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This page will attempt to showcase the histories of Philadelphia 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:
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!
WFIL - 560 AM, Philadelphia
This station signed on in 1922 as WFI (owned by Wannmaker's department store) and shared time with another station, WLIT, that was operated by Lit Brothers department stores.
Soon afterwards, WFI and WLIT merged and became WFIL.
For years, WFIL was operated by the Philadelphia Inquirer and was a principal affiliate of the ABC Radio Network.
In 1956, WFIL attempted a Top 40 format, but it failed because of listener complaints.
DJ's at that time included Bob Horn, Phil Sheridan and Dick Clark - yes, THAT Dick Clark.
By the 1960's, WFIL was featuring a personality MOR format, with Phil "Uncle Philsy" Sheridan, Al Meltzer (later a local TV sportscaster for KYW, WCAU and Comcast SportsNet) and Jim Gearhart (now on NJ 101.5).
The station also ran ABC Radio Network programs like "Don McNeal & His Breakfast Club", a holdover live mid-morning variety show from Chicago, and Phillies baseball.
In the summer of 1966, the station experimented with a late night Top 40 music show afther the Phillies games, titled "Come Alive", sponsored by Pepsi (with the jingle, "Come Alive, You're In The Pepsi Generation" between songs).
On September 18, 1966, the station abruptly changed formats to Top 40 as "Famous 56".
For a time, they continued to run "Breakfast Club" and a 90 minute news block from 6p-7:30p.
The station had a fresh sound, and a full lineup of new "Boss Jocks", including Chuck Browning, George Michael, Long John Wade and newscaster Allen Stone.
The station, with a young sound and better signal, quickly defeated WIBG (see below), who made radical changes to their format by 1968.
WFIL established an identity with the teen audience, with slogans like "WFIL Is Boss" and "WFIL Gets It Together", and with jock appearances in the English double-decker "Boss Bus."
Dr. Don Rose became the popular new morning host, with a quick-paced program of jokes and sound effects.
Also popular was mid-day host Jim O'Brien, who doubled as weatherman on WPVI-TV Channel 6.
As the audience eventually moved to FM, the format slowly evolved into AC in 1977.
In 1980, Don Cannon was doing mornings, Dick Fennesey early afternoon, Dennis John Cahill mid-days and Joe Simone afternoon drive.
WFIL airchecks from this period can be found here.
On September 4, 1981, WFIL changed to a personality and information-oriented country music format as "Philly 56 Country."
They kept jocks Barbara Summers for mornings and Dan Malloy (now "Dennis Malloy" on NJ 101.5) for afternoons, and hired country jock Sarah Louise (now "Leigh Richards" on WXTU) from WRCP.
Play-by-play sports (Philadephia Stars and 76'ers) was added.
The music then changed to mainly pop crossover country featuring artists like Kenny Rogers, Anne Murray, John Denver, etc.
On September 2, 1983, the format ended with "Texas In My Rear View Mirror" by Mac Davis, followed by a 3 hour Elvis Presley special.
At 6pm, they announced the return of "Famous 56", playing music from the heyday of the Top 40 format (1966-1975).
Jim Nettleton and Allen Stone returned for mornings.
Soon, Nettleton was replaced by 1970's WFIL jock Dan Donavan.
Dennis John Cahill returned for afternoons.
The revival failed to recapture the original magic of "Famous 56".
The station switched to a mainstream oldies format, with WIBG personality Joey Reynolds hosting mornings.
Reynolds was fired in 1985 for an on-air prank, and Harvey Holiday took over the show and the station had an emphasis on oldies by black artists.
Then, Holiday was fired in 1986 and mainstream oldies returned.
An all day 20th anniversary on-air reunion of the original jocks was held on September 8, 1986.
In May 1987, the station fired the on-air staff and went to satellite oldies programming via TranStar's "Oldies Channel".
On May 11, 1989 with WOGL and WIOQ now playing oldies, WFIL started to simulcast soft AC WEAZ-FM.
Calls were changed to WEAZ on June 19, 1989.
The station was to be sold to Salem Comunications on June 1, 1990 for $6.5 million, but Salem backed out at the last minute.
To appease former "Easy 101" listeners who had been angry since 1988 when 101.1 dropped instrumental music, 560 switched to an easy listening format called "Wish 560" after the popular 1970's WWSH, on September 15, 1991.
On May 26, 1993, the calls were changed to WBEB to match their sister station on FM.
Failing to generate the desired ratings, the station finally sold to Salem for $4 million in October 1993.
On November 1, 1993, calls were changed again, this time to WPHY, and began their current religious format.
On September 6, 1994, 560 went back to their original calls of WFIL.
(Thanks to Dennis John Cahill, Kevin Fennessy, Rich Franklin, John Hendricks & Howard Rosenthal for some of this information)
WTEL - 610 AM, Philadelphia
WIP signed on March 16, 1922.
The call letters were randomly selected, however they eventually were to stand for "Wireless In Philadelphia."
WIP was originally owned by Gimbels department store.
Dick Carr, former DJ, Music Director and Program Director of WIP explains the origins of the station's popular MOR (Middle Of The Road) format:
In the late 1950s, John Kluge organized a company called Metropolitan Broadcasting that later was named Metromedia and went public in 1960 or so.
The first radio properties acquired were WNEW AM & FM, NYC and WHK-AM & FM, Cleveland.
In 1959, WNEW AM 1130 was a very successful NYC personality driven standard music station enjoying independence from the networks.
It grew out of the need for "music and news 24 hours a day" unincumbered by heavy doses of ABC, CBS and NBC network dramas and variety programming of the 50s.
The music was tasty and combined popular vocals with the dance bands.
The personalities were suave, urbane and irreverent.
Show biz people adopted them...listeners thought they were cool.
WNEW was managed by John Van Buren Sullivan.
The top deejays were Klavan & Finch and William B. Williams.
In 1959, after it was acquired by Kluge, WHK was managed by Kluge's appointee, Harvey Glascock.
