Many of you have enjoyed the stories of rock ’n roll provided to My City Magazine each month by Flint native and godfather of Flint rock radio, Peter C. Cavanaugh. Amidst the trophies populating Cavanaugh’s brilliant career lays one of the foremost examples of rock radio done right and a pioneer of album-oriented rock: the once christened “Flint’s Best Rock” station, WWCK 105.5.
Along for the ride with “Peter C” was a band of men and women just crazy enough to try and pull off the best rock station in the country, and they did! They became rock radio gods in their own right, and cemented their place in the pantheon of rock music.The journey of CK 105 as a rock station was recently chronicled in the documentary Flint’s Best Rock, created by former CK 105 intern turned Disk Jockey Jim “Bad Boy” Baade.
Flint’s Best Rock won the award for best documentary at this year’s Flint Film Festival and it sits in the library at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH. Having witnessed the rise and fall of the station, Baade decided to piece together a film with archival photos and footage as homage to the local radio cultural icon. The idea came about as an option for his final project in a film class Baade was taking at Mott Community College. Baade declares, “I just wanted to get a passing grade for my class, but people really like it. The story was there; I just had to find a way to tell it. I wanted to set the time and the mood and the music, and to me it was like going back and living my dream. It was so exciting reliving those moments.”
The film recounts several major events that defined the CK 105 experience. One such event was the assassination of John Lennon in 1980, which put regular airplay on halt and replaced it with Lennon songs while the station crew took phone calls from listeners throughout the night.
“This wasn’t corporate radio,” says Baade. “It was true radio. The radio station played a part in people’s healing.” A part of the healing process involved city residents crowding the Capitol Theatre to share their feelings on the tragic loss and to publicly pay respect to Lennon at the bidding of a young Michael Moore. It was at this moment that then 20-year-old Baade knew he wanted to be a part of rock radio.
By the middle of the decade, within a few short years of John Lennon’s death, “Flint’s Best Rock” station would become the “Rock of the 80s”, and it was during this time that CK 105 became America’s No. 1 rock station, with an “18+ total market share” and “the highest ratings nationwide.” Not long after the intoxicating success of gaining nearly one fifth of local radio listeners, however, CK 105 hit hard times when the majority of the original crew graduated into other projects alongside the advent of competitor radio stations. In 1988, CK 105 was sold and became a classic rock station.
Baade poignantly states that radio today “doesn’t have the same power that it did,” and that he “got into [radio]at the right time.” He calls Peter Cavanaugh a “hero” and considers himself fortunate to have learned from Peter C and others. Baade suggests that although radio is trying to go digital to stay afloat, “It’s never going to be like it was,” and that “radio will never have the kind of impact it had like when Lennon passed,” since in today’s radio “you get a much smaller piece of the market.”The good news is that the era is still with us, for it is part of our history and has helped define Flint in yet another arena as one of the best that the nation had to offer.
Flint’s Best Rock can be viewed online at Vimeo. What began as a school project has made shockwaves in the local and national rock communities. Famed American music executive Lee Abrams said that Flint’s Best Rock was “honestly and intelligently presented.” In response, Baade joyously states, “Those are the two qualities for which I want to be known.”