“R.O.C.K.”

ABC Rock Affiliates Board 1984

ABC Rock Affiliates Board 1984

CHAPTER SIXTY-SEVEN

R.O.C.K.

Ron Shannon, Neil Kearney, Bob Lafferty and I attended the 1984 National Association of Broadcasters Radio Conference in Los Angeles in September. It was brutally hot. Following four days of meetings, Ron returned to Flint and I traveled south to attend another five days of sessions with the ABC Affiliates Group at the brand new Ritz Carlton complex in Laguna Nigel. It didn’t suck. Eileen flew-out to join me.

Neil and Bob had returned home early the prior morning following a late-night decision to keep drinking and catch the red-eye flight heading back East. They hadn’t wanted to wake-up in the morning with a hangover and have to pack their suitcases then. It was one of those Irish ideas which makes terrific sense at the time. The pilot asked Neil to stop smoking marijuana somewhere over Nebraska. He rang me at dawn. I thought he was in the next room and suggested we have breakfast. He said he’d love to, but was at Detroit Metro with Bob. Lafferty was spinning around on the baggage carousel and wouldn’t get off.

The ABC Radio Laguna Nigel gathering took place before accountants grabbed the networks. The accommodations were the finest I had ever enjoyed. No expense was spared in assuring pleasant times for all. We were the very first occupants of the new structure and were treated like royalty by the hotel staff. They all wore neat little uniforms and kept coming up and asking if they could “refresh our drinks”. In Flint I had been used to hearing “Whachurs?” demanded at the T-Bird. It was all very nice.

Ed McLaughlin was a fine Irishman and President of the ABC Radio Networks. I played bongos in the hotel bar with him ’til 5:00 a.m. one morning. Ed was to leave ABC after Capitol Cities took over and “retire”. He “retired” to create his own satellite network and took a run at Paul Harvey. When that idea came to naught, he found a talk-show host in Sacramento he felt worthy of “putting up on the bird”. His discovery had been fired from a number of stations for lack of talent, but Ed could spot a good thing when he heard it and trusted his instincts. Rush Limbaugh didn’t disappoint him.

Saturday morning was to be the final big session at the meetings. Each network affiliate group was to come up with a campaign against alcohol abuse and present their ideas at that time before all assembled. As Chairman of the Rock Affiliates, I would do the honors.

Friday night we met to discuss strategy. This was an important item. There were rumors in Washington about possible restrictions being placed on broadcast advertising for beer and wine. Such action could cost the radio industry millions of dollars. We had already been seriously screwed with cigarettes. It was time to display responsible recognition of alcohol’s dangerous potentials and direct meaningful professional attention to Congressional concerns. Anything less could see us nailed anew. It seemed artistic to suggest we all get really drunk and deal with the problem as close to it as we could get. I was a popular Chairman. We ended the evening with a tequila duel. After eleven rounds, I called it a draw. I held up a napkin marked “R.O.C.K.”. It was the name of our network and I loved acronyms.

The following morning, we received standing applause from all after I summarized the masterful outline for our “R.O.C.K.” (“Reckless Operators Can Kill!!”) Campaign. We realized heavy network play with our efforts and later received several industry awards. The positive press was sensational. Ed McLaughlin sent me a personal note of congratulations expressing his pleasure with our project. What made me the happiest was having not passed-out at the podium during my presentation. Although functionally sober, I was deservedly in utter agony before a highly influential audience of inestimable professional importance as a direct consequence of having once again yielded beyond restraint to undisciplined indulgence far past any reasonable norm. Then again, I had come up with “R.O.C.K.” only after the last tequila. Sometimes, it’s all very hard to understand.

The Cavanaugh family had moved to Perrysburg, Ohio. Perrysburg is just south of Toledo, across the Maumee River in Wood County. Our “little girls” were “little” no longer.

Laurie, the oldest, had left for college at Central Michigan University the year we moved to Ohio. Colleen would graduate from Perrysburg High School the following year and attend Bowling Green State University, just down the road. Candace would follow in 1988 and journey south to Miami of Ohio at Oxford before starting Law School at the University of Detroit in ’92. Our “baby” Susan would leave for Ohio University in Athens in the autumn of ’91.
All four daughters were to attend different schools within the same collegiate conference. I had always encouraged diversity within unity.

When Ronald Reagan made his successful bid for re-election in the fall of 1984, Perrysburg was the final destination on a whistle-stop train-tour through Ohio. It had been arranged to capture a nostalgic sense of traditional American political campaign history. There were Secret Service agents swarming all over our little town. This Irishman spoke only four blocks from my house. His last words were that Democrats always thought it was April 15th, but Republicans wanted every new day to be the Fourth of July. Right on cue, fireworks exploded in the distance and a band struck-up “Stars and Stripes Forever”. It was slick as hell. Paul W. Smith hosted his appearance.

