Music Mike

My mom said I was born to be a disc Jockey! I loved the beat of music. Just after learning to walk, my favorite place to be was in front of the washing machine. It had a constant rhythm that I enjoyed dancing to. At 3 years old, mom and dad bought me my first record player… and some records… that were favorite’s of theirs at the time in the late 1950’s. My parents were smart… that way, all the songs I played (of which I did over and over) would be songs they liked. I didn’t care about the selection as long as it had a beat and I could dance to it. I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio in a middle class family. We lived very close to Cleveland, Ohio and I could pick up all of the great radio stations from there and around where I lived… like WKYC, WHK, WIXY, WMMS (the Buzzard), WGCL (G-98), WGAR, WCUE, WHLO and many, many more. But, it was one radio station in particular that influenced me the most and it helped shape my life. That station was CKLW. The “Big” 8 as it was known, was from Windsor, Ontario Canada… across the river from Detroit, Michigan… and across Lake Erie from Cleveland. CKLW had a lot of power… a “50,000 watt blowtorch” as we called it in the radio business. You could hear them all across Canada, the Northern United States and even sometimes on the beach in Florida. I know, because I had  my transistor radio on listening to them during spring break in 1976. But, even better was the music they played and the DJ’s that played it. They were “Boss” jocks… playing fantastic Motown soul, rock hits from Deep Purple and soft ballads by the Carpenters. You just never knew what was coming up next! CKLW’s format was created by the legendary Bill Drake. The jocks had deep, powerful, commanding voices. When they spoke, everyone listened. They had fun on the air, had big stars as guests and sounded so “way cool”. 

At that moment, I was convinced that I wanted to be like them. I was 10 years old then. I imitated the DJ’s and how they talked every day after school… all the way through High School. Soon, it would be time to go off to college. My dad wanted me to become a pharmacist like him. But, it just wasn’t exciting to me like radio. It took me two years to convince him to let me pursue a radio and television broadcasting degree. I chose Ashland College in Ohio as my center of higher learning because as a Freshman, you could audition and get on the college station… if you were good enough. I did well and secured the weekday morning show playing Top 40 Hits. During my Freshman year, I applied for an opening on a 50,000 watt FM station in Mansfield, Ohio… about 30 minutes from the college. I got the job for the 7pm – 12m show… a time that the sales department couldn’t sell because all of the advertisers thought only “kids” listened then and they didn’t have any money to spend. The station was WCLW. I asked the owner if I could play Top 40 Hits “like CKLW” because that’s what the kids wanted to hear. He said yes. It was a huge success. I had businesses sponsoring entire hours of my show and I received more fan mail than the other DJ’s. Back then, that’s how the owners decided whether you should be fired or get a raise… by how much fan mail you received.

Because of my success at WCLW, I was recruited by another FM hit radio station about an hour away… which was 1.5 hours away from school. The drive didn’t matter to me. I was going to be on a top rated radio station in a bigger market near Columbus, Ohio. I accepted the 7pm-12m position on WDIF FM radio in Marion, Ohio in 1977. In addition to being on the air, I also played music at the big disco club nearby called the “Mad Bull”. WDIF spent a lot of money on promotion. They had me making appearances everywhere… even at pool parties! At WDIF, I eventually became the Music Director. In 1979, I received a Gold Record Award for helping the song “When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman” by Dr. Hook go to #1 nationally. In addition to the Gold Record Award, WDIF was named “Small Market Radio Station Of The Year” in 1979 by Billboard magazine.

After WDIF, I moved on to O-94 in Mount Vernon, Ohio as the morning DJ from 6am-10am. Even though we played contemporary music, we also aired school lunch menus and farm reports. It was much different than working at WDIF. But that’s OK. Because I needed the experience working with a morning audience. It’s much different than working at night with the kids. I had to act grown up now.

In 1982, I left O-94 FM to pursue a career in sales with a large office machines company in Mansfield, Ohio. I thought it was a good idea to learn marketing and sales if I was going to get a management position in the radio business. Sales of copiers and fax machines was going very well for me… and frankly, I didn’t give the radio business much more thought… until I received a phone call in 1985 from the owner of O-94 FM WMVO radio. Mr. “Z” as he was known, told me that he had just been granted a permit from the FCC to increase the power of his FM station from a local 20,000 watts to a regional 50,000 watts. This meant it could cover a bigger area, bigger businesses, bigger cities, bigger money. Bigger, big, bigger. Since I had experience as a DJ, Music Director, sales & marketing… I was the guy Mr. Z had in mind. He wanted to change the format to compete with the “big boys”. There was a lot of new business and potential new listeners to the north and south of us that we could gain. I agreed with his offer and began formulating the new sound and marketing image. With guidance from Emmis Research (the same guys that were consulting KISS FM in Los Angeles and Z-100 in New York) I launched the new “Ohio’s Super Station” 93.7 WQIO in the spring of 1986. We had a BIG sound with lots of audio processing just like the major market radio stations. Our DJ’s were pro’s that knew how to relate to the listeners. Our sales staff was sharp, contemporary and motivated. We had a big budget. We gave away cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles, ski trips, Florida vacations, TV’s, complete stereo systems, jewelry, concert tickets with back stage passes and the world’s first DAT Digital Audio Cassette player/recorder given to us directly from Sony in Japan. It was an exciting place to work! The 20 phone lines I had installed were always lit up… with listeners, businesses and angry local residents of Mount Vernon, Ohio that were upset because we stopped reading the school lunch menus and the farm reports! WQIO was getting a lot of attention from the press, the radio industry and our competitors. I received a phone call one afternoon from a Columbus station to compliment us on how good we sounded. Everyone that worked at WQIO gave their entire heart and soul to help make it a fantastic radio station.

Three years later, Mr. Z called me again… but this time with bad news. We had been spending more money than we were making (which was true) and he was going to have to slash the budget… and one of those slashes was me. After I left, the rest of the original staff began leaving, too. WQIO limped along for about another year before Mr. Z pulled the plug and converted the station to automated programming coming from Colorado on the Transtar radio network. It sucked. That was the end of the original “Ohio’s Super Station”. Below are pictures that help capture the fun and excitement of the awesome WQIO FM.

After Leaving WQIO, I went back to work in sales again in the office machines business. On the weekends, I worked for a formaer competitor, WYHT Y-105 FM in Mansfield, Ohio. I “Played The Hits” there through 1995.

From 1995 until 2015, I just listened to the radio like most people do. It was no longer a business… just entertainment. Over that 20 year period, many people asked me to go back on the radio. After contemplating the idea, I decided to create my own Internet radio station. Classic Hits KVKVI became a reality in February, 2015. Then in March 2024, my second radio station called Groovy Radio began streaming “All Hit 60’s & 70’s Oldies” across the world. 

I hope you enjoy my stations and share them with your friends. Thanks for listening!


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