Music of Your Life is one of the longest-running syndicated music radio networks in the world. Traditionally featuring the Adult Standards music format, Music of Your Life programming currently includes hit records from the 60’s, 70’s, and contemporary hits from pop, rock & roll, jazz, and country scheduled into various dayparts, and broadcasting on separate channels. Created by record executive and jingle writer Al Ham, and now under the direction of Music of Your Life CEO Marc Angell, the network delivers programming to more than 30 AM, FM and HD radio station affiliates in the United States and internationally. Listeners in 90-plus countries listen to Music of Your Life via the company's website at www.musicofyourlife.com.
Music of Your Life has featured a "Stars who Play the Stars" on-air lineup that has included well-known celebrity DJs including TV game show host and singer/entertainer Peter Marshall, best known as the former host of Hollywood Squares; TV game show host Wink Martindale; Gary Owens from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In; legendary recording artist Pat Boone; 1950s pop superstar Patti Page; and broadcasting legend Chuck Southcott. For many years, Music of Your Life has been the broadcasting home to the very popular offspring of legendary entertainers such as daughter of Dean Martin, Deana Martin; singer Steve March Torme, son of legendary entertainer Mel Torme; and record producer and big-band leader Les Brown Jr.. As he was just starting out, Telarc recording sensation Tony DeSare could be heard with his own show every week. Lorri Hafer (recording artist and member of the Hillside Singers who is also the daughter of the MOYL founder, Al Ham) has been featured for many years with her own evening show. Legendary Los Angeles radio veteran Johnny Magnus had his own show on Music of Your Life for nearly a decade. Currently, Atlanta radio veteran Al Hardee can be heard every morning, seven days a week with an encore presentation at night coast to coast in the United States, simulcast over the internet. A typical hour of music may include a wide variety of artists, ranging from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald to Michael Bublé, Norah Jones, and Harry Connick Jr. mixed with pop songs by artists like The Beatles, The Association, Petula Clark, Elvis Presley, The Carpenters, and Neil Diamond.
Al Ham, a veteran CBS Records executive, decided to change careers in 1978, moving from New York City to Huntington, Connecticut. Realizing that many of the songs he liked could not be heard on the radio, Al decided to give fans of nostalgia/big band music what they wanted to hear. Ham approached Dick Ferguson, general manager of the Bridgeport, Connecticut radio station WDJZ, about changing the format. Ferguson agreed, and positive results followed. Ham continued to work toward improving the format, including asking listeners to submit a list of three favorite songs. With thousands of responses, Ham put together a list of 20,000 songs and "Music of Your Life" was born.
Because the target audience of this music was listeners over 50, Ham had difficulty selling the idea of syndication. Eager to hear their favorite music on the radio again, Jim West and Ham convinced Bob Lappin of WMAS in Springfield, Massachusetts (now WHLL) to play their music and become the first syndication customer. After a year, the format had three stations including WHLI in Hempstead, New York. The stations saw immediate and major gains in ratings, particularly among older listeners. Ham credited its success to the disenfranchisement of listeners aged 35–64 by most music stations. By 1981, more than 60 stations had adopted the live and automated versions of Music of Your Life, and their ranks had swelled to 130 by 1982. It was particularly credited with providing ratings improvement for AM stations whose listeners had deserted to FM outlets and was a good fit for AM as most older songs were not recorded in stereo; at the time, AM stereo was not in use. In contrast to "beautiful music" stations that mostly programmed instrumentals, the Music of Your Life format emphasized vocals; 20 percent of the music mix consisted of big band selections. Ham promoted listener involvement by starting "Music of Your Life Clubs", an idea that caught on.
