Marshall Miles Interview:
This is file #10, cycle 2. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Marshall Miles at 67 Main Street, Sharon, Ct. at Radio station WHDD. Today’s date is November 18, 2015.
JM:What is your name?
MM:October 23, 1952
JM:Your birth place?
MM:New York City, New York
JM:Your parents’ names?
MM:Lorraine Miles & Jackie Miles
JM:Do you have siblings?
MM:Yes, a brother Mark, a brother Mitchell and sister Milannne.
JM:Your educational background after high school?
MM:After high school I did a little bit of community college, but then went on and got right into broadcasting as a matter of fact. I went right into a TV station in Hartford WMMB and then to my first radio job.
JM:When did you come to Lakeville to start the radio station WKZE?
MM:It was back in 1983 and it was right around Easter when the plans were put together. We originally spoke with Peter Oliver as we were going to locate in his building. But that really didn’t work out; then the building where Pet Pourri is opened up and we went into one half and Pet Pourri went into the other half. (Original home of Col. Joshua Porter located on the corner of Main and Porter Street, Lakeville, Ct.) I want to say somewhere around 1985, but my dates may be off.
JM:You were on the left side of the building.
MM:Yes we were on the small side and Pet Pourri the right side.
JM:The building that Peter Oliver owned was the K & E Manufacturing Building on Holley Street.
MM: Col. Porter’s house was I think the site of the VR, at one time, the Village Restaurant?
JM:I am not sure because there have been several of them: one of them was where the Boathouse is now, but the earlier one I am not sure where the one that Leo LeMoine ran was located.
JM:Why did you come to Lakeville?2.
MM:Because there was already a radio station in Sharon. Even though we were licensed to Sharon, we could move the studio within 15 statute miles. Lakeville –Salisbury seemed like a perfect location. Especially when it was a building opened up right on Main Street.
JM:Now the only other radio station that I was familiar with was the one in Gt. Barrington WSBS.
MM:I started out there.
JM:Did you really! How much staff did you have in Lakeville?
MM:We had me, at that time Wendy Prindle, and the co- owner Dennis Jackson. That was it. We did add Janice France whose husband ran the Falls village Inn at that time. She was looking for other work so she came on board. That was the staff that really worked the first couple of years there.
JM:What kind of programming did you do?
MM:We had a local morning show on which was my show from 6 to 9 in the morning. Then from 9 to 6 PM we carried big bands standards and everything like that, but then we would we were the first radio station in Litchfield County to go 24 hours a day. We carried classical music from 6 PM to 6 AM. We carried that from WSHU in Fairfield, Ct. We let them put their music on the station as we carried classical music so we were on 24 hours a day.
JM:That is a lot of effort.
MM:Yes it was a lot of effort; it really was, but we had to do something different. We had to be something different and still keep the local touch.
JM:Which you have done consistently.
MM:That is it.
JM:How about funding?
MM:Funding: we couldn’t get on the air until Dennis Jackson was satisfied we could pay expenses. Dennis Jackson was the person who owned the license and he wanted to make sure that we had enough money to pay the bills. I did the same thing when we started WKZE back in 1986, the owner there was Warren Gregory. He wanted to have 20 full time accounts on the air to start. I went out and visited 20 merchants that I knew and got them to sign up. Then I got those same 20 merchants who started with me at WKZE to say that once they signed on they would come off the other radio station and start with us. So as soon as I got the 20 accounts secured which took me about 1 ½ hours on the telephone, we were set to start.
JM:This is still in Lakeville?
JM:When did you move to the railroad station?3.
MM:When Bob Smithwick, used to stop by and say, “You belong in the rail road station.” This was when he was the first selectman. So I said, “I agree with you.” Doug Humes said the same thing, “If you move to Canaan, we’ll put you in the cupola of the railroad station.” So I said, “We would love to be in the railroad station.” When Bob became selectman, one of the firs things he did was have a town meeting about renting the railroad station to us.
JM:Did your call letters become WQQQ.
MM:They were always WQQQ back then. It is something that Dennis thought it was unique and different and seeing as how we were 103.3 on the dial Q103 worked out. It was very easy to say and remember.
JM:Now I am confused. WKZE
MM:Was in Sharon that was the radio station in Sharon and WQQQ was the one that started in Lakeville.
JM:Then when you came to Sharon you changed the call letters again, but we’ll get into that.
Do you remember the year you went into the railroad station?
MM:I would say it had to be after the first 2 years. We were at our location with Pet Pourri for about 2 years.
MM:Yeah, the story about that is the day we moved the guy from FED EX came by at 9 o’clock in the morning when I had just finished my show and dropped off a package. Then later on in the afternoon, a guy from FED EX came and he said, “Geez the whole place is empty, you are out of there.” So I said, “It was a quick move. So we were in a very small studio so it was not a hard thing to do.”
JM:You had to do some renovations when you went into the rail road station.
MM:We had to do some. We kept the outside office the same; we painted it to make it look nice. We kept all the back side rooms the same. The only thing we did was with the old ticket master’s location, we had the perfect window. We put in a wall on one side and a door and a window that became the main studio.
