Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Auld Lang Syne

In the past, the blog has marked the arrival of each New Year with an aircheck from a previous New Year's Eve. 2012 is no different. NEO Airchecks revisits Youngstown Top 40 rivals WHOT/1330 and WFMJ/1390, as heard forty years ago this week. In the two-part recording provided courtesy of friend Jerry Coleman, K.C. Martin spins the big hits of 1971 on WHOT and takes a call from one listener wishing to burn Donny Osmond at the stake. Just listen, and you'll see what we mean. Martin's approach to his show is much more loose than that of his co-workers heard in airchecks from roughly the same period.

Ted Alexander and Steve "Baby" Michaels are heard doing a similar year-end countdown on WFMJ, and taking repeated shots at WHOT. Later on in the aircheck, personalities from at least one other Youngstown area station pile on, no doubt encouraged by Michaels' poetry concerning WHOT overnight personality "Big Al Knight", otherwise known as longtime PD Dick Thompson. Be sure to listen for cameo appearances by PD Ron Davidson and newsman Gary Gunther.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The New Kid In Town

As NEO Airchecks awaits the entrance of 2012, the humble blog looks back to the end of another year. This time it’s 1976, when a small FM in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania took to the airwaves. WFAR/95.9 was the FM counterpart to WFAR/1470, licensed to Farrell, Pa. Both stations were founded by Sanford Schafitz, doing business as Farrell-Sharon Broadcasting.

In this aircheck, an anonymous announcer presents a commercial-free mixture of mostly lite rock hits of the era. WFAR/95.9 began broadcasting on December 28, 1976. The specific date of this recording is unclear, but it appears to be from the station’s first few days on the air. [Editor’s note: It’s merely my opinion, but WFAR’s format sounds like a sleepy, loosely-executed version of Adult Contemporary.]

After Schafitz’s death in 1979, WFAR/95.9 and 1470 were sold to Broadcast Service Communications. When the new owner couldn’t make either station fly, they were sold to National Communications System in 1982. This buy-sell trend would continue well into the 1990’s, along with a slew of format changes and call letters.

95.9, now sporting the call letters WAKZ, is currently owned by Clear Channel. It broadcasts a rhythmic format branded as “Kiss FM”. 1470 was split from its longtime FM sister in 1999. Vilkie Communications recently announced its plans to purchase the station, now known as WLOA, from Educational Media Foundation.

NEO Airchecks realizes that this article spotlights a Pennsylvania station, but being just across the state line from Youngstown, it is considered part of the Youngstown-Warren market.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rockin' In the Hall of Fame City

Sometime ago, NEO Airchecks promised an upcoming feature about Canton's onetime Top 40 powerhouse, WINW/1520. The aircheck in question was misplaced and therefore unavailable for posting here. Thankfully, another recording of the station commonly known as "Win-Wonderful" has found its way to the blog's editor. In this aircheck from May 1976, PD Jonathan Holly is at the helm for morning drive. This appears to be an edited version of a tape that was recently posted on Special thanks to Wes Boyd of Youngstown, Ohio for this submission.

Despite the restrictions of being a daytimer, WINW was still riding high in the Canton ratings book a little more than a decade after entering the market. Around the same time as this broadcast, Canton's WQIO/1060 switched to its popular "Q-10" Top 40 format. As a result, a significant number of WINW listeners defected to WQIO. While "Win-Wonderful" would soldier on under PD Keith London, WQIO's success would force WINW to leave the format by 1981. WQIO soon fell victim to the limitations of its daytimer status and emerging FM music formats in the market.

