Station Seven: WAMS-AM
The seventh radio station in my career was back at WAMS in Wilmington, Delaware where I had been previously successful. What a homecoming. I loved the beautiful neighborhood where the studios were. I found a great condo.
I was fired on my sixth day.
My program director explained to me, very seriously, that for some reason, my voice didn't go through the transmitter! Yup. I explained it had gone through very well on my last stint at WAMS, and that I'd buy a new microphone or whatever he thought necessary to get me back on the air. Nope. I cried. Still nope. Down like Joe Frazier! I think the Frazier – Foreman fight might have lasted longer than my second round at WAMS.
My mother still lived outside Philadelphia so I camped there while I sent audition tapes out, trying to stay in the biz. I got a bite from a radio station in Scranton, PA. Not exactly a high-profile move up, but I took the job, and I feel that I really learned radio there.
Station Eight: WARM
"It's always warm for me." Either one of the radio personalities or a recorded voice said that regularly. The station was WARM-AM, with a darn good signal, since it broadcast at 590 AM, at the lower end of the dial. When it rained, though, the wires to the transmitter got wet and we sounded like a cheap phone.
"The Mighty 590" had real personalities and they performed daily, with a darn good news department, a good general manager and a program director with major market experience. I worked 7:00 pm to midnight, plus I did production of commercials as needed. One advantage of that shift is the cleaning crew would come in and unlock the program director’s office. I got very good at reading upside down, because I'd do a nightly scan of his office desk just to make sure I wasn't in trouble. Like, say, for invading his office. Didn't touch anything – just read what was sitting on his desk. I was pretty insecure after my not-so-successful six-day return trip to WAMS.
But they wouldn't let me be me. The afternoon guy was named Bob Woody and used his real name. The management didn't think it would be a good idea to have him followed by Bob Wood, so I chose the radio name Christopher Sky. Part of my deal with WARM was a trade-out for an hour or two of weekly airplane rental time at a local airport. [Bob is a licensed pilot – Ed.]
So, being a flyer I thought Sky was a unique name, and liked the cadence of Christopher Sky (never Chris). I had never been anyone but myself, so it was strange to take on an alternate persona, and I asked those who knew my real name not to use it as it when I was at the station as it would inevitably goof me up. I never said my “wrong” real name on the air, but did say the wrong station name once or twice. My show was unique, well-rated, and jammed with news, features, many commercials, and me playing the hits.
I never got used to five-hour air shifts, always running out of gas in the fifth hour.
WARM was, essentially, a top station worthy of a larger market. I feel I “learned” radio there, as the personalities were talented, varied and great to study. Later in life I'd put some of the lessons I learned at WARM to use. I learned what’s it took to build a good full-service radio station, what’s it’s like to be on the air on a station with a great signal and how to mirror and reflect the needs of the community we were in. I also learned what true radio personalities did, and what being one was like. I would get teenybopper girls hanging out at my apartment door (I never took advantage of them) and walk through the mall and hear voices (real shoppers, not voices in my head) pointing me out as a local celebrity.
One great thing about WARM was how I felt appreciated by the management. That really builds your confidence. I also found out what everyone at the station was paid and I felt it a fair distribution – the morning man (and it was always men in those days) always made the most, as was the case at WARM, but as evening guy I wasn't being paid a pittance, which was typical for some stations. Plus, I got to fly.
Some snapshots of life at WARM:
The weekend news guy was all hyped up because he had a “foolproof” betting system that was “working with the horses.” Several weeks later he came in very sad. The system had failed. Let’s just say big time...
I figured WARM was the only radio station which Patty Hearst, then on loan to the Symbionese Liberation Army, could pick up, once it came to be known where they were all hiding.
My apartment complex was said to have been a haven for swingers, but that was before my arrival. But, no swinging when I got there.
I had a date on Christmas Eve and she fell in the parking lot and broke her ankle. She wouldn't get out of the hospital until New Year's Day. I had to call her dad and explain what happened. Her dad was coming from midnight mass...and he looked like a mobster. Happily I’m still here to tell the tale.
I did manage to smuggle, decorate, and light a real Christmas tree in her room before they caught me though.
I decided I someday wanted to be the boss of what went on the air...so I eventually managed to become a program director in Canada. I must note that in 1973 studded tires are not allowed over the border. But that’s another story.