Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ed Salamon

Ed Salamon from Wikipedia

Ed Salamon is a Brookline guy that's had an enormous impact on the country radio industry. Though he's long gone from the City, he's been making the local rounds pushing his new book, "Pittsburgh's Golden Age of Radio." And Salamon was around for it; heck, he was part of it.

He went to Resurrection Grade School on Creedmore Avenue (it closed in 1996 and is now Brookline Regional) and got into music with some boyhood classmates at South Hills Catholic High (now Seton LaSalle; the times, they are a changin').

And no, he was not part of a 1964 country revolution; he played guitar and fronted for the Headliners, a blue-eyed soul band along the lines of a Righteous Brothers mash with the Temptations.

They were pretty good, too, though they never released any wax. The Headliners played the local teen clubs and hops, sharing the stage with Pittsburgh artists like The Marcels, The Fenways, Johnny Daye, and the Igniters.

The biggest problem was that George Goodwin and the Headliners, an entirely different band, collected all the radio love with their oft-released hit "Let Me Love You." And the City wasn't big enough for two Headliners. After being called the Highlanders by one dance jock, they knew the Headliner era was over.

The original band broke up, and a McKees Rocks group, the Travelles, backed Salamon as fill-ins to finish the bookings. He then he formed the Avengers, and later joined the Rockers from Mt. Oliver. But it was now 1966, and college beckoned, marking the end of Salamon's career fronting a band. The education would serve him well.

After graduating from Pitt after a stop at Robert Morris, Salamon found his niche in the industry. In 1970, he joined KDKA's marketing department.

Just 20, he was hired as the Assistant Promotion Director and Director of Marketing Research, mainly to help publicize the station's 50th anniversary. They soon promoted him to Music Director of the station, Pittsburgh's 800 pound radio gorilla.

From there, he was hired as Program Director for WEEP radio in 1973, then a country station and barely treading water in local ratings. He did some homework, polled the audience, applied a Top 40 radio template to the programming, and featured a pared downed playlist of listener favorites.

Under Salamon’s guidance, WEEP became second only to KDKA in Pittsburgh adult ratings, a remarkable jump, and led WEEP to a larger audience share than any other top-ten market country station. Goodbye Pittsburgh, hello Big Apple.

Salamon jumped into the fire of America’s number one radio market when he was hired as Program Director of WHN in 1975. WHN had gone through three Program Directors since switching to Country in 1973, and was, like WEEP, at the low end of the ratings scale. Country didn't stir new York City's urban soul.

Using his listener research polls, he threw together hard core country artists like George Jones, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard with prog country acts like The Eagles, The Marshall Tucker Band and The Allman Brothers into one playlist. Viola - crossover!

It caused a firestorm, but hey - it worked. In 1976, WHN was named "Station of The Year" by Billboard Magazine. In 1977 WHN repeated, and Salamon was named “Program Director of the Year”. The station itself had zoomed to NYC's #2 spot, behind only megapower WABC.

He also produced a nationally syndicated series called “Live From The Lonestar CafĂ©," with acts like Johnny Paycheck, Ernest Tubb, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson and Hank Williams, Jr.

In 1978, Salamon was named National Program Director of the Radio Division of WHN’s parent company, Storer Broadcasting, supervising the programming for its stations in Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles along with New York.

Salamon won Billboard Magazine’s award for National Program Of The Year for the “The Johnny Cash Silver Anniversary Special”, which he produced. BM again named Salamon "Program Director of The Year" in 1980 and 1981, and WHN as "Station Of The Year" in 1980 and 1981. He left the Big Apple on those high notes.

In 1981, Salamon formed The United Stations Radio Network with Dick Clark and Nick Verbitsky. He was responsible for the creation of weekly programs including “The Weekly Country Music Countdown" and “Dick Clark’s Rock, Roll, and Remember.” Both are still airing, with RRR in syndication now.

Salamon also wrote and produced specials on, among others, the Beatles and Rolling Stones.

United merged with Transtar and became Unistar, then became part of Westwood One in 1993. Salamon became President/Programming of The Westwood One Radio Network, responsible for programming by the networks’ biggest stars including David Letterman, Jay Leno, Martha Stewart and Charles Osgood while bringing aboard Jon Stewart and Fox News.

In 2002, Salamon left Westwood One and became Executive Director of The Country Radio Broadcasters, Inc., a Nashville based non-profit which he had been part of since 1976 as board member (Ed calls Nashville home now).

He just left the group a few months ago, and is living the life of an author, between teaching gigs at Belmont University, where he's an Adjunct Professor in Mass Communications. Salamon was recognized more than academically; he was inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame in 2006.

Also into the history of music, Salamon has produced retro albums and written liner notes for dozens of artists, including his early favorites The Skyliners, The Platters and The Ink Spots. His latest effort as an historian/author is the must-read "Golden Age of Pittsburgh Radio."

But dragging country music into the here and now through focus groups and crossover artists is his greatest claim to fame. The next royalty check that Zac Brown gets owes a couple of its zeroes to the work of Ed Salamon.

1 comment:

Ed Salamon said...

My latest book, "WHN: When New York City Went Country" (Archer Books, 2013) has pix and stories of other Pittsburghers who worked at that New York country station, including Jessie (WDVE, WYDD, 13-Q), Robbie Roman (WEEP, WIXZ), Joel Raab (Jay Stevens at WEEP)and Dene Hallam (WEEP). You can see pix, and some audio and video of WHN by "liking" www.facebook/WHN1050