Bob Ottaway is the former owner of WMMQ/Lansing.
When you own an under-powered, suburban Class A that is getting its lunch served to it as the third A/C in the market, what do you do? You hire Fred Jacobs and ride the rocket to #1 in all male demos in less than a year!
That was the scenario in the fall of 1984. WMMQ-FM Charlotte/Lansing was in a “free fall” and the ratings proved it. I had seen the ads in R&R for “Good Times Rock & Roll”, so when my PD, Jeff Crowe, suggested that we meet with Fred Jacobs, it was a great call.
Getting started with Fred was just made with a handshake over lunch in early February 1985. He immediately started to work with Jeff on the music which we bought out of town, and Jeff dubbed to cart at his home. No details of a format switch from Soft Rock to Classical Rock & Roll were leaked to anyone.
At an after-work cocktail party at the Pour House Restaurant in early April, Fred was introduced to the whole station staff and the announcement was made. You could hear a pin drop. I think that was a Friday evening, and the strategy was to start playing The Stones’ “It’s Only Rock & Roll” continuously all weekend beginning after the station’s local broadcast of Detroit Tigers baseball that Friday night. Since the Tigers were coming off a World Series win, the station was very popular with these broadcasts.
By the following Monday morning the market was abuzz. Local TV, newspaper and water cooler conversation was rampant with the news of a Classic Rock format. People were exuberant, to say the least. It was an overnight success and the loyalty was amazing. The phones never stopped ringing. The morale boost was heart-warming.
New jocks were hired. A new higher tower went up, and new studios went in. All of this had been planned long before the format change, but it all came together nicely.
WMMQ was Fred’s first Classic Rock & Roll station, and he watched it closely…daily for the first few months and then eventually with the fine help of his brother Bill, and the renowned Andy Bloom. We were cooking in Lansing and the world was watching.
The news was spreading fast and new stations were coming on board: Jay Hoker in Kansas City and Bill Sherard in Washington, DC. The experiments started: “Beatles A-Z Weekends,” “Before and After Weekends,” “Future Classics.” It was fun, and the listeners loved it.
WMMQ was so popular and so revered in Lansing that the bus card “tails” advertising the new format on the Lansing City buses were being stolen off the buses when they were parked. It didn’t take much to motivate the station sales and air staff — the marketplace was doing it for them.
Sometimes the stars just align perfectly. This happened to me in 1985 when my PD, Jeff Crowe, and I hired Fred Jacobs, and together we kicked off the first new format since, I don’t know: album rock? Thanks Fred, Bill, Paul, Andy and Joyce. You changed my life. You’re the best!