JM:I was in that building recently because of the Salisbury Association Historical Society is hoping to share it with another organization. We were looking at all of the original fixtures and the walls and the bench and thinking that this is a wonderful spot to be in.
MM:It really was. What a great waiting room to have the old railroad bench there. Its central location was unbelievable.
JM:Why did you actually move? Was it a rent problem? Or was it just space?4.
MM:Actually it turned out to be a little more expensive than where we had been; it was a better place. It was more visible. It also opened up the use of a bathroom for people in that section of town. We said that when we were open and if somebody was there, the bathroom would always be there for the public to use. It was just a better location. Frank and Stephanie wanted to expand and very quickly they took it over and put it into the fish department of Pet Pourri right after we left. They wanted to expand and we needed some slightly bigger space and the rents were a little bit more expensive. It was perfect.
JM:Did you change the programming?
MM:The programming was a little bit more because we had a chance. We had separate production facilities so we had more ability to change it a bit. We still stayed local but it became more local. From midnight on was automated. Everything else we produced locally at that point from 6 am to midnight.
JM:Do you still have the classical music all night?
MM:We have here (in Sharon) classical music during the day for 3 hours between 9 and noon, and then we have it all night from midnight until 5.00 am. Then we go to NPR. Actually we go to BBC news because we like their news better.
JM:So do I.
MM:It is probably the best newscast in the world.
JM:I listen to it a lot. How long did you stay in the railroad station?
MM:I left after we were there about 2 years so I want to say we started this station here in Sharon WHDD around 2007 and I think WQQQ closed 2 years after that so I think we were there until about 2009, give or take.
JM:Did you change the programs again because you are now the smallest NPR station in the nation?
MM:We still keep the local because local is big. We have almost 35 people that do local shows. What is funny is the only NPR shows we really carry are All things considered in the afternoon, Car Talk, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. We did carry Garrison Keillor but he is going to be leaving so we dropped his show this week because he is leaving and we did not want to get caught in transition. Other than that those are the only shows that are NPR. We do carry NPR but our main features are the local shows. The big shows that aren’t local are BBC news, because it is just the best newscast, all things considered in the afternoon which is great, I would say Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me are the big shows. They really get a lot of attraction.
JM:Of course being local we have storms everybody listens to see what is going on with the roads and the trees.
MM:That is exactly right.5.
JM:That is so important for a lot of people that are not necessarily on the computer or not with the television. It is the radio station. You are on.
MM:Like everybody else when we started we have back-up generators at the studio, and at each transmitter site that come on automatically. When we had that big power outage for 10 days, we were really the only station in the state of Connecticut that managed to stay on 24 hours a day because we had all those generators.
MM:Yeah, that is exactly right.
JM:Future plans for the radio station?
MM:Future plans for the radio station are to keep doing what we are doing. We are heavily involved with the community. Radios change with the fat that now we stream on the Internet. People can listen to every show we do without even listening to the radio station. They can go to the Internet. Every show that we do gets put up on line so if somebody doesn’t want to listen on the radio, they can listen at their own pace. To whatever show they want. So we have multiple platforms like that and that included the global access TV station which we have two different channels: one which shows the town meetings on Channel 6 and the other one is just rebroadcasts of what we do and also shows a list of events going on in the area. We are going to continue to do that because as much as the communication mode changes, when push comes to shove, people will listen to a local radio station.
JM:I am a radio person. I grew up with the radio; I listen to the radio, not necessarily during the day, but at the evening and at night. I am always impressed with your top of the hour list of things that you are following, events, things that are going on, and you follow up. That to me is important.
MM:That is what we try to do locally; we don’t have the staff to bring the local news, but we tell you what is going on and hope you can go to it. That leaves it up to the newspapers to cover it and give you the long details and formation of it.
JM:What haven’t I covered about the radio station that you would like to add?
MM:The thing about the radio station is that when we first started and still people to this day that think it is a waste to have a radio station in Salisbury or Sharon because as they say it is mostly trees. What we say is it is so wrong because if you look at what is interesting about this area is in Gt. Barrington you have a small local radio station that serves Gt. Barrington and they are doing just fine. We are doing just fine being a small local radio station that serves this area here. There are not too many local radio stations left. This area has always been very supportive business-wise, listener-wise and this area really does appreciate local radio and local media. That is what makes this place so special; it is such a melting pot of people from the locals to the weekenders to the weekenders who become locals to the people who come in and just vacation here. People forget that we are a big
vacation spot. You meet just about everybody in every walk of life here and that is what makes it so amazing. That is what makes it fun to come into work at 3:30 or 4 o’clock every morning; I marvel as I drive by Hotchkiss and think about the kids who go to Hotchkiss who come from all these foreign lands and that we interview here, the high school, I go by all these places. I always wanted to come back to the area and I am lucky. I was somebody who lived here, moved away learned his trade, and was able to come back and apply my trade here. It doesn’t get any better that that.
JM:It certainly doesn’t. Thank you so much for your time and your information.
MM:You are welcome.
JM:And thank you for a good radio station.