He was always sincere and passionate, says Tom Butler, one of his many protégés.
At the end of a summer festival, Butler recalls, "Andy was still standing at the gates, shaking hands with every single person who walked through. He just genuinely wanted to meet and connect with every single listener, every single fan."
It's the sort of enthusiasm one might associate with a different generation, when DJs were the "pied pipers of rock 'n' roll," and their distinctive voices were ubiquitous -- and powerful. In 1966, a Hollywood teen fair asked visitors about the biggest influences in their lives. The order: "God, disc jockeys, then parents," the late Robert W. Morgan, the leading voice of Los Angeles' KHJ, once recalled.
Of course, that was a different time, when Top 40 ruled and "everybody listened to the same stuff," says Allan Sniffen, who runs a website dedicated to New York's old WABC-AM back when it was "Musicradio 77."
Nowadays, radio is more corporate and buttoned up, which has made DJing and programming a harder job. On the one hand, people complain that radio sucks -- it's generic and boring and the DJs all sound the same, the music all sounds the same, even the manic car commercials all sound the same.
On the other hand, new music and creativity can be tough sells. People like the familiar. The familiar is dependable, and dependable is easier to sell. The pressure at music stations is to stick with the tried and true, to run focus groups and test out the wazoo.
Margot Chobanian, former music director of Atlanta's now-defunct DaveFM, says the trend has been to cut back on DJs and their patter because ratings show that people don't like chatter.
She doesn't agree with that interpretation of the data though. What corporations don't understand, she says, is that the amount of DJ chatter has nothing do with tuning out -- it's the quality of what the DJs say.
"(People) were engaged by the DJs," Chobanian says.
Though Chobanian's bosses at CBS Radio gave the adult-alternative station a longer run than she expected, last fall, when the ratings declined, the station switched to sports talk and much of the staff got the ax.
Chobanian is leaving terrestrial radio behind. She now has a website called eavradio.com, a new-music station with an emphasis on the Atlanta scene.
"I see it as an extension of what DaveFM could have been," she says.
And old-fashioned broadcast radio? She's done -- done with the numbers, the restrictions, the suits.
"I'll never program for a corporate radio station again," she says.
Remaking the business
"Life is a rock But the radio rolled me ..." -- Reunion, "Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)"
At 15, Bob Pittman started as a DJ in his hometown of Brookhaven, Miss. It was not his first choice.
"I really wanted the high-paying job in town, which was bagging groceries at the Piggly Wiggly," he says.
Radio was, however, the right choice.
He was quickly promoted to positions up the line. By 1974, when he was 20, the "Boy Wonder" was the program director of WMAQ-AM in Chicago. Within three years, he was running WNBC-AM in New York, one of the biggest stations in the country.