About Peter Cavanaugh

At the age of sixteen in 1957, Peter C. Cavanaugh enjoyed a fifty-eight percent total audience share on his hometown station, WNDR in Syracuse, New York.

Decades later, he’s written a book about his adventures ever since, promoting and producing literally hundreds of early concerts with the likes of Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Kiss and so on, as well as running a seven station radio group which included the top-rated Rock ‘n’ Roll stations in America.

“Local DJ” has been optioned as a film project by Kathleen Glynn and Blue Lake Entertainment.

Peter lives in Oakhurst, California, with his wife, Eileen.

“Of all who had a major influence on me while growing up in the Midwest, none matched the audaciousness, tenacity and gonzo-like behavior of Peter Cavanaugh. He was more than just the rock ‘n roll guru who gave America its first encounters with The Who, Bob Seger and all the great Detroit bands (Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, MC5, etc.) He was the one who taught me how to go up against the powers-that-be and live to tell all. Thank you, Peter Cavanaugh, for saving a generation of Flint kids from the likes of Pat Boone”

MICHAEL MOORE -“Stupid White Men”, “Bowling For Columbine”, “Fahrenheit 9/11”, “Sicko”, “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

In September of 2011, Mr. Cavanaugh gained entry into Cleveland’s “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” with his featured inclusion in their new Rock Radio exhibit.

31 Responses to “About Peter Cavanaugh”

  1. Andy Andrews Says:

    Bill Diehl, ABC Radio, whom I worked with in early radio put me onto your site as I too worked in Syracuse in the early 60’s but at the “other” R&R station WOLF. I recall some of the early ratings battles with “Dandy Dan” Leonard.

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      Hi, Andy!

      I remember you well!

      Those were great competitive days in Syracuse!

      I still regularly communicate with Dave Disinger, who played in various early Syracuse rock bands and has nothing but terrific things to say about you. Dave reports he used to help you at some of your WOLF Record Hops.
      Those were wonderfully wild, competitive days.
      Were you at WOLF when someone rolled a “stick of dynamite” (according to the Post-Standard) into the WOLF air studio late one night after sneaking in by way of that always unlocked back door next to the transmitter? Jesus. It was actually about eight cherry bombs in a Scott Tissue roller with a makeshift 5 second fuse. We DIDN’T mean to take out the cart rack and scare Jim Sims, in the middle of a live newscast, into full-blown whimpering hysteria.
      Or were you there when someone called a brand new WOLF all-night part-timer, announced himself as being “Officer Kelly from the FCC Monitoring Station in Skaneateles” , and ordered the station “immediately off the air” for discussing “the submarine races at Onondaga Lake” which represented “a blatant disregard for common decency in the community.” 12 hours later the station was back on the air, offering a five thousand dollar reward for “the person or persons who impersonated Federal officers by phone”. Or—-
      well–you get the picture.
      We were just kids.
      But if they’d pulled Peter C. Cavanaugh, Sam Amato and Dusty Rhodes into a lineup, I’d probably just be getting out of the slammer.
      And it’s STILL all Rock ‘n Roll!
      With best wishes always,
      Peter Cavanaugh

  2. Frank Shively Says:

    Peter ‘C’,

    How the hell are you??? Larry White an old buddy of mine from Rochester is reading your book and asked if I knew you from your Flint days.

    It’s good to see one of my old radio guys just having fun and doing it right.

    I was in Detroit a few weeks ago and heard Fred “Boogie” on WOMC and started thinking of all of you WTAC guys.

    I left the music biz in ’83. Worked for the Century 21 Corp. for 10 years then went into mortgage banking with Flagstar Bank in 95′. Moved us here (NC) in 96 and I retired about 3 years ago. Keep in touch with a few folks. Larry, Tom Shannon, Art Cervi (BOZO) and a couple of others.

    It is good to hear the name of the nice guys once in a while.

    Best wishes,

    Frank Shively
    Promotion guy extrordinaire

    • petercavanaugh Says:


      Promotion Guy Extrordinaire, indeed!

      What a wild, wonderful world we had!

      In ’83, I pretty much left the music side of the radio business too, leaving most programming decisions to “the kids coming up”, a decision I have never regretted. They all did (and are doing) great.

      Hope I die before I get old!

      Rock ‘n Rule!

      Peter C.

  3. Larry White Says:

    Hi Peter,

    As a kid who spent the first 11 years of my life growing up in Baldwinsville, I, too, remember Deacon Doubleday, Ed Murphy, Jim DeLine and the Gang and others.

    Of course, later it was Jolly Rolly Fowler, Dandy Dan Leonard, Peter C, Dusty Rhodes, Ted Hackett, Gene Nelson and Young Jim O’Brien among others.

