Radio is a very fascinating yet interesting business. Those of us who have ever worked in the field either love it or hate it, and I have found there is no in between. For me, I am one among the many who LOVE it! I knew that the first time I sat behind a microphone at age 13, and I knew then that I wanted to make it a life long career.
It was while I was setting in Social Studies class in the 7th grade that I was watching a film about media and its effects on society. Specifically the film was focused on print and Television. I very quickly developed an interest in television, imagining myself on camera reporting the news or maybe hosting a TV program. I began creating names for TV shows. Since we didnít have a TV station in the town where I grew up, I began exploring radio as a beginning, thinking in the back of my mind I could always move to TV later.
I was born in Ocala, Florida and always thought I would become an airline pilot when I grew up. There wasnít a lot for a young boy to do in those days, so like most kids, I listened to the radio. We only had one top 40 station,
WWKE-AM 1370 "Key Radio", and one MOR station,
WTMC-AM 1290 "The Great American Music Machine".
WWKE was a daytimer, so it went off the air at sunset. WTMC stayed on the air till 10 PM, later expanding to midnight. My all time favorite station was
WORJ-FM 107.7 Orlando, pre-dating "Zeta 7", occasionally listening to
WBJW-FM 105.1, "BJ 105" when I could
get the signal. I would listen to FM 107 religiously when I could get it because WORJ was "MY" station (or at least I thought it was).
Most of the time I would listen to WLOF-AM 950
during the day (which was the only time I could get it) and WLCY-AM 1380, Saint Petersburg at night (which was the only time I could get 1380).
Both of those AM stations ROCKED, way more than any of the Ocala stations.
It was while I listened to the cool sounds of progressive rock on FM 107 that I decided I wanted to be on the air playing the hip underground tunes that all the cool dudes on WORJ were playing.
I didnít have any experience, and the only thing I knew how to do involving radio was turning the radio on and off and tuning the stations.
That was it! But I also knew I wanted to learn, so I got my mom to ride me all over town to the different stations where I would go in and ask for a job.
I kept getting turned down, but I kept coming back until one day the program director at
WTRS-FM 102.3 took pity on this energetic 13 year old and gave me a job as board operator for the Sunday morning
programs. I learned everything I could during that time. I didnít have a car or a drivers license, so my mom or dad had to drive me to the station and pick me up at noon when my shift was over.
During my time at WTRS, I worked both stations, AM and FM. The AM was beautiful music, where I spent most of my time.
We were live spinning albums as there was no automation. The FM had previously programmed Top 40, and we still had the Top 40 library stashed away in the AM control studio.
I hated the elevator music, so I would slip in an occasional Top 40 song such as Neil Diamond,
Barbara Streisand, Bread and others that I thought I could get away with playing.
I didnít have approval to play those selections, I just did it own my own.
fact, just before I left the station, my shift sounded almost adult contemporary,
contrasting all other day-parts. The listeners loved it! Management didnít! I moved on!
I worked at WTRS for two years, and at 15 I went to work for WMFQ-FM 92.7 in Ocala, working the overnight shift full-time.
I lied to the program director and told him I was 18 and he gave me the job.
WMFQ was also beautiful music, but there was very little I could do in terms of music experimentation since the station was fully automated.
We had a Schafer Automation System which our engineer had nicknamed "Gertrude."
"Gertrude" consisted of four reel-to-reel tape decks, three carousels and two single cart decks for station liners.
This was a true beautiful music station programmed by Bonneville. Unlike easy listening where you hear two or three vocals in a row,
three instrumentals to every vocal. The only time I spoke was at the top and bottom of the hour.
I read a two minute live newscast at the top of each hour, and read a 30 second weather forecast at the bottom of each hour.
The rest of the time it was "Just Beautiful Music" on 92.7 FM.
After WMFQ, I got my big break when I went to work at WTMC taking over the afternoon shift as "Craig Stevens."
The program director, Mike "Jay Bird" Pappas, had originally hired me for weekends,
but the day I reported to work, I was told "Jay Bird" had quit the day before and was no longer P.D.
That left the afternoon drive shift and program directorís position wide open.
I was 17 and I told the general manager and station owner, the late Vernon Arnette, that I had four years experience.
He thought about it and asked me to meet him in his office first thing Monday morning for a "....more thorough interview....."
I met with Vernon at 9:30 Monday morning and he hired me on the spot to take
over afternoons. I went on the air that afternoon working the 3 to 7PM shift, and it worked out great because I was in my senior year in high school.
I would go to school at 7:30 in the morning and get out at 2PM. Then I would get in my 1969 Pontiac LeMans and head over to the station and go on the air at 3:00PM.
I did this for about a month while WTMC still had no program director.
What was ironic is no one wanted the job, except me! I approached the operations manager, Bill Mansfield, and made my pitch.
I said "...give me 60 - days as program director, and if youíre not happy with me,
Iíll voluntarily step down." He talked it over with Vernon and then the three of us met together. I got the job and became WTMCís youngest ever program director at age 17.
It was so cool, too, because I was in my last year of high school, and everyone at school, whether I knew them or not, knew I was on the radio.
As program director, I quickly began to re-format the MOR and Adult Contemporary music to Top 40 as "Best Music Radio" and later "The Music Connection."
I copied the sounds of WLOF, Orlando and WLCY, Tampa because they rocked and were the number one stations in their respective markets.
Of course all my "friends" at school gave me their suggestions as to how to make WTMC the "coolest ever."
I had to be careful, however, because Vernon didnít like certain songs that were on the hot 100 play list at that time.
He liked anything disco, but hated hard rock. He also despised anything from the Beatles, so I quickly learned how to get away with playing the Beatles on WTMC.
