Monday, August 11, 2014

Bob Steel, A.K.A. "Michael O'Sullivan" Checks In!

OH BOY!  I'd tried to reach Bob Steel via several means- and had missed him by mere minutes when I was in Little Rock back in 2011- but it was through LinkedIn that I was able to get a message to him- and he replied almost immediately!  Bob is a consummate broadcaster and many, many people love his style.  We've posted about Bob a couple of times here on the blog...just type in "Bob Steel" in the upper left-hand corner in the search box.

Here we go!  Without further delay, is what Bob sent me for the blog:

"It was nice to hear from you.  I worked at KAAY in the News Department Monday through Fridays and on Saturday mornings I did “Solid Gold Weekend” until noon.  We all worked six to seven days a week but always at least six.  They gave me the name Michael O’Sullivan.  Michael O’Sullivan was actually the Chief Accounting Officer for the LIN Broadcasting System.  I thought that was kinda funny because I was never very good with math and I thought Bob Steel was a pretty good air name.  It’s my real name too!  Pat Walsh explained to me that he had purchased signs on the back of Yellow Cabs with caricatures of the jocks –and if any of them left, he didn’t have to change the signs.   “You're Michael O’Sullivan,” he said.
I started at KAAY during the summer of 1971.  Pat Walsh was the General Manager.  Sonny Martin (Matt White) was the morning man with George J. Jennings doing the news.  I worked as a field reporter until 3 o’clock in the afternoons and then I anchored the news across from Bob Robbins. (Bob Spears)  Nick Markel was the News Director (Mitch Michaels.)  Jack Lee (Gary Souheaver – pronounced sigh heaver) did mid-day news.   There were 4 of us in the news department but I was the only guy that ever went out to news conferences.
I did fill-in once for Dale Seidenschwarz, air name: Clyde Clifford when he was on vacation.  He was the voice of Beaker Street.  I will never forget doing that shift.  I only had a 3rd Class License and so I did the show from the studio and an engineer was at the transmitter.  In those days the FCC required an on duty engineer to be at the transmitter.   I got two letters the week after I did Beaker Street…one was from a sailor on an Aircraft Carrier and the other was from Cuba!
It was a great radio station.  We carried the Arkansas Razorback football games and Pat Walsh was a brilliant marketer of the station.  We had all kinds of contests and promotional events.  We did remotes from the “Fun Mobile” and they were frequent.  The station was a powerhouse number 1 when I worked there and the signal went miles and miles at night –north and south – it truly became the “50,000 watt Giant.”
I got the job in a weird way.  The News Director, Nick Markel, was fishing on Lake Conway on a weekend when I was working at KCON in Conway.  He heard me reading the news and contacted me the following Monday and asked me if I would like to apply for a job as he was losing one of his reporter/anchors to Memphis.  She was African American and I can’t remember her name.  I was in summer school at UCA going to work on the GI bill and only lacked 16 hours to graduate with a major in Journalism.  I thought I would just take the summer off and work there for a while and then go back to school.  I never returned!  I have spent the majority of my life in broadcasting with a couple of breaks at advertising agencies as an public relations account executive.
The funniest thing I remember:  I was on my way home from work one night.  My radio was tuned to KAAY even though “The World Tomorrow” was on.  We featured famous radio preacher Garner Ted Armstrong from 6 'til 7 each night and then went back to Rock n’ Roll.   As I was driving through downtown Little Rock this booming voice came over the airwaves:  “Steel, you forgot your lunch pail.”   It was Jerry Don Pitcock (Jim Pitcock’s brother).  I turned around and went back to the station to retrieve my lunch pail and then went into the control room.  I said, “I can’t believe you did that!”  Without missing a beat…Jerry Don said, “No body listens to that (stuff).”
I was at KAAY for a couple of years.  It remains one of the best times of my life.  I was young and just out of the service.  It was fun and KAAY was on the cutting edge of everything cool.  I remember riding with the winners of a KAAY contest in a double decker English bus for a rollin’ party with the KAAY staff and Paul Revere and the Raiders….or at least with the lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders, Mark Lindsay.  He was a great guy and the staff and the contest winners had a ball that night.
I was the voice of “Aunt Blabby” for the Castle Shop.  I did impersonations of Richard Nixon, John Wayne, Ed Sullivan and others for “The Little Red Barn” – a local head shop.  The impersonations were pretty good but I now realize that everyone I impersonated is dead.  LOL
I remember going into the production room after my air shift to cut a spot one night.  There was a cardboard box in the chair.  I picked it up and the lid flew open.  It was full of money!  I counted it.  It was $10,000 dollars!  I called Pat Walsh.   He said, “oh that money is for Children’s Hospital – it’s from the benefit concert that Black Oak Arkansas did last night.  Just leave it there and I’ll get it to them on Monday.”
Wayne Moss was the program director.  That was his real name.  He was a strict taskmaster.  Phil North was the evening jock.  I don’t remember his real name but his voice was amazing and he was big time.  He got a job in Chicago right before I left KAAY.  I remember doing his shift while they were looking for someone to replace him.  They sent in a guy to observe me running the board --- they were going to hire this guy.  The show was fast paced and very busy.  I was showing off a little – cueing records, punching spots, answering the phone and recording listener requests with the reel to reel and then retrieving the records… going as fast as I ever had.  The guy didn’t take the job. When he turned down the job, Wayne Moss said, “What did you say to this guy?”  I said, “I didn’t even talk to him much.  It was a wild night.  The phones were on fire and I didn’t have time to talk to him.” .  I think watching me run that board scared him off.
I left KAAY to take a job as a reporter for KATV Channel 7.  I remember the day I told Pat Walsh.  I said, “Mr. Walsh, I’ve been offered a job at Channel 7 to be a reporter there and it represents quite an increase in pay.  I’ve got a wife and a baby and I need to take this job."   He said, “You don’t need to take that job, you’re only 23 years old man and you’re working at a 50,000 watt radio station, one of the top stations in the country!”  I said, “I know, I love it here but I can’t eat those watts.”  He laughed and wished me well.  We remained friends throughout my career and until his death many years ago.  I had lunch with him at least once a month.
Hope this helps.  Thanks for preserving KAAY broadcast history.
All the best,

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