Jimmy Fink: Radio In New York's Backyard
Updated: May 19
Jimmy Fink has one of radio's most storied careers. It includes legendary call letters like WHFS, WPLJ (when it was an AOR station), WXRK (K-Rock, the station where Howard Stern worked in the 90's through to Sirius) and now 107.1 The Peak. It is also the station that brought Jimmy back to radio after he left it in the late 90's.
In this episode you will hear about Jimmy's early days in radio, how he led his family business for a brief period in the 90's, why he left WPLJ, and what it was like to follow Howard Stern. We also dig into what makes the Peak a compelling listen, and why the station has quietly grown a world wide audience. Finally, no 2023 interview would be complete without discussing what impact the pandemic had on Jimmy's work. (Spoiler: He doesn't feel a need to go back to the studio)
It was an earlier episode with Arielle Nissenblatt that conjured up memories of this cool station I would listen to on my trips down I-87 into New York. Arielle grew up listening to the station and contributes a question as well.
Jimmy gave a great interview with Westchester Magazine a few years ago and listed his top five favourite albums of all time as:
The Beatles (aka White Album), The Beatles
Close to the Edge, Yes
The Dark Side of the Moon & The Wall, Pink Floyd
Les Miserables (1987 Original Broadway Cast)
Band on the Run, Paul McCartney & Wings
We are going to assume that #1 has not changed because he had the White Album as his backdrop. And we are not talking about the backdrop that Zooms let's you add as a filter - but a white backdrop with the Beatles.
After the mics were turned off, Jimmy spoke to me fondly about what his children are up to these days. We can confirm that there is music, media and business in the blood. Rob Fink is currently working at Spotfiy with the Spotify for Artists program, to help them build their careers through monetization. His daughter Lucie builds brands and is an influencer on Instagram, and has a solid YouTube Page. Her twin sister Allie works as a trader in New York. Lucie made an attempt to try out Allie's job for a day.
I made mention of a song that I had heard on the Peak while I was making dinner. The song is called "Psychos" by Jenny Lewis. Sounds like your favourite song by Fleetwood Mac...
Jimmy makes playlists on Spotify... Here's one that is a tribute to the late WPLJ:
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:00:02
The Sound Off Podcast. The show about Podcast and Broadcast starts now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:13
I did an episode last year where I asked Arielle Nissenblatt what station she listened to growing up.
Arielle Nissenblatt 00:00:18
I remember loving The Peak 107-1 since high school. It's the kind of radio station that every time you turn it on, you're like, wow, they get it right every single time. Like every song, you're like, they pulled that out of nowhere. And yet it is perfect for this moment right now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:31
107-1 The Peak is now a regular listen in my car and on my smart speaker. Oh, I've got Spotify. But honestly, I still love music being curated for me. I love to be surprised and wowed by the songs that come on the radio.I've reached out to Afternoon Drive host, The legendary Jimmy Fink, not only to talk about the great radio that gets made at the Peak, but also his remarkable career that is now into its 7th decade. With nearly 20 years of that being at the Peak. You're going to hear some legendary New York City call letters and Arielle will be by later in the show to ask a question to Jimmy about the station she listened to growing up. If you are a fan of the AAA radio format or what used to be AOR, take a moment to connect yourself to the station and give it a listen.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:01:14
If you want to get The Peak on your phone, just text Peak to 87301. We'll send you back a link for The Peak app. And you can also go to 1071 The peak.com to listen to me wherever you are, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And of course, if you're in the New York area, you can listen to me on the old FM radio at 107.1 The Peak.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:37
Okay, here we go. Jimmy Fink joins me from his home studio in Scarsdale, New York.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:44
Where is Westchester County in its relationship to New York?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:01:47
I'm about 23 miles north of the city and we're the suburbs of New York City. And I've actually lived in Westchester all my life except when I went to college.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:58
And college was American University? Correct.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:02:01
I graduated from American, but the first two years I went to the University of Arizona in Tucson, then I transferred to American. My wife and I actually transferred at the same time. She was going to Southampton College at the end of Long Island, and our best friend Donald Levy was at American, and we all decided to transfer together and be there with him. So the last two years I went to American and did college radio there.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:29
Why did you want to study communications?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:02:31
I was a drama student at University of Arizona. I really did not like the drama department there all that much. I found it very tedious memorizing lines for plays, and I really switched to communications after I already had a job in radio. So I didn't really intend to be a communications major. I graduated with a degree in speech communications from American. But that's because when I got to American, I transferred in the middle of the year. So I started there in January, and then at the end of the semester, I came back home to New York and got a summer job at WABC FM, which turned into WPLJ. That was my first job in radio. And then when I went back to American at the end of that summer, I changed my major.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:24
