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.