I enjoyed a pivotal moment with longtime radio man Mike Allen last week. We met for an interview just an hour after he signed off of his final DJ shift at the Bridge at 105.5 and his final day as operations director at the Bridge and sister station 98 Rock. This week, he kicked off a new gig at WWNU the Palm 92.1 FM, a brand-new Triple-A (Adult Album Alternative) station in Columbia.
We reminisced about the triumphs and challenges of his time in Charleston's rock radio scene. Allen, a.k.a. the "Rock Doc," was in a much better mood than I'd expected. I could tell he'd put serious thought into this decision, and by the way he kept complimenting his local radio colleagues, I could tell he was emotional about leaving for the new adventure.
"I can't say how the Bridge will change from here on out," Allen says. "When I fought for it years ago, it was an infant. Now, it's a bawling toddler, and it's making money. It's got its own life. I'll take some credit for that, but it was a team effort every step the way, from the sales department to the production people in the building."
Allen announced the news in a post on the Bridge's Facebook page last week. "While I'll miss my friends and this city that I've come to love, the challenge of putting on a station like the Bridge in a new city calls," he wrote. "I've valued your time and attention. Thank you for listening."
Allen says he'll miss his colleagues at the local stations, but he's very excited about his new job. "I'm really torn, though," he says. "I had a great dance partner on the morning shows at the Bridge in Laura Lee. I won't get to dance with her anymore, and that's kind of a drag."
Unlike so many radio personalities who quickly come and go, Allen has been an anchor at the Bridge and 98 Rock over the years. As a pro DJ and even-handed operations manager, he weathered debates, arguments, format changes, sudden firings, strange hirings, and budget cuts. Somehow, he maintained a genuine passion for promoting and featuring classic artists and up-and-comers who were passionate about music themselves. Allen kept his ears out for what young listeners wanted to hear and for budding artists the station could support.
Allen started working at WYBB 98.1 FM and WCOO 105.5 FM in 2000. Both stations are part of the LM Communications family. Allen oversaw several format changes over the years. The move from Charleston to the Palm 92.1 seems like a natural step ahead. Things started taking shape this spring when Davis Media, run by Triple-A radio vet Tom Davis, purchased two stations in Columbia from the Double Radio company. "The new station is going to be an interesting experiment in what one can do with the Triple-A format," Allen says. "Tom and I realized that we had a lot in common. We had the same feelings on music and the same feelings on tying radio stations back to the communities they serve."
Allen kicked off his new Palm 92.1 morning show "Mike in the Morning" on July 2, hosting it with no assistance. He hopes to get things rolling and make connections with new listeners in the Columbia area.
"I don't think radio station owners get that the relationship DJs have with the listeners is intimate," he adds. "Many times, you're the only one in that car with that person. To invalidate that relationship is to invalidate the relationship between the listener and the station altogether."