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Radio Loses Another Star as Danny Bonaduce Steps Away

“I just lose my balance and memory sometimes.”

Andy Bloom

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A photo of Danny Bonnaduce
(Photo: KOMO News)

Radio’s problems continue to multiply. Personalities have been one of local radio stations’ last advantages and reasons to hold audiences. Over the past several years, prominent air talents have retired without a batch of up-and-coming stars to replace them. That trend continued in Seattle, WA where Danny Bonaduce wrapped up a nearly 60-year show biz career and is hanging up the headphones after a 12-year run on KZOK. 

Without reservations, I can say Bonaduce is the hardest-working air talent I’ve ever known. After James Brown passed, Bonaduce could make a legitimate claim he is the “hardest working man in show business.”

Bonaduce got his start in acting at three years old, making appearances on Mayberry R.F.D., The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, and Bewitched. The role he would become most known for, Danny Partridge on The Partridge Family, made Bonaduce famous.

Like many child actors, after the series that brought him fame ended, Danny Bonaduce battled drug and alcohol addiction issues.

Bonaduce was looking for his purpose in life when we first met in the late 1980s. At the time, I was programming WYSP in Philadelphia. Bonaduce lived in the area and became a frequent Howard Stern Show guest. Decades later, I hired him as WYSP’s final morning personality from 2008-2011. That’s when we truly got to know and appreciate one another.

Other radio stations in Philadelphia were paying attention to Bonaduce’s appearances on the Stern Show. After hearing him with Stern, WEGX, then CHR Eagle 106, hired Bonaduce for evenings. His success on the air in Philly led to a role on the Power 92 Morning Zoo, in Phoenix where trouble once again found him.

Bonaduce made headlines when he was charged with assaulting (what police reported at the time was) a transvestite prostitute. Eventually, the news quieted down, and he found his way to The Loop in Chicago, where he refined and developed his on-air presence.

Danny entered the national dialogue again with the 2005 VH1 premiere of the reality series Breaking Bonaduce. Although the show doesn’t always portray him in a flattering light, it led him back to radio. He began doing a show on KLSX in Los Angeles.

During a trip to Los Angeles, I heard Danny Bonaduce on the air for the first time in years. He had improved dramatically. His likability and charisma jumped through the speaker. Since KLSX was also a CBS Radio station, a sister station, I inquired about his availability for mornings on WYSP.

My initial thought was Bonaduce could do mornings from L.A. back to Philly. The three-hour time difference meant doing a morning drive from the west coast would be difficult. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that he was interested in returning to Philadelphia and doing his Los Angeles show from the WYSP studios. He did that for several months until KLSX changed the format.

He was consistently WYSP’s highest-rated daypart throughout his run. We decided to flip WYSP to WIP-FM in 2011. Danny Bonaduce was liked throughout CBS Radio, and the company found a home for him in Seattle, where he and Danni Sarah, who became his on-air partner in Philly, remained through ownership changes until Friday, when he retired. Sarah will remain on KZOK.

Those who have never met Bonaduce in person should forget what they think of him – good or bad. In person, he is one of the most intensely likable and generous people I’ve ever met. On several occasions during his WYSP run, we had to tell him to take time off after he got sick from working so many days in a row.

CBS Radio’s CEO, Dan Mason, put together those two aspects of Bonaduce’s character and suggested a promotional idea. Several years earlier, the Million Man March occurred. Mason’s idea was for Bonaduce to commit to a “Million Man Handshake.”

Bonaduce embraced the concept enthusiastically (as he did with almost everything presented to him). We printed thousands of business cards for him. Every person he met received a card with a hand-printed number on it. I don’t recall how high the count grew over his run, but I believe it went into six figures.

Fourteen years later, I still proudly have card #1 in my wallet, signed to “my badass boss” by Danny Bonaduce.

<em>Danny Bonaduces first Million Man Handshake card<em>

Perhaps nobody I’ve worked with understood show business better than Bonaduce. An example of his showmanship was on display during a sales meeting with representatives of Corona Beer. After walking into the conference room, shaking hands, and saying hello, Danny stood silently long enough to be awkward. There was a moment of fear because you never knew what Danny would do.

With impeccable timing and a big grin, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a Corona. He popped it open and gulped it down in one swig. Afterward, he said, “Now I’m ready to begin this meeting.” Slack-jawed, the Corona folks were putty.

