Thirty years ago today, Michael Damsky began his radio career as a sales account executive at the former WFYR. As ambitious as he may have been, he never imagined he'd someday become president and general manager of WLS-AM/FM (890/94.7), one of the most fabled institutions in Chicago broadcasting.
"I grew up listening to WLS-AM and Dick Biondi, as everybody did, and I really got turned on to progressive music from the old WLS-FM of the late '60s," said Damsky, 60, who succeeded Michael Fowler as boss of the two Citadel Broadcasting stations Friday. "So to be sitting in this office is really unbelievable." Damsky, who most recently was vice president and director of sales at WLS, previously spent 24 years at CBS Radio adult rock WXRT-FM (93.1), where he rose through the sales ranks to become vice president and general manager. He also played a key role in the launch of CBS sports/talk WSCR-AM (670).
At the news/talk AM and oldies FM, Damsky faces some critical challenges at a time when the stations' parent company is under the pressure of bankruptcy protection. First and foremost among his goals is to revitalize the program department on the AM side. Hinting at major moves to come, Damsky said:
"My top priority is make sure WLS is being programmed to best showcase the talent that we have. We have great individual shows, but now we need to maximize their value and restore the luster of the WLS brand."
Damsky won't talk about specifics for now, but in separate meetings this week with his station's top personalities -- including Don and Roma Wade, Mancow Muller and Roe Conn -- he left no doubt that he respects their contributions and values their input. Among other things, he didn't rule out a comeback for news anchor Ron Magers as a regular contributor to Conn's afternoon show, now co-hosted by Cisco Cotto.
Still uncertain is the long-term future of Pat Cassidy, who has been co-hosting middays with Muller on WLS-AM since last year. Cassidy is believed to be weighing a standing offer to return to CBS Radio all-news WBBM-AM (780), where he previously anchored mornings with Felicia Middlebrooks.
On the FM side, Damsky and program director Michael LaCrosse are narrowing the list of candidates to replace Brant Miller, whose contract was not renewed as morning personality earlier this month. Given Damsky's personal history, it's a cinch that Biondi is safe as the nighttime star of the "True Oldies" station -- which is very good news indeed.
Elsewhere on the media beat: