Year in Rewind : Change a constant for Boston radio in 2008
Is radio on the cusp of reinventing itself or simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? Will the radio of the future be AM, FM, low-power, satellite, HD, Internet or mobile device? The rapid pace of change lent a feeling of nostalgia as WBCN and WFNX turned 40 and 25, respectively. And the sense of one era ending was emphasized by semi-retirement of radio icon Dale Dorman in September, exit of radio veterans John Lander, Moe Lauzier and Craig Mustard.
With appreciation to those who made it all possible, here's BRW's year-end salute to the stellar moments on the Boston radio beat in 2008 :
Entercom and Nassau Broadcasting officially break up the deal where WEEI’s owner would be taking a 50 percent stake in Nassau's classical outlet WCRB 99.5FM.
Entercom is the last of Boston’s radio owners to sign a multi-year deal with Arbitron to use Portable People Meter (PPM) ratings service which is coming to town in January 2009. CBS, Greater Media, Clear Channel and Nassau have all signed up for PPM.
On January 23rd, Jay Beau Jones is named Program Director of CBS Radio's Hot AC WBMX FM/Mix 98-5 and oldies WODS 103. He replaces Jerry McKenna(Mix) and Pete Falconi(Oldies). He was most recently program director and afternoon radio personality at WXLO 104.5FM in Worcester. He also programmed WXLO's sister station The Pike/WWFX-FM. He begins at WBMX/WODS on February 4th.
Umass-based WUMB 91.9FM is expected to introduce some non-folk programming as a result of a recent grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting reports the Boston Globe.
A format change for WTTT AM 1150. On January 28th, Salem Communication’s 5,000-watt station drops its conservative talk line-up since November 2003. On February 4th, the Spanish-language Christian talk/teaching format called “Radio Luz”(translated from Spanish- “Radio Light”) launches. The station is also the new home to Red Sox baseball broadcasts in Spanish. The station changes its call letters from WTTT to WWDJ in late July.
The first of the month brings a format change at Greater Media-owned WBOS 92.9FM. During Friday afternoon rush hour the long-running Adult Album Alternative is replaced with modern rock classics from the 80’s and 90’s. Unofficially, Sting's "Brand New Day" ushers in the new WBOS. The entire WBOS air staff exits the studio with the exception of Dana Marshall who sticks around to program the music but with no live DJ’s.
Chris Tyler is named the new program director for Jamn 94-5 and Kiss 108 taking over from “Cadillac” Jack McCartney who becomes the new programming chief at Clear Channel's co-owned urban WWPR/Power 105 in NYC. Tyler becomes only the fifth person in Kiss 108’s 29-year history to sit in its program director chair joining an impressive list of Sunny Joe White(1979-1990), Steve Rivers(1990-1995), John Ivey(1995-2001), McCartney(2001-2008).
Entercom announces that Dave O’Brien will take on a greater role in the Red Sox broadcasts on WRKO and WEEI during the 2008 season. He’ll call 135 games alongside veteran Joe Castiglione. O’Brien keeps his ESPN-TV’s Wednesday Night baseball commitment which opens the door for WEEI’s midday voice Dale Arnold to call home games with Castiglione while John Rish steps up to the mic on some road games.
Citadel Broadcasting hires former Mix 98-5 program director Jerry McKenna as its new operations manager and program director for three of its Worcester stations - WXLO 104.5FM, WORC-FM/Oldies 98.9 and WWFX/100FM The Pike.
On February 14th, local radio legend Jess Cain, who was the morning voice on the old WHDH AM 850 for nearly 34 years passes away at the age of 81 after a long battle with prostate cancer. Nine months after his passing, Cain is posthumously inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago on November 8th.
As the result of budget cuts at Oldies 103.3, radio veteran JJ Wright moves from overnights to 6-9pm replacing Patrick Callahan who spins out.
On Ferbuary 23rd, WRKO’s weekend fixture Moe Lauzier signs off. He is informed of the decision during what happens to be his last Saturday morning broadcast. He was with WRKO for 24 years. WRKO’s Saturday morning schedule is turned over to the best of Tom Finneran and Howie Carr shows which are followed by infomercial programs.
On March 3rd, WEEI AM 850’s afternoon ringmaster Glenn Ordway takes a leave of absence from his show after his wife and newborn daughter suffer serious complications during childbirth. WEEI’s Whiney Awards are moved from March 11 to April 3rd.
With his wife and baby on the mend, Ordway returns to the airwaves on March 19th.
Quite a year for WEEI’s middayer Michael Holley. He gets a new multi-year deal from WEEI in early March, his new book Red Sox Rule is released later that month and he becomes a new dad on November 1st.
March 15, 1968, The Rock of Boston is born on WBCN 104.1FM. The station announces that the River Rave and X-Mas Rave are brought back to celebrate station’s 40th birthday. Not to forget other birthdays on the dial, on March 15, 1983, The True Alternative debuts on then WLYN 101.7FM’s to the sounds of Cure’s “Let Go”. A month later(April 11, 1983) station re-launches with WFNX-FM call letters and a new transmitter.
