Waking up this morning, after last night’s 2010 Motor City Radio Reunion, I was confused about what I dreamed and what I really experienced. It took a few seconds to realize it but yes, it was all real.
There they were – among a sold-out crowd of nearly 400 communicators who worked in Detroit radio from the 40s until now – the heroes of my youth, many of the pros who led me to want to be a broadcaster. Milling about the room were Dick Purtan, Tom Ryan, Bill Bonds, Erik Smith and many of the legends from “The Big 8”, CKLW. Also present were several of the many people who served as mentors for me early in my career – the professionals who believed in me and mentored me even though I was just a kid with a dream – Frank Beckmann, Gary Baumgarten, Gary Berkowitz, Sonny Eliot, Murray Feldman, Jeff Gilbert, Bob Hynes and Ron Wittebols. All of those people responsible for all of those memories – in one room. Forget about 50,000 watts. Last night was its own kind of powerful. Don and I consider it a privilege to have attended.
The evening’s program was hilarious and touching at the same time. But one thing stands out. We all know that radio can be a tough industry. But there is perhaps no business that attracts people with passion quite like what we all still refer to as “The Business.” And radio roots – which required a professional to be creative, self-starting and hungry for excellent – have paved the way to countless successful communications careers.
The event was organized by Art Vuolo, whose pioneering “Video Airchecks” (he used to videotape radio personalities on the air, in studio, so you could see them practice their craft like never before) captivated me as an aspiring broadcaster. Art says last night will be the last Detroit radio reunion. If so, that would be a shame. There is so much history to celebrate, so many people to thank and so much fun left to be had.
If there will be another reunion, it would have to be soon. It’s tough to picture what a 2050 gathering might be like. Instead of honoring greats like Specs Howard, Sonny Eliot and Ernie Harwell, would we pay tribute to the hard drive that 100% automates one Detroit radio station today? Of course not. It’s the personalities we remember, the people we treasure and the passion that brings us together. Hopefully, all three will endure the modern media change.