Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's A New Year All Over Again

After a break for the holidays, your editor is refreshed and ready to begin another year of fun with airchecks. In observance of the start of 2011, NEO Airchecks this time features a partially-scoped aircheck of Jerry Vincent on WHOT/1330 in Youngstown. Vincent counts down the Top 10 songs of 1970 in this recording from January 1, 1971 --forty years ago this week. NEO Airchecks wishes to thank Jerry Coleman of Salem, Ohio for this latest aircheck.
Jerry Vincent was a personality on several northeast Ohio radio stations during the 1970's and 80's, including Akron's WHLO/640 and much later, WDJQ/92.5 in Alliance. After a lengthy stint at WDJQ, he left the radio business and became a minister. At last check he was a pastor in the Canton area.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

That Underground Sound

This week NEO Airchecks strays from its usual focus of Top 40 formatted stations of the AM persuasion in favor of a station that was, in many ways, the antithesis of mainstream radio of its era. We're talking about Cleveland's WNCR/99.5, whose progressive/free-form rock format can be heard in this 1972 aircheck contributed by Bob Papa. The announcer's identity is unknown to this blog's editor.
In a move that was typical of such FM stations, WNCR ignored the usual bells and whistles of radio and allowed the music to be the star. A listen to the aircheck reveals no jingles or other programming elements. As a result, a Noxzema spot heard early on in the recording sticks out like a sore thumb.
The station began life as WGAR-FM in 1952, simulcasting sister station WGAR/1220 until July 1970. The call letters were changed to WNCR and the progressive rock format was launched at that time. By September, conflicts between management and the on-air staff prompted a walk out, which included program director Jerry Dean. The format would last until January 1973, replaced first by country as WKSW. The format wheel was spun again in 1975 and the switch was made to beautiful music before country returned to 99.5 in 1980. The format has been in place there ever since. The calls were changed to WGAR-FM in 1984.
WGAR-FM was sold to Jacor Communications in 1997 as part of the company's purchase of Nationwide Communications and its stations. Clear Channel bought the station in 1999, along with several other Cleveland propeties.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Voice is Silenced

Until now, this blog hasn't had an opportunity to mark the passing of a personality or reporter with ties to northeast Ohio. Unfortunately that changed this week, when a source notified us of the death of Mark Dailey. The Youngstown native, best-known as a reporter and anchor for Toronto, Canada's CityTV, lost his latest battle with cancer Monday. Mark Dailey was 57.
Prior to his days in television, Dailey first made noise in 1971 at Youngstown's WHOT/1330. It was there he worked alongside WHOT newsmen including Al DeJulio and Ed Richards, developing a voice and style of reporting that would make him a brand name in the business for more than thirty years. [Editor's note: We have since learned that Mark began his radio career at nearby WNIO/1540 in 1969.] He would soon move across the Canadian border to CKLW and CHUM before taking his place at CityTV in 1979.
Posted below is a portion of a tribute produced and broadcast by CityTV earlier this week.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Rockin' The Steel City

This week's feature concerns a Youngstown area station making its first appearance on NEO Airchecks; WNIO/1540. In this two-part aircheck from 1972, Ron Leader is at the controls during morning drive. In keeping with the upbeat Top 40 presentation of the era, Leader makes frequent use of audio drops and gags that provide a sharp contrast to his previous appearance on this blog via WFMJ/1390. While WFMJ was a tightly-programmed rocker, WNIO here sounds as through the PD was giving personalities far more creative control.
At the time of this recording, Ron Leader had recently split from the aforementioned 1390. As previously mentioned here, he's spent most of his lengthy career in the Youngstown-Warren market. His resume reads like a virtual who's who of northeast Ohio radio, including on-air stints at WHOT/Youngstown, WINW/Canton, WCUE/Akron and WHHH/WRRO/Warren.
As for WNIO, it first took to the Mahoning Valley's airwaves in 1963. By the late 60's it had become a prominent Top 40 station in the region, battling with WHOT/1330 for the lion's share of listeners. Due to its daytimer status, WNIO was unable to knock WHOT from its perch and switched to a country format circa 1974. The successful format would remain in place well into the 1980's, when the migration of listeners to FM and new country powerhouse WQXK/105.1 would force another change. Formats came and went until the mid-90's, when a nostalgia format featuring former WHOT jocks Johnny Kay and Dick Thompson brought the stations renewed life and ratings. The format and call letters moved to 1390 in 1999 during a multi-station move by owner Clear Channel. 1540 has sported the call letters WRTK ever since, a reminder of 1390's news/talk format of that period.
WRTK/1540 is now owned by WhipLash Radio LLC, a company led by Chris Lash of Waynesville, Ohio. Along with co-owned WANR/1570 of Warren, WRTK was recently moved into WNIO's longtime studios located off Webb Road in Mineral Ridge. In another example of how things in the radio world can come full circle, WRTK now airs a classic country format not unlike the one that was heard there for many years.