And what about working at the campus station, WAMU?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:03:28
WAMU Am. Steve Leeds, who just recently retired from Sirius, was my station manager. He's my colleague. He's the same age as me. I mean, he didn't work at the school. He was a student just like me, but he ran the radio station there. And WAMU FM is the big radio station in Washington, DC. The Am where we worked was carrier current. So the only way you could hear it is if you plugged in your radio in your dorm room. Otherwise, we were broadcasting to ourselves.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:04:04
That was such a weird technology, by the way, carrier current. This is the only other radio station I've ever known that has had carrier current aside from my campus station, which was the same technology.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:04:15
Yeah. What it means for those people who don't know what that is, it means that there's no real broadcast tower sending out the signal. The signal actually goes through the electric system of the university, and in order to get the signal, you have to plug in your radio into the electric socket on the wall, and that's where the signal would come in through, and that's what carrier current is. And we had a beautiful radio studio at the time, early 1970s, with a board and tape machines and turntables. And I went back to see the college radio station several years ago, and now it's just like a closet with a computer and a microphone, and there's no longer a board or a studio or anything like that. So I would hope that most college radio stations are not that, because I always tell people, if you want to go into broadcasting and you get to do college radio, that's just like the greatest. You get to do things in college radio that you'll probably never do in your actual broadcast career.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:20
Did you know there'd be a job waiting for you when you went back to New York?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:05:24
Here's what happened. I was just a kid into music. I called WABC FM when I was home for this summer and to make a request, and I was connected to a vice president of ABC by mistake. And he started asking me all kinds of questions about music and why I wanted to hear what I was requesting, which happened to be a Rod Stewart song and a Van Morrison song. And he said, you know, you have a pretty nice voice. Why don't you come down here and make a tape and maybe you will put you on the air. Okay, great. I was into music. I knew everything about music since the Beatles came out in the early 60s. That sort of changed my life in a way. So I went down on a Wednesday and I never actually made a tape. And he said, well, just come back on Saturday and be on the air for a couple of hours on WABC FM, 50,000 Watt FM New York City radio station. So I did that. I had a summer job there. I worked all summer. In addition to that Saturday afternoon show, some of the staff was changing, and he put me on the air to fill in while they were figuring out exactly what to do. And at the end of the summer, as I say, some of the staff was changing. And I realized the staffs at radio stations change quite often. And it doesn't seem practical for me to not finish my college education in order to take a full time job at this radio station where I had already seen half the staff leave during the course of that summer. And so I told him, I'm going to go back to school. And I did go back. That's when I went back to school. And I worked at the college radio station and also worked at a station called WHFS in Bethesda, Maryland. Pretty famous classic rock station from the past. And then when I came home in January for Christmas vacation, for the semester break or whatever, he said, I have some work for you, so I wanted to work during your vacation. So I did do that. And then when it came time to go back to school at the end of that semester break, I kept a weekend job at WABC FM in New York and commuted back and forth from Washington DC to New York every weekend to keep my job. And that job wound up lasting for about 1314 years.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:07:53
What was the proverbial attitude about FM radio at that time? Because here's a phone call that goes the wrong way. It's a request that goes to a vice president who immediately wants to trap you for research, then wants to trap you into doing work at the station. So what was the attitude about FM?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:08:10
Well, FM was in its infancy then, I would say. This guy was Alan Shaw. He was the vice president of ABC, all the owned and operated FM stations. There were seven of them across the country in all the major cities in the United States. And he had this network that was called the Love Network that was basically taped programs that were rock and roll. But people like Tony Pig, Brother John, Michael Kiskuna, these are people who were doing these tapes that were circulated around to all the radio stations. And he decided he wanted to get away from that tape situation and go live. It was in its infancy, and I can best describe it by saying WABC FM was on the same floor as Wabcam, the major power top 40 station in New York City, on the same floor, just around the corner of the hallway. And we had engineers at that time, and when the engineers were working in the Am side on WABC, they would say, oh, I have to go on the air. But when they came to the FM side, they would say, oh, I have to go over on FM, as if to say FM wasn't on the air. Also the way WABC was. So FM was in its infancy, just beginning to develop a strong audience. So it was a great time to get into radio on the FM side.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:42
