July 31, 2015
One of the best parts of working in the radio industry is the truly unique people you meet. While there must be interesting CPAs and dentists, the number of real characters per capita at radio stations has to statistically be significantly higher than most other businesses.
And then there’s Art Vuolo, or as many of you know him, “Radio’s Best Friend.”
While most of the curious and fascinating people in radio spend their time in the studio on the air, some are on the periphery of the business, defying categorization, following their own path, and carving out a unique niche for themselves in the industry.
That’s Art, who has spent a lot of time with the former group and is a charter member of the latter. He has become radio’s official video archivist – if there is such a thing – literally focusing on what really happens in the air studio, and also at radio’s many conventions and conferences.
Back in 1978, Art borrowed equipment to record his first “video aircheck,” recording the hosts at Indianapolis’ legendary Top 40 radio station 13/WIFE. At a time when there were no audio streams or any way of seeing DJs – except with pictures in the trades – Art’s videos became one of the only ways aspiring broadcasters could see and hear what was happening at stations in other markets.
Over the years, his collection has grown to massive proportions with hundreds of audio and video tapes chronicling the best and brightest in radio. (The video embedded in this post below is an amazing compilation of radio stars and icons from yesteryear, providing a video collage of how radio became RADIO.) Art also began recording keynotes, panels, and sessions at myriad radio conventions, creating an archive of radio’s leaders discussing the challenges of the day as the industry continues to evolve. From Convergence to DASH to Conclave to the Worldwide Radio Summit, Art and his ubiquitous camera are always there.
Between his time in-studio and attending nearly umpteen conferences over the last 30 years, Art has had a bird’s eye view of the industry that no one can match. It makes you wonder about who’s going to chronicle the radio broadcasting industry and its talent after Art decides to cap the lens one final time.
After all these years of pointing the lens at us, it’s time for radio to turn the focus on him. Art Vuolo provides a service to the radio broadcasting industry that is truly unique, which is why he’s this week’s Radio’s Most Innovative.
JM: How did you get the title “Radio’s Best Friend?”
AV: I am very proud of the moniker which was actually given to me by Scott Shannon in the early 1980s. It first appeared in print in May 1985, courtesy of John Leader, who wrote “Street Talk” in Radio & Records, congratulating me on a big sponsorship by General Motors of my Rock RADIOGUIDE. My old company, The RADIOGUIDE People, Inc., was responsible for the national circulation of over 100 million station directories in concert with many of America’s greatest stations. They were sponsored by clients like Ford Motor Company, United Airlines, and National Car Rental.
AV: My RADIOGUIDE business lasted from 1971 through 2004 – 33 years. The idea was hatched during my college days when classmates wanted me to mark up their road maps with the good rock stations from Michigan down to Florida for Spring Break. I kept my Chicago-based printer going strong for many years. Every guide had a sponsor who paid for it, a radio station who promoted it on the air, and a multi-location retailer who distributed it free of charge. It worked well, but then the Internet came along.
JM: How did your love for radio develop?
AV: My “wonder years” – ages 5-16 – were spent in Indianapolis. Like so many, it started with a small crystal radio under the pillow, falling asleep every night listening to Bernie Herman on Night-Beat over 1430/WIRE. Then, I started assisting and became close friends with Indiana’s top radio personality, Jim Shelton at WIBC in Indy. He was my mentor. I always had a radio nearby. I still do.
JM: How did you get started doing video airchecks?
AV: I saw a video profile of B-100 San Diego, produced on 8mm film, by the legendary Shotgun Tom Kelly at the 1977 R&R Convention in Dallas, and went crazy! I thought, “Wow, a VIDEO aircheck…how cool.” That did it. Two years later, I recorded creative news personality Rob Milford at KWK in St. Louis. In 1979, I did a video profile of 13 WIFE in Indianapolis with close friend and PD, Steve Cooper (aka Jim Carr). Since 1979, I’ve shot hundreds of DJs and have yet to be convicted.
JM: Who is the most innovative talent you ever captured on videotape? What made them stand out to you?
AV: Just about everyone knows that I am a huge fan of Bob & Tom, so they top the list. Others would include members of the Morning Zoo at Z-100 in the ‘80s, Paul & Young Ron at Miami’s WBGG, all the Chicago WLS icons I captured at the various WLS Reunions, and of course, the energetic Shotgun Tom and Tom Kent, two of radio’s last exciting personalities.
JM: Your website says “No one has more videotape of Bob and Tom.” What has made their show so successful and sustainable all these years?
AV: Bob and Tom, along with their cast members, Chick McGee and Kristi Lee, fill their studio almost every morning with comedians and it makes for a very explosive package of non-stop laughs. And Bob has the best laugh in radio. Tom is an easy target and they’ve done more to help comics and charitable causes across America than anyone in radio.
READ THE REST OF THIS Q & A HERE AT THE JACOBS MEDIA WEBSITE