This was my first tour of duty with Greater Media. I had received a newspaper article from home regarding a programming opening on Long Island, so I sent GM Paul Fleishman a resume. I didn't give it much thought because the station, WCTO, was still playing automated Beautiful Music tapes - a dying format. During the interview, it was divulged that the station would be flipping to AC. At the time, Greater Media had one of the best reputations of any ownership in the business. Gary James (WMEX/WKNH/WHYN) told me I would never get fired from there. I was very interested.
If someone were to ask me my proudest moment as a program director, I'd have to admit the launch of Magic 94.3 rates right up there. At 6:05 am, morning man John Williams announced that "The elevator stops here" and from that moment on, I've never heard such perfect execution of a new format. No hitches or glitches - even the folks from Unistar (we had adopted their "Special Blend" version of AC) were utterly impressed.
Another big highlight was traveling to Dallas to have jingles sung for the station. Here were the people who had sung jingles for all the legendary stations and now I'm sitting in master control telling them how I want it done. For that, I owe a big thanks to Tracy Carman for stressing upon me to "get the right sing." (Not to mention those countless demos and masters he provided!)
As impressive as the station's startup was, the end was also a special time for those involved. Greater Media was selling the combo (WMJC/WGSM) to Gary Starr, who would bring the entire WRCN format and staff to replace us. (Anyone catch both ironies here?) Credit goes to Paul Fleishman for not only his caring and support, but also allowing his managers and staff enjoy the rewards of their efforts. As managers, we championed some of the staff to the new regime and helped others with their job search. Built-up trade was distributed for all to partake and impromptu farewell parties were becomming a weekly event. It must have been a bittersweet time for him. Paul had worked at WGSM/WCTO his entire career; an ascention from weekend board-op to general manager that was a remarkable, well-earned accomplishment. This truly was the end of an era.
I also enjoyed the opportunity to work with GSM Bob Ballantine (General Sales Manager, WQSR Baltimore). Although I never worked directly under him, his proficient approach to winning was inspiring. His soft-spoken exterior belies sharp competitive instincts and as a consummate professional, he has the uncanny ability to make you strive to do your best. (Team up with him in a game of pool and you'll see what I mean.)
Tuesdays with John: Every Tuesday, morning man John Williams and myself would take a huge spread of delicacies to a selected "office of the week." We visited over 200 offices during those four years and met some wonderful people from a variety of Long Island businesses. The best part is that we didn't just deliver the food; we would join in the festivities. Many times these lunches would extend to over an hour. Much better than sitting in front of Selector.
Oops: Every morning we would give away a bouquet of flowers to a "listener of the day." This was a left over promotion from the BM/EZ days, but it continued to generate dozens of letters and faxes every day. One afternoon a woman called my office to make known her disappointment in the flowers she had won from us. Over the phone, she described a wilting mix of cheap pansies and baby's breath, one of those 8 dollar arrangements found at the local gas station. I immediately called the client and spoke with the owner of the flower shop. He assured me that winners were given big, beautiful arrangements costing upwards of $75-$100, but he was more than amendable in providing a replacement bouquet.
Well, this listener called me back a few days later and thanked me graciously for the flowers, which were, in her own words, incredibly beautiful. Sadly, she had solved the puzzle of the mystery bouquet on her own. Apparently her husband had picked up the winning bouquet on his way home from work, but instead of bringing it home, he apparently gave it to a "significant other." Then he bought the replacement bouquet while filling his gas tank. The conversation ended there and I'm happy she got those flowers.