Harvey adopted the "Color Radio" top 40 format and positioning of KFWB, Los Angeles invented by Chuck Blore.
Glascock created WHK's overnight rating success with personalities who were clever and fast with excellent voices....people like Johnny Holiday, Tom Brown, Ray Otis and Pete (Mad Daddy) Myers.
The pace of the station was dynamic with excellent jingles, contests and an 24 hour echo chamber presence further enhancing the voices of the deejays.
It was "the" top 40 station in the eastern U.S. in 1959 and 1960, where everyone wanted to work.
In 1960, Kluge purchased WIP AM & FM in Philadelphia.
He decided to send Glascock to manage it.
Harvey brought me to WIP from WHK along with several others.
Glascock was intent on converting WIP from an old line network affilate into a modern music and news station.
Harvey couldn't decide whether to pattern the station after WHK or WNEW.
So he tried to compromise and put in portions of both.
It didn't work.
At the time, I was music director.
One day, he called me in and asked for my views.
He liked what I had to say and Glascock made me program director.
I hired Gertie Katzman to take my place as music director.
Here's what I initiated:
1- Keep the Color Radio jingles
2- Emphasize strong personalities
3- Develop strong news five minutes on the hour and 60 seconds on the half hour
4- Eliminate r&r and go with a single list of about 25 softer chart hits and add new single releases by Sinatra, Ella, Bennett, Peggy Lee, Steve & Eydie, Mancini, Jobim and others thereby increasing our single list to about 100
5- Begin adding LP cuts by standard artists 3-4 times per hour
6- Adopt a music scheduling policy emphasizing balance and tempo of all secections.
7- Take an idea from a Baltimore TV station called Dialing for Dollars and call it Cash Call
8- Develop clever audience promotions and stunts
9- Constantly update the Color Radio jingles
10- Target everything we programmed to a listener 25-49
WIP's success was gradual until we awoke one day and found that, although WIBG led teens to 34, we were first in ARB 18 Plus.
WIBG was later replaced by WFIL.
WFIL led with teens and 18-34, but WIP was clearly the winner 18 plus because of our dominance with adults.
Our personality lineup evolved as follows:
6-10A - Joe McCauley
10-1P - Jim Tate
1-4P - Chuck Dougherty (replaced by Ned Powers in 1964)
4-8P - Tom Brown
8-Mid - Wild Bill Hickock (replaced by Chuck Dougherty in 1964)
Mid-6A- Dick Reynolds
Soon, news of our success swept the country.
When asked to define the difference between what we were doing compared to top 40 stations to the left and WNEW to our right, we began to say we were sort of middle of the road.
Not long after, Billboard began a new chart called Adult Contemporary listing the singles we were playing but not admitting where they got the information.
Broadcasting magazine began running adds for deejays who could do something called MOR.
Ken Garland replaced Jim Tate as a midday personality.
In 1965, Glascock was promoted to GM of WNEW.
Dave Croninger replaced him at WIP.
I continued as PD with Allan Hotlen replacing music drector Gertie Katzman who went to WNEW.
In 1967, I moved to Program Director of WNEW and Allan Hotlen became PD at WIP.
Nat Wright replaced Dick Reynolds on WIP overnight and Dean Tyler became music director.
In 1968, Kluge made me GM of WIP and WMMR.
Just as I got there, Joe McCauley died and I replaced him in morning drive with Ken Garland and added Bill Webber in middays.
Allan Hotlen, Chuck Dougherty and Tom Brown left WIP and went to WPEN.
I also added Philadelphia Eagles football.
In 1970, I became GM of WNEW-FM.
Later I was Group VP or the Meredith stations, VP Programming for Mutual, and later when Cap Cities bought ABC, I was VP Programming for the ABC Radio Networks.
I was forced out of ABC when Disney purchased it.
Tom Moran joined WIP around 1968, and replaced Ned Powers in the 1p-4p slot.
Dick Clayton replaced Tom Brown and Tom Lamaine replaced Chuck Dougherty, when they left in 1970.
The on-air lineup in 1970:
6a-10a: Ken Garland
10a-1p: Bill Webber
1p-4p: Dick Clayton
4p-8p: Tom Moran
8p-12a: Tom Lamaine
12a-6a: Nat Wright
In the 1970's, the music evolved into adult contemporary, playing the softer songs from the Top 40 playlists, but with personalities aimed at an adult audience.
In 1983, WIP experimented with talk programs, adding talk in the evening (WIPeople Talk With Michele Iaia) and in 1985, a mid-morning "infotainment" show hosted by Bill Gallagher.
In 1984, Moran and Wright were fired and Tom Lamaine left for KYW-TV.
The NBC network's "TalkNet" programs ran in the evening.
By the time Ken Garland left for rival WPEN in 1987, the AM adult comtemporary/full-service format was fading, and there were rumors that WIP would switch to talk.
WIP intially started sports programming in September 1986 with Howard Eskin from 5p to 6p.
In the spring of 1987, WIP was sold to Spectacor, and in November of 1987, became all-sports, except for morning drive.
Talk stations WCAU and WWDB had tried evening sports talk shows, but there were questions in the radio industry if it would work during the day.
The first shows featured veteran, expert local sportscasters: Tom Brookshire, Bill Campbell, Joe Pellegrino and Howard Eskin, with serious discussions of local sports teams.
At the start, the morning show, hosted by Steve Martorano, was still a general talk show, although sports topics were discussed.
Pat Croce hosted a fitness show.
Overnight was the syndicated Larry King show.
In the 1990's, the serious experts were gradually replaced by hosts who sounded more like fans than experts, developing a new combination of sports and "guy talk", sounding like men discussing sports, women, and other hot topics around the water cooler at work or at the neighborhood bar.
This began with former Philadelphia Inquirer writer Angelo Cataldi joining the morning show with Brookshire in November 1990.
