Remembering Bernie Dittman


Bernie Dittman never got the credit due him. We—Eastman—started repping Bernie in early 60’s as the new owner of WABB AM/FM. WABB was flat out Top 40 Rock. In that era, New York Cityand Detroit Time buyers were the most virulent anti-Rock ‘n Roll buyers.

As we made agency calls with Bernie–he was a pure positive evangelist for his format, its high ratings and impressive caliber of local advertisers. Bernie never learned how to beat around the bush. He told all these tough buyers that they were stupid to not buy “rockers”. They laughed-said rockers appealed only to teenagers—advertisers of soda pop and chewing gum.

Bernie would then take out his local advertiser list to ask the buyers why the hell the biggest Cadillac dealer and leading Mobile, AL banks bought WABB–plus biggest department stores and grocery chains. Bernie was loud and persistent and persuasive.

Bernie was an early user of John Gilmore’s Community Club Awards…sorta early NTR. CCA sold local Women’s Clubs to save box tops and grocery receipts to paste in CCA books. They’d redeem them for cash prizes. The local promotion was handled by a local radio or TV station. The participating advertisers got ads in the CCA pocket sized booklets. CCA was a pain in the ass to try to sell nationally because you had to bypass the ad agency to persuade the P&G or General Foods Product Managers to make these special buys–because only they knew the local impact possibilities. Of the roughly 200 radio stations who did CCA Bernie and WABB were always in top 5 most financially successful…if not  Numero Uno.

Bernie would lecture us unwashed on the unique early business growth ofMobile. That many of the wealthy East European Jewish Families escaped to come toAmericain 1800’s–thruMobile–such as the Sulzbergers and Ochs who later built the New York Times. Bernie’s joke was that he escaped from Cleveland and his dad’s appliance store after WWII to buy WABB AM/FM.

Bernie hired and trained very bright young DJs & PDs like Scott Shannon and Mike McVay–just to name a few. With Bernie it was his way or the highway. He taught young national sales reps like Carl Butrum, Bill Burton and me to sell Rock ‘n Roll stations positively vs. doing it defensively. Bernie Dittman was a classic example of how and who grew radio from the 60’s into the 80’s. We miss you, Bernie, but never forget how you put WABB and Mobile on the map. 

–Frank Boyle, Frank Boyle & Co.