Did My First Gig with Tri County Band… And the Rise & Fell (Once Again) of CKLW, the Big 8
I actually viewed the CKLW “Rise and Fall of the Big 8” press screening in the same breath as did a first public performance with the “Tri County” band.

In fact, I skipped a band rehearsal just to catch the screening of the CKLW special!  I already owned the DVD.  In fact, loaned my copy to a few Specs Howard instructors a few years ago and subsequently, many students asked where they could get a copy.
The answer is here:www.radiorevolutiondvd.com/

Seeing this again on “the big screen” this time provoked me to dig through my CKLW remnants.

During the Christmas of 1981, I was out of work, but not out of reel to reel recording tape!  I airchecked a full 24 hours of CKLW and caught many of the legendary CK jocks who were still there:  Tom Ryan was filling in for Dick Purtan, Johnny Williams, Charlie O’Brien and Jack London were all part of this broadcast day, along with Ted Richards.  The sound quality (especially for AM broadcast of 25 years ago) is astonishing.  The tapes for the most part, held up over the years.  

The following year, I would do an afternoon drive stint myself at WKHM in Jackson, Michigan, to be followed by my return to WAAM in Ann Arbor (thank you, Jimmy Barrett!). But CKLW was always a “reference point” for me.  

By then, CKLW was already on its downward spiral. Their format was more adult oriented (similar to ours at WAAM). Not surprisingly, on an aircheck of me dated May 1982, I sounded frighteningly similar to CK’s Ted Richards. 

During my air shift, several times I plugged the jock who followed me, as any of us would normally do.  He was relatively new to the station, and broadcasting in general, but a great guy to work with.

Before my aircheck tape ran out, it caught the first words of the jock after me:

“It’s 8 O’clock, this is WAAM, Ann Arbor.  Hello!  I’m Ken Kal and these are the Beatles…”  

I just heard the 1982 tape this past weekend that probably hadn’t even been played until now.

Yes, Ken Kal, the future voice of the Detroit Red Wings was one of my co-workers!  Yes, Ken sounded the same back then as he does today.

A few years ago, while I was producing a sports talk show that aired on the local Fox Sports affiliate, Ken actually confessed that he did, indeed work with the so-called “World Famous Bob Marshall” (that would be me!) when his career was just getting started.

This weekend, while driving home from my band gig in Commerce Township about 2AM, I had punched up News Radio, WWJ 950.  Anchoring the news was another WAAM colleague of the past.. AND Specs Howard graduate, Jeff DeFran!  

Jeff is also not just a great talent but a helluva nice guy.

“Way back”, he also participated in the comedy skits on my WAAM shows called “The MisAdventures of Fred Heller, Boy DJ.” What a good sport!  He often got the part of “Fred,” our afternoon drive guy who I enjoyed a friendly on-air feud with.  

Although the real “Fred” was only in his early 20’s, he had some stinky cigar smoking attributes, and mannerisms that I took delight in exaggerating in my script.  He was actually a great on-air talent, and another good guy.

The plots of my skits were about as thick as strangling ones self on headphone cords, or starting a broadcast school and blowing it up  (I think I was poking fun at Specs Howard, since Jeff back then was a recent Specs grad).   But these shows were major Production and editing projects that contributed to some of the most creative moments on local radio.
Mostly today, I appreciated the fact I was surrounded by such talents who so willingly jumped in when I threw one of my corny scripts at them!

Radio was (and is) all of our “passions.” 

So what about my first gig with the “Tri County Band”?

It was the “Winter Sucks” party put together by two families. It’s something that they had done annually before I arrived in the band.

I have done so many band shows, DJ events, remote broadcasts, etc that even though this was a new band and a different group of people, it was pretty much business as usual for me.  I had no concerns.

Playing bass with these people (on anyone) I know from experience, the amount of energy I personally put in will directly impact how the shows goes.  I gave it 102% as did everyone else and the crowd response was amazing.

Playing music and practically anything else including radio and multi-media work carries with it the same philosophy to win:  Act like you care and give it your full effort.  Play it, or Say It like you MEAN IT, without being phony (that part is just as important). 

Do that, and you WILL succeed!
A lot of people don’t quite “get it” and when they put in a half-hearted attempt, they get results like you’d expect.  The world owes you NOTHING, but if you show the world you KNOW how to party, and are RELENTLESS in that pursuit, you will be rewarded sooner or later.  Even if it’s a crowd going nuts, and numerous people shaking your hand saying “You guys ROCKED!”  Sometimes that’s all that is necessary.