Only football, hockey, baseball and basketball were discussed, no other "minor" sports, plus whatever were the hot topics on mainstream talk radio.
This approach proved successful, and was copied across the country as sports stations were started in other cities.
The station ran play-by-play of the 76'ers and Flyers, and the Eagles until 1992, when they moved to WYSP.
WIP easily held off an attempt by 1210 AM as WGMP "The Game", running a sports station (mainly syndicated, general sports talk and Phillies baseball) in 1995.
And for a time in 1991, WIP was simulcast during the day on WSKR (now WJSE) on 102.7 in Petersberg NJ.
On December 1, 2014, 610 changed their calls for the first time since its inception, to WTEL, as a result of a swap between CBS Radio and Beasley Broadcasting.
(Thanks to Dick Carr, Kevin Fennessy, Jim Gray, John Hendricks, Howard Kaplan and Alan Stone for some of this information)
WQHS - 730 AM, Philadelphia
Most members of WQHS are usually shocked when they become aware that student radio at Penn used to mean WXPN.
For approximately the first 25 years of the station's existence, Penn students operated WXPN.
The station was considered by many (including much of the student body) to be a highly successful college station, and it broadcast on a sufficiently powerful FM signal (which incidentally has been dramatically increased during the last decade).
However, a group of students in the early 1970s aired some controversial programming that led to an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. federal agency charged with regulating the broadcast spectrum.
The investigators found WXPN to be devoid of competent student leadership, and eventually threatened to revoke the station's FM license that is officially held by the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.
The University succeeded in convincing the FCC not to revoke the license with the understanding that professionals would be brought in to help run the station.
WXPN went from being completely student-run, to being professionally-assisted.
Initially, recent Penn graduates offered much of the professional help, which was quite limited in scope.
But as years passed the University brought in more professionals.
In the mid 1980s, new leadership at the station dramatically changed the station's goals and music format.
The station went from "block format" (characterized by a lot of variety throughout each day, with a few hours of one kind of music followed by a few hours of what was likely to be a very different kind of music) to Adult Album Alternative (also known as "Triple A", a format targeted at affluent, educated adults between the ages of approximately 24-39 and older - but certainly not to students).
The block format was very informal, as the station itself was very informal.
Any community member (including Penn students) could have the opportunity to host a show.
However, the new format meant a new professionalism at the station.
WXPN is responsible for creating and developing the AAA format in the 1980s.
The format has caught on well in the Philadelphia area, and has been copied and modified all across North America.
WXPN is member-supported, non-commercial radio.
About 10% of its funding is drawn from the University.
Most of the rest comes from grants and member pledges, as it is a public radio station.
WQHS differs greatly from WXPN.
In the early 1970s, WQHS used to be a training ground for WXPN.
After honing one's disc jockey skills at WQHS (which was and still is broadcast in selected Penn dorms on 730 AM on a system called carrier current) a student would move up to WXPN, which was broadcast over traditional FM airwaves.
After WXPN was taken away from
student control, WQHS became the only student-run and student-oriented radio entity at Penn.
WQHS has not changed much since 1975, when it became Penn's only student-run radio station.
Most of the station's major equipment is at least two decades old, and the type of programming (mostly college-oriented rock) has been fairly constant since the 1980s though musical trends of the times are reflected in the music played).
Carrier current is an obscure broadcasting system often used at colleges.
Stations on carrier current do not actually "broadcast" at all.
Wiring is sent through dorms carrying a low-powered signal that only emanates strongly enough to be picked up within approximately 20 feet of the wire.
If you are in one of the dorms wired for carrier current, you can pick up a fairly light AM signal at 730 on the dial.
If you are twenty feet outside the walls of the dorm, you may hear nothing but static.
Thus, students living in greek houses or in other off campus residences cannot listen to WQHS.
However, during the last seven years, the University has installed a "ResNet" cable system in all residences on campus.
WQHS is now available 24 hours a day as the audio on the ResNet Video Bulletin Board Network (WQHS actually broadcasts an average of 14 hours each day - the remaining time it simulcasts the WXPN signal).
However, this too cannot be heard by off campus residents, who account for about half of all Penn undergraduates.
One must live on campus to hear WQHS, and the medium and sound quality is far from desirable for most listeners and potential listeners.
It is within this framework that students currently join WQHS, and in which WQHS attempts to serve Penn's student body.
(Thanks to the WQHS website for this information)
WWDB - 860 AM, Philadelphia
This station went on the air in 1925 as WTEL, originally on 1310 AM, sharing time with WCAM.
WTEL was owned and operated by Doug Hibbs, who resided in the Frankford section of Philadelphia.
In the late 1920's, Doug Hibbs was to first to broadcast play-by-play of a football game.
He would announce a list of records he would air, and while his wife spun the records, he would drive to the Yellow Jacket Speedway on Erie Ave. and proceed to announce the Yellow Jackets football game.
Then, he'd announce another list of records and while they were being aired, would drive back to the studio, which was located in the Frankford Arcade.
In 1946, Hibbs hired Willie Gaylord as a weekend board operator, and later became the morning DJ with the only popular music program on the station in English (the rest of the schedule being ethnic).
Gaylord left the station in 1950.
From the 1960's to the 1980's, WTEL featured the area's first Contemporary Christian music show in morning drive, hosted by Harry Bristow, who used the show to promote his Christian bookstore and theatre.
The rest of the day featured Spanish music and weekends included religious and ethnic programs.
The station broadcast from sunrise to sunset.
When purchased by Beasley Broadcasting, the weekday programming switched to Contemporary Spanish music.
An attempt was made to broadcast with low power after sunset, but the signal failed to reach much of the audience.
On October 28, 1998, calls were changed to WWDB.
In an attempt to capture a younger talk audience, veteran talk hosts Susan Bray, Irv Homer and Dr. Jim Corea were moved to the AM station.
The AM simulcast the FM from 5p to signoff and weekends.
After listener complaints and a failure to generate ratings, the hosts moved back to the FM in August 1999.