No stunts were off-limits. On the air with Danny during his final show, I recalled the time he walked barefoot across a gauntlet of about eight feet of mousetraps. Sarah reminded us of when he lost a bet with Chicago DJs and pierced his ear – with a nail gun! Then, because the D.J.s were disrespecting him, Bonaduce took the nail gun and did the other ear. Van Gogh had nothing on Danny Bonaduce!

It was surprising to hear that Bonaduce was retiring. Not working is an unnatural state for him. I spoke to him off the air later in the day of his last show. He explained the health condition that has made work difficult for him. He has Hydrocephalus. I had to look it up.

Hydrocephalus is a neurological condition when fluid collects around the brain. Bonaduce explained to me that he has a tube that drains from his brain down around his ear and ends at his stomach. According to the Hydrocephalus Association, the condition is not rare. It’s as common in infants as Down’s Syndrome and more common than spina bifida. In adults, it causes symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease. Although there is no known cure, they treat the condition with brain surgery.

That’s consistent with what he told me when I asked him about retiring. “There was a picture of me in a wheelchair, and I don’t remember it happening.” He said he was on the air and doing a contest to give away Trevor Noah tickets. “Right in the middle, I forgot what I was supposed to do. Sarah had to save me. I had to walk out of the studio.”

Bonaduce explained that he felt fine and there was no pain. “I just lose my balance and memory sometimes.”

He had one brain surgery earlier this year and said he has “been in and out of hospitals for a year.”

We talked about some of his biggest accomplishments. When he was seven, he was in a movie with Elvis. Bonaduce calls that his “showstopper.” He recalls Elvis giving him a Cadilac. “Okay, it was a pushcart, and he gave one to all the kids on the set. It would probably be worth a lot now.”

Yet Elvis doesn’t figure into his most impressive accomplishments, nor does the Partridge Family or radio. That’s left to a witch. “I was brought back as another character on “Bewitched.” ”Do you know how rare that is,” he asked me: that and his relationship with his wife, Amy.

Danny and Amy are retiring to a Palm Springs, CA house. He promised Amy that he would go six months to a year without needing hospitalization before thinking about returning to work. Although it may not be radio, my hunch is we have not heard the last of Danny Bonaduce.

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BNM Writers

As History Unfolds, It’s Important for News/Talk Radio to Remain Focused on Playing the Hits

It’s cliche, but we are living through history. And your audience is coming to you for the latest on this unfolding history, with opinions, analysis, and an ability to move the story forward.

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A photo of Donald Trump and Joe Biden

The age-old radio adage is to “Play the hits”.

It applies more directly to music stations, but the phrase can also relate to sports talk and news/talk. So, suppose you’re like me, and you’ve found yourself behind a microphone on a news/talk station the last couple of weeks. In that case, you might be having an internal conversation about whether you’ve focused too much on the national political discourse since the unforgettable Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden debate on June 27th.

My short answer is: No, you’re not too focused. 

But in an effort to not stop this column at 100 words, I’ll explain further.

I’ve long advocated for focusing your local shows on your local radio markets as much as possible. It will separate your show from the national syndication that can be piped into any station nationwide. Your local flair is what will build your credibility in your community. It’s what will separate you. Local will win. 

And given that it’s been an unusually predictable few months in the election news cycle, there hasn’t been much to lean into on the national political side. Joe Biden was the unimpressive, octogenarian incumbent going up against Donald Trump, who rolled quickly through a primary and was set to be at the top of the Republican ticket for a third-straight election cycle. It was a rematch of 2020, a period in American history most Americans would prefer to forget, given the state of the nation at the time. Unfortunately for many, they are being forced to relive it. 

However, what happened two weeks ago in Atlanta between Donald Trump and Joe Biden has given a massive jolt to an election season that had been relatively boring. Tens of millions of Americans were tuned in that evening, and given Biden’s debate performance, it has kicked off two weeks of speculation of Biden dropping out, party infighting, replacement conversations, various media reports, and drama that we haven’t seen around an incumbent President in an election year since 1968.

It’s cliche, but we are living through history. And your audience is coming to you for the latest on this unfolding history, with opinions, analysis, and an ability to move the story forward engagingly and entertainingly while also, when appropriate, bringing on guests who will provide them with insight they can bring to their conversations with friends, at the water cooler, on group texts and on social media.