Instead of announcing a Beatles tune
as "The Beatles," I would announce it as John, Paul, George and Ringo.
For some strange reason this approach worked and the Beatles lived on at WTMC.
I remember another time when I was listening to Donna Summers' "Love to Love You, Baby" in the production room, considering adding it to the play-list.
One side of the 45 was the short radio edit cut. The other side had the long version which contained the 3 minute orgasm.
I was debating whether or not to even add it to the play-list as a night ONLY song, thinking Vernon might think the song to be offensive.
I thought perhaps the radio edit version may be acceptable. While listening to the long version,
Vernon walked into the production room and asked what song was I listening to.
I told him, and he wanted to hear more. He loved it, saying "...this is definitely WTMC material..."
I was floored. The long cut of "Love to Love You,
Baby" got added as a non day-parted song.
We very quickly became the number one station in Ocala, beating out Country station
WMOP-AM 900, Ocalaís long time number one station, for the first time in history.
We did so well in maintaining our number one status over the years, that Vernon sold WTMC in 1980 for $1.2 million.
I stayed on for the first month as program director under the new owners, but stepped down to simply afternoon jock after the new owners and I had a difference in professional judgment on how the station should be programmed.
Two months later I walked out of the station while I was on the air. I had nothing cued, nothing in the cart machines,
only the last record I played had just finished and was still spinning on the turntable.
I was 30 minutes into
my afternoon show when I turned on the mic and said ".....Chuckles is next....." referring to the stationís new program director. Then I pulled my headphones from the plug and walked out of the building.
The rest of the afternoon on WTMC sounded drop dead funny. I donít think it would have been any funnier if it had been planned.
Unprofessional, would be an understatement. Records were being played at the wrong speed,
and dead air was common for the duration of the afternoon. "Chuckles" was totally unprepared,
and my departure was completely unexpected. A few years after my departure, most of the air and sales staff left the station and the ratings nose dived and WTMC ended up being sold at a substantial loss.
From WTMC, I made a short visit at WGGG-AM 1230 in Gainesville while I was attending the University of Florida.
WGGG was in the middle of transforming from Top 40 to adult contemporary.
Most of the A/C music we added to the new WGGG play-list came from my own personal record collection, and I personally recorded 80% of the music onto cart.
WGGG was a fun station and I loved working and living in Gainesville,
having met so many fascinating and interesting people with diverse backgrounds and cultures.
Iíve always liked the atmosphere of an academic community.
After graduation, I moved from WGGG and headed to the party town of Daytona Beach where I pulled down 7PM to Midnight on Daytonaís 100,000 watt blow torch
WDOQ-FM 101.9 "Q 102." The "Q" was another fun station, especially during Spring Break.
I always got immediate attention whenever I took the "Q" van out for a drive, and I also met a few interesting girls to party with during Spring Break.
It was while I was at the mighty "Q" that I began my sales career.
The sales manager approached me and made an offer I couldnít refuse. He asked me if I would be interested in working sales part time during the day before my night shift.
I thought about it and jumped at the chance. After a few months working sales,
I quickly discovered I was making more money selling part time then I was making full time in programming.
I soon went into sales full-time, and eventually became the National Sales Manager for WDOQ.
From the "Q" I went to Jacksonville where I was the General Sales Manger for
WJAX-AM 690 (the former WAPE-AM). The format was religious and Contemporary Christian and was owned by Scott
and Jordan Ginsburg under the name Statewide Broadcasting (Scott later became founder and CEO of Evergreen Media).
I stayed there for about a year. Then the opportunity to become General Manger in Gainesville presented itself,
so I packed up and moved back to Gainesville. The station was WFEZ-FM 92.1 Williston, Florida.
It was originally a country station, later becoming an easy listening station as "Willow 92" then "EZ 92",
but switched back to Country about a month prior to my arrival. I ascertained the
situation and determined country wasnít going to be the best format for WFEZ,
especially since there were already three country stations in the Ocala/Gainesville market.
I did my research and overnight I switched the format to Churban. No one in the market was programming urban nor Churban although we had two CHRs in the market.
After a little tweaking, and a frequency move to 101.3, WFEZ became WTMG-FM
101.3, Gainesvilleís urban/hip hop station as it is today, and is one of the most successful stations in the market.
After WFEZ was sold, I moved back to Ocala where I took over WTMC, this time I was the general manager.
The format was News-Talk and we also carried CNN Headline News during certain day-parts.
It was at WTMC where I debuted "The Marc Tyll Show" during afternoon drive.
I had returned home once again, on the air during the same day-part where I got my big break years earlier, only this time doing talk radio instead of spinning tunes.
I felt good to be back at WTMC where I learned so much during my early years in broadcasting.
By this time former owner and General Manager Vernon Arnette had passed away.
I learned so much from Vernon. Thank you Vernon for all you taught me.
You were a great leader.
From WTMC, I returned to Gainesville where I managed oldies station WYOC-FM
104.9, only to end up at Gainesvilleís newest station, WSKY-FM
97.3. Entercom has just purchased the old WRRX which had been Alternative/AAA on 97.7.
Entercom upgraded WRRX to a 50,000 watt class C2 on 97.3 and switched it to News-Talk on FM.
I played a major role in the development of the news department and morning news show.
Within a few books, we were the number one station in the Ocala/Gainesville metro, beating out
WOGK-FM 93.7 "K-Country" and
WRUF-FM 103.7 "Rock 104".
I left WSKY-FM 97.3, "The Sky" in 2000, going into business for myself as a consultant.
I have recently formed the Florida Broadcasting News Network, which provides news, music and talk programming to radio stations in Florida and around the country.
Currently Iím in the development stages of a classical format which will be available soon,
and also syndicating the "Marc Tyll Show".