Repeated vandalism at the station's transmitter site knocked WINW off the air in September of 2010. Its urban gospel format briefly returned to the local airwaves, but again fell silent within a few months' time. The station's license was deleted by the Federal Communications Commission in March 2011. Owner Pinebrook pushed for reinstatement, and the request was later granted by the FCC. As of November 4, 2011, the station remains silent.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Smokin' " In the Studio

When NEO Airchecks last visited Youngstown hit music station WHOT/1330, it was December 1971 and Michael C. Richards was at the helm for afternoon drive. This week the humble blog fast forwards to September 1975, where we find "Smokin' Bill" Cannon spinning the hits in the evening. Cannon would prove to be a steady presence at 1330 and WHOT/101.1, remaining there until the early 90's. He moved on to classic rocker WYFM/102.9, better known as "Y-103". Cannon stayed in the afternoon timeslot at Y-103 until budget cuts by owner Cumulus led to his exit from the Mahoning Valley airwaves in 2009.

The first thing that struck the editor about this aircheck is the utter lack of jingles. None. Nadda. Compare this recording with the aforementioned 'check of Richards, and you'll see what we mean. The cheery jingle packages that had been heard in previous years had clearly fallen out of favor, no doubt a response to the growing power of the more modern FM music formats of the era.

Speaking of FM, you'll probably notice mention of the simulcast of Cannon's show on sister station WHOT/101.1, previously known as WRED and a longtime home to a country format. (NEO Airchecks will have more on that incarnation at another time. )
By this time, FM was seeing a growing number of listeners, though overall listenership in the U.S. wouldn't overtake AM until a few years later. Notice, too, the promotion of Jerry Starr's overnight progressive rock program on 101.1, while the stalwart "Big Al Knight" (otherwise known as PD Dick Thompson) continued to present his brand of Top 40 on 1330.

Special thanks to Brian Gartland of Columbus, Ohio for making this aircheck available to the blog.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Your Leader in Cleveland

After visiting the modern rock genre in our most recent feature, NEO Airchecks turns back the hands of time to the golden age of Top 40. The focus is Cleveland's WKYC/1100 (now WTAM). Heard in this brief aircheck from 1967 is Jack Armstrong, a.k.a. "Big Jack". Based on WKYC music surveys from the era, this broadcast appears to be from early March.

WKYC had lured Armstrong away from market-leading WIXY/1260 in January, even though he was still under contract with WIXY. Despite his success in the evening timeslot, WKYC failed to obtain better overall ratings, and was therefore unable to dethrone its rival. A major stumbling block for its format was the fact that the station was owned and operated by NBC, meaning that it was required to air NBC newscasts and other network programming.

Armstrong ultimately moved on to other radio giants of the era, including WMEX/1510 in Boston and KFI/640 in Los Angeles. His last stop on the airwaves occurred in 2006 on Buffalo's WWKB/1520, over which he had been heard during its Top 40 heyday. Armstrong (born John Larsh) passed away in 2008.

Special thanks to NEO Airchecks friend Jeff Goodridge for providing this aircheck.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Belated Birthday

The editor wishes to use the humble blog's precious bandwidth to mention its birthday. This past Wednesday marked one year since NEO Airchecks debuted with a feature about Youngstown's WFMJ/1390. Yeah, we know...we're a little late, but we get it done in the end. That said, the editor also wishes to pass along word that he'll accept any and all belated checks and other gifts. Send 'em to NEO Airchecks HQ. ;-)

The blog will continue to archive airchecks of northeast Ohio radio stations of the past, no matter the market or the format. As always, drop us a line if you have a tape you'd like to submit for our consideration. We can be reached by e-mail at

Time Runs Out for The End

By the time of spring's arrival in 1999, the longrunning alternative/modern rock format heard on Cleveland's WENZ/107.9 "The End" was on its last legs. The station had been purchased by Radio One in January of that year, and a flip to an Urban format was on the horizon.

It's in this environment that we find WENZ evening personality Number One Son hosting his final edition of "Cleveland After Dark". Not long before this broadcast, he and the rest of "The End" staff had been informed that Radio One would not be needing their services. As a result, Number One Son decides to spice up the music mix a bit prior to bidding his listeners farewell. Radio One officially took over the station at midnight, just minutes after the conclusion of this aircheck.

