Tom Profit is Operations Manager at the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts in Southfield, Michigan.

His illustrious career at Specs Howard began 30 years ago.  But I knew of his reputation long before I knew him, when he hired me eight and a half years ago.

At one point, I worked for WXYT.  The Chief Engineer at the time, Bill Vellner, actually BRAGGED to me that “Tom Profit at Specs Howard is a personal friend,” like I was supposed to be impressed!

Of course to me, the name meant absolutely nothing to me at the time!  
Later, a few grads who I had trained at various radio stations had stated Tom’s Transmitter Operations class Was the Toughest One at Specs Howard! 

But I could easily tell which students did well in Tom’s class, and which ones barely passed.

After I came on board and before we discontinued the Transmitter Operations class, a couple times, I did some substitute teaching for Tom.  The material was simple.  At least I thought so.  The real challenge was helping the students understand the material, of which Tom is a master of.

Early Tom Encounters recall memories of the first conversations I had with Tom. His sarcastic sense of humor at first led me to believe Something Wasn’t Quite Right About This Guy. 

The conversation began with me saying to Tom:

“I talked to Dave Shank…” (Dave was an instructor at that time)

Tom interrupts with a comment drenched in sarcasm:

“Oh you were THAT lucky…”  

“Dave said I should call you…”

Dave’s comment later on reassured me: “Tom’s not such a bad guy, except he’s fussy about cold solder joints!”

You’d think it was some kind of illegal substance the way Dave talked about it, but he was referring to the art of making electrical connections using molten tin and lead with a hot pointy tool! 

The reality was Tom knew his way around a soldering iron as well as anyone.

Today, Dave Shank is one of the best live sound guys in the Detroit area, and it was he who convinced me to go work for Tom Profit, when in reality, I had no such plans.

In Tom’s past, he was the original WCSX Chief Engineer, and did plenty of the dirty work Chief Engineers do back then, as well as before and since. This was back when stations were still playing actual records over the air.  You can be sure Tom changed more than his share of phonograph needles, or styli as we “professionals” called them.  

Tom had his First Class FCC license around the time I was still playing DJ with my measly Third Class License when such things existed.  

He will begrudgingly admit to "being around that long," but it's one of the attributes -- like it or not -- of most the best engineers in the country.

Tom was still teaching how to calculate “the direct (AND indirect) method of determining a stations’ power” during the two times in my career I  had to personally prove to the local FCC that my station was operating legally.  I can personally vouch for Tom’s teachings for anyone who had his class back then.  He was teaching The Gospel as far as the FCC was concerned!

During the years I have worked for Tom, he has never failed to trust my judgement implicitly as to how to handle a project or solve a problem.  This level of respect and trust is greatly appreciated.

I have been in many situations with management who had far less knowledge than me, who were intent on micro-managing the most trivial details, or never being satisfied that I had gotten enough quotes and even though I had done my research,

“ How could such and such equipment cost THAT MUCH!?”

Tom could teach a class to General Managers on how to manage their technical help and the world would be a better place.   Of course, he has the reference point of having been there himself, which makes a difference.  But he could easily be a grouchy old ogre with his level of experience, but he never is.

As we progressed upgrading the school, I cultivated many relationships with manufacturers and distributors that has benefited the school in many ways including saving us thousands of dollars.  When I would make a decision to change suppliers or distributors, Tom would back that decision fully.

Also, he never made me count the number of squares in a roll of toilet paper to make sure we were getting the best value on our janitorial supplies!  Thank you Tom.

That frugal General Manager, however, became a friend, and was one of the people who told Tom it was OK to hire me. 

We can’t really say, “best wishes for ANOTHER 30 years” as no one can predict the future. No one really knows how much longer Tom expects to subject us to his warped but keenly sarcastic sense of humor, his diverse knowledge of Everything Operations, and his unique wordsmithing expertise 

(Find the most obscure word in the English language and Tom will know the definition and use it in a sentence). 