A number of heritage contemporary hit radio stations on the AM band converted to Music of Your Life during the decade. WOKY in Milwaukee became a Music of Your Life station in January 1982, a switch that made the front page of Radio & Records. An early success came when the format began simulcasting in Atlanta in early 1983 on Joy AM/FM (WJYA). It was the first 100,000 watt FM to carry the Music of Your Life in a major U.S. market. Under the direction of veteran broadcaster Rick Ellis, the FM predominantly covered the metropolitan Atlanta and middle-Georgia market while the AM reached the northern suburbs. Featuring the legendary John Moore of WSB-AM fame in the mornings, the ratings initially reached a modest 2.1 overall share but in the key demographics of 35+ it was rated firmly in the top five. CKLW in Windsor, Ontario, also serving Detroit, changed in December 1984 and saw ratings immediately improve from a 0.8 in the fall 1984 Arbitron survey to 4.0 in the spring 1985 book; it was one of 10 Canadian stations using the format, though CKLW tinkered with it slightly to provide a contemporary enough sound to support its overall programming. WNJY serving Palm Beach County, Florida, co-owned with WMAS, was the first FM affiliate, signing on in 1983; advertising rates doubled after the format was installed.
The original format consisted primarily of big hits by standards artists like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Andy Williams, McGuire Sisters, Four Aces, Perry Como, Mel Torme, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Nat "King" Cole, Patti Page, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Mills Brothers, among others. Also, groups from the Big Band era of the 1930s and 1940s were played several times an hour, which included such artists Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, among many others. The format also played a very limited selection of baby boomer pop. Most of these artists were quasi-rock and rollers such as Connie Francis, Ray Charles, Pat Boone, Bobby Vinton, Platters, Bobby Darin, Tom Jones, and others. They played only a few songs by artists like Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and Elvis Presley. More of this music would be added in the late 1990s.
Ham put the best of his music on reel-to-reel tapes and used a scheduling method called "matched-flow sequencing", which arranged songs according to regular chord progressions. The scheduling worked by giving local DJs a regular formula to employ. For example, one could play a song from Tape A then follow with a song from Tape C, but not from Tapes B or D. Ham's strategy worked very well. Most radio stations reported that people listened for 3 hours. Ham's stations achieved numbers four to five times that amount. More and more stations joined the network during the 1980s. Another strategy developed by Ham was having recorded messages by the very stars being played, such as, "Hi, this is Tony Bennett, and I'd like to thank you for making the music of my life, The Music of Your Life." Then Ham, known for the State Farm commercials, added a theme song which the great stars also recorded.
Beyond on-air success, the music was extensively promoted through weekly tea dances in large venues and live performances of the traveling big bands and artists such as The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Rosemary Clooney, Benny Goodman, Harry James, and many others. The highlight was the final performance of Woody Herman and the Traveling Herd at the Atlanta Galleria with a crowd of more than 2,500. In 1985, a Music of Your Life television special hosted by Toni Tennille was produced as a pilot for a possible series.
On January 1, 1996, the format was relaunched by Ham along with Jim West and Gary Fink as a satellite-delivered service, with Gary Owens hosting mornings. By 1999, Jones Radio Network, which handled syndication duties, boasted it had 174 stations signed up and such talent as Owens, Patti Page and Wink Martindale. The satellite delivery allowed Music of Your Life to compete with similar offerings from competitors, such as AM Only from Westwood One and Stardust from ABC Radio Networks; the service also gradually introduced newer music.
By this time competing satellite networks of radio stations began. Stardust (now Timeless by ABC Radio) and AM Only (now Dial Global's "Adult Standards," a/k/a "America's Best Music"). Ham and West had to take advantage of the new technology to remain successful. Unistar Radio Networks, which distributed AM Only, bought a majority interest in Music of Your Life and made it a satellite format in 1990.
Unfortunately, the new distributors of Music of Your Life wanted listeners in the 25 to 54 age group (the most desired audience for advertisers), while the music had been designed for listeners over 50. Ham, who had wanted to retire, had to take over once again. He realized that as Americans aged, perhaps advertisers would take an interest in the older audience once again. Ham redesigned the music, since someone 50 years old in the 1990s would be of a different generation than the 50-year-old he targeted in 1978. The job of finding affiliates came next.
Kerry and Tammy Fink worked at Mix 106 radio in northeast Georgia, a station whose owners had taken over management of the troubled WCGX. The area was becoming a popular place to retire and the Finks realized they should go after older listeners. WCGX became a test station. Record companies were taking advantage of new technology, and digitally remastered versions of the old songs became available, allowing the recordings to sound as good as when they were new. With only compact discs, the new Music of Your Life targeted older listeners as well as a younger audience.