In a perfect world, you can also localize these national stories by getting reactions from local officials, reading/playing their social media reactions on your show, or if you’re in a swing state, your options beyond that are unlimited.

But now that we are in a national news cycle that has been on fire, don’t force yourself into local talk. Find your top local stories that are compelling and impacting your radio listener’s day-to-day lives, and work to blend it with the historical moment we find ourselves living through on the national political stage. And always be working your hardest to think of and find new angles, while moving the story forward.

In the end, just like your local CHR station has to play Taylor Swift multiple times an hour, you need to give your audience what they want and “Play the hits.” We’re living through history, after all.

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James Golden AKA Bo Snerdley Relishes New Nationally Syndicated Weekend Show

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.”

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A photo of James Golden
(Photo: James Golden)

Radio host, radio executive, producer, author, and a jack of all media trades. Since he was 14-years-old James Golden (AKA Bo Snerdley) has devoted his entire life to the media industry.

The on-air talent’s weekend show —The James Golden Show — just became syndicated through Red Apple Audio Networks.

“I really appreciate having the platform that WABC has provided. It’s a wonderful thing to have a show that’s now in a bunch of different markets and growing! It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Long before Golden hit the airwaves as ‘Bo Snerdley’ on The Rush Limbaugh Show, he was a teenager visiting his cousin, DJ Gerry Bledsoe, at work. “It was a mind-blowing experience for me. So many things happened that day. In fact, that day was when one of the older guys there, the guy who’s had a reputation as being a real grumpy, curmudgeon type guy, for some reason, took a liking to me.”

He let Golden into the show where Golden learned how to cut tape. “It took me a lot of years before I actually got a job, and ironically, it was at the same station, doing marketing and research, looking at ratings and learning how to analyze ratings and learning how to do marketing. Later on, I moved into the programming side and started doing music research.”

James Golden was one of the first in the country to do music research which led him to WABC. There he worked with the station’s transition from music to their first talk program.

“I think in life you’re given the sort of the things that you need to fulfill whatever destiny you have. I had always been interested in news, politics, and all of it. This dual love I had for music, it allowed me to transition when the station changed format and to become their senior producer of news. And it was at ABC some years later that I met Rush Limbaugh. And of course, that turned into a 30-year relationship.”

The Author of “Rush On The Radio,” recalled the first time the pair met. “So my first day working on his show, I brought him some news stories. I was in the habit of doing that before I even worked on his show. I developed a friendship. When I saw something interesting, that I thought he would be interested in and I would take it to him. So it was a smooth transition for me being rotated on the show.”

It wasn’t before long James Golden became Bo Snerdley. “So I walked in, dropped off some stories, and on the way out he says, ‘Well, everybody on this call screen has got to be a Snerdley, have you come up with your name?’ So The Daily News was on his desk, and it was on the sports page. Bo Jackson was in the news for some of the headlines, but I just wasn’t able watch it. So I just said ‘Bo’ and walked out. Little did I know that for the rest of my life, I’d be Bo. But it’s great and I love it. I’m comfortable with either one.”

Golden recalled the time spent with his friend saying, “No words can ever describe it. He was the best that there ever was to me, or ever will be in the industry. His talent, as he said, was on loan from God. But it was something unique. The incredibly intelligent, incredibly hardworking. 30 years in, he still brought it. Even when he was sick, [Rush] did as much of the work that he could to make sure that his show was extremely well researched and well delivered.”

While working on Rush’s show, James Golden also had his own weekend show. He worked 7 days a week for years. Today, he is back at his radio home. “Back at WABC, doing six days on air with them, and it’s just been a wonderful ride for me.”

Throughout the years, the former executive producer turned host has seen significant change in the industry.

“For some people, it’s not as much fun as it used to be. And I’ll just speak frankly about that. When the bean counters took over because of corporate interest — instead of it being a lot of different families with smaller radio groups, it moved into more of a big business — for a lot of people a lot of the fun was taken out of it, because those decisions that used to be made locally are now being made by regional managers or by national managers, some of whom had more of a background in sales and didn’t understand the programing,” he shared.

“So there’s always that schism. And so for a lot of people in the industry, I have friends who have left the industry because it just was no longer fun for them.”

Another big difference? You no longer have to work your way up through the markets.

