HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WCCC-AM Memories
    Below you will find recollections from former WCCC (AM) employees.  If you used to work at WCCC and would like to share your story please contact us: admin (at) hartfordradiohistory.com

Interview with Ivor Hugh in 2008.

Ivor was Music Director at WCCC (AM) for over ten years starting in the early fifties.

 

“I started in radio in Hartford after I came from England in 1947.  I worked at WCCC which was owned by Bill Savitt at the time with studios in the old Bond Hotel on Asylum Avenue in downtown Hartford.  The station was in the basement which Savitt would refer to as the “lower mezzanine level”.  We were one of the first stations in the state that had music and news, and we sold “T N T” to our advertisers, time, news and temperature which was a big thing on the radio in those days believe it or not.  We were quite successful. I had a children’s show called “Big Brother Bill” along my “duck” Leroy on the air for many years.  Gave Bob Steel over at WTIC a run for their money as he was on at the same time. Radio was the only form of in-home entertainment back then.  We’d tell the kids where their presents were on Christmas Day because their parents would let us know via mail in advance. We had a huge listening audience in the late forties and early fifties.


The call letters WCCC stood for “We cover Ct’s Capitol.”

 

Bill (Savitt) would do his commercials for his jewelry store live on the air once and a while, and if we didn’t do them right he’s let us know. We had a wonderful staff; we’d get everyone together to do all of the commercials on Friday afternoon. Everything was done in-house then; there wasn’t any ad agency stuff.  We recorded directly on 12” blank wax discs, and we would cut the records from the wax. It was good time in radio

 

We had all of the stars come down to the Blue Room at the Hotel Bond, Eugene Normandy, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney.  Rosemary had the hit “Me and my Teddy Bear” which she sang live on the air.  Some of these people helped out at the Camp Courant parties at the Bushnell.

 

Guest artists to the ballroom were going on the air as part of the Sage Allen Classical Hour.  Mildred Allen had to approve all of the programming for that show!  “Good Afternoon Good Music” with host Joe Girard was a popular WCCC show, Bill Hennessey was with us as well, we were at the beginning of the music/news format.

 

WTHT, WPOP and WDRC were some of the other stations around.

 

Bill Savitt liked middle of the road music, Montavani was his favorite.

We had I remember Cantoral music, Italian and German music being played.  And all the pop tunes on “1290 Hits.” Most other station had specific programs but “1290 Hits” combined all the music of the day across genre lines.

 

 I was the Music Director for quite some time. We had a sports program.  I filled in for the regular announcer once but after that they would put out a staff memo saying that I would not be allowed to do sports because I couldn’t remember the names of the American teams.  I think I said something like “Boston 5, other team 2!”

 

WCCC was an innovative station, being at the Hotel Bond, we had many opportunities to interview people who performed in the ballroom or who stayed there, including politicians and VIPS.  Bill Savitt was very interested in developing Hartford so he was always looking for ways to promote Hartford.  We’d have short interviews on the air with the mayors of the local towns. We had the governor on quite often, and other politicians. 

 

Bill Savitt also got into TV as soon as he could by buying time to advertise his store on local stations. He had some very creative ads, including one where he was standing on his head!  He really did that; it wasn’t some kind of effect.  And he put on WCCC-FM in 1959 with the WQXR Classical music network; we would rebroadcast that in Hartford.

 

Opening up the FM station on the mountain was something.   Up until that point I was also on WHCN which at that time was a Classical station doing the Hartford Symphony on the Hartford Concert Network.  We were told to put WCCC-FM on the air and just did it.  We had a good staff, all pros, so it was routine.  WHCN was owed by Hastings back then.

 

I remember having to fill in for up to a half hour when the Hartford Symphony concert started late.  Had to ad lib in a way that would not offend the classical audience who had different sensibilities than our other audience who tuned in for popular music.  Al Colt(?) was the engineer and he had a huge studio and did lots of recording.

 

There was a time when no one was listening to FM. Even as late as 1968, AM was still king.  Even WTIC-FM’s classical format didn’t last too long.

