* Page 2 *
This page will attempt to showcase the histories of New York City AM Radio stations,
past and present.
Please feel free to e-mail me with any information you would like to contribute to this page and
you will be credited.
Some information provided by:
"The Airwaves Of New York:
Illustrated Histories Of 156 AM Stations In The
Metropolitan Area, 1921-1996"
Dave Hughes' NYRTV website (no longer online)
Jeff Miller's History Of American Broadcasting website
Do you, or anyone you know, work in NJ radio, either now or in the past?
is looking for you!
Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3
Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6
WJY - 740 AM, New York
WJY went on the air May 15, 1923, as the sister station to WJZ at Radio Broadcast Central (see below).
The two stations operated from twin studios on the 6th floor of Aeolian Hall at 29 W. 42nd St., and in an admirable engineering accomplishment, the transmitters fed a dupilcate pair of antennae on the roof.
WJY originally was supposed to feature "high cultured" programming, while WJZ featured "popular airs, dance music and lectures", but the schedules of programs didn't always reflect that plan.
The major distinction was that WJZ was a continuous operation and WJY had to share time with WOR.
Both WJY and WJZ were occasionally on the air at the same time, but it was apparent that WJY was a "spillover" for WJZ.
WJY was phased out in July 1926, when WJZ moved their transmitter to Bound Brook NJ and boosted their power to 50,000 watts.
WABC - 770 AM, New York
WABC started off as WJZ when it signed on October 1, 1921.
In its early days, the station was housed in a shack on the roof of the Westinghouse meter factory on Orange and Plane Streets in Newark NJ.
It was only accessable by ladder.
It then expanded into the one available space downstairs.
WJZ's first major program occured on October 5, 1921 when it broadcast the 1921 World Series between the Giants and the Yankees.
There was no play-by-play direct from the field - announcer Tommy Cowan in Newark simply repeated the description phoned from the ballpark by a newspaper reporter.
WJZ started off on 360 meters (833 AM) and as one of the first stations to broadcast in the New York City area, was reluctant to share the frequency with other stations.
WJZ later recommended that other frequencies be made available for broadcasting, and by 1923, WJZ had moved over to 660 AM.
On March 15, 1922, WJZ broadcast a studio performance of Mozart's Impresario, probably radio's first full-length opera.
In October 1922, WJZ aired its second World Series, this time feeding it to WGY in Schenectady NY.
On May 14, 1923, WJZ shifted ownership from Westinghouse to RCA and changed its city of license from Newark to New York.
Studios moved to the 6th floor of the Aeolian bulding at 29 W. 42nd St. and was also the home of their sister station, WJY (see above).
Program logs from May 15 to December 31, 1923 reveal that WJZ aired 3426 programs, including 723 talks, 67 church services, 205 bedtime stories and 21 sports events.
Most of the broadcasts were musical and ranged from Carnegie Hall and Aeolian Hall recitals to harmonica and banjo solos.
At the end of 1925, WJZ fired up its new 50,000 watt transmitter from Bound Brook NJ, however, it overhelmed everything else on the air and engineers visited homes in central New Jersey to deal with the complaints.
WJZ didn't operate regularly at 50,000 watts until 1935.
In July 1926, WEAF became an RCA station and on November 15, 1926, both WJZ and WEAF were under the umbrella of the newly formed National Broadcasting Company (NBC).
On New Year's Day 1927, the NBC Blue Network debuted, with WJZ as the originating station.
In October 1927, WJZ moved into NBC studios still under construction at 711 5th Ave.
A month later, WEAF (the NBC Red Network) joined WJZ - and both were together under one roof.
In November 1933, WJZ, WEAF and all of the NBC and RCA corporate headquarters moved to 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Over the years, WJZ and the Blue Network presented many of America's most popular programs, such as Lowell Thomas and the News, "Amos N' Andy", "Little Orphan Annie", "America's Town Meeting Of The Air" and "Death Valley Days."
Each midday "The National Farm And Home Hour" brought news and entertainment to rural listeners.
Ted Malone read poetry and Milton Cross conveyed children "Coast To Coast On A Bus," as well as bringing opera lovers the Saturday matinees from the Met.
Occasionally, a show would premiere on NBC Blue, which had a weaker lineup of stations nationwide, and be shifted to the Red Network if it grew in popularity - "Fibber McGee & Molly" is one example.
In 1942, the FCC ruled that no broadcaster could own more than one station in a market.
So, on October 12, 1943, WJZ and the NBC Blue Network were sold to Edward J. Noble, owner of WMCA.
On June 15, 1945, WJZ became an American Broadcasting Company (ABC) station, when negotiations were completed with George B. Storer, who had owned the defunct American Broadcasting System and still owned the name.
