Joe McCoy On
The Former Musicradio77 Air Personalities At WCBS-FM
By Scott Benjamin
Harry Harrison, Ron Lundy, Dan Ingram, Bruce Morrow
Dan Ingram on
This is an interesting
aircheck of Dan on WCBS-FM as Dan was yet to be hired as a regular personality
at the station.
By January of 1991, he had appeared at the station only during its "Rock and Roll Radio Greats" weekends in 1984 and 1989.
On this aircheck he is doing a regular weekday air shift (filling in for Ron Lundy).
(Dan would be hired at the station later that year in October).
Dan sounds great ...
considering he hadn't been doing radio on a regular basis since a brief stint on
WKTU in 1985.
His trademark bits are present as is his amazing timing and rhythm.
He did three shifts that week, January 28, 29 and 31, 1991.
Some of all three days are included:
Joe McCoy , the former long-time program director at 101 WCBS-FM, said that after he hired some of the legendary air personalities that had worked at Musicradio77 WABC, he was able to motivate them to make minor changes as they spoke to an audience of adults who in many cases had begun listening to them while they were in their teens.
“What some people don’t realize is that you can often talk to the big stars and make suggestions,” Joe said in a Jan. 16, 2009 phone interview with Musicradio77.com. “Some people think they can’t approach those kinds of people because they are not going to listen.”
“I thought that some of the guys who had been at WABC could do what we do,” Joe said of Harry Harrison, Cousin Brucie, Ron Lundy and Dan Ingram, all of whom had long careers at WCBS-FM.
“Some of them were really great, and I thought that they might even sound better than they had on WABC,” said the radio veteran, who led WCBS-FM to the top of New York City’s ratings five times during his tenure from 1981 to 2004.
“You can’t take the attitude that these guys are so big that you have to be afraid to offer a critique,” Joe said. “You have to do that.”
“For example, when I was at WNBC working mid-days after Imus [from 1976 to 1977], there was a day when I was coming to work and there were major delays on the trains, which Harry Harrison was providing to his listeners on WABC,” he said, making reference to Don Imus, the former 66 WNBC and WFAN air personality who now has a talk show on WABC.
“I kept listening to Imus, and he never even mentioned it,” Joe said. “I was angry when I got to the studio. I had good relations with Imus, and I told him that something like that has a major impact on people and you’ve got to give them that information.”
“The next day he hired one of the NBC pages to get traffic,” he said. “I think that there was mutual respect between Imus and me.”
“I told some of the former WABC jocks that what worked 15 years ago might not work today,” Joe said regarding some of the insight that he provided to the former Musicradio77 air personalities.
“I told them to be themselves, but that they needed to realize that although the people that listened to them on ABC when they were 15 and 16 were listening to them now, they were no longer 15 and 16,” he added.
Joe said that Sebastian Stone, one of his program directors at WOR-FM in the early 1970’s, would monitor an entire show and call to “nit pick, even sometimes on things where it was the engineer’s fault.”
“Sometimes I would go home and talk to myself and a lot of those times I would realize that I didn’t make many mistakes and some of them weren’t my fault,” he said.
“The guy on the air has to feel comfortable,” Joe said regarding his philosophy in interacting with air personalities.
“If someone did something flagrant, I would call them up,” he said regarding his 23 years as program director at WCBS-FM. “But that was few and far between.”
Joe said he also provided positive feedback.
“I definitely would open the door to the studio and congratulate one of the jocks about using a great line or doing a good segue or using a jingle the right place,” he said. “People need to hear that periodically.”
"Joe understands the music and the audience," Brucie said of his former WCBS-FM program director in a January 2005 phone interview with Musicradio77.com. "He's open to suggestions. He doesn't point fingers and he doesn't call to complain while you're on the air. He even has gotten me to listen to myself."
“I want to have a D.J. who has a good ear,” Joe said. “If he is in the studio, when a song ends, I want him to be able to pick out a jingle that will make the end of that song sound good and the segue to the next song sound good.”
