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.