In the Suburbs / Value of AM radio can't be overestimated

The Connecticut Post recently reported that AM radio is alive and well, but the most successful area stations, like WICC, have maintained their strong positions and following because management has marketed effectively. The Cumulus media company, owners of the station along with many others across the country, has a knack for giving listeners what they want and adjusting if something isn’t working.

I couldn’t agree more. In the nearly 37 years we’ve lived in Connecticut, aside from the 13 years I commuted to Manhattan, during driving commutes to Stamford and Hartford I’ve tried many of the easy-listening FM music stations and occasionally rock stations. But I’ve always come back to WICC for the morning commute and WEBE for after school and weekends. And in the last six years, since I’ve been traveling locally from Fairfield, Bridgeport and now Stratford, I’ve come to consider my early morning rides with Mike Bellamy and Tony Reno like being with family.

Kellie Quinn with traffic and Bill Jacqueman for the weather round out the team and always make for lively coverage. And occasionally, I’ve caught a quick report from my friend Ed Katz about theater and movies, but his coverage comes more toward 7 a.m. and unfortunately I’m already at school.

The passing of WICC’s original traffic reporter in the sky, Morgan Kaolian, this past week reminded me of times I heard his traffic broadcasts and commentary. He will be sorely missed by so many faithful listeners

On the morning after Kaolian’s death, touching comments from former colleagues on WICC about Morgan, the man and the humanitarian clearly showed that.a key member of their broadcast family was gone and those of us listening felt the loss too.

Every morning, Mike Bellamy gives one of his “Bad Decisions” and the short clips are definitely among my favorites. The bumbling idiots that Mike speaks about daily really go to extremes like stealing pills that the thief thought were Oxycodone only to discover the hard way were laxatives. Since I always like a good laugh in the morning, Mike provides it and Tony chimes in with some kind of Aha or groan to reinforce the stupidity of these decisions.

What also draws me to the morning show is the fact that Mike is from Chicago and so am I. He even knows one of my cousins, the famous Freddie Savage from the old “Wonder Years” program, and he spoke about playing baseball with Freddie way back. I do know that Freddie’s family lived in Glencoe, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago, so I assume Mike originally lived out that way also. I was going to call Mike that morning, but had to get to school.

And hearing Tony talk about the things that upset his wife makes me feel right at home.

After 53 years, I’m used to the same routine with my wife when I somehow do something that upsets her. Tony’s such a sincere guy. What’s not to forgive?

I love the show and find the guys’ commentary about national and state issues, politics, taxes, local crime and so many other things to be very valuable. I was even lucky enough to win the birthday cake last August and, of course, missed the reading of my name on the air. But friends told me.

In the afternoon, when school is over, I turn on Clark Howard for my financial updates and great advice about all aspects of investing, travel deals, Clarkrageous moments and financial pot holes to avoid. Clark’s show is excellent.

After Clark, enter Dave Ramsey and his amazing tips about how to get out of debt and stay there. Ramsey has written guide books on debt relief and offers classes to help folks clean up their credit once and for all. I used to think I had debt challenges until I started listening to Dave Ramsey’s callers. What an eye opener that has been.

Clearly, WICC has written the bible on successful AM radio broadcasting, outlasting a whole range of other stations who haven’t made it in this market. Led by Station Manager Danny Lyons, this station has the right formula for continued success and the right advertising and promotion to stay on top. I certainly hope that happens.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at