This past week, I took a quick trip to visit my father in Syracuse, NY where he has lived for the past 30 years. During most of those visits, I've recorded lots of airchecks, and have found it very interesting how many of the same disc jockeys are still in the market!
It was about six years ago that I first became acquainted with Gary Dunes, the morning man at WSEN 92.1 FM. I enjoyed listening to the station through TuneIn and struck up a friendship with Gary. Eventually, I asked him to record an intro for my web site, which he happily did. We kept in touch, and when I told him I was coming up for a visit in 2011, he invited me to visit the station in nearby Baldwinsville, NY.
The station reminded me of many small town stations; kind of run down and short staffed. Only the air studio looked up-to-date; the rest of the station looked like it was going to fall apart at any moment.
Gary introduced me to John Carucci, the afternoon DJ and part time receptionist. Both of these fellows have been in the Syracuse market for many years and at many stations. They both have very distinctive voices, which anyone in Syracuse would immediately recognize.
Also in 2011, I met Tom Mitchell, the Operations Manager and mid-day DJ on WNTQ 93Q, a Cumulus Radio station. This facility is about five minutes from my father’s apartment, so it was easy to get too.
When I was making plans to visit Dad this year, I contacted Gary and Tom. I told them when I was coming up, so let's get together! I had also chatted briefly, on Facebook, with another market mainstay, Rick Gary, the morning host on WZUN Sunny 102.1; I told him, too, that I was coming up. Since he and Gary work at the same station, I knew I'd get to meet him.
Let's face facts, I love my father dearly; yet, he's 87 years old and doesn't have the stamina to do much running around. He and my daughter Michelle stayed in his apartment watching television when I went out. Michelle didn't want to go with me and Dad didn't care.
Galaxy Communications, which owns WSEN 92.1 Sunny FM, is in downtown Syracuse, about ten minutes or so from my father’s apartment. Gary said he would meet me outside; he would open the gate and I could park in their lot. There he was, the big guy all dressed in black! Even if you've never met Gary, he's hard to miss.
In the same building as WZUN (Sunny 102.1) are WTKW (TK99), WKRL (Krock 100.9) and WTLB-AM/FM (ESPN Sports). Recently, Gary's old station, WSEN-FM sold to Family Life Ministries (FLM) with sister station WMCR-FM for $2.5 million. Hold on, we're not done yet, there’s more. As soon as that sale closed, Craig Fox, the owner of Innerharbor Broadcasting, traded 105.1 FM and a couple of other translators to FLM for 92.1. So 105.1 The Wolf went to 92.1, and religious programming went on 105.1.
FLM wanted to buy 105.1 years ago, but Fox wouldn't sell it. As soon as they bought 92.1, Fox contacted FLM. The trade completed, quickly.
We're still not done. Sunny 102.1 broadcast with 92.1 for a week to get listeners used to the new frequency and staff. Gary Dunes joined Big Mike and Cindy for mornings, Diane Wade took over middays and John Carucci joined Rick Gary for afternoons.
Shortly after that, the shifts changed a little bit. Big Mike and Cindy now are on 5:30-9 am, with Gary joining them at 8 am; then he's on his own until 12 PM when Diane comes on. Rick Gary is on 3-to-6 PM; John Carucci is on his own from 6-to-9 pm. There aren't many radio stations these days that are live and local until 9 pm anymore. Most go to automated or satellite programming at 7 pm.
I asked Gary how the new job came about. Keep in mind that everyone in Syracuse radio knows each other, be it good, bad or indifferent. Gary told me that he was thinking of contacting his old friend Glen "Gomez" Adams, he does mornings at TK99. It was at that moment that Glen called him and told him that Mimi Griswold, the VP of Programming for Galaxy wanted to talk to him. Talk about timing!
They struck a deal. Diane and John had job offers, as well. Kudos to Ed Levine, the CEO of Galaxy for keeping three people employed.
While we were walking around the station, I asked Gary if Mimi was in the station? It was at that moment we passed her office. Gary introduced us and we had a laugh when Mimi said, "You know I retired?" I replied, "Yes, and now you're unretired!" She still does middays on TK99, as she has for many years.
The other fellow I'm glad I met was Glen Adams. He is a true market legend in Syracuse and nice fellow to boot. I told him I have an air check of him on WYYY Y94 in 1988. I think he was rather impressed with that.
As I always do, I asked Gary if there were any SWAG; t-shirts, stickers, anything with a station logo on it. He said that new stuff was coming in, shortly, so stay in touch. You can count on it Gary!
The next day, I went to the other side of downtown to visit Innerharbor Broadcasting, where I was going to meet Skip Clark, the afternoon DJ and programme director (PD) of WOLF-FM 92.1 The Wolf. Skip greeted me like an old friend, and introduced me to Nick Caplan, the morning man and PD of WSEN-FM 103.9 The Dinosaur. Nick had previously been PD and morning man on WMVN-FM Movin' 100.3. I also met Heather Daley, the morning host on Movin' 100.3.
I told Skip had I thought about it, I would have asked to do a shift on The Wolf. He smiled, and said that he might actually have said yet. Maybe next time, with some notice, we can make that happen. You can take the man off the radio, but you can't the radio out of the man!
I came away with a couple of t-shirts from The Wolf and Dinosaur, and some stickers. You can't ever walk away empty handed from any radio station.
The last stop that day was the Cumulus family of stations. I met Tom and we talked about, what else, but radio. The last time I was there, 105.9 was WLTI, Lite 105.9. Today, it's the Rebel, WXTL-FM playing rock and classic rock. The only live DJ is another market legend, Dave Frisina. He's been in Syracuse radio for thirty-five years, and has no intention of leaving. When we passed the studio, I asked Tom if I could meet Dave.
What a nice man! I have an air check of him from 1988 when he was on WAQX-FM/95X. We talked more radio, music and his radio career. I walked out with a Rebel t-shirt and some stickers. The promo fellow gave me a choice of any shirt out of four and the Rebel was the winner.
Although Syracuse may not be a Top 10 market, it has great talent that has entertained the listeners for a long time. If you can stay in the same career for 30-35 years, that's a good thing.
Thanks to everyone for making my visit a fun one, you guys really rock!
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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