|Ted Atkins was the architect
of 1250/WTAE. It was Ted Atkins leadership that brought The Big 1250 to
Ted began in radio in
Denver at KLAK in 1957. He had stops in Kansas City (Ks), and Denver again
before moving on to Washington, Detroit's legendary CKLW, KFRC San Francisco
and KHJ Los Angeles working for Bill Drake. He moved on to KIIS in L.A.
before joining the Big 1250 in 1973 as General Manager. He's had stints
in management and ownership before retiring to Pittsburgh.
Ted Atkins passed away
on July 19, 2012 from cancer. More details will be posted as they become
Here are some responses
from Ted's friends and former co-workers from Facebook...
Ted Atkins, Captain Showbiz, passed away today following a brave
battle with an unrelenting adversary. There's not another human on the
who had a greater influence on my professional life. As a radio programmer,
guided some of the greatest stations in America, including CKLW, KFRC,
legendary KHJ. As GM, he ran WTAE in Pittsburgh, where I learned more about
radio than I could have anywhere else in the US. Ted was my boss, my mentor
and my friend. And I miss him already. Love to Karen and all who feel about
as I do. Rest in Peace, Captain."
Don Berns... "RIP,
Ted Atkins. The golden age of broadcasting has lost one its most
colourful and legendary figures (my GM at WTAE in Pittsburgh from 1979-1985)"
"Ted cared about all of us at WTAE and treated us as a family. We will
miss his smile, his baratone voice,and his humor. Ted's love for Karen
and meaningful and we pray for both of you. GOD Speed Ted."
"I thanked Ted many times over the years for providing the
framework, the working conditions and the atmosphere at WTAE that allowed
people to do some of the best work of their radio careers. It certainly
was true for
me. His thoroughness and attention to detail provided not only guidance
a sense of security. You knew where you stood, what was expected
of you, what
the contingency plans were. He defined the playground then left you
of doubt and confusion, to go and play in it, to have fun. And no
matter how it
turned out each day, you always knew he "had your back."
I mentioned all this to him again during the past year, even though the
seemed to make him feel a little uncomfortable. He handled levity
better than sincerity, perhaps looking or waiting for a punchline.
In this case,
there was none. It was just the truth.
In the summer of 1977, I was on the verge of going to either KMOX in St.
WTAE in Pittsburgh. Ted said, "Come here. You'll have more
fun." He was right. "
"I've known Ted Atkins for more than 50 years, way back before
he was Capt. Showbiz. We first met at Denver University and worked together
half-a-dozen radio stations over the years. Ted was always a Rock of Gibraltar
and I can't think of a time when life got him down to the point were he
to give up. And he remained super strong through the past year and a half
tried to fight off the disease that attacked him so viciously. Even during
time, he still stood tall and set a terrifically brave example for all
of us to try to
follow. Carol and I send our most sincere condolences to you, Karen, and
you know that we all respect you enormously for supporting Ted so valiantly.
he rest in peace and may you be at peace also, knowing you fought hard
John Mehno... "Ted
Atkins was unquestionably one of the most important people in
the history of Pittsburgh radio. He took over a sleepy little station,
maximized the considerable talent already on staff and turned WTAE into
powerhouse. He was smart enough to integrate the unique quirks of the market
(Myron's unconventional voice, those "Pittsburgh-only" oldies) into the
format fundamentals that made the station sound so great. WTAE in the Atkins
was as good as any station has ever sounded -- the right blend of personality,
energy and consistency. Working at a time when radio still did qualify
biz," Ted Atkins was one of the giants of the industry."
Chris Lash... "Ted
Atkins passed away this morning. His death is a big loss to the
radio industry. I'm so glad I finally got to meet him at a Christmas party
There will only be one "Captain Showbiz".
Charlie Van Dyke,,,
"Ted Atkins was a friend and mentor. I worked for him at 3 great
stations: CKLW, KFRC, and KHJ. He helped the careers of countless people.
truly good guy who left this life this morning. Rest in peace, Ted. Your
lives on in the many people you have helped."