In late 1999, the simulcast was dropped and for a short period of time, simulcasted CNN audio.
On February 8, 2000, the WTEL calls were reinstated and the station went back to a brokered-time religious format.
On November 22, 2000, calls were again WWDB and the station began airing a business news format via satellite from a sister station in Florida.
On August 2, 2010, 860 switched to "ESPN Deportes."
In June 2011, WWDB switched to an ethnic format.
(Thanks to Kevin Fennessy, Willie Gaylord and John Hendricks for some of this information)
WURD - 900 AM, Philadelphia
On July 23, 1958, 900 AM was founded as WFLN, the sister station to Philadelphia's classical music station on 95.7 FM.
Most of the time, the two stations were a simulcast of each other, with occasional separate programming.
In 1985, legendary talk radio personality Frank Ford and former WWDB salesman Jon Harmelin bought the station and renamed it "Talk 900" with call letters WDVT being assigned on August 2, 1985.
Mornings featured "Peter Tilden's Morning Rush" program.
Tilden, an advertising agent and comedian with no prior talk show hosting experience, later worked at WYSP and is currently hosting mornings on KZLA in Los Angeles.
Some other hosts on the station included Carol Saline, Frank Ford and D.I. Strunk.
Later, Maxine Schnall replaced Strunk, and Ron Eisenburg (and afterwards, Lee Fielding) replaced Tilden.
After Tilden left mornings, the show was produced by Cindy Graham (who later went on to work for Shadow Traffic/Metro Networks.)
Some weekend hosts included Edward Botone, who hosted a Food & Fine Living show on Sundays, and Mark Segal (of the Philadelphia Gay News), who hosted a show called "Gay Talk."
The station's major drawback was the fact that it was licensed for daytime operation only, which meant that each day at sundown, WDVT had to go off the air to avoid interfering with stations in other parts of the country.
Competition from two other major all-talk stations, WWDB-FM and WCAU-AM, did not make things any easier.
WDVT signed off for the last time on July 25, 1988.
Marlin Broadcasting, which purchased WFLN, also purchased the IOU for WDVT.
Instead of paying off the note, WDVT management decided to turn over the station to WFLN.
Calls were switched back to WFLN on December 12, 1988 and after a few months of simulcasting WFLN-FM, the station was sold to Willis Broadcasting, which programmed a brokered religious format called "Love 900".
Calls were changed to WURD on February 15, 1989.
In July 1996, WURD was sold to Mega Communications and the format was changed to Spanish CHR as "Mega 900".
In June 1999, Mega purchased 104.9 FM in Egg Harbor City NJ and 900 AM was simulcasted on the FM.
New calls of WEMG (to match the FM's) were assigned on June 17, 1999.
In August 2001, the Spanish was dropped and the station initially stunted for a couple of weeks with 2 Unlimited's "Get Ready For This".
Then, after some down time, the station came back on in September with a 60's/70's/80's mix of music.
During the down time (August 31, 2001) calls were changed back to WURD.
On December 10, 2001, WURD began a CNN news format via satellite.
In January 2003, WURD was sold to Levas Communications for $4.2 million.
(Thanks to Cindy Graham & John Hendricks for some of this information)
(some of this information, provided by Alan Boris - Philadelphia Radio Archives)
WKDN - 950 AM, Philadelphia
WPEN signed on in April 1929.
It was the dominent MOR/Pop station before WIBG (see below).
From 1946 to 1955, WPEN featured a live in-studio dance show, "The 950 Club", hosted by Joe Grady & Ed Hurst, and was the precursor to TV's "American Bandstand."
WPEN was a low-rated MOR station thoughout most of the 1960's, until 1969, when 10 WIP employees were pirated to cross the street and compete head-to-head with WIP.
"The New 95 WPEN" featured big name personalities, had jingles sung by The Lettermen and gave away big cash prizes.
But, the format bombed and WPEN fired the big names and pared itself down until being sold to Greater Media in 1975.
When Greater Media took over, they initially put the station off the air for 2 months as they re-tooled the studios and transmitting facilities.
WPEN returned to the air in Spring 1975 as "95PEN" with a high-energy oldies format simulcast on FM, playing the hits from 1954 to 1963: the first station in Philadelphia to play "Nothin' But Golden Oldies", no current hits.
Mayor Frank Rizzo introduced the first song, "Those Oldies But Goodies" by Little Caesar & The Romans.
The original jock lineup came from other markets, including Loren Owens, Mike St. John (still on WOGL) and Geoff Fox.
On September 2, 1975, the FM simulcast ended as "Magic 103" began.
Soon, WPEN had a "Beatles Weekend" and added mid 1960's to early 1970's oldies.
In 1977, WIBG and WFIL jock Joe Niagara took over afternoon drive, starting a turnover of jocks.
The music evolved into a gold-based adult contemporary mix, similar to rival WIP.
In 1979, to attract the older WIP audience, WPEN flipped to a "Nostalgia" format, playing songs popular in the big band and pre-rock 1950's era.
Joe Niagara moved to mornings, and a weekday hour of Frank Sinatra music was added at 11am, and weekends included veteran jocks Bud Brees, Bob Roth and a Broadway music show.
Grady & Hurst reunited for a 2 week revival of the "950 Club".
It was so popular, it became a regular weekday afternoon show from 1981 to 1988, when Grady retired.
In a major coup, popular morning host Ken Garland was hired away from WIP in 1987, joining his wife, newscaster Elaine Soncini.
In the winter of 1988, WPEN was the top-rated Nostalgia station in the country, with a 5.9 Arbitron share.
Other WIP personalities, such as Bill Weber, Dick Clayton and Tom Moran, moved to 950.
Ed Hurst added a weekend "Steel Pier" show, named for a television dance program he had hosted from Atlantic City in the 1960's, and television host and singer Al Alberts added a "Harmony" show.
Another popular jock, Dick Graham, started on WPEN in 1988 and left around 1998.
