WABC Musicradio 77
Operation & Program Director 1977 - 1979
Program Director 1975 - 1977
Assistant Program Director & Production Director 1971 - 1975
In His Own Words
Like clockwork, at 9 AM the alarm of the telephone's harsh insistent ringing jolted me from my slumber of just a few hours. It chimed like the sound of the bell of a heavyweight boxing championship as it echoed through the morning calm. My head had been swimming with dreams of stardom, for a week earlier on Memorial Day weekend I had had some of my greatest moments on the air at the WABC clone, WMID in Atlantic City, which was owned by Merv Griffin at the time.
The holiday weekend had been picture perfect. Under the blistering sun, tens of thousands of sun worshipers had their radios tuned to my afternoon drive show. The stations from Philadelphia and New York had poor reception on the transistors of the day and I knew I had a monopoly. Perhaps a famous program director like Rick Sklar from WABC or Jay Cook from WFIL had heard my show and I would be "discovered." Maybe the "big time" was right around the corner, the phone would ring and I'd be on my way to New York or Philadelphia radio land. Dream on.
Making it to the big time was not beyond the realm of possibility at WMID because it was one of those "farm team" stations in the minor leagues of radio which the big stations looked to for new talent. As a matter of fact, some of my on-air colleagues had gone on to major stations like WFIL, WIBG, WFUN, CKLW, and Johnny Donovan had even landed a gig at WOR-FM, WABC's big competitor at the time. Julian Breen, then Assistant Program Director of WABC, had even done a stint at WMID. The possibilities had become realities for many 'MID jocks, maybe my name would be added to the roster.
The night before that Monday morning wake-up call, my roommate, Tom Blong, and I decided to make the rounds at several clubs in Atlantic City and Somers Point. Tom was an old friend from Williamstown High School in South Jersey. He had been quarterback of our football team and was now a New Jersey State Trooper. Get the two of us together and get ready to party hardy. That Sunday night, our partying lasted until about 6 am.
So when my phone rang at 9 am, I was not quite ready to carry on the business conversation that would change my life.
The voice at the other end said her name was Bernadette. She claimed to be Rick Sklar's secretary and could I hold for Rick. Right! Rick Sklar was calling me? In my wildest dreams of disc jockey stardom, I was still realistic and knew in fact I was not quite ready to jump from Atlantic City to New York City.
Besides, only the week before, one of WMID's other jocks, Bill Steel aka Bill Figenshu who years later became President of Viacom which owned WLTW/Lite FM, had received a call from Bill Drake. Drake was the programming guru responsible for the Boss Radio format around the country, and had put the format in place at WOR-FM. The Drake imposter turned out to be one of the other WMID jocks with a sick sense of humor.
So in my stupor, I was suspicious to say the least. But I remembered the plaque on the wall of my parent's kitchen. It was a quote from Abraham Lincoln which read: "It is better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." I kept my mouth shut and let Sklar do the talking. His Assistant PD, Julian Breen, had resigned to go to KYA San Francisco as PD. Sklar wanted me to come to New York that day to interview for Breen's job. As I would later learn, that was Sklar's way. Get the job done today. Everything, no matter how big or small, was an immediate priority which had to be taken care of right away.
How could I ever get my act together and face the infamous Rick Sklar that day? It was an impossibility, so I put Sklar off and scheduled an appointment for the next day.
The next 24 hours were an eternity, filled with an endless stream of chores such as getting a suit and shirt pressed, getting a haircut, shining shoes, and typing a new resume. But wait, there's more! There was one small item I could not hide. My hand was in a cast. Sklar was sure to notice and ask how it had happened. What could I tell him? Certainly not the truth, which would surely blow any chance of getting the job.
Truth was that during my Memorial Day weekend airshift, things hadn't gone as well as I wanted. My performance had been sterling, having done my best to emulate my idol, George Michael from WFIL. But technical problems plagued my show and being an anal perfectionist, I lost my temper, flew out of my chair behind the console and punched the wall, which turned out to be concrete! Not knowing how severe my injury was, I finished the remaining two hours of my show "single handed." One hand was throbbing so badly I couldn't use it to even cue records or run the control board. After my airshift, I went to the emergency ward of the Atlantic City hospital, which is the last place you want to be on a holiday weekend. It was filled to capacity with victims of boating, bathing and car accidents; drunks; even gun shot and knifing victims. Being a low triage priority with my hurting hand, I waited for hours to learn that my temper had broken my hand in two places and a cast was put in place.
The bus ride to New York City seemed endless. I remembered the scene in Midnight Cowboy where Dustin Hoffman was on a similar bus with a transistor radio to his ear when Ron Lundy's voice popped out of the radio. Contemplating the dilemma of explaining my cast, I decided telling Sklar the truth would eliminate any chance of becoming an executive at the ABC corporate headquarters at 1330 Avenue of the Americas. A plan began to form. Tennis is an executive sport that would not only explain everything, but also demonstrate my executive potential. Later during the interview, I told Sklar I had fallen during a tennis match and broken my hand. He fell for the story.
Somehow, despite my nervousness, the interview with Sklar went well. Within about a week, he called and offered me the job. Rick wanted to know how soon I could start, tomorrow? Rick always wanted things right away. But those days, there was still a degree of decorum in business. No, I could not start that soon. I explained to Sklar that it was only fair to give my current employer the customary two weeks notice of resignation.
So what was it that got me the interview in the first place, and why was I the chosen one? The previous year, while I was working at the ABC Television Network, I had taken a shot in the dark and brought Sklar a copy of some of my production work. My radio career actually started while earning my degree at Ohio University, which has one of the top 10 broadcasting curriculums in the nation. Most of my professors had impressive credentials, including Bob Coe who had been a VP at the ABC Television Network. Coe was responsible for getting my foot in the door at ABC TV. The demo I gave Sklar had samples of various things, including a documentary I produced which won several national awards while I was still in college. Before graduating from college, I had also been a Top 40 jock on two commercial stations, one near Columbus, Ohio, and the other in Ocean City, New Jersey. Not many people get their professional career started while still in college. Maybe it showed Sklar some initiative.
Reflecting back in all modesty, I believe Sklar had bigger plans, both for himself and the person who would become his new Assistant Program Director. Sklar was plotting his own course to rise the corporate ladder and get out from under the pressures of everyday programming and the tenuous position of constant rating books and competitors. As much as he loved, even craved the spotlight, the glamour and the glory of being the Program Director of the most-listened-to-station-in-the-nation, he wanted more, and he wanted a safer career path. He knew that being in the ratings hot seat was not a position that led to retirement. There were and probably still are not any major market Top 40 program directors who had survived past the age of forty.
So Sklar was looking for a person with a reasonable amount of intelligence, who he could train and groom to be heir to his throne as he plotted his promotions up the corporation. He wanted somebody who had no preconceptions about programming. Somebody he could teach his Musicradio programming philosophies. Somebody who would respect him to the end and follow him into battle, carrying his sword and wiping his boots. As it turned out, that somebody was Glenn Morgan. Right place, right time, fate, luck, call it what you want. But Sklar must have been comfortable with his decision because in due time, Morgan would in fact become Program Director and Operations Director of the greatest radio station of all time, WABC Musicradio 77.
WABC Glenn Morgan Page
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