“When I want to play Elvis, I play Elvis.”
What got you started in radio? I grew up in Patterson, NJ, 12 miles from New York City. From the beginning, I listened to the New York radio stations. I was influenced by the big city’s legendary DJs. Cousin Brucie, Dan Ingram … the boss jocks. I didn’t go to college until after my military. I got my education that way … well, I’m still not educated.
How did you get that first job? My professor, Tom Franklin, was doing news at the station, and he told me they were looking for interns.
How did you transition into ownership? It took many years. When I got finished with college, I moved to rural Pennsylvania, and worked there for many years. You have to start somewhere – part-time board op, sales, I did it all. The owner of the station then approached me and asked if I wanted to get into ownership. He offered to sell me his 2 stations, WHGL-FM and the simulcast station, which was an AM daytimer.
Once you get the feel for the market, as other stations became available, it allowed me to expand.
Decades later, you’re still there! Yup. As the saying goes, “If you won’t want to get fired, buy the place!”
Did you grow up in a small town? No. Talk about culture shock. My wife is a nurse; she worked in a big city hospital ER, and she was used to treating people with gun shots, stabbings…. When we moved to the Troy area, she began treating people that fell off their tractor, got kicked by a cow….
It doesn’t really matter if you’re in LA, Detroit, New York or Philly, or if you’re in Troy, PA or someplace like Hooterville. Music is music, format is format and broadcasting is broadcasting. No matter where it is, it’s what you make out of it.
How did you become a part of your community? I had a choice in the matter. I could have just come to work, punched the time clock, do my show and go home. But, I knew this was where I wanted to hang my hat, so I wanted to get involved in the community. The first thing I did was join civic organizations, like the Lions Club, Kiwanis and that kind of thing. I got involved.
With the radio stations, I committed to being local. I feel, especially in broadcasting, there are a lot of stations that aren’t committed. Even 25 years ago, a lot of stations didn’t commit to their community. I promised my staff we weren’t just going to be a position on the dial, we were going to be a locally owned and operated, community-minded station.
We got involved with the local schools, broadcasting their sports and community affairs. We got involved with local organizations like the American Cancer Society, Leukemia Society … I got involved with a lot of different organizations in the community.
In fact, I’ve been the mayor of Troy for 17 years now!
You going to run again? Yup, until somebody throws me out. I’ve been unopposed for the last 12 years. I had a couple of people run in the first few years, but once everybody learned what a thankless job it is….
What else do you do to stay busy? Back in the day, I had a friend that owns the school busses, and he asked me if I could drive, and to this day I’m a sub driver for him.
You do that for fun? Well, I do get compensated, I’ll have you know! But I really do enjoy it. I love my town. You no longer have to worry about locking your doors at night. It’s just like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting that’s still very much apparent in this area, and I thank God for that.
How many people in the area? About 1,000 in the city, and another 1,000 in the township.
How many in your service area? We cover 7 counties in Pennsylvania & New York. There’s 60,000 people just in our county … we cover over 150,000 people with the signals from our 5 stations. There are still more cows than people, but that’s OK! If they could fill out an Arbitron diary, that could be great!
Can you take me through the 3 formats? The country station, Wiggle 100, WHGL-FM appeals to our agriculture area. Very successful.
Why is it Wiggle? When I bought the station, WHGL used the slogan, “We Have Great Listeners.” When we were looking for another slogan, we went with the spelling of the call letters, which looks like Wiggle. Our logo is the Wiggle Wabbit, and our vehicles are the Wiggle Wagons.
I love the organic link between the calls and your slogan. It’s rare these days. “Hey, we’re music lovin’ people,” and it should be fun! You just don’t hear that now. In some of the major markets, it’s so cut and dried, it’s depressing. Kids today can’t even read a weather forecast without screwing up somewhere. There’s no personality anymore.
The oldies station, WKVN-FM, Oldies 99 FM is simulcast on the AMs. We concentrate on the 50s, 60s and some of the 70s. I try to emulate Cousin Brucie; I grew up listening to him.
You do the morning show every day? Monday through Friday, and then I go into therapy Saturdays and Sundays. I’ve been doing it forever. I’m pushing 70, just turned 67. I still get up every morning to the alarm at 4:55am.
Remember Sly and the Family Stone? Different strokes for different folks.
The other format is Classic Rock, which we call The Bridge – spanning over 3 decades of music.
How much of the day is live? I wish we could have 24 hours-a-day live announcers. All of our stations are live 5:30a – 10a. Then we turn to voice tracking, or live assist, with some local coverage interspersed.
Local sports? Absolutely! We pride ourselves on that. The country station covers all aspects of high school sports: football, basketball, wrestling, girl’s softball and we also cover Penn State football, which is the dominate college in this area. We also carry NASCAR.
We did carry NFL sports for a while, but we found it wasn’t that popular up here. Except for NASCAR, we now keep our local focus with all of our sports.
Do you cover the high schools in all 7 counties? Yes. There are several districts in each county, so we’ve got a pretty complex schedule with games of the week featured. As we get closer to the season’s playoffs, then we follow whoever we can advancing – hopefully! – to the state championship.
What local promotions do you do? We do The Christmas Money Tree; this will be our 16th year. We get a tree, put $1,000 on it, and put it in a glass case. We do a 2-hour remote and ask our listeners to come in and sign up for the drawing. The grand prize is the $1,000 cash, plus we do 5x $100 winners & such. Now, we’ve got sponsors renewing every year; that event is very successful. The sponsors get a lot of bang for their buck.
We’ve added our Sizzling Summer Giveaway for the last 10 years. We do a big cookout and give away a hot tub or gas grill. Those are our 2 biggest promotions.
Broadcasting in HD? No.
Streaming? 24/7, yes.
Are the sports archived via podcast? No, they’re live.
News coverage? We have a News Director, and he goes to the local meetings & courthouses, and reports the news.
How many on staff? About a dozen, both full time and part time. Three in sales, and the rest wear different hats.
Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…? I think it’s pretty much very apparent in our lives. But, in our rural area, it’s not so much of an issue in our marketplace. We’ve still got guys in the rocking chair on the front porch of the general store reading the local newspaper. Social media is growing every day, but it’s still not the mainstream here.
Are your websites a focus? Are they important? Absolutely. School cancelations & weather items, we drive straight to the website. They’re very local.
What do you do outside of the office? What’s fun, beyond driving the school bus? I’m a motorcycle enthusiast. I belong to the American Legion Riders, which is a motorcycle chapter. Every year we do tons of charity rides, and they culminate in DC with a big event called Rolling Thunder. It’s a national event; we had over 600,000 bikes last year. Riding is my biggest recreation.
What would you tell someone who wants to get into the radio business? Radio is still exciting & a challenging career. There will always be radio, TV, mass communication. Guys like myself, my generation, are slowly fading away. The next generation coming in is filling a void, but they often don’t have the training or experience, and it shows in the product. For me, it’s been a great career. A great ride. I’ve been blessed. I got into this business to serve the community and enjoy what I do, and I’m very proud to be a part of broadcasting still today.
When I want to play Elvis, I play Elvis. When I want to say something, I say it. I can still say what I want to say, talk about politics … whatever I want. I think it’s a shame that has gone away for so many stations, but I’m still doing it.