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February 18, 2008

Boston Loses a Morning Institution


*Make a list of the most memorable voices in the history of Boston morning radio, and a few names are bound to be at the top. There's the roster of legends at WBZ - de Suze, Maynard and Lapierre - and several greats from the FM era, such as Laquidara and Siegel.

But at or near the top of that list, for anyone who listened to the radio in eastern MASSACHUSETTS between the late fifties and early nineties, would be the name of Jess Cain, who died Thursday morning at his Back Bay home.

A World War II veteran, the Philadelphia native turned to acting after the war, then took a job teaching communications at Notre Dame University before moving to Boston in the mid-fifties with his colleague Jack Hynes.

Cain was the morning man at Boston's WHDH (850) from 1957 until 1991, a remarkable run that spanned multiple owners and multiple formats. Along the way, he contributed characters like Sidney Flack and Hap Smiley to the lexicon, as well as tunes such as "Fly Me to Methuen" (to the tune of "Fly Me to the Moon") and the immortal "Yaz Song" that was one of the theme songs for the "Impossible Dream" season in 1967.

In addition to his radio career, Cain returned in later years to the stage, taking part in amateur theater productions until the last few years, when his illnesses began to take a toll.

It's arguable that Cain never received the honors he deserved, in part because WHDH radio ceased to exist not long after his retirement. (Its successor at the 850 spot on the dial, WEEI, aired the "Yaz Song" in Cain's memory Thursday, and over at WBZ, Jordan Rich devoted an hour of his show Friday to Cain.)

Cain was 81; a public memorial service is scheduled for Saturday (Feb. 23) at 10 AM at the Glastonbury Monastery in Hingham.

*In other Boston news, it turned out CBS Radio wasn't done cutting jobs in the Hub even after the axe had swung in most of its other markets. In all, we're told there are now 15 or so fewer jobs at CBS' Boston stations.

Among the positions cut was that of WBZ assistant news director Paul Connearney, who'd been at the station since the 1991 demise of his previous employer, all-news WEEI (590). WBZ also lost one IT position, while over at WBCN (104.1) overnighter "Juanita the Scene Queen" was moved off that shift to part-time weekend status. And at WODS (103.3), Patrick Callahan lost his spot on the jock roster, with JJ Wright moving from overnights to Callahan's former night slot.

Over at Entercom, there's a new member of the Red Sox radio team for the 2008 season. With the departure of Glenn Geffner, Dave O'Brien will now handle 135 of the 162 regular-season games alongside Joe Castiglione. Dale Arnold will cover most of the rest, with studio host Jon Rish filling in on a few while O'Brien is taking care of his ESPN duties.

In Worcester, Jerry McKenna is the new operations manager for Citadel's cluster (WXLO, WORC-FM, WWFX), where he replaces Jay Beau Jones - who's now in McKenna's former office as PD of WBMX (98.5 Boston). Meanwhile, WWFX gets a new morning show host next week - "Cruisin' Bruce" Palmer, late of WSRS and WWBB in Providence, will take wakeup duties at "100.1 the Pike" on Feb. 25.

And in Lawrence, the pirate "La Voz de Fe" has moved out of the way of a new translator that showed up on the 99.9 frequency it had been using; the pirate's now at 99.1.


Still haven't ordered your 2008 Tower Site Calendar? You do realize that it's, don't you? We're already down to the last 90 or so calendars, and they're going fast. The 2006 and 2007 editions of the calendar sold out, and this one will do so as well, possibly as soon as this month.

This year's edition is a particularly fine one, if we do say so ourselves. From the cover photo of KAST in Astoria, Oregon to the back cover shot of the Blaw-Knox diamond tower at WBNS in Columbus, this year's calendar features 14 all-new full-color shots of famous broadcast sites far and wide. There's KROQ in Los Angeles, KFBK in Sacramento, WESX in Salem, WGAN in Portland, Black Mountain in Vegas, Mount Spokane in Spokane, and many (ok, several) more.

