Occasionally, you think about someone and all of a sudden an email shows up or the phone rings. This week that happened to me. I got a very cryptic message via Facebook from Mike Wade, the morning air personality on Cumulus Media Networks AC station, in Dallas, TX.
Now Mike and I have been corresponding since August 2004. I remember why. Mike found my site quite by accident, as most DJ’s do, and found a treasure trove of his New York air checks. He also wondered where a mutual acquaintance, Roz Frank, was working.
The reason he wanted these air checks was simple. He wanted his daughters Shelly, Marcie and Stephanie to hear him on the air. That’s sweet.
He asked me for copies, and I never charge a DJ for his own stuff. All I ask for is postage if they want CD copies. Since I had a lot of stuff, I asked Mike to send $10. A week or so later, I get a nice check along with a note saying “Merry Christmas!” What a guy!
The funny part of about this friendship is that for the 11 years that Mike was in New York, we never talked or met, though we had mutual friends at WXLO and WYNY.
Time flies when we’re having fun, and Mike and I talk every three years or so. That is too long, as he is such a funny DJ; he has some great stories. When he asked me to help him out with his nomination for the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, I was happy to help.
I used an air check he sent me from his AC show, along with an intro he recorded and a picture. When someone visits the Texas page of www.bigappleairchecks.com, Mike Wade greets him or her.
That got me thinking about doing an interview with him, which I like to do every now and then. It’s even better when you do it with someone you like and respect.
Matt Seinberg (MS) Were you born?
Mike Wade (MW) Yes, not hatched, in 1953, in Dallas, TX.
MS When did you get interested in radio as a career?
MW In high school taking a speech class, I found a new friend who was interested in radio. When he got a job at KLLL-AM, I tagged along.
MS Was that your first radio job?
MW Yes and it’s somewhat funny what happened. My friend got to do overnights and absolutely hated it. When he told the program director he was going to quit, the PD told him he had to find his own replacement!
The first night I watched him do the show, the second I engineered the show, the third he engineered for me, and the fourth night I was solo.
MS What did you do after high school?
MW I asked the PD how I would work the overnight shift and go to college full time, and he told me I couldn’t. He gave me two weeks’ notice to work. At the time, I didn’t realize he was firing me! I could have just walked out. I didn’t need the money. I was still living at home!
MS Where did you attend college, and what degree did you receive?
MW I went to Texas Tech for two years, and the University of Houston for two years and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communications.
During my junior year in 1974, I got a weekend gig at KRLY-FM working for Rod Tanner. The highlight of my time there was interviewing Johnny Rivers. I think he realized it was my first celebrity interview, so he was really nice and cool about it. My PD just rather sprung it on both of us at the last minute.
MS How about a rundown of your radio career.
MW In 1976, after college, I moved back to Dallas and got a job at the legendary KLIF-AM, surrounded by Charlie and Harrigan in mornings, and Don Berns in the afternoon. Charlie Van Dyke was the PD, and it was a great time to be in radio. They were a great bunch of guys, from whom I learn a great deal. I was getting ready to leave around 1978-79, and wanted to get into acting, so I asked Charlie if he knew anyone in New York that could get me a part time job. He said that his friend Don Kelly was the PD of WXLO and he would get in touch with him.
When I got to New York, I got a weekend gig at WPRO-AM in Providence, RI. I was commuting from New York to Providence every weekend and did two shifts.
Then one day, unexpectedly, I got a call from Don Kelly, who wanted to talk to me about a job at WXLO. I thought it would only be about part time, but he offered me afternoon drive.
MS So after being in radio for 7 years, you made it to the number one media market. What other stations did you work?
MW I was at WXLO from 1979-1982 until they changed to WRKS. Then I did mornings at WPIX-FM from 1982-1985. From there it was mornings at WYNY-FM until 1988.
After WYNY changed formats, I joined the RKO Radio network for a year and hosted Nighttime America until it folded, then moved back to Texas and was ops manager at KZEW and KLDD from 1989-1990.
The big move happened in 1991, when Chuck Brinkman from KLUV-FM called me unexpectedly. I have no idea how he got my number, but he wanted to meet me. He offered me mornings and I was there until 2001, when I joined ABC Radio Networks for afternoon drive on the Hot AC format. That later changed to Citadel, and it’s now Cumulus where I host morning drive on the AC format.
MS Do you have any favorite radio moments?
MW Two stand out in my mind. The first is when WYNY hired me to replace RJ Harris and Paul Harris. My very first show was a live remote from the World Trade Center. I remember standing outside, with these huge snowflakes falling on me, and being amazed at being there.
The second was meeting the legendary Chuck Leonard when I was at WXLO. We were hanging out at his apartment watching a Jets game and he told me the story of how WABC-AM hired him.
Rick Sklar called him and there was a lot of noise in the background. Chuck asked where he was, and Rick said he was in the Beatles hotel room. This was right before their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Chuck felt honored that Rick would call him at such an important time to offer him the job at WABC.
MS Was there a worst radio moment.
MW Yes, my worst moment came during my first job. The station went off-air and I didn’t know it. I kept telling people to tune their radio better because I could hear us in the control room. After the fourth call, I realized we were indeed off the air and called the chief engineer. He was a surly old coot who mumbled something and then hung up.
Being bored I started sampling different album cuts; listening to other jock’s jingles. You know, just trying to stay awake in the wee hours. Next thing I know the morning DJ comes in and his eyes are as big as saucers. “What are you doing?” I said not to worry because we were off the air. He says, “No, we’re not!”
That’s when I learned you’re supposed to keep going because you never know when you’ll go back live. It would have been nice if the chief engineer had given me a heads up, but talk about mortifying!
MS What was your best celebrity interview?
MW That’s easy. I was a big fan of Rodney Dangerfield, and when his “No Respect” album was coming out, I got to interview him in the studio for an hour. He was in character the entire time, and very funny. This was also just before “Caddyshack” was coming out.
MS Then there must be the worst celebrity interview.
MW My worst celebrity interview is recent. When “The Bourne Legacy” came out, Jeremy Renner was lined up for an interview. I had seen the movie and loved it. I thought I could get buddy-buddy with him, and have some fun.
I didn’t know if it was the first, or the fiftieth interview of the day, but Renner didn’t really seem to be in the mood to talk to me. I tried to be all friendly and be pals, but he didn’t want any part of that. My hopes were high for a good interview, but it was awful.
MS Tell me about your nomination to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.
MW It’s an honor to be nominated; hold on, your said that. My friend Bo Woods and his father, Jack, the Charlie of Charlie & Harrigan fame, nominated me, and I think the voting is half over. I’m not much for campaigning, but radio IS all about promotion.
MS Do you have any hobbies?
MW Yes, I do Tai chi, play the drums, travel and antiquing with my wife.
MS Do you have any parting words?
MW My challenges are today, but opportunities come tomorrow.
For someone to be in one business for over forty-three years is unbelievable. For it to be radio is amazing. Mike Wade is one of the funniest DJs I’ve ever spoken to, and no matter what you say, he’ll turn it around and make you laugh.
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
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