Paul had worked with me at WCWA and was then doing a morning show on CKLW in Detroit. Paul W. Smith had once made approach for a salary increase with the greatest line heard by me before or since in the context of such a request. Paul had forlornly looked at me and said, “I want you to clearly understand that I’m not selfishly thinking about myself in this matter. What’s at stake here is the well-being of my future wives.” He got a laugh, but not the raise. He’s in Detroit now doing a talk-show mornings on “The Voice of the Great Lakes”–50,000 watt WJR.

Ron Shannon was leaving Flint. He had received an opportunity to become President of a broadcast group based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Gentleman that he was, he drove to Toledo to break the news to me directly in my office. Although sad he would be leaving Reams, I was terribly proud of him and knew that he had earned distinguished advancement. He had done an extraordinary job for us at WWCK and had lifted both ratings and revenue to new plateaus. We both agreed on a choice as Ron’s successor. Nancy Dymond would become Vice-President and General Manager of the stations and first female to ever occupy such a position in Flint radio. Nancy was once described by one of our more eloquent consultants as being “a curious combination of “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” and “Ilsa, The Nazi-Queen She-Bitch.”” She was ecstatic over her promotion, but would shortly wonder why the hell she’d ever been so happy.

WWCK Program Director Mark Miller/Jazz Fusion Guitarist Stanley Jordan/Peter C.--NBC Radio Affiliates Group--Fort Lauderdale, Florida--1985--11 PM.

WWCK Program Director Mark Miller/Jazz Fusion Guitarist Stanley Jordan/Peter C.--NBC Radio Affiliates Group--Fort Lauderdale, Florida--1985--11 PM.

Peter C.--NBC Radio Affiliates Group--Fort Lauderdale, Florida--1985--3 AM. Chairman Peter Cavanaugh Exhibits Typical Leadership Skills With Animated Demonstration of Battery Operated "Wild Mechanical Hand."

Peter C.--NBC Radio Affiliates Group--Fort Lauderdale, Florida--1985--3 AM. Chairman Peter Cavanaugh Exhibits Typical Leadership Skills With Animated Demonstration of Battery Operated "Wild Mechanical Hand."

WGMZ-FM in Flint had changed format from “Beautiful Music” to “Adult Contemporary” just before Ron’s departure and were seriously threatening WWCK’s older listenership by offering a plethora of rock oldies in their music mix. WIOG-FM in Saginaw was about to change tower location and dramatically upgrade their signal into Flint. They were programming “Rock Top Forty” which would radically impact WWCK’s younger demographics. We would be seriously attacked on two separate fronts simultaneously by knowledgable operators with adundant promotional funding and every intention of wiping WWCK completely off-the-map.

Bitter competitive pressures were in the wind as our lovely Ms. Dymond took the helm of the “Good Ship 105”.

Early ’86 saw Lee Abrams visit Toledo in February and speak before a group of WIOT/WCWA clients who were assembled at a special “Advertising Clinic” presented by Reams Broadcasting at the ever-exclusive Sofitel Hotel, which was very “French”. We also featured Erica Farber from McGavren-Guild (our rep firm) and Tom Birch, President of Birch Radio Ratings. Tom had made significant inroads establishing his ratings firm as a viable alternative to Arbitron and, as far as I was concerned, offered a superior methodology to the older service. All of our speakers were excellent. Tom and Erica had to leave town. Lee Abrams decided to spend the night. Look out.

Depending upon point of view, Lee and I have always been very good or bad influences on each other. I always thoroughly enjoy his company and conversation and sense this is mutual. The party lasted until 4:30 the following morning.

I went home to shower after first making snow-angels in my backyard in Perrysburg. That I occasionally behave in such manner without audience is a point of Irish pride. I was at work by 8:00 a.m. There was a small cut on my head, which Lee told me had come from a security guard’s nightstick. I sheepishly reported this to Frazier and later was informed by Lee that he had been “just kidding”. Score one for Abrams.

I called a friend at the Sofitel and had them run a fake computer invoice for “damages” in Lee’s room. The amount came to $5,987.00. When it was hand-delivered, I gave it to Frazier. He presented it to Lee. Make that a tie with Cavanaugh.

Frazier and I visited both Cincinnati and Nashville.

Frazier was interested in adding new properties to the group. WSKS-FM was available in Cincinnati for 4.5 million dollars. WSIX AM/FM in Nashville
was on the market for 8.0. Negotiations continued through the summer months. It seemed as though we would move on one or the other opportunity, given favorable terms and adequate financing. In September, Frazier called me on his car phone. He was buying both.

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