 

The advent of the computer based sounds were the death knell for the classical orchestras. Prior to that time for instance, WTIC had their own orchestra!

 

After I left WCCC in the early sixties, I continued to work in Hartford radio.  I produced the public service program Panorama for 30 years on WPOP. I also produced WRCH’s “Rich Answers,” a public service program open to all faiths.  There was a time when stations had to by law do public affairs programming. 

 

I came to WJMJ in 1988 and hosted programs including quiz program for the Hartford Symphony on channel 18 as well. I go back so far that I worked at channel 8 when it was on channel 6!

 

I worked for WINF, a small station in Manchester, formally owned by The Hartford Times newspaper with the call letters WTHT.  I tried to do music and variety, but the less powerful signal made it hard to get listeners...

 

The biggest rival to WCCC was Frank Gross’s WKNB in Hartford which is now 840 AM, WRYM. 

 

 Bill Hennessey’s recollections of his time at WCCC, written in February, 2009.  Bill worked at WCCC (AM) from ‘54 – ’57):


    “I was at WCCC from the Summer of 1954 through Summer of 1957 – with weekday time-outs to return to Emerson College during school semesters. After matriculating in May of 1956, I was completely full-time until getting the ‘TIC job.  Bill Savitt was ecstatic for me, claiming that I was his first “boy” to move up to “the big leagues”.  However, that was not entirely true, except in the context of Hartford Radio.  Joe Girand (Girandola) had already migrated to WTHT and another ‘CCC alumnus, Jack Downey, had scored an even-bigger job in Philadelphia.  (Jack used to drive a little red Crosley automobile with the vanity license plate: “JDDJ” – initials for ‘Jack Downey, Disc Jockey’.)

“The WCCC studios were located along the left-hand side of a basement hallway, within aroma-reach of The Bond’s downstairs kitchens.  The largest room featured a glass-panelled wall from which visitors could view whatever was happening during studio usage.  The studio contained a grand piano and an RCA cutting lathe for making 10, 12, and 16-inch disc recordings.  The studio had a doorway that led to a much smaller step-up studio that also had a doorway that led into the control room.  Each room had windows looking onto each other.  The small studio was used for newscasts and/or celebrity seating during live interviews.  However, nearly all of the on-air originations emanated from the control room.  It had an RCA console with RCA rim-drive turntables: 2 facing the large studio and one on the opposite side.  The announcer sat in a roll-about chair at the console mike, and behind him were storage slots holding acetate discs filled with locally-produced commercials plus factory-made vinyl discs supplied by ad agencies.  Above the shelving were two Magnecord PT-6J tape recorders, placed side-by-side.  The control room studio was adequate, but jam-packed.

“Live bands performed regularly at The Bond ballroom in the penthouse – but ‘CCC was daytime-only and didn’t broadcast from there during my tenure.

“The station’s low power and restricted air-time made it competitive ONLY from sunrise to sunset.  However, I often stayed after sunset to pipe our “Good Evening, Good Music” segment into loudspeakers erected at public ice-skating parks.  Each large speaker was emblazoned with ‘WCCC” in large white letters.  As for ratings, we subscribed to Hooper and Pulse and always ranked well on a head-to-head basis – especially when we were the ONLY station playing music while the others carried network feeds.  (‘TIC was NBC, ‘DRC was CBS, ‘THT was ABC, and WONS was Mutual-plus-Yankee Network.)

“I don’t remember studios being used at the transmitter site, but it might have occurred outside of my tenure.

“I am unfamiliar with Savitt’s involvement with (FM), but am aware that Bill and Max were the original owners of Hartford’s first cable TV system (which they sold before it ever became operational).

