THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Sunday, February 26, 1995 TAG: 9502250045 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY SUE SMALLWOOD, STAFF WRITER LENGTH: Medium: 72 lines
BREEZILY CUEING up commercials, loading endless CDs and cheerfully manning the ever-blinking request lines, Mike Arlo in the radio studio is like a master chef in the kitchen, an old pro cooking up the ``Electric Lunch.''
For 15 years now Arlo's been serving up his popular hour-long noontime program on FM 99, his rock radio home of two decades.
In the transitory radio game, it's a rare bird that survives in a sole market - let alone at a single station - for more than a few ratings periods.
Arlo's secret? Radio's in his blood.
``It's something I always wanted to do,'' the affable, handlebar-mustachioed deejay said, hovering over the console at WNOR's Chesapeake studio. ``There are not that many people that get to do what they really want to do for a living; I'm working at the station I always wanted to work at. And to do it in your own hometown - it doesn't get any better than that.''
To commemorate his 20th anniversary, for four weeks of ``Lunches'' Arlo is spinning the greatest hits of each of his years at WNOR. He kicked off the celebratory series Feb. 13 with the highlights of 1975.
Arlo, 46, is a lifelong Virginia Beach resident and Princess Anne High School grad who grew up listening to WNOR-AM. He came to the FM station, which had just launched its rock format, with virtually no radio experience but a vast knowledge of rock music. He eventually landed the overnight shift. After three years, he took over the midday slot.
So have Arlo's ``Lunch'' listeners changed much over two decades?
``Well, I get calls from their children now,'' he said with a chuckle. ``I had one guy call me from Courtland and tell me, `The one thing our family agrees on - and there ain't much, including TV - is Arlo on the radio.' That was the ultimate compliment for me.''
During his tenure, Arlo witnessed FM radio's evolution from a wasteland into a major force. He recalls the free-form days of early FM, which would find him playing Black Sabbath and Stevie Wonder back to back. Now, programming has splintered into very specific niches.
`` `Progressive' used to mean album tracks from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,'' Arlo said with a laugh. ``Then it was the Police and the Cars and the Sex Pistols.''
Now the term can mean anything from the gentle Gin Blossoms to the grinding Rancid.
``It's such a difficult balancing act when you're in mass appeal radio,'' Arlo reflected. ``You've got 18- to 25-year-olds who don't give a damn about the Beatles or John Lennon, and then you have people that are 35 to 45 that could care less about Counting Crows or Stone Temple Pilots or the Meat Puppets. I've always liked the new music. I like to hear new and fresh things.''
The commercial explosion of rock came with the early-'80s birth of MTV. Arlo was right there with ``Mike Arlo's Video Radio,'' one of the first locally produced music video programs, simulcast on WNOR and WTVZ-TV.
MTV took notice and offered him an audition; he declined.
``They were trying real hard to get me up there'' to MTV's New York City studios, he said. ``I thought that they needed to take it a step further and do more concert information and more background on how the videos were done. Of course, all of that came to pass later. But I just didn't want to have to deal with living there.'' ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
Mike Arlo has hosted ``Electric Lunch'' for 15 of his 20 years at
WNOR. Of his listeners, he says, ``I get calls from their children