The calendar is just $18 with shipping and handling included - or better yet, beat our move to mandatory subscriptions later this year and get a free calendar with your $60 subscription to NERW for 2008. (Remember, the proceeds from both the calendar and the subscriptions help keep NERW right here on the web, as we head into our fourteenth year of news and analysis.)

So click right here and you can be sure to have your very own Tower Site Calendar 2008! (And thank you!)

The 2008 Tower Site Calendar is dedicated to the memory of Robert Eiselen (1934-2007), whose digital imaging skills made even a bunch of pictures of radio towers look almost like art. His contributions were essential to the calendar's evolution from 2003 to the current edition, and he will be missed dearly.

*One of NEW YORK's more obscure spots on the FM dial is about to get an injection of new programming ideas from the opposite coast. WNYE (91.5), which has programmed a mixture of overflow NPR talk programming and ethnic shows for the last few years, has signed a deal with Seattle's KEXP (90.3) to provide it with music programming.

KEXP, which is licensed to the University of Washington but operated as an independent alternative music voice (with funding from Microsoft founder Paul Allen, among others) will supply WNYE with a three-hour weekday morning show customized for the New York market, followed at 9 AM by a three-hour simulcast of KEXP's Seattle morning show, as well as several weekly specialty shows.

At CBS Radio, Brian Thomas adds PD duties at "Fresh" WWFS (102.7 New York) to his existing PD duties at WCBS-FM (101.1), replacing Rick Martini there.

By the time you read this, webstreaming should be active on WNYZ-LP (Channel 6, aka 87.7 FM) at its newly-active website; "Pulse 87" morning stars Star and Buc Wild will apparently be waiting another week to start their show there, as Star continues to recover from surgery.

Over on the AM dial, Inner City's WLIB (1190 New York) adds the syndicated Yolanda Adams morning show.

There's a new broadcaster coming to the Mets radio team this year: Wayne Hagin comes to the Amazins from the St. Louis Cardinals broadcast booth, his latest stop on a 24-year career that's also included stints with the A's, Rockies, White Sox and Giants.

And Clear Channel has scored the first advertising buy on an HD2 subchannel - Verizon Wireless is running three spots an hour on WHTZ-HD2 (100.3), which has its own top 40 programming separate from parent "Z100."

Upstate, Eric Straus has sold the last of his radio holdings. The onetime Hudson Valley owner moved heavily into Internet advertising a few years back, creating the "" and "" sites that link with local radio stations to provide non-traditional revenue. Now he's selling that business to onTargetjobs, which owns sites such as The $100 million sale apparently includes Regional's three radio stations in the Glens Falls market, WWSC (1450 Glens Falls), WCKM (98.5 Lake George) and WCQL (95.9 Queensbury).

In Albany, "Talk 1300" has new calls. Paul Vandenburgh's station was to have become WCBI (Capital Broadcasters, Inc.), but those calls already belong to a TV station in Mississippi - so the former WTMM (1300 Rensselaer) is now WGDJ.

*In RHODE ISLAND, insurers for Clear Channel are offering a $22 million settlement to victims of the Station nightclub fire five years ago. The company, whose WHJY (94.1) was promoting the Great White concert that ended in tragedy when the band's fireworks display ignited flammable sound insulation in the building, lost one of its employees in the blaze. It says WHJY bore no responsibility for the fire, but it hopes to bring an end to the litigation that resulted. (LIN Television's WPRI-TV, which had a videographer shooting the concert, also has made a settlement offer.)

One more Clear Channel note: WWBB (101.5 Providence) weekender Steve Valentine has retired after a career that goes back almost to the start of "B101" in the early nineties.

