October 26, 2005

RIP: Michael Spears

Michael Hagerty sent along word today that Michael Spears, program director at 610/KFRC from 1973 to 1977, died Tuesday (October 25) after a five-year battle with cancer. He was 58.

Michael SpearsDuring his tenure at The Big 610, Spears brought in an array of talent unmatched elsewhere in Top 40 radio during the Seventies, including Beau Weaver, John Mack Flanagan, Dave Sholin, Chuck Buell, Marvelous Mark McKay, Don Sainte-Johnn, Shana, Rick Shaw, Mucho Morales and Big Tom Parker. While Spears didn't hire Dr. Don Rose for KFRC — RKO General National PD masterminded that move — it was Spears who created the environment that allowed "Dr. Don to be Dr. Don," according to Hagerty.

"A lot of other PDs would have found subtle ways to sabotage a controversial morning show that wasn't their idea," Hagerty said, "but Michael gave the support and freedom to DDR that allowed him to become an outright legend in the market and in the industry."

Spears also kept listeners involved with an amazing array of promotions, Hagerty noted.

"The station was also just incredible promotionally in those days," he said. "Spears' first promotion was giving away Mick Jagger's Morgan Plus 8 roadster. Then there was the 'Grand A Day Giveaway' ... and 'Car A Day' ... and "Hawaii A Day"... and nobody else was doing them yet. He took charity promotions to a new level with KFRC's involvement in the March of Dimes Walkathons, and reinvented concert tie-ins with Bill Graham's 'Day On The Green' series."

"Michael plucked me out of overnights in Jacksonville at the age of 21 to do 6-10 p.m. at KFRC," Marvelous Mark posted on Radio-Info.com. "He gave me my career and a new name. Michael also encouraged me to learn voice imaging from Bobby Ocean and John Mack Flanagan. Eventually, when they left I took over that job, and it's how I earn my living to this day."

A native of Texas, Spears (born Hal Martin) won the state's Champion Magician competition at age 15. In 2004, he was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. For the past several years, he had operated his own production company, Beam, Inc.

After bringing Billboard Station of the Year honors to KFRC, Spears departed for 93/KHJ in Los Angeles as the era of Top 40 radio on the AM dial began its decline.

"His arrival at KFRC coincided with the exact moment that sister KHJ starting declining into 'just another radio station,'" Hagerty noted. "And, were it not for a couple of missteps that probably weren't his fault, I believe he could have saved KHJ, too."


Anonymous Susan said...

In August of 2005 I lost everything to Katrina. I had lost touch with all my friends. This year, finally back in my home after a long 15 months of displaced hell, I sent out Christmas cards to all my friends across the country. The card I sent to Michael Spears was returned. I knew Michael had a website so I did a Google search and this post is what I found.

I am saddened.

January 07, 2007 4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out of curiousity, what year was the giveaway for Mick Jagger's Plus 8?

March 02, 2007 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Nick Alexander said...

A correction on the main story: Hal Martin was not his real name. That was a name he used as a disk jockey on many stations including KLIF and KNUS in Dallas, CKLW Detroit/Windsor, WYSL in Buffalo. He switched to his real name which was Michael Stephen Spears while at KFRC, and used that for the rest of his career.
Michael was my mentor and got me started on a career path in broadcasting in 1967. We remained close friends for almost 40 years. I'd be happy to share or hear stories from other friends or business associates, or share details of his life. At his request I "produced" his funeral, and hosted a "Cheers & Tears for Spears" gathering that evening with many friends and radio folks gathering from all over the country.
Nick Alexander
And "Mick's Morgan" was given away in either late 74 or 75.

November 12, 2007 10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been away from the radio industry for over 12 years but have recently had a nostalgic curiosity to check on people I worked with or met during my career. This one hits a soft spot. I met Michael Spears in 1977 after receiving a phone call from him. He was passing through Sacramento, heard me on the air and asked me to submit an air-check for consideration to do week-ends at KFRC. At the time that wouldn't have worked for me because of personal constraints. I explained that to him and he understood and said let's stay in touch which we did for a few years. Michael Spears was a wonderful person and a GREAT program director. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, co-workers and listening audience.

Chuck Hale

January 13, 2008 3:37 PM  
Anonymous bobby ellerbee said...

I have to say that Michael Spears was one of the finest, brightest and classiest people I ever had the pleasure of working with.

Around '82, Michale hired me to work for him at K104 in Dallas. I had worked afternoons at Atlanta's V103, home of the urban format for several years and the progression was kind of natural.

Aside from newsman Drew Hayes (now WLS PD), Mike and I were the only 2 crackers in the building, but we had another great natural bond from the start...our love of great TOP 40 style radio and that included Dr. Don Rose. I loved Dr Don growing up in Atlanta listening to WQXI, but Micheal was Don's boss at KFRC.

Mike and I used to love to cruise Dallas in the K104 Little Red Corvette (what a cherry ride!) and sip a few brews. Some of my proudest moments were spent going over air checks with him, and especially on days when Don Kelly (our consultant) was in town as Kelly had been group PD for RKO and Chicago's WFYR. Being double teamed by a couple of the country's best PDs is pretty exciting! Especially when they like what you do.

With Michael's help, I was able to work at KFRC from late 83 till early 84. I was doing 2 months of holiday fill in work and worked 2 shifts a day until my appendix burst and complications set in.

Michael and I remained friends and I feel so bad that after weeks of planning, I came down with a bad flu bug and was not able to meet him in Miami the only free day he had before he and his girlfriend boarded for a cruise.

Michael Spears left me with a lot more than I had before I met him, and one of those things is my friendship with Lora Cain. Lora was his assistant at K104 and Lora and I are still best friends and both dearly love and respect one of the most remarkable, talented and giving men I have ever known...Michael Spears.

God Bless Your Sweet Heart Michael!

Bobby Ellerbee

December 26, 2010 1:30 PM  

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