    Those were great radio days that I’m sure led me to a 28 years career in the biz.

    Most of my time on the air was spent in Rochester at WBBF and WAXC where I was the first PD. Later it was sales at WVOR and then the last 7 years as VP/GM of WBUF in Buffalo. I left the day to day business in 1991.

    I loved reading your book and mentioned it to several others like Mr. Shively above who still insists that he was better looking than Tom Shannon. What a great read for those of us who lived through the most exciting years to be in radio!

    Though my career didn’t turn out to be nearly as colorful as yours – I did manage to have lunch with the WHO and Herman’s Hermits on the same tour that you mentioned.

    Peter, Thanks for the stories and the memories.

    All the best,

    Larry White
    Charlotte, NC area

  4. Frank Shively Says:

    Hey Pete,

    There goes White trying to get famous on my back.

    What ever happened to Tony (afternoons) after he went to WKNR? He had a few issues I know but he seemed to drop off of the radar.

    Were you there when Charlie Speights was GM? He left to follow his dream of playing horn in Las Vegas. I managed to see him there once or twice. Someone told me he passed on. Not sure.

    There are stories about Shannon and me. Someday on the phone. Not here.


    • petercavanaugh Says:

      “Tony”, I believe, was WKNR’s air name for Gary Raymond. I brought Gary back to WTAC after Detroit, but, sadly, he perished in a house fire in early ’84. On the happier side, Charlie Speights remains one of my best friends and is alive and well at 81 in Palm Desert, California. Eileen and I spent last Fourth of July Weekend with Charlie and his wife, Toby, at Lake Tahoe. Saturday, while our wives shopped, Charlie and I spent the afternoon at a cowboy bar in Truckee buying beers for a lab named “Ranger.” We had a few ourselves. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you at ChasMensch@aol.com. He’s very much in my book, “Local DJ”, even having his own chapter!

  5. Frank Shively Says:

    Thanks for the info. He’s gonna hear from me ready or not……..

  6. Randy Says:

    Wanted to see if you could recall a group from Syracuse in the early 60’s by the name of THE MADISON’s? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated….

  7. petercavanaugh Says:

    Hi, Randy!

    I DO remember a group called “The Madisons”, but need to think a little more to come up with details. It seems I recall them from the “WNDR DJ Datebook.” Hmmm.

  8. Marty Wituszynski Says:

    Sorry I am so late on this. My great uncle was the lead singer for the group. He went on to release a sole record. Check out the Johnny Curtis page on Facebook.

  9. Frank Shively Says:

    Hey Pete,

    Do you remember Dave Schafer when he was in Syracuse? He came to Detroit and almost equaled Tom Clay’s numbers. In fact I think he beat them in the book just before he went To CkLW.

    Frank Shively

  10. petercavanaugh Says:

    I remember Dave quite well as he worked for CKLW for several years in the mid-’60’s, both before and after Bill Drake came to town and introduced “Boss Radio” to “The Big Eight.” I don’t recall Dave being on the air in Syracuse. Dave actually worked WITH Tom Clay at CKLW for a bit prior to the format shift with Drake. It seems as though he wound up in the wild, whacky world of record promotion for a brief period, then got into some other line of work. I seem to recall he had a black belt in karate or something akin.

  11. Larry White Says:

    Not sure, but I think Dave might have been a Buffalo kid. Maybe he got to know Clay then.

  12. Frank Shively Says:

    HI again. Dave was at WOLF, late fifties. Went to Phoenix at KARE. When Marc Avery came to WJBK he got Dave the gig as weekend and record librarian. He nailed the audition when Harvey Kaye (the guy that followed Clay) left. Matter of fact Kaye sounded so much like Clay some listeners didn’t get he was gone for a while.

    I knew Dave and all of the guys well. I worked at WJBK right out of high school and spun records at their hops. Dave never mentioned Buffalo as home.

    As an aside, Marc Avery (Carleton DeForest Avery) replaced Jonathon Winters at his mom’s station WONE in Dayton.

    Phamous Phrank

    Scored big numbers

  13. petercavanaugh Says:

    Wow, Phamous Phrank!

    I just can’t place Dave at WOLF. Did he use that name on the air? I do recall the Phoenix and WLBK connections.
    I’ll check with my friend, Dusty Rhodes (the Cincinnati–WSAI/WLW “Dusty Rhodes”), who worked at WOLF (what great call letters!)
    ’57 through ’61.

  14. Frank Shively Says:

    although I hate to admit to maybe sort, possibly, I doubt if I am wro……. about it being WOLF, I know Schafer was in Syracuse.

    Based on timing it would have been early rather than late fifties. I went to work at the station in ’63 and he was Jack the Bellboy at that time. So he had to have been at the station for a while. Then you factor Arizona



    How are you?