A lot of the times when you did interviews, you would interview rock stars, and of course you still do interviews, but you'll ask them maybe about their early years. So I'll ask you about your very early years, but growing up in a family that had a bakery.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:09:55
Yeah, my family was in the bread business. It wasn't a corner bakery. It was like a bread factory. At the height of its business, we did about $65 million a year in business. We served all of the New York City school system with bread. We were a wholesale bakery, so we served restaurants, hospitals, hotels, schools, concert venues, Yankee Stadium, and yeah, it was a bread factory. When you say bakery, people think maybe it's like a little corner bake shop. And it really wasn't that at all. It was 300,000 equipment making thousands of loaves of bread and rolls every single day. So I had probably thought that that was my destiny. And it was actually because for the first seven years of my radio career, from 1970 to 1977, I also worked at the bakery, I guess you might say on the corporate level. I wasn't down there kneading the dough or anything like that, but I was involved in my family's business. My dad died when I was 16, so it was my brothers and myself and some other people. We had merged with various companies over the course of the years. And that brings me around to in the 1980s, my brother and I decided that there were too many partners in the company as a result of several things. One was that we merged with companies over the years, and the officers of those companies came in as officers of our company. And also my grandfather used to pay, like the accountant and the lawyers in stock. And so by the time the 80s rolled around, those accountants and lawyers had died off. They left their stock to their kids, and there was a million little shareholders of the company. And so my brother and I engineered a buyout of everyone, and we took the company back into the fink family, and it was just my brother and I. And also around that same time, I went full time on radio. So that's why I say I worked there on the corporate level. I wasn't really involved so much in the day to day operations of Fink Bacon Corporation after the late 1970s. But the company, as I say, was very large and successful for a while, but as time went on, it became more and more difficult to operate a big bread factory in the city of New York because of unions, taxes, the price of gas and electricity, and the company was failing. And so in the year 2000, we sold it. We sold the company, and the person we sold it to only lasted in business for 18 months after the company had been in business for over 100 years. And that was because of the current economic conditions of the time in New York City and doing business in that environment.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:01
Does that include 911?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:13:03
It was right around 911. When they finally went out of business. There was 911, 2001. So we sold it in 2000, 2001. Shortly after 911, they went out of business.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:15
Tell me about your career as it sort of pivots into the 1980s and you're in New York City, and along comes MTV, and most of the things that you were doing on the radio were then going to go to television. Did that change any of the things you did or the relationship with artists?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:13:33
Or did video kill the radio stars?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:37
I mean, it's an attempted murder. Jimmy.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:13:41
All throughout my radio career, there have always been changes. I remember when fax machines came in, all of a sudden that was something new, and we started taking requests by fax. So MTV came and okay, so people had another way of watching music and being turned on to music. And of course, later on, as the internet became more prominent, streaming services started coming up, napster and all that kind of things. There's always been many different ways of listening to music. And I always tell my audience, the fact that you have chosen to listen to my show is humbling and flattering because you have many different options of ways to listen. Certainly MTV, it was a visual thing, and it sort of brought the visual aspect of music more to the forefront, rather than just having the visual aspect of going to a concert. Now you could see TVs and people started making videos, and it also gave us more to talk about on the radio because the artists were more accessible. And friends of mine were the people on MTV. Mark, mark Goodman, who's still around on Sirius, he was a friend and also worked at PL J.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:00
Tell me about your time at Krock and how you got on board.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:15:04
In the early 1980s, PL J decided to go into a different direction. They wanted to be more top 40. I remember we had a meeting one day. Jim kerr was there, I was there, and they were describing how they were going to change the format. It wasn't going to be album oriented rock any longer. It was going to include Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson and more of the pop area. And I remember Jim Kerr held up a piece of paper and said, in other words, this represents the format of the radio station, this piece of paper. Then he tore the paper in half and threw away one half of it and held up that little other half and said, this is what the new radio station is going to be. And so, yeah, that was the first time I experienced and really realized that a radio station is not your friend. It's a business. And there's a very strong possibility that you might wake up tomorrow and your favorite radio station will all of a sudden be, for example, a Spanish talk station. If the owners of that business and that radio station decide that that's the direction that they want to go in, and then they can make more money doing that than playing music and having the personalities that you love, it's an insecure business. And I'm very lucky to have worked for three radio stations in a long career with a pretty long, long life in each one. I mean, I was 1314 years at PL J, over ten years at Kroc. I'm here at the peak now almost 20 years. It was 19 years this summer. Next year it'll be 20. But after PLJ changed its format and they got rid of most of us, I continued to work for ABC, which owned PL J, of course, at the time, and the ABC Radio Network. And I was producing a show for them called The Continuous History of Rock and Roll, which was on about 150 radio stations and Armed Forces Radio all around the world. It was a weekly program, hour long, with five 1 minute segments that ran during the during the week in order to promote the weekend show. That was an hour long show, and that really is what got me into intense interviews with many, many rock personalities. Not only rock personalities, but I also would be interviewing politicians and sports stars. That's where I really honed my interview technique. So for a couple of years, I continued to do that for ABC after PLJ, after I was not on the air on PL J anymore. And then in July of 1985, live Aid Weekend, kroc was going to come on the air. Their actually first broadcast was over. Their first thing as a station was to broadcast the live aid shows. And I was on vacation out in the Hamptons with my wife and got a call from Pat Evans, who was a woman, patricia Evans, who was the program director of Kroc, and she said, Would you come over? So I left my vacation came over, and yeah, wound up working at Kroc for ten years through the 1980s up to 1997. A little bit more than ten years, actually, from 85 to 97. And that really changed me, because when Howard Stern came to Kroc, it changed the way I approached radio. My show was on after Howard's. He was supposed to be on from six to ten, and I was on from ten to two. But if you listen to Howard, he never got off at ten. He would keep going until maybe 1045 or sometimes even eleven. Nevertheless, my show started at ten. So 10:00 I came into the studio and I became part of the Howard Stern Show. All of a sudden, it wasn't really an announcer thing anymore. You were more like a real person when you were with Howard. And never in my whole career, after being on the radio for 20 years, already did more people say to me, hey, I heard you with Howard today. I heard Howard was busting your balls or doing this. And if you're in the room with Howard and you see the twinkle in his eye and he is just like a friend of yours busting your balls, he's not trying to hurt you or be vindictive in any kind of way. It's just fun. And it was fun. And at the same time, you saw the things that Howard was doing on the radio, and I saw the things that Howard was doing on the radio, and I said to myself, well, what am I going to do that's going to be more outrageous? And what I'm trying to say is it basically gave me the opportunity to become more myself and be a little bit more outrageous, because I know that I was on the station where Howard Stern was, so nobody's going to care what I do when he's doing his stick all morning.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:19
What did you have to do to make that transition? I'm thinking, is it a block of spots and then everybody sort of piles out and you pile in? Or is it a record? How do you make that transition?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:20:30
What do you mean? The transition from the Howard Stearns show to the Jimmy Fink show? Yeah.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:33
At some point. How do you make that transition? Do you have a record ready to go? Is it commercials? Like they're clearing out and you're coming in?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:20:41
Yeah, at the end, finally, when Howard was over, he would play a record. And during the course of while that record was being played, fred and Gary would basically be cleaning out the studio from all of this stuff that they had left around. And by the time the song was over, I was sitting down in that chair where Howard was sitting, and I did my show. But at the same time, I had just been on with Howard, just talking regular, not being an announcer, not saying this was, that is, and talking about the Beatles, blah, blah, blah, whatever. It got me to just be more of myself and be more real on the air. And that really has lasted all of this time, where when you're on the radio, even though maybe thousands of people are listening to you, you're only talking to one person, the person who's listening, you're not addressing the whole of Madison Square Garden like you're on stage. You have to be one on one with people. It's one thing that working with Howard made me realize.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:43
Tell me a little bit about the 90s, because we weren't quite into napster yet. Music was still really confined to radio stations and record stores and whatever you purchased, and it was a hard, physical piece that you owned. So throughout the 90s, you who were going to be interviewing artists, you were the gateway to connecting listeners to the artist.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:22:11
