Marc Morgan is the former General Manager at WCKG/Chicago. He now runs Marc Morgan Consulting in Atlanta.
WCKG was a very special experience for me, personally. Not only was it my first GM job, but it was in my home town of Chicago. The “capper,” if you will, was the decision to go Classic Rock… That not only put us on the map in Arbitron-land… We were playing the music I grew up with!
Cox bought 105.9 in 1984, and, after playing around… And failing… With Top 40 for about a year, we went rock… Specifically Superstars II… Copying KFOG’s recipe for their then success in SF. That recipe didn’t exactly work for us. While we got some “OK” numbers, we were really nowhere in a tough market which, rock-wise, already had the LOOP at its “Johnny B” peak, along with WXRT. When Cox hired Nick Trigony to run the radio group, he gave me the impetus and support to try to make things better.
The first decision that proved to be a key to our later success was the hiring of Tim Sabean as PD. I still think Tim is one of the all-time great PD’s, not to mention one of the most high-energy and motivated people I have ever known. The second fortunate decision was to go COMPLETELY Classic Rock… Not just dabble in it… And bring Fred Jacobs in to help us build the product. Nick, Tim and I had known Fred from ABC, and knew him to be one of the smartest people ever put on this Earth. That completed the formula… And then the fun began.
We had a great run for several years… We beat the LOOP straight up a couple of times, WITHOUT a morning show… And consistently ranked in the top 3 or 4 stations in Chicago for Men 25-54. We ultimately brought in some great heritage jocks, most especially the spectacular Patti Haze… And made A LOT of money for Cox. I count that experience as a true highlight of my radio tenure, and will never forget the great times and the great people associated with it. And, yes, Cox still has a bunch of Classic Rock stations, and they continue to flourish in their markets. But, it took the Chicago success to prove the viability of the format… That it could stand the test of time and remain a consistent, money-making format.
I’m glad Fred and his great team are being recognized for the 20th anniversary of CR. But, Fred should also be recognized as one of the true visionaries of our industry all across the rock spectrum… A genius if there ever was one… A great guy, a great consultant, and, to me personally, a great friend, then and now.
Thanks for the memories, Fred!