*A change of morning shows in VERMONT's Upper Valley: WMXR (93.9 Woodstock) briefly replaced Greg Fennell's local show with a simulcast of its sister station WTPL (107.7 Hillsborough NH)'s morning show; now it's instead carrying "The Morning Buzz" from WGIR-FM (101.1) in Manchester, NEW HAMPSHIRE.

*A CONNECTICUT radio station has won license renewal over the objections of five of its listeners. The listeners complained that WGCH (1490 Greenwich) failed to provide sufficient coverage of local events and issues - but the FCC reminded them that it doesn't regulate stations' content, and it granted WGCH's renewal. (Owner Business Talk Radio notes that it provides 3 1//2 hours of local content every day on WGCH, in any case.)

The Commission also rejected two other content-based challenges against stations in the region: in Binghamton, WSKG (89.3) listeners complained that the station didn't carry "Democracy Now!" (though sister station WSQX does carry the show), and on Long Island, a listener to New York's WEPN (1050) complained that the station's sports format doesn't serve the public interest.

*Two veteran PENNSYLVANIA radio newspeople are taking voluntary retirements as part of CBS Radio's cutbacks. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that 37-year KYW (1060 Philadelphia) veteran Don Lancer, the station's business editor, and South Jersey bureau chief Ed Kasuba, who's been with the station 33 years, both offered to retire to fulfill CBS' goal of reducing two positions from the KYW news staff. Lancer is the longest-serving member of KYW's staff.

Meanwhile over on the engineering side, CBS Radio engineering honcho Glynn Walden is relocating from New York to Philadelphia, where he'll also serve as chief engineer of KYW.

A new owner is taking control of Philadelphia-market independent TV station WTVE (Channel 51). Richard French, who owns the New York-market Regional News Network, based at WRNN-DT (Channel 48 Kingston NY), is leading a group that's paying $11.5 million to buy WTVE out of bankruptcy. Will WTVE become a southern arm of French's RNN?

Bill Currie, the "Mouth of the South" who moved from announcing for the North Carolina Tar Heels to serving as sportscaster for KDKA-TV (Channel 2) in Pittsburgh, died last Monday at 85. Currie worked at KDKA from 1971 until 1985. He died of a brain hemorrhage at his daughter's home in Washington State.

*In NEW JERSEY, Press Communications made some big cuts last week at its Jersey Shore cluster, including eliminating the position of general manager that had been held by Wes Matejka for the last year or so. Mike Fitzgerald, the director of programming services for the cluster, takes the new role of "station manager."

Meanwhile, morning man Kramer is out at Press' "G-Rock" WHTG-FM (106.3 Eatontown)/WBBO (106.5 Bass River Township), while WKMK (98.5 Ocean Acres) afternoon jock Lee Ann Taylor has resigned to pursue other interests,.

Longtime Philadelphia jock Glenn Kalina has a new gig: he's consulting (and doing some voice work) for WBZC (88.9 Pemberton), the dance station that operates from Burlington County Community College as "Z88.9." Kalina is also heard middays on WJRZ (100.1 Manahawkin).

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*In CANADA, there's a frequency change coming in Ontario's "Cottage Country" next month, as Larche Communications completes its acquisition of Rogers' "Jack FM" CICX (105.9 Orillia), which it received (along with C$8.2 million) in trade for its "KICX" CIKZ (106.7 Kitchener). Up in the Midland/Orillia area, Larche will move the "KICX" country format from CICZ (104.1 Midland) back to 105.9, where it started back in the nineties. That March 3 shuffle will bring a new, as yet undisclosed, format to 104.1.

(And speaking of Larche, it's hired a GM/GSM for its newest "KICX" station, launching soon in Sudbury: Milkman UnLimited reports that Mick Weaver will take that role, coming on board from the GSM chair at Rogers' CHEZ in Ottawa.)