Yeah, and through my show that I did, when I was worked for Krock, I also did another nationally syndicated show. It was called Rock Watch. It was basically like American Top 40 of album rock, that kind of program. It was distributed and produced by United Stations Radio Network. It was also on, I guess, maybe 100 some stations. But yeah, music was always changing. It was changing. Before I was into it, before I was into it, there was Frank Sinatra or whatever, and then came The Beatles, and after The Beatles, then came all this corporate rock, what you might call corporate rock journey and Foreigner, Sticks, Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick, bands like that. And I remember one time I was doing a show with Foreigner and their second album wasn't selling as well as their first album was, and the record company wasn't really happy about that. And the same thing happened with Boston, the band Boston, their first album, was massive. I think at that time, maybe it had sold 1215 million copies and the second one only sold 8 million copies. Meanwhile, if a record had sold 8 million copies today, you'd be like a star. You'd be amazingly huge. So music has always changed.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:30
How did you find it, that grunge music could live alongside all the other music that had come before it? It felt like a weird combination.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:23:38
Yeah, it was. But you know what? Krock was a classic rock station. They didn't really play it. They didn't really play it. They pretty much ignored it. Ignored it. I remember one time someone was talking about Green Day, the band Green Day, and I said something like, Green Day is like, down here. And I held my hands down by my knees and then I would held my other hand, like, over my head and say, the Beatles and Queen and The Who and the Rolling Stones and yes, they're up here. Of course, that was just because something else was coming into music. And the same thing with New wave. The Joe Jackson's and the Elvis Costello's. When they came in, it was another kind of a change. So it's always been an evolving thing, and I'm happy to be at a radio station now which plays all of that. We go all the way back to the Beatles, and sometimes on a special show that I have called After Six on the Peak. That's basically like free form. I might even go before the Beatles sometimes with a song or two, but I also have to remember that the Beatles were 55, 60 years ago. So you can't go really too far back, but we also play everything all through seventy s, eighty s, ninety s. And music continues now, and there are still some great songs coming out now, so there's always been an evolvement of music, and I'm happy to be working for a radio station that recognizes
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:23:38
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Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:38
How does One prepare to interview Paul McCartney?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:25:49
Here's the thing of me, I'm very prepared when I go into an interview, I guess I could tell you a couple of stories. Like, I have had these books, the Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll and various Rolling Stones books that they published, and I always would do a lot of research before an interview. So I was in the PLJ studio one day and I had scheduled an interview with Frank Zappa. So I had these books laid out on the table, and I'm just researching some things so that I try to want to ask him some questions that he's not asked all the time. And you get those questions by doing some research and finding out some things that maybe not everybody knows about various artists that you're going to interview. When all of a sudden, as I'm taking notes and looking through the Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, frank Zappa walks in the room and looks down at me looking at the book, and his attitude was, oh, great, you had to look me up in order to ask me some questions like you didn't know who I was. I'm always very prepared. Well, when it came to Paul McCartney, as you just asked me about, I happened to be invited to go to a sound check of a show that he was doing at Madison Square Garden, and a lot of media people, radio and television personalities or whatever, were in the room as Paul was doing a sound check. And after the sound check was over and he had just played a few songs and it was pretty impromptu and informal, somebody from Paul's staff said, okay, so who was supposed to interview Paul McCartney? And I looked around and nobody was raising their hand. So I raised my hand, and they said, okay, come on, let's go. And I thought, oh, shit. Because I did not prepare for an interview. I had no idea I was going to be interviewing Paul McCourney. Of course, there probably isn't that much about Paul McCourney that I didn't know because I was like a beetle freak for years. But nevertheless, when I got backstage and we were in the green room sitting on a couch together, my mind was racing. I'm looking at his fingernails. I'm looking at his shoes. And I did a not very good interview that lasted very short time, maybe about ten minutes. And I was a little disappointed in myself. But I always chalked it up to the fact that, well, you weren't prepared. There was a few questions that came to my mind, but I'm sitting here next to Paul McCartney, somebody who I've idolized for so many years, and I had trouble focusing. Then about 25 years later, my daughter was in the Hamptons, and she went into a restaurant, and Paul is sitting there with his current wife, Nancy. And Nancy happens to be a friend of a friend of ours, so there was a connection there. So my daughter Lucy went up to their table and sort of didn't pay too much attention to Paul. She said, Are you Nancy? And Nancy would say yes. And Lucy said, Well, I'm friends with Debbie Wecker, who's our friend, and she knows each other. And they chatted for a little while. And then Nancy says, this is my husband Paul. And my daughter Lucy looks at Paul and she goes, oh, yeah, I know who you are. My dad has a picture with you. And Paul. Says who's? Your dad? And she goes, oh, it's Jimmy Fink. And he goes, oh, yeah, sure. I don't know if he really remembered me. He might have known me because he was in New York often enough to listen to the radio. So, yeah, there's my Paul McCartney story. At least one of them. There's a few times when I had close encounters with Paul. There was another