Hall of Fame: 2009
Len Zola capped a distinguished broadcasting career with what may be his greatest accomplishment: turning the diverse and often competitive crowd of Boston-area broadcasters into a genuine community of colleagues.
Len Zola’s extensive and widely varied career in New England radio and TV began in 1953 when while awaiting the military draft, he summered at WLYN in Lynn, Massachusetts as the all-around sub and weekender. He also worked part-time that fall at WORL, Boston, as news editor.
For most of 1956, Zola was a newscaster/newsman at WWNH in Rochester, New Hampshire. This local news-oriented station offered several daily half-hour newscasts divided into area segments. Len’s assigned coverage responsibilities were Rochester and Farmington, New Hampshire and Sanford-and-the-Berwicks, Maine all of which included both extensive "beat" work and phoning. On his second day on the job, (after two years in uniform, away from the business) Zola had to produce a documentary saluting Sanford, Maine, as "The Town that Refused to Die," detailing how Grossman's Lumber helped revitalize Sanford after its closing of Goodall-Sanford (textile) Mills.
In 1957, WESX in Salem, Massachusetts hired Zola to become the News Director for a prototypical one-person suburban news department with minimal tools. His beat covered the entire North Shore via several rounds of daily phone calls plus rare remote coverage of news events such as a devastating forest ﬁre in Manchester and the Armed Forces Day demonstration of a helicopter rescue in which a Coast Guard crewman fell overboard and perished in Salem Harbor.
In 1958, WCRB AM-FM, Waltham’s classical commercial station, pioneered stereo-casting with one side on AM (and/or on WGBH) and the other on FM. Zola became a one-man band, handling the jobs of public affairs director, news and public service director alongside a ﬂoating 40-hour air shift. While squeezing in writing and preparing publicity/promotional material and news releases for mailing, lengthy classics played on air. Zola maintained constant contact with broadcast writers at Boston newspapers to gain coverage of WCRB and its personalities. Zola even designed and "published" (on a Ditto duplicator!) handy brochures to be handed out at WCRB's Hi-Fi Show booths!
By 1959, Zola landed at WBZ, hosting the ﬁnal months of the all-night American Airlines Show, Music 'Til Dawn. This 50,000 watt clear channel station carried Zola’s version of the classical show broadcast across America. A relatively limited classical library meant he had to substitute frequently for agency-scheduled works. In addition to this gig, Zola subbed for staffers and vacationing deejays at WHDH AM-FM-TV, a coveted position in those days.
Becoming Program Director in 1959-60 for WKOX-FM (105.7), Zola devised an eclectic mix of music for the Framingham station, and signed it on air with an eight-hour evening broadcast format called Tasteful Music, Tastefully Presented. The show featured string orchestras (David Rose, Percy Faith, Mantovani) plus jazz and "dinner" combos (The Three Suns, Brubeck, etc.) on the two-hour mid-evening classical show. Zola was known for his use of brief classical horn phrases with IDs to establish a distinctive station signature. As a result, some dubbed WKOX the "horny" station!
Zola also describes himself as “Elevator Music Host” and occasional newsman for WEZE, WSRO and WTAO during the early ‘60s and occasionally he was a classical host on WXHR, then sister station to WTAO. Then in 1965, Zola was hired as News and Sports Writer and Editor for radio and TV at the original Boston Herald/Traveler owned WHDH AM -FM -TV [Channel 5] in Boston. Zola stayed in that position until 1972, writing five-minute radio newscasts as well as some of longer durations. He was also the chief editor on two projects for which the station coverage was honored by UPI: The ﬁrst Earth Day observance and the multiple fatality airliner crash in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Since the ‘70s, Zola has worked heavily in the public relations ﬁeld handling PR work for the Massachusetts Federation of Nursing Homes’ state trade association of Long Term Care facilities and health care vendor ﬁrms now called the Mass. Extended Care Facilities Federation. From 1982 to 1997, he was a part time classical host and newscaster for WCRB, hosting Sunday Evening Opera and other programs.
In 2001, Zola founded The Media Gang with a committee of retired and still-working veteran electronic and print media employees as well as public relations -publicity -marketing practitioners, advertising agency people and members of the industrial and commercial production communities. The Media Gang organizes two yearly reunion-type “Nostalgia Luncheon” gatherings of retired and veteran members of these career ﬁelds. The list of over 1,500 (living and dead) includes on-air talent, writer/reporters, technical workers, camera-operators, sales personnel, owners, management and all other associated disciplines.