What we can say is THANKS for the PAST 30!

It’s true some of MY blood and guts can be found in many the schools’ studios, but not nearly as much as Tom’s………  Congratulations, Tom.



“Thanks for taking so much of your time the other day…”

Sometimes I get handwritten cards that begin that way, as one of the “techie dudes” at the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts, and I know the others on staff get a lot more that I get about the same thing, usually after landing at a job they never expected to get.    

Revisiting people of the past also seems also like an exercise many of us go through every so often.  Sometimes those people from way back even become active in your life again.  But there’s nothing like the present and those I get to hang with today.

Almost two years ago, I was surprised with an award I was given at a radio convention I normally attend.  The convention chairman and I go back a lot of years.  

 As I am now, I was a dealer of “old-time” programs, and published a newsletter during the 1970s (no cracks, I was in HIGH SCHOOL at the time!) called News & Reviews.  

This old friends’ profession was that of a graphic artist. He was just a tiny bit older than myself, and well established and respected in his field.  I was a newbie, or a hobbyist, or an entry-level broadcast person ready bid a fond farewell to my teenage years.  

Yet I could string a few words together than made sense and what I listened to on radio or tape, or record made for lots of written content.  I had developed both fans as well as people who hated me.  Some would even call me on the phone using a creative collection of profanity, call me names or make threats.  Ahh, such is the life of a writer who speaks his mind!  

But there were bright moments as well.  In 10th grade I had published an underground newspaper simply called “Rock Review” that one of my favorite teachers quietly ran on the school “ditto” machine.  Once I even wrote a feature about Dick Purtan who was then doing mornings on WXYZ-AM, and sent a copy to Mr. Purtan.  Much to my surprise, a week or so later, I received a hand-typed note of thanks from Dick Purtan himself on WXYZ/ABC letterhead. There was an aside from Dick to give “his best” to my long-haired ultra-cool English teacher I had at that time.  

Much later (after my school days) during the latter years of the 1970s, that afore-mentioned Cincinnati graphic artist / radio fan and I plus another friend would soon team up to publish one of the largest circulating old-time radio magazines of its type.  During the mid 1980s he would also start a radio convention in Cincinnati, which is still going strong.  

Only this year, I stumbled on an interview he did early this year in a national publication, crediting me by name as the very first “old-time” radio person he was in contact with.  It is a cool thing to be remembered and acknowledged.  It is never necessary, but it is appreciated.

Back in the day, we called our publication “Collector’s Corner,” which was never a newsletter or newspaper. It was always a magazine and we soon absorbed some of our competition. “National Radio Trader” became a logo that became part of ours.  Typesetting services were expensive back in the days before computers, but WE HAD a graphic artist who gladly took old radio tapes as “payment” plus we had our trusty IBM Selectric and Smith Corona typewriters with “film” ribbons that reproduced well.

My co-editor had a business called Nostalgia Warehouse (which I would absorb into my own in later years) and I had a similar business that I had started in high school.  

It is no surprise that all of us have remained friends to this day.  What is sometimes a surprise – a pleasant one – when one or more of us gets a chance to remember each other to an audience that might not have been around when we were publishing magazines and getting accolades just because we knew how to write and manage each other.

I have “artfully” NOT mentioned most of the names here since you wouldn’t know them anyway. They do know who they are, although they may not realize the impact they made on my life and to a degree, still do.

But again, there is still nothing like the people of the present – those who may wonder what led to us knowing what know.  They may actually be surprised that someone like me will so readily stop on a dime to help someone regardless of what we may have been in the middle of.  

My colleagues today may have the same attitude, but simply arrived at that mentality in a different way. But they are, in fact, my teachers of today, yet they may also be my students on a different day.  Obviously, we don’t need anyone to sneak into the office during lunch breaks to “publish” our thoughts. No "ditto" publications these days with the purple ink!

Instead, we publish it on a blog site. 

