the county & the country.

We had a pretty good relationship with the guys over at Selfridge ANG weather station where they would give us current readings & tip us off about emergent weather situations. One guy didn't like to do it & dug up some reg. about not providing military info to non-military entities so the brass stopped it. One day we got a call (strictly off the record) from a guy there who told us they were tracking what they thought was a tornado headed our way. We called the US Weather Service who said "no" they thought it was what they called a cold-air funnel and wouldn't issue a warning. The twister went on to slice across the county, killing one person, & suddenly we were being attacked for not warning the public. We said we knew but couldn't release the info, and everyone wanted to know why. When we told our story the question turned to, if the national guard's job was to protect the American people, then why would they not be compelled to release information that could have saved the life that was lost? Our hands had been tied.

It was a jumping-off point for a lot of excellent talent & I was privileged to have crossed some of their paths. One of our greatest examples from my era there was hiring, & introducing to the market, Gene "Maxwell" (his middle name ... at 'BRB he was Gene Pawliczik), who went on to a very long & successful run at WNIC, He came with a strong recommendation from our afternoon drive host Mark Owens, and it worked out great.

And, of course, who could forget our morning drive host, marvellous Marv Welch, the nightclub comic & former Detroit TV persoonality as Wixie the Clown on the Wixie Wonderland show on WXYZ (ch 7). I really don't know how Marv was able to turn around from a late night at the club to coming on the air at 6am but, most of the time, he did it.

I'll never forget the morning of Marv's 50th birthday when, with the staff gathered in the big studio across the glass from the combo studio/control room under the premise that they were going to sing Happy Birthday, Sales Manager Jack Fetterly & I walked in behind Marv in the middle of his reading of a live commercial & put a pie in his face (a gag he helped Soupy Sales develop). The sponsor of the spot knew in advance it was going to happen. Jack assured him he'd get a make-good to which he responded he should probably have paid double for that one.

It was a neat place for a radio geek to work back then, with all the remotes & community involvement. We also did our own broadcsasts of MSU football & (on the FM) U-of-D basketball in their hey-day when they won the national championship with GM Charlie Park doing the play-by-play. That experience led me on to a side job of engineering for visiting sports broadcasters for a number of years before stopping it as a condition of gaining my employment at WJR.

I think it was the attempt to abandon the community-based format on the AM station that eventually led to its downfall. I had twice proposed keeping the community format on the AM signal but converting our FM (102.7 MHz) to a stereo Country Music format (this was before anyone else did it) and was told both times that country music doesn't work on FM ... Malrite tried it in Rochester, NY, and it didn 't work. I argued that there was a much larger audience for it in the Detroit area but they stood firm. I told them they were flogging a dead horse (the AM signal) while sitting on a gold mine (the FM). I decided then & there the place was for sale & looked elsewhere, going on to 'OMC and then to WEXL and winding up at WJR on the engineering staff full time, & moonlighting on the air for my last nine years in the business. Within a year after I left 'BRB, there were two FM signals (neither of which was a Malrite station) going head-to-head for the Country Music market in the Detroit/Windsor area.

Wow! This has been a great stroll down memory lane. WBRB was a great opportunity for me. I fondly remember the experience and I regret that t

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7/20/2012 10:51:10

Most of my memories of WBRB are of the Unlimited Hydroplane coverage that the station provided. Granted, back in the late 60s/early 70s, there wasn't a lot of radio stations clammoring to cover the races on the Detroit River... but WBRB had the action and always reported the results. Unless I'm mistaken, they used the same Jim Hendricks feed that came over the loudspeakers on the riverfront. I'd appreciate knowing if anyone out in this forum has any WBRB jingles or station id's they'd be interested in sharing. Growing up in Warren, I remember seeing the station's remote vehicle all over the Metro area and hearing those bits would bring back many fond memories. Thanks!

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SHELLEY SHERMAN
7/29/2012 19:34:42

Nice memories Bob! I'm not certain when Fred began but I started in 1979 (I think it was March) . Leigh heard me on the air at WSHJ and called Sneddon who recommended me. I left in June when Leigh wouldn't switch my shift so I could go to my prom;these things are important when you are only 17 and in 12th grade!!

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robin ziebert
11/25/2012 10:48:49

could the cousin of Bob Bereten please get in touch with me. he was my step father and i adored him. rziebert @comcast.net

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Kevin Mangold
11/26/2012 05:41:23

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Larry Moyer
12/24/2012 14:12:23

I worked at WBRB right out of high school in 1976 and 1977 after learning about radio at the Warren Cousino High station WPHS. I was a board operator running mostly the program on the FM that were sold to people like Valerie Hilsen ("Valerie's As You Like It") a program about plays upcoming at the Fisher Theater in Detroit, and various religious groups and ethnic groups who purchased one blocks of time. I also was the board operater talking to the DJ out in the remote trailer on location and did the Friday nigh high school football games. Joe Maxwell was the program director and my boss. I remeber Ed Dewitt in the news department, Joe Pici who was a DJ/board operator, Greg Crump another board operator. It was a great experience. I drove by Gratiot and Metro Parkway a few years ago to note the building gone. What a shame the AM signal is silent, but radio is more about mega corporations than local radio. What memories this page brings back!

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Lorna Stephens
3/21/2013 09:32:15

I started in radio at WBRB. It was a great start, and Charlie Rood was a great boss. When they closed they're doors I became a traffic reporter, but I will always be thankful for WBRB and thankful to all of you for sharing your stories. God bless and keep you and yours! Lorna Stephens WWJ Traffic.

