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.


  1. My brother, sister and I (aka The Laird Trio) had a saturday morning radio show on WFAR AM back in the late 60's early 70's. It was only fifteen minutes long but it was fun. Wonder if anyone out there knows what happend to the tapes at that station. I sure would love to get a hold of them. My siblings would too. It's a part of our history and would be so much fun listening to them again. So if anyone has any suggestions, please comment! Thanks

  2. 95.9, before its current run as Kiss FM/WAKZ, was best known for its top 40 challenge to WHOT as "Z96" WMGZ in the 1980's.

    After this run ended, it tried a country/rock hybrid format as WAXF ("WAX FM") and the AM returned as "Smokin' Oldies, WRQQ The Rock".

    This effort didn't last through 1991, as the owner ran out of money. I was the FM overnight guy and operations manager of the automated AM.

    A bunch of other owners revived it under various formats, until Jacor-then-Clear Channel brought "Kiss FM" to the signal (by then upgraded to full class A status at 6,000 watts).

    IIRC, there was a brief time it was WBTJ "The Beat" before CC/Jacor brought the national "Kiss FM" trademark to 95.9.

  3. The first song in the aircheck is Fleetwood Mac's Rhiannon from the Rumours album. That album wasn't released until February 1977. I would have to guess that this aircheck is actually from sometime in February 1977 or later.

    I grew up in the Shenango Valley first on the West Hill of Masury and later lived in Sharpsville.

  4. @George: I did some checking around, and it turns out that "Rhiannon" was originally released in February 1976 and peaked on US Hot 100 chart at #11 in June of that year. While it was eventually re-released, that didn't happen until 1978, and then only in the UK.
    The date of the aircheck remains open to debate. However, the announcer describes the station as being "the new one", making it possible that the recording was made during its first week on the air.