My Story in Radio — Dave Morgan Celebrates His 40th Year on the Air [PHOTOS]
To paraphrase the Ted Baxter character on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, “It all started at a 5,000-watt radio station in Middleport, Ohio.” It was this week in 1975 that I began my radio career on WMPO radio in the Ohio River town of about 2,500 people, halfway between Pittsburgh, Pa., and Cincinnati, Ohio.
I grew up in Detroit in the ’60s, and listened to the British Invasion and Motown Sound being played on the radio by Joel Sebastian, Lee Alan, Gary Stevens, and Dick Purtan, and I thought “that would be a great career” because they all sounded like they were having fun. The opportunity presented itself in the mid 1970s.
I had recently graduated from “The Specs Howard School of Broadcasting,” and my plan was to work my way back to Detroit in 10 years. At that time, you pretty much started off in small markets and moved to bigger markets to advance your career.
Being from the “big city,” I figured I’d show ‘em how it’s done, but I have to admit I learned quite a bit from the people at WMPO. I remember doing my show from the county fair; we had a regular studio set up and played our records from there. After I had done my first report giving the results of the Holstein judging, the phone rang and the program director told me, “Dave you sounded great, but we don’t have Jewish cows down here.” Hol-STEEN? Hol-STYNE? What did I know about cows? I’m from Detroit!
After almost two years in Southeast Ohio, I decided it was time for a bigger market — WELM in Elmira, New York. When I arrived, I was told the station was being sold. Mistake #1. Inadvertently getting caught in the middle of a power struggle between the program director and music director was mistake #2. The music director won, became the program director decided I would make a great morning guy because of my voice and sense of humor. Mistake #3. I had no clue how to do a morning show and was pretty bad at it. Plus, there was no help. The wire service had been cut-off and I felt stuck. When the new ownership took over I was put on midnight to 6. I got in touch with the placement director at the broadcast school, and I left Elmira in December of that year having spent nine months in agony.
"… I was told by the program director that the general manager was planning to let me go once we moved into the new building because, well, I was “gimpy” … My 10-year plan no longer mattered."
Next stop, WMVO in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, to do…. mornings! Yeah. These folks were actually going to teach me to do mornings. I was to shadow their morning guy, and he pretty much showed me ropes and it was good — until I started having some physical problems and asked to go on afternoons. They were very accommodating and allowed me to do that. That was one of the best places I worked. But, I still had my 10-year plan so three years later it was off to WLIP in Kenosha, Wi. Right smack between Milwaukee and Chicago. Certainly this would lead to something big!
I should mention that interviews for all of my jobs to this point were done over the phone. I mention that because of what happened in Kenosha. WLIP was housed on the second floor of a bank building downtown. After I had been there a couple of years, a new facility was being built and it was during that time I was told by the program director that the general manager was planning to let me go once we moved into the new building because, well, I was “gimpy.” So, once my wife got her degree from the University of Wisconsin Parkside campus, the job search began. Up to this point, I had not thought of leaving. My 10-year plan no longer mattered.
Which brings us to 1984, and a new job in Bloomington, IN. WTTS could be heard across the state along I-70 and was moving its country format to their AM station and hiring three new staffers for the new format on the FM. I was hired to do middays and it went well, UNTIL, it was decided I should do mornings. Okay, I can do that… UNTIL I declined to be part of a morning duo. Then the format was changed and I was asked to leave in 1985.
It took all of two weeks to find a job; a brand new station in Ocean View, Delaware. Yep, just two miles from the Atlantic beach resort of Bethany Beach! Woo-hoo! WOVU signed on in January of 1986 with much hoopla and TV coverage! It was a challenge at the beginning, but once the right staff was in place I think it was a good ride. The station was sold in 1989 and became WRKE, 101.7 KISS-FM, and was changed to a format totally foreign to me. Urban Contemporary. What a change! I had never heard of Luther Vandross, Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, and Bobby Brown, but managed to last five more years there before being let go in 1994. There were probably about 30 stations in that area between Salisbury, Maryland and Dover, Delaware, but none was interested enough to hire me, although I found out later that a station was just too slow in offering me a job; I had already accepted a position at KHLA, LA99, here in Lake Charles by the time they called.
There have been all kinds of technological advances in my 40 years in radio. We still played records in the ‘70s, CDs in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and now everything is on a computer. I remember when we moved into this building in 2002 and a friend asked when my wife and I were going to move to Jennings since I was now on 92.9. I explained to him that all of our stations were in this building and if I actually had the right equipment I could do my show from home! To say he was taken aback by that would be an understatement.
There have been several ownership and management changes in the last 21 years, and countless people have come and gone through the doors. Don’t know that I’ll make 50 years in radio, but I still look forward to 2 p.m. every weekday afternoon when I can walk into the 92.9 studio and crank it up!