Friday, May 23, 2008

DICK MEEDER-THE BEST GM I DIDN'T WORK FOR


The passing of Dick Meeder made me think of all the G.Ms that I have worked for during my years programming radio.

Pierre Bejano-WTAI-1968

Ted Eiland-WKKO-1970

Jack Curran-WORJ-1972

Irv Uram-WGVL-1977

Jim Johnson-WQXM (98ROCK) 1978

Steve Marx-WAAF-1978

Ralph Barnes-WQFM-1981

Mike Solon-WLLZ-1986

Some were great at what they did. Some were “dear” friends. Some left me alone to do my job. Others meddled constantly. Some were generous and out going. Some were cheap. Some were leaders. Some were afraid of leaders.

I was hired by Dick Meeder to be P.D. of 96Rock in Atlanta in 1984.

He flew into Milwaukee. We had lunch and talked. We hit it off immediately. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I was hired by Ralph Barnes at WQFM in Milwaukee in 1981, I had just spent the past 3 years in the Record Biz. I was National Album Manager at RCA and then VP Promotion at a start-up label named Third Coast Records in Chicago. I missed my first love, RADIO, horribly. When the PD job at WQFM came open, I jumped at it. The pay was abysmal, but there were promises of a big raise after a year or so. I remember going in to Ralph’s office after about 18 months and begging for that raise. We had beaten our direct competitor, WLPX, 2 or 3 books in a row. It was time, and I desperately needed the money. I was making $35,000 a year and needed $50,000. Ralph told me, “The only way you’ll make $50,000 is to quit and go somewhere else”. He wasn’t kidding. This made me really sad. I loved Milwaukee and my staff at WQFM. I didn’t want to leave. I had built a life there and had many friends, but I was starving. I had children to raise. About a month later that lunch with Dick Meeder occurred. Like I said, we really hit it off. He offered me $50,000 a year to go to Atlanta. I accepted it on the spot.

The only problem was Ralph was out of town at GM meetings in Florida with the owner of WQFM. He wouldn’t be back for a week. I couldn’t wait until he got back to tell him.

That would be unfair to give him less than 2 weeks notice. I called him on the phone and resigned. Ralph freaked. He said, “Why didn’t you give me a chance to match the offer?”

I said, “But you told me I had to quit to get that kind of money”. “Will you stay if I can match the offer?” he asked. I didn’t want to leave so I said,”Yes”.

He called me back 20 minutes later. “OK, Ahole, you got the $50,000”.

I took a deep breath and called Dick Meeder to UNTAKE the 96ROCK job. It was the hardest phone call that I’ve ever made in my Radio career. I really liked him. I wanted to go there, but not uprooting my family was the right thing to do. And I hadn’t finished the job yet at WQFM. I had promised that I would drive our competitor out of the Rock format and that hadn’t happened yet.

Dick got on the phone and instead of being angry at the news, he really understood and said “Lee, I’d do the same thing if I was you. Family stability should always come first. We’ll work together some other time. Good luck and don’t worry about it. I understand.” (He had already press released the news of my hiring and it was already in the Atlanta newspaper). Sadly, we never did get to work together, but I’ve never forgotten what a great guy Dick Meeder was. He was sincere and caring in the way that he dealt with me that day. He is the Best GM that I’ve ever not worked for. He will be missed!!!

Footnote: As it turned out, it was the right decision. We did put WLPX away. They left the format a year later. We were alone, on top with an 8.5 share. Eventually, I left to work for Dave Martin at Doubleday in Detroit where I met Doug Podell. Doug and Dave are still two of my Best Friends in the world. And my family situation turned out better for it as well. I still wonder, though, what it would have been like to work for Dick Meeder.

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