by Bob Burnham
I guess you have to be "older" to start figuring stuff like this out.

As I say over and over, I've been doing what I do “for a very long time.”

I have knowledge and skills in a wide variety of areas broadcasting; some I'm better at than others, but none of it came overnight.

All those audio studios (and there's a lot of them!) at Specs Howard are my "babies," especially the ones with digital consoles (again, there's 25 of 'em!).  Over the years they get a little beat up, but they are still something that came out of cartons and became reality because of my work.  They are also works in progress.

I am grateful to TOM PROFIT who has trusted my judgement at Specs from day 1. I do have my "methods" but they are *MY* variations of what I picked up from the best in the business, and based on years of experience. As a result, I RARELY get a support call on any of the studios.  If anything, it's usually computer-related or a CD player that just died. 

I've come to realize it boils down to three people over the years whom I've crossed paths with, worked for or with at one time or another.  There's lots of other GOOD people whom I work with, but these are the top guys.

BOB SNEDDON...  was one of the earliest.  You never realize how important people like this are going to be at the time you're working with them.  For a few years before and after my commercial radio career began, Sneddon was the GM at WSHJ, where I spent endless hours hosting programs, at all hours of the night.  The format was tight hit radio and album rock.  My "Third Phone Endorsed" FCC operator license (required at that time) hung at WSHJ until I took it elsewhere.  Even after I got hired by a commercial station, I would still get calls from WSHJ:  "we're in a jam, can you do midnight to 6?"  It was such a cool station, I never said no...even AFTER I got off the air elsewhere working 6:00-10:00!  That wouldn't have happened without Sneddon. He lit the fire in me that still burns.

JACK HOOD...  the late great programmer worked all over central Michigan and had a stop at WJR before he arrived as Operations Manager at WAAM in Ann Arbor.  Thanks to my years at WSHJ and elsewhere I fit in to his air staff like a glove, and was named Production Director within a year of being hired.  Jack took me under his wing, gave me some encouragement and a nudge:  "I think you can do this Bobby!"  And I never stopped.  At the same time, their Chief Engineer tapped into my help to install new consoles and set up remotes (while also being the on-air dude every night).  On our first meeting, we listened to a few minutes of my demo in his office together. Jack didnt say much, but hired me on the spot.   Under Jack Hood, WAAM was known as "WJR WEST."

  was our local consultant at WCAR many years later.  Bill is by far, one of the best engineers in the Detroit area. WCAR took me on a series of adventures over a 10 year period I'll remember for a lifetime.

Bill and I would frequently go over the facility with a fine tooth comb, not just for reliability issues but for FCC compliance. I quickly became a walking version of FCC Rules book!  WCAR had a "surprise" FCC inspection and to this day, I fully credit Bill's help for for us passing that FCC visit with "flying colors."  Bill also took me on adventures and projects at other stations and I took on many on my own. He has hung his hat at at Channel 4, WDIV for many years.

Mullen's standards, like Sneddon and Hood were uncompromising.  In later years as I undertook massive projects at Specs Howard and elsewhere, I would ask myself "Would this be good enough for Mullen?"  If it wasn't, it wasn't good enough for me.  Of those I’ve worked with, Bill was the Gold Standard as far as studio design and construction.

These became the standards which I require of any Operations Interns who work under my direction today.  There is no room for sloppy work in my world, yet at the same time, have a pleasant demeanor!

Not everyone has been as "lucky" as I, but it's really much more than just luck:  If you build a good life, good people will come. 

Thanks to everyone mentioned.

-Bob B

An Introduction & Some Memories
By Bob Burnham

The concept of remote broadcasts has become almost obsolete.  The fact is any cell phone can “put you on the air” – maybe of not “broadcast quality” but certainly of “reasonable” quality for a short duration.

The type of Remote I’m referring to, however (which are also still done), are more of an “event” where all the talent involved with the show is on-site and appropriate equipment is set up to deliver broadcast quality from that location.  

There’s lots of different ways to do it, depending on the nature of the show.  Talk shows, for example, with listener call-ins are more complex.  There are separate producers/call screeners back at the studio who have to manage that portion of the program and constantly communicate with the on-site talent and on-site producer.

Typically laptops with some sort of digital connection back to the studio call-screener’s screen AND the phone system are common tools to help talent coordinate what’s “coming up next.”