Changes came in the 1990's as the format became known as "Adult Standards".
Ken Garland passed away from leukemia on December 1, 1992.
His wife, linked to a local news scandal, retired to Florida.
Joe Niagara also retired and the station had a number of jock changes.
In 2000, when WWDB dropped talk, some of their specialty shows moved to WPEN on weekends and soon there were only a few hours of music on weekends.
The weekend jocks were moved to weekdays in a mid-day "New 950 Club" program.
In 2002, Phillies baseball moved to WPEN.
On September 1, 2004, WPEN dropped Adult Standards to become "Oldies 950 WPEN."
It has been announced that WPEN will drop the Oldies format on October 3, 2005 and become "Sports Talk 950."
On April 1, 2008, WPEN became an ESPN affiliate.
On December 21, 2012 at 6pm, 950 switched to Family Radio's religious programming and became WKDN.
(Old WPEN logo courtesy of knowston.homestead.com)
(Thanks to Kevin Fennessy, John Hendricks & Jacqueline Spina for some of this information)
WNTP - 990 AM, Philadelphia
990 AM signed on in 1923 as WIBG, a 25-watt religious station for St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Elkins Park PA.
The call letters stood for "I Beleive In God."
Until the mid 1930's, the station only broadcast religious services on Sunday afternoons.
When the church was forced to broadcast on a daily basis by the Federal Radio Commission, the owners decided to sell the station to an electrical construction company.
In the 1950's, WIBG was one of the first local stations to fill the broadcast day with local disk jockeys, like Doug Arthur and Joe Niagara, playing current popular records (instead of running network variety programming).
WIBG's main period of popularity began in 1958, when it started its Top 40 format, known as "Wibbage".
The high-profile "Wibbage Good Guys" included Hy Lit, Joe Niagara, Jerry Stevens, Allan Dean, Bill Wright, Frank X. Feller, Ray Gilmore, Tom Donahue and Jerry DelColliano (who did fill-in work).
The station dominated the ratings for teenagers and young adults.
Their printed list of the "Top 99" songs was the first radio station survey sheet distributed at local record shops.
In 1968, having been beaten by WFIL (see above), the "Wibbage" name, jocks and jingles were replaced briefly by the name "WIBG - The Space Station" (at the height of the NASA space program), then a tight Top 30 format with new jocks, including Bob Foster, Ed Richards and Scott Walker (who later changed his air name to his real name, John "Records" Landecker).
In October 1969, Buckley Broadcasting bought the station.
They restored the "Wibbage" name in a new, more laid back format: personality-driven Top 40 AM designed to contrast high-energy WFIL and to compete with FM progressive rock, playing longer songs, no jingles, and not taking themselves too seriously.
The jocks included the return of Hy Lit and Joe Niagara, plus offbeat humorists Ed Richards, Joey Reynolds, Gary Mitchell and John "Records" Landecker, with newscasters Bob Daleigh, Paul Howard and Ken Matz (later a WCAU-TV news anchor).
For a time, the station played Top 40 hits in the daytime, and experimented with progressive rock in the evenings, with hosts T. Morgan and Rick Menapace.
A number of jocks worked at WIBG in the 1970's, including Long John Wade (from WFIL), his brother Don Wade, "Dirty" Don Cannon, Tom Rivers, McClintock, Gary Brooks, Cat Martin, Doug James, Sean Casey, Bill Gardner and "Giant Gene" Arnold with his "Giant Gene's Electric Scene" program, with jingles "WIBG, Where Your Friends Are."
WIBG stayed in the format utilizing several different approaches, including a fatal format change to AOR in 1972.
WIBG later eveolved into an Adult Contemporary station in 1975, hiring WIP veteran jock Dick Clayton for afternoons.
Dennis John Cahill did mid-days, later moving to early evenings.
The station carried play-by-play of the 76'ers, Bell and Temple football and Don Henderson's "Sports Talk" (from WCAU when they switched to all-news) at night.
On April 1, 1976, Fairbanks Broadcasting purchased the station and made it a "Hot AC" with big name personalities and featuring Philadelphia Phillies games.
Side note: In a scene from the first "Rocky" film in 1976, Rocky was listening to Don Cannon on WIBG.
In the spring of 1977, the station reverted back to Top 40.
The jocks included Steve Hatley, Crazy Bob, Bill Gardner, Chuck Knapp, J.J. Kennedy, Truckin' Tom, Cookin' Kent and Rockin' Ron.
In September 1977, the station decided to shed the WIBG image for good, and held a week-long "Wibbage Wake", with guest jocks from the 1958-1967 era, plus a live dance party with Jerry Blavat, who competed with WIBG in those years.
They played old records, jingles and promos.
On September 10, 1977, Hy Lit and Joe Niagara hosted a final hour, announcing the "death" of "Wibbage" just before 6pm.
After 6 more hours of Blavat, at 12:01am on September 11, 1977, the station began a 64-hour syndicated special, "The Evolution Of Rock", with recorded announcements that "Wibbage is gone" and a new station "in the hands of the people" was coming.
Following this, with an announcement by new program director Kevin Metheny (later Howard Stern's boss at WNBC in New York), the station was re-born as WZZD "Wizzard 100" (rounding off the 99 frequency).
It started off as an adult Top 40 format, based on listener requests, but quickly changed to disco, competing with WCAU-FM.
Jocks included Don Michael Girard, Leigh Hamilton, Andre Gardner, Glen Kalina, Bill O'Brien, Billy Lofton, Steve Ross and Bob Swan.
"Giant Gene" Arnold also hosted the "History Of Disco" series.
"Wizzard" lasted for about a year before evolving into an Urban format.
In the Fall of 1979, the station was sold to CommuniCom Corp. for $4.5 million, and changed to a religious format in the Spring of 1980, calling itself "990 WZZD, Philadelphia's Light."
In recent years, WZZD (owned by Salem Communications) played Contemporary Christian music and religious teaching programs; they also featured local high school football games each Fall.