Two weeks later, the station was relaunched as "Kiss 107.9", prompting a legal skirmish with Clear Channel over the use of the "Kiss" branding. To avoid any further issues, WENZ switched to the moniker "Z 107.9". The Urban format remains on the air to this day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Return to the Hot Spot

This week the humble blog comes full circle, as it again spotlights WHOT/1330 (now WGFT) in Youngstown. In this aircheck from 1971, energetic afternoon personality Michael C. Richards keeps the music coming, with headlines provided by newsman Al DeJulio. To avoid any legal hassles, the editor has cut most of the music from this unscoped aircheck. The commercials and newscasts are intact.

At the time of this recording, Richards had recently departed rival WNIO/1540. He was just the latest in a string of personalities and reporters who left WNIO for 1330 in the early 70's, thereby shortcircuiting 1540's attempts to dethrone WHOT as the market's leading music station. Richards would later work at WFAH/1310 and WDJQ/92.5 in Alliance.

As the station i.d's indicate, WHOT was frequently simulcast on its sister station, WRED/101.1. This practice would continue into the mid-70's, when WRED took on the 'HOT call letters before switching to WSRD. WSRD's popular AOR format was broadcast until 1984, when 1330's longrunning Top 40 format migrated to FM and dispatched "The Wizard" from the Mahoning Valley's airwaves. WHOT is now owned by Cumulus Broadcasting. WGFT is owned by Bernard Group.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Certain Ethnic Radio Station

Forgive NEO Airchecks if its editor chooses to open this post with a reference to a series of comedy sketches that appeared on the late, great Big Chuck and Little John television program. Perhaps it's fitting, given that the humble blog this time around features WXEN/106.5 (now WHLK), a longtime on-air provider of ethnic music and programming heard in Cleveland during the 1960's and 70's.

This submission comes to us courtesy of Salvation Army. No, really. The reel-to-reel tapes that contain the following recordings were recently found at the aforementioned thrift store. Recordings of programs heard on WCLV/95.5 (now found at 104.9) were also retrieved and are being edited for a future post.

What you'll hear here is a representation of WXEN as it was heard during the spring and summer of 1970. Included are portions of two separate programs hosted by Archie Rothman, the first of which is an encore tribute to singer/actress Judy Garland. Also heard are the odd commercial, public service announcement and snippets of ethnic music programs that aired immediately prior to Rothman's shows.

For more details concerning the history of WXEN, go here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

...And We're Back.

No doubt you've noticed a recent dearth of airchecks or any news whatsoever from the humble blog. As it happens from time to time, RealLife has made free time for such pursuits scarce, indeed. That said, the editor would like to inform readers that new features are in the works. Upcoming submissions will include some rare audio of Cleveland stations WXEN/106.5 and WCLV/95.5.
Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Spotlight On Sports

Anybody who has spent time in northeast Ohio knows how seriously folks in the region take their sports, be it professional or high school level action. With that in mind, NEO Airchecks this week spotlights a pair of Youngstown-Warren area play-by-play veterans, Larry Miklas and Tim Continenza.

At the start of this composite aircheck of Warren's WRBP/1440, Continenza, the host of "Valley Sportsline", addresses the impending departure of then-Cleveland Browns head coach Chris Palmer. Next up is a a pre-game segment from a 2001 high school boys basketball broadcast, followed by the opening minutes of the same game featuring Warren Harding and Youngstown-Ursuline.

Larry Miklas started his radio career in the 1970's as an on-air personality at Sharon, Pennsylvania's WPIC/790. He moved on to WGRP/940 in nearby Greenville before eventually returning to the Ohio airwaves at WTCL/1570 in Warren. During the 1980's the former steelworker was on-air at WRRO/1440 in Warren, using the name "Larry Summers". Miklas went on to call thousands of high school football and basketball games, primarily for WBBW/1240, WRTK/1390 and WASN/1330. (At the time of this week's featured aircheck, WRBP/1440 was the sister station of WASN, which was owned by Otter Communications.) Along the way, he would also call a season of games on WHK/1420 for the Cleveland Thunderbolts, the city's first arena football team. Following a brief illness, Larry Miklas passed away in July 2010.

