Barry Mardit will be honored on June 30 in Nashville.
Charting hit records played on the radio was a preteen hobby that developed into an award-winning career direction for Barry Mardit, a Huntington Woods resident who has divided his professional commitments among hosting programs, administering programs and serving as a consultant for programs.
The next award will be presented June 30 in Nashville, where Mardit will be among six other broadcast personalities being inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame presented by Country Radio Broadcasters to individuals working in the industry for at least 20 years, 15 in country.
Mardit, who spent most of his career in the Detroit market, started out in New York focusing on rock, moved on to South Carolina with a transition into country and came to W4 in Detroit to transform the station focus from Howard Stern’s rock styling to Mardit’s approach to country.
“I am so excited to be getting one of two plaques — one for me and another that goes on display in Nashville,” said Mardit, who will be joined at the awards dinner by his wife, Paula (nee Schwartz), a mental health counselor raised in Oak Park, and two daughters, Molly and Rose.
“For years, plaques were kept on display at the Nashville Convention Center. Currently, planners are looking for a new place.”
This honor joins Mardit’s awards earned during his Detroit tenure — Billboard, CMA (Country Music Association) Program Director, Station of the Year and an NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Marconi Award. Two current Detroit on-air personalities, the team of Rachael (Hunter) and (Steve) Grunwald, also will be inducted along with representatives working in other states — program administrator-turned-consultant Becky Brenner and broadcasters Whitney Allen, Debbie Conner and Cathy Martindale.
While growing up in Brooklyn, Mardit starting charting his favorite rock records, including “Mr. Bass Man,” so he could listen at times when those songs likely would be played by a favorite DJ. Thinking this host would appreciate the information that he had tallied, Mardit mailed his charts to the broadcaster and was thrilled whenever the charts and his name were mentioned together.
“For about seven or eight years, they read my letters on the air,” Mardit recalled. “I would rush home from Hebrew school to hear that, and I made a few friends that way because people with a similar hobby would get in touch with me.
“I didn’t get paid for this, but that’s what got me interested. I didn’t know yet that I wanted to be in radio or on the air. I just knew I wanted to be involved. Visiting the radio stations and meeting the disc jockeys gave me more of an interest in pursuing this career.”
While participating in the radio station at Brooklyn College, Mardit was offered his first job at a professional station — night doorman that allowed him to greet stars, such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Employment progression moved him into handling a request phone line before he was asked to maintain electronic controls learned in college.
Mardit’s first on-air job was in South Carolina. He remembers the popularity of one of the earliest country songs he came to know — Ronnie Milsap’s “What Goes On When the Sun Goes Down.”
Moving to Detroit in 1982, after working in Pittsburgh for three years, gave Mardit more insight into country music fans. He explained, “A lot of people came from the South to work in the steel and auto industries. They brought their families and their musical tastes with them.”
Working with celebrities as radio guests and guest DJs has been among the highlights of his experiences. Among the many he can recall meeting are Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Garth Brooks the Oakridge Boys, Randy Travis and Charlie Daniels.
Mardit was especially impressed by an experience with Loretta Lynn.
“I found country stars to be warm and family-oriented, and I met Loretta Lynn in Pittsburgh at a sad time in our family,” he explained. “During a conversation Loretta and I had, I mentioned that my mom was having health issues.
“Loretta was very sympathetic and asked for my mom’s phone number. Soon, I got a call from my mom, who expressed how thrilled she was to get an understanding hour’s call from Loretta, who later sent her an autographed album. I’ll never forget that.”
Mardit met his wife, a longtime country fan before meeting him, at a station event he hosted at the Michigan State Fair. From the start, synagogue attendance was important to both of them, and the family maintains membership at Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park.
Mardit also established community interests through station fundraisers for organizations such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., a location in the heart of country music.
“Shortly after 12 years of tenure at W4, I became a consultant for country radio across many states,” said Mardit, whose firm is Barry Mardit Media Consulting.
“A Lansing station going from rock to country has been one of my clients.
“I find out what people at a station want to do and help them get there. One of the more fun things is coming up with ideas for contests and, other times, it’s fun paying attention to the latest hit charts for program planning.
“Occasionally, because of all the attention to the charts, I think I am doing what I was doing when I was in my preteens.”