          “Ralph Klein, a former script writer for network shows in NYC was the G.M.  A real low-key sweetheart of a guy. Muriel Davidson was his secretary.  Everyone loved her. Bert LaCoe was P.D. -- a 10th Mountain Division vet from WWII with a bum leg from combat wounds, but a hilarious sense of humor.  Eddie Kosaryn, a bouncy, jovial local boy, was the transmitter engineer... at the South Quaker Lane cinder-block antenna building.  John Brubaker and Everett Seltzer were salesmen -- on the road all day, but full of tall tales and super stories during Staff Meetings.  Zelda Swaller was the elderly bookkeeper.  Jack Brooks was News Editor and 'The Breakfast Newsboy', a really hard worker who scooped other stations regularly! Milt Berkowitz, New Britain correspondent for The Hartford COURANT was a weekend newsman.  Ivor Hugh was Music Director and host of 'Good Morning, Good Music'; 'Good Afternoon, Good Music'; and (yep!) 'Good Evening, Good Music'.  Bob Cummiskey (a former bellhop upstairs at the Bond Hotel!) was a daytime d.j. -- and I did afternoons and whatever-else-came along. Bill and Max Savitt co-owned the station, but seldom played any direct role in management. (Ivor Hugh, famous for the 'LeRoy the Duck' kids' show, did a dead-on imitation of Bill's voice in a character called 'Curtis Crocodile'.)  Bob Rachlin, a Yale law student, worked weekends. Bill Reed, an ex-GI enrolled at Trinity was also on-air between classes. Saul Stockman came aboard (before gaining fame and fortune under the name Paul Scott at WINS, NYC).  I left, taking a $5 pay cut, to join WTIC in 1957.  And later, other 'CCC alums Paul Gionfriddo and Dave Wilkinson became 'TICers too.  Jerry (Blume) Bishop was at 'CCC before becoming "the voice" at WDRC and onward-and-upward to L.A. and national voice-overs and coast-to-coast TV network shows. 
          “It was a closely-knit family of friends who meshed well in a happy atmosphere of daytime-only broadcasting -- and frequently socialized together outside working hours.  I used to really look forward to getting there each day 'cuz the wafting odors of the Hotel Bond downstairs kitchen were truly welcoming. And, of course, at 'CCC we had T.N.T.!  ("Time, News, and Temperature" every quarter-hour... .)

“WARNING:  I won’t vouch for the complete accuracy of everything I’ve mentioned here; ‘cuz my personal memory may be quite faulty.  However, I distinctly remember much of the stuff contained herein – especially regarding personnel, studios, and equipment.  And… I can still sniff the enticing odor of freshly-baked goodies seeping from the Bond Hotel ovens.  All of it brings back fond recollections."




Jack Brooks (Jack Broitman) worked at WCCC (AM) in the fifties:

 

    It seems appropriate to add to the recollections of Ivor and Bill, at least for the period of the 1950’s. for there are few of us left who populated the basement of the Hotel Bond in that time.

 

    I was hired in 1951 by Paul Martin, Program and Station Manager, a Philadelphian who had some novel ideas on how a 500 watt daytimer could make hay in a market dominated by the 50,000 watt WTIC and a slew of 5,000 watters.  It was he who conceived of TNT, Time, News, and Temperature every quarter hour, with newscasts on the hour and half hour, and a 15 minute newscast at noon. FIFTEEN MINUTES.

 

    He also conceived of the Breakfast Newsboy, a morning show just before the children’s show that Ivor did, that read news stories directly from the Hartford Courant, with their permission, interspersed with music, TNT and UPI news.  When I first began broadcasting as a staff announcer we took turns opening the station in the morning and we worked random shifts. Paul later made me the Breakfast Newsboy which meant that I opened the station five days a week.  Our license as a daytimer required that we not be on the air except during daylight hours. A little political persuasion somewhere down the line gave us permission to broadcast starting at 6 AM every day, regardless of sunrise. (December hours were supposed to be 7:15 Am to 4:15 Pm).  That meant that our signal before sunrise was pretty weak and had interference from the clear channel stations that had the rights to 1290. But that did not deter us from broadcasting.

 

    Some of the names from the early 50’s besides Ivor Hugh were Bob Cummiskey, Herb Brubaker, Walt McGowan and Bob Pease that I remember. Soon after my arrival Burt LaCoe, Everett Seltzer and others joined us.  I remember auditioning Bill Hennessy, Jerry Bloom, and Saul Stockman.  Saul actually had come down from Boston with a friend who was looking for a job at WCCC.  The friend auditioned and was so-so. On a whim I asked Saul if he would take a stab at it. His voice was rich and deep. After a little persuasion he did, and we hired him on the spot, much to the chagrin (rightly so) of the friend who brought him down.