Tim Continenza is no stranger to sports fans in the Mahoning Valley, having spent time as a play-by-play man and host at WRRO/1440 during its sport talk format of the mid/late 1990's. Continenza reappeared at 1440 during its ownership by Otter Comunications. After the station was sold to current owner Salem Communications in 2001, he was occasionally heard calling high school games for the station, then sporting the call letters WHKW. Continenza now fills the same role for the Meadville, Pennsylvania-based Allegheny news/talk sports network, which is heard on WMGW/1490, WTIV/1230 and WFRA/1450.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Sound of Tiger Town

Recession, a major oil spill, high gas prices and unrest in the Middle East. These topics could all be ripped from recent headlines, but not in this case. NEO Airchecks invites you to revisit the Carter era via this week's aircheck, which focuses on dimunitive WTIG/990 in Massillon. This recording comes to us courtesy of friend Ron Leader of Warren, Ohio. In this aircheck from 1979, he's handling morning drive while keeping the mood light with his own brand of one-liners and stories. Listen for his jab at the economic downturn while discussing the trend in media towards nostalgia.

WTIG first took to the local airwaves in 1957 as a 250-watt daytimer, but was eventually granted a modest nighttime signal. For a large portion of of its history, the station had a Top 40 format that was commonly known as "Tiger Radio". It currently airs a sports talk format using the positioner "ESPN 990", a nod to its status as an ESPN affiliate. Also heard is a local morning show hosted by owner Ray Jeske, Massillon Tigers football and Cincinnati Reds baseball. Jeske purchased WTIG in the 1980's and later moved its studios from downtown's Massillon Building to the transmitter site in nearby Newman.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Odds and Ends

The humble blog's latest feature is an aircheck of the late WRTK/1390 in Youngstown. Using the positioner "Real Talk 1390", WRTK was, for a few years, the unofficial competitor for market leading talker WKBN/570. The lineup featured nationally-syndicated host Don Imus in mornings, plus local personalities such as Thomas John and Vince Camp. Heard here are Valley sports guru John Caparanis, news director Don Ferguson with headlines and WYTV channel 33 meteorologist Stan Boney. After several years of hosting a local sports talk show on WBBW/1240, Caparanis was most recently heard on WANR/1570 (now WHTX). Ferguson, who previously ran newsrooms at WBBW and Warren's WRRO/1440, has apparently been out of the business since 1999.

The station started life in 1939 as WFMJ and was owned by the Youngstown Vindicator. When the newspaper decided to get out of the radio business in 1990, the station was sold to the owners of WHOT/1330 and 101.1. The historic WHOT call letters were then transferred to the 1390 frequency for an adult standards format. In 1994, Connoisseur Communications bought WHOT/1390 and The "Real Talk" format debuted the following year under the WRTK banner. The format lasted until 1999, when it was replaced by adult standards and the station took its current call letters WNIO. WNIO is now owned by Clear Channel and broadcasts a sports talk format using the positioner "The Sports Animal." As a result of Clear Channel's maneuvers to buy WRTK, those calls wound up at WNIO's original dial position of 1540, where they remained until last year.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Graveyard Shift

After a lengthy hiatus from the humble blog, your editor is happy to return with the latest discoveries from the world of airchecks. This week NEO Airchecks spotlights the overnight personality, represented here in a 1973 recording of Big Al Knight on WHOT/1330in Youngstown. He was the alter ego of longtime WHOT PD Dick Thompson. Many Mahoning Valley residents still recall how they speculated about the true identity of Big Al.

What may come as a surprise to some readers is the fact that Knight's airshift was voicetracked, long before the word and practice was as common as it is in today's radio industry. As you'll find out later, the secret was known among the area's radio folk, and at least one personality at a rival station was happy to fill in the listeners on that fact.

Thompson would stay with WHOT well into the 1980's before a short-lived retirement from the business. He would return to radio at WNIO/1540 in the mid-90s, stay on board through the station's eventual transition to 1390, then depart for WSOM/600 in 2001 with former WHOT and WFMJ personality Johnny Kay. Both retired in 2007.