Ironically, the station is now co-owned and housed with former Top 40 arch rival WFIL (see above).
In April 2004, Salem debuted a "conservative talk" format on 990 AM - and changed calls to WNTP.
(Thanks to Gene Arnold, Dennis John Cahill, Kevin Fennessy, John Hendricks and Steve Warren for some of this information)
(some information provided by Alan Boris - Philadelphia Radio Archives)
KYW - 1060 AM, Philadelphia
This station signed on in 1921, originally on 1020 AM, as WRCV, owned by RCA/Westinghouse.
The KYW calls originated on a co-owned station in Chicago.
Only the seventh radio station in the United States to start broadcasting, KYW -- jointly owned by Westinghouse Broadcasting (Group W) and the Edison Company -- immediately began airing performances of the Chicago Opera Company.
For the first time, great music was available to thousands outside the concert halls.
Ownership of radios in Chicago jumped from 1300 to more than 20,000 from the time the opera broadcasts were announced to the close of the season.
In its quest to serve all segments and interests of the community, KYW also was the first station to broadcast major football games.
In 1934, the station moved to what was then the nation's third largest market: Philadelphia.
Here it continued its reputation for excellence in community coverage, most notable the station's on-the-spot coverage of the Hindenburg disaster on June 6, 1937.
A KYW broadcaster described the inferno from a telephone booth.
His historic description was carried over both NBC's Red and Blue networks.
KYW also served as the nerve center for the NBC network broadcasts of the 1940 Republican National Convention and the 1948 Republican and Democratic national conventions in Philadelphia.
During World War II, KYW was cited for numerous accomplishments on the home front, among them War Bond Drives.
The station continued to grow as a cultural force as well, sponsoring and broadcasting fine musical programs, literary reviews, dramatic shows and educational programs.
In January 1956, Westinghouse and NBC swapped their broadcast properties in Philadelphia and Cleveland.
Cleveland received the KYW calls, while Philly picked the WRCV calls.
During this period of time, 1060 was basically a big band station.
Westinghouse later cried foul to the FCC about strong-armed tactics that NBC used to force the Cleveland-Philadelphia swap.
NBC supposedly threatened to yank its network affiliation if Westinghouse didn't agree to the swap.
So, the FCC made NBC reverse the swap.
In June 1965, WRCV became KYW once again.
KYW then became an all-news station on September 21, 1965.
It was a fairly radical concept at the time, and took almost a decade to really catch on.
KYW Newsradio was one of the pioneers in the format: the second all-news station in the country, following the lead of its Group W sister station WINS Radio in New York by six months.
Under the "all news" umbrella, KYW Newsradio continued its great tradition of public service programming and community involvement.
A couple of teen talk panel shows continued to run on KYW (leftovers from the WRCV days).
These included "High School Roundtable" and "Junior Town Meeting Of The Air".
The shows were hosted by various KYW personalities including Jim Donnelly (later a longtime WCBS news anchor) and Dick Stockton (later of TV sports fame).
In the years since, KYW Newsradio and its skillful team of news professionals have brought the events that have shaped our community directly to the listeners.
From the Moon landing to the MOVE shoot-out; from school teacher strikes to school snow closing numbers, KYW Newsradio has been there, leading the pack with award-winning, around-the-clock news service.
Today, KYW Newsradio, an Infinity Broadcasting radio station, is the market leader -- the most-listened-to radio station in the Philadelphia region -- and an integral part of the community and daily life in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
An aircheck from KYW can be heard here.
(Thanks to Neil Rattigan, Howard Rosenthal and the KYW website for some of this information)
WPHT - 1210 AM, Philadelphia
Two months after WIP (see above) became the first commercial radio station in Philadelphia, 1210 went on the air as WCAU in May 1922.
WCAU's founder was an electrician named William Durham, who started the 250-watt station in the back of his shop at 1936 Market St.
In 1924, the station was sold to law partners Ike Levy and Daniel Murphy for $25,000.
When Murphy became disinterested in the venture, Levy presuaded his brother Leon, a dentist, to take his place.
Although many regarded radio as a fad, the brothers had a keen sense of the medium's potential.
In 1928, the men convinced their brother-in-law William Paley, who was working in his father's cigar business, to buy a troubled 16-station network called United Independent Broadcasters.
In 1928, Paley, 27, used $500,000 of his family's money to purchase the network which he renamed Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).
WCAU was the network's flagship station.
After a short stay at 39th and Chestbut Sts., the studios were moved to 1321 Arch St., and then in 1933 to a state-of-the-art facility at 1622 Chestnut St.
The new facility was the first ever constructed especially for radio broadcasting, and included eight studios (including one large enough to hold the entire Philadelphia Orchestra) and a special technical research laboratory.
After a progression of power boosts, the station attained its 50,000-watt clear channel staus.
The 1930's and 1940's were generally regarded as the "Golden Age Of Radio", and the Levys contributed much to this period through the style and manner in which they ran their station.
Commercial spots were closely scrutinized for content and offensiveness and never ran back-to-back.
For entertainment, there were two in-house bands, while the news department tackled the city's tough issues.
Through affiliation with the CBS network, listeners were treated to the talents of Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, Edgar Bergen, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Kate Smith, Red Skelton, Guy Lombardo, the Dorsey Brothers, Will Rogers, Arthur Godfrey, Burns and Allen, Fred Allen and Edward R. Murrow, just to name a few.
WCAU also featured a number of local personalties, including Bill Dyer, Taylor Grant, Norman Brokenshire, Alan Scott, Bob Menefee and columnist Jack McKinney.
The station's longest running show was The Horn & Hardart's Children's Hour, hosted by program director Stan Lee Broza.
In 1946, the Levys sold WCAU to David Stern, publisher of the Philadelphia Record.
However, the brothers continued to run the station until it was sold a year later to the Bulletin.
In 1952, the newspaper moved the station to a new facility on City Ave., which was built to house WCAU-TV as well.
