Thirty Years on the Air
Martin Bandyke celebrates an anniversary
When Martin Bandyke started in radio on February 21, 1983, he was a twenty-eight-year-old rock drummer and an import record buyer at Dearborn Music. Three decades later, Bandyke is no longer a drummer or a record buyer, but he's still on the air--amazing longevity in modern radio, where careers are measured in years, not decades.
Bandyke wasn't even paid at first--he was an hour-a-week volunteer DJ at WDET (101.9 FM), Wayne State's public radio station. "I went to full-time employee in 1990," says Bandyke, still endlessly enthusiastic after all these years, "then I had a five-days-a-week morning show in 1991, and in 1992, I shifted to middays and afternoons." Bandyke stayed at WDET until it changed formats in December 2005.
Within a month, Bandyke was hired by Ann Arbor's WQKL (107.1 FM) to take its morning slot. The biggest change was going from non-commercial to commercial radio. "I don't miss the fundraising," he says. "It was very gratifying but very taxing." Bandyke stays inside the station's format for his weekday show, meaning he plays the Beatles and the Stones along with whatever's hot. "But on Sundays I have a show called 'Fine Tuning' which is basically 'Martin goes crazy and plays anything!'" In December, after Dave Brubeck's death, he did a show featuring the pianist--"and he's jazz, and this is a rock station!"
Though he's celebrating his thirtieth year in the business, Bandyke almost didn't get that far. "I was let go at the worst of the recession. The parent company, Cumulus [Media], made cuts, and I lost my job in February of '09. But the audience rallied for me. Many people wrote and called and sent emails expressing their displeasure, and Tim Marshall from the Bank of Ann Arbor took a personal interest and talked to one of the heads of Cumulus. I was offered my job back in two weeks, and it made national news in the radio business because it doesn't happen very often."
How long will
he keep broadcasting? "I want to keep going until they take the microphone away from me," replies Bandyke. "I don't plan on retiring. I want to end my career here in Ann Arbor with my boots on."
Could anyone starting now hope to equal his record? "Radio is like other industries: there's been streamlining with smaller staffs, so we're multitasking now and consolidations with syndicated hosts [are] taking up huge amounts of air time. But if you make yourself indispensable and bust your ass, it can still happen."
[Originally published in January, 2013.]
On January 10, 2013, Helen Buccella-Costa wrote:
Congratulations Martin. And thanks for years of dedication to my two favorite life forms, animals and musicians!