As for the Collector’s Corner-National Radio Trader “Art Director,” today he has a computer too, and is not afraid to use it.     But he has not forgotten those people who gave him content when the typewriters were still on our desks, or who sent him that missing I Love a Mystery episode.


(Congratulations CFCO on 80 years of broadcasting!)
This is the first hopefully a few installments of what I'm finding on my car radio on my daily commute in the Detroit area. This only applies to those in the Detroit area (able to receive local stations) and for now, refers to the so-called terrestrial (not satellite) radio, and not necessarily HD radio, either.

The first car I ever owned only had an AM radio.  I know all most intimate (and in some cases) now useless details about how it works and how to get it to sound as good as it can.  So unlike most people, I still use the AM button on my car radio when I get bored with everything going on, on the FM band, and my own CDs spewed about the front seat.

I have often made reference to a certain format flavor called “Full Service,” which today is very rare style of programming, especially in this immediate area.  It basically is comprised of what its name implies:  A little news, a little sports, information, music, and chat.  Historically, it is also very locally oriented as well as very heavily personality-oriented. 

It takes a mixture of abilities by the host to be successful, but mostly they have to be well rounded and informed communicators.   It is a style that can’t be taught either, because there aren’t too many examples around (and why teach it anyway, if no one is programming in that “style” !?).

This type of format was the mainstay of radio stations on the AM band back when FM was largely “elevator music.”   There were variations of approach, tempo and emphasis, but most stations had live local news and sports at least once per hour in addition to perhaps a national newscast from a major network.  

For several reasons, you won’t find stations in a top 10 market like Detroit with this format, but if you tune down near the left side of the AM band, you’ll hear a station that is still playing music and being a success story.

CFCO, at 630 AM is enjoying 80 years as a “heritage” station serving Chatham Ontario and surrounding counties with its booming 10,000 watt signal.

When you are toward the bottom end of the AM dial, it actually takes very few watts to enjoy massive coverage, and CFCO has no problem blanketing the metro-Detroit area with a very listenable signal.  

CFCO is a fantastic station!  Even the technical quality is flawless. Did you know standard AM broadcast standards when you boil them down, are actually HIGHER than FM??  The problem is nobody makes a good AM radio anymore, so we tend to think of AM as muffled, scratchy, garbled old-school broadcast form.  But latch on to a station with a good signal and uncompromising standards in their technical plant and you will be in for a pleasant surprise.  That is assuming the program CONTENT is of interest.

WJR and WWJ are of course, two of the legendary “heritage” Detroit stations whom everyone knows even if they never listen to AM.   CFCO apparently is Chatham’s version of WJR.  

Unlike some heritage stations, CFCO  has not sacrificed much if any of their program line-up to nationally syndicated satellite-fed material.  CFCO also has incredibly strong local ties.

On Halloween night, rather than replay the old 1938 Orson Welles “War of the Worlds”, a local theater group recreated the scripts and originated them from a theater building under construction in Chatham.   OK, it wasn’t QUITE as good as Mr. Welles, but I give them A++ for effort and same to the station for actually doing a remote segment from the theater. A great station will also have a strong presence in the community, and CFCO seems to be ever-present as well.

Most of Detroit’s best broadcasters are on the air in the morning.  At CFCO, they are on the air around the clock!  Perhaps there is a little voice-tracking going on, but maybe not.  It still sounds live, so who cares!?

George Brooks has been a long-time mainstay of the station I have caught off and on over the years.  Just by listening, you KNOW the guy is a seasoned veteran who is as “good” as they come at what he does.  Yet he still has that personable, approachable “Pal-on-the-Radio” smoothness that seems real and genuine.  Here’s a guy who undoubtedly has thousands of friends in Chatham and Kent County (and at least one the in Detroit area) whom he will never meet, but probably know as much about him and his mannerisms as his own family members.

I have repeatedly said the best radio – no matter what the format – is PERSONAL radio.  Overly-researched play lists – if they are the main content of the broadcast hour – get painfully boring, if the broadcaster is not allowed to be him or herself.