“Toucher and Rich” get a new 2-year contract extension from WBCN 104.1FM to continue in the afternoons but only to shift to mornings eights months later.
Overnight host Phil Patrone who was with classical WCRB-FM for six years loses his battle with cancer. He was 48.
Entercom Boston announces its plans to syndicate WEEI’s daily shows to the rest of New England. Five months later, syndication becomes reality as stations in NH and Maine pick up WEEI talk programs.
WZLX 100.7FM launches 24-hour all-blues stream “Radio Mojo” on its HD-2 sub-channel.
Local veteran radio host and comedian Steve Sweeney debuts his new show on WWZN AM/Zone 1510
Longtime Boston radio veteran Sean Casey retires as program director/morning host at WPLM/Easy 99.1FM. Another radio vet, Frank Mitchell takes over as WPLM’s programmer and morning voice.
David O’Leary returns to Greater Media cluster as production director for WMJX 106.7FM/Magic. After exiting WBOS 92.9FM in 2004, he was working as host at WSNE/Coast 93.3 in the Providence market.
Charles Laquidara, the former WBCN morning man returns to the Rock’s airwaves on April 18th as he guests in WBCN studio with Adam 12 on his visit to Boston.
Never too old for good music. WODS-FM/ Oldies 103.3 announces the line-up for its 20th Summer Concert Series at the Hatch Shell with America and Marty Balin (of Jefferson Airplane/Starship), David Cassidy with 5th Dimension, The Guess Who with John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, Felix Cavaliere's Rascals with The Cowsills and KC & The Sunshine Band.
First Saturday in May brings a new “Joe and Huggy Show” to WTKK 96.9FM’s airwaves with the local loudmouth Joe Ligotti and a long time Philadelphia radio personality Lawrence “Huggy” Bergman.
No Dj’s, no problem. Jockless WBOS 92.9FM hosts the 15th annual EarthFest on May 24th as Cake, Cracker and English Beat take the stage at the Hatch Shell. Will there be a SportsFest on 92.9 a year from now?
After a 4-year absence, WBCN’s throwback River Rave spectacle returns despite reportedly very sluggish ticket sales with Stone Temple Pilots, Everlast and Filter headlining. Shock jocks Opie and Anthony host WBCN’s event as part of station’s 40th year celebration. Little do they know that they’ll be dumped from station’s mornings just five months later.
Eddie Andelman hosts 19th annual Hot Dog Safari at Suffolk Downs with Zone 1510 carrying the live broadcast.
Very well respected weekend news anchor at WBZ AM 1030, Jim Mitchell, passes away from a sudden heart attack. He was 58.
Celtics win their 17th NBA championship on June 17th on WEEI AM 850 as Cedric Maxwell screams out “I got the ball!” in the middle of Sean Grande’s victory moment which for most radio play-by-play people is once-in-a-lifetime chance to put their voice signature on history. That's a quack-quack moment!
Matt Siegel’s longtime Kiss108 morning sidekick Billy Costa signs a contract extension to stay at the Clear Channel’s local Top 40 institution.
At WFNX 101.7FM, morning show co-host Dustin “Fletcher” Matthews is awarded Assistant Program Director title, Music director and nighttime host Paul Driscoll is named Operations Manager and longtime midday fixture and assistant music director Julie Kramer adds on more responsibilities on the record label relations front.
On June 10, Dave Wellington resigns as WBCN 104.1FM’s program director after nearly four years. Ten days later, he replaced by Mike Thomas who adds WBCN duties to his responsibilities of programming co-owned corporate sibling classic rocker WZLX 100.7FM. Wellington would resurface as program director at Clear Channel’s alternative rock station duopoly in DC/Baltimore in late July.
Another program director spin-off. After just a littlee more than a year on the job, Ron Bowen leaves WXRV 92.5FM/The River in Haverhill. Bowen also steps down as River’s morning voice. Night-timer Rita Carey moves into morning drive shift.
After nearly three years with ESPN 890, Mike Felger jumps back to Entercom’s sports kahuna WEEI AM 850 where he was one of the the Big Show regulars from 2000 to 2005. A week after Felger’s departure from ESPN 890, WEEI makes a big splash announcement about the re-launch of WEEI.com site where Felger will be one of the main contributors. As part of his new WEEI tenure, Felger also gets to host WEEI’s Sunday morning football show and becomes primary fill-in for morning and midday shows.
While Felger returned to his former station, another local radio person decided to stay put. After 10 years as Mix 98-5’s music director Mike Mullaney first agreed to return to the station he helped to launch in 1995 – WXRV 92.5FM/The River 92-5 – as its new program director. But he quickly changed his mind and at the end, Mullaney opted to stay at Mix.