Besides the people mentioned earlier who are successful in broadcasting, my congratulations for the success of this past weekend goes to my bandmates, who got out there and Kicked Some Serious Butt with me:

So let’s name ‘em! Tom Scola, who is the center of the universe with this group, guitarist virtuoso and singer went above and beyond the call of duty pulling this off,

Kelly Wishart, who was the one belting it out during some of best moments this weekend.  Doug Lewis…hey, some of the best bands have keyboard players who can also sing.  Doug is one of those.   Shawn Whiting, the rock-solid other half of the rhythm section with me. He also shares double duty in the “other” band, Wherez My Limo, who I will also plug at some point in the future.  Again.   We also have a new harmonica guy whom I met for the first time that night.

My hope also at some point in writing these blogs that I can get some of you actually show up at one of our shows, but MORE importantly, are somehow encouraged to move forward with YOUR OWN pursuits, dreams, fantasies or whatever.  

When you actually DO IT, they turn into reality, which is the best part.  

If you can’t come to a show for various reasons, naturally, YOUR COMMENTS are always appreciated and could actually trigger another rant of some sort.  Love or hate letters are fun for ME to receive.

See you soon.
Bob B



Live Radio Rules:  What makes it successful
(Common sense thoughts from past experience)

By Bob Burnham

“Good luck on your radio career” an old friend wrote on the back of her high school graduation picture, “even though we always teased you… “

We won’t discuss how many years have since passed, but some of us – myself included — haven’t changed much.  Hopefully, we’ve gained some knowledge and certainly common-sense smarts, but we still like companionship we get from RADIO.

One of the lifetime activities I’ve pursued is collecting tapes of radio.  For example, I had airchecked Warren Pierce’s “return” to Detroit on WJR, sometime BEFORE the occasion of that old friend wishing me well on my career.  I still have that tape. 

Warren Pierce is one of the guys who worked on the “original” WCAR (which is now WDFN, the Clear Channel sports station), 1130 on the AM dial.   Back then, people like Dave Prince, H.B. “Huggy Bear” Philips and Dan O’Shea did daily programs.  The sports format and Gregg Henson wouldn’t arrive there for several more years.  

One of the original WCAR jingles went something like this:

 “It’s knowing you… Are going to…  get some pretty songs all over you.

And knowing when you are….    on C-A-R…  They care about the folks they’re talking to…”

That last line should still be a philosophy of ALL radio stations today. But the difficult economy has been a favorite excuse for stations to routinely take people off the air and replace them with someone at half the salary or worse, a bland satellite-fed program. 

In the WCAR 1130-AM days, Warren did the nighttime shift and while he played music, he intermixed interesting interviews -- similar to what he still does -- in with the time and temp. On Sunday nights, he played “old time” radio comedy and drama.  I listened to the Sunday night shows religiously and started collecting those shows myself on a large scale. Warren’s closing theme was Gene Autry’s western prehistoric oldie, “Back in the Saddle Again,” which Pierce merrily sang along with on the radio  (I would love to hear him do that on WJR).   

I was quite upset when the station changed format and Warren left, much like we all feel about Deminski and Doyle today.  Warren arrived at a station in Canada: CKSL in London, Ontario, but he also worked at the “later” version of WCAR, 1090 on the AM dial, where I worked throughout the 1990s.

He was, however, long gone from WCAR by the time I arrived at “The Mighty 1090.” He was already a WJR regular by then.

But even during my time there, we had many interview and talk type programs on WCAR.  Some originated from remote locations and I was the site engineer as well as the Chief Engineer of the station.  On the occasion of one of those shows, Warren Pierce was the guest and we met briefly. 

The show, “You and Your Business,” was originated from a small restaurant located in the famous Fox Theater in Detroit.  The host, Marty DeWelt, was an enthusiastic, upbeat and incredibly bright woman who owned the program herself. She was convinced that Detroit was undergoing a massive growth spurt, and she had people on the air like Warren Pierce and Ernie Harwell who certainly lent a level of support to her enthusiasm.  Ernie hadn’t retired yet and the Tigers were still playing in Tiger Stadium. All was well.

