Charlie Cook On Air: Country Radio Seminar

As this article is being posted on the almost two thousand broadcasters, record company personnel, artists and many more associated with Country music and Country radio, are meeting at the Nashville Convention Center on the final day of Country Radio Seminar 2012.

I am not going to talk about the Hall of Fame dinner and celebration that opened the event Tuesday night but I do want to congratulate and welcome this year’s inductees into the Country Radio Hall of Fame. I also want to congratulate Bob Kingsley for receiving the President’s award. Bob deserves the recognition just as he deserved his induction into the HOF back in 1998.

No, I don’t really want to talk about Radio’s new cheerleader—Bob Pittman of Clear Channel Media. I suspect that Bob’s speech was similar to the one that he gave at the NAB last year. It was excellent and I know that Bob has gained even more authority in the business since then.

But I do want to talk about some of the people that I have come across in the 30 plus years that I have been coming to the Seminar.

Most of my dates here are going to be “close.” I am really bad about exact years when I look back. I am in the neighborhood but give me a year one way of the other on my memory.

My first Seminar was 1972. The first person I met was Dave Dillon. I arrived at the hotel and he was at the registration desk, welcoming us rookies. He told me, “belly up the desk and tell em who you are boy.” At that point I thought that Dave was the nicest guy in the world. He made me seem so welcome to the event. Thank you Dave.

It was at the Seminar that I first saw the aforementioned Mr. Pittman and Ed Salamon, who were programming WMAQ Chicago and WHN New York, respectively. It is a small world that Lon Helton went to work for Bob at WMAQ and I went to work for Ed at WHN just a few years later but that Lon and I had met and worked together in Denver before that.

Anyway, Bob and Ed were the guys who changed the way Country Radio was programmed. They brought over contemporary programming tools (research and BIG contesting) to Country Radio. The two most important people I ever “saw” at the Seminar. It was a couple of years until I met them.

I was the “program director” at WSDS in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The job title is in quotes because about all I knew about programming radio was how to spell the title.

I didn’t come back to the Seminar until 1981.

I was the program director of KHJ and was added to the Agenda Committee. There I met Jim Ray, who was a GM in Texas. He was (and still is) the coolest Texan I have ever met. He had a way of speaking Texas that impressed me to no end. He was encouraging and helped me learn my way around the Seminar.

I became agenda chairman and then moved on to the CRB Board of Directors. That’s when I met the most interesting people in Country Radio. These are the early years guys.

Frank Mull: I would hang around his office just looking at all of the crap that he had piled on every open space. Frank loved the Seminar. He had a respect for the founding of the organization.

Al Greenfield: He was President of Viacom Radio and on the CMA board. Those were two of the coolest things you could be in my mind. He was pretty impressive to me.

Charlie Monk: Yeah Right. Seriously, I consider him a dear friend.

Larry Daniels: THE classiest man ever to work in Country Radio.

Mike Oatman: We agreed on very little when it comes to programming Country Radio but Mike was as passionate about the Country Radio Seminar as anyone that ever attended the event. He cared about the business, the seminar and always brought his entire programming staff.

Gaylon Christie: Someone who could give Jim Ray a run for Texas talk. Along with Gaylon’s radio stations he owned a pawn shop and I still have the watch I bought from him 20 years ago.

Charlie Douglas: The NICEST man ever to work in Country Radio. We all miss him.

Sheila Shipley (now also Biddy): One of the first female record VPs. Now we think nothing of it, she was a trailblazer.

Gene Kennedy: A great guy, who I met while on the board and then got to know better while we both went through Leadership Music.

Gerri McDowell: Another big deal female record person who was the most fun. Everyone loved Gerri.

Ed Salamon: Nothing I can add to his resume or to what he meant to my career. I am sure that I would be doing something outside of radio by now if it were not for Ed.

These are just a few of the old-timers that were on the CRB board early. Not necessarily the first wave, as I came in 10 or so years after the Seminar was already up and running, but it was fun for me to remember these few people. I hope some of you remember them too.

See you at the Seminar.


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