Frank Harden and Jackson Weaver stayed on top in the summer ratings race despite having fewer opportunities to chatter and do comedy bits than ever before at WMAL-AM (630). They registered a 7.8 share of listeners 12 and older, according to Arbitron's summer survey, despite a continuing series of handoffs to news, traffic and sports people that leave little time for them to talk outside the rigid format. Listeners rarely hear the bits that have been a staple of their show for three decades. Nevertheless, management insists that Harden and Weaver are the stars of the show.
"The information service that we provide in the morning certainly supports the Harden and Weaver program," says Jim Gallant, WMAL's director of operations, "but Harden and Weaver continue to be the most recognizable radio personalities in this market."
There's a reason management doesn't want to change that perception. The show, recently reduced to five days a week when the entertainers asked to have Saturdays off, bills advertisers as much as $1,200 a minute and is frequently sold out.
Jim London and Mary Ball, simulcast on country-formatted WMZQ-AM/FM (1390/98.7), were ranked second with a 7.1 share, and second in the much-sought-after 25-to-54-year-old demographic with an 8.1 share. In the adult category, urban WKYS-FM (93.9) morning man Donnie Simpson (reportedly the area's highest paid deejay at $700,000 annually) ranked on top with a strong 8.5 share. Simpson was third with a 6.9 share of the 12-plus listening group.
Jeff Baker and David Burd at WASH-FM (97.1) finished third in the adult bracket with a 5.7 share as the adult contemporary station continues to fortify its overall strong ratings position. In the early '80s WASH was the second-highest billing station, but a radical format switch led by Miami programmer Bill Tanner sent the station into a downward spiral from which it has only now recovered. Just last week, WASH debuted new on-air logos including a sounder to introduce the traffic report, replacing the one Tanner unveiled when airborne reporter Walt Starling quit in 1983. Said one WASH insider, "We have finally recovered from Tanner."
Paul Harris and Company at classic rock WCXR-FM (105.9) jumped to 5.2 from spring's 4.0 for fourth place among adults.
One of the best performances of the book was by WWDC-FM's (101.1) Greaseman, who tied WMAL in fifth place among adult listeners with a 5.0 share, up sharply from spring's 3.1 and a 3.5 in the '89 summer survey.
Greaseman credited his show's healthy jump to "dogged determination and unending will." He also pointed to a busy news summer that generated "a lot more topical bits" and to his quick-thinking producer Bill Scanlin, who directs "a constant flow of information, good ideas and suggestions. We've gone to high octane for the ring-dang-do." ("Ring-dang-do," apparently, is Greasemanese for his morning show.)
For the time being, job security is not a worry for the Greaseman, who moved into a posh Potomac neighborhood last year when ratings were low and rumors were flying that he'd soon be gone. Now, says the mega-mouth, "We can put in the tennis court and have it lit, covered and air conditioned."
Slipping into the "It's Hard Not to Crash a Motorcycle in the Dark When the Headlight Is Pointed on You" Department were WAVA-FM's (105.1) "Morning Zoo" boys Mike O'Meara and Don Geronimo, who spent summer mornings on the air discussing aspects of their personal lives -- one is getting a divorce, the other fights with his wife in between having his youngster give weather forecasts and his unemployed brother call asking for money. That may account for an audience drop, 5.2 from spring's 5.9 and last summer's 6.9 share in the 12-plus group; and down to 4.9 from spring's 5.4 share in the targeted 25-to-54-year-old category. A sharper ratings drop to a 3.6 share in the adult demo during the winter book spawned an on-air tirade by the breakfast imps that led to a weeklong suspension from the airwaves in May.
The Public Numbers The Arbitron results for public stations' listeners 12 and older were released on Friday by Tom Church of the Radio Research Consortium: Classical WETA-FM (90.9) recorded a 2.5 share, up from spring's 2.3 but down from last summer's 2.6, while information-based WAMU-FM (88.5) plummeted to a 1.7 share from 2.2 in the spring and 2.5 last summer. Jazz outlets WDCU-FM (90.1) and WPFW-FM (89.3) each matched last summer's performance, 0.5 share each, but were off slightly from spring's 0.7 and 0.6 shares, respectively. Classical WGTS-FM (91.9) did not register in the book.