The station was eventually sold back to CBS.
Even as television ate away at radio's audience in the 1950's and 1960's, WCAU continued to remain a strong news organization, undertaking some popular and ambitious programs.
One of these programs was Evening Edition, hosted by Taylor Grant and airing at drive-time.
This newspaper-style show contained numerous features delivered by a variety of reporters, critics and experts.
Many radio insiders agree that the 1970's started a period of decline at WCAU.
After orders from Paley to go all-news, the station did poorly against an entrenched KYW (see above).
By the end of the 1970's, the station began losing money.
In the early 1980's, WCAU lost its focus flipping between all-news and news/talk.
By the late 1980's, the station settled into a mostly talk format.
Well-known hosts during this period included former Mayor Frank Rizzo, whom callers would regularly urge to run again for public office.
There was also Steve Fredericks with sports, Harry Gross' financial show as well as Tony Bruno, Dominic Quinn and Clark DeLeon.
"Giant Gene" Arnold also hosted a talk program, "Giant Gene's American Scene" for a time on both the AM and FM.
On August 15, 1990, the 68-year history of WCAU came to an end.
CBS, citing massive losses, fired over 30 of the station's employees, including most of the talk show hosts and the entire news department.
The format was changed to oldies, with half of the broadcast day simulcasting sister station WOGL-FM.
The sudden switch stunned radio analysts across the country, many of whom felt that the station could have been salvaged.
The first song on "Oldies 1210" was "Rock n' Roll Is Here To Stay" by Danny and the Juniors.
The jock lineup included Hy Lit, Harvey Holiday, Bob Pantano, Tommy McCarthy and Bill Wright Sr.
Known as WOGL-AM, the station retained much of its evening sports programming.
On March 18, 1994, WOGL became all-sports WGMP "The Game".
All of the DJ's (except for Wright) moved back to WOGL-FM; Wright eventually moved over to WPEN.
Much of the station's programming was provided by a syndicated network service.
Remaining in the lineup were the Phillies and Villanova and Temple basketball.
Instead of going head-to-head with all-sports stalwart WIP (see above), WGMP aimed for a more in-depth approach, featuring longer listener calls and more interviews.
With the exception of sports play-by-play coverage, WGMP's ratings were often quite low.
By the summer of 1996, CBS, now with the resources of new parent Westinghouse Broadcasting, began rebuilding the station into a mainstream talk format.
A new program director was hired, and local hosts began replacing the syndicated sports programming.
On August 23, 1996, the call letters were changed to WPTS, which stood for "We're Philadelphia's Talk Station."
A few weeks later, on September 17, 1996, the calls were changed again to WPHT, reportedly to avoid confusion with Trenton NJ's WPST.
For the next two years, WPHT experimented with a number of local hosts and programs.
Some of these hosts inlcuded Dr. Judith Sills, "Scoot", Jay and Hilarie, Amy and Morima, Nancy Glass, Don Lancer, and combinations thereof.
In August 1998, with continued low ratings, the station decided to eliminate most local hosts in favor of syndicated talk programming, such as G. Gordon Liddy and Dr. Toni Grant.
(Thanks to John Hendricks & Jody Rubin for some of this information)
(provided by Alan Boris - Philadelphia Radio Archives)
WHAT - 1340 AM, Philadelphia
WHAT went on the air in 1925 on 1310 AM.
Original owners were Independence Broadcasting Co.
In 1937, WHAT became affiliated with the Public Ledger newspaper, and later on, with the Philadelphia Record.
WHAT's format included some ethnic programming in German, Lithuanian and Italian.
By 1943, WHAT moved to its current location of 1340 AM.
In the late 1950's and early 1960's, WHAT featured a "schoolhouse"-type program called "R For Rhythm" featuring Philadelphia elementary school classes playing blocks, triangles and the like.
In the 1960's and 1970's, the station featured an R&B format.
Some of the DJ's during the 1960's period included Sonny Hopson, Jerry Blavat and Georgie Woods.
Other DJ's included Mary Mason, Karen Warrington, Chuck James, Reggie Lavong, Reggie Bryant, Hy Lit and "Jocko" Henderson.
Between 1973 and 1975, station owner Dolly Banks did the evening shift (6pm-10pm).
In recent years, WHAT ran a talk format.
On January 22, 2007, WHAT debuted "Skin Radio", playing a mix of alternative rock and urban music.
On August 31, 2007, "Skin Radio" was replaced with "Martini Lounge Radio", featuring a mix of old and new adult standards.
On August 1, 2011, WHAT went silent.
On September 12, 2011, 1340 debuted a Spanish format as "El Zol 1340."
(Thanks to "Edward", "GospelInsider", Donna Halper & "Una Vailable" for some of this information)
WDAS - 1480 AM, Philadelphia
The origins of this station date back to July 1922, when it signed on as WIAD on 1200 AM, owned by Howard R. Miller.
In 1928, per order of the FRC (Federal Radio Commission), the station moved to 1370 AM.
In 1929, calls changed to WELK.
In 1934, Howard Miller sold the station and it became WDAS.
The WDAS calls stood for the new owners, silk manufacturers Dannenbaum & Steppacher.
The station broadcasted various ethnic programming in languages such as Italian, Yiddish and Polish.
In 1941, WDAS moved to 1400 AM, then a few years later to its current position of 1480 AM.
In 1950, candy manufacturer Max M. Leon purchased the station for $495,000.
The programming was big bands, ethnic and cultural shows.
Leon, the founder and conductor of the original Philly Pops Orchestra, added an all-night classical music show.
The station moved to 223 Arch St.
His son-in-law, GM Robert A. Klein, eventually shifted the programming to black entertainment.
In 1951, "The Ebony Hall Of Fame" with Randy "Record Mixin'" Dixon debuted.
By 1953, the station predominiantly featured black programming.