Meanwhile back in Kitchener, Rogers is tweaking the branding at CIKZ - it's now "Kix 106," instead of "KICX," with a new web presence at

In Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec, outside Montreal, Yves Sauve has found a frequency for the new "retro hits" signal he was granted last July. Sauve had applied for 106.3, but that frequency was granted to Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio, instead. (CHCR's new service, a sister station to CKDG 105.1, will focus on Montreal's Spanish- and Creole-speaking communities.)

Now Sauve is asking the CRTC to let him operate his station on 100.1, with 1000 watts/52.5m DA.

And over on the TV side, Kevin Newman's "Global National" newscast is relocating from Vancouver to Ottawa, but leaving its technical operations on the West Coast. Newman will anchor on a "virtual set," using a green screen in Ottawa that's controlled from the Vancouver control room, which then sends the broadcast to Global's national control room in Calgary.

From the NERW Archives

(Yup, we've been doing this a long time now, and so we're digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five and ten years ago this week, or thereabouts - the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as "New England Radio Watch," and didn't go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997. Thanks to for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

February 19, 2007 -

  • Almost two months after his retirement celebration began, MASSACHUSETTS radio icon Gary LaPierre received two more honors last week from the station he called home for a remarkable 44 years. WBZ (1030) inaugurated the "WBZ Radio Hall of Fame" Friday morning, inducting LaPierre as its first member in a ceremony that included the unveiling of a bronze plaque mounted on the front wall of the station's Allston studios - and leaving the veteran morning host uncharacteristically speechless.
  • "The WBZ Hall of Fame will recognize those WBZ broadcasters whose presence had a significant impact on crafting WBZ's image in the industry and the community," says Peter Casey, WBZ's director of news and programming. He says WBZ will add other members to the Hall of Fame soon, and if you're thinking of names such as Glick, Maynard, DeSuze and Brudnoy, you're in the right ballpark. (And speaking of ballparks, the LaPierre plaque was made by the same firm that creates the plaques for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.)
  • LaPierre's retirement celebration wrapped up Friday night with a party for current and former staffers at the Copley Plaza Hotel, at which he was roasted by longtime morning colleague Gil Santos and saluted by GM Ted Jordan and a crowd of WBZ'ers past and present, including many of the newsroom staffers who were there for the transition to the all-news format in the early nineties. (And no, your editor wasn't even the most distant attendee; AP Radio News anchor Ed Donahue came up from his current post in Washington for what several BZ'ers called "a high school reunion.")
  • In other news from around the Bay State, it's just over a week until moving day for CBS Radio's WZLX (100.7 Boston), which is leaving the Prudential Tower after 13 years on the 24th floor for new digs in the former WSBK (Channel 38) building in Brighton, already home to sister stations WODS (103.3) and WBCN (104.1). When WZLX moves on March 2, it will leave the Pru with no radio studios for the first time since the early seventies, when CBS moved WEEI (590) and WEEI-FM (103.3) into the building. Over the years, the Pru has also been home to studios for WBCN and WVBF/WKLB/WROR, and of course its rooftop tower remains an important FM transmitter site. More remarkably, WZLX's move will leave Boston's Back Bay with no commercial radio stations for the first time since the thirties; just as New York's radio stations have decamped from midtown Manhattan for the cheaper rents downtown and in New Jersey, Dorchester and Brighton have now become the hotbeds of broadcast activity in the Hub.
  • We'll start our NEW YORK report this week in Albany, where EMF Broadcasting is putting both of its national religious networks on the air at once with a two-station LMA (eventually to become a purchase) from Ed Levine's Galaxy Broadcasting. As of Friday, rocker "The Bone" is gone - and its simulcast signals have been replaced by contemporary Christian "K-Love" (on WBOE 94.5 Ravena) and Christian rock "Air One" (on WOOB 93.7 Scotia). Galaxy had struggled to find a foothold in the Albany market, where its pair of class A signals was up against much bigger clusters owned by Clear Channel, Regent and Pamal/Albany Broadcasting. It's in a stronger position in its remaining markets, Utica and Syracuse, where Levine will now focus all his resources.