One major development that showed promise for the format was performers such as Tony Bennett showing up on MTV. Also, younger artists such as Harry Connick, Jr. were making the music popular with young people. Films such as Sleepless in Seattle, and a number of commercials, had used the music found in the adult standards format.
To overcome advertiser reluctance to go after the 50-plus audience, Ham and Fink studied successful adult standards stations from around the country, as well as the problems of those stations that were not doing well. They asked WBYU New Orleans general manager David Smith to develop a training program for affiliates. WSAI Cincinnati general manager Peter Zolnowski created a newsletter. Affiliates would be given whatever help they needed.
And if the music was not supposed to be "old", neither were the announcers. Ham wanted DJs who had the attitude of radio personalities playing today's music. Ham and Southcott contacted two friends who were also radio veterans: Gary Owens and Wink Martindale. Jones Radio Network would distribute the format from Denver. The redesigned Music of Your Life made its debut from Los Angeles June 15, 1996.
When Frank Sinatra died in 1998, Music of Your Life played 36 straight hours of his music. Since more people listened to this special programming than to what the format usually aired, the popularity of the music with a new audience was reinforced.
Within a few years, there were nearly 200 stations, including WGUL in the Tampa market, whose chairman, Carl Marcocci, held the same position with Music of Your Life. Affiliates were learning that going after over-50 listeners was nothing to be ashamed of; these people were active and had lots of money to spend, and advertisers could reach them if they just made the effort. One of the most successful was KGIL in Los Angeles. Other success stories included WLUX in Long Island.
Part of the format's success was adding more contemporary artists such as Beatles, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart and Beach Boys, as well as swing bands such as the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra.
During the 2000’s, under the direction of Kerry Fink, the operating company of the Music of Your Life radio network fell into a state of total disarray and declining affiliates. Fink was in jeopardy of losing the Music of Your Life assets to the Jones Radio Network for satellite and receiver costs. In 2010, entertainer and then Music of Your Life on-air talent, Deana Martin (daughter of Dean Martin) and her husband John Griffith, connected with long-time friend and entrepreneur Marc Angell to take over operations of Music of Your Life and acquire the assets. Angell assembled a new production team, made programming and talent changes and set-out to rebuild the Music of Your Life brand. The very costly satellite distribution platform was also replaced with an internet distribution system. In addition to a cost saving transition, the audio quality of the music was noticeably improved with access to higher bitrates. All of Music of Your Life's previously AM stations have added FM translators in their market to increase audience size, and vastly improving the music listening experience.
Launching with twelve stations under contract, Angell grew the new Music of Your Life to more than 50 AM, FM and HD radio stations across the United States, with more than 30 additional affiliates streaming around the world. Music of Your Life now had listeners in more than 90 countries streaming over the internet via the company's website: musicofyourlife.com. Music of Your Life was registered with every available streaming platform including Apple's iTunes, Tune-In, Shoutcast, Roku, YouTube and others. The Music of Your Life website provided a platform to easily access the station's Play button on an iPhone, Android phone, iPad, and CarPlay.
In 2014, A series of music CD's were released featuring the artists commonly heard on the network including Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Lou Rawls, Benny Goodman, and many more.
In 2015, Time Life issued a multi-CD box set and infomercial hosted by Debby Boone and Peter Marshall. The Music of Your Life Collection has become one of the most successful music compilations of all time. Time Life later created the Country Music of Your Life Collection, complete with infomercial hosted by Crystal Gayle and Charley Pride.
In 2016, PBS produced a Music of Your Life television special starring Les Brown Jr. and his Band of Renown teaming up with country singer Neal McCoy. PBS also released a DVD of the live show.
Combined with a steady stream of new recordings from singers of the Great American Songbook such as Rod Stewart, Jamie Cullum, Monica Mancini, Renee Olstead, Nikki Yanovski, Tony DeSare, Jane Monheit, and others, the Music of Your Life audience continues to grow and Adult Standards stations are seeing much higher ratings.
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