In November 1948, WJZ and the ABC network finally got a home of their own when studios were moved to a renovated building at 7 W. 66th St.
Supplementing the ABC schedule were local talk shows featuring Walter Kiernan, Galen Drake and Ed and Pegeen Fitzgerald, during a 1945 escape from WOR.
On March 1, 1953, WJZ changed its call letters to WABC, after the FCC approved ABC's merger with United Paramount Theatres, Paramount Pictures' movie theatre chain, which was divested under government order.
WJZ-FM (95.5) and WJZ-TV (Channel 7) also changed to WABC-FM and WABC-TV, respectively, on the same day.
With the glory days of network radio on the wane, WABC started to develop extensive local programming at this time.
The change from the "short form" parade of music, talk, drama and game shows to the "long form" music-and-news format started when Martin Block quit WNEW and re-established the "Make Beleive Ballroom" at WABC on January 4, 1954.
The pioneer DJ filled more than 4 hours starting at 2:35 on weekdays and in morning and evening slots on Saturdays.
In 1955, comedian Ernie Kovacs starred briefly on WABC's morning wake-up show.
In 1958, WABC added announcers Tony Marvin and Del Sharbutt, hosting afternoon record shows in their distinctively deep voices, and in June of that year, Alan Freed brought his records over from WINS to rock n' roll through the evening hours.
But as WABC entered the 1960's, it was still having trouble shaking off the past and establishing a clear identity.
The Metropolitan Opera matinee continued on Saturdays, the Sunday schedule was almost wholly filled by paid religious broadcasts, the music was a fuzzy mix of swing, pop and rock n' roll and the news service still included several extended programs of analysis and commentary.
However, things changed in 1958 when Hal Neal, who had managed ABC's Detroit affiliate with specializing in rock n' roll, came to WABC to work his magic.
The pop singles were out and replaced by a playlist of 70 records that included the "7 Soaring Singles", 7 new albums, and so on.
This was all presented by "The Swingin' 7": Herb Oscar Anderson, Chuck Dunaway, Bill Owen, Scott Muni, Charlie Greer, Farrell Smith and Jack Carney, who was soon replaced by Dan Ingram in 1961.
Neal also hired former WINS program director Rick Sklar to stimulate promotion and community involement.
WABC became a power in the music business and as it rose to the top of the ratings in the nation's first market, it could make valid claim to being the most-listened-to radio station in the United States.
When WABC celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1961 with a party at the Freedomland amusement park in the Bronx, 24,000 fans attended.
In 1965, WABC moved its studios around the corner to 1926 Broadway and later to 1330 Avenue Of The Americas.
The morning slot finally stablized, with Herb Oscar Anderson waking New Yorkers from 1960 to 1968.
In September 1968, Harry Harrison came over from WMCA and took over the morning show until November 1979.
WABC was the #1 station in the 12-24, 18-34 and 25-49 demographics constantly in all the books from 1968 to the summer of 1978.
They were in the Top 3 in the 12+ and 25-54 demos from 1968 to 1978, but most of the time #1.
Then in the Fall of 1978, WKTU beat them in the ratings.
As a result, WABC got deeper with the disco and R&B cuts in the winter of 1979.
They still played the current rock and pop hits, but mixed in non-charting disco hits.
However, WABC continued to be below the top.
In September 1979, GM Al Brady takes over and in November, laid off Harry Harrison, George Michael and Chuck Leonard.
He hired Howard Hoffman, Mike McKay and Sturgis Griffin in their place.
The station shifts younger musically and adds alot of album cuts not previously played.
Al Brady left WABC in June 1980.
Upon Al's leaving, Jay Clark takes over and moves WABC back to a Mainstream CHR, which at the time was leaning AC.
In September 1980, they drop "Music Radio" from their name.
In March 1981, they add Ross & Wilson.
In April 1981, they add sports talk to the lineup, to complement beginning to carry Yankees baseball full-time.
The previous year, however, the station aired two weeks worth of games when the then-rights holder WINS decided to pre-empt Yankees baseball to carry the 1980 Presidential Conventions.
In the Fall of 1981, WABC abruptly pulled the very few rock songs that were still left on the playlist and added alot of oldies.
They then move to a Gold-Based AC format.
A psychology talk show is added from 9p-12mid.
In February 1982, WABC openly announces that they will go all-talk in May.
Then, on May 10, 1982, "Musicradio 77" faded out after 22 years and WABC did indeed became a talk station.
The original talk lineup included Art Athens, Ira Fistell, Ray Briem, Michael Jackson (from KABC in Los Angeles) and Owen Spann (from KGO in San Francisco), Art Rust Jr. talked sports in the early evenings, Dr. Toni Grant did afternoon drive time and Dr. Judith Kuriansky did her show from 9pm to midnight.
