A Look Back at the MAB: The 60s

  • J.P. McCathy

    Michigan entered the 1960s with 104 licensed AM radio stations, 41 licensed FM stations and 22 licensed television stations. On the radio, J.P. McCarthy began to “rule the roost” on WJR/Detroit. Ernie Harwell began providing radio commentary for the Detroit Tigers. Martha Jean “The Queen” Steinberg came to Detroit in 1963, first working at WCHB, then at WJLB. She played rhythm and blues and later soul and gospel music. During the 1967 Detroit riots, she calmed the rioters by preaching and praying on her radio show.

  • The power of television increased dramatically in the 1960s. When a tanned, relaxed John F. Kennedy debated a tired, pale Richard M. Nixon in 1960, their faces had more impact on viewers than their words. Television became America’s collective memory. TV covered Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, escalating war in Vietnam, antiwar protests and the 1967 Detroit riots.
  • In 1967, Congress became convinced of the need for a national educational radio and TV network and passed the Public Broadcasting Act, paving the way for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR). Michigan schools and colleges established stations to broadcast courses and to give students hands-on broadcasting experience.
  • Just before the decade began, Berry Gordy Jr. borrowed $800 to start up a recording business, opening Motown Records in a rented house on Detroit’s West Grand Boulevard. By 1964, Motown was the largest and most successful independent record company in the country. Part of his successful formula was mixing his songs to sound good on transistor and car radios. The 1960s also introduced the country to Michigan’s Bob Seger. Dave Marsh of Rolling Stone Magazine once said “In Michigan, (Bob Seger) might as well be a Beatle.”
  • MAB Presidents/Chairmans through the association’s second decade included James H. Quello, WJR/Detroit (1959); Elmer A. Knopf, WFDF/Flint (1960); Don DeGroot, WWJ/Detroit (1961); Les Biederman, WTCM/Traverse City (1962); Willard Schroeder, WOOD/Grand Rapids (1963); E.L. Byrd, WILS/Lansing (1964); Harold W. Waddell, WKBZ/Muskegon (1965); Michael O. Lareau, WOOD/Grand Rapids (1966); Charles D. Fritz, WXYZ/Detroit (1967); Gene Ellerman, WWTV/Cadillac (1968); and Franklin G. Sisson, WWJ/Detroit (1969).

MAB Annual Meeting (exact year unknown…circa 60s/70s):