In the 1950's and 1960's, they added a number of young personalities, including Georgie Woods, Jimmy Bishop, Carl Helm, "Butterball" Joe Tamburro, Jocko Henderson and Hy Lit.
Other legendary WDAS personalties included "Lord Fauntleroy" John Bandy, Louise Williams, Portia Perry, Mitch Thomas, Joe Pyne, Charlie Neal, "Sir Lancelot", Kae Willams "The King Of The Blues", Bernice Thompson (Philadelphia's first black female air personality), "Bonnie Prince Charlie" Geter, "Chief Halftown", Larry Daley "The Cinncinnati Kid", and "Agent 00-Soul" Donny Brooks.
Both Louise Williams and Portia Perry hosted gospel programs, with Portia also playing a Hammond B-3 organ that was in the studio at the station.
The station also added black-oriented public affairs and news programs, and provided in-depth coverage of the unfolding civil rights movement, featuring reporter Ed Bradley (later of TV's "60 Minutes").
WDAS' other lead reporters, starting in the mid 1950's and extending into the 1960's, included Art Peters (who covered the Little Rock riots in 1957), Joe Rainey, Jim Klash, Walt Sanders, Carl Stubbs and Bill Adams.
By the early 1970's, WDAS added the National Black Network (NBN) and featured news on the hour and half-hour.
In 1979, Leon sold the station to minority-owned Unity Broadcasting Network.
WDAS tried a news format in the early 1980's, with mornings anchored locally by Karen Warrington, E. Steven Collins and Wynne Alexander and afternoons featuring news and programs from NBN, to compete with KYW (see above).
This was unsuccessful and the station returned with a mix of gospel, R&B and talk shows.
In 1988, the station switched to an all gospel music and religious format.
For a more detailed look at WDAS' history, click here for the WDAS Timeline.
On May 16, 2007, 1480 assumed the "Rumba" Spanish CHR format, previously on 104.5.
Calls changed to WUBA on May 23, 2007.
On November 23, 2011, 1480 reverted back to the WDAS calls, and changed to an R&B Oldies format.
On June 10, 2013, 1480 dropped R&B Oldies and brought back smooth jazz to the Philly market as "WJJZ".
(Thanks to Wynne Alexander/WDASHistory.org, Donna Halper & John Hendricks for some of this information)
(Thanks to Bryan Vargo for the "WDAS AMen!" logo)
WNWR - 1540 AM, Philadelphia
1540 signed on July 11, 1947 as a religious station, with calls of WJMJ "Jesus, Mary, Joseph."
In the 1950's, the station had a variety format, including some ethnic programming.
On August 5, 1965, Rust Craft Broadcasting, a greeting card company, purchased WJMJ and changed calls to WRCP "Rust Craft Philadelphia" and operated the station (along with co-owned 104.5 FM) as an MOR format.
On September 7, 1967, the simulcast stations become Philadelphia's first all-country music station.
The format was announced as "Welcome To WRCP: Real Country Power, Pardner".
The first song played was "Tiger By The Tail" by Buck Owens.
In the early years, the studios were on Locust St. near Rittenhouse Sqaure and was known as the "Rittenhouse Ranch".
In the Vietnam War era, the WRCP "Good Guys" wore red, white & blue cowboy outfits to their personal appearances, and even publsihed a newsletter, "Freedom's Country Flag."
In 1974, WRCP became a more mainstream country station referring to the music as "Country Sunshine" and "All-American Music."
In October 1977, the simulcast ended when the FM switched to a "beautiful country" format as WSNI.
On February 3, 1979, a new Saturday morning program was added: "Elvis & Friends" with host Ron Cade, playing country rock n' roll Elvis songs.
In January 1981, the station added a 60's & 70's rock n' roll "Philadelphia Gold" oldies show Sundays from 11a-3p.
On September 23, 1981, with two other country stations in the market (98.9 and 560), daytime-only WRCP announced it was ending its 14 year country format.
The last song played was "I Was Country (When Country Wasn't Cool)" by Barbara Mandrell.
The next day, the station switched to oldies with Ron Cade as morning jock and program director.
Soon, WIBG legend Hy Lit joined the station for mid-days.
In 1983, new program director Don Cannon, switched the format to "all Beatles and Motown" as "Philly 15", with calls of WSNI.
The format ran from 10a to signoff on weekdays; Don Cannon's morning show and the weekends were simulcast from WSNI-FM.
On February 13, 1984, calls are changed to WPGR "Philly Gold Radio."
Many veteran jocks joined at this time, including Harvey Holiday, Mike St. John and Tommy McCarthy.
In November 1987, WCAU-FM and WIOQ switched to oldies.
Harvey Holiday and Mike St. John left for WIOQ.
Hy Lit stayed with WPGR for a while, then left for WOGL in February 1989.
Former postal worker Armand Colliani hosted mornings, Tommy McCarthy did mid-days and local legend Jerry Blavat "The Geator With The Heater" did afternoons.
Blavat eventually took over the sound of the station and renamed it "Geater Gold Radio", playing mostly doo-wop, R&B and disco-era dance music.
Tommy McCarthy was laid off in February 1990 to give Blavat more airtime.
Local TV legend Sally Starr, who had worked with the station when it was WJMJ, returned with a Sunday morning country oldies show, co-hosted by Andy Volvo.
And, at this time, WDAS veteran jock Georgie Woods "The Guy With The Goods" became the morning jock.
WPGR initially experimented with staying on the air at very reduced power until 9p, but signal problems made this ineffective.
In 1991, the station undergoes a couple of call sign flips: going back to WSNI on January 18, 1991 and then regaining the WPGR calls on Janaury 29, 1991.
In 1995, the station is sold and becomes WNWR "New World Radio" on July 10, 1995.
Programming consists of a various brokered ethinc format.
Georgie Woods stayed on for a short time to host a talk show and Blavat left for WSSJ in Camden NJ.
Airchecks of 1540 from the early 1980's can be heard here.
(Thanks to John Hendricks for some of this information)
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