Well, that program, format and those days, of course, are LOOOOOOONG GONE (sorry, I couldn’t resist!), but fragments of memorabilia from those years still exist.  Some of those fragments include airchecks. 

Warren Pierce would also briefly host a daily show with his wife on Bob Hynes’ ill-fated WYUR-AM, but would retain his association with WJR.

Playing some of these old tapes can really take you on a mind trip to the past and make you feel like you are there again, especially if you WERE originally there in the first place.

What every single one of these tapes prove  -- and I don’t care how far back the tapes go – is CONTENT and CONTENT ONLY is the key to its success and we are talking about content on a very personal level. 

It will never be safe watching TV while driving a car.  But the companionship that RADIO provides, or SHOULD provide is priceless.  

Whether it’s Jack Benny, Warren Pierce, or Jeff Deminski, such talents provide us with a vital link to OUR sanity.   These people lived their lives on the radio and we got to know them as People just by their providing that companionship.  

That’s why we get upset when they get taken off the air.  It’s no different than having a friend leave town… or… die.

I thought guys like Joe Sasso; the wisecracking New York-accented drive time guy on the old WXYZ "Music Radio" (before they became a talk station) was hilarious.   Ted The Bear, whose return we recently celebrated, as I have stated, was The Cool One.  Perhaps there is hope for the industry now that at least he’s back.

Before Technology and Accountants ruled the air, there were Real Live People speaking over microphones rather than a hard drive obediently retrieving a previously recorded voice-tracked show.   Today, computers rather than people also select songs from a microscopic play list backed by millions of megabytes of research.  

I have nothing against voice-tracking and using technology to make radio more cost effective to deliver.  But I’d like to see a little more pride taken in what is handed out to the public, rather than just proverbial hash shoveled out such as at dinnertime in a prison.   

“You’ll eat it and like it.”   No we won’t!   

Life is not a prison.  We’ll ABANDON The Hash Meal, or listen to our old friends on PODCASTS, which apparently is the newest form of RADIO (The form of delivery doesn't matter as much anymore).

Give us something TASTY and we just might leave the Ipods and the CD collection at home where in my case, the old tapes of the way radio “used to be” are also stored.


Welcome Ted The Bear Richards back to Detroit Radio!

Radio and techie stuff are very important parts of my life as I have said. It is like an old friend: I get angry when it doesn't give us what I think it should, I get bored when it gives me predictable boring content that doesn't make me think, laugh or otherwise become emotionally involved. But when it's good, I mean REALLY good, it's the highlight of my day.
I have my own ideas of what constitutes "good" radio, and the people who have the talent or at least the knowledge I have about what makes "good" radio -- in my opinion of course -- are heroes.

I have a very cool job that is mostly behind the scenes at Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts, in Southfield, Michigan.  I help to make the "magic" of the equipment work day in and day out for students and instructors. Although I am a bonafide, on the younger side "baby boomer", I try to keep up on the latest stuff technically and what is GOING ON in the business itself. I love classic technology, but I embrace everything new that comes along. I also have very strong ideas of what constitutes good and mediocrity in terms of programming as well. What worked in the past still works.

Growing up in northwest Detroit, I was a fan of several different radio stations, including WXYZ, WKNR and CKLW -- all AM stations. AM radio would later be the mainstay of my career both on the air and as Chief Techie.

As I began taking my career more seriously and began having some early success myself, CKLW was always the station that caught my attention. This was a hit radio music station that also played oldies, had a top notch news department, had the best signal, and the best and loudest "sound" of any station in Detroit. No other station could touch it. I have tapes that prove it to this day.

Although they played a wider range of music than anyone does today, the format was tighter than anybody else (figure that out, but it was true). The air talent was also second to none:  They had the most energy, the smoothest delivery, and from the sound of it, they had the most fun! It was a tight machine tended to by talented HUMANS long before radio automation and voice tracking even existed.

For a period of time, I was on the air doing the 6-10 PM air shift in Ann Arbor. I've told the story many times. Our format was more contemporary but I had my on-air heroes I had grown up with who were part of me developing my "schtick." One of the biggest heroes I emulated was Ted Richards at CKLW, AKA "The Big 8," who coincidently, was also their 6-10 nighttime jock (yeah, The Bear blew me away every night, but I loved every minute!).