A “sponsored” remote (meaning an advertiser paid the station extra money in order to bring you out to his site or the event) usually has the biggest budget to do whatever you need to do, as well as pay for any extra support people.

A Promotions person sets up the station banners, hands out bumper stickers or whatever the freebie item of the day is, and coordinates any special activities during the show.  

At a smaller station (or those with small budgets– which today is MOST stations), that person may also double as the on-site “engineer” who sets up the equipment.

Getting the audio back to the studio (and back again) can be accomplished using a combination of methods.

The method of “off-air” communication can be handled using any number of schemes: 

Those methods include cell phones, a talk-back system (built into the broadcast equipment), a “chat” window on the laptop computers (or in the “old days” a 2-way business band radio-transmitter combination similar to what is still used for dispatching in taxis and police and fire departments). 

A copy of the station log is normally required at the remote site.  Alternately, the same log can be shown on the on-site laptop screen, though it is common practice to manage the “official” copy by the Producer at the studio site.  

Normally, all programming elements are played from the studio site (except for what originates from open mics)  although “in a pinch” (assuming support equipment is available), a special segment can be played back from the remote site.


I had a routine to set up a remote each and every Friday morning for “Fat Bob” Taylor at various Ann Arbor Kroger stores.  These were “paid” remotes obviously, and I was the “combination” person on staff – (both Engineer and Air-Talent) responsible for making sure everything worked and was set-up correctly. 

That went on for many months in 1979.  Nothing bad ever happened and Taylor and I became good friends.  (“Programming,” however, claimed all of me full time as their Production guy. After that, the only remotes I was involved in at that particular station were as talent.)

The most incredible memories I have doing remotes were at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show.  Those were exhausting adventures that stretched usually over a 10-day period.  It was me who planned and managed those events on-site for most of the 1990s.  

I was usually the one who drove the station vehicle loaded with equipment, furniture and supplies, and the one who waited for hours on loading docks (freezing) while (sometimes rude and bitchy) unionized workers unloaded us and took our gear to our display site.  The process was repeated in reverse after the show (often on a late Sunday night – that was fun Not.).

I usually had someone from the station with me, but sometimes I was alone.   We eventually built a very high-tech remote customized furniture rig. It was on wheels and had everything pre-wired and equipped with a small console.  I don’t know what happened to that rig, but it was terrific for what we designed it for.  

There were a lot of details that went into these events like riser carpeting, table drops, banners, signs, furniture, color coordination etc.  We also even had a small baby-grand piano at our remote site.  The goal was to compete directly with other stations and out-class the best of them!

I was also the one whom every night fashioned heavy duty towing chain and padlocks through our furniture and equipment.  Nothing was ever stolen.  Details.  You’ve GOT TO BE detail-oriented to pull off a successful Remote!

We had furniture stores sponsoring as well as a music store who provided the piano.

I was usually part of selecting the furniture, and always part of the physical moving it to our studios, then out to Cobo Center.   Yep. We went through that routine EVERY year starting in late December!

 One of our sales dudes was also the Italian program host, and he brought live musicians to our stage during his broadcasts! 

But frankly, there were some years I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT look forward the Auto show remote!  I dreaded it, in fact.  As mentioned it was (usually) exhausting, our tempers got tried, and there were SO many details thrust upon basically only two or three of us.

Some of the years, I was part of the “black tie event,” and I remember the last-minute fittings at President Tuxedo!  We had people on-air like Bob Lutz on our stage.

In later years, however, our management people and I decided to turn it into an unofficial staff “party event” in Detroit.  

For the one year we were part of "RADIO AAHS" network (similar to todays' Radio Disney) I COULD NOT BELIEVE the huge crowds we had attracted.  Well...  it was kind of a cool concept at least for a LITTLE while.
Even though it was hard work, those became years some of us will never forget. It was entirely the people at that station who ended up making those Remotes among my career highlights.  Thank you to all.

To name just a few: Jack Bailey, Scott Greenberg, David Wallace Johnson, Jerome Lott, Susan McGraw, Dino Valle, and behind the scenes, Kathy Carrington, Marylou Janiga and Carrie Abdo among others…oh yes, I can’t forget our beloved station “handyman,” Steve Fapka:  Steve helped keep me sane during those trying moments on Cobo Center’s loading dock!
We all kept each other from going crazy and watched each others back.   
-          Bob Burnham
        November 28, 2010