I saw that coming during the latter days of the On-Air part of my career.  I was told the creative parts of my show were to be dropped, that I had to segue (and not talk at all) every other song, and read some stupid liner rather than make any mention of what was bugging me in today’s news.

The fact that stations like CFCO still exist, and elsewhere, talent such as Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle managed to survive on rated Detroit stations gives me reason for hope that radio is alive and well in a form that MATTERS.  

CFCO has an oldies format ranging from the 1960s to the early 1980s.  Perfect!  It makes me feel like I’m in a time warp.  Those songs were current hits when I played them on the radio myself. 

Now if only my BAND can learn to play a few more of them...

…And maybe I’ll even listen to CFCO enough to start cheering for the Toronto Blue Jays instead of the Detroit Tigers.   Fat chance on that one!

But thanks for the great radio anyway, guys!

They are on the web at


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.

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.

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.

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!




Dick Kernen’s on-going star-studded roster of success stories that came from Specs Howard never cease to amaze me!   With Uncle Dick’s blog in full swing, I realized I myself wouldn’t be where I am today had I not rubbed elbows with or at least taken serious notes from those TYPE of people.

By the way, if you don’t know Mr. Kernen, he’s an important dude at Specs Howard that I get to work in the same building with.  You can read his latest comments here: but don’t forget to finish reading mine!
There are some Specs Howard graduates on my list as well, but many had their roots in the business long before the school existed.  Many of the names are familiar, and very obvious choices.  Others are not so familiar – except maybe to me, or the people who were part of that era.  This list is also not all-inclusive.  I tried to focus on those who left the most positive impression on my mind – looking back today retrospectively.

For anyone who wonders how I know what I know today about radio and related areas, here’s the collection of people who lit the spark of interest and/or passed on their wisdom.

Specs Howard is also staffed by these TYPE of people, so you don’t have to spend your whole life being in the right place at the right time to get started!
                                                       - Bob Burnham

Radio legends I grew up LISTENING to:

Warren Pierce – on the “original” WCAR 1130 AM, long before his arrival at WJR
Ernie Harwell – Detroit Tigers Baseball – WJR, WXYT
The entire 1970s WXYZ-AM line-up before their switch to talk radio:

Dick Purtan – mornings
Johnny Randall – middays
Joe Sasso - afternoons
Dave Lockhart – overnights

Mike Whorf - WJR
Ted Richards - CKLW
Johnny Williams - CKLW
Scott Miller - CKLW
Andy Stoffa   WQRS

Overnight talk show hosts of the 1970s:
Bill Corsair – WCAU Philadelphia
Larry Glick – WBZ Boston

People I actually worked with who were important to me…
From WSHJ Southfield
Bob Sneddon
Lee Knyte
Don Phillips
Fred Sharp
Shelly Sherman

At WBRB Mt. Clemens:
Bob Stone
Larry O’Brien

Some of the talent line-up at WAAM Ann Arbor when I was part of it:
Jack Hood
Art Versnick
“Fat Bob” Taylor
Fred Heller
Dave Dugan
Paul Chapman
Jeff Defran
Ken Kal
Mike Radzik

From WCAR 1090 during the 1990s:
Jack Bailey
Susan McGraw

Jerome Lott
Scott Greenberg
Richard Piet
Dave Shank

My stint as Chief Engineer for the Cumulus Ann Arbor group.
Lucy Ann Lance
John O’Leary
Dennis Fithian
Mark Thompson

From many side projects from the 1990s to present:
Lowell Homburger

Tom Fitzek
Ed Cole
Dr. Frank Berry
Bill Mullen
Bernie Segal and Al Rosner of (then) Jules Cohen Associates
Whether they still walk this planet or not, thanks to everyone here, as well as the numerous people who were also there as well who didn’t make the list.

And of course, we’ll save the cool people I work with at the school today for another time.