John Rook... "With
great sadness our long time friend Ted Atkins passed away this
morning in Pittsburgh. Our deepest sympathy to Karen and all who were fortunate
enough to have had Ted in their lives."
"I am most sad to hear about the passing of ted he was a great mentor
to me. Ted was kind enough to spend an entire day and a half with
schooling me in the Drake format from stem to stern he was truly a great
"Three men have left an undeniable imprint on my life and career.
First and foremost, my father. Then Dr. Alan Larson during my college years
beyond). And finally, Ted Atkins...who gave me tremendous opportunities
WTAE/WHTX Pittsburgh when I was first starting out. More importantly, he
me more about radio programming/management and how to succeed in this
business (and life) than I could have ever imagined. He was a great friend
mentor who went through his life with the voice of God and a heart of gold.....and
the stories and adventures are too numerous to even remember them all.
thankful that I was able to tell him in person how much he has meant to
the last couple years. He was a true legend. He lost his battle with cancer
morning and is in a better place. RIP Captain Showbiz."
"RIP Captain Showbiz, the brilliant programmer Ted Atkins. He knew
the potential of radio and touched so many. Rest easy, Ted"
Ed Salamon... "I
programmed WEEP in Pittsburgh the early 70s when he had WTAE
sounding the best in its history. Ted was a real pro and everyone in the
the time were better programmers from listening to his station and being
challeged by him."
"He was a giant in the industry. Very sad day. I had the privilege of
working for him at the very young age of 18 with the collosal talent he
together at 400 Ardmore Blvd. It was, at that time, More than Just A Radio
and that was because of Ted."
John Pfab... "Rest
In Peace and Godspeed "Captain Showbiz." It was a pleasure
living in Pittsburgh at the time 1250 was at the height of its popularity
as a Top 40
radio station. I'm sure there are a lot of program directors working today
borrowed something that Ted laid the groundwork for. To all of Ted's family,
friends, co-workers past and present: prayers of consolence and Peace."
Bob Savage... Graduation
Day, Cap'n Showbiz. Thanks for everything. You did good
and enriched countless lives. I'm sure that when God welcomed you to his
there was heard a resounding tympani roll, with The Great Voiceover Talent
Declaring: "And NOW, ladies and gentlemen....the hits just KEEP ON COMIN'
Pittsburgh radio, and really the medium as a whole, has lost a
legend today, our dear Captain Show Biz, Ted Atkins. He joins other Pittsburgh
legends for whom he was responsible like the dear departed Myron Cope.
rain is appropriate today. May God bless you Ted. You leave a big radio
behind who loves you very much and are fortunate indeed to have called
boss, friend and our beloved Bear."
Tom Lacko... "RIP,
Ted. From all of Pittsburgh, thank you for a job well done!"
"Ted Atkins gave me my first professional job in broadcasting. I
was one of the many who had the privledge to work at 1250 WTAE in it's
He was the man responsible for making it a great place to work. RIP, Captain
Ed Weigle... "Condolences
to the family and colleagues of Ted Atkins, known
affectionately in Pittsburgh as "Captain Showbiz," when he programmed WTAE
Radio from '73 to '85. Ted lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. A great
programmer, who thrived when music radio was still an exciting listening
experience and great fun to work in."
"The radio industry lost a 'legend' yesterday...a gentleman I had the
pleasure to work for in Pittsburgh at WTAE. R.I.P. Captain Showbiz...Ted
"Ted Atkins was a Big Part of my early professional radio career by
believing enough in me to put me in afternoon Drive at KIMN in Denver,
while I was still just a young college student in the early mid-1960s.
of that, for me as they say, the rest is history.
Yet he was more than my Program Director at KIMN; he became a good friend,
wonderful radio associate and we had some absolutely outstanding
memorable times then at one of the country's most successful and respected
Though the following years took us in different directions, both in our
geographics, I never forgot him from the first day someone pointed him
out to me
on the campus of the University of Denver where we both were going to school.
still have this mental video snippet of this big tall guy jumping quickly
parked car and peeling away from the curb! Knowing my intense interest
my friends who were with me at the time said, "That's Ted Atkins!
He's the PD of
the campus radio station."