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      I’m great, turning 70 in a few weeks, but, as far as I’m concerned, 70 is the new 17!

      So–our friend Dusty Rhodes checks in from Cincinnati and reports—-

      “I worked with Dave at CKLW for nine months and he never once mentioned that he worked at WOLF. Knowing my roots in Syracuse, I’d think he would have done so if it was true. Don’t think it is.


      For a few additional Michigan memories — there are great WTAC and Sherwood Forest Facebook pages you might check out. I’m sure you’ll recognize a few names. Do you still get those
      cluster headaches? Mine went away after I hit 65 or so. Don’t miss ’em a bit. I just spoke with Bill Hennes. He worked with me as “Wild Willie” at WTAC before he became PD at WKLO, CKLW and WMAQ.
      He’s a super programmer and a good friend. What’s new with Lively Shively?

  15. Larry White Says:

    Maybe Phrank’s got Dave confused with Dick Purtan.

  16. Ron Smith Says:

    I’ve been searching for the name of the theme song that Dusty Rhodes used to play on his afternoon radio show on WKMF in Flint, Michigan. It featured the starting up of an old car and then musice behind its chugging down the road. Any recollection?

    Ron Smith
    Flint St. Agnes

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      Hi, Ron!

      The “Dusty Rhodes” referenced here is an old friend from Syracuse (and Cincinnati), not the “Dusty Rhodes” who worked on WKMF, with whom I am unfamiliar. Sorry I can’t help. You might try the “Remembering WTAC” page on Facebook, which has tons of nostalgic Flint listeners regularly checking in.

  17. Frank Says:

    Hey Pete, Not sure who Marc replaced. Been too long. When I got there Marc was already ensconced. An Aside, Marc got Dave Schafer his job at JBK. they worked together in AZ. Incidentally, Marc replaced Jonathon Winters in Columbus. Winters mom owned the station.

    Actually Dave DID work at WOLF. Whiter is getting too old for this.

    Phantom Phrank

  18. Wendell Craig Says:

    Art Wander told me I’d never make it in radio. I’m now in New York nearly fifty years; all of it spent ‘sort of’ in radio. Sixteen years as a radio/tv producer, all but three years for my own company; over thirty years as a free-lance commercial VO artist, with TONS of cool credits; and for the last 20+ years a staff announcer at CBS TV (and radio) in New York.

    If anyone knows Art, tell him I’m eternally grateful for his foolish advice, Without it I’d probably be doing weekend fill-in at some religious station in Hammondsport.

    Always dug you, Pete, and still do. As does my baby sister Laurie. Say “Hi” for me.

    Windy (Wendell) Craig

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      What a nice young man! Thanks for the kind words, Windy. It was so terrific seeing you in Syracuse for that “Radio Reunion” back in August. If you ever visit your baby sister in Oakhurst, save time for a few zesty beverages at the Oak Room or — even the Dirty Donkey — “Home of Dangerous Drinking.” The disheveled, drunken, ill-mannered janitor there, who sleeps at night on a disgustingly encrusted pool table, is an old radio dude named — “Art” somebody. “Wonder?” “Window?” Something like that.

  19. murr2825 Says:

    Anyone on this thread (or anyone from central New York) will find just about anything they want to know about music in Syracise at the blog of Ron Wray, the “Syracuse Music Authority” who is exactly as his nickname suggests.


  20. DAVE MARSH Says:

    A note from Dave Marsh
    Just talked to a young woman Ana about ? and Mysterians for a story she’s writing. Went to give her your contact info and…it’s not there. “I said, listen I’ll find this. I couldn’t find Steven King’s phone number this week, but this is a lot worse, you have to find him. So if she gets through to you she’s diligent and smart (really smart, I think)
    And if you can ,would you please send your info once again.

  21. Gary Galusky Says:

    I’m currently watching Local DJ. You have made reference to shows at Mount Holly. I need help. For years, I’ve been trying to determine when the Yardbirds played there. I know it happened because I was there. My cousin lived 1 mile south on US 10. When I was young, I would spend weekends at his house. Around 1967, I was 13, he was 16. His mother (my aunt) told him to take me to “the dance” with him. He had designs on hooking up with a girl and told me, “you like music, go watch the band.” I already know who the Yardbirds were, having owned their LP’s. For years, I’ve been searching everywhere for a date of that show. Can you help?

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      Hi, Gary!

      I DO remember “The Yardbirds” playing Mt. Holly and am fairly sure it was the summer of 1966, while I was back in Central New York at WTLB. That stated, it’s also possible it was early in the 1967 season, although I was doing 7 – Midnight on WTAC Mondays through Saturdays that year and rarely made it to any of Bob Dell’s shows there.
      shows there.

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