WCUY & WJMO Cleveland
1959 - 1964
The "Friendly" Broadcasting Company was anything but... It took months to get a box of toilet tissue shipped from a warehouse in DC!

I was a part time and weekend employee while in high school at R&B-formatted WJMO and co-owned Jazz programmed WCUY-FM in Cleveland, Ohio. The FM staff "adopted" me because I worked for free. It was definitely a low budget operation: when I began there, the FM station, only broadcast from 5 PM to 11 PM, Monday to Friday.

By about 1961, the FCC required a minimum operating schedule. This was a boon to me, because I was given all day Sunday to work. I arrived just before 7 AM sign-on, laden with coffee and a sack of 16¢ Royal Castle burgers, which were kept warm on top of the transmitter through the day. My squeaky voice and I played religious shows, brokered shows and jazz until 11 PM sign-off rolled around. It paid $1.15 an hour.

WCUY was named for the Cuyahoga River which flows, and occasionally burns, through Cleveland. (Cuyahoga, by the way, means "crooked" in a native American language. Appropriate.) The station logs could be done weeks in advance because no one was able to peddle any spots.

When the manager changed in 1962, a formerly glorious MOR host was hired to do afternoons in the belief that WCUY would be noticed. My job consisted of standing next to the transmitter, which was prone to shutting down when the new host shouted louder than the Level Devil limiter could control. I would, of course, instantly hit the "plate on" button to return the signal to the air.
Besides these novel assignments, I performed a diverse range of functions including janitor, transmitter operator, record librarian, studio operator and announcer at WCUY.
Cleveland was the birthplace of Rock 'n Roll. I grew up on the night show of Alan Freed on WJW, early top-40 on WERE, and Color Radio at WHK.

The wonderful station licensed as WCUY was owned by Richard Eaton's United Broadcasting.

Now, most industry veterans know of UBC because it single-handedly lost licenses in Miami and Washington, DC through on-air and billing practices that the FCC found intolerable. Still, Eaton's company was one of the original ethnic broadcasters in the U.S., affording me some insight into targeted radio programming.

Perhaps the most significant incident surrounding my work with WCUY was in Spring, 1962. During the Easter holiday from school, I visited WFAB in Miami, WCUY's sister station. "La Fabulosa" was the first full-time Spanish station in Miami, catering to the Cuban Diaspora following the Castro takeover.

I acquired a taste for Cuban music by artists like Orquesta Aragón, Pupi & Su Charanga, La Sonora Matancera and, of course, Celia Cruz. I collected mail-order Cuban records and "DXed" stations from Cuba and Mexico, even becoming a frequent caller to the late night show on XEB in Mexico City where I would ask for Sonora Santanera songs to the amusement of the DJ.

Celia Cruz is one of the most enduring exponents of the tropical music of the Caribbean, now called "Salsa." When I first bought a Celia Cruz record in the 60's, I had no idea that 20 years later I would have the privilege of presenting this artist in concert in San Juan, Puerto Rico
My summertime neighbor was Waldo Abbot, the head of the communications department at the University of Michigan. He was, of course, interested in my radio work and hobby and offered much valuable advice... and a copy of his book, the standard radio text of the day.