Allen grew up in Haines City and was 12 years old when WGTO’s offices and studios were located in the Palm Crest Hotel, which his father owned. He remembers his dad taking him to see the new station and watching Dale Starkey announce a new record by a kid named Elvis Presley. The song turned out to be “Hound Dog,” and at that moment, he realized he wanted to be a disc jockey.
In 1959, after WGTO had moved to Cypress Gardens, Frank A. Taylor, owner of WRWB (1220kc), a 1kw daytimer in Kissimmee, decided to rent the old WGTO control room in the Palm Crest and broadcast a one-hour Top 40 show each weekday afternoon from Haines City. Allen convinced Taylor to hire him to do the show and the 15 year old’s radio career began the moment he played his first record, “Dream Lover” by Bobby Darin, on May 15, 1959.
While still at Haines City High School, Allen was hired to do the afternoon Top 40 show when Dick and Peggy Cook signed on 500 watt daytimer WHAN (930kc) in 1960. He stayed with the station until the fall of 1961 when he left to pursue his major in Radio and Television at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
Over the summer of 1962, Allen was hired back home by Angelo Fazzari and Bruce Parker to do “The Swinging Show” on Winter Haven’s WINT. Dick Eyrich also hired him to do weekend shifts at WSIR, including the “Club 1490” show on Saturday nights. The next summer he opted to stay closer to the university and worked the swing shift at WKAN in Kankakee, Illinois. Shaw’s summer vacation workload increased in 1964 when he pulled mornings for Doug Montgomery at WINT’s downtown studio, afternoon booth announcing for Orlando’s WDBO-TV, and weekend shifts on WLAK hosting “Lakeland PM.”
After graduating from Northwestern in 1965, Allen was hired by former WFLA PD Dick Lawrence for the 7-11PM shift at WPTR in Albany, New York. The next year Ken Draper put him on the payroll as assistant program director at WCFL in Chicago.
In 1968, Allen convinced ABC Radio of FM’s great potential and urged them to program an album rock format on their six owned and operated FM stations. He moved to New York City as group PD for WABC-FM, KQV-FM, WLS-FM, WXYZ-FM, KABC-FM, and KGO-FM. With little budget to run them, he produced tapes (“The Love Format”) in New York and mailed them to each of the other stations for automated playback.
ABC separated the operations of its AM and FM stations in 1971 and Allen was named vice-president in charge of the FM’s. He changed the stations’ call letters to WPLJ New York, WDAI Chicago, WDVE Pittsburgh, WRIF Detroit, KLOS Los Angeles, and KSFX San Francisco. The stations went 100% local and live, becoming the most successful FM station group in the country from 1973 to 1980 in terms of audience and profit, and Shaw was named president of the ABC FM division in 1976.
Yearning to return to his native South, Allen left the Big Apple in 1981 to run an eight-station group owned by Summit Communications in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In 1985, he joined Beasley Broadcasting as executive vice-president and chief operating officer of that 15-station group and, in 1992, formed Crescent Communications with the purchase of KYLD-FM and KSOL-FM in San Francisco, KMZQ-FM and KXTE-FM in Las Vegas, and KRST-FM and KOLT-FM in Albuquerque.
After Crescent was sold in the fall of 1996, Allen started Centennial Broadcasting the next year and purchased KJUL-FM, KQOL-FM, and KKLZ-FM in Las Vegas, WRNO-FM, KMEZ-FM, and WBYU-AM in New Orleans, and WOSN-FM in Vero Beach, Florida. In early 2001 Centennial was sold to the Beasley Broadcast Group and Shaw joined Beasley as vice-chairman and chief operating officer. In 2005, he resigned his Beasley COO position and re-formed Centennial Broadcasting which currently (2008) owns an AM and FM in Fredericksburg and two FM’s and an AM/FM combo in Winchester, Virginia, plus four other FM’s acquired from Univision in Albuquerque.
Today (2008) Allen still lives in Winston-Salem and continues to be vice-chairman of the Beasley Broadcast Group. He has served many years on the board of the Radio Advertising Bureau, is a past winner of the National Association of Broadcasters’ “Marconi Award,” and serves on the board of directors of the Library of American Broadcasting, the advisory board of the Northwestern University School of Communications, and the board of the Piedmont Wind Symphony.
Despite all of the things Allen has done in his 48 years in radio, those early years in Polk County still hold great memories for him.
1964 - 1964 WLAK (On Air Personality)