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