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Michael Chew
7/25/2013 07:43:01

Around 1989 I also hired in under Charlie Rood and Sandra McNeill for my first-ever job. I made $3.35/hour and Charlie said, "I would pay him less if I could" LOL. Hi Lorna! Others during that time included Kevin, Paul Arthur, Uncle Fletch, Jerry Walczak and Stacie Bonanni to name a few. We were all broke but we were doing what we loved and I look back at those years fondly. I live in Philly now and do mornings at B101.

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michael Pohlman
4/10/2014 15:14:35

I can say I worked around WBRB, I was just a kid and Bob Bereten took me under his wing and taught me the business. I worked with both Bob Bereten and Joey Ryan at BRB. The knowledge I received as a very young man was incredible. Bob and I went to WHFI in Birmingham and took our radio show Request radio there which was a huge hit. I will alway remember my friends Bob Bereten and the late Joey Ryan. I have lost touch with Bob, back in the 70's and never was able to locate what ever happened to him. Robin, listed above mentioned Ruth, I fondly remember Ruth, she was married to Bob and had the Rosie O Grady show, but personally she was a great lady. I would love to hear back from anyone who worked at WBRB back in those day

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Ellen Kominars
4/16/2014 17:23:15

My father, Stuart Kominars, worked at WBRB for many years. I remember going to work with him when I was a kid. It was fun reading this blog. Many of the names are familiar.

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Nick
7/21/2014 17:52:30

I found a WBRB 1430 shirt at a used clothing store. It says Janice on the front.

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Thomas M. Kohn
1/28/2015 09:19:59

Good Gravy! … it’s amazing what you find on the internet! Although American by birth & from Michigan, I went to university in England and live in England to this day… I did return to the USA after university (late 80s for about 6 months), and WBRB was my one and only US job ever as an adult, before I returned to the UK. I was a sales person in the day time and did the occasional voice things in the evening. It was a “laugh & a half” … and something I haven’t thought about in nearly 3 decades… I absolutely remember Charlie Rood, Michael Chew, Jerry Walczak, Stacie Bonanni and Ron Angel (he was the sports guy) …and I wish you all well if you find this page!!! As I remember it (thinking about it now), it was a near as you can come to working in a TV sitcom… including having to jump on our own phone lines during the Phoenix Metaphysical Hour (an bizarre astrology call-in show) when the real incoming calls dried up every week… or the golfing trick-shot artist (why he was on the radio, I’ll never know) who refused to leave the building and started to threaten people with a golf club until he got paid….Or the day the beauty queen showed up to be interviewed…

Anyways… Fond memories… I wish you all well!

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Roseanne Cerra
6/17/2015 04:43:56

My short stint at WBRB was back in the early 1970's. I was attending Wayne State at the time and wanted to jump into broadcasting before graduating with a degree in Journalism. So I applied for a part time job at the radio station. It required writing news copy for General Manager Charlie Parks, operating the FM board and turning off the transmitter.

During my job interview I was asked if I was familiar with the station's FM board. I lied and said yes. So when I got the job and was told I would have to run the board the next week, there was an understanding DJ there who for several nights showed me how to run the board. He was my savior.

I needed a 3rd class engineer's licence to operate the transmitter, so I took a summer class at Wayne with 300 guys. What a summer!
I worked nights and weekends at the station so I could continue my classes at WSU. I remember writing and reading OBITS on Sunday mornings. At night I was the FM producer for various shows including Polka Joe and Valerie Hillsen (sp). I remember Valerie's show being all over the place. She never stuck to the script and would into songs that were not yet cued up. We cued LP's on two turntables back then. So I told her I was keeping with the script no matter what she announced so if she didn't follow it, she would look the fool. She had a variety show and talked about stars, fashions, lifestyle stories. I remember one time she held a fashion show on the air and had to describe what everyone was wearing.

I remember a DJ was fired during his shift for throwing a coke bottle through the very expensive glass plate in front of the producer booth so they yanked me out of the newsroom and told me I had to take over. That was my first on-air experience. I didn't care for it. Too repetitious. So they found another DJ and I took over as news writer and announcer for Charlie.

We had to read the news in a very cramped soundproof room with a window overlook the DJ's room. He would cue me and I would start to read local news about Macomb County. We were called "The Voice of Macomb County," back then. We had AP and UPI wire services and sometimes I would rip a long sheet of stories off one of the wire machines and begin to read. A couple of the engineers thought it would be fun to set my copy on fire from the bottom up. That's the fastest I've ever read news! Another time one of the guys squeezed into the booth behind me while I was reading. It sounded like he was taking a whiz behind me but was actually slowly pouring water into a tin bucket to simulate that sound. I believe my experience at WBRB helped me to land my first TV job at the CBS station in Clio, Michigan. Then onto other, bigger TV stations around the country.
Despite my 20 plus years in broadcasting, I have to say working with "the guys" at WBRB (I was the only female there) was one of the most fun jobs I ever had. Joe Maxwell, I think you were there at the same time.

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Roseanne Cerra
6/17/2015 05:09:16

Besides Charlie and Joe, there was John Swickla, Ed DeWitt, Greg Crump, and DJ Dave Watson (his on-air name). And I remember having to do remotes at every and any store grand opening.

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J. B. Maguire
7/13/2015 20:42:35

I lived in the Harrison Twp./Selfridge area until late 1965. I have two memories of WBRB: closures during some wild snowstorms in (I think) 1964, possibly 1965; and, when Ernie Grissom Chevrolet moved to a new location further down Gratiot Ave. towards Roseville, WBRB had a remote broadcast during their grand opening.

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J. B. Maguire
7/14/2015 20:14:23

One of the things that struck me in reading this blog are the comments from people who got their start in broadcasting at WBRB. This is what I regret about the loss of so many small market stations (due to economics, proliferation of syndication, and consolidation following the elimination of restrictions on station ownership)...there are fewer and fewer places where people can hone their talent. There's also a loss of "personality" because now, so many stations sound alike because of syndication.

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