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Lisa Miller - "How I Got Into Radio"

Mike McVay


I met Snr. VP/Programming Cumulus Media Mike McVay at my first NAB convention. He walked up to me at the cocktail party and said, Im Mike McVay, you need to know me. Stunned I looked up at this very tall, striking man and started laughing. I asked him if that was a pick-up line or if he wanted to meet me. He looked me dead in the eye, as he does with everyone, and said, If youre in radio, you need to know me. I thought he was crazy, and Im very attracted to crazy, so I remained where I was and talked to Mike for about an hour. He was funny, smart, interesting, and loved radio. One of the highlights of every convention is the time I spend with Mike. Thirty years later, Im honored to call him my friend and fortunate to be able to work with him at Cumulus.

Now, let's let Mike tell us how he got started in radio

As a kid I lived on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, in what is now a suburb, but was a rural area when I was growing up. My Dad worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad which allowed my brother and me to ride everywhere for free. Whenever we could find the time and money we would take the train to downtown Pittsburgh and attend a Pirates game.

A block from the train station in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, was a radio station, WHJB. We would walk by it and stare in the window at Cowboy Phil doing the morning show. We would stand for hours, watching him spin the records, talk on the air and, when he had time, he would talk to us through the speakers that were hanging outside on the building next to the huge picture window. Every time Cowboy Phil put on a record he would rise from his chair and disappear into a dark back room, where we couldnt see what he was doing. Then he would emerge from the back and hustle to the turntable just before the record ended. One day my brother turned to me and said, You know where he goes dont you?  He goes in the back and plays cards when the record's on. I knew then and there that this was what I wanted to do.

At 14 years of age I conned my way into a job at WHJB. My first job was Sunday mornings playing the programs for the God Squad. Before long I was promoted to weekends where I talked between the music of the day and was paid a whopping $1.65 per hour.

After a few years in Greensburg, at the age of 18, I got my first real job in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, at WCVI as the night DJ, spinning the hits and talking with anyone who would call. I had arrived; I was Mighty Mouth Mike McVay.

From Greensburg to Connellsville to Uniontown; I had made the rounds of Pennsylvanias rural stations; then I hit it big and got the job of a lifetime in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Email Mike at

Lisa Miller is president of Miller Broadcast Management
in Chicago and can be reached at or 312-454-1111.

Read more of her feature How I Got Into Radio Sponsored by  HERE

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