Ted Atkins - Captain Showbiz
Ted Atkins was the architect of 1250/WTAE. It was Ted Atkins leadership that brought The Big 1250 to the top.

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 available.

Here are some responses from Ted's friends and former co-workers from Facebook...

Mark Roberts... Ted Atkins, Captain Showbiz, passed away today following a brave 
     battle with an unrelenting adversary. There's not another human on the planet 
     who had a greater influence on my professional life. As a radio programmer, he 
     guided some of the greatest stations in America, including CKLW, KFRC, and the 
     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 Ted 
     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)"

Neil Spence... "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 was deep 
     and meaningful and we pray for both of you. GOD Speed Ted."

Bob Dearborn... "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 but also 
     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 alone, free 
     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 praise 
     seemed to make him feel a little uncomfortable.  He handled levity from people 
     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. Louis or 
     WTAE in Pittsburgh.  Ted said, "Come here.  You'll have more fun." He was right. "

Johnny WIlliams... "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 at 
     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 was ready 
     to give up. And he remained super strong through the past year and a half as he 
     tried to fight off the disease that attacked him so viciously. Even during this awful 
     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 want 
     you know that we all respect you enormously for supporting Ted so valiantly. May 
     he rest in peace and may you be at peace also, knowing you fought hard for our 

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, wisely 
     maximized the considerable talent already on staff and turned WTAE into a 
     powerhouse. He was smart enough to integrate the unique quirks of the market 
     (Myron's unconventional voice, those "Pittsburgh-only" oldies) into the impressive 
     format fundamentals that made the station sound so great. WTAE in the Atkins era 
     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 as "show 
     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 last year. 
     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. A 
     truly good guy who left this life this morning. Rest in peace, Ted. Your goodness 
     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."

Bill Hennes... "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 me 
     schooling me in the Drake format from stem to stern he was truly a great man"

Keith Abrams... "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 (and 
     beyond). And finally, Ted Atkins...who gave me tremendous opportunities at 
     WTAE/WHTX Pittsburgh when I was first starting out. More importantly, he taught 
     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 and 
     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. I am 
     thankful that I was able to tell him in person how much he has meant to me over 
     the last couple years. He was a true legend. He lost his battle with cancer this 
     morning and is in a better place. RIP Captain Showbiz."

Frank Gottlieb... "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 market at 
     the time were better programmers from listening to his station and being 
     challeged by him."

Cliff Gorski... "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 assembled 
     together at 400 Ardmore Blvd. It was, at that time, More than Just A Radio Station-
     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 who've 
     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 table, 
     there was heard a resounding tympani roll, with The Great Voiceover Talent 
     Declaring: "And NOW, ladies and gentlemen....the hits just KEEP ON COMIN' with 

Annette Brady,,, 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. The 
     rain is appropriate today. May God bless you Ted. You leave a big radio family 
     behind who loves you very much and are fortunate indeed to have called you our 
     boss, friend and our beloved Bear."

Tom Lacko... "RIP, Ted. From all of Pittsburgh, thank you for a job well done!"

Scott Langenfeld... "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 heyday!! 
     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."

Jim Herrington... "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 Atkins."

Chuck Buell... "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, Colorado 
     while I was still just a young college student in the early mid-1960s.  And because 
     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, a 
     wonderful  radio associate and we had some absolutely outstanding and 
     memorable times then at one of the country's most successful and respected radio 

     Though the following years took us in different directions, both in our careers and 
     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. I 
     still have this mental video snippet of this big tall guy jumping quickly into a 
     parked car and peeling away from the curb!  Knowing my intense interest in radio,
     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 at two 
     Denver commercial radio stations in the 1960s and then later still in the early 
     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 and 
     powerful radio stations of the day, would talk on the phone from time to 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 will miss 
     him greatly.

     I am sorry for our shared loss.

Bob Gibson...
     "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 few 
     bills, and make a name for himself. Ted Atkins, indeed, made a name for himself, 
     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, Ted 
     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, the 
     right format, and the right sound. Ted passed away at Pittsburgh's Shadyside 
     Hospital following a valiant, two-year struggle with pancreatic cancer.  He was 
     only 72.  Affectionately known as Captain Showbiz, Ted's broadcast career 
     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 in 
     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 he was 
     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 of Ted's
     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 a bond 
     of loyalty. 

