In a former life 30 years ago, I was a news director of a Bangor Maine radio station.
Every weekday morning, I would roll out of bed at 4 am in Orono Maine and zip thru the shower, brush the teeth, comb the hair and fire up the Pinto to head down interstate 95 to the Bangor ME Broadway exit and greet the overnight guy at Z-62. We were a rock station and I did weekend radio music shows. My name was Andy Powers because the program director Mighty John Marshall (Humble But None The Less Mighty John) thought changing my last name to the same as the President of Maine Broadcasting at the time made sense…for him.) My on air name changed to Andrew Powers when I switched hats from spinning records and giving away band t-shirts during call in contests and became serious, hard hitting dig for the news director again.
Other Maine radio stations in small markets had the regular shift announcer gather the teletype news off the AP machine and have at it. Usually the news was not up to date, had little or nothing to do with the local area and was a handful of rip and reads along with stale weather that did not match what was happening outside if you poked your head out the studio window to check if the tower lights were still blinking red.
The neat thing about our rock station, was folks tuned in for the news because we had Governor Joe Brennan, the local news makers put on the air saying what they thought about this or that…recorded audio of the person not paraphrased by the AP wire service. Senator Cohen, Mitchen when they were in town would drop in, or we did alot of phone interviews. Networking with sister station WCSH radio in Portland ME with Sue Bernard part of the day to day too.
Hearing a local car dealer during the oil embargo say this or that was powerful, local, close to home. And local listeners were used to getting any Bangor Maine news from the Bangor Daily newspaper..not from any radio station. So the quarter hour Arbitron listener ratings for our station went thru the roof. Higher ratings, higher per commercial ad costs we could charge for air time.
Part of the audience liked the rock music…tunes we record at 47 rpm, not 45 so it sounded better, not dragging or slow like something was wrong on every other station. We could also say “Z-62…we play more music”. Songs were shorter, could throw in an extra commercial or two, and one more song per hour so neat Drake format approach innovative for Maine, this far north.
I remember a scanner squawk one morning after I had done the 6:55 am newscast. As I listened setting down a stack of sound bite carts, my stack of the rewritten or new news paperwork, the Bangor fire department dispatcher outlined the call for more engines, manpower to a Main Street commercial building fire. Usually we called the Bangor Fire Chief, would get the sound bite over the phone and this was before cells. Instead, knowing another newscast is less than an hour away, jump in the Pinto with a tape recorder and mike and head to the fire.
The live sound of the fire engines running, sirens in the distance, fire fighters shouting, water spraying, ladders being raised and scraping metal sound in the back ground was huge. And then as I locate the fire chief and ask what happenen, when and any danger of spreading…he in short breath, nervous excitement recalls the cause, the plan to extinguise and how it compares to any other down town city fires in Bangor’s history.
Race back to the station, cut up the sound bites to make three or four different live audio approaches to the story and get it on the air. Barry Hobart, another Houlton Maine native was stuck in traffic on the Bangor – Brewer bridge and wondering what’s the hold up, where’s the smoke coming from. He is tuned to Z-62 as the sales manager listening as the news intro jingle sounds, and the opening story is Bangor Fire Chief Sparky saying “The blaze was caused by electrical overload, we were lucky to get seven apartments evacuated and two people had smoke inhalation including one fire fighter and blah blah blah.
Suddenly, Barry Hobart and other drive time motorists knew instantly the latest of a fire in their backyard. Other stations with the announcer reading the news as it tick tick ticked over the AP wire service would find out tomorrow about the blaze, after the nightly TV news guys and gals had beaten the story to death and moved on to other “this just in”.
People, radio listeners would tune in for the music that was faster, sound processed and with a few “image” songs of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen inserted to wow, make us distinctive, cool, sweet. And then another completely different crowd dialed into 620 AM to hear our news, as we were the early, only local CNN before CNN.
After my radio day ended, I would drive the Pinto over to Mt Hope Avenue and run the camera for channel two, WLBZ for the “Great Money Movie” with Eddie Driscoll and then the Channel two 6 pm newscast.
Broadcasting was fun, not like a job. But a Maine radio career to make money at requires you to leave Maine, working your way up the broadcast ladder if you are good enough and have a wife/kids with a sense of humor to flit, relocate as the career advances.
Maine REALTOR Andrew Mooers