In the mid-1980's, WABC booked some conservative talkers on the station, such as Bob Grant and Rush Limbaugh.
In the late 1990's, WABC picked up "Rambling With Gambling" after it was cancelled by WOR.
In December 2001, it was announced that Yankees baseball would be dropped from WABC, and move to WCBS, 880 AM.
On December 3, 2007, Don Imus is expected to return to the New York airwaves via WABC, after being fired earlier in the year by WFAN for derogatory comments made about the Rutgers University women's basketball team.
(Thanks to Mark D and T. A. "Rollo" Henry for some of this information)
(Thanks to Bryan Vargo for an old WABC logo)
(Thanks to Frank Zarate for the "News. Opinion. Passion." WABC logo)
("MusicRadio 77" music note logo, courtesy of MusicRadio77.com)
(First row of WABC logos, courtesy of NY Radio Archive)
WNYC - 820 AM, New York
WNYC signed on July 8, 1924, located at 570 AM.
Since its inception, the station has been owned by the City Of New York.
For its inaugural broadcast, 8-foot call letters were spotlighted on the west side of the Municipal Building and illuminated fountains gushed beneath the rooftop antenna.
Mayor Hylan led the official party, as Vincent Lopez and his orchestra serenaded listeners.
WNYC's first announcer was Thomas Cowan, who had put WJZ (see above) on the air.
Unfortunately, the outdoor ceremony was interrupted by a sudden thunderstorm, which drenched the mayor and his fellow digitaries and flooded the bass horns of the fire department band.
The inauguaral broadcast continued inside the station's 24th floor studio.
The studios were to have been state-of-the-art for its time, including "soundproof wallpaper".
The previous day, however, someone noticed that the wallpaper did not match the decorative scheme elsewhere in the building and it was painted, thereby destroying its sound-absorbing qualities.
So, the room was hung with draperies, "which made the room virtually air tight as well as sound-proof.
Some of the more corpulent members of the Police and Fireman's Band suffered in the heat."
In its early years, WNYC was very unpredictable with its on-air schedule, and at one point, was almost taken off the air.
Initial programming was primitive - without funds to build up a record library, WNYC would borrow albums from record stores around City Hall Park (the stores asked that the records be returned before noon.)
Finally, a listener began loaning classical records to the station.
These favors helped to develop "The Masterwork Hour" in 1929, which would eventually become known as "radio's oldest recorded program of fine music."
On November 11, 1928, WMCA moved to 570, forcing WNYC into a time-sharing arrangement.
In July 1929, WMCA complained to the FRC (Federal Radio Commission) that WNYC frequently delayed "signing off, thus destroying the promptness and regularity of WMCA's broadcasting schedule."
However, WNYC continued these programming practices until 1931 when the station moved to 810 AM.
This left it not only technically inferior, but also without a public relations and psychological advantage among New York broadcasters, since many newspapers began their radio listings with the first station on the dial.
On its new frequency, WNYC had to sign off at sunset to avoid interfering with the night-time signal of WCCO in Minneapolis.
(WNYC moved to 830 AM in 1941, but so did WCCO.
WNYC was later allowed to remain on the air until 10pm New York time, year round.
This early sign-off continued until 1987, when WNYC moved to 820 AM.)
(A sign-on from 1984 and a sign-off from 1986 can be heard here).
The limited hours were a constant frustration to the WNYC staff, who often complained that New York City was sacrificing a unique service "for a few farmers in Minnesota."
The sign-off announcement once began with the words, "The sun has set in Minneapolis..."
In 1934, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia appointed Seymour N. Siegel to program WNYC and conduct it as a public service (it had been a commercial station).
New, air-conditioned studios were built in the Municipal Building, allowing announcers to close the windows.
Till then, sounds from the streets and harbor were heard so consistently in the background that those noises were considered a trademark of WNYC.
In 1936, the transmitter was moved from the roof of the Municipal Building to a better location on city property along the East River in Greenpoint.
In 1937, a revised city charter created the Municipal Broadcasting System.
WEVD executive Morris Novik was hired to manage WNYC, reporting directly to Mayor LaGuardia.
On October 23, 1937, WNYC opened a new suite of 7 studios in the Municipal Building, with a play entitled, "WNYC: The Voice Of The People."
Despite some rough criticism, WNYC's programming - even in its early days - could be quite good.
On most days, one or two WNYC programs could be found among the highlights and suggestions on the radio pages of the newspaper.
Tommy Cowan remained with WNYC until 1961, when failing eyesight forced him to retire.