 

    The morning shift was a lonely one for at least the first two hours, until Ivor came in for his show and the others began to show up.  I did have some early morning visitors of another sort.  One day it was the Hartford Fire Department, because the air conditioner for the windowless studios began to smoke. The belt driven motor was overworked. Lights went out all through the WCCC area and the only power we had was to the board, disc machines and tape recorders. The only light I had was the meter on the board….from which to read the stories from the Hartford Courant.  I casually mentioned the firemen coming in and out of the control room until Bill Savitt called and told me to stop.  After all we were in the basement of the biggest hotel in Hartford.

 

    Another unexpected visitor early one morning was the burly truck driver who popped in while I was on the air and wanted to know where to put the FM antenna he had on his truck.  Assuming he was talking about some rooftop job I suggested that he could bring it down and leave it the hall.  When he told me that it was 40 feet long on a flatbed truck outside on Asylum Street I figured I’d better call somebody.  That FM antenna is the one on top of Avon Mountain, or at least the first of the two that are there now.

 

    Bill and Ivor both referred to Friday afternoon recording sessions. That was when Burt LaCoe would stand at the disc cutter, put 16 inch platters on, and we would proceed to record the next week’s worth of material. My specialties were Savitt Jewelers, Castro Convertibles and Manischevitz Wine, each of which had as many as 15 one minute spots. Every goof was grease-crayoned out in yellow.  As the afternoon wore the discs showed more and more yellow on them.

 

    My job later also involved being chief announcer and news director, and nominally Program Director.  The latter job was mostly held by the manager, Ralph Klein who succeeded Paul Martin. But I did work out announcer shifts, and as News Director did have some say as to stories we would cover.  Perhaps the biggest and longest story was the floods of 1955. I attended Governor Ribicoff’s twice daily news conferences in his office at the Capitol, and had interviews with then Congressman Tom Dodd, survivors of flooded Winsted and other communities and through that became familiar with the State Capitol, the lawmakers, and the way the State was run.  John Dempsey in those days was Ribicoff’s chief of staff.

 

    After nine years of a really good time at WCCC I was recruited by WPOP to be their News Director…enticed by a better salary and a lot of flattery by Phil Zoppi and Del Raycee.  But that is whole other story.

 

    One last word.  Bill Hennessy remembers the smells of the Hotel Bond bakery. I’d like to make sure that you all know that the studios and offices of WCCC were in the basement of the Hotel along with the tailor shop, the barber shop and Men’s room of the Hotel.  I am a close friend to this day with a man who was one of the barbers, Sal Coccolla.

Bart Mazarella worked at WCCC in 1970:

I occupied the 11pm - 6am slot doing overnights at WCCC for a short while back in 1970 splitting my time as the mid-day host in Middletown (WMMW), until I was overcome by physical exhaustion and could not continue.  I recall that Rusty Potz, ("Potz on the Program!", was the morning DJ at the time.  My good friend, John "Leonard" Stanizzi, came over with hot soup in the middle of the night as he heard me slurring my words and become worried about me.
I think I may have been hallucinating on the air while he and his wife were listening in East Hartford.

Don Blair:

...somewhere in those years...the 1960's...after I got booted out of POP (a move instigated by the late Morton "Doc" Downey)....I ended up doing several jobs from WDEE in Hamden...to WHYN in Springfield, Channel 30 in
West Hartford....and....for a series of weekends...WCCC.  There's TNT on CCC....Time, News, and Temperature.  The weekends that I worked also were using Bobby Scott (now over on the east coast of Florida in a GINN community
where not much is selling) and Gerry Blume/Blair,Bishop, ex of WDRC.  Thats a story in itself.  Bob and I witnessed one of the funniest incidents of all times when Bishop tried to read the news during one of our deejay stints.  I wish I had a tape of Gerry trying to get out the word ...phenomena...over and over again.  We were falling on the floor.

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