WBT's oldies show dies for lack of ads

It's the end of time for the “Time Machine.”

WBT-AM's (1110) Saturday night show, a throwback to radio's glorious era of the '50s, '60s and '70s, has ended its run, a victim of the times.

Playing old music costs money – there's still licensing fees involved. Program director Bill White, a champion of the show, said they were facing a bill of up to $30,000 a year to spin the oldies. Music stations build those fees into the budget, but a news-talk station like WBT couldn't make it work. Advertising wouldn't cover the cost.

“I understand completely,” host “Boomer” Von Cannon said Friday. “As I told one of the guys, ‘Hey man, that's show business.'”

WBT's 50,000-watt nighttime signal covers the East Coast. In addition to listeners across the Carolinas, Von Cannon would get song requests from New England to Florida. Once a listener called in while driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Fans mailed in tapes of old radio shows from their own collections – everything from Wolfman Jack to old radio jingles to segments from their own old local stations.

“Time Machine” debuted Dec. 29, 2007, and it seemed to be attracting new listeners each week, people just scanning the dial and discovering a piece of their youth, Von Cannon said.

Also growing was the crowd in the studio. Old-timers who cherished the old days of radio would join Von Cannon and producer Roger Ellswick for the Saturday night live broadcast. Harold Ballard, who works in production at WBTV, brought in his music collection to bolster the content arranged by executive producer Ed Nixon.

“Just a bunch of old boys hanging out,” said Von Cannon, who continues doing traffic reports at WBT and sister station WLNK (“Link” 107.9).

White said the show will be replaced by “WBT Saturday Night Specials” in the 9 p.m.-to-midnight slot. It will be talk-oriented, though not necessarily the political brand the station is known for. He said he wants to experiment with various hosts – some local, some from remote studios. This week it will be Doug Kellett out of Atlanta who has done fill-in work for the station.

Cramer talks cars and money

CNBC's Jim Cramer brings his high-velocity financial show to NASCAR this weekend.

Taped at Lowe's Motor Speedway last month during the Coca-Cola 600 weekend, a special “The American Dream With Jim Cramer” will air at 7 p.m. Sunday on NBC (WCNC, Channel 36).

Cramer interviews top drivers like Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards about their investment strategies. And he turns to some of the sponsor logos on their cars to discuss how those companies look as an investment opportunity.

Cramer, who does “Mad Money with Jim Cramer” for CNBC, also talks to fans at the raceway about what they had to give up to afford the gasoline for the pilgrimage to NASCAR events. And he defends oil executives as “scapegoats” in the era of $4-a-gallon fuel. Oil deposits, he says, are harder than ever to get to and more costly to exploit.

Cramer, who was once so poor he says he lived in rest stops on California's Interstate 5, offers his familiar retirement advice to race fans of any age: “A dollar saved today will be worth more than one saved next year.”

Game show spots

A new game show, “Trivial Pursuit: America Plays,” will be filming local people posing questions to contestants 12:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Carolina Place Mall in Pineville. People whose questions are chosen for the show, which debuts at 6 p.m. Sept. 22 on WAXN (Channel 64), will have a chance to win money and get on the program.

Media Movers

Returning this week to her night show on WBT-AM after maternity leave was Tara Servatius … Among the judges on HGTV's new series “Summer Showdown,” debuting 10 p.m. Aug. 3, is actress Emily Procter of “CSI: Miami.” Procter grew up in Raleigh … Louis Petrozza, the Charlotte chef who came in second on “Hell's Kitchen” this week, says he enjoying all the media attention he's been getting this week. On a segment of “Fox News Edge” after the Tuesday finale, Petrozza – celebrating with about 100 acquaintances at a South Charlotte hotel – did a long shout-out to all who supported him and managed to get in a suggestive maneuver with the microphone. He says he had a few beers prior to his appearance – “maybe about three over my limit of well-being.” He had a designated driver.