had been offered the job of being
Returning home to
Departing from my flight to
�Good morning Mr. Rook� his secretary said as I entered Hal Neal�s
unpretentious office suite.
�Mr. Rook�s here� she said into the speaker phone and within
seconds the office door opened with Hal offering a big smile and
handshake, inviting me into his office. His office was actually smaller
than mine at KQV as I sat down in front of his desk. Those little cheater
glasses sitting half way down his nose, Hal began, �So Mike Joseph�s
wooing you huh�. I explained that I had not initiated the job offer at
WFIL as Hal immediately interrupted, �well you�d rather be in
�Now�, he continued.
�it�s important that you not be tempted by the Mike Joseph�s in the
business, what can keep to focused on ABC.� I answered, more than anything else
I wanted to be responsible for the programming of a group of radio
stations that would allow me to live in
Hal asked if I thought it would be helpful if I were given the title of Operations manager at WLS, instead that of Program Director. I explained, I would rather be known as Program Director, so their would be no doubt of my responsibilities. We also talked how important WLS was for the much needed revenue ABC needed to purchase additional color programming equipment for the company�s television stations. �Our radio stations are the cash cows of the company�, he said.
ABC Program Directors 1968
Joe Bacarella, Mike McCormick,Hal Neal, Rick Sklar, John Rook, unknown, Bob Heneberry, Charles Peterson, unknown
Neal bristled as he expressed concerns of WLS disc jockeys being
�too close to those damn record people�. He was especially worried about
one WLS disc jockey who was a brother of the
Hal glanced at a pad of scribbles on his desk, �Do you know someone named Irving Azoff,�? he asked. �Never heard of him�, I replied. �He�s got the station wrapped up in some kind of deal he has with the jocks and I want that ended�. It was explained Azoff would book acts into the vast WLS listening area, hire a station disc jockey to front it and get free mentions on the air during the disc jockey�s show, without paying for commercials. Someone who wanted to do the same thing had complained to ABC, after getting nowhere when they brought it up to Gene Taylor. Hal said, referring to Gene, �He better not be involved in this little scam�. �Find out what�s going on and clean that damn station out John, just clean it out, before we loose our damn license�.
Hal was correct, Irving Azoff did indeed have a �solid relationship� with the WLS jocks, he would also become a good friend of mine for all the years ahead. Who would have thought the diminutive Mr. Azoff would become one of the biggest wheeler dealers in the music business. Always returning every call to me, opening any doors I wanted to enter, even forty years later.
Moving out to Hollywood about the same time I did, Irving Azoff became one of the music industry�s most successful icons. Rising to become chairman of MCA�s Music Entertainment Group, after introducing the world to many of the top recording artists of the day, including the Eagles.
Breaking for lunch, Hal Neal and I took the elevator to the exclusive dining
area on the top floor of the ABC building, where, within minutes, Leonard Goldenson joined us. He was a quiet man, small in stature, but a
giant in broadcasting. I had
met him before during a station presentation, but didn�t really expect he
would remember me, or our earlier meeting. A smile came on his face as he
offered his hand to shake, saying, �John, nice seeing you again, how�s
everything in the commonwealth�.
I was caught off guard, not only by
his relaxed informal greeting, but that he referred to the
was on top of the world in more ways than one, I thought. Overlooking the skyline of the
As our lunch was being delivered, Goldenson took a few bites before being handed a note and excused himself, telling me to remain seated and left the table, never to return. Hal winked at me and said, �Leonard�s a busy man, you should be honored he joined us. �Very much so�, I replied.
After lunch Hal and I took the elevator back to his office and
since I had three hours before my return flight to
I stood to depart for the airport and my flight back to
WABC had been known for playing only the top 20 hits over and
over. But that was when they
also had commercials and news each hour. Now, with limited commercials and
news, I suggested some additional music be added each hour from the recent
hits category. Rick Sklar was concerned any change in the music would
confuse the stations audience but I prevailed, allowing us to stretch out
more time before repeating music.
After hearing the songs on the limited playlist up to four times a day while on the air, I vowed I�d never again listen to �Bernadette� by the Four Tops or �The Happening� by the Supremes. To this day I hate those songs.
With all of the station's regular disc jockeys no longer on the air, many of the WABC sponsors took a hiatus from advertising. Rick expressed real concerns, searching for something to fill the commercial breaks on the program log. He began to locate as many prerecorded public service commercials as possible. I volunteered, �why not just play more music?� It was as if a light bulb had suddenly gone on in his head as he smiled and answered, �That�s a great idea!� as he led me to the production studio to create short �WABC triple play� and �WABC double play� pieces complete with crowd effects and the crack of a baseball bat that would be used in the the non stop
I was both pleased and slightly annoyed when one of the
account executives entered Rick's office complaining, " we don�t sound like WABC anymore�.
about the mid point of the strike, a concerned Wally Schwartz, VP &
general manager of WABC told me we would have to stop broadcasting and go
off the air. The engineers
union notified management they would be honoring the picket line set up by
the stations AFTRA members, preventing them from entering the building.
Schwartz seemed resigned to defeat, as though there was no alternative but
to take the station off the air. I immediately went looking for
The strike even brought ABC radio president Hal Neal, Jr.
back on the air. His experience from years earlier
was a welcome addition as he gathered and reported
the local news on WABC. Over the top of his reading glasses
he winked and smiled at me as I ran the board. Gathering
his script after delivering the news he came around to
my side of the console and patted me on the shoulder saying,
"go getum' tiger" as I prepared to back intro "The Happening"
by the Supremes. He clearly was delighted with how
the station continued to operate without the striking union members.
As the strike ended Rick Sklar and I were sitting in his office
congratulating ourselves at the job we had done when
suddenly Hal entered, closed the door and with a broad smile
said, "ya know fellas, we sounded pretty damn good
A week after the strike ended the Hooper ratings arrived
showing a ten percent increase in every time period, with WABC soundly defeating WMCA, who was not on strike and operating with a full line up of disc jockeys.
was surprised by a warm letter of thanks from
That $10,000 would be my down payment on my first home
I would purchase as I moved to Chicago.
All Content on
this Web site � 2007 John H. Rook
All Content on this Web
site � 2004 John H. Rook
All Rights Reserved
The opinions and commentary posted on JohnRook.com are those of John Rook, unless otherwise identified