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Posts Tagged ‘Harry Harrison’

WMCA Pioneering Executive and ‘True Gentleman,’ R. Peter Straus Dies

A key player in the growth of New York radio has died. R. Peter Straus was responsible for WMCA becoming one of the top radio stations in the country.

“I was saddened to hear of the death of R. Peter Straus,” former WMCA air personality, Harry Harrison, tells FishbowlNY.

Straus, whose first name was Ronald, had two stints at WMCA. He joined the family business in the 1940s. His father, Nathan Straus bought WMCA in 1943. The elder Straus had been director of United States Housing Authority under President Franklin Roosevelt, and a New York state senator.

After becoming an executive at the International Labor Organization, part of the United Nations, Straus returned to WMCA, alongside his dad, in 1958. A year later, he succeeded his father as president. Another memorable moment occurred in 1959, as WMCA improved its lineup by hiring Harrison. It would be the start of 44 years in New York for the “Morning Mayor.”

“GM Steve Labunski and PD Ruth Meyer transformed WMCA into the ‘Good Guys’ radio station, and it became a huge success in the 60s,” Harrison tells FishbowlNY. “All the staff appreciated the support and encouragement Peter always gave us. He was a true gentleman.”

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Al Brady Law, Acclaimed Radio Programmer, Personality, Dies

Today’s breed of radio listeners is likely unaware of Al Brady Law. But Law had three stints in New York radio from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Law died Monday of a brain tumor in a New Hampshire nursing home. Reports put his age at 67.

His work was varied, from air personality to programmer. His start in New York took place as WOR-FM evening jock in 1969.

A year later, even though he bolted for Miami, Law was heard filling in on WWDJ, primarily on nights.

After some work in Denver, Law was back at WWDJ on a full-time basis. This time, he was like a player/manager in baseball. Law was named the station’s program director, along with his air work.

Now that management was agreeing with him, Law wanted more.

Following the short gig at ‘WDJ, Law appeared at WXLO where he was hired solely as the “99X” program director.

However, Law’s dual hats would return in a big way at WNBC Radio. In 1974, he was named a joint assistant program director and air personality. Later that year, Law took over as program director but only briefly before resuming his APD/weekend air work. He remained at the NBC flagship until 1976.

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WCBS-FM Celebrating 40th with Reunion Weekend

It’s a weekend four decades in the making. WCBS-FM, the venerable Oldies turned Classic Hits station, is marking a milestone, after launching the vintage Top 40 tunes on July 7, 1972. To commemorate the occasion, the station is welcoming back, or playing vintage clips of, CBS-FM’s most popular DJs.

The call letters were created in the 1940s. In those nascent days of radio, WCBS-FM was simply a simulcast for the WCBS-AM’s programming.

Finally in 1966, CBS-FM started its own format. The Easy Listening, “Young Sound” was born. A year later, a plane crash into the transmitter, forced WCBS-AM to debut its all-news format on the FM tower.

In 1969, WCBS-FM, still seeking an identity, opted for a freeform rock genre, molded in the WOR-FM and WNEW-FM style.

But it was until 1972 that CBS-FM had its niche in New York–Oldies.

Bill Brown, longtime midday jock, and late night DJ Don K. Reed were CBS-FM “originals” from the freeform days.

The station wasn’t just the greatest oldies or greatest hits of the last 40 years. It showcased some of greatest jocks in history. Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, Harry Harrison, “Triple D” Dandy Dan Daniel, Bob Shannon, Dan Taylor, and “Broadway” Bill Lee are just a select few that could be inducted into the CBS-FM “Hall of Fame.”

Ironically, as the audience got “older,” the music got younger. In the last several years, the original feel has been slightly altered to focus on the 1970s and 1980s, while putting the 1950s “Oldies” into “semi-retirement.”

The weekend lineup after the jump.

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Led by Host Dan Taylor, WCBS-FM Wins the Morning

The Dan Taylor-led WCBS-FM morning show has something to celebrate, a winning month! The Classic Hits station grabbed number one in the January Arbitron a.m. drive daypart ratings.

While WCBS-FM has wrestled the overall top spot on occasion from WLTW-FM/Lite FM–it’s a different story on the breakfast beat.

Program director Brian Thomas tells FishbowlNY that this is the first time on top for Taylor’s morning show, which features weatherman Irv “Mr. G” Gikofsky and news reader Deborah Rodriguez, has been number one in New York radio.

“[It's] quite an accomplishment and that would make them one of the best rated in our history.”

That’s high praise from Thomas, as CBS-FM had the iconic Morning Mayor Harry Harrison waking up listeners for more nearly a quarter-century.  

