R.A.P.: Why did you leave?
Dennis: I guess I was doing a pretty good job because they fired the AM Production Director and came back and said, "We fired the AM Production Director, so you've got the job of doing AM and FM production." And I said, "Well, will there be a raise attached to this?" And they said, "Yeah, we figured we'd give you another hundred bucks." I said, "A week?" "No, a month." I basically said, "If you do this, I'm going to quit," and as soon as I found a job, I left.
In 1979, WWCK in Flint was looking for a Production Director, and I got the job. This was a number one station in a market that was just unbelievable. Flint was a very crazy town in those days because fifty percent of the people there worked in auto manufacturing for General Motors. So, there was no such thing as morning rush hour. There was no such thing, really, as day-parting. It was basically rock all day, rock all night, as hard as you can because there were people always getting off third shift. They would be up at seven-thirty in the morning ready to party, man! We had a pretty good time there.
After I got married we decided we didn't want to live in Flint forever, and at the same time we were thinking about that, I got a call from WYSP in Philadelphia. I had done a song parody in Flint called Flint-oids, a parody of Miss You by the Rolling Stones. Basically, it was a homage to our listeners. We had started calling them Flint-oids on the air. They were also known as "gearheads" -- guys who worked at the plant, partied hard, and loved loud rock and roll like Ted Nugent and Bob Seeger. So instead of sort of making fun, we turned it into a positive and said, "being a Flint-oid is a cool thing." They call it building your self esteem today. So we did this parody called Flint-oids. WYSP heard it and called and said, "Our Production Director, Jay Gilbert, is leaving. Would you like to take his job?" I moved to Philadelphia and started working at 'YSP.
This is where I met Gary Bridges. I work with Gary on the Madden shows. I also met Denny Somach who went on to do a lot of great things in radio and television. As Production Director at WYSP, I no longer had an air shift, and I didn't cut a lot of commercials any more. I started to do promos and image enhancement and contribute comedy and voices and silliness to the morning show. Then I started working with Denny on Denny's syndicated projects. Denny was working closely with The Source, which was NBC's young adult network. A lot of stuff that was going on with The Source in 1979 and 1980 was coming out of 'YSP. I got involved in that. I started out doing montages for their shows and then started writing shows and then producing shows.
Then in 1981, Denny was leaving the company to start his own radio production company, and he asked me if I wanted to co-produce a radio show with him called Rolling Stone Magazine's Continuous History of Rock and Roll. At that time, ratings were starting to slip, and the company was in the process of being sold. If you've ever gone through that, you know no capital gets spent. No improvements are made, and things are just allowed to let slide. I figured it was a perfect time to jump into syndication. So, at the tender age of twenty-five, I retired from being a radio Production Director and started producing this radio show with Denny for Rolling Stone Magazine Productions.
Denny and I co-produced the show, and our host was Gary Bridges who we had worked with at 'YSP. We did that for two years, and the contract ran out on that. That's when I found myself for the first time kind of sucking air looking for something to do. Then I got the idea to go out on my own and try to be a free-lancer with voice-over, writing, and production. It didn't take off right away. Although I did end up doing a lot of free-lance work for 'YSP. This was in 1983, and by this time they had hired Bob Stroud, who is a terrific production guy -- one of the best I know.
I eventually got hired by the morning show at 'YSP to provide comedy material. I would work out of my house writing material, and then I'd take it to the station. Whenever I could get into the production room, I'd put it together and give it to their morning show. Well, that sort of snowballed to the point where they were using me more and more and getting more and more of my invoices. Finally they said, "We're paying you too much as an outsider. How would you like to come in, and we'll make you sort of a producer. You can help out Bob Stroud in the production room, but it's really kind of an excuse to have you come in from six to ten in the morning and just sort of hang out and write and produce comedy bits and do funny voices and whatever the morning guys want you to do?"
So in 1984 I was doing mornings at 'YSP. Then Bob Stroud left to go back to Chicago, and they made me Production Director again. Then I hired an assistant, Ron Lipkin who was out of KLSX in Los Angeles.
I did this from 1984 until Labor Day of 1985. Meanwhile, I'm generating all this comedy material, and I got a call from the American Comedy Network. They asked me if I wanted to be a contributor to their network. Those two years, '84 and '85 at 'YSP, were some of the best times I had because here I was working on the morning show sort of as a sidekick, doing funny voices and whatever we came up with. Then, if it was good, 'YSP allowed me to lease it to the American Comedy Network.
Then in 1985 we had another change in management, a new Program Director came in and cleaned house on Labor Day. Then came Denny Somach again with a job offer, and I became the Director of Programming for Denny Somach Productions from 1985 to 1987. We embarked on a pretty big expansion and produced a number of shows. By this time his clients were DIR, Ticket to Ride, the Beetles show. We did projects for NBC, ABC, Westwood One, The Psychedelic Psnack.... We did quite a few shows, and it was really just a great experience. I got to work with Billy Crystal, Bob Costas, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Dave Herman, Scott Muni, and Joe Piscopo. It was a great time for syndicated radio, and I got to do a lot of writing and producing. I got to oversee other writers and producers and was able to see how the radio syndication business works.
I left there on pretty good terms with Denny, although I found over the years that he and I work better when I'm free-lancing for him than when I'm working for him. But we still work together occasionally. I just did a project with him last September for Premiere Radio Network. Denny's off doing some incredible things with a company called Musicom International, and he's doing quite well.
So I left him in 1987 and started free-lancing on a full-time basis. I started submitting voice-over tapes to advertising agencies in Philadelphia. I had been doing it here and there since 1982, but I really started getting work that spun off from my morning show gigs doing voices, song parodies and stuff like that. Then one job begets two begets four, and it just sort of builds.
Then Gary Bridges called me in 1988. Gary was writing and producing a show with John Madden called The John Madden Sports Quiz for Olympia Networks. He asked me if I would be interested in writing funny sports stories for the John Madden Sports Quiz show. I said, "Sure, I'd love to." Then in the fall of 1988, Olympia decided to spin off another show from that one called the John Madden Sports Calendar, which was aimed at a different audience, and they asked me if I wanted to produce that show. I developed the show from the demo on up, and I've been producing it ever since.
R.A.P.: How's the voice-over business treating you?
Dennis: That's going very well. Currently, I'm real busy. But, if you've ever done voice work on a free-lance basis, you know that it's feast or famine. Everybody seems to be hiring at the same time or no one is hiring. It goes in cycles.