R.A.P. Interview: Tom Sandman

R.A.P.: This weird, creative, eccentric production you did at WEBN and WBCN, is this something you're doing now at WARM 98? Do you produce things just for the sake of entertainment and hand them to the Program Director and say, "What do you think?"
Tom: Yes. In fact, the powers that be at WARM 98 have given me a lot of creative freedom. If I get an idea to do something purely for entertainment's sake, they not only let me put it on, but they welcome it. They relish it. Grant you, this is not the kind of stuff that we hit our listeners over the head with; we're still an adult rock radio station. But we get creative. Our morning show has really taken on a more up front position. It consists of Tom Walker, Pam Rahal and the Program Director, Michael Grayson. They have made the show more kinetic. They did a remote broadcast from a nudist colony this past year. They did a show from a billboard on Interstate 75 to promote the Great American Smoke-Out, the smoke free day that the American Cancer Society sponsors.

We're doing stuff like this, and it's a good venue to play funny recorded stuff. Maybe it will be a parody of a song. Maybe it will be a bit about the smoking ban at Riverfront Stadium. Maybe it will be a satirical but funny piece on Marge Schott or one of the local politicians. We try to keep it locally based. People from out of town won't get most of the jokes that you hear on the morning show, and that's the way we like it. We're bringing an element to the radio listener that they really can't get from a syndicated broadcasting service or a syndicated comedy service or production service. It's produced and written here in Cincinnati.

With my experience as a writer and producer and with the announcers I have at WARM 98, the production is network caliber. It's high quality. It's as good as the stuff I've done anywhere in Boston or Cincinnati, and they can only hear it in Cincinnati on WARM 98 right now. Tom Walker, the morning guy, is one of the most sought after voice talents in Cincinnati. He does a lot of work for agencies in town. He's also one of the main character voices at King's Island. Paramount King's Island owns all of the Hanna Barbara characters for use in the park, and Tom does Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone, and just about anybody else inside the park. So, if you're ever at a Paramount amusement park, and you hear a character voice, chances are it might be Tom Walker.

Ted Morrow is our Assistant Program Director. He's the mid-day guy and he has, again, a very smooth, wonderful announcing voice. He used to do liners for the jazz station, WCDJ in Boston, before they went country. Then there's Jim Smith, our afternoon drive guy. He's another very highly sought after, very highly regarded announcer in Cincinnati radio and television. Really, the three best announcers in town are all working at WARM 98. So, as you can see, I don't have to be that great of an announcer. I can squeak by with my little character voices and let those guys do the bulk of the really good announcing work.

R.A.P.: You've been in production for most of your career. Did you do any air shifts?
Tom: I was always on the air on the weekends, and I still am. I don't work every weekend, but I work about three weekends a month. I think that's an important thing for me as a producer to do. I think it's important to stay in touch with the radio listener, and the best way to do that is to go on the air and imagine that you're speaking one on one to that person. I think that experience once a week helps you when you sit down at a typewriter or a workstation and start writing a commercial because, really, you have to do the same thing when you write a commercial. You try to touch one radio listener at a time, one on one.

It also gives me a chance to see how the cartridges are working, to make sure they are in proper working order, that they're labeled correctly, that there aren't any updates that are out of whack.

R.A.P.: Are there any sister stations that you are also producing for?
Tom: No. We're a stand-alone FM.

R.A.P.: That's getting to be a rare situation.
Tom: Well, it already is. You know what's happening in town with Jacor. They now control seven radio stations. They have the entire AM band. They have every AM signal of significance, plus they have two FMs, 'EBN and the former MAGIC which is now called THE POINT 92.5. The FCC isn't doing a thing about it. They own four of the stations, or will own four of the stations, outright. The other three are owned by a local lawyer, Chuck Reynolds, who is friendly with the company, and he is letting the company run them. But he is the owner on paper. It's horrible. They now control more than half the billing in town.

It's hard to keep up with this situation because Jacor has taken all of the call letters and switched them to different frequencies. 550 used to be WLWA; it's now WCKY. 1530 used to be WCKY; it's now WSAI. 1360 used to be WSAI; it's going to be Oz Radio. That's what they're saying anyway. Basically, by juggling all these call letters and frequencies in Cincinnati, he's made all of the trademarks virtually worthless, and the only frequency of relevance that maintains their dial position is 700 WOW. I don't think the FCC intended such a gross monopolization to occur when they deregulated.

Hey, I don't like producing for four stations, but I can deal with that a lot better than seven. Anyway, that's another story. But I've been lucky. I've never had to produce for more than one station at the same time.

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