Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Bargain

In its own way, NEO Airchecks observes the biggest shopping day of the year. No, we don't subject ourselves to the maddening crowds at area shopping malls or big box stores. Instead, we present to you a twin spin of airchecks from two great stations of a bygone era. No discounts needed here, because we (along with help from contributor Bob Papa) bring them to you for the best price of all -- free.
First up is a brief aircheck of WDMT/107.9 (now WENZ) in Cleveland. Morning personality Carol Ford is heard handing off the baton to midday jock Freddie James on a fine summer's day in 1983. Ford spent a little more than four years at WDMT before departing for WRKS in New York City in 1984. Her career prior to Cleveland involved stops at KYA in San Francisco and WOWO Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Ford has been heard most recently on XM/Sirius satellite radio.
Freddie James had already been with WDMT for five years at the time of this aircheck. He would remain on board in various timeslots through 1989, by which time its calls had been changed to WPHR (Top 40 "Power 108", which would be succeeded in 1992 by modern rocker WENZ "The End" before the station returned to its urban roots seven years later with the current branding of "Z-107.9"). In 1992 James established his own DJ business, which continues to this day. James resumed his on-air presence in 2007, handling weekend duties at WQMX/94.9 in Akron.
WENZ is now owned by Radio One, along with sister stations WERE/1490 and WJMO/1300. A more complete history of the station can be found here.

Also featured this week is an aircheck of WIXY/1260 in Cleveland. Morning man Mike Reineri spins the hits in this 1973 recording, which begins with a portion of a local newscast presented by Bob Engle. Listen for the self-described Dynamic Dago's less-then-excited reaction to the sports highlights near the end of the aircheck.
Reineri had a long run at WIXY, manning morning drive from 1967 to 1975. From there, he moved to Miami, Florida's WIOD and much later, WAXY. Reikneri's final stop was at WJNA in West Palm Beach in 1999. Following a brief illness, he passed away in 2003.
At the time of this recording, WIXY was still among the highest-rated Top 40 stations in the region. It had outlasted Cleveland's more powerful KYW/WKYC/1100 during its attempt to unseat WIXY from its throne during the 1960's and early 1970's. After a change in ownership in 1975, the format and callsign was dropped the following year in favor of Adult Contemporary as WMGC. The AC format lasted only three years before an unsuccessful switch to talk (WBBG) segued into a big band format, followed by a simulcast of then-sister station WMJI/105.7 and later, religious programming and gospel music (WRDZ and WMIH, respectively). The station now sports the calls of WMMK, a reflection of its Disney/ABC Radio ownership, as well as the pre-teen-focused Disney Radio format.

Friday, November 19, 2010

You've Got a Friend in Canton

Listeners will recall that the title of today's post was a slogan used on-air by Canton's WHBC/1480, especially during its full-service/oldies format that dominated the market for many years. One of the personalities who helped make that success possible was Tom Jarrett. He's heard here in a scoped aircheck from 2003. While it's missing most of the jingles, news and many other programming elements, the aircheck does give one a feel for the format's laid back presentation that was a holdover from another era.

(Tom Jarrett, circa 2002. Photo courtesy of WHBC/

Even when he arrived at WHBC, Tom Jarrett was no stranger to the Akron and Canton radio markets. He spent time on-air at WHLO/640 during its transition from a news/talk format to AC in the early 1980's, then moved across town to WSLR/1350 during its days as a country station. Jarrett initially signed on in Canton at WHBC/94.1 when its dropped its beautiful music format in favor of oldies in 1990, but moved across the hall to 1480 shortly therafter. He would hold down middays there until 2007, when WHBC switched to news/talk. He was moved into a producer's role for midday talk host Ron Ponder and also hosted a Sunday version of the old staple, "Tradio". When the recession prompted many broadcast outlets to trim their staffs last year, Jarrett was among those who lost their jobs.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cleveland Rocks. Soft Rock, That Is...

This week NEO Airchecks visit a familiar place; Cleveland. Thanks to our friend Bob Papa, we can present an aircheck of Fig Newton on WWWE/1100 (now WTAM), better known to listeners as "3WE". In this recording, Newton is heard making sarcastic comments about some of the music that was part of the station's AC format. Dave Smith presents the local headlines, while a complete CBS radio newscast provides a window on the world as is was on the afternoon of February 10, 1983.
By this time, Newton was already a veteran of the biz, having spent time at Cleveland's WGAR/1220 during its last days as a Top 40 outlet. Earlier still, he held down a gig at WOIO/1060 in Canton. Personal issues drove him out of the industry in 1988, and to the best of our knowledge, hasn't cracked a mic since.
WWWE had already been through several changes in ownership and format over the course of the previous decade, and would continue its schizophrenic ways until 1997. That's when Jacor Communications purchased the station and sister WLTF/106.5 (now WMVX) from Secret Communications. The WWWE calls had already been changed to 1100's historic WTAM callsign, which had been dropped forty years earlier. Clear Channel purchased WTAM in 1999, along with sister stations WMVX, WMJI, WMMS, WAKS and WGAR.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

