Monday, January 27, 2014

Our Weekly Push For Better Radio

Hey Kent,
What defines Chicago Rock 'N Roll more than "True Oldies" music?  The days of the superstar DeeJays who had as much (if not more) personality than the entertainers themselves!  We grew up sharing memorable moments with them from sporting events, to proms, to pubescent romantic moments to just hangin' out with the gang ... we were listening while all that was going on!  And the music was truly the music of our lives.  That music had meaning, it had staying power.  When we host those classic shows at my Arcada Theatre, it is so refreshing to see twelve year olds singing along with their parents and grandparents.  We MUST bring back the oldies on WLS!  I commit to you everything in my power to support you in spearheading this movement!
Onesti Entertainment Corporation
Historic Arcada Theatre
Thank you for your support, Ron ... we've just GOT to find a way to make this happen.  (And let's face it ... oldies music on the radio ... and live oldies shows at The Arcada Theatre ... is a match made in heaven ... they TOTALLY compliment each other!) 
Did you check the ratings I posted the other day?  WLS-FM is down to a 1.7 share in the key 25-54 demographic ... there is NO way they can POSSIBLY be happy about that.  The time to make the move is NOW!!!  (kk)
Just before Thanksgiving, I had a weekend long painting job. The client "did me a favor" by leaving the radio on for me both days while they went out, to give me some space. It was an all 80's weekend on the first station. I wanted to stab things. Then the next day, it was a completely different station, also doing an all 80s weekend. I wanted to kill myself. Not only did I hear the same bunch of really awful songs on both stations, I heard the same awful songs multiple times a day. Not ONE interesting song in all those hours. They had ten years of songs to choose from ... there is NO reason that I should have heard the same song twice in one day. I didn't just want to kill myself by the end of each day, I wanted to set off a nuclear explosion. It was so dreadful. THIS is what we have to live with on Chicago radio.  I will NEVER AGAIN FORGET MY IPOD!!!!
The good news is the word is continuing to get out there ... folks HAVE been writing and calling ... and we need that to continue. (I've got a couple of other logs on the fire, so to speak, that I hope will pan out to bring this whole campaign even more attention.)  But meanwhile, you guys need to keep at it, too.
Two more emails you might try (unverified but still worth a shot):
Based on some of the communication I've had this past week, it sounds like word of our efforts is reaching a much higher level now ... and some of these folks are promising to actively support our efforts.  But we ALL have to keep pushing in order to make this happen ... so keep those cards and letters coming, folks.  Call, fax, text, email, tweet, and post our message on any and all of your social media outlets ... we want to BRING THE OLDIES BACK TO CHICAGO!!!  (kk)
Speaking of which, the Cumulus folks had a "getting together" party here in Chicago Thursday Night ... a chance for people from all four of their Chicagoland Radio Stations to "meet and greet" and mingle ... a noble gesture to show unity in Cumulus' commitment to making radio better here in The Windy City ... but the ONLY way to do that is to do some SERIOUS restructuring.  NONE of their stations placed in The Top Ten ... which tells me that SOME of those jocks and station execs were meeting for the first ... and last time.  (I can't believe Cumulus is going to invest all this time, money and effort into stations averaging less than a 2.0 share!)  Let's see where it goes from here.  (kk)
Here's the culprit, Mr. K!!!!
Found this "testing" out from a vintage DJ host!
The biggest problem that I've seen with these radio research tests is that they only ask you to evaluate the music that they're already playing, meaning that they're not even considering opening the door to new possibilities and/or improvements to the station.  They just want to know which of these same 200-300 tracks listeners may want to cut back the dosage on ... never considering for a moment that they may be sick and tired of hearing them all together.  (kk)
I was quite pleased (and quite surprised!) to receive an email from Michael Damsky this week.  Michael is one of the guys who headed up Citadel Broadcasting before the Cumulus take-over and played a large part in the handling of WLS-FM during the Scott Shannon / True Oldies era. 
For the most part, he agreed with our current assessment of what's being offered up and down the radio dial ... but, like many others, he also said that any hope of changing or improving that formula probably isn't very likely.  (That's OK ... we're not quite ready to give up yet!)
When you consider that a radio station like WLS-FM now uses an outside programming and consulting group that specializes in the "Classic Hits" format and, as such, programs hundreds of radio stations across the country, all this really insures us that no matter WHERE we go, we are going to be subjected to the EXACT SAME MUSIC on every station in every city, leaving absolutely NOTHING left in the way of variety ... or relief.
Michael brings up a good point in that radio today is no longer "localized" ... meaning a radio station in Chicago (especially one the size of WLS-FM) should be catering more to its audience.  With the rich legacy of WLS behind it (back in the '60's and early '70's, WLS broke many a national record, in addition to giving significant airplay to many of our local groups and artists like The New Colony Six, The Cryan' Shames, The Buckinghams, The Ides Of March, The Shadows Of Night, The Buckinghams, The American Breed and several others.)  They were known, perceived and revered as hit makers  Instead of playing the EXACT SAME CRAP as every other radio station in town, WLS should be embracing that legacy and reminding folks just why they were one of the all-time greats.  Honestly, that concept doesn't even seem to cross their minds ... and that's a shame.
Man, I would LOVE to be able to program and consult this station for six months ... and bring some of that localized feel and personality back to the airwaves.  Since radio today refuses to think (or program) outside the box, the shock of somebody actually do so just might turn the industry on its ear.  (If nothing else, it will certainly make them stand out from the rest of the pack!)  And once that point was proven, my guess is that dozens and dozens of "copy cat" radio stations will pop up all over the country, programming to THEIR audience ... digging deeper into the catalog and their music libraries, playing a more "localized" sounding mix of music and then ... Oh My God!!!  I shudder to even think it!!! ... Radio might get to be fun and interesting again!!!  (kk)
I just read your January 10th blog on WLS-FM and Scott Shannon's True Oldies Network. I was the General Manager during much of the time you discuss - particularly the period of January, 2010 to March, 2012. While your piece us very accurate and shows very good insight, I wanted to clarify a few points:
* I had a very close relationship with Scott Shannon, and had tremendous respect for him. A true Radio Hall of Famer - both on-air and as a programmer. I have the highest regard for his talent and his programming expertise. I talked to him at least once per week. Michael LaCrosse, our PD, talked to him daily. I spent time with Scott every time I was in New York, and had the pleasure of going with him to both Miami (to pow wow with Citadel CEO Farid Suleman) and Las Vegas.
* That said, True Oldies was a nationally syndicated format. Chicago deserved its own Oldies station. The network "clock" did not work well in the PPM era. Local hits (like "Lake Shore Drive", but also a lot of Buckinghams, Cryan' Shames, etc) weren't played. Chicago events were only a little more important than those of Atlanta or Witchita.  We couldn't do local promotions. We couldn't brand the station with the most important call letters in Chicago music radio history. Radio is at its best when it is local - which it increasingly is not!
* Initially, the changes we made were done for the sake of better radio. Later, we made a change in Midday and on the weekends to fend off a direct format challenge from K-Hits. The issue of ratings really only came into play in regards to a network "clock" which had to be three breaks per hour versus the two breaks (and two minutes less commercials / hour) we knew would be more PPM-friendly.
* Again, I worked hand-in-hand with Scott Shannon on everything. He was my most important influencer (he and PD LaCrosse did clash frequently, but that's another story). When we went to a local midday show to counter the WJMK format change, Scott immediately agreed to create a separate five hour "local" show for Chicago every weekday (even though he was already doing a very highly rated NYC morning show and producing 24 hours / day of the True Oldies Channel). He was gracious with his time and great with his talent.
* On September 16, 2011, Cumulus Media took control of WLS. From that day on, the Dickey family and Senior VP of Programming Jan Jeffries had full control of programming. Neither Scott, LaCrosse or I had any control whatsoever. LaCrosse had his position eliminated in less than a month. I was fired in March, 2012.
Again, enjoyed your piece - I just wanted to give you an insight into management's thinking.
Best wishes ...
Michael Damsky
Who says the oldies don't appeal to today's young people?!?!?
All I know is they don't come much younger than THIS ...
And this kid is TOTALLY diggin' Elvis!  Check it out!
Here's a Tribute To One of Radio's Greats, from Art Vuolo:
Please watch and let me know what you think of it.  Here are some nice write-up's in the trades about the video tribute I produced to honor the memory of Larry Lujack.  All were very much appreciated.  I tried to make this really special. 
Art, I think it's FANTASTIC!  A GREAT job on one of our all-time faves!
Check out the 13 minute "short" clip on YouTube and you'll want to see the whole thing ... a job well done!  (kk)
From: Don Anthony's Jockline Dailey
Larry Lujack Memorial Video Now Available [VIDEO]