As mentioned, Big Al's presence on Memorex caught the attention of a crosstown rival. Steve "Baby" Michaels, then holding down overnights at WFMJ/1390, regularly took shots at his competitor. An example of this can be heard on a 1971 aircheck of a New Year's Eve broadcast with morning man Ted Alexander. Michaels' "tribute" to Big Al can be heard beginning at 11:38, followed by a purported reponse from his target.

Special thanks to NEO Airchecks friend and regular contributor Jerry Coleman for providing these airchecks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


In the month since our last post, we've received e-mails from a few readers expressing concerns about the blog's lack of activity. The editor wishes to address these concerns by stressing that he is still among the living and that real life intrusions have taken up much of his spare time. That said, new features will be posted in the coming days, including an aircheck of the late, great WINW/1520 in Canton. As most of you know by now, the market's Top 40 powerhouse of the 1960's and 70's signed off for the final time earlier this year and its license was deleted by the FCC in March. Additional features are also in the works.

As always, if you have an aircheck of a northeast Ohio radio station you'd like to submit to NEO Airchecks, e-mail us at

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

You're Talking, We're Listening: Part 2

In keeping with recent features concerning Canton's WHBC/1480, NEO Airchecks presents a 1973 recording of "Viewpoint", an evening talk show that ran on the station for more than thirty years. We were made aware of this aircheck by Tim Lones at Cleveland Classic Media, and decided to share it with our readers, too. Don Cirelli, who recorded the broadcast as a teen, posted the aircheck on YouTube. While it's incomplete and the dialogue is occasionally obscured by off-mic remarks made by Don's family (Don indicates that he was using a hand held cassette recorder), it offers a glimpse into an otherwise forgotten night in Canton. Jim Roberts, a longtime WHBC personality and regular host of the program, is heard handling the calls. More than once he is forced to hang up on a prankster. Some things never change.

"Viewpoint" was launched by personality Tom Morrison circa 1966. He would continue to host the program until his departure from WHBC in 1970.(Morrison can still be heard hosting "The Reed Musicale" every Sunday morning.) "Viewpoint", which aired weeknights at 11:30, had several other hosts over the years, including Bob Gilligan, Gene Dylan and newsman Bob Bishop. Current 1480 morning show co-host Pam Cook was among its final hosts prior to the the show's termination in the late 1990's.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Hot Spot Revisited

The last time this blog featured a station at 1570 on the AM dial, the focus was on Warren's WOKG (now WHTX). For those who don't know the history of the frequency in the Youngstown-Warren market, it was originally home to a station spotlighted several times on NEO Airchecks: WHOT. This week's entry is a two-part composite aircheck of WHOT from 1960, taken from an LP featuring radio stations from across the country. Among the personalities heard here are morning man Boots Bell and midday host George Barry. Both would remain with the station well into the 1970's. Longtime PD Dick Thompson is also heard in a promo and some reverb-drenched imaging.

Taking to the airwaves in 1955 with a stable of personalities that included a young Dick Biondi, WHOT was among the earliest stations in the Midwest to adopt a Top 40 format. Despite the apparent misgivings of some advertisers and the station's daytimer status, the format proved to be a hit. WHOT would reign supreme among young listeners for many years thereafter, helped in part by a move down the dial to 1330 in 1963, which freed it from the constraints of sunrise-to-sunset broadcasting. In 1984 the format would make a successful leap to its FM sister station, where it remains to this day. WHOT/101.1 is now owned by Cumulus Broadcasting. The former WHOT/1330, now sporting the call letters WGFT and broadcasting a talk format, is owned by Bernard Radio.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Carnation City Radio