     In today's broadcast world that's definitely more the exception than the rule.  In 
     the decade that he was at WTAE, starting in the mid 70s, Bob recalls that it was 
     never work but an opportunity to be part of something very special.  He attributes 
     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 by 
     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 shops that 
     included CKLW, Windsor-Detroit, KFRC, San Francisco, KHJ Los Angeles, and later
     KIIS in the same market.

     Jeff Roteman who was the webmaster of the WTAE Radio tribute site tells The 
     Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Ted had the magic touch.  Jeff says Ted knew the 
     market, listened to what the audience had to say and went about revamping the 
     radio station, ultimately creating a contemporary format with the focus on what 
     could best be called, Pittsburgh-centered music.  To keep an audience's attention,
     you need more than engaging personalities.  You've got to have promotions.
     There were plenty of those and perhaps best remembered was the Terrible Towel 
     which became part of Steelers' lore.  And how sweet was that, as WTAE Radio 
     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 one time 
     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."  As John 
     recalls everyone referred to him on the air in that fashion, making the moniker an 
     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 you really
     get a wonderful snapshot of Ted in reading one comment that Larry O'Brien gave 
     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 at WTAE, 
     Ted became a broadcast consultant in 1985, a creative position which kept him 
     busy until 1992. 

     Ted Atkins is survived by his wife Karen, two stepchildren, Laura Debruyn and 
     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 in Mr. 
     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 in that 
     stentorian voice and equally loud laughter at his and other people's foibles. He 
     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."

Dave Dillon... "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 to
     work, I couldn't believe I was getting paid to be there. Myron, Paul Long, Alan 
     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 that 
     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 Valley Times)... 
     "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 two 
     years. He holed up in a hotel room, listening to WTAE around the clock and taking

     He recalled that one of his first entries was "Fire Myron Cope." Quickly, though, 
     Atkins came to realize there was substance behind that unusual voice on the 
     morning sports commentaries.

     Atkins soon asked Cope to take over WTAE's nightly sports talk show, which was 
     being hosted by Tom Bender. Bender, old school, avoided controversy to the point
     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 different 
     approach. Cope agreed to take the show on a three-month trial. It lasted nearly 22 

     It was also Atkins' prodding for a Steelers-related gimmick that led Cope to create 
     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 of two 
     really horrible jobs in a row, was living in my in-laws' basement in Irwin and was 
     about to take a job selling cars in Greensburg. Out of the blue, a friend called and 
     said to call Ted Atkins about a new job they were looking to fill. I only knew the 
     legend of Captain Showbiz and what I had heard from a couple of folks, so I 
     wasn't sure what to expect. He invited me to come over as soon as I could. The 
     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 WTAE, a 
     place filled with giants of the business...O'Brien and Garry, Jim Quinn, Don Berns, 
     Bob Dearborn, Johnny Williams, Myron Cope...these weren't just a bunch of 
     liner-card readers. This was IT. The major league. And I was working for a guy 
     who had run CKLW and KHJ, two of the all-time great Top 40 stations, places I had
     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 and Garry 
     will come to New York and wipe the floor with him." I had better step up my 
     game, and quick. 

     Ted could be a stressor (can you say micro-management?), and sometimes he'd 
     get a bit riled up at some silly thing. We'd shrug our shoulders and say, "That's our
     bear." Implying that, he might be a bear, but he was OUR bear, in the way a 
     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 with the
     air staff were indeed the glue that made WTAE such a powerful radio station (it 
     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 the 
     appearance of such) was aired every day between the tunes, making WTAE the 
     perfect radio station for a hard-working Pittsburgh guy (who complains about his 
     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 let it 
     happen, even when it bugged him. 

     Ted Atkins didn't just give me a job. He saved my career, and later helped it along
     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."

Jimmy Roach... "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 you" Ted 
     said, "Jimmy, this Disco 96 thing is going to be big!" So, we settled the strike and 
     went back to work. Later, Ted mentioned that he might have made a mistake. He 
     was a bigger-than-life character, and I'll miss him."

 Read the Post Gazette Obituary about Ted here.
 Read about the 1250/WTAE December 2007 reunion here.