Monday, December 13, 2010

Comments on WCBS-FM Past and Present

Today's journal entry is in response to statements made by former music director Richard Lorenzo in an article by Facebook friend Jerry Barmash in FishbowlNY.  I agree with Lorenzo that the WCBS-FM of today is not the same as the station we heard from 1972-2005, but I disagree with his premise that the station has no style.  Unfortunately "the suits" in the radio business must think of the almighty buck and appeal to advertisers who are not interested in listeners over 54.  People who enjoy the music of 1955-75 (give or take a few years) are leaving the desired 25-54 demographic.  Thus, in 2005 the morons at the top of CBS Radio abruptly changed 101.1 to the dreaded Jack format.  New York radio listeners voted with their radio dials and did not accept that format which was an insult to the loyal listeners of CBS-FM.  In 2007 the new management came to their senses and adoped the "Greatest Hits" format ignoring the moniker "oldies".  In this new incarnation the station played mostly hits from 1964-1989 to try to appeal to the desired demographic.  Hits from the early days of rock 'n roll were minimized.

The strength WCBS-FM Version 1 were the personalities and the depth of the playlist.  Many of those DJs and Program Director Joe McCoy either retired or moved on.  I certainly miss Harry Harrison, the late Ron Lundy, Don K Reed, Norm N Nite, Cousin Brucie, Bill Brown and others.  Brian Thomas, the new program director, has given the station style albeit different from his predecessors.  He has added some innovative Hall of Fame features usually played at the top or bottom of the hour.  I have enjoyed many of the features like airing Artists A-Z and the entire playlist of the station during holiday periods.  The newer DJs with backgrounds in other New York stations like Broadway Bill Lee, Joe Causi, Ron Parker and Sue O'neal do project their personalities.  As Lorenzo says, the only personality with a link to Version 1 is Bob Shannon.  He seems stifled by the tight  automated playlist that he must use.  He is livlier and seems much happier when he does his WLNG show on Tuesdays.  Dan Taylor's banter with weatherman Mr. G is somewhat reminiscent of the Harry Harrison days.  Dan does a good job in the morning.

I perceive that the playlist on Monday - Friday 6 AM - 7 PM is somewhat tight, bust loosens in the evening and on weekends.  I am not a night owl and am usually in deep sleep between midnight and 6 AM, but a voicetracked show is not the best thing.  New York is the city that never sleeps, but economics have compelled many major radio stations to save money by voice tracking.  Years ago Max Kinkel had a very big following in the overnight period.

To conclude I will say that no radio station can please all of its listeners all the time.  People who know me are aware that I listen to many over the air, satellite, and internet stations in various formats.  I do listen to WCBS-FM, but not as much as I did in their "hey day" from 1985-1995 or so.  Alan Berman, the Dean of Oldies Listeners, tells me that he rarely listens to the station since he prefers Sirius, Hy Lit Radio, WLNG and other stations.  Others like Mary Shaw, Linda Cohen and Cara Sieden are still loyal listeners. I would make one suggestion:  There should be a "Heart of Rock 'N Roll Show" on Sunday nights with alternating hosts Norm N Nite and Don K Reed.  This would be a good link to the station's heritage.

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