Look back at 50 Years – Part 10 – Chris Lee
by on June 3, 2015 in News

My career at WSSL was a lot of fun, however, I learned that the business side of radio was tricky. People would lose their jobs over one bad ratings period. The staff would show up at a station only to be met by the General Manager or the new owner and told they were ALL fired and to clean out their desks, only to be met in the parking lot by their replacements! OUCH! The radio business is after all, a business. It needs to make money. To make money, stations must sell advertising to pay the bills. A good sales force is needed to go out and sell, sell, sell! On the programming end, the station must have something appealing to present to potential advertisers to entice them to spend money on that station. Good music, Upbeat and likable personalities and good ratings. Radio lives and dies by ratings. Arbitron is a ratings survey company that radio stations subscribe to for the service they provide. They randomly select people from the station listening area and send out “diaries”. The listeners are paid a small amount to fill out the diary and return it to Arbitron. They take the information and sort it out by gender, age, time of day and so on. Then the results are sent to the radio stations to use as a sales tool, for example:

WSSL mornings Monday thru Friday 5:30 AM – 9:00 AM are #1 with women age 25-45
WESC #2, etc.

These are not current ratings but just an example. They take this information to potential advertisers and say if you want to reach the female audience in the mornings, then WSSL is your best choice. I’ve been in and seen hours of meeting where sales and management “spin” the numbers to their advantage when planning sales calls. It’s all a numbers game. They can even break it down to 15 minute segments!

Radio is a “revolving door” of employees, this is true of programming, sales and personalities. Dave Welchel was replaced by Don Moore as Program Director. Don was from Texas and a real nice guy, he worked with radio consultant Rusty Walker and developed the “12-In-A-Row” format that WSSL used for years. in 1988 he was replaced by Len Shakleford. Bob Morgan was replaced by Bill Ellis who still remains in the morning show position today and folks, that is almost unheard of in this business. But Bill has proven that he owns Greenville mornings over and over again. Karl Hess was GM in 1986, he was replaced by Jack DeHaven and then John Cullen….see a pattern here? All of this happened within 3 years! Then it was my turn….Len called me in one afternoon and told me I was being let go. Why? Because they had someone who would do my job cheaper, I had decent ratings, but, the bottom line was that they were gonna save a couple thousand dollars a year. The guy they replaced me with, quit after two weeks. Did I get a call to offer my job back? No. Wow, I was lost….I believed as long as I did a good job why would they ever let me go? I remained unemployed for a while, now living with another girl who would later become my first wife.

For the next couple of years I went out into the real world and got real jobs. Then, around 1990 I began working part-time at WSPA 98.9FM in Spartanburg for a while, Dave Welchel, my former PD at WSSL was now in charge there. Bob Morgan was doing mornings so it was kinda like home again. There I met the legendary Bill Drake. He ruled the Spartanburg airwaves for many years! He was very nice to me and I learned some great things from him. He passed away just recently and I’m sad that I didn’t get to spend more time with him. I was doing weekends on 98.9 and running some programs on 910 AM-WORD. Sunday mornings were always quiet in downtown Spartanburg. WSPA studios were right on Main St. near the Flagstar building. Most mornings I would walk out to the street and just stand and listen to how quiet it was. So peaceful in the middle of what is usually hustle and bustle. I continued to work part time for a couple of years until my first marriage ended, then I was out of radio for a couple more years.

I worked regular a job for a couple of years and began doing some more club DJ work part time in Anderson, SC. My first marriage was falling apart and I needed to move on. O’Dell had left Charlotte and formed a band called “Kid Colt”. They were playing clubs around the Southeast and were starting to pick up a good following. Kid Colt went to Japan a couple of times and O’Dell’s marriage was also falling apart. He moved in with me and my new wife….deja vu. I went to work at BMW in Greer around 1996, so playing in a band was out of the question with the rotating shifts/days. Fast forward 8 years later to 2004…..I decided to open a bar……

 

Stay tuned for Part 11.

 

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