“I had a lot of respect for the air personalities,” he said. “Sometimes I had to teach that to upper management, because some of them viewed the jocks as pieces of meat.”
“The guys who had been at ABC were sometimes a little reluctant to alter what they had been doing, but Ron Lundy and Bruce both said, ‘Yeah, let’s do that,’ ” Joe said.
“Sometimes it’s hard to change when you have been so successful with something for so long,” he added.
Joe said that his experiences as an air personality at WOR-FM, WCBS-FM and WNBC, as well as some stations in Connecticut, where he has lived since 1967, “helped” him during his years as a program director in the nation’s biggest radio market.
“I wanted to control my own destiny,” he said regarding his decision to concentrate on being in management. “When I was a jock, I thought that I was as smart as the guys who I was working for.”
When Joe arrived in June 1981, Harry Harrison had already been at WCBS-FM for more than a year, having taken over the morning show after being at Musicradio77 WABC for 11 years.
“Harry was a morning staple with the birthdays and all the greetings and the old-fashioned morning show,” he said.
“He was so conscientious,” Joe said of the long-time New York City air personality. “If someone wrote him a note, he would write back. If there was a new sales person, Harry would write that person a note when they arrived.”
“He taped almost all of his shows and would listen to part of them on a cassette before he left the station and then listened to the rest of it at home,” he said.
Joe said that he was able to convince many of the other air personalities to make air checks and review them periodically.
“I also never had to worry about my morning guy not showing up,” he said of Harry. “Even in snow or a hurricane, he was there.”
Cousin Brucie was the first former WABC All-American that Joe attracted to the station.
“I was riding Metro North and I saw Bruce’s name in Cashbox, and I said, ‘Wow, I’ve got to give him a call,’ ” Joe recalled, noting that a short time later he met with Bruce, whom he had worked with at WNBC, he visited with Bruce in Morristown, N.J., where he was then living.
At the time, Bruce was co-owner of a small chain of radio stations, which he would relinquish about two years later.
“He had been away from New York for a while, and I told him, ’Bruce, New York needs you back,’ “Joe said.
“He committed to doing one Saturday night a month, and I wasn’t happy, since I wanted him back more regularly,” he said. “But I thought that once he got on the air he would feed off of that and it would grow into something bigger.”
By the mid-1980’s, Brucie was doing the night shift on Wednesday and Saturday for WCBS-FM.
Joe said that they established a lasting friendship.
“We talk on the phone twice a week and we and our wives just had dinner together the other night,” he said.
Joe said that Brucie was extensively on remote broadcasts because of his ability to easily interact with an audience.
“Nobody was better in the field than Bruce,” he said. “He was hugging everybody and posing for pictures with them.
Joe said that he also quickly developed a rapport with Ron.
“We invited him to one of our Radio Greats Reunion Weekends and it sounded like he was having so much fun on the air,” he recalled.
“I wanted to have him on the air full time, and I went to the general manager,” Joe said. “We had four-hour shifts at that time but we changed things and made room for him.”
“Ron is fun to be around, and is such a positive person,” He said.
“A short time after he came, he said, ‘I’ve got a good feel,’ ” Joe recalled. “’ I think we’re going to be number one’ ” in New York City’s ratings.
“When I first arrived, people thought of CBS-FM as a ‘50s station,” he recalled.
“I think that Ron’s enthusiasm lifted everybody else up,” Joe said. “They saw that being number one in New York City was possible.”
He said when he hired Ron he told him that he would not have an engineer, as he had at Musicradio77 WABC, since almost everyone ran their own board at WCBS-FM.
“We had him come in initially at 2 a.m. on the overnight shift and he was great,” Joe said. “He ended up running one of the tightest boards at the station.”
He said that he had tried to attract Dan in the mid-1980s just before he began what turned out to be a short stint at WKTU-FM.
‘It didn’t work out,” Joe said. “However, when we got him in 1991, it was the last piece to the puzzle.”
“I don’t think that it really was a good match for him at KTU,” he said. “It is almost the same as an AOR jock on Top 40, or vice versa, you’re either too laid back or too up-tempo for the format.”
