Monday, April 05, 2010

Notable Events

Clearing out the "Already Posted On Twitter" file, and other things...

CLEVELAND RADIO NEWS LEGEND PASSES: For decades in the Cleveland market and beyond, Ken Courtright was synonymous with the phrase "radio news".

Courtright passed away Saturday in New Philadelphia.

Though he spent a lot of time in his native Tuscarawas County, including two decades as news director of Tuscarawas Broadcasting talk WBTC/1540 Uhrichsville, Courtright spent a lot of time at major Cleveland stations.

From our own item in 2007, when Courtright first took ill:

Ken started his radio career at the age of 14 at WJER in New Philadelphia, and went on to a long and storied career at stations like Cleveland's WWWE/1100 "3WE", along then-WJW/850, WERE/1300, as well as then-WDBN/94.9 Medina and then-WSLR/1350 Akron. (We trust regular readers already know the current calls, format and dispositions of all those stations.)

We're told after becoming news director at WBTC/1540 Uhrichsville in the final stage of his long run doing radio news, Mr. Courtright returned to the station now known as WTAM for part-time work.

Local radio historian Jim Davison passes along a letter from Courtright to another Cleveland radio legend, the now-late Bill Randle, describing Courtright's Cleveland start as a full-time newsman at WERE/1300 while Randle worked there. (Davison also provided the picture we've used in this item.)

Courtright wrote the letter in 1997 while listening to Randle's show on then-standards WRMR (then at 850 AM).

An excerpt:

“Hearing you brings back memories of the most fantastic radio operations ever to hit Cleveland airwaves. I started there early one Sunday morning in June of 1956, where I got to read newscasts, and one day got the chance to introduce a Indians game which was delayed by rain and I had the chance to announce the records I played (oh my God) over the full 65 station network that carried the ballgame until the rain ended”.

“One day, engineer Dick Pollack informed me that since Bill Randle was not likely to make it in on time, I would have to fill him for Bill…But not to worry…Dick would tell me what to say. So I did go on playing records…and at 5 PM that day, you arrived Bill, and had me stay on until 6 PM…working with you for that 5 to 6 PM hour until you took over your Higbee Top 10 Radio Show. As I was leaving after 14 hours, you suggested that I could come aboard full time and would talk to the manager.”

“The following day, Monday, Ed Stevens call me at the Ashtabula station and told me to turn in my notice and that I was full time now at WERE 1300 AM as soon as I could make the trip to Cleveland. Ed explained how the station operated on the “Star” system. I had to park in the News Department parking area only, and that I had to learn the news business from Jerry Bowman and Wayne Johnson”.

In addition to his time at WERE, Courtright was also heard on many incarnations of 1100 AM in Cleveland - KYW, WKYC, WWWE "3WE", and as noted in our previous item, even on the current WTAM as a weekend newscaster in the 1990s.

Courtright was also heard on the old WDBN/94.9, then in Medina (now Akron market country WQMX), WSLR/1350 Akron (now sports WARF), WQKT/104.5 Wooster, and on stations in Florida.

And two of his children ended up going behind a microphone themselves.

Daughter Julie started her radio news career at country WTUZ/99.9 Uhrichsville, then moved to another locally owned radio operation in Northeast Ohio, Doug and Lorie Wilber's country WOBL/1320 Oberlin and oldies WDLW/1380 Lorain.

We're told she left the stations in 2008, and we don't know if she's still in broadcasting.

Son Alan operates his own voice-over business in Medina, and worked in news for Rubber City Radio oldies/news WAKR/1590 Akron until 2009.

We're told that Ken Courtright passed away "just in time for the 5 PM news" on Saturday...

THE WWL HITS MERCER COUNTY: Nominally in our coverage area since it's in the Youngstown market, a Western Pennsylvania radio station has apparently made a rumored format flip to sports.

Word came out late last week from the folks at RadioInsight that Cumulus established a new website for "ESPN 96.7", which would signal a coming format change for WLLF/96.7 Mercer PA.

The station, run out of Cumulus' second Youngstown-area "Radio Center" in the Sharon PA suburb of Hermitage, had been running Jones Radio's Adult Contemporary format as "96.7 The River".

But the WLLF web stream is playing the new ESPN Radio format today, complete with the new "ESPN 96.7" logo on the web player.

The change likely came today due to the start of another key piece of programming for "ESPN 96.7" - Major League Baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates open their 2010 season today.

The move means a return of the Pirates to Mercer County radio, and by extension, the portions of the Ohio side of the Youngstown market served by the WLLF signal.

Beacon Broadcasting last carried the Pirates on WLOA/1470 Farrell PA and simulcaster WGRP/940 Greenville PA, but stopped carrying the team somewhere around the stations' format change from Sporting News Radio to classic country. The Pirates had also once been carried on WEXC/107.1 Greenville PA, now Christian/eclectic rock/talk "Indie 107.1".

And the Pirates were also once heard on WLLF's Youngstown sports sister station, Cumulus sports WBBW/1240 Youngstown.

We don't know for sure, but it appears WLLF will be run separately from WBBW, carrying mostly the unvarnished ESPN Radio national feed, with the Pirates and, presumably, local Pennsylvania high school sports play-by-play somewhere in the mix. (The station is already promoting "live high school sports".)

And a piece of trivia: The WLLF call letters come from the station's long-ago days as the Pennsylvania-side simulcaster of rock WNCD/then-106.1 Niles "The Wolf".

Since that time, the stations have come under different ownership and formats, with today's 106.1 now Clear Channel classic hits WBBG "Big 106.1"...and the WNCD calls and format now residing on Clear Channel's 93.3/Youngstown.

WLLF spent a number of years as a smooth jazz outlet before taking the Jones Radio AC format, which preceded today's flip to ESPN sports...


nathan said...

To view a complete obituary and service information for Ken Courtright click here

nathan said...

As a courtesty to his family for his friends in the media industry, Geib Funeral home will be webcasting Ken's memorial service.

To view the service live follow this link. 24 hours after the service friends may view the postfeed on the same link: