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October 10, 2005

A Salute to Armstrong at AES

*NEW YORK - It's been a banner year for the memory of Major Edwin Howard Armstrong, the legendary inventor of the superheterodyne receiver and of FM radio. On the heels of the successful commemoration of his life at the Alpine tower site in June, the Audio Engineering Society hosted a panel discussion on the Major last night at its convention here, with your editor having the distinct honor of serving as moderator.

From left to right, that's yours truly; Armstrong historian Mike Katzdorn; transmitter builder Steve Hemphill; Armstrong's great-nephew Bob Brecht; Armstrong acquaintance Jerry Minter (who signed off the Major's KE2XCC after his death in 1954); longtime Armstrong employee Renville McMann; Gil Houck, nephew of Armstrong's longtime colleague Harry Houck; and Charles Sackermann, Jr., whose CSC Management, LLC, owns the Armstrong tower at Alpine. (And that's Leonard Kahn, an engineering legend in his own right, watching from the front row.)

The discussion ranged widely across Armstrong's long career and his legacy, with the added bonus of personal recollections from Brecht of his imposing great-uncle and of the long and fascinating life that his great-aunt Marion Armstrong led after the Major's death. Thanks to Houck and Katzdorn, attendees were also able to view many Armstrong artifacts, including original logbooks from Alpine and the breadboard modulator from the early Empire State Building experiments.

Hemphill's experimental low-band FM station at Alpine, WA2XMN (42.8 mc/s), was on the air much of the day with archival audio and music, with Bob Bartola volunteering to play master control operator for the broadcast. The panel discussion will be rebroadcast over WA2XMN in the weeks to come, and it will be available on the web as well...stay tuned for details!

Elsewhere in the Empire State, it looks like Alan Chartock's WAMC public radio empire will soon add another link. WAMC filed an application back in 1998 for a new station on 90.3 in Remsen, but it was mutually exclusive with another application for 90.3 in Utica from Souls Harbor Pentecostal Church. The FCC took seven years to deal with its backlog of applications from that 1998 window, but last week it ruled that the WAMC application is entitled to a "tentative preference" for the construction permit, since it will provide new noncommercial service to more listeners. If no objections are received in the next 30 days, WAMC will get the construction permit - and Chartock will have a Utica-market FM to add to its recent purchase of WRUN (1150 Utica).

Also in Albany, Chill Walker leaves the PD chair at WQBK (103.9 Rensselaer)/WQBJ (103.5 Cobleskill). Will there be more changes coming at "The Edge" as Howard Stern heads into his final weeks on the air?

*CONNECTICUT's WXCT (990 Southington) has flipped from Spanish to talk; operations manager Charlie Profit rejoins the station after having departed earlier this year.

*More changes at WHJY (94.1 Providence) in RHODE ISLAND: Mike Brangiforte adds MD duties, Missy Langan's new to overnights, and Johnny "Skidmarks" Hamblett joins Paul and Al in mornings.

*For more than 35 years, Nick Diller woke up western MASSACHUSETTS as morning host at WSBS (860 Great Barrington); now "Griller Diller" will have plenty of time to pursue his passion of barbecue after retiring from WSBS last week. Diller, 61, tells the Berkshire Eagle he's "burned out" and not especially happy about the sale of the station last year to Vox. It appears that morning newsman Tom Jay is handling the shift solo for the moment.

In Springfield, Pat McKay adds OM duties at the Clear Channel cluster that includes WHYN-FM (93.1), where he's already PD.

The FCC granted a tentative preference to Living Proof, Inc. last week in the long fight for a new signal on 91.7 in east central Massachusetts. Three applicants proposed new 91.7s - Living Proof in Lunenburg, CSN International in Lexington and UMass Boston (WUMB) in Stow - and the Maynard schools proposed a signal upgrade to WAVM, also on 91.7. Longtime NERW readers may recall that the UMass application provoked concern that WAVM might be forced off the air, until WUMB and WAVM joined forces and worked out a deal that would give WUMB access to WAVM's otherwise unused airtime, and Maynard students access to WUMB's resources. Will the two now file an opposition to the proposed Lunenburg grant to Living Proof? Stay tuned...

There's good news for WKOX (1200 Framingham) in its long fight to move to Newton and boost its power. The city's board of aldermen rejected a building permit for WKOX's move last year, but the Clear Channel station (along with WRCA 1330, which also hopes to move to the site, and WUNR 1600, which wants to replace its two-tower array at the Oak Hill site with five towers shared with WRCA and WKOX) appealed to the state's Land Court and won. The city of Newton holds a public hearing tomorrow on the application, after which it's required to issue the building permit within 14 days. An appeal is, of course, already underway.

There's more shuffling taking place on the Boston talk dial: WTKK (96.9 Boston), still without Jay Severin in afternoons, is now running Mark Levin (from New York's WABC) in the 6-7 PM hour, instead of the extra Braude and Eagan hour that had been running then. WRKO (680 Boston) launches a new "Boston this Morning" news-talk format in morning drive today, with Scott Allen Miller continuing as solo host. And Mike Winn's out as GM at WWZN (1510 Boston) - he's moving from the ailing Sporting News Radio outlet to newcomer "ESPN Boston" (WAMG 890 Dedham/WLLH 1400 Lowell).