You're Talking, We're Listening

It occured to this blog's editor that while music formats have been a major part of the radio landscape for decades, they certainly haven't had exclusive use of the airwaves. With that in mind, we present this unscoped multi-part aircheck of WKBN/570 in Youngstown from Black Friday 1999. (Given that the big shopping day is just around the corner, this entry is rather appropriate.) In this recording, longtime midday talk show host Dan Ryan discusses George W. Bush the presidential candidate and corrects a confused caller questioning the ethics of a certain member of the Valley's business community. During commercial breaks, afternoon host Ron Verb is also heard on location at a local restaurant.
Then, as now, WKBN was the juggernaut in local news/talk, having taken the crown from crosstown rival WBBW/1240 several years earlier. Ryan was a big reason for the change, having departed his longtime radio home WBBW for WKBN in 1984. He is often credited with establishing talk radio in Youngstown with his "Open Mic" program in the 1960's. Critics had expressed doubts that such a program would have an audience in a market like Y-town, but Ryan, along with other pioneers of the format, proved them wrong.
Ryan passed away in 2003.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

...And the Beat Goes On in '67

This week the way back machine takes us to 1967, the year of the Summer of Love, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and increasingly divided public opinions concerning the war in Vietnam. The comparatively quiet and middle-of-the-road setting of Ashtabula is the scene for NEO Airchecks' next feature, which is a brief aircheck of WREO/970 provided to us courtesy of Jeff Goodridge of Masury, Ohio.
Following the closing moments of a newscast from the Mutual Broadcasting System, an unidentified personality presents some of the top songs of '67. An educated guess places this broadcast somewhere in December of that year. As always, any help in identifying the jock is more than welcome.
WREO started its broadcast life as WICA in 1937, joined by FM sister WICA/103.5 circa 1950. The latter station eventually moved to its current dial position of 97.1. 970's call letters were changed to current calls WFUN in 1978. 97.1 has maintained the WREO callsign ever since, now sporting an AC format. WFUN has been through several format changes since its Top 40 day; Oldies, news/talk and its current sports talk lineup as "ESPN 970" are among those that have been heard on the "Monster On the Lake".
Both stations were owned by Richard D. and David C. Rowley since their inception, and were sold in 2000 to Clear Channel. CC sold the stations, along with WZOO, WYBL and WFXJ, to Media One Group in 2007.

Another aircheck submitted to us by Jeff Goodridge is one of WHLO/640 in Akron, again apparently dating from December 1967. Don Steele (not to be confused with the personality of the same name that was heard for many years on KHJ in Los Angeles) can be heard spinning the stacks of wax amid authentic static on "Hello Radio". Note the syndicated Jim Stagg feature and the ad for Akron institution Polsky's. A brief search for more information about Steele has proved fruitless.
WHLO's Top 40 format would continue well into the 1970's, before being dropped in favor of a news/talk format known as "News/Talk 64". An M.O.R format followed, succeeded by Christian music during ownership by Mortensen Broadcasting. The firm sold WHLo to Clear Channel in 2001, and has carried a news/talk format ever since.
Many ex-WHLO personalities are still in the business; Ron Verb, who started as a teenaged jock during the Top 40 format's last days remained on board with the news/talk format, before moving to WHBC in Canton and later to WKBN in Youngstown. He continues to hold court during afternoon drive on 570. Nick Anthony, also a personality during the news/talk era after a previous gig at WBBW in Youngstown, is now an executive with Rubber City Radio-owned WAKR/1590, WONE/97.5 and WQMX/94.9 in Akron. He can occasionaly be heard filling in on WAKR.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Triple Shot From the 80's and 90's

Previous entries on NEO Airchecks have focused on the period often thought of as Top 40 radio's golden era, the 1960's and 70's. This time around, we fast forward to the Reagan era with a submission from Bob Papa. Featured below is Nancy Alden on WKDD/96.5 in Akron, long before the station moved to its current dial position of 98.1. Nancy spins the hits while sitting in for Tom Sullivan.
According to Nancy's blog, she started at WKDD when it was known as "Mellow Rock 96". She hosted evenings until 1986 before a brief gig at WNCX/98.5 in Cleveland. Alden has been at WDOK/102.1 in Cleveland since 1987.

For our second item, Bob Papa brings us an aircheck of WONE/97.5 from 1985. Here, Mike Michelli and Rose Gabriel yuck it up during a less-than-perfect, but entertaining afternoon newscast. This broadcast occured less then a year after WONE launched its classic rock format, which succeeded a long-running beautiful music format on the station that had been known as WAEZ.
As part of this year's 25th anniversary of WONE, Michelli explained the entire story of how he wound up in the Rubber City. A portion of Tim Daugherty's interview with Machelli can be heard here. At last check, Michelli was handling morning duties at WRKR/107.7 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Rose Gabriel has long since left broadcasting to become a doctor.

For our third and final installment of this week's entry, we move forward to 1995. At this time, John Schoger can be heard jocking on WZOO/102.5 in Ashtabula. This aircheck was made when founder John A. Bulmer still owned the outlet. Bulmer had built WZOO from the ground up in 1988. It took to the airwaves the following year. WZOO is one of several stations that's now part of Media One Group's Ashtabula cluster.