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Dedicated in memory
if any people have worked at WPGC so many times with so many names!
Today, Ed Gursky is retired from the Voice of America as Chief
of the Music Branch.
'Todd Reynolds' in 1971
Ed Gursky today.
Reynolds / Ed Kowalski / Ed McNeal writes:
Growing Up With WPGC:
first visit to 'PGC was in the summer of '65 between my high school
graduation and starting my freshman year at American University.
I went to the Parkway Building to visit Gentleman
Jim Madison (Walt Rubin) one Sunday evening when he was doing
the 6p-Mid shift. There had been a "Gentleman
Jim Hanlon", the first "Gentleman Jim" as I
recall on 'PGC briefly in '64 when the station first expanded
its FM broadcasts beyond AM
sign-off. He didn't last long, and was replaced by Marv
Brooks. Remember, living in Montgomery County, it was tough
trying to listen to 'PGC on 1580, especially with WINX on the
second adjacent frequency at 1600 kHz. Keep in mind, too, that
there were no FM car radios in '64. I listened to WWDC or WEAM
during the day, and then DX'ed at night, usually to WBZ / Boston
/ New York.
His Ever Changing Names:
the Mr. Ed name chronology at WPGC: From
11/70 - 3/72, I was Todd Reynolds. I don't recall the exact genesis
of the name, but I did consider myself fortunate not to wind up
with one of the myriad "circus names" given to talent
by Bob Howard, e.g., Columbus,
Raleigh Sr./Jr./III (yes, really ... albeit briefly). "big"
Wilson (he spelled it just that way) didn't want me to use
the Chuck O'Neal airname I employed at WEAM.
So I was Todd Reynolds at WPGC from November '70 until March '72,
when I left to be music director for the never-to-hit-the-air
late-1975, after WYRE
changed hands from Erny Tannen / Marvin Mervis / Kerby (Scott)
Confer ownership to Syd Abel, I got tired to Syd's attempts to
of Annapolis, and walked as WYRE's
Program Director. A few days later, I called Jim
Collins to ask if I could use the Production Room to make
dubs of my audition tape. He agreed, and asked me to leave him
a copy. I did, and wound up getting the weekend overnight gig.
As I recall, they had moved Marty
Dempsey up to Sat / Sun nights after dumping the syndicated
Wolfman Jack show, and returning
to live and local on Saturday nights. The Ed Kowalski name was
an embellishment of Booker T. Kowalski, a pseudonym derived as
part of a drinking game (the rules required all participants to
make up a phony name for themselves, and at the time, the hardest
stuff I was touching was Pepsi!) played on a visit with Dennis
Waters and crew when he was at 13Q in Pittsburgh in the summer
of '75. I didn't feel like perpetuating the Mr. Ed moniker, so
we went with Ed Kowalski. In March 1976, I split for the PD gig
returning from Pittsburgh in late-1977, I was looking for something
to fill the time before my FCC gig came through. Dan
Mason was shuffling the chairs at 'PGC after Brant
Miller went to WLS.
He hired me for part-time, starting in December '77. I will never
forget my conversation with Dan once the subject turned to jock
names. He asked me what name I wanted to use. I told him I had
used Ed Kowalski during my last stint, and felt quite comfortable
with it. He replied, quoting now, "Naw ... naw, that's too
ethnic. How 'bout your real name?" I'm thinking to myself
"Say wha? Kowalski's 'too ethnic,' but Gursky's OK?"
Rather than challenge Dan's thought processes, I just said I'd
prefer keeping my real identity private. We agreed on McNeal after
browsing the phone book. Actually, the McNeal came from the first
names of two of my gal pals at the time, Mickey and Nila, two
PG County schoolteachers. Ed McNeal lasted until I left 'PGC for
the last time in August 1978. (Interestingly enough, though, Dan
did call me when Jerry Clifton went into 'PGC, to let me know
they were looking for weekend jocks. I declined, however, saying
I wasn't into the urban stuff they were playing (although it would
have been an incredible fit for Booker T. Kowalski!)) Ray Quinn
at WCBM had no problem with my using Ed Kowalski there.
working there as many times as I did, I can think of a few folks
who stopped by twice (Jim Collins,
Dino Del Gallo, Linda
Kelly immediately come to mind) but never a third. QUICK!
CALL GUINNESS, AND TELL 'EM TO STOP THE PRESSES. WE HAVE A NEW
Others At The Station At The Time:
along: "big" Wilson's
handle came from, you guessed it,
Bob Howard. "big" was removed as PD when the shit
hit the fan as a result of the Chris
James phone call that got on the air during Harry Chapin's
"Taxi", shortly after 6 PM one unforgettable Sunday.