I obviously couldn't know that day that we would later first work together
Denver commercial radio stations in the 1960s and then later still in the
1970s, that he, as the Program Director of KHJ in Los Angeles and
I, as the Music
Director of WLS in Chicago, two of the three most musically influential
powerful radio stations of the day, would talk on the phone from time to
discuss the latest music phenomenons and exciting new radio promotions.
I will always remember him and be grateful for his early support and I
I am sorry for our shared loss.
"Hail and Farewell Ted Atkins. Radio has lost a real pal!
Not someone who thought this is a good way to make a quick buck, pay a
bills, and make a name for himself. Ted Atkins, indeed, made a name for
but for all the right reasons!
In an industry that has vastly changed over time and where people can take
advantage of others before giving them grief and perhaps terminating them,
cared! Those who have known him long and well say this veteran broadcaster
who died Thursday really cared about getting it right with the right people,
right format, and the right sound. Ted passed away at Pittsburgh's Shadyside
Hospital following a valiant, two-year struggle with pancreatic cancer.
only 72. Affectionately known as Captain Showbiz, Ted's broadcast
spanned forty years in which he was on the air with a rich voice, off the
air as a
hands-on Program Director and ultimately General Manager at WTAE Radio
Pittsburgh. Ted arrived in what use to be known as The Steel City
after I had left
and we never met. We did in recent years have a few exchanges and
very much aware of my concern about his health because I was frequently
reminded about the situation by a close friend who was also a dear friend
and yes, a one-time employee of his.
News Director & anchor Bob Kopler remembers Ted as an outstanding innovator
and a detailed-oriented manager who always backed his people, creating
In today's broadcast world that's definitely more the exception than the
the decade that he was at WTAE, starting in the mid 70s, Bob recalls that
never work but an opportunity to be part of something very special.
that to Ted Atkins, a man Bob remembers as having impressive credentials.
Here's part of the man's background which presumably can be appreciated
those in the broadcast industry and those who follow it. He began
at KLAK in
Denver in 1957 and later enjoyed stints at a collection of legendary
included CKLW, Windsor-Detroit, KFRC, San Francisco, KHJ Los Angeles, and
KIIS in the same market.
Jeff Roteman who was the webmaster of the WTAE Radio tribute site tells
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Ted had the magic touch. Jeff says Ted
market, listened to what the audience had to say and went about revamping
radio station, ultimately creating a contemporary format with the focus
could best be called, Pittsburgh-centered music. To keep an audience's
you need more than engaging personalities. You've got to have promotions.
There were plenty of those and perhaps best remembered was the Terrible
which became part of Steelers' lore. And how sweet was that, as WTAE
just happened to be home of the Super Bowl champs!
And what about the story behind the nickname? John Mehno of The
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tells me that air personality Larry O'Brien at
referred to the boss as "The Big Kid!" But Ted was quick to tell
him that really
fails to cut it and suggested maybe we should try "Captain Showbiz."
recalls everyone referred to him on the air in that fashion, making the
instant hit! There's nothing like success in business, and in his full
but fast 72 years
Ted learned that lesson and learned it well. It's my feeling that
get a wonderful snapshot of Ted in reading one comment that Larry O'Brien
to The Post-Gazette: He recalled Ted saying in one meeting that "there's
absolutely nothing better than being ON the radio!" After a dozen years
Ted became a broadcast consultant in 1985, a creative position which kept
busy until 1992.
Ted Atkins is survived by his wife Karen, two stepchildren, Laura Debruyn
Brian Philbin, and five grandchildren.
The funeral service will be held Tuesday morning at 11 at the Wolfe Funeral
Home on Greensburg Pike in Forest Hills. Anyone wishing to make a gift
Atkins' memory is asked by the family to contact the American Cancer Society."
Jack Bogut... "I
had a chance to work with Ted for about 4+ years in the early 1980's.
He was an amazingly perceptive manager who knew how different each
personality was on his radio station. He was also capable of great bluster
stentorian voice and equally loud laughter at his and other people's foibles.
was also a party going somewhere to happen.
It was a privilege to have known and worked for him. He was one of a kind."
