Media Scene

Walking naked, and other great stories from old ‘Magic’ FM

For an oldies station, it was pretty spry.

Like the April Fool’s Day that it announced a new sound ordinance would force NASCAR to put mufflers on stock cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and listeners believed it.

Or the time it put producer Jack Flash in a new ride at Carowinds – Top Gun – to see how many times he could stand it. Blood vessels burst in his eyes on the 41st circuit.

Or the time morning jock Greg “Eggman” Moore announced he’d lost a bet to partner Jim Shafer and would have to walk naked through the lobby of the Adam’s Mark Hotel. Dozens of curious listeners were waiting at the hotel when Eggman showed up with his dog, Naked, and walked him through the lobby.

WWMG “Magic” is long gone. It died 10 years ago next Tuesday. But it is still fondly remembered by the baby boomer crowd it served.

“There’s not an event that I go to where people don’t ask about the station,” says Shafer, half the morning team of “Shafer & the Eggman” and still active in the Charlotte show band Band of Gold.

“We just had a ball,” he says. “Eggman was the most creative guy I’ve ever worked with in my 41 years of radio.”

A decade after the station abruptly went off the air, Liz Luke is still recognized by her name tag when she works at Central Piedmont Community College’s theater selling tickets. “You would not believe how many people ask me if I’m the same Liz Luke – ‘Aren’t you that person?’ I did not realize the significance that station had in their lives.”

When CBS’s Chris Wallace came to Charlotte to do a story about the Loomis Fargo heist, he came to the “Magic” studios to interview Shafer, Eggman and Luke because of the popularity of parody songs they were doing about the robbery.

Harriet Coffey, who did the midday show for 13 years, remembers the classic pink Cadillac the station had for promotions. She was pulling up to an appearance in Rock Hill when it began to smoke, then made loud noises. Embarrassing noises. “Sounded flatulent,” she recalls.

Back in the day when stores were closed on Christmas, engineer Gary Hattaway would show up at the station every Dec. 25 morning with a Santa hat to hand out batteries to children who got toys that needed them. “Gary probably passed out several tractor-trailer loads of batteries over his years as ‘Battery Claus,’ ” says Dave Vassar, known on the air as Brother Dave.

“Magic” was running No. 13 in the ratings among the top 20 stations in Charlotte and its owner, Clear Channel Radio, was interested in reaching the 18-to-34 demographic rather than the baby boomers the station was appealing to with its music from the ’60s on up.

So on Sept. 1, 2004 the staff was called in and told the gig was over. After 17 years, “Magic” was dead. Its last song was Don McLean’s 1971 anthem “American Pie” with its refrain about the day the music died. More than 500 listeners called Clear Channel over the next two days to complain about the station’s demise.

“Magic” was replaced by the throbbing bass of party music on WIBT-FM “The Beat,” now called WHQC-FM (“Channel” 96.1), which now ranks 12th in listening share among the city’s top 20 stations, but attracts more advertisers interested in reaching younger audiences.

Observes Jeff Kent, program director and afternoon personality on classic rock WRFX-FM (“Fox” 99.7): “If you like music from the ’50s and ’60s, chances are you might be dead.”

A few “Magic” personalities like Shafer and Luke were given other jobs at other Clear Channel stations.

“Clear Channel had cut my salary nearly in half,” says Luke. “And they said, ‘Now we’re going to boost your salary and you’re going to do news on three stations at once.’ Every program director wanted different content.”

No oldies station has come along to replace “Magic,” though two FM stations that dabble in hits from the ’80s on up – WOSF-FM (“Old School” 105.1) and WLKO-FM (“The Lake” 102.9) – are both strong in Charlotte audience rankings.

WAVO-AM (1150), which plays standards music of Sinatra, early Beatles and Louis Armstrong, recently appealed to listeners to donate to the station to help raise the $15,000 it needs to pay for its annual music licensing fee. On Monday, station manager Tom Gentry plans to announce the station exceeded its goal by more than $1,000.

“We got so many nice letters from listeners,” says Gentry who estimates that WAVO is the only station playing such music within 200 miles. “These are people who cherish this kind of music.”

Media Movers

Chris Clackum, who spent 13 years at WBTV (Channel 3) before joining the Charlotte-based NBC News Channel as a correspondent, is retiring Sept. 5, which is 43 years – to the day – when he first stepped in front of a microphone in a small radio station in Georgia. “All of us continue to marvel at his puppy-like enthusiasm when chasing a story,” says longtime colleague Steve Swicegood. Clackum was working for WIS (Channel 10) in Columbia when he was invited in 1980 to audition at WBTV by Bob Inman. Clackum, 63, plans to spoil his twin grandsons and may fill in part-time at the News Channel.

Marking the 20th anniversary of its noon-hour “Mozart Cafe,” WDAV-FM (89.9) plans an open house 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday at its studio at 423 N. Main Street in Davidson. An ensemble of Charlotte Symphony musicians will perform and “Mozart Café” alumni Rachel Stewart, WDAV general manager Frank Dominguez and Matt Rogers, the show’s current host, will greet visitors.

Chuck Howard joins the Panthers to host two shows on Time Warner Cable Sports Channel 323, a 3 p.m. Wednesday show with Ron Rivera and Cam Newton and an 8 p.m. Wednesday show, “Panther Talk” with Eugene Robinson. New York sports radio host Richard Neer, who lives in Mooresville, now has a new suspense novel set at the Jersey Shore available on Amazon, “Something of the Night.” Neer’s first book was a nonfiction piece about the early and zany days of FM radio, “FM, the Rise and Fall of Rock Radio” (Villard 2001).

Concord-based Performance Racing Network says Wendy Venturini will join its anchor team for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning in New Hampshire Sept. 21, believed to be the first time a female has co-anchored a NSCS radio broadcast. She’ll be in the booth with Doug Rice and Mark Garrow. Steve Hofstetter, host of Fox’s new midnight Saturday show “Laughs,” will be at the Charlotte Comedy Zone Wednesday taping local comedians for the stand-up series.

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