WGBH (89.7 Boston) morning host Ron Della Chiesa is leaving his part-time gig as host of the station's "Classics in the Morning." The 35-year WGBH veteran will remain with the station as the announcer for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the host of the Sunday "Jazz Songbook" program; he'll be replaced in mornings by Cathy Fuller, who already hosts the show on Mondays and Fridays. (Della Chiesa's weekend shows on WPLM in Plymouth, including the long-running "Music America," will continue as well.)

*ESPN Radio will get a new VERMONT affiliate soon. NERW hears that WTWK (1070 Plattsburgh NY) will drop its temporary simulcast of country WUSX (93.7 Addison) this week, flipping to ESPN sports.

*In MAINE, Mark Osborne and Natalie Knox took control of WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor), flipping the station from the "Fox" classic rock simulcast with WFZX (101.7 Searsport) that it used under previous owner Clear Channel to classic hits as "Smooth Rock 97.7." Bill Butler moves over from Clear Channel to serve as operations manager and overnight jock (voice-tracked, we hope!), and Joe McMillan, late of WODS and WROR in Boston, is the new morning jock.

*The news from NEW JERSEY is all about WDHA (105.5 Dover), where the latest departure is GM John Ryan, with no replacement being named yet. Former WDHA PD Terri Carr now has a new job - she's now the rock format manager at Sirius.

*In PENNSYLVANIA, our speculation last week about a format change at what's now WBYN (1160 Lehighton) was confirmed - the station flipped to a simulcast of religious WBYN-FM (107.5 Boyertown) just as NERW was going to press last week, and it sounds as though Nassau will eventually end up with the FM outlet, flipping it to a commercial music format.

In Scranton, former WWDL/WICK-WYCK owner Doug Lane was sentenced last Tuesday for sexually abusing minors and possessing child pornography. Lane, who's 61, will serve at least 14 and possibly up to 30 years in prison. The stations are now being operated by Bold Gold Media Group, which is awaiting FCC approval of a deal under which it will purchase the stations, with the proceeds going to victims-assistance programs.

Out to the west, the longtime country simulcast of WTTC (1550) and WTTC-FM (95.3) in Towanda has split, with the FM going to classic hits as "The Bridge" and the AM to ESPN sports as "The Zone," matching the format of new sister station WTZN (1310 Troy).

Continuing west, WBLF (970 Bellefonte) launched its new news-talk format last week.

Near Pittsburgh, WPNT (1340 Connellsville) changes calls to WYJK; no change so far to its simulcast of "Pickle" oldies WPKL (99.3 Uniontown).

In Pittsburgh, KDKA (1020) is getting ready to celebrate its 85th anniversary next month, and part of the festivities will be the presentation of a "Newsical," featuring the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and KDKA personalities. It all happens October 22 at Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall.

And in Erie, they're mourning Vance McBryde, who brought the city weather forecasts on WICU-TV (Channel 12) from 1955 (when he replaced Bill Cardille, who went on to a long career in Pittsburgh) until his retirement in 1991. McBryde died Thursday (Oct. 6); he was 80.

*The end is in sight to the lockout that's paralyzed CANADA's public broadcaster for almost two months. The CBC and its biggest union reached a settlement last week that will see most employees back at work by Tuesday. (Priorities are priorities - the Hockey Night in Canada crew got back to work first, making sure the games were televised Saturday night!)

In Montreal, Marc "Mais Oui" Denis is back on the air; the former CKGM jock is now holding down Saturday afternoons at CFQR (Q92). (And if we haven't mentioned Marc's "CKGM Super 70s Tribute Page" lately, we should have...)

And there's late word just in to NERW that Toronto Blue Jays announcer Tom Cheek, who called the team's first game in 1977 and didn't miss a game for the next 27 years, died Sunday at age 66. Cheek had been recuperating in Florida after surgery for a brain tumor. We'll have more on his legacy next week.

*Tower Site Calendar 2006 is just back from the printer, and we've got to say, we're especially proud of the way this one turned out.

Once again, we bring you more than a dozen images from the collection that have never seen print before, including that nifty nighttime view of New York's WMCA that graces the cover. You also get to see WSB, KTAR, Mount Wilson, CBV and many, many more, plus all those fun dates in radio and TV history, civil and religious holidays, a handy full-page 2007 calendar, and the always-popular hole for hanging.

And we do it all with no increase in price, for the fourth year running!

The calendars are shipping now, so there's no need to wait until the holidays to enjoy all that tall steel and all that broadcast history. Order now and beat the rush!

You can get one free with your 2006 subscription to NERW at the $60 level, or order the calendar (plus other goodies) at our brand new Store! We think you'll like this one - and as always, we thank you for your support.

NorthEast Radio Watch is made possible by the generous contributions of our regular readers. If you enjoy NERW, please click here to learn how you can help make continued publication possible. NERW is copyright 2005 by Scott Fybush.