Tom Williams AT LARGE
Radio has changed a lot in the last four decades.
Today people can listen to personalized music on Pandora, Sirius-XM and other streaming sources in their car or right on their cellphone. Broadcast radio stations need now, more than ever, to find ways to attract listeners.
Mike Elliott would have found ways.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Elliott was general manager of The Green Group – a couple of radio stations at the end of something called the Old Turnpike in Pleasantville. You could see the building that housed the stations from the Atlantic City Expressway, until the building burned down.
In that time period, Elliott kept WOND near the top in listeners in the competitive Atlantic City radio market. He was a mid-day host in a lineup of DJs that primarily included Bob Weems, Joel Carson, Tom Lamaine and Red Karr. There was also behind-the-scenes input from people like Walt Murphy, Milt Thurlow and Jan Baker.
The WOND All-Americans, as the hosts were known, always had contests and promotions going that attracted listeners, who then stuck around for the presentation of Top 40 music. Many of you who were around then listening to the radio certainly remember MIke’s strong, baritone voice.
Elliott was the first person to hire me in a full-time position in radio, playing the hits weeknights (and Sundays) leading up to Pinky’s Corner and broadcasting high school football and basketball.
There has been no other single person in radio who has had as much an influence on my career as he did. Watching what he did and how he did it made a lasting impression.
Through the years, in addition to working as a radio host and sports broadcaster, I emceed and produced more than 100 Miss America preliminary pageants throughout South Jersey – mostly in Atlantic and Cape May counties. Mike was the inspiration for that.
One day he offered me a pair of tickets to the three-night Miss Atlantic County Pageant at Holy Spirit High School. Watching him host the proceedings was what made me want to try it myself.
Mike Elliott, who died recently at age 82, was only in this area for a small part of his 50 plus years in broadcasting. He started in Massachusetts and worked in Atlanta, California, Washington D.C. and Chicago before landing in Wisconsin. He spent most of the final decades of his career in Wisconsin and was eventually inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
He did spend a year or two in Texas where he realized a life-long dream, serving as a play-by-play voice for the Houston Astros.
Sometimes you are fortunate enough to work with somebody who influences you without actually trying and whose ideas and approaches are inspiring.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who felt that way about Mike Elliott.