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It was a different world back then!

WCNL AM/FM - Newport, NH

 

I went to WCNL in May of 1986 as the General Manager. I was also the Corporate Program Director for this small multi-station owner which was the Lowe Group of Companies. Once in a while, I filled-in on the air.

Tim Hoehn, who had been my night time jock and Assistant PD at NorthCountry 102 had gone to WCNL as their Program Director several months earlier. For me it was a chance to earn much better money. However, this was a rather austerely run organization. The owner had his office on the Boston Common and was primarily invested in real estate. He treated his broadcast properties no differently. His family had made money operating theaters and he usually seemed to be suppressing irritation when people would occasionally confuse them with Loew Theaters.

Tim had done a pretty good job of cleaning up the Adult Contemporary format he inherited. The staff was executing the basics properly, but the station had rather intense local competition from 50,000 watt WHDQ, located a few miles up the road in Claremont, NH. Q106 was basically a Top 40 station with decent talent and was extremely active promotionally. They had managed to steal WCNL's best sales personnel. The station needed something fresh and a new direction.

Newport was 60 miles from Randolph and the stations did overlap coverage in the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire. As soon as word hit the street that I was coming to WCNL, the speculators were positive that I would make it a country station and take out WBFL, the country music station in nearby Bellows Falls, VT.

I confounded the pundits went I changed the format to Classic Hits to target the 25-54 market and let Q106 have the 18-34's to themselves.

As unusual as this may sound, I made Tim Hoehn my Sales Manager. I knew Tim was a natural talent in this area. I also made one of the station's part time jocks, Jim Britton, my bookkeeper. I referred to Jim as my "VP of Numerical Analysis" or my "VPNA". He replaced the bookkeeper I inherited who was trying to hold me hostage for a massive pay increase.

At the same time, we needed a Program Director to replace Tim. Art Shannon, who had been the night time jock had left the station, but came back to do fill-ins when I came onboard. I thought Art was just what we needed; great wit with a very natural on air presence. In order to afford Art, I brought him on as my Program Director. As was the case with making Tim my SM, ownership was surprised by this out of the box approach. These were people I could work with who would take direction.

I also was able to hire a morning man with great pipes. His name was "Shorty" Boisvert and he was about 6'5". We called Shorty, "No Hair" because he was prematurely balding and it rhymed with his last name. There was no such thing as Human Resources back then.

Bev Porter held down the midday slot and was later hired away by WHDQ as they continued to poach the staff. I hated to see her go.

I actually don't remember who did nights or overnights, but we did have a few capable part time people. Don Daigle, did the All-Request Saturday Night Oldies Show as "Doctor D" and usually showed up every Friday around 3pm with a case of Budweisier.

Dave Mutney, who everyone called, "Mad Dog", which was a total misnomer, was a hardworking teenager from Croydon, NH who paid his dues hanging out at the station. Dave finally came up with the air name of Dave Morgan. When he told me that was his "new" name, I asked him how he spelled the last name. "Is there an apostrophe in it after the m and before the o? Dave M'organ?" As is it was a contraction. I don't think he liked it much, but he endured the ribbing in seemingly good nature.

There was also Steve Seivert, another teenager, who was rather good and served the station part time in the capacity of Sports Director before my tenure. Steve left to go to the University of South Carolina and would work for us during breaks and Summer vacations. He drove around with a bumper sticker on his car that said, "Nobody Beats Our Cocks", a reference to his university mascot, the gamecocks.

Peter Richard Kuncik was our News Director and handled the local morning coverage. Pete was a wonderful person with which to work. He was one of the people that I really wish I could have paid more.

Not too long after I first got there, Tim Hoehn was filling in during the "Swap Shop or Tradio" show where people get on the air to sell or look for items. It was sort of a free classifieds of the airwaves. I was on my way home listening. This show was done without any sort of delay, so you were at the mercy of the caller to keep it clean. During this show, someone called "looking to buy some Columbian Gold". Another wanted to buy a combination AM/FM Cassette Boom Box. Only he substituted an ethnic slur for the word, "Boom". As if that wasn't bad enough, another person called in and wanted to buy a "blow-up love doll...the kind with the vibrating mouth". Now, THAT'S entertainment! I yanked the show. It was a ratings killer anyway.

Shorty didn't stay too long, so I used it as an opportunity to hire Dorien Jaye. Dorien had been a fixture at WCNL for a number of years, lived in Newport, but had left to work at WKVT in Brattleboro as a salesperson. Getting Dorien back in the fold was a major positive. Dorien had the talent to work in much larger markets and sounded terrific on the air. He was very strong on show prep and he and Art were very good friends. Having Dorien on the staff enhanced the sales effort as well as the camaraderie.

Sometime in 1987 things started to change. The station had turned the corner, sales improved, ratings were now awesome, and as hard as ownership tried to keep it a secret, I found out the stations were for sale. Imagine that; a secret in radio. I had quite a bit to say about this to the owner, most of which I think he didn't like. Short version; I would help him sell the stations.

Then began the parade of wannabees and tire-kickers. Most memorable was a Dartmouth student by the name of Greg. At first, Greg and two other associates who were Dartmouth students were supposed to be involved in the acquisition. He apparently wanted to purchase WCNL AM/FM and the Lewiston, ME properties, WCOU and WAYU. These guys dressed the part, painted fanciful notions of their future ownership and in the end, did nothing. It was a distraction from our corporate goal of selling the stations. I came to the conclusion based on how things didn't evolve, that it might not have been as much a serious offer as it was more of a student project or prank. The best part of this was going out on their tab quite few times for dinner and drinks while they were going through the motions. After a few drinks one time, one of Greg's associates mentioned to me that Greg was in a bit of hot water with his father because his credit card bills were over $600 per month. I sort of filed this whole experience away under the category of "Too Good to Be True". And it was.

I remember meeting with one group that had serious intentions. I think there were four individuals with me and the owner. Toward the end of the meeting, one of the buyer's group expressed that he had never seen a situation such as this where a station was for sale and the owner and General Manager got along so well. I looked him in the eye and said, "We don't get along well. I don't like him and he doesn't like me." The owner smiled and nodded his head and said, "You can be sure that whatever Greg tells you is true."

By the end of 1987, when we reviewed the numbers, the owner expressed a wee bit of gratitude when he recognized that I had made payroll the entire year with no help from him. That had not been the case prior to my arrival.

Eventually the terms of the sale of WCNL AM/FM were finalized in April of 1988 to the RadioActive Group of Vermont, pending FCC approval for $750,000. The principals were Bruce and Susan Lyons. A different party bought the Maine properties soon thereafter.

Very quickly, it was obvious that Bruce Lyons had no intention of retaining me. He was rather dismissive and outright rude until I told him that I knew of someone who was interested in buying WCNL AM. The AM had a construction permit to increase power from 250 watts to 6500 watts by changing frequencies from 1010 AM to 1020 AM.

When I told him that I had a buyer for the AM in the wings, he was so excited that I thought he might try to rip the lapels off of my jacket trying to get the name out of me. But, first, I told him I wanted a percentage of the transaction as a finder's fee and he agreed to it.

There's more to this story!

 

 

 

 

 

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