time when he was at Radio City Music Hall doing some kind of event in the afternoon, and I was up the block at the Krock Studios, and somebody said, well, Paul's going to be at Radio City. So I grabbed an album sized photograph that I have of Paul from the Ram album, and I ran down to Radio City Music Hall and got him to sign it in the lobby. Just a simple autograph. And it was cool. I don't know, especially if you've seen any of these recent TV shows like McCartney one, two, Three, where he's with that Rick Rubin, the record producer. And he's a genius. He's an absolute musical genius. I recently saw something on TikTok with Paul where he is picking out the guitar riffs of Blackbird, his song Blackbird, and then. He starts talking about, you know, it's based on the music of Bach, and he starts picking out some Bach thing on his guitar that's very similar to Blackbird. And it was just like, Paul is a genius, really is.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:31:01
Why does the Peak work so well?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:31:03
When The Peak first came on the radio in 2004, the classic rock radio stations were limiting themselves to playing like a total of 300 songs. If you listen to the classic rock radio station in New York, you would think that The Who or Jethro Tall or Queen only made like five or six songs, the ones that they play over and over and over again. And when The Peak came on the air, we started playing deep tracks, not just The Stairway to Heaven. As a matter of fact, during the course of the 20 years of The Peak, we've probably played Stairway to Heaven less than 20 times on our station. We don't play it, generally speaking, and we don't play a lot of artists. I play them during the free form after six section of my program or in another part of the show. That the part of the radio station we call the Ten to 1010 great songs from one great year. But in the regular course of the format of The Peak, you don't hear Bob Seager, you don't hear Billy Joel, you don't hear Journey Sticks or any of those artists that exist in classic rock radio stations. And I think people were just perking up their ears and realizing that music didn't stop in the 1990s. It keeps going on and there's a lot of new music still, and the combination of playing those songs from the plus still playing brand new stuff works. And it works at several radio stations around America. The Peak is not a unique format. It's called AAA adult Album Alternative. And there are stations in every city that have that sort of format. It is a format. It's not free form. I don't just go on the radio and start picking things out of my head. It is a format. And when I say format, songs are in a certain rotation and it works. And I don't know why no New York City big radio station has picked up on it the way stations in maybe like Chicago where big stations are, or in Philadelphia. But I'm happy that they have it, because that leaves The Peak in the suburbs of New York City to pick up the ball. We're a local radio station in the suburbs. We exist in the shadow of these big New York City radio stations, in the shadow of CBS FM and Z 100 and W Light, the light rock radio station. I was amazed when I turn on the light rock radio station and they're playing Worlds Apart by Journey. I never thought of that as light rock, but I guess it is. It's probably just a misnomer that they call it light because it's not all that light all the time. But I think The Peak works because we are into the music that we play and it's always not so much that's what you hear on the radio. I remember I was listening to Z 100 once and someone called in and they put this listener on the air and the listener was saying, what was that song you played two or three songs ago? And the Saki goes, I don't know, we don't listen to the music. They're doing their stick, whatever, their radio stick, and the music is sort of incidental. It's almost like playing a commercial and that's not what it is all about on The Peak. And that's why The Peak works. And The Peak, by the way, for those of you listening to this podcast, is not just a suburban New York radio station. I guess maybe our largest audience is streaming. We have an app, The Peak app, that you can just text Peak to 87301. We'll send you back a link that you can put The Peak app on your phone or of course, you can just go to The Peak's website, 171 The peak.com, and listen to The Peak wherever you are. And we have it's very interesting. There was a station in San Francisco called KFOG. They were a similar formatted station to The Peak, and a few years ago they changed format, just like I was talking about before. You can wake up one morning and KFOG is no more. It's something else. It's not playing the things you want. It doesn't have the personalities on that you have grown to know and love. But these listeners of KFOG, they call themselves Fogheads and they have a Facebook page called Fogheads in Exile and those people somehow found The Peak. And we have this enclave of an audience in San Francisco, the former listeners of KFOG that now listen to The Peak even though it's not their local radio station. And they hear an advertisement for suburban carting that you can get a dumpster delivered to your house here in the suburbs of New York, and they're in San Francisco listening, but they don't care because they like the music we play and they like our approach to the music. So that's also something that's very humbling and flattering.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:36:19
You and I are recording this podcast.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:36:21
Via Squadcast and we have a listener question from Ariel Nissanblad, who is the. Community manager at Squadcast. She's also been a lifelong listener of The Peak.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:36:30
Arielle Nissenblatt 00:36:31
