Paul and I had the pleasure of getting to know Bob McCurdy over the years. We shared a love for research, basketball, and just enjoyed each other's company. Bob passed away this week, and Paul takes over the keyboard today to share some of his thoughts and memories.
You learn a lot about a person when you meet those who he impacted along the way. In Bob's case, it was a regular occurrence – Peter Burton, Erik Hellum, and the entire Beasley executive team will tell you just how much Bob's wisdom and presence meant to them.
Here are Paul's thoughts. Feel free to use our “comments” section below to leave yours. – FJ
Last year, in a speech I gave at the Conclave, I talked about the five different types of people that have influenced me in my career. They included the radio geniuses and visionaries, the truly fine people, the incredibly talented people, the leaders, and the radio characters. That last group is comprised of those people that even if you didn’t work in radio, you’d know they worked in radio. I was able to salute most of the wide array of people that not only made a mark on me, but also the radio industry.
In hindsight, I left one out – Bob McCurdy.
Upon reflection, I think the reason for this omission is Bob didn’t fit neatly into any of these slots – he fit them all.
Bob passed away this week, and us radio broadcasters are feeling the loss. On the sales front, he was brilliant and always had an eye on the future. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who thought more deeply about the process of sales and how to communicate it to advertisers – and to radio's sales foot soldiers.
In an industry where salespeople are too often reduced to Herb Tarlek jokes (that sleazy dude from the old “WKRP” series), Bob elevated radio sales to a respected marketing art form. He was not a sell-by-the-numbers guy. Bob was always thinking about radio’s value proposition – what the medium could bring to any product or service, and why the medium should never be under-valued.
He was a believer in audio – how our sense of sound uniquely worked to present and market products and services. Bob understood how science and research could better make the case for how great radio advertising gets in your head, and forms impressions.
He was positive, yet never hesitated to be constructively critical. He had undying love and energy for radio, but was also realistic about the industry’s shortcomings, which actually gave him more credibility.
And he was wise and perceptive enough to know that shoddy production and bloated spot loads would come back to bite broadcast radio on its back side. He stood for anything that elevated radio’s role on the media marketing hierarchy, and railed against those who attempted to bastardize it.
Bob was one of the few who spoke truth to power. And yet, I would wager that every exec on whom he called “B.S.” would tell you how much they respected hearing his take on the issues of the day.
Off the court (pun intended), Bob was a truly fine person. He was generous with his time. No visit to New York City was complete without a visit to his office when he worked at Katz.
Despite his hefty responsibilities, we’d sit in his office for hours, talking about our industry and exploring new approaches and concepts. Bob was one of the rarest of sales execs – he thought more like a content person than any sales exec I’ve ever met because he wasn’t tactical, he was strategic.
He mentored countless radio broadcasters, especially in the cubicles. But programmers enjoyed talking with him because he empathized with their challenges, and could talk formats and content with the best of them.
Bob was incredibly talented throughout all stages of his life. He was not only an All-American basketball player in college, playing at Richmond, where he was the leading scorer in the nation in 1975, before being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks.
But anyone who saw him present to a group of broadcasters or advertisers knew they were seeing someone special who always spoke from the heart and made an impact on everyone in his audience.
Bob was a leader, and it didn’t matter if he was meeting with a rookie salesperson in Tampa or a mega-media buyer on Madison Avenue – everyone who interfaced with Bob quickly learned they were in the presence of someone who not only knew his stuff, but it was to your benefit to listen and learn from one of the masters.
You’ve heard the phrase “student of the game.” While Bob was one of the great teachers, he was always hungry to learn. Fred publishes this blog every morning at 6:10 ET. I can’t tell you how many mornings there was an email in our boxes ten minutes later with thoughts, observations, suggestions, and encouragement from someone who’s opinion truly mattered to us.
In recent years, we had the chance to work side-by-side with Bob via our consulting with Beasley. I loved when he would get on the phone with me and Fred, and start the calls with, “Boys, how goes the battle?” We always felt respected and more confident in Bob’s aura.
Bob was pure radio. As I said during that speech at Conclave, “This is a great industry to work in, IF you don’t treat it like work.” Bob didn’t work in radio . . . . he was radio. He thought about it all the time – how to make it better, wondering what was around the corner and how he could apply it to radio’s success.
He’d email us blogs and white papers he was working on and was a prolific writer. He was fascinated with what made a great radio commercial. He was always inquisitive. During those visits to his office, he would fire questions at us, using us as his eyes and ears, to absorb more of the radio universe than he could see from his midtown Manhattan office.
Bob McCurdy died this week, after a long bout with cancer. He cannot be replaced, and his impact on thousands of people – whether they met him or not – is long-lasting. He made everyone around him better.
The radio industry has lost a giant.
And not because he was so tall.
It was because his heart and his impact were so huge.
