Carl Hirsch and Gil Rosenwald interviews from 1979

interviews continue below

Fish stink from the head.

Loosely translated, the freshness of a fish is judged from the condition of its head.

It also defines leadership gone badly.

A leader carries the definitive accountability of a company’s success or failure.  Strong management and powerful leadership are fundamental functions in any profitable business.

The first time I heard that saying in a leadership context was from my boss of all bosses – Carl Hirsch, who rose in rank to President of Malrite Communications during those “glory days” of WMMS.

I’d never met anyone who possessed a better bullshit meter than Carl. He could size up a person, a plan, or a situation in seconds.

There were moments where he’d be demanding – but always for good reason.  He was a natural born leader – and he brought out everyone’s best leadership skills.

We never spent money frivolously.   Though WMMS became the most visible station in Cleveland – most of it was due to creative promotion and marketing.   Bumper sticker costs were covered by providing clients couponing opportunities on the backs of the stickers.   Our T-shirts – walking billboards, we called them – and other Buzzard merchandise always sold well – and we funneled our profits to various charities.

Nearly everything we did was self-contained and created “in house,” including our TV spots, contesting, and special programming and events.

During those years, we had a championship team – on the air – and behind the scenes.

I didn’t fully appreciate the freedom and independence we shared at WMMS until I started talking with programmers in other markets.   I also realized that Carl made us earn that privilege.

We didn’t have a rulebook of do’s and don’ts.  What mattered was to be at our very best at all times – and to never jeopardize our broadcast license.

Carl transformed Malrite from a mid-size, mostly secondary market radio chain – to what became one of the most respected radio groups in America – headquartered in Cleveland.

He identified a little suburban “chicken jazz” (as we called it) suburban New Jersey licensed station and fashioned it into the most listened to radio station in America as New York’s Z-100. That “worst-to-first” feat was accomplished in thirty days.

Carl joined Malrite in 1974 as Vice President and General Manager of WMMS and WHK.  When Carl was promoted to Executive Vice President of Malrite in 1977, Gil Rosenwald replaced Carl.

We would not have achieved our many successes had it not been for our senior management and corporate support and guidance.  They backed our attack.

These are interviews with Carl Hirsch and Gil Rosenwald by Chuck Dunaway for Radio Music Report, from February 19, 1979.

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