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Senior VP CBS Radio New York Don Bouloukos

6-21-2013

Upon my return to Chicago in 1977, one of the first people I met was a sales manager from WLS Radio, Don Bouloukos. He was a tall, dark, handsome, and mysterious man who quietly led the WLS sales team. The sales staff at WLS was the best in the city -- all young guys who knew everyone and lunched every day. But Don was different. He was quiet and spoke only when it was necessary; yet when he had something to say, everyone listened. He was The Most Interesting Man in the World back in the late 70s. Every young lady chased him and every guy wanted to be like him. Very few of us knew he was secretly dating the beautiful Nancy Shannon, whom he later married, breaking the hearts of women all over the Chicago area. Still stealthy and handsome, Don has had a career most of us envy. But, he has earned it and we are lucky to have him in the radio industry.

Now, in his own words, here is how Senior VP Market Manager CBS Radio New York Don Bouloukos got into radio

I was tending bar on Rush Street in Chicago after I graduated from DePaul University. Every afternoon, several well-dressed gentlemen in the agency and media business came in for lunch, always accompanied by attractive women. The lunches went well past 2 p.m. on a fairly regular basis and they always had money and tipped well. After about a month of watching this on an almost daily basis, I said to myself, "This is a business that I think I would like be involved with."

Jim Haviland, a friend of mine, was an AE at a small suburban station in Oak Park, Illinois. Jim told me that RKO had just purchased a Beautiful Music Station (a format that has disappeared from our industry) and they were interviewing for sales positions.

I pitched a sales job at RKO-owned WKFM in February of 1973 and I accepted a commission-only, sell or starve position as an account executive  for the Drake Chenault Solid Gold Format. It was going to be launched on  April 1 with the new call letters WFYR (named after the Great Chicago Fire). I started selling the station on the come, playing cassettes of air checks from KRTH in LA which was also owned by RKO and programmed the Drake Chenault Solid Gold Format. I made door-to-door cold calls from 7 a.m. (restaurants) to 12 midnight (bars and clubs) talking about a radio station that wasnt even on the air in Chicago. After a couple of months of learning to sell radio by trial and error, I started closing a high percentage of my calls and, fortunately, I didnt starve!

About a year later, I found myself in a Liars Poker game at the Corona Caf, a restaurant and bar frequented by agency buyers and radio and TV  AEs and managers. There were about six of us in the game  and after about five or six calls, I called 11 sevens  and I was challenged by Larry Divney,  whom I didnt know but quickly learned that he was the sales manager of ABC-owned WLS. Earlier in the evening, I found out that he had an open sales position that he was interviewing for and that he was looking for an experienced agency seller. When I won the hand, I told him to keep his money in return for an interview. He told me not to bother because I did not have enough agency experience (I didnt have any)  but he eventually let me pitch the job.

I met with Larry and Nick Trigony the GSM several times over a two-week period and they eventually offered me a job. I didn't know at the time, but soon found out, that I was just hired at one of the best, if not THE best, Top 40 stations in the country. I was born and raised in Chicago listening to WLS but I had no idea of the significance of those call letters and what they represented to millions of listeners in Chicago, the Midwest, and to the radio and music industry in general.

WLS was a GREAT place to work! It was a Hall of Fame and legendary radio station with Hall of Fame and legendary radio personalities like Larry Lujack, Fred Winston, JJ Jeffreys, Tommy Edwards, Bob Sirott, Brant Miller, and John Records Landecker.

I went on to become General Manager of WLS in 1979 and, as they say, the rest is history.

Email Don at Don.Bouloukos@cbsradio.com

Lisa Miller is the President of Miller Broadcast Management in Chicago. She's also one of Radio Ink's Most Influential Women in Radio. Miller can be reached at Lisa@millerbroadcast.com or 312-454-1111.
So, how did you get into radio? We'd love to hear the story about why you're passionate about radio.




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