The First Time I Walked into WABC

Well, as today is the last day I will ever walk into WABC Radio as an employee, thought it might be fun to look back on the first time I walked into the WABC Studios on the 8th Floor of the ABC Building at 1330 Avenue of the Americas. It was the fall of 1969, and at the time, I was a junior at C.W. Post College on Long Island, and I was probably in my 3rd or 4th major. I have always been jealous of those who knew early in life what their career path would be, because I had no idea, and during the first couple of years of college, my major changed whenever I had a class I liked. I had, however, started to work at the college radio station, WCWP, the year before, and liked that a lot. Unfortunately, in those days, Post did not have a broadcasting or a communications major, so I stayed a music major, still not really sure of where my life would take me.

imageI started at WCWP doing news, then branched out to a DJ show, was named News Director, and eventually started to do a lot of production and “engineering” type work. We were very lucky that during this time, the Chief Engineer at WCWP was Bill Mozer. Bill was just a little older than most of us, but Bill knew early on what he wanted to do in life, had the technical savvy, and went into radio. By the time I first met Bill, he’d already been an engineer at WTFM, and now was a member of the WABC/WPLJ Engineering Department! As you can well imagine, this sounded like a magical job to a bunch of radio station geeks in the late 60s.

Bill was always great with radio stories and relating to us what it was like to work in the business, and anytime he was in the station, you could always find a couple of students hanging around talking to him. He worked the 4 to midnight shift at ABC, but he was off on Friday and Saturday, and on at least one of those nights, you could depend on Bill being around the station, perhaps a dinner run (most times to the Roslyn Café), and definitely a late night of radio talk. I’d been working at WCWP for about 7 or 8 months, and I guess had passed the “Mozer Test”, when he said to me one afternoon, “Do you want to come to work with me tonight?” The answer of course was a definite, “Yes!”

1330We got into his Volvo, drove into the city, he parked in the basement garage of the ABC Building, and we took the elevator up to the 8th Floor. When the doors opened, I was confronted for the first time with the WABC lobby…and what a lobby it was! It was orange, and I mean ORANGE – the walls, the floor, the receptionist’s desk, everything! There was a big Musicradio logo with concentric circles going out from it. It was a real attention getter, and boy did it get mine! We made a right turn, and went through a door into the studio area. He showed me a couple of WABC production studios, and then went and checked the “checkboard”. This was a large graphic display that showed where every engineer on the floor was scheduled that day. Bill saw that he was in News Control, and off we went.

In those days there were close to 40 NABET engineers working on the 8th floor, and nothing technical happened unless an engineer did it. News Control was the place where news cuts were produced, interviews with reporters were recorded, the WABC transmitter was controlled, and where engineers rotated in and out of all during their shifts. It was connected to Studio 8A, WABC’s main air studio by glass walls, and Bill put the air monitor up on the speakers and we were able to both watch, and listen, to Dan Ingram’s afternoon show.

WABC's Dan Ingram in 1981.

After a couple of minutes, Bill said, “Do you want to meet Dan?” Did I even have to answer??? We went into 8A after the next stop set, and Bill introduced me to a man who was a living legend in New York radio. I have no idea what I said, but I’m sure I appeared to be a jackass, and probably just stood there babbling. Little did I know when my day started that morning, that by 5PM I’d be standing in WABC’s studio, meeting a man I’d listened to on the radio for years. WOW!

imageThe rest of the time I spent with Bill at WABC that evening was just as amazing. Frankly, much of the evening was a blur! I know we had dinner in the studio with Cousin Brucie, and later I met Chuck Leonard, but there are huge patches of the night for which I have no recollection. I watched Bill and the rest of the engineers “work” (seemed more like fun to me back then), and by the time his shift ended at 12 midnight, and we were heading back to the garage to get his car, I had a much better idea how I wanted to spend the rest of my life! I’d been bitten by the WABC radio bug!!

WABC was the first real radio station I’d seen, and frankly, if this was what it was like to work as an engineer in New York Radio, then this is what I wanted to do! They say that you’ve got to love what you do, and watching the young guys who worked evenings at WABC, how could you not love what they did? Sitting, having fun playing music at the most listened to radio station in the country (and perhaps the world)?? What wasn’t fun about that? You could say that with that one night visit in 1969, Bill Mozer had changed the pattern of my life forever!

When Bill dropped me back at WCWP that night, I had a direction, and started figuring out what I needed to do to end up at WABC. I immersed myself in the work of WCWP, doing as many different things and learning as much as possible. Although Post didn’t have a broadcasting major, they did offer a number of broadcasting courses under the Theater Arts department, and in the following years, I took them all. I continued to take other courses, and remained a music major, but my focus now was on becoming a broadcast engineer.

One of the things you needed to get a job at WABC, was an FCC First Class Radio Telephone license. Upon graduation from Post, I enrolled in the First Class FCC course at Announcer Training Studios in Manhattan, and learned all the math, the formulas and the rules needed to pass the FCC course. After 6 months of classes, it was time to go down to the FCC office and take the first of the two tests that you needed. Sitting in a very old office, surrounded by guys taking Morse code tests, armed with a slide rule and my head full of formulas, I managed to pass the harder of the two tests, and got my Second Class license. A couple of weeks later, I was back to take the easier (to me) rules and regulations test, and when I passed that, it was time to send out my resumes!

OK…so this was the moment of truth! I was a college graduate armed with a brand new FCC First Class Radio Telephone Operator license, and I knew what I wanted to do with my life, but it was out of my hands. In response to my mass mailing of resumes, there were lots of reply letters and phone calls, most of which went something like, “Thanks for your interest…we’ll keep your resume on file”. I went into the Personal Office at CBS, and after filling our reams of applications that had nothing to do with broadcasting (?), they told me that they promoted from within (??). But it wasn’t all bad news. Bill had set me up with an interview at WABC with Chief Engineer Win Lloyd, and that went pretty well. I got called in for an interview at WINS, and went in for an interview with WHN Chief Engineer Pappy Durkin. Ultimately, I got offered jobs at WHN and from WABC.

So I took the job at WABC and my goal was met, right? Nope…I didn’t! Both jobs that I was offered were for Vacation Relief Engineer positions – someone who covers while the regular staff engineers are on summer vacation. At WABC, the “vacation season” ran from May through October. While WHN paid a little less per week, their vacation season ran from April through the end of the year. Although WABC was the dream, WHN was the reality. I started on April 17th, 1972 at WHN, and spent the next 4 years working there. I met some great folks, and learned a heck of a lot about radio.

Four years later, when a new IBEW union contract called for 2 less engineers at WHN, I left. (Well, I got bought out..a year’s pay with which I bought a boat!) Once again, Bill set up an interview for me with Chief Engineer Win Lloyd and Assistant Chief Bob Deitsch. This time it was more like 3 radio guys sitting around talking, rather than an interview. WABC was still the place to be in my mind, and this time I took the job. I started at WABC on August 7th, 1976, and frankly, it was everything I thought it would be! Thanks Bill!!

A younger me at WABC's Studio 8X in the ABC Building!

A younger me at WABC’s Studio 8X in the ABC Building!

August 7th, 1979 to January 29th, 2016…..26 years old to 66, in the blink of an eye!

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