“You had to work your way up through lower markets to get to a higher market. You don’t have to do that now. People that are just good at what they do, if they have very good communication skills, you can learn how to become [one of the] best radio hosts. There’s only one best radio host and [Rush] passed away, but it is still about your ability to tell a good story. To understand and to I think it really is how much you are in love with the medium yourself.”

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The Difference Between News/Talk Radio Programmer and Bureaucrat

The sad part is these people achieved their high positions by successfully programming actual radio stations to real people in specific markets.

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Let’s talk about the worst aspect of every news/talk radio programmer’s job: commercial stops, those designed traffic jams that occur every ten or twenty minutes bringing your excellent content to a dead halt. And so, you wait, knowing full well that you’re losing a significant percentage of your audience to button pushers looking for a station where talkers are still talking and news is still being broadcast.

The way most news and talk radio stations operate today commercial clutter takes up 20-30 minutes of each programming hour. It would be nice to say that’s because your inventory is sold out thanks to great ratings but we know better. It happens because it’s allowed to happen. Some of that load is likely bonus spots and far too much of it consists of recorded promos that use branding phrases begging the listener to wait through the clutter.

Yes, commercials are necessary but there are some things to consider that might make them less annoying and potentially informative and entertaining.

Warning: old fart flashback straight ahead.

When I was a young program director I had the authority to reject any spots that I didn’t feel met our standards. Yes, I’m quite serious. I didn’t exercise the option often but if a spot was of lousy audio quality, badly produced, boring, or even just plain stupid, I could kick it back to the sales exec and/or ad agency and ask them politely to make it better.

You might think that could result in an impolite opposite reaction. It never did, not once. From time to time I talked with an advertiser or his agent and they always said the same thing: You’re the expert. I want my time and money spent well on your station.

Sales execs could get annoyed but usually went along as good teammates without too much grousing. Besides, schmoozing clients with better ideas is part of their art; the best enjoy it.

Often these conversations would lead to brainstorming sessions with the production director. (Remember that creative and crucial position?) Ideas were tossed around, writing began and a highly effective ad was usually the result.

If you’re a program director or air talent today your mind must be reeling. It has probably never occurred to you that you could have the authority to actually determine all of your news/talk station’s programming, not just the words between the breaks, every blessed minute. Why not? You’re responsible for your station’s content 24/7 though you have no control over half of it.

Most program directors in corporate-owned stations today have been hired as functionaries at the end of a long chain of corporate bureaucrats. Your days are filled with layers of programming and sales hierarchies. Presidents have lieutenants, regional and format V.P.s, who send out the memos and convene Zoom meetings to address general issues with generalized answers.

They dive into recent studies and charts for boilerplate policies, seldom suggesting anything bold or of local significance because they can’t, they don’t know your town. The sad part is these people achieved their high positions by successfully programming actual radio stations to real people in specific markets. They’re smart enough to know that what worked in Boston might not fly in Amarillo – except in a vague, general way.

As a local PD today your log is bloated, your programming is filled with syndicated shows, and your hands are tied. 

Unless you have a creative fire in your belly and the guts to assert it.

Dream up great promotions that will excite your audience in your hometown. Enlist the members of your on-air, newsroom, and production staff. Invite them to a pizza place for some brainstorming. Don’t make it mandatory, suggest it will be fun and exciting because it will. Your crew will be happier and bubbling tomorrow. Before long fresh ideas will start trickling in regularly because everyone is enthused, involved, and feeling appreciated. You’ll all make each other’s great ideas even greater. You’re having fun and it’s contagious.

If you can ignite a spark of excitement and faith from your GM and sales department you might find yourself with the programming reigns in both hands.

You weren’t hired to be a clickbait expert, you are a radio expert. You know more about the stuff that comes out of the speakers than anyone else at the station. And you can identify problems and turn them into opportunities. You need to spend your days refining the product, not in endless meetings trying to implement generalized corporate buzzspeak into local program policy.

Attend the Zoom meetings, be a cheerful good soldier but if called upon speak your mind with truth and passion. It’s infectious.

Explain to your boss why you should be allowed to reduce the on-air clutter by as much as half and that you need to spend most of your time every day with your news and talk talent because they’re your stars. It’s why they pay you. The station and the community are all that matters to you.

Tell her/him you’ll read the interoffice memos faithfully and join digital meetings when you can but that the corporate culture will mostly just have to take care of itself.

And, oh, by the way, you need the authority to reject bad radio commercials.

You may not get everything you ask for but I promise you’ll earn some respect.

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