Volume 75, Number 5 | June 22- 28, 2005

Jack killed the FM radio star; Cuz goes into orbit

By Jerry Tallmer

If you were a songwriter, you might put it this way: Look for the silver lining ….

Bruce Morrow — rock-’n’-roll radio’s Cousin Brucie — puts it more biblically, sort of. “God closes the door and opens a gate,” Morrow says as he fastens you in the eye with his own baby blues.

He’s talking about what has happened in his life since the afternoon of Black Friday, June 3, 2005, when he was informed by telephone, out of the blue, that his three shows on Infinity Broadcasting’s WCBS-FM (101.1 kc) — 33 years of Golden Oldie rock history — were just that: history. Terminated. Replaced by new station format. Something called Jack.

“Now the good part,” says Cousin Brucie. He’s sitting at the kitchen table of his and his wife Jodie’s midst-of-renovation triplex just above Houston St. There are black plastic bags of stuff all over the place.

“Within two hours of the announcement of the change at WCBS-FM hitting the press, I started getting calls from other stations in New York. Also from Sirius Satellite and XM Satellite Radio. And signed on with Sirius — probably the best contract in my life.”

The best contract in a life that has now, well, reached a certain age.

“It’s no secret,” says Morrow, straightfaced. “I’m 32.” Two beats. “I told the guy at The New York Times I was [mumble, mumble] ‘going on 43.’ A little later he called back and said: ‘Mr. Morrow, there’s a little conflict. We have you as 68.’ ”

Make that going on 68. Bruce Morrow, son of Abe and Minna Meyerowitz, was born, in Brooklyn, on Oct. 13, 1937. And hasn’t stopped talking from that day to this. “I talk fast,” he says with a disarming smile.

The age thing — not his, but that of what’s called the market — is what it’s all about at WCBS-FM, he’d have you know.

“And I’ve been fighting that. CBS decided to go after a younger demographic. But people 43 and up are not ready to be buried,” he says with emphasis. “People in their 50s, 60s and 70s still have great buying power, income and productivity. This huge population — in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s — must also be served, just as youth must be served. It’s not like the 1940s, when people were retiring early.”

On Fri., June 3, Morrow was at B.B. King’s on 42nd St., helping Mickey Dolenz, the former Monkee, celebrate his 100th broadcast.

“And I go home from there, and about 3 in the afternoon the phone rings. It’s WCBS-FM’s vice president and general manager, a fellow named Chad Brown, and he says: ‘I wanted you to hear this before it gets out. Brucie, the WCBS-FM you know will no longer exist at 5 o’clock this afternoon.’

“I said: ‘Excuse me?’ I thought that my ears had deceived me — my rock-’n’-roll ears. This is the first time in my career that a major radio station has ever severed a connection surgically like this, a very dangerous thing to do, because New York is a unique market, where you go into people’s homes, and when you sever that connection it’s like having a family member suddenly disappear from your home.

“When I recovered my breath I said: ‘Are you crazy? Are you aware of what you’re doing, and what’s going to happen? You’re going to have a terrible reaction from press and public.’ ”

V.P. Chad Brown was unavailable for comment as this article was written. The CBS position had been expressed thusly by him to the Daily News: “We did a lot of market research and found a hole in the market that wasn’t being served by any other station.”

“Radio,” says Cousin Brucie — who picked up that appellation way back at age 19 on 1010 WINS — “is like newspapers, an ever-changing medium. Changes every decade, as society changes, as the public changes, socially, economically, politically. But never in my 47 years in broadcasting have I ever seen anything this foolish, done by people — the bean-counters upstairs — who do not come from New York and do not understand New York.”

His first broadcast over Sirius Satellite will be July 1, live, from the Rock-’n’-Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio (“ … should have been New York”). His Sirius contract establishes three programs per week: “Saturday Night With the Cuz,” “Wednesday Night’s Cousin Brucie Show” and “Talk to Your Cousin Brucie” (for two hours) on Thursday evenings.

“It’s what I’ve wanted all my life, a talk show. What am I going to talk about? Listeners’ lifestyles. In music, movies, economics, clothing, politics, health, whatever. With live guests and on the phone. What I want is for everyday people to express themselves, come and kvetch. Whatever they want to say. People are very interesting.

“And this is with a national audience. Commercial free. And [on the music programs] not stuck to [a prescribed] 280 records, which is absolutely ludicrous with 50,000 records out there. Once again, selling the audience short. An audience that today is extremely sophisticated and extremely loyal.”

A Sirius Satellite radio (the unit itself) runs at major outlets in this city from $99 (half that, with rebate) to $199, plus (if needed) installation charges, plus $12.95 a month subscription fee. Satellite radio has, among others, this virtue:

“I can walk out that door,” says Bruce Morrow, meaning his own door, “get into a car and drive from here to California, following the ‘Cousin Brucie Show’ [or any show] all the way, all on one single station — or channel, as they call them. And Sirius has 120 channels covering everything, music, sports, news, everything.”

Bruce Morrow, photographer, also has a new show, “Feel the Light,” on the walls of Enno & Michael’s Retaurant on La Guardia Pl. Bruce Morrow, author [“My Life in Rock-’n’-Roll Radio”] is now planning his next book, “The Day the Music Died — Again.” Bruce Morrow, D.J., is getting a just-because lifetime tribute at the National Arts Club, Gramercy Park, on June 29. “I tell you, God’s gate is opening,” says Bruce Morrow, a tough man to put down and keep down.

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