I call these my "glory days" back when I was popular. We had some serious ratings during this time. I'll tell you how it all happened. Long time friend Oscar Leverette went from WNEX to WMAZ to replace Steve Malone to sign on the radio station those days Bill Powell couldn't make it into work on time. There was a little giant of a radio station named FM99 in the next room. It was a machine. It played music and folks loved it.
Oscar was still our "part time" engineer at WNEX and most mornings he would tell me that he wanted me over there and that big things were happening and to be patient. He isn't one to just sit still and in this case he didn't. One day he told me that Fred Newton had been hired at Multimedia (then the owners of WMAZ Tv and Radio) and to call him. I think his words were, "Fred isn't going to call you to come over, but he will hire you if you call him and ask for the job." I should have figured, then, that something was seriously wrong with Fred when he said that. I called Fred that morning and we had lunch at River North. I think I had the burger.
That afternoon I handed in my resignation at the Big X after 6 years of mornings there. This was big because this would be the first live morning show on an all automated station. Fred had done the same thing at his old station WCRY / WPEZ.. Paul Beliveau (then the operations director of the radio division) loves to tell me the story about what Fred did after he hired me. He walks into Beliveau's office and says, "I think I just (messed) up. I just hired Elder."
I began on March 15, 1982 and the rest (as they say) is history. Under the eventual program directorship of Oscar and the skills of Janis Bridgeman and the direction of Paul Beliveau the station went on to break all kinds of ratings and money making records. At one point we pulled a 30.4 in the ratings. This was as good as it ever gets in the business. FM99 was a hit making money making machine. The sales staff literally took orders. If someone dropped off the air, there were plenty more waiting to take their place. Two or three years later we changed our call letters to 99WAYS. In my mind, this was the REAL 99WAYS, not the oldies station for which it is known today. After the public realized that we weren't going to change, we were in another groove.
Funny story: I was constantly getting in trouble for things I would say on the air. It was a catch 22, and management knew it and I knew it. Officially, they were making money from it because the comments were true. Once I said that the only way ASA airlines was able to make it to the Atlanta Airport was because they flew over the expressway. That's wasn't too bad, but one of their managers was coming through town and heard it. They pulled all of their advertising and never came back. Actually, ASA went away before I did. But their advertising space was replaced by another sponsor waiting in line. It was that kind of thing. Don't make the sponsor mad, and when you do we have more waiting to get on your show.
Being a part of the Multimedia family was a blessing and a curse. It was an added bonus to be associated with the popular local TV station, Channel 13. Once, I even was the host of a 3-D movie on that station (for charity) that won an award from CBS. We were the first station to introduce the BIG contest concept to the market. We had a Prize Catalog Contest that was so popular, it literally forced the other stations into huge contests just to keep up. Then there was the Boom Box. We bought it used from a station in California. One day this HUGE radio shaped Boom Box appeared at the National Guard Armory cross the street from the studios. It was a big hit at Parades and events.
It was a wonderful time to be in broadcasting. We broke listener records that will be around for a while. FM99 and 99WAYS had a "passion factor" with its listeners that was unbelievable. They truly felt it was their radio station, and it was. But as I know better than anybody, good times don't usually last long. We were in for a rude awakening. It was like being stuck on a train track in a stalled car. You see the engine coming and you can't go anywhere. Top 40 had forsaken us. The format was floundering and here was Country Music ready to take its place. 99WAYS was heading for a big change.