He went on the air in late-Summer '72 to do 6p-Mid. Second song
into the show was "Taxi." He gets on a business line
and calls his girlfriend . Previous jock Brad
Scott had left the studio Ampex tape deck in record position
WITH the pot on the board UP AND OPEN. Phone call goes on the
air over "Taxi." James doesn't know, has monitor potted
down. Several profanities, but never the F-bomb. Finally, a listener
who was working at the Mobil station over the hill called the
newsline to tell James that his call is going on the air, adding
"and so is this one!" James quickly figures what has
morning, shit hits the fan at the PIG. Bob
Howard learns of episode. James is fired. BoHo also discovers
several other shady deals Wilson
has pulled. Howard strips Wilson
of PD stripes, gives 'em to Harv
Moore. Shortly thereafter, Wilson
moved to overnight remotes, including board op (!), and sales
before taking remote idea to WEAM
a short time later. I actually heard the phone call on the air.
Since that day, I have never been able to listen to "Taxi"
without expecting to hear a phone conversation in the background.
lost track of him after he left DC around '74-'75 (that saga would
take more words than I have time for now.) Then in '82, when I
was at the FCC, I read in one of the trades where he was Program
Director at WNOK in Columbia, SC, a market-leading CHR pulling
double-digit shares. This was just before I was taking a week
off to visit friends in Myrtle Beach. So I took one day of my
vacation, and drove to Columbia for lunch. It wasn't too much
later that a competitor came into the market, cut 'NOK's shares
in half, and "big" was outta there.
in '90 or '91, someone, don't remember who, called to say he would
be featured on Hard Copy or another of those tabloid TV
shows. The show aired at 3 in the morning, so I set the VCR. Turned
out that he was running his own chimney sweep biz. He also was
having an affair with some low level (Clerk of the Court or Register
of Wills) government official from one of the rural counties.
They had split up right before the election. Word of the tryst
got out just before Election Day. The girlfriend was defeated.
She was taking him to court for alienation of affection, and also
claiming that he leaked word of their affair as a vendetta for
the break-up. IT'S DAMNED SCANDALOUS, I TELL YOU! (I then understood
why Channel 4 buried the show in the middle of the night.) That
was the last I've heard of him. I will never forget, however,
the video of him on someone's roof, wearing a top hat, preparing
to stuff the brush down the chimney, all the while flashing his
for Paul Cavanaugh, he was
a Jersey boy who worked at WINX
while attending AU in the late-60s. I hired him at WYRE
to replace Dino Del Gallo
when he went back to 'PGC. Paul was part of the staff displaced
by the May 1977 AFTRA strike. He later worked for Kerby / Paul
(Rothfuss) Rodgers in Williamsport, PA, at the AM/FM combo that
was the seed for Keymarket Communications. Sadly though, Paul
died sometime around '91-'92. He was still in Williamsport at
the time. After replacing the hot water heater in his home, he
had to head off to work before getting the thing completely installed.
He went to a neighbor's house to clean up, and suffered a fatal
heart attack while taking a shower. [Gee, honey. Paul's been in
there an awful long time. Hope he doesn't use all the hot water.
I've gotta do a load of white clothes.]
The Redhead. The character
was a long-running member of Harv's
cast. At first, it was Beverly
Burch, the station receptionist in the '60s. She had red hair,
although I'm told it was not naturally red. The one shown on the
playlists was Joanie Fierstein
She arrived at the station sometime in '73, I believe.
The Parkway Building Facilities In Bladensburg:
Howard wanted damn near everything done as cheaply as possible.
Any new broadcast equipment was always made by CCA. Consoles,
turntables, even new cart machines. CCA cart machines were incredibly
noisy yielding an audible (on-air) clunk on start-up. The construction
was noticeably shoddy. The cases were made with 1/2-inch plywood
covered with Contac paper, something we learned when the side
of one of the units got ripped, and we peeled part of the Contac
paper off of the machine. Only a near revolt by the airstaff convinced
him to buy the ITC triple stacks that were WPGC workhorses for
years to come. The Gra-Lab photo timers
(there was one for each of the two turntables) were used to countdown
song intros. We had NO digital timer. In those days, you had to
know how the songs ended.
were still ALL vinyl in 1971. I'm unsure when the station began
putting music on cart. I do know, however, that even when I worked
for Jim Collins in '75-'76,
we were still playing SOME oldies from disc. It wasn't until Dan
Mason became Program
Director that the station went all-cart. In 1971, the current
music was broken into five categories (A-E, with A's being the
equivalent of "powers"; B's were "medium";
C's were the "recurrents"; D's were album cuts, E's
were the new adds.). The countertop cabinetry for the console
extended out on both sides to house the turntables. It was very
those days, you respected the turntables, knowing that the slightest
bump could produce drastic results. Cue burns were rare, and usually
the result of cheap vinyl used for the pressings. Most of the
major labels (Columbia, Epic, WB, Atlantic, etc.) used the good
stuff. Keep in mind that 'PGC's place in the market allowed Harv
to ask for and get a minimum of 10-12 copies of a single once
a title was added to the chart.
that's me in the "#1" photo on the right. The shot
was taken of me sitting at my dad's shortwave rig at our apartment
on Connecticut Avenue in NW DC. I don't recall how old I was
at the time. It was circa 1950.
Thanks to Jonathon Wolfert at
JAM for the above).
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