Hello. Sound off, Podcast. And hello Jimmy Think. Please excuse the sound quality situation here. I am recording this while walking back from a soccer game in Brooklyn, New York, so you may hear the sounds of the city. However, I am originally from Westchester, which is why I am so familiar with The Peak and I love The Peak so much. I talk about it all the time. So thank you, Matt, for allowing me to ask a question. Here is my question for Jimmy Think. How did you come up with the Ten to 1010 great songs from one great era? I would love to know how did it start? And it's just so unique to me. And if I need to explain it, I would love to explain it. It's every day at 10:00 a.m and 10:00 P.m. Peak chooses ten songs and sometimes commercials and sometimes other audio clips and shares it on the radio and it's just the best. And I tune in and I stream it from everywhere. So I would love to know about the origins of the Ten at Ten.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:37:22
Well, thank you so much. The Ten at Ten is not my original idea. There are, I think, maybe three or four versions of the Ten at Ten that are done by radio stations around the country. So when I say it's not my idea, but nevertheless it is my little baby here in New York. It is ten great songs from one great year. But it's not just one great year, it's from that very month. Ten songs from a specific month of a specific year anywhere starting in 1964, all the way up. We only go up to the year 2000, although actually 1999, although we have had discussions about now that 1999 is like 24 years ago already, expanding it into the reason why we haven't done that yet is because it's very tedious to locate all of the other elements of the Ten to Ten. Not the music. We have the music. That's not the problem. The problem is what you just referred to, like the commercials and the video clips and clips from movies and stuff like that and sourcing those, although with YouTube it's easy to find them, but it's very tedious to download them and put them into the thing for the Ten to Ten. So the Ten to Ten, the first section of the Ten to Ten is the news of that particular month, of that particular year. The news headlines, those are pretty easy to find. And then comes the ten songs mixed in with, like you said, clips from movies, TV shows, TV show theme songs, commercials from that month of that year. And then finally the back announce, which also tells you what the ten songs you heard were. And a little fun fact about each one of those songs, those are written by me. In the past month I had Chat GPT actually write a Ten to Ten for me and I found several errors in Chat GPT. I left the errors in I told the audience that Chat GPT wrote this particular Ten at Ten, it wasn't me who did it. So I left the errors in to show that Chat GPT isn't exactly perfect. Not saying that I'm perfect, but Chat GPT was not perfect. When I source the songs from the ten to ten, I basically look at the hot 100 or the hot 200 albums from that that were on the charts of that particular month of that particular year and pick out some songs that I know were being played on the radio, because I was on the radio during most of those months and years and put it together into a kind of entertaining show. People really like the Ten. At ten it's on at 10:00 A.m and 10:00 P.m on the peak New York time. And on Sunday afternoon, starting at 04:00 New York time, we play back all week's, ten attends. So that goes for 5 hours, takes up 5 hours of programming on a Sunday and gives the opportunity for the radio station to not have a live person there. Take a break.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:40:41
So that was Arielle Nissanblatt, who, by the way, is really great at recommending podcasts to people. I had her on my show and she told me about this radio station, The Peak, and when I can, I always ask my device to play it and in comes the radio station and it's this mix of music, of songs that I've heard before, kind of forgotten about. You mentioned the who? You don't play the same who song all the time. But I had to go back and re remember a song pure.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:41:13
The title is Pure and Easy
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:15
Pure and Easy
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:41:16
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:16
Thank you. I had to reacquaint myself with this stuff and I had worked at AOR Radio at Showman Montreal, but just some songs had sort of slipped away in the 2000 3000 record universe as stations began to pare down.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:41:32
Yeah, as I said earlier, we don't play a lot of Billy Joel, but the after six section of my program, which is this sort of free form hour of music, yesterday was Billy Joel's birthday. It might not be yesterday when you're listening to this podcast, but it was May 9, is that right? Yeah, May 9. And I got an email from somebody who said I was great hearing those Billy Joel songs, including the ones that I didn't even know. And I thought to myself, with God, I thought I was playing pretty popular Billy Joel tunes. And I was pretty amazed that someone really liked the show but didn't know some of the songs because they were all pretty familiar in that after six section of my program, which is on Monday through Friday at 06:00 P.m., between six and seven, it's sort of like a free form hour. We usually have a theme or I'll play one particular artist or songs that are all about the same thing. Like for example, on Monday of this past week, which once again might not be right when you're listening to this podcast, but we had the Coronation of the King over the weekend and so I played all of these kind of King songs on Monday. And that's the unique part of the after six section of the program. You never know what you're going to hear on there and get to play songs that are a little bit deeper, but at the same time, I try not to go off the deep end. I don't want to be too self indulgent, just play songs that I know and love, but I know that will be completely unfamiliar to everybody. So I have to mix it up a little bit just to bring everybody in.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:43:11