He died in 1969 at the age of 85.
Over the years, listeners heard the voices of announcers Andre Bernard, Bill Slater, Jack Lazare, Lloyd Moss, David Allen, Kevin Kennedy, Tom Terrisi and Steve Post.
For many years, however, the station had trouble finding and keeping good announcers, who had to apply through the civil service system.
WNYC built up an excellent library of its own classical records and instituted a fine series of live concerts from around the city, including the famous Goldman Band concerts in the parks.
Under music director Herman Neuman, who served WNYC for 45 years, the station launched its American Music Festival in 1940 to spotlight many neglected contemporary artists.
WNYC also developed some unique public services, from live hearings of the Board of Estimate to scheduled reports on waiting times at municipal golf courses.
In 1946, Morris Novik left WNYC to run WLIB and Seymour Siegel became director of broadcasting.
He remained through the next 4 administrations, but resigned in 1971 to protest budget cuts that had forced the layoff of 55 employees.
A "Save WNYC Committee" was organized by Novik and Mayor LaGuardia's widow, Marie, and part of the budget was restored.
In 1979, WNYC became an NPR (National Public Radio) affiliate.
In 1985, the studios were upgraded and renamed the Fiorello H. LaGuardia Telecommunications Center.
In the spring of 1989, WNYC moved its transmitter out of the city to the WMCA site in Kearney NJ - amicably sharing a tower with a station it had fought with nearly 6 decades earlier.
In the 1980's, Mayor Ed Koch tried to control prostitution in the city by having WNYC read the names of "johns" arrested for soliciting.
Station management balked, announcers threatened a walkout, and the idea was dropped after one broadcast.
In 1995, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, facing enormous budget deficits, looked at selling WNYC AM, FM & TV, which could have brought in nearly $40 million, as well as eliminated the need for the city to cover $4 million in operating expenses each year.
In March of that year, Mayor Giuliani sold WNYC AM & FM to the independent WNYC Foundation for $20 million.
The foundation would have 6 years to pay.
Station management took to the air to thank the mayor for his generosity.
The transfer to foundation ownership took place on July 1, 1996.
The city administration allowed the station to remain rent-free in the Municipal Bullding, the same building where it was founded in 1924.
But with the sale, a significant chapter in radio history came to an end: out of all the stations that went on the air in the New York metropolitan area in the 1920's, WNYC was the last one owned by its original licensee.
In the early days of AM radio, stations were originally assigned to just one frequency - 360 meters (or 833 on our current AM band.)
Most stations that started off on 833 eventually moved to other frequencies, however there are some stations that began AND ended their histories on 833 AM.
WSH - 833 AM, New York
WSH broadcasted under temporary authority in March 1922.
WGAC - 833 AM, Brooklyn
WGAC broadcasted briefly from Brooklyn in 1922.
WLAW - 833 AM, New York
WLAW went on the air in September 1922, owned by the New York City Police Department.
The calls, WLAW, was one of the first instances of call letters that actually meant something.
The station was managed by M.R. Brennan, superintendent of the NYPD's Telegraph Bureau, and shared time with other stations on the frequency - the only frequency available to stations at that time.
WLAW sent out bulletins for use by police officers, but it was also a medium for obtaining the cooperation and goodwill of the city's "radioists."
Listeners could follow the progress of police activity, especially after the city put its first radio-equipped motorcycle patrols on the street in 1923 (the apparatus was in a sidecar surmounted by an enormous loop antenna).
But, WLAW soon became obsolete.
By 1924, despite many developments in radio and the expansion of the broadcast band, WLAW was still operating irregularly on 360 meters.
In August 1924, Brennan reported it "out of commission" and turned in the license.
WJX - 833 AM, New York
WJX hit the air on October 13, 1921.
The person most responsible for the station was Robert F. Gowen, chief engineer of the DeForest Radio Telephone and Telegraph Company.
The station broadcast vaudeville acts by such stars as the Duncan Sisters and Gowen assured radio fans that "there will positively be no phonograph music."
By the end of 1921, WJX was planning a series of nightly one-hour concerts, each preceeded by a news program, but it appears to have kept an irregular schedule.
In June 1924, with most stations moving off of the 833 frequency, the license of WJX was deleted.
WWZ - 833 AM, New York
WWZ went on the air March 24, 1922, owned by the John Wanamaker & Company department store.
The studio of the station featured a chandelier above a grand piano.
The station, however, was short-lived and went off the air on November 5, 1923.
WRCM - 850 AM, New York
WRCM was a carrier-current station run by Manhattan College.
More info on the station can be seen here.
Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3
Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6
Radio-History.com Home Page
Also visit our "sister" sites: PirateJim.com | LPFMDatabase.com