THE MOUTH, JANUARY 24TH, 2014 –– In between numerous radio reunions and tribute videos, Radio's Best Friend, Art Vuolo, has somehow found time to produce a video tribute in memory of Chicago radio icon Larry Lujack. With
Tommy E7dwards serving as commentator, he's also joined by John Gehron, John Rook and others for this special video. He has material of the Super Jock from as far back as 1976 (including a TV interview with Lujack commenting on his book) The tribute runs 73 minutes, reflecting the number of years he lived. An abbreviated version has been posted on YouTube. The link is on the home page of Art's web site: which is where the uncut version is also available. Take a look and see why Larry Lujack was a true radio original. WATCH VIDEO HERE

From: Tom Taylor's NOW
Worth Reading
Larry LujackLarry Lujack merits a extra-special video tribute from “Radio’s best friend,” Art Vuolo. Art says “I’ve got video of Super Jock Larry Lujack from as far back as 1976.” You’ve got your choice – there’s a condensed 13-minute version on YouTube here. While Art’s complete 73-minute director’s cut (“reflecting the number of years Larry lived”), is on You can see him behind the board at Chicago's WCFL and “Big 89” WLS, and accepting various awards and honors (always in character). In addition to his wit, timing, unpredictability and general charisma, you're struck again by the feeling that Lujack probably retired too young (thanks to a format change and buyout in Chicago). Lujack died December 18, and as Art says, the video shows why “Larry was a radio original.”
Larry Lujack Memorial Video now available: Leave it to Art Vuolo, "Radio's Best Friend", to prepare a video tribute in memory of Chicago radio icon Larry Lujack. Vuolo has video of Super Jock from as far back as 1976! The entire tribute runs 73 minutes, reflecting the number of years he lived.

An abbreviated version has been posted on YouTube; visit the home page of Art's web site at where the uncut version is available. See why Larry Lujack was a radio original.

Looks like Chicagoland Media Columnist Rob Feder has picked up on this new tribute as well ...
Wasn't it great seeing Larry saluted during the Grammys ceremony last night?  (kk)