This week the NEO Airchecks WayBack Machine takes the blog to the previously unexplored era we'll refer to as pre-rock and roll radio. To quote a favorite band of the editor's, "no Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones" here; just block programming and features with titles like "Breakfast With Your Neighbor".
Featured is a recording of the on-air dedication of WFAH/1310 (now WDPN) in Alliance. This program aired September 9, 1953. Members of the Hoiles and Peterson families, which launched WFAH's FM sister in 1947, are heard here along with other movers and shakers of the worlds of commerce and politics. A snippet of a similar program for WFAH/101.7 (now WDJQ/92.5) is also included near the beginning of this aircheck. Special thanks to the Rodman Public Library and D.A. Peterson, Incorporated for providing access to this recording.
The Peterson family still owns both stations, which may or may not employ a member of this blog's staff. WFAH/1310 became WDPN in 1990. The station currently airs a locally-programmed soft AC format, featuring local news, high school sports and University of Mount Union football and basketball.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Can't Sleep? Get Up And Dance!

The last time NEO Airchecks featured Canton's WHBC/1480, we time traveled to May 2003 via a recording of midday host Tom Jarrett. This week the blog presents an aircheck of longtime overnight personality John Allen from September of the same year. Allen keeps the energy level up between the tunes, dropping in tidbits about the songs and artists that were a part of the full-service/oldies format of that era. It's worth noting that this was not a voice-tracked air shift, a fact that's made clear by Allen's frequent checks of time and temperature. While Allen's on-air shift was made irrelevant by WHBC's switch to a news/talk format in March 2007, he remained with the station as its production director until early 2009.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Talk Radio So Hot, It Burns Down the House

"...the girls ride in the front. Little brother rides in the trunk, preferably where you pack the spare tire..."

Anyone who knows the people behind NEO Airchecks knows how we love the obscure, especially when it comes to airchecks. This week the humble blog features WOKG/1570 in Warren (now WANR). Neil Hagan is heard in this brief aircheck of the station's "Talk 1570" format, which appears to be from mid-summer of 1989. Hagan chats with longtime Warren radio personality "Dr. Rock", otherwise known as then-WRRO/1440 jock Ron Leader. The good doctor provides some tips on cruising that are sure to prompt a chuckle or two.

Neil Hagan's time with WOKG began two years prior to this recording, as he tells NEO Airchecks in an e-mail:

"I had toured the old WTCL studios as a child and was facinated with radio and announcing. I started in early 1987 as a helper to longtime anchorman and commentator Jack Darrow. I then moved to a morning show with an announcer named A.J. We did an early morning show and around 10a.m. A.J. joined Charles Cunningham for a free wheeling local oriented conservative, political talk [show]. After about 3 weeks with A.J., I was offered the night spot called "Sundown Talk". It was a lot of hit and miss and experimenting at first; sometimes I thought no one was listening. After a while I hit on a formula and it was a local hit...Eventually threatening letters and phone calls started comming, around 1989."

WOKG's fortunes took a hit of another kind on March 23, 1990, when a fire destroyed the studios located in Warren Township. The blaze, which occured just a few hours after Hagan signed off for the evening, was later ruled arson by local authorities. The case remains unsolved to this day. Due to the fire, WOKG was knocked off the air for a week. A reconfigured pizza concession trailer parked next to the burnt-out ruins provided temporary studios for the station. Not long after that, WOKG was sold by then-owner Geraldine Taczak.

WOKG began life as WTCL in 1971, broadcasting on the frequency that had been home to Youngstown Top 40 juggernaut WHOT from 1955 to 1963. (WHOT was a daytimer prior to moving down the dial to 1330.) WTCL's ownership changed the call letters to WOKG in 1981. Formats heard on 1570 up to that time ranged from oldies to country to AC. By 1989, WOKG was airing a talk format programmed by once-and-again WRRO PD and WFMJ personality Steve Fine. (For a more detailed history of the station, read this.)

Sporting the calls of WANR since 1990, 1570 is now owned by WhipLash Radio, LLC, led by Chris Lash of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The station has been co-owned with WYCL/1540 since August 2010, when Lash purchased the properties from Beacon Broadcasting. The studios are now located in the former WNIO building in Mineral Ridge. WANR airs a classic hits format, featuring local news and a healthy dose of high school sports.