"To Ted's family, friends and coworkers (aren't they all one in the
same?), my most sincere condolences. Working at the Big 1250 was a childhood
dream of mine, and I'm glad to say it came true. WTAE was such a fun place
work, I couldn't believe I was getting paid to be there. Myron, Paul Long,
Boal...the list goes on and on of the legends in Pittsburgh radio who worked
there. And it was the work and talents of the dearly departed Capt. Showbiz
led us all to the station, back when "radio was radio." May God grant his
family/loved ones peace and strength in their time of grief."
John Mehno (Beaver
"Saluting the Captain
Ted Atkins, former GM of WTAE radio, died last week at 72.
Atkins came to town in 1973 with a mandate to fix the failing station within
years. He holed up in a hotel room, listening to WTAE around the clock
He recalled that one of his first entries was "Fire Myron Cope." Quickly,
Atkins came to realize there was substance behind that unusual voice on
morning sports commentaries.
Atkins soon asked Cope to take over WTAE's nightly sports talk show, which
being hosted by Tom Bender. Bender, old school, avoided controversy to
that he'd shut down the phones and read wire stories to fill the hour.
Atkins, nicknamed "Capt. Show Biz," correctly figured Cope might take a
approach. Cope agreed to take the show on a three-month trial. It lasted
It was also Atkins' prodding for a Steelers-related gimmick that led Cope
the Terrible Towel.
Cope became a Pittsburgh radio legend. Capt. Show Biz was one, too."
Cary Paul... "When
my wife and I moved back from Toledo to Pittsburgh in 1981, I
was finished with radio. Done, finished, kaput, no mas. I had come off
really horrible jobs in a row, was living in my in-laws' basement in Irwin
about to take a job selling cars in Greensburg. Out of the blue, a friend
said to call Ted Atkins about a new job they were looking to fill. I only
legend of Captain Showbiz and what I had heard from a couple of folks,
wasn't sure what to expect. He invited me to come over as soon as I could.
next day, I had a job as WTAE's production director.
I was blessed twice that week; our son was born, and I was working for
place filled with giants of the business...O'Brien and Garry, Jim Quinn,
Bob Dearborn, Johnny Williams, Myron Cope...these weren't just a bunch
liner-card readers. This was IT. The major league. And I was working for
who had run CKLW and KHJ, two of the all-time great Top 40 stations, places
always wanted to work at. Heck, when I told a friend in New York that I
had a job
here, he tells me, "You know, Don Imus is scared to death that O'Brien
will come to New York and wipe the floor with him." I had better step up
game, and quick.
Ted could be a stressor (can you say micro-management?), and sometimes
get a bit riled up at some silly thing. We'd shrug our shoulders and say,
bear." Implying that, he might be a bear, but he was OUR bear, in the way
beloved family curmudgeon might be referred to. You always knew that, despite
any appearances, he was emotionally invested in what we were doing.
The continuous stories of Captain Showbiz and his endless confrontations
air staff were indeed the glue that made WTAE such a powerful radio station
certainly wasn't the signal, dwarfed as it was by KDKA). The guys complained
about, and made fun of, Captain Showbiz all day long. Dirty laundry (or
appearance of such) was aired every day between the tunes, making WTAE
perfect radio station for a hard-working Pittsburgh guy (who complains
boss every day) to relate to. This dynamic was a big part of how WTAE far
outperformed its signal strength. And Ted Atkins was a big enough man to
happen, even when it bugged him.
Ted Atkins didn't just give me a job. He saved my career, and later helped
by giving me a chance to prove myself as a manager and learn from a great
bunch of people. I'm forever in his debt. My condolences to his family,
and to his
radio family as well."
"When DVE was on strike in the 70's, I called Ted and said, "I can
bring the entire DVE staff out the Parkway, and we'll all go to work for
said, "Jimmy, this Disco 96 thing is going to be big!" So, we settled the
went back to work. Later, Ted mentioned that he might have made a mistake.
was a bigger-than-life character, and I'll miss him."
the Post Gazette Obituary about Ted here.
about the 1250/WTAE December 2007 reunion here.