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Published: Wednesday, 5/29/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

‘Radio reunion’ lets local DJs voice gratitude to former exec

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Peter Cavanaugh, center, greets Mark Benson during a dinner and reunion of local radio broad-casters at Manhattan’s Restaurant in the Uptown district. Mr. Cavanaugh, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and former Toledo radio broadcasting exec, put together the reunion. Peter Cavanaugh, center, greets Mark Benson during a dinner and reunion of local radio broad-casters at Manhattan’s Restaurant in the Uptown district. Mr. Cavanaugh, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and former Toledo radio broadcasting exec, put together the reunion.
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Tuesday night’s gathering of longtime local disc jockeys was to be an “informal Toledo radio reunion” of friends, former colleagues, and casual acquaintances of Peter Cavanaugh.

It’s only fitting, then, the reunion turned into a celebration of this former Toledo radio broadcasting executive, the one who brought them together this night at Manhattan’s Restaurant in Uptown, and for many, the man who gave them their first big industry opportunity.

Mark Benson, a radio veteran of more than three decades who handles mornings on classic rock station WXKR-FM, 94.5, said it was Mr. Cavanaugh’s appearance at a radio conference for college students in 1985 that got him “fired up about doing radio.”

Five years later, it was Mr. Cavanaugh, then-executive vice president and chief operating officer of Reams Broadcasting when it owned WIOT-FM, 104.7, and WCWA-AM, 1230, who paired Mr. Benson with a Flint radio talent he’d never met, Jeff Lamb.

The duo successfully anchored WIOT’s mornings as Jeff and Mark, “The Dawnbusters,” in the early 1990s. “He saw [the chemistry] . It was just one of those things that worked,” Mr. Benson said. “I don’t think I’d be doing mornings without him.

“He gave us a chance. I’ll always be grateful for that.”

Becky Shock, who broadcasts afternoons on “feel-good favorites” WRQN-FM, 93.5, started her radio career as an intern at WIOT. “I think how lucky I was to be 20 years old and to work in a place like that with someone like Peter, who encourages you and has you push your limits with things you’re not comfortable with,” she said. “He was always a big supporter.

“He’s someone I still talk to and bounce ideas off of. I’m just glad he’s someone who was in my life.”

Mr. Cavanaugh started in radio in 1957 at the age of 16 in his hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., where he met his wife of 49 years, Eileen. He worked in Utica, N.Y.; Des Moines, and Flint before settling in Toledo. He’s been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and has chronicled his broadcasting career in rock music’s formative years in the book Local DJ: A Rock ‘N’ Roll History.

Now 71, Mr. Cavanaugh is a private broadcast consultant and writer for McClatchy Newspapers and lives in Oakhurst, Calif.

Pat Clawson has known Mr. Cavanaugh for four decades, having met when Mr. Clawson was a young newspaper reporter in Flint who was breaking into radio. The former Washington bureau chief for the now-defunct industry trade publication Radio and Records considers his longtime friend one of radio’s great innovators, who made No. 1s of an AM and FM station in Flint and had great success in Toledo as well.

“Pete was never afraid to do anything innovative or creative in radio,” Mr. Clawson said. “He was always cutting-edge, he was always heavily local, and he was always fun to listen to.”

Some of Mr. Cavanaugh’s creative marketing ploys also made for anecdotes to be shared among his friends. Like the time he concocted a giveaway to Kathmandu, Nepal, as a play on Bob Seger’s hit “Katmandu,” as a radio promotion to a WIOT listener. Only a week or two before the trip, however, a government overthrow led to guerrillas storming the capital city. The trip was canceled.

Through the evening, Mr. Cavanaugh smiled, joked, and swapped stories, pausing every so often to walk to the microphone to introduce those who came to say hello, and then thanking them for their kind words.

“They are all my kids,” he said later, when asked about this reunion of radio friends and colleagues. “And I love them very much.”

Contact Kirk Baird at: kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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