WJMN 94.5/Jamn assistant program director/music director and on-air personality GeeSpin(Geoffrey Gamere) leaves the station after 7 years. He is now a new assistant program director/music director at WWPR/Power 105 in NYC.
WRKO’s afternoon drive personality Howie Carr gets the word that he has been elected to Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago. The induction would take place on November 18th. Boston radio legend Jess Cain who passed away in February will be inducted posthumously.
July 29. XM and Sirius become one as two satellite radio companies officially merge.
A month after Mike Felger’s departure, ESPN 890 stays in the game and re-launches local programming with “Lew and Mike” jumping to afternoons at 890 from mornings at the Zone 1510. In addition, ESPN 890 introduces a new midday show with Mike Salk and Bob Halloran.
Jackson Blue kisses off nights at Kiss 108 after nearly three years. He is moving on to afternoons at KHKS/Kiss 106.1 in Dallas.
WEEI announces a new regional syndication network of radio stations in NH and Maine which will begin to carry its weekday sports brand effective September 1st.
“Mustard and Johnson” sign off from their longtime Saturday morning spot at WEEI as the station launches a brand new younged-up show with WEEI.com editor Rob Bradford and weekend host Mike Mutansky.
On September 12th, radio icon Dale Dorman signs off from mornings at Oldies 103.3. He stays with the station as Saturday morning host. Oldies’ afternoon personality Karen Blake and former Ch.4 sports anchor Bob Lobel team up to take over mornings at Oldies. In November, WODS announces that Blake and longtime Boston radio funnyman Chris Zito would be the new Oldies morning voices.
Kiss 108 adds Ryan Seacrest’s syndicated show to its midday schedule(10am-1pm).
Budget cuts at Metro Traffic means layoffs for longtime traffic and news reporters like Joe Stapleton, Mauzy Stafford, Bob MacNeil and Chris Fama.
WEEI wins its second Marconi Award in three years as the best sports talk station in the major market while its afternoon host Glenn “Big O” Ordway loses out for the third time in the major market personality category. This time the loss it’s more devastating as Big O gets beat by Ryan Seacrest. Yes, Ryan Seacrest.
Economic downturn slashes a number of on-air and off-air jobs at local Entercom stations. WRKO AM 680 cuts midday host Reese Hopkins after less than a year. He’s replaced by syndicated talker Laura Ingraham from 10am to Noon. WRKO picks up Ingraham from WTKK where she gets bumped out of the night slot by NYC-based Guardians angel bigmouth Curtis Sliwa. Meanwhile, a week after getting tossed out by WRKO, Hopkins gets arrested and extradited to NYC to face serious charges of sexual assault on a minor.
First it was the River Rave. Now, WBCN resurrects another tradition - X-Mas Rave just in time for holidays as the station concludes its 40th year celebration. On a related note, Angelle Wood is named the new host of WBCN’s Boston Emissions show on Sunday nights.
Paul Kelley steps down as the General Manager of classical WCRB 99.5FM. He takes a general manager job with Saga Communications’ stations in Norfolk, VA.
Ready or not, holidays music programming arrives to WODS 103.3FM and WROR 105.7FM on November 6th.
Chris Zito and Karen Blake Show debuts on WODS 103.3FM on November 12th.
CBS Radio Boston continued to shrink its staff. Among those let go, WODS morning news person June Knight, WBZ news anchor Bob McMahon, Bruins broadcast host Allan Segel, WZLX overnight personality Al Cole, WODS veteran jock Mike Finnegan.
WBCN drops satellite shock jocks Opie and Anthony from its morning drive. On December 2nd, Toucher and Rich move to mornings from afternoons where they were heard for two an a half years.
Progressive talk radio is back. Kind of. Jeff Santos begins his pay-per-play run on Zone 1510 in the morning drive. SF-based Peter Collins purchases 6-to-9pm evening slot. Santos is planning another show on the Zone which is expected to launch on January 5th.
After two and half years, Phil Redo exits as the market manager for Greater Media Boston stations. He’s replaced by former Entercom Boston chief Tom Baker who relocates back home from Southern California.
Without a question, the dumb turkey move of 2008 belongs to WRKO’s bosses who opted to keep morning disaster Tom Finneran around for one more year.
On December 11th, WEEI’s afternoon king Glenn Ordway ends his last Big Show of 2008 with what appears to be a farewell speech as heads into scheduled holiday break with no new contract. Nice piece of radio drama? Very likely. After all, Ordway had acting aspirations before getting into radio broadcasting. Will he be back on WEEI in ’09? Majority of BRW readers think so.
While the Big O is very likely to be back on Boston airwaves in 2009, the same can’t be said for John Lander who ended his near 13-year morning run on WBMX 98.5FM with an on-air goodbye to his Mix listeners. CBS Radio didn’t give Lander a new deal. Rather, the company is betting that newcomers “Karson and Kennedy” will turn Mix’s morning fortunes around. They debut on January 5th.