It feels like when you're putting the songs together, that it's era or the time doesn't seem to matter. Yesterday I heard it's. The end of the World as We Know It by REM But I was also served up a new song as well, and it was Jenny Lewis psychos Jenny.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:43:28
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:43:28
And I loved it.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:43:30
Yeah, it's great.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:43:31
I had to go back on the website to say, who sang that and where do I get this?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:43:35
Yeah, it sort of reminds me a little bit of it has a part on it where the melody is actually very similar to the current Miley Cyrus song, the biggest song of the year, Flowers. And also, it sounds a little bit like Fleetwood Macs Dreams. I'm glad you mentioned that song, because it happens to be my current favorite new song. Jenny Lewis. She's from RYLA Kylie, the band. RYLA Kylie?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:43:59
So Lindsay Buckingham Trouble came To mind when I Listened To it.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:44:02
Yeah, it has a Fleetwood Mac sound.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:44:05
To it is a lesson here that people still love to have music curated for them more than we give them credit for. In a world where you can get.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:44:15
Music anywhere, it's interesting because everybody could recreate their own playlists. Now, you can do that on Spotify. My son works for Spotify and, yeah, I'm basically creating a playlist every single day. That's my radio show. And, like I say, try not to be self indulgent, but also want to play the music with some modicum of intelligence and forethought that I'm not just throwing a bunch of songs together for no reason, just to play them. But nevertheless, during the course of the regular day, we are following a format, as I said, but during that after six section of my program, it takes more thought than just the normal format of the radio station.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:04
A curated and a shared experience would sort of come to mind.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:45:08
Yeah, well, I'm always happy when people would send me an email or contact me one way or another on Facebook and compliment what they heard on the air, because you never know. You're sitting in a room all by yourself, you're playing music, picking songs, and you're talking about them and you don't really know if people are digging it or not. And when you get a message from somebody that says, oh, man, that was just so great, and the way you put those two songs together, or I heard a Segue, it just sounded so good. And, yeah, the fact that I worked on that Segue, I planned it and I executed it and someone noticed it and liked it. That's why I do what I do.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:57
What about working at home during the pandemic? How'd you adapt?
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:46:01
I built a studio at the same time when COVID came around the Peak, sort of decided to move their studios and I started doing my show from home. Built a studio here, got the focus right, like you said, and also have the symmetrics and several computers and I log into the peaks next gen system that runs the radio station and create my show and I never want to go back to the radio station again. I love doing it from home, not just because I can wear my pajamas, but just because it's not like the big New York City radio station where there's 50 people working there and there's a lot of camaraderie. We're a very small station. We're like a triumvirate. It's basically Coach who does the morning show, chris Herman is the program director and does the midday show. And me, we are the only real, true full time personalities on the air. At The Peak, there are a few other people, but we're never all there at once. And the radio station is not like a social thing the way it used to be. We get together once a week for a music meeting at the radio station, but other than that, Chris is doing his show from home. Coach actually does his show from the station and I do mine from home. And I don't want to go back. I don't want to go back there. There's no reason to because like I said when I visited my college radio station, it's just a computer and a microphone and now I am basically with computers and a microphone. I don't have any turntables or CDs or tape machines in my studio and we don't have them at the radio station either. It's all digital. So I don't know it's changed, but I like it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:02
Jimmy, thanks so much for being on the show.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:04
I really appreciate it.
Jimmy Fink (Guest) 00:48:05
This has been a trip. I always like doing it and I never know where these shows are going to go. I've been on podcasts before and there are the standard questions that I get asked, but I think that you really delved into sort of different areas that and came up with some questions that I hadn't been asked before and that sort of made me think and I didn't have my standard answers already for you. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:33
I did have pages I just want to share that I do have. I did prep this.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:48:39
The Sound Off podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill, produced by Evan Surminski; edited by Chloe Emond-Lane, social media by Aidan Glassey. Another great creation from the soundoff media company. There's always email@example.com.