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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

Mr. Jackson married his wife, Anne, in college. His first professional job came at a small AM station in Milford, Mass., which was "just like Ted Baxter's [from TV's "Mary Tyler Moore Show"]. Our signal went down the street and around the corner of this little shoe-factory mill town, and I did everything, including cleaning the latrine."

He moved on to be news director at a station in Worcester, Mass., then in Reading, Pa., and eventually in Wilkes Barre, Pa.

With a growing family -- he has two children -- Mr. Jackson says he would have been content to stay there. But in 1962 the news director of WCBM in Baltimore, with whom he had auditioned in a previous job search, called with an offer.

"At that point I said, 'No more moves,' and I've managed to stay here ever since," Mr. Jackson says.

Although he is now playing records, most of his radio years have been spent in news, mostly in-studio announcing of newscasts. He was at WCBM until 1968, then moved to WBAL to handle the mid-day newscasts -- between the morning and evening shifts of that station's legendary Galen Fromme.

"I burned out on the news," says Mr. Jackson frankly, relating his 1973 departure from WBAL.

He dropped out of radio for several years, working on educational publications and doing a variety of free-lance work. But in 1979, he read a newspaper story about WAYE-AM, which was launching a big band music format.

"Just for the hell of it, I just called 'em, and ended up back on the air reading the news," he says.

"Eventually, I did a music program at midday," he recalls. When WAYE's format changed, he moved to WITH, and continued to do news -- until the financially strained station lost its news wire, leaving him a full-time music man.

Like Mr. Field, he also moved to WWLG two years ago when the station's managers left WITH to launch Legends Radio.

"I've never been a format man, I play the kind of music I like," says Mr. Jackson, who prefers the term program host to DJ, saying derisively, "they're those Top 40 robots I despise. . . . I feel in my own little way I'm an entertainer. It's a casual approach. I hope I make people feel good for a few minutes."

Ken Maylath

When Ken Maylath was growing up in Westchester County, N.Y., he and a high-school friend recorded an entire imaginary broadcast day onto a reel-to-reel tape recorder.

"We made up a little hick town in the Midwest and played radio station," says the news director of WCBM-AM (680), who has been reporting news in Baltimore since 1962 -- without taking a single sick day.

He is heard from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.

As a boy, he particularly recalls listening to Arthur Godfrey on CBS, and notes the "How-ah-ya" man worked in the early 1940s on Baltimore's WFBR-AM -- which was Mr. Maylath's first Baltimore station.

Mr. Maylath worked in college radio at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., did summer work at a couple of commercial stations, then -- during a two-year Army stint -- worked at an AM station in El Paso, Texas.

In 1960, Mr. Maylath traveled home via Erie, Pa., where he landed a job playing easy listening music. "I decided within a couple months that it was a lot of work for not very much money," he recalls, noting he had to live frugally at the local YMCA.

But he kept at it. In 1961, he moved to a station in Elmira, N.Y., as a staff announcer and middle-of-the-road music DJ, and in 1962 landed a job as a news announcer and DJ at Baltimore's WFBR-AM (1300).

He recalls, however, that the job interview that brought him to Baltimore was secondary to the real reason for the trip. A lifelong train buff, Mr. Maylath came to town to ride an excursion train to Western Maryland.

"I decided to talk to the station the day before, just on the off chance," he says. When he got aboard the train, it was with the knowledge he would be returning soon to work at all-talk WFBR.

Over the years, the newsman notes he covered City Council "when Mr. Schaefer was just a council member," and reported most other big local stories -- including a visit by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

He also became the moderating force on "Conference Call," a cantankerous midday talk show that began on WFBR and has survived to its current noon weekday air time on WCBM.

Mr. Maylath worked at WFBR until 1988, when all employees were swept out in the first of two ownership changes that ultimately led to the disappearance of the venerable station's call letters. (The frequency is now WJFK-AM.)

After a few weeks, he joined several other former WFBR voices hired at WCBM to continue their talk show format.

When it is suggested his style seems in contrast to the pugnacious conservative stance of most Talk 680 hosts, Mr. Maylath says, "I think

it's safe to say I have a smaller ego than some of the people in the [talk show] business."

Tom Marr

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