Ted was the coolest jock on the radio, hands down. He knew Detroit and Windsor but he also knew THE MUSIC -- not just rock, not just Motown and R & B, but EVERYTHING better than anyone, and he knew how to talk around every tune on the air better than anyone.  I started doing that myself by listening to Ted, but I was also a musician so I had a strong sense of rhythm as well. 

Mostly I loved the guys' attitude. Still do. What can I say, he was COOL. 

He was why I wanted to be in radio. 

J.P. McCarthy and Dick Purtan were both well on their way to gaining their legendary status,
but Ted was the COOLEST.

In my office at Specs Howard, there is a framed publicity photo of Ted Richards which he signed to me: 
"Thanks for listening to CK," Ted wrote in 1983. Now I can point out to those who weren't around in CK's heyday just who this guy is!

The 1980s actually brought the demise of CKLW. Ted was pretty much there to the end as I recall, as competition from FM stations and pressure from Canada's version of the FCC eventually brought the station down.
But I never forgot Ted, and neither did Detroit.

The Detroit radio market has actually been smouldering for years. It has had its highlights, but some very serious low moments.

Can the highly depressed economy even support the level of radio talent we are accustomed to? Eight years ago, Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle arrived in town and while the "hot talk" format overall, tended to be a flop in Detroit, Jeff and Bill worked their butts off with a "working class" type show and won this town over in afternoon drive. Big Time. Unfortunately, they went OFF the air this past December along with the format of their old station and again, I wondered again 
"Can the economy of the Detroit market support great talent?"

Next, legendary broadcaster (who also goes back to the CKLW days), Tom Ryan was taken off the air at WOMC.
It seemed like the only way to hear our radio friends was via podcasts produced by radio talents who were out of work.

Gregg Henson
is best known for such podcasts via gregghenson.com and greggandmichelle.com. Henson, a former co-worker of Deminski and Doyle at the ill-fated "hot talk" station, has developed a massive listenership via "Blog Talk" radio. Nobody gets paid,
but everybody has fun.

So I had all but given up on so-called traditional radio that I could listen to in the car when D & D went off.
I love classic rock and all the legendary jocks I also grew up with on WCSX and WRIF, but hearing the same songs every day can get old.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I need some serious excitement or at least to laugh with old friends like D & D, Gregg and Michelle, or…  Ted Richards. I don't need to hear the same 30 year old song 10 times a week.

On Friday, February 1st 2008, the Motor City was hit with another winter blast. Some of us actually got the day off from work! But more significantly, Detroit Radio also got IT'S biggest blast in many years. The afore mentioned Ted "The Bear" Richards' returned to Detroit radio! His much anticipated, heavily promoted arrival on WOMC 104.3 kicks off his tenure as their new 3-7:00 afternoon drive guy.

The show began with a drop from Detroit's most beloved voice, Ernie Harwell, the legendary voice of the Detroit Tigers...and of course Ted "The Bear" kicked it off reciting the first verse of McFadden and Whitehead's 1970s disco hit, "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" over the intro of the song right up to the post.  He proclaimed "It's official! The Bear is back in town in the month of love in the Motor City, and I love YOU, Motor City, yes I do..."

From that point on, no matter how bad the weather was outside, having the Coolest-Jock-On-Radio on one of the most powerful FM stations in the state, we knew everything would be OK. You can't help but be in a good mood with this guy on. I would suspect it was a surprisingly emotional experience for Detroit listeners to have this old friend back.

Later, the original CKLW traffic girl, Jo-Jo was heard as well as a welcome from the Mayor of Ferndale, where the studio and transmitter is located, and at one point, a hilarious burn-out call
"Hey Ted, you introduced me to Alice Cooper!"

Ted made later reference to the fact that the phone lines were knocked out obviously due to the volume of calls, but that the phone company had apparently quickly fixed the situation. Thanks phone technicians!

As a colleague of mine remarked who was listening to the internet stream in another market, "the music is actually made to sound BETTER by the talent between the songs." I couldn't agree more.

Back to back hits mean nothing. Any office computer can do that. But give me someone we can get to know, who actually cares about the City, has something intelligent, witty or otherwise down-to-earth to say, and I'll listen everyday and buy every product that is advertised on that station.

Is he one of the "heroes" of my career, such as it is? Absolutely.

But mostly it's great to have an old friend back -- someone on the air who is the very definition of a broadcast PRO in light of the what has happened in this radio market and industry-wide during the past year.

Welcome back Ted the Bear. Don't leave us again!

-Bob Burnham