Man From Mars Productions
What were Buckley-Jaeger's local plans for WDRC? What did
they want you to do with the news department?
The plans were to replace CBS with a smarter, hipper writing style,
delivery and interviews. And without the network we could spend
much more time on the Hartford area, Connecticut and north-central
Paint a picture of the facilities at 869 Blue Hills Avenue. How
did they compare with other stations of the day?
In 1959 we were clearly "old hat". We were AM only at that time.
The FM had been sold off by Mr. Doolittle. We filed for a new FM
frequency after Buckley-Jaeger took over. Buck Forker parked his
vintage Lincoln right outside the door on Blue
Hills Avenue. Most of the staff parked right out front or at
the blacktopped parking lot to the left of the studios/office building
(site of the "Black Top Hops"). We were surrounded on three sides
by contemporary, low cost housing that had sprung up around our
large transmitter site with its two towers. The towers offered a
north/south pattern urged on Mr. Doolittle by CBS so as to claim
coverage in three major markets: Hartford, New Haven and Springfield.
Across the street was Mount Saint Benedict Cemetery. By the early
60's, WTIC had moved to brand new, impressive facilities called
Constitution Plaza complete with a large bronze statue of
a guy spreading seeds entitled "The Broadcaster".
Stein & Bud
Steele were your newsroom compadres and Big D was on
the air 5AM-1AM; how did you staff the news operation?
the three of us, I was at work at 4:30AM M-F, and I don't remember
what shifts Mike
worked. After WDRC Mike
went to WNEW, New York and moved up to news director. I talked with
him over the years when he was writing scripts mouthed by Harry
Reasoner or Peter Jennings on the ABC-TV network evening news. Mike
retired and I understand he sometimes plays gigs around Manhattan
in a jazz group. Bud
Steele moved to Washington, DC area and was morning newsman for
years on WMAL. He worked weekends at Voice of America.
at WKST in New Castle, PA where pioneering DJ Alan Freed
at WHOT Youngstown, OH legendary jock Dick Biondi was
an usher at his wedding
early-morning newsman at WNHC New Haven he worked with
morning jock Dan Ingram
KGRI A/F in Henderson, TX from the widow of recording
star Jim Reeves
In October 1959, the second WDRC FM (102.9) signed
on, the first having been sold in 1956. During your
time as news director did it ever originate programming
distinct from the AM?
I recall the stations following the letter of the law
and ignoring the spirit of the rules designed to encourage
more programming diversity. We hired more staff and
played exactly the same music in exactly the same sequence
for a certain number of hours on both AM and FM. The
non-duplicated percentages were set forth by the FCC.
The rest of the time we simulcast.
Bacon were installed as a two-man morning team at
WDRC in August 1959 but by December the magic
was gone and so were they; did you work with them at
No. I did work with Bob
Bacon when I sold advertising to him for his ad
agency client, Friendly Ice Cream stores. Kenny
Reeth and Eddie King replaced Bacon
They were there when I arrived. They had been nightclub
standup comics when John Jaeger discovered them and
gave them a try at radio. I can still hear little Eddie
singing "Capitol Motors, 1214 Main Street…(pause)...in
Their stay was also short - January to April 1960. Then came
What was the missing ingredient until he arrived?
I'm guessing the missing element was an audience they could
hear and respond to. Reeth and King
weren't accustomed to the loneliness of a dark broadcast studio
at 6am on a weekday morning. They had functioned in a smoky,
noisy nightclub until two in the morning on weekends. The
hecklers would be an asset to these fellows. Ron
was a radio guy. He had listened to Bob and Ray for years.
I were in touch through the years until his death. I visited
him and Margo in the late 1970's at their Malibu home. They
bought the site from movie actor Steve McQueen. The site was
on a cliff above a nudist beach. Ron e-mailed me a picture
of their new Pagoda-esque home by a river next to a California
state park not long
before he died.
WDRC went totally independent on August 18, 1960, it
carried a fair amount of CBS fare (Arthur Godfrey, Helen Trent,
Lowell Thomas and Amos & Andy). When did you decide the station's
direction wasn't for you, and why?
I started in news doing daily news beats most of the day.
I would personally cover City Hall, County Court House, the
cop shop, police chief's office, etc. then return to write
a 15 minute, all-local newscast for TV and radio. During the
time I went from office to office I would come across at least
four or five yawning newspapermen. By the time I had written
my newscast I had scooped all the print guys by at least 24
hours. I tried to initiate this news beat procedure at WDRC
but our on-air chores wouldn't give us the time to drive from
the suburbs downtown, cover all the offices and drive back.
Being unable to enterprise our own news stories was discouraging
left WDRC for WNEW-TV 5, New York City. Ron
Landry arranged a free room for me with a friend of his located
near the station. After a brief stint in the Big Apple I left the
news game, returned to Hartford to go into sales at Channel 18 (an
institution famous in Hartford broadcast lore for its absolute inability
to stick with a format for any length of time). At one time TV-18
was owned and operated by CBS. The studios and offices were rather
impressive standing on Asylum near the railroad station. When I arrived
on the scene the station had changed hands a couple of times and was
America's first attempt at a pay television station. The experiment
involved three partners; Licensee RKO General, Zenith (who made the
set top boxes) and TECO which I suspect had the proprietary equipment
that kept consumers from getting programming without paying for it.
Our sales department was transitory between the takeover of the station
by the three Pay Partners and startup of the Pay operation. We did
not know this when we hired on.
Freeman on Charlie Parker:
we decided to go "top 40" in 1960 I remember visiting Charlie in
the next office. The salesmen's was the corner office, his was the
next. He had his head between his hands. He was afraid the format
change from CBS to independent/top 40 might not work. I assured
him it was magic. I had seen and been a part of the revolution in
Youngstown, OH then New Haven, CT. Charlie hadn't been anywhere.
He was a board operator when I hired on in '59. I don't know who
realized Charlie had such great potential. It might have been John
Jaeger. He was a gifted seer of talent. He hired several of the
great WNEW personalities.
was hired by general manager, Paul Evans in my first job as an account
executive (salesman). We had daggers most of the broadcast week. Daggers
in the Arbitron book meant "no measurable audience". Our only audience
was live ten pin bowling on Monday nights from the alley below Channel
18's studios and offices just before I came aboard. My sales manager,
Frank Bowes, and I plus a continually changing line of would-be account
executives found the sale very difficult. We had a continuity writer.
I refused to use his services. My writing skills and experience on
the street with the clients enabled me to write much more effective,
selling copy. If we had two people watching I often got one of them
to respond. So I got renewals from the clients I sold. In addition,
Paul Evans permitted me to enter the advertising agency business.
Now I could make 20% sales commission paid by WHCT-TV, plus 15% ad
agency commission. Total 35% commission on anything my clients bought
on TV-18. Ron Landry
and I did much of the creative for Frank Marrata's Connecticut Dragway
and for Gerry Chagnon's "The Broasterant" at Park and Broad Streets
in Hartford. I paid Ron a portion of our commissions like he was a
partner. Among the radio, TV, and newspaper media I bought was almost
always WDRC. When TV-18 shut down their commercial sales effort
Mike Boudreau, sales manager at WDRC, phoned and offered me