Q & A

How did you get into radio, Tony?

I started listening to the radio as a pre-teen. I remember receiving an Allied 5-band radio as a gift from my Dad and I started listening to the popular stations on the AM band like WIXY, WGAR, WKYC and WHK. Next, I discovered FM and it was pretty wide open back then. There was station that played jazz (WCUY), a few experimental stations that were playing rock (WNCR, WMMS) and also an automated station that played Top 40 (WGCL).

I became hooked on radio and that created an intense hunger for musical discovery. It also spurred an interest in all things electronic. I started hanging out at the electronics hobbyist stores like Olson’s, Lafayette, Allied Radio and Radio Shack.

Not long after, I bought a funny device called a “phono oscillator” that broadcast on the AM band. I cobbled together a few Garrard turntables, an old PA amplifier and a microphone and started my own little AM radio station. It only covered the house but sounded amazingly good.  I started a little “company” with my friends and we ended up building a production studio complete with a custom console in my friend’s basement.  Later, I built my own basement production studio with a custom console.

I remember walking into the penthouse of the Statler Hilton hotel on a chilly night in October 1971. I was a young anti-war protester delivering leaflets to fledgling prog rocker, WNCR. As I walked into the control room, I was intrigued by the ambiance. Loud music blared from the large Electro Voice speakers mounted above the Gates Stereo Statesman console. Behind the mic was a bearded cat by the name of Jeff Gelb. He was really cool and allowed me to hang out with him. I ended up becoming an intern and fetched coffee and answered phones for Lyn Doyle’s “People’s Night on the Radio” show.

A week or two after I started, my first cousin, Carolyn Thomas walked in. I asked her what she was doing there and she asked me the same question! It turned out that she was working overnights!! (I also found out that Doyle was my cousin by marriage). After WNCR moved to the Stouffer Building around December 1971, interns were exiled and I moved to WMMS working with Billy Bass and David Spero for a few months. It was amazing to watch them work. I ended up back at WNCR in February of 1972 and had a chance to run the board and “ride gain” for Carolyn and Lee Andrews on occasion.

From there, I ventured over to WRUW-FM at Case Western Reserve University and became an intern for a couple named Dave and Denise Newman.  I did that for a while and I picked up my FCC 3rd Class license with broadcast endorsement at the tender age of 16.  When I was a senior in high school, I was offered my own radio show on WRUW and my musical knowledge grew astronomically thanks to their amazing record collection.  I still loved to hang out at various local radio stations including WLYT, WNCR, WMMS, WGCL, WJMO and others.  My list of radio mentors grew and included Bill Lenkey (now Broadway Bill Lee at WCBS-FM), Billy Bass, Bill King, Shauna, Shotgun Tom Kelly, Chris Bailey, J. R. Nelson, Billy Black, Lyn Tolliver and Greg Anthony.

How long were you at WRUW?

I was there about 4 years. From 1973 to 1977. I did a weekly show for most of those years. However, during my summers off between school, I got to do a show every day of the week. Since it was a campus station, the students left during the summer and they really needed help. I remember doing a 9 hour show one time! That really taught me how to be a broadcaster.

Did you get any formal training in broadcasting?

I went to WIXY School of Broadcast Technique. It was later called the Ohio School of Broadcasting (not to be confused with the Ohio Center for Broadcasting which is still in operation). At that time, the school was run by Bill Clark, Marge Bush and Ira Rubins.

I took both the broadcast announcing and engineering programs. It was a cool place to be back then since the school was adjacent to WIXY 1260. As a result, you got to observe a real radio station at work in between classes. I remember answering the request lines at WIXY while at the school as part of my internship.

When I was there, I got to watch guests like the Guess Who and Greg Allman being interviewed on the air. I also got to see legendary jocks like Paxton Mills and Tim Byrd “The Birdman” (who was later a VJ on VH1) at work. I taught broadcast production at the school in the late 70s and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 1989. I really enjoyed my time there.

And how did you end up in the advertising business?

Around 1976 or so, I read a book called “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by David Ogilvy. Ogilvy was from the UK and one of the original “mad men” that ruled the advertising business starting in the 1950s and into the 70s. He worked as a chef, an intelligence agent, a farmer and a researcher for George Gallup. He was a fascinating figure, plus he really knew how to write. That book had a profound effect on me.

So much so, that I decided to open my own small advertising agency. It was called “Mediatronics Advertising and Production Services”, or MAPS for short. I had one and only client that I convinced to use my services. He was a small manufacturer of loudspeakers that had a shop very near where I lived at the time. I did a brochure for him, designed his logo and his stationary and business cards. I barely knew what I was doing and almost lost my shirt. I was able to pay the designer/photographer and the printer and had a few pennies left over. I learned the business the hard way.

I also learned that I really didn’t know how to write. My grammar was horrible. So, I dug in, bought some grammar books, a big dictionary and thesaurus and some books on advertising copywriting by people like Claude Hopkins and John Caples. Not long after, I enrolled in a advertising course offered by the Cleveland Advertising Club. The textbook was “Advertising Procedure” by Otto Kleppner. That course was a true blessing. I got to meet some great people and our mock agency team won the competition. I ended up graduating with honors. I was ready to take the next step.

To be continued…