Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Specs Howard not Howard Specs

Howard Specs enjoyed a 22-year career on Cleveland radio, and later Detroit, as one-half of the duo "Martin & Howard" throughout the 1950s and '60s. As if that wasn't enough, he founded a broadcasting school in 1970. In a narrowing field of increasingly obsolete broadcasting schools, his continues to survive; re-branded as The Specs Howard School of Media Arts.

For the record, his real name is Julian "Jerry" Liebman. His stage name "Specs" reportedly originated at KYW in Detroit as a reference to his horn rim glasses, the surname Howard was just random... supposedly form a phone book. But he started his career in Kittanning PA, by raising $15,000 dollars to start his own radio station in 1948. In 1951 he relocated to Sharon, PA to work at 790 WPIC-AM. His own biography downplays those first two radio stations. They focus on his very successful times at KYW. It doesn't mention his own station at all, and omits the call letters of WPIC. Actually I had to go back to an issue of the Simpson's Leader-Times newspaper form 1958 to get those calls. Already by then his own station appears to have been deleted. Also note he didn't' go it alone.
"A native of Kittanning, PA, Jerry was graduated from Allegheny College in 1948 and Immediately after, he and two friends started their own 3,000-watt radio station (now extinct) in his home town..."
Then I found the call sign in the classified's section of the weekly magazine Broadcasting back in 1948. They were looking for a commercial manager. Radio station 1600 WKIN-AM broadcasting with 1,000 watts. Some sources (above) list it at 3,000 watts or even signing on as late as 1949. It is also reputed to have been the third station on air in Armstrong county after WACB and WAVL. Regardless it appears in both the 1949 and 1950 Broadcasting Annuals as owned by "WKIN, Inc." located at 122 N. Jefferson Street. Julian Louis Leibman was president and GM, Ernie Klein was PD, Ben A. Franklin was Chief Engineer, Larry Caldwell was Promotions Manager. I expect those were his co-founders. With all that information it was not hard to find the July 21st 1948 FCC docket # 8719 announcement approving his application for a new AM daytimer. There are no records of the station after 1950 so I presume it was deleted.
In 1951 Howard was off to WPIC in Sharon so that at least fits the timeline nicely. He had a degree from Allegheny College in Meadville, PA and 2 years of experience trying to run his own radio station. In 1954 he left PA for a gig at NBC network affiliate WTAM in Cleveland. Two years later, as “Specs Howard,” he became a Cleveland radio legend, remaining on-air until 1967. Westinghouse bought WTAM in 1956, renamed it KYW. In 1962, he joined up with with Harry Martin, launching The Martin and Howard Show, WXZY in Detroit.  The show only aired for about a year in the motor city and was cancelled. After the station pulled the plug, Howard  went back to Cleveland for a slot at at 1100 WKYC-AM. Harry Martin, the other half of the once number-one rated duo went to San Diego, where he worked at 1170 KCBQ-AM and 1460 KPOP-AM. Howard opened his eponymous school in 1970 and left broadcasting.