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Six golden voices of vintage radio remain on the air in Baltimore Broadcasting Success

April 02, 1995|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Sun Staff Writer

"I told him I was interested in radio," Mr. Edwards recalls, and soon enough he was an intern at the station, "getting cigarettes and ice cream and such" for Mr. Dawson and running the control board for sports announcer Vince Bagli. (Yes, the same Vince Bagli of WBAL-TV.)

Mr. Edwards soon was teamed with Mr. Bagli on a show. He spent two years at WWIN, tried television for a year at WBAL as an off-camera director, but turned back to radio in short order, auditioning for "the biggie, the giant of pop radio at that time," WCAO.

His long reign there ended in 1974, when Mr. Edwards moved over to WCBM-AM (680), which was playing an oldies format.

Then followed a series of station moves: 1979-1981 on WITH, 1981-1983 back on WCBM, a two-year stint as music director at WRC-AM in Washington, a variety of part-time air work and off-mike chores as promotions director for WLIF-FM (101.9) and a part-time on-air job at WTTR-AM (1470) in Westminster.

Finally, he returned to WITH in 1993, when the station was playing a big-band/nostalgia format.

"I'm just your local guy, keeping up with the music," Mr. Edwards concludes, adding he had offers over the years to move elsewhere, but decided, "I love my hometown."

Alan Field

The 6 a.m.-10 a.m. morning man on "Legends Radio" WWLG-AM Alan Field also recalls playing at being a DJ when he was a youngster in the Bronx, N.Y. But pursuing radio as a career came later.

"In college [City College of New York], I majored in speech and dramatics," he recalls, foreshadowing his long-time involvement in community theater in this area, as well as his role as WWLG's regular drama and entertainment critic.

Five days after graduating from college, he signed up for a two-year hitch in the Army, during which his parents moved to an egg farm near Vineland, N.J. (His father, a window cleaner, had purchased the farm during World War II as a work opportunity for relatives fleeing the Holocaust in Europe.)

After the Army, Mr. Field lived on the egg farm and picked up gigs as a piano player while awaiting word on applications for graduate school in the arts at both Boston University and Columbia.

"I couldn't think of anything else I could do in southern New Jersey while waiting -- except maybe radio," he relates.

Sure enough, he landed a job at an AM station in nearby Millville as an announcer and pop music DJ. When both colleges accepted him, "I ended up just not going."

He spent about a year in Millville, then moved to a bigger station in Torrington, Conn., and then Waterbury. By now married to his wife, Lucille, he was committed to radio.

He came to WITH-AM in Baltimore in October 1959, holding down the station's midnight-6 a.m. pop-music shift. Four months later, he moved over to WCAO, where he was a weekend DJ. In 1960, he took over the prestigious weekday morning show but lost it in the next ratings period, when he was offered the 9 a.m. to noon mid-morning slot.

"I became a housewives' jock," he jokes, recalling a regular top-rated request feature called the "Housewives Hotline."

"We were a pretty hot station," he notes. Yet he concedes, "I was not terribly enamored of rock and roll."

So in the early 1970s, Mr. Field dropped off the air to do free-lance announcing and commercial work. Among other things, he wrote a ditty for a local car dealer "that haunts me today" -- the one that goes, '. . . nobody has what Tate has.' "

He spent nine years writing songs, playing in jazz bands and acting in local community theater, and says the free-lance work was "interesting but also hazardous" for its lack of a steady cash flow.

In 1979, when WAYE-AM (860) adopted a big-band music format, he returned to the radio. When that station went to religious programming in 1981, he moved to easy listening WMAR-FM (106.5, now WWMX) before taking up the morning show at WITH-AM in 1985, playing the big-band/nostalgia sound.

WWLG came into existence in 1993, when the managers and most on-air staff of WITH -- including Mr. Field -- split from that station during a pending ownership change to preserve the big-band sound.

"There's very little room left for the kind of music we play," he confesses. But he suggests, "I think if it was more available, there would be more people to take to it."

Ken Jackson

The midday (10 a.m-2 p.m.) voice of "Legends Radio" WWLG-FM (1360), Ken Jackson says, "I'm the other famous guy" from his home town of Lowell, Mass.

"That was Ed McMahon's home, and also Ray Goulding [of the Bob and Ray" comedy duo]," he explains.

He recalls that "in the high school yearbook when most kids wrote they wanted to be a brain surgeon or lawyer or a bum, I wrote 'radio.' "

Thus, when he entered Emerson College in Boston in 1954, he went to work on the campus radio station, an FM operation patterned on NBC's Monitor radio service.

"This was serious broadcasting, and that certainly whetted my appetite," he recalls, noting his heroes in broadcasting were Walter Cronkite and Alan Jackson (no relation) of CBS.

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