Taylor, a veteran of CBS-FM, was named morning host in 2007 after the station “deflipped” from the jockless Jack format.

The Daily News reports Taylor’s show got 5.6 percent of the audience, while WLTW, WINS, and WHTZ were second with 5 percent.

WCBS-AM was fifth with a 4.6 percent of the audience.

Among the all-important 25 to 54 listeners, WHTZ was tops with a 6.1. WLTW trailed with a 5.0. WPLJ and WINS tied for third with a 4.8.

WCBS-FM tied for sixth place with a 4.1.

9/11: New York Remembers Revisited

In case you missed any of our special feature 9/11: New York Remembers, today we’re observing the 10th anniversary of the tragic day linking back to the entire series.

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Morning Mayor Harry Harrison a Comforting Presence at WCBS-FM in Days Following 9/11 Tragedy

As you’ve been reading, FishbowlNY has explored how some of your favorite TV and radio personalities are coping with the 9/11 attacks—ten years later.  

None has been more beloved than the Morning Mayor—Harry Harrison.

Harrison spoke with FishbowlNY for our special 9/11: New York Remembers feature.

The Hall of Fame DJ ended his steady work with WCBS-FM in 2003. At the time, the legendary jock received numerous letters and online accolades as he stepped into retirement.

Many offered comments highlighting Harrison’s work on the days that followed September 11, 2001.

“Yours was the voice that comforted us in the terrible days after 9/11,” One person writes. “You encouraged us to be brave, to smile, to be happy, and basically appreciate life.”

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Steve Labunski, Man Responsible for Bringing Ruth Meyer to WMCA in 1950s, Dies

Broadcasting exec Steve Labunski has passed away of natural causes. Labunski was 86.

As general manager at WMCA, he was the person who gave Ruth Meyer her start in New York radio in 1958. Meyer was the trailblazing WMCA “Good Guys” program director through much of the 1960s. Meyer died in January.

At the time, FishbowlNY reached out to an ailing Labunski for reaction.

Radio great Harry Harrison credits Labunski and Meyer for bringing him to New York in 1959. He last saw Labunski during a milestone on-air shift–celebrating his 40th year in the Big Apple.

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Remembering Ruth Meyer, a Trailblazing New York Radio Programmer

At a time when women were at home playing the role of housewife (think 1950s sitcom standards The Ozzie and Harriet Show and Leave it to Beaver) Ruth Meyer was playing the role of accomplished radio manager.

A disciple of Top 40 pioneer Todd Storz, Meyer, sadly today, is largely a lost figure in the industry—except to those who knew her best.

Hired in 1958, for much of the next decade, no one wielded more influence in the market (including Rick Sklar at top rival WABC) than Meyer as WMCA program director.

Meyer died on January 21. She was 80.

“She was a super person,” Harry Harrison, WMCA midday jock under Meyer, says. “She and Steve Labunski [general manager] brought me to New York at WMCA from Peoria [Illinois]. It was late 1959.” (A saddened Labunski was informed by FishbowlNY of Meyer’s passing.)

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Program Director Brian Thomas Responds to CBS-FM Criticism

We reported earlier this week that a former WCBS-FM music director was critical of the differences between the Oldies station then and its Classic Hits version today.

FishbowlNY reached out to CBS-FM program director Brian Thomas for a comment on that article.

Thomas says the original headline should have been called “Different Era-Different Styles of DJs.”

“Comparing jocks of different era is like comparing Arnold Palmer to Tiger Woods,” Thomas says.

Richard Lorenzo said earlier in the week that CBS-FM lacks style today.

“The ones [jocks] then weren’t necessarily more intelligent, but they were more enjoyable because they were into the craft more deeply,” Lorenzo said.

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Former WCBS-FM Music Director Says Station Now Has ‘No Style’

WCBS-FM has been a ratings juggernaut month after month in the Arbitron PPM survey. There’s no disputing that. The station, since leaving the bad taste from the ill-fated jockless “Jack” format in 2007, has held consistently at number two. Even twice, CBS-FM has reached the top position in the city.

However, what is up for debate is how CBS-FM compares to the original CBS-FM, heard from 1972 to 2005.

Richard Lorenzo (center) was former music director at the Oldies station. FishbowlNY caught up with him recently at the CBS reunion luncheon.

“There’s no style to it anymore,” Lorenzo admits.

CBS-FM had two ingredients that worked for its avid listeners—the music and the jocks. Throughout the years, the DJs showing off their personalities went hand and hand with the format.

“The ones [jocks] then weren’t necessarily more intelligent, but they were more enjoyable because they were into the craft more deeply,” Lorenzo says.

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