(CBS 11 NEWS) – This summer we have been featuring top summer songs going back to 1958. Songs you may remember fondly. And one man that created those memories for us was Rick Sklar.
Sklar was born in Brooklyn NY and graduated from New York University. He started at WNYC/New York and then WPAC/Patchogue NY. In 1954 (the year I was born) he moved to WINS/New York where he was the assistant program director and working with personalities such as Alan Freed. By 1960, he moved to WMGM as program director and competitor to WINS. By 1962, he made the move that made him famous: joining WABC/New York and by 1963 he was named program director.
For nearly 20 years, under Rick’s leadership, WABC became the #1 Top 40 station not only in the New York market, but in the entire USA (based on absolute number of listeners). The station, branded as MusicRadio 77, was a powerful AM station with 50,000 watts of power 24/7 with a non-directional signal and transmitter/tower in New Jersey, meaning that its signal pattern was a perfect circle. In addition, given the nature of the New Jersey topography and soil type, the signal was even stronger. No other station in North America within a 750- mile radius of WABC could operate on the 770 frequency at night (even today it still operates with these operating parameters).
While as program director, Sklar developed the model for Top 40 stations: tight playlists, teen oriented, great personalities, and top-notch promotions. Some of the most famous radio personalities were there under his direction: Harry Harrison (“The Morning Mayor”), the late Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, “Cousin” Bruce Morrow, Chuck Leonard, Murray The K, and many more. It was one of a kind for New York, like other stations such as KHJ/Los Angeles, WLS/Chicago, and KLIF/Dallas. Well-managed, well-programmed, and well promoted.
By 1982, the days of AM Radio dominating with young oriented music formats was gone as FM Radio took over. WABC flipped to an all-talk format and continues today with it. It has had several owners since being owned by ABC and today is a Cumulus radio station. Sklar left ABC in 1984 and formed his own consulting firm. He also was the author of “Rocking America” which no doubt has been read by many a radio program director.
In 1992, Sklar entered Roosevelt Hospital for what was to be some minor surgery that would allow his to continue running as part of his personal exercise routine. He had been an avid runner well over 10 years and had run in the NYC Marathon in 1982. While he was in overall good health, he died on the operating table due to a lack of oxygen. He died on June 22, 1992.
He was posthumously inducted into the National Radio Hall Of Fame in 1993.
Listen to Dan Ingram of WABC from April 19, 1973…..executing the Sklar plan!!