10 Questions with ... Bill Weston
May 31, 2016
1) What was your first job in radio?
6-10p, WKSN -- daytimer near my hometown. After sunset, my phones went strangely silent.
CKLW/Detroit, WGR/Buffalo, WCFL/Chicago, WABC/NYC
2) What led you to a career in radio?
I loved music. Carried a radio everywhere. Could think of no job cooler than playing music for people.
Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it?"
When I was allowed to run the board at a small station during a high school visit. I couldn't cue up the 45; my hands were shaking so bad. After it was over I was exhilarated. Hooked.
3) How long have you been at WMMR and what makes this station so unique?
Twelve-plus years ... best and longest run of my career. Private ownership makes a big difference. Having product-sensitive people in the upper echelon is key. I have to believe WMMR is America's longest running Rock station, playing new and familiar rock music for 48 straight years. We like to say we played the White Album when it was a current. That's pretty unique.
4) Preston & Steve have been an incredible success in morning drive for 'MMR. How do you manage such a major morning show?
Formal meetings twice a week. Informally all the time. They are a very manageable morning show. Meaning they listen. They also give me crap all the time in a good-natured way. It also means I do not micro-manage and am respectful of their time. Though they have been number #1 for nearly 10 years as WMMR's morning show, they have not lost a step time spent prepping their show and supporting sales and programming.
5) You also have an iconic Rock personality in middays with Pierre Robert. How long has he been at the station and what kind of working relationship do you have with him as far as a resource for music in the market?
Pierre is the heart and soul of WMMR. He is our spirit guide. The relationship with the listener is always top of mind. As big a radio legend there is (think as Muni was to NYC, Pierre is to Philly), it's his humility and passion that have kept him at the same station for 35 years! He still stops and shakes every hand with a smile and a "Greetings Citizen" no matter how late he is, which is often. His music influence within the station is significant- ranging from the MMaRchives (tons of historical live performances and classic interviews) and a predilection for both the classic MMR repertoire and the latest artists and musicians he champions, including recent sessions with Cage the Elephant, Kaleo, & The Struts..
6) Let's talk about the music on WMMR. The station has long been a heritage Rocker in Philadelphia. How do you balance the station's heritage cume while playing some of the new Active Rock out today?
With 48 years of history -- literally three generations of listeners -- we hope the less adventurous heritage cume tolerates and eventually accepts the newer artists we play, knowing we will return with a song within their comfort zone. Conversely, the younger cume understands when we play a classic '80s/'90s artist, we will soon return to something more contemporary. I feel as though all of MMR's audience feels that if it's on MMR, it's because it's good. Like anything, it's a balancing act.
7) There has been lots of discussion the last couple years about the music on Active Rock radio. What's your take on current rock music?
We are fortunate enough to have more rope than other rockers, based on our own competitive landscape. The 'Active format' and music offered therein is too tightly defined. Too many songs sounding very similar. WMMR is fortunate that we can grab the best from additional places, primarily Triple A and aAlternative to balance out our rock & roll stew.
8) Give us three "new" Rock Bands you think will have a bright future not only garnering major radio airplay, but selling records and filling arenas?
Nothing But Thieves, Royal Blood, Band of Skulls, Kaleo, The Record Company, Foals, The Virginmarys, Ghost, Struts, Joe Bonamassa. That's three squared. Plus one.
9) WMMR recently celebrated 48 years of Rock with a concert from Pearl Jam who played their debut album "10" in its entirety. Tell us about this special evening.
WMMR plays more Pearl Jam than any station in America, although Richards at KISW may refute that :). Live Nation commissioned a banner celebrating 10 arena sellouts from the band in Philly -- in similar fashion to the Flyers and Sixers banners hanging from the rafters at Wells Fargo Ctr.
On their second of two nights, Eddie took the mic, and shouted out Pierre Robert, Matt Cord and Nick McIlwain from the air staff and wished the station a happy 48th birthday finishing with, "Keep playing those records!" PJ then launched right into Let the Records Play and Spin the Black Circle. They started the night by playing 10 in its entirety for the first time since the early '90s. Cool, cool, cool!
10) Finally, as one of Rock radio's veteran programmers, I'm sure you have some great stories to tell. Can you share one of your classic "Rock Stories" with us?
I recall In Savannah when Guns and Roses came out to WIXV's Oatland Island studios after opening earlier that night for Motley Crue (maybe it was Aerosmith?). Though everyone credits MTV with breaking GnR, WIXV / I-95 did play them very early at the coaxing of my friends Bruce and Doug at Could be Wild and my local Geffen rep, George Cappellini. Axl slammed down a fifth of vodka on the studio counter and said, "Let's get this fucking party started."