Radio Ink has archived Bob's weekly columns – nearly 200 in all – here. They are a treasure trove of great advice for radio sellers and those who manage them.
Buzz Knight wrote a wonderful tribute to Bob here.
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Paul Jacobs says
Without a doubt, his impact on the industry and on the people he touched will last for a long time
Dick Kalt says
Bob McCurdy was a good friend and neighbor of mine. Our paths crossed occasionally early in his career and then he became a friendly competitor while I was running WPLR and he was at Katz. Over the years we shared many thoughts, ideas and concerns about our great industry, but one think never changes, his professionalism and personal concern for others. We never did much business together bur we shared a lot of ideas over coffee and e-mail. He was a true friend and trusted ally in our medium. I will miss his frequent, well thought out commentaries and devotion to our business. Bob passing is a great loss and my true hope is that he realizes the tremendous impact he made on all of us and rests in peace, knowing the world was a better place because of him.
Paul Jacobs says
Dick, our impressions of Bob and the impact he made are parallel. He was one of the nicest, most interesting people I’ve encountered in the business.
I wish there were more like him.
Rick Fink says
What a heartfelt and thoughtful tribute. If radio had more Bob McCurdy’s, we would be in a much better place. However, because of guy’s like Bob, Jake and Roy, we know the direction, all we have to do is follow the path they have made.
Radio will truly miss this man!
Paul Jacobs says
Totally agree, Rick. He left a huge legacy. And yes, all we need to do is follow the path, challenge conventional thinking, and attack it with his passion.
He will definitely be missed.
Steve Newberry says
Beautifully written tribute to a wonderful person who will be deeply missed. Thank you Paul.
Paul Jacobs says
The outpouring from people like you, Steve, proves just how great a person Bob was. He will be missed.
Peter Frisch says
During my 40 years in the radio business I’ve participated in countless sales meetings, One stands out. It was a meeting at KQRS led by Bob McCurdy while he was on a market visit to Minneapolis. I did not know him beyond that one experience yet he left an indelible impression on me that day. His product knowledge, his enthusiasm, his ability to make a case and tell a compelling story was unmatched. I was inspired.
Paul Jacobs says
You nailed it, Pete. I always thought I was pretty good at this. Then I met Bob, and decided it was time to take notes. He was a master.
Tim Roesler says
Pete, my experience was a bit like yours. I was an NSM and then GM back in the day at Christal repped stations. But as Paul said….nary a station calls visit to NYC would go by when I wouldn’t run in to Bob somehow. Didn’t know him well be like many of the greats, he always made me feel like I was the only thing he was focussed on in the moment. A great listener.
Paul Jacobs says
Tim, he was a great listener and teacher. And what made him great was his curiosity and his understanding that he didn’t have all the answers, so he always asked questions.
Quite a guy.
Hope you are doing well.
Milt McConnell says
Paul, what an exceptional tribute. We all owe Bob McCurdy a thank you for elevating the industry we love. I was fortunate to be trained by Bob as a rookie seller when I moved from small unrated Indiana markets to my hometown of Indianapolis @ my dream station, WFBQ. I remember, like it was yesterday, Bob sitting down with me first with a Burroughs machine, and then
a TI -59 calculator, doing reach and frequency projections on schedules. I watched him go to KATZ in Chicago as a seller, then to Minny as the VP/ Manager and then to run KATZ N.Y. for Stu Olds. Bob trained hundreds of sales people, but he also impacted untold numbers of agency Presidents, Media Directors , Supervisors and buyers as well as CMO’s at Fortune 500 companies. There simply has never been, or I predict, will ever be, anyone else with that kind of teaching passion for RADIO. I talked to Bob three weeks ago as we were discussing how to price the four compilations of his teachings that will be published. I can think of no better way of honoring his legacy than purchasing these for any radio professional you know.
Paul Jacobs says
I couldn’t have said it better. Like so many we’ve heard from, your experience with Bob was rich and memorable.
And you’re right: he’s irreplacable.
Hope you’re well.
Buzz Van Houten says
Paul, excellent tribute to a remarkable individual. I had the privilege of working with Bob during my career, when Katz was our national rep firm. He was truly the epitome giant in the industry. I can honestly say that every time I had the pleasure of a meeting with Bob I always came away with a new perspective to think about on the flight home. He will be missed!!
Paul Jacobs says
Totally agree, Buzz. In our years in the business we’ve encountered thousands of people, but only a small number are as memorable as Bob. Truly one of a kind. Here’s hoping those of us who were touched by him carry his attributes forward and pass them along.
Buzz, I hope you and your family are doing well. Stay safe and healthy.
Fred Jacobs says
Paul, thanks for writing this tribute to Bob. As I scroll through these comments, it is truly gratifying to see how many quality people who were touched by Bob. I had several reach out to me personally, over the phone and via email, as I know you did, too. Bob truly left the radio business in a better place.