“I didn’t realize until he worked for us that he wrote most of his stuff out before he went on the air,” he said. “I had always thought that he was working off the cuff. But he would ask us to send him the music list ahead of time so he would know which songs would be coming up.”
“Dan worked very hard at his craft,” Joe said. “He, like some other former jocks from ABC, came from an era when the disc jockey was as big as the music. These guys were prepared for their shows.”
Dan would remain with the station until June of 2003.
Ron left in September of 1997, with several of his colleagues turning out for a tribute show.
A similar format was used in March of 2003 when Harry left, although he would return in October of 2004 to do a Saturday morning show.
Brucie worked regularly at WCBS-FM until it switched to the Jack format in June of 2005.
Interestingly, Brucie and Harry both spent more years at WCBS-FM than they did at Musicradio77 WABC.
“I think at CBS-FM we had the best air staff of any of the stations that I worked at," Marc Sommers, a WABC air personality from 1979 to 1982, said in a 2007 phone interview with Musicradio77.com regarding the talent that he worked with during his 11 years as a utility air personality at the oldies station.
Regarding his own career as an air personality, Joe said that he’s disappointed that WNBC didn’t “butt heads” with WABC in the mid 1970’s.
“I thought that we had a good line-up,” Joe said regarding the roster of Imus, Walt (Baby) Love, Brucie, Dick Summer, Johnny Michaels and himself.
“Musically we were off the mark,” Joe said. “Plus, you still had some of those network commitments, and they got in the way.”
“They didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do with that station, which is sometimes the case in radio,” he said.
“Imus and I talked a lot about how we should butt heads with WABC,” Joe said.
“WMCA did it in the 1960’s, and they were only 5,000 watts,” he said. ”Imagine the rivalry that would have been there if MCA had been 50,000 watts,” which was the power of WABC and WNBC.
“Imus and I thought we needed to be a Top 40 radio station,” Joe said.
On the 2008 merger of the XM and Sirius satellite networks, Joe said it will do “absolutely nothing” to further impact terrestrial radio.
“A lot of people are going to satellite for the same reason that they went to HBO on television, they can get something that they can’t get elsewhere,” he said.
“There isn’t a country station in New York City and for a while there wasn’t an oldies station, for example,” said Joe, who was named by Radio & Records as its oldies program director of the year six consecutive times between 1999-2004.
“Some terrestrial radio stations aren’t making good decisions,” he said. “They are bombarding people with commercials and they’re using a lot of syndication and tracking. Some people have forgotten what radio is all about.”
He said that he doesn’t believe that HD radio will attract many listeners, comparing it to the impact of AM stereo.
“I went to a three-day seminar on HD radio and a day and a half into it, I started to realize that it isn’t going to work because the same people who are putting together these HD stations are the ones that aren’t willing to put the money and talent into that format on their regular station,” he said. “So they aren’t going to do that on an HD channel.”
Since leaving WCBS-FM in 2004, Joe, who lives in the Huntington section of Shelton, Conn., has done some occasional consulting for radio stations and currently is a consultant for T.J. Lubinsky’s PBS specials.
“At this point, I don’t want radio to seem like a job,” he said.
Joe also is one of three co-hosts for Inside Yankee Baseball on ESPN 1300 (WAVZ) in New Haven from 10 to noon each Saturday during the baseball season. Listeners can access the show through www.espnradio.1300.com.
“If I hadn’t been a d.j., I would have wanted to become Mel Allen,” he said, making reference to the former long-time Yankees broadcaster, who has been rated by baseball historian Curt Smith as the second best announcer in the history of the sport.
Joe, who collects Yankee memorabilia, attended the final game at the old Yankee Stadium in September 2008 and went down on the field afterwards.
“When I was growing up it was Alan Freed, the Yankees and Palisades Park,” the Nyack, N.Y. native said, making reference to the father of Rock & Roll, who was on WINS, and the famed New Jersey theme park that closed in 1971.
“I felt like I had everything,” Joe said.
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