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Fred Jacobs is President of Jacobs Media, a media research and consulting firm. Jacobs Media clients have included CBS Radio, Premiere Radio Networks, Citadel, Greater Media, MTV Networks, Playboy, Amazon, Electronic Arts, NPR, Sylvan Learning Centers, and Taubman Malls. Learn more about the company here.

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August 2011

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Comments

Dick Hungate

I cannot say enough about Abrams and his impact upon me.
Long before I knew who Fred Jacobs and Jeff Pollack
were...I knew about Lee from listening to his bold
experiment on WQDR in Raleigh. Bill Hard of FMQB and
later "The Hard Sheet" fame (what ever became of him,
anyway??) was in my English class UNC-Chapel Hill.
Bill comes to school in 1973 and tells me, "Well, this
is it. I'm dropping out of UNC to be the PD of WQDR".
I nearly dropped my blue book! "You mean you're not
even going to finish college??" It was a Bill Gates,
very gutsy sorta move. I was noon-4/MD on WCHL-AM in
Chapel Hill...commercial, but not half as cool as QDR!
All these terrific record promo guys like Mike Bone and
Dave Dannheiser and Jay Hart and Heavy Lenny, etc.
would come through and just MARVEL at how smooth QDR
sounded. "You're listening to a Radio Revolution...
WQDR...FM...Raleigh...pass it on". They drilled that
sweeper into the listener's cranium. Clean, airy radio.
I had listened to WQDR from its very first day, as GM Carl Ventors had given Lee the green light in '72 for what became the "Superstars" format. QDR was IT, with
David Sousa, brought up from Zeta 4 in Miami to
interject vital, KSAN and WBCN-esque newscasts with
a very high hipness quotient. Entire album sides at
once, dead-air between tracks included. "Fantasy Park"
concert weekends. The BBC Rock Hour. King Biscuit.
The first time I ever heard Zepp's "Over the Hills
and Far Away", it was a Saturday and I had already
done my midday show on WCHL. Out washing and waxing
my forest green 1975 BMW 2002-Ti (that I adored), I
hear the opening guitar notes from Page...with that
Blaupunkt Radio CRANKED. Aural nervana! When Jim
Heavner of Village Broadcasting dispatched me out to
PD/MD and midday his WKQQ-FM (Double Q) in Lexington
Kentucky in August of 1976, again it was Abrams who
by now had the Taft stations on-board. WLVQ, WKLS,
WGRQ, etc. I put Terry Meiners in as morning maniac,
borrowed heavily from what Lee Masters (later of WNBC
and the "E" channel) was doing at WLRS, Louisville
and also Denton Marr at WEBN, Cincinnati and Lee and I
turned WKQQ into a 100,000-watt monster. Then came W-4.
In Detroit, I remember sitting in a room on the very top
floor of the Detroit Plaza Hotel at the Renn Cen with
Lee...discussing programming concepts in his visual
way while we looked down at the Detroit River and Windsor, Ontario. That and other trippy conversations
always reminded me of George Lucas early-on at
Industrial Light and Magic. We covered the gamut of
new ideas...like stuff for me to pitch to Stern for
his morning show on W-4 and how to cut into WRIF,
WABX and Doubleday's new competitor WLLZ (Wheels). A
"4-Way Street" of rockers, to use the CSNY title. Wow.
Very tough sledding in a bad 1980 recession. Many
Remi-and-Pepsi-chasers and a thousand juicy ideas
later, I end up passed-out on a bed in Abrams room.
How embarrassing the next morning...but what fun just talking programming with him! Then came the WYSP
thing after W-4 switched to country. Again, there
were Abrams and I up against legendary calls and
talent. Charlie Kendall was PD of WMMR and Alex
DeMers ran WIOQ. No slouches! And that is when
the classic rock concept was born in the offices
of One Bala Plaza...out City Line Avenue in Bala
Cynwyd, PA (outside Philly). I remember he took the metal file boxes of song cards and at the end of the box was all this "fuzz". Abrams goes, "Uh, gross... card dust!" What a funny, throwaway, typical Abrams
comment that made me chuckle. So we tossed out all the Lena Lovich and Ian Dury and the Blockheads and
all that new wave CRAP on "Stiff Records", etc. and
left in the bullet-proof, 24-carat songs such as
the "Golden Slumbers Melody" on Abbey Road and "Lodi"
by CCR. It was January 1981...and "Classic Rock...94
YSP" was born with billboards and bus cards all over
Philly. The late, great Steve Feinstein was our MD,
Randy Kotz was there with me (now on WMMR), Gary
Bridges, Michael Picozzi of WHCN in Hartford, news
was done by Bill Fantini, we had Denny Somach. I
did middays and was PD/MD. But the thing I want to
stress again, the one thread that runs through all these
one-on-one working relationships I had with Lee is
how he "sees" sound colors as being in a paintbox.
He hears the station in Panavision, Technicolor and
Cinemascope...very much with rich acrylics and oils and watercolors. It's "2001: A Space Odyssey" applied to the airwaves (how about that Kubrick time travel scene, huh?) I'll never forget begin invited down to Abrams'
Atlanta home one time and he said, "Let's go check out
my music room". So I follow him down and he opens
the door to this place with amps, keyboards, a Strat
and everything. I'm sitting there eating a ham
sandwich in Buckhead or Alpharetta or wherever it
was and watching Abrams strum along perfectly...I
mean NOTE-FOR-NOTE to every lick Steve Howe is
doing on "Starship Trooper" by Yes. It was amazing
to watch! Lee Abrams thinks and programs not so much
as PD or consultant, but as a consumate rock radio fan.
And that is probably the biggest compliment one could
pay the guy. He is that "P-1" whose interest and
enthusiasm for your station, its rock, and all the
proguction elements that add "icing" and "magic" between
songs you wish you could replicate a thousand times.
Honestly---the most genuine passion and least cynicism
for our industry that I ever encountered came during my
direct programming dealings with Lee. He's about my
age (54) but still intimidates me he's so sharp. I
think that to work alongside him today as, for example,
Sonny Fox...the former morning nut and PD of WYSP
(whom Pollack and I had a tough time against, at least
at first, when Jeff accepted the WMMR PD job in 1978)
gets to on XM would be remarkable fun...enviable.

Jeff Schmidt

I worked for a Z-Rock affliate in the early 90s - my first prod gig.

Day one I was handed a stack of green papers - worn and tattered - they were photo copies of photo copies of photo copies of Lee Abrams memos to personalities and production people at Z-Rock Dallas.

They read as his blog does (but more bullet pointy) - same tone - same conviction - same battle cry. It heavily informed my concept for how great radio CAN be done.

The people who condemn Lee miss the point. Lee continuously articulates the ideal state for this medium - better than any one else I've ever heard, read or met.

He views the medium of radio as an artist would - the airwaves a canvas on which to CREATE. I'm surprised so many "radio" people miss that about Lee.

People say he created the very thing he now cries out against, failing to realize that that was 20 years ago - that Lee has moved on - and they (mostly) have not.

I greatly admire how Lee has been able to do that. To avoid being stuck in the WAY it's always been done - even if it was a way HE devised. That takes courage few people have or exhibit in this business or any other.

Tell me Radio couldn't really use a few more people who view and talk about the medium as he does.

milana

Thak you for your good work, nice site!

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