February 17, 2003 -

  • A week after a fire severely damaged their transmitter facilities high atop Mount Washington, NEW HAMPSHIRE, the radio stations (and many other users) that depended on New England's highest peak are still struggling to get back to normal.
  • The former WMTW-TV transmitter building and the Yankee Power House were completely gutted by the blaze last Sunday, which apparently started in the exhaust system of one of the kerosene generators in the WMTW building. The good news is that the WHOM (94.9 Mount Washington) antenna appears to have survived the blaze intact, as did the original 1937 Armstrong tower.
  • But restoring FM service from Mount Washington will still take some time. A generator was brought to the summit last Wednesday, three days after the fire, restoring power to the Mount Washington Observatory -- but not providing enough power yet to allow the other services at the summit -- including New Hampshire State Police communications, the transmitter of WPKQ (103.7 North Conway) and the studio-transmitter link for WLOB-FM (96.3 Rumford) to resume operation.
  • For the moment, then, WPKQ is operating with "a few hundred watts" from a two-bay antenna atop its studio building in downtown North Conway, providing some service to the Mount Washington Valley but not yet elsewhere. WHOM's programming continues to be heard over WCYI (93.9 Lewiston), as well as on a low-powered 94.9 transmitter whose location NERW hasn't yet determined. We hear the next step for WHOM, until it can rebuild its destroyed transmitter facilities, will be an antenna on the new WMTW-TV (Channel 8) tower in Baldwin, Maine. WPKQ, whose transmitter and antenna are located in a different building on the mountaintop, hopes to have enough power up there by the end of this week to resume transmission from the Rock.
  • It wasn't a good week, at least in the public eye, for two TV news operations in upstate NEW YORK. Here in Rochester, the long-expected axe fell on the local newsroom at Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate WUHF-TV (Channel 31), as the Maryland-based broadcaster announced that it had fired co-anchors Christine Persichette and Sherman Burdette, sports anchor John DiTullio, as well as three other full-time and five part-time news staffers.
  • WUHF's 10 PM newscast will become part of Sinclair's "News Central" operation, based at a new facility in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Reporter Melanie Barnas will anchor local inserts in the broadcast, but all national news, sports and weather will emanate from Maryland when the new format launches March 3.
  • NERW's comment: We sincerely hope Sinclair is underestimating the intelligence of Rochester viewers. Our experience suggests that local viewers are very savvy about where their news comes from -- and that people in Rochester won't take kindly to seeing "their" news being delivered by someone in Maryland. And we hope somebody in town snaps up talented people like Sherman Burdette and John DiTullio soon; DiTullio, in particular, has developed quite a local following with his raspy sports delivery, and we can't imagine why Sinclair would completely drop local sports coverage from its newscast. (2008 note: News Central was relegated to the dustbin of history three years or so after its arrival in Rochester.)
  • Meanwhile in Syracuse, Granite's WTVH (Channel 5) is making headlines in journalism circles for all the wrong reasons. The CBS affiliate recently replaced its 5 PM newscast with a broadcast called "CNY Live" (following closely the format developed by sister station WKBW-TV in Buffalo for "WNY Live" last year), moving anchor Donna Adamo out of the news department to host the show.
  • So far, so good... until someone noticed that the show was running suspiciously "news-style" interviews with guests who had paid for the privilege, which would make them advertisers -- thus crossing the line between news and sales that broadcast journalists have tried so hard to keep sacred. After a Syracuse Post-Standard article airing the controversy garnered national attention in the journalism industry, WTVH managers said they'd put bigger disclaimers on the segments. NERW wonders: can you rebuild credibility when you've sold it away for a few dollars and a ratings point or two?

February 19, 1998-

  • Hot on the heels of last week's format change at WVOR (100.5), Jacor flipped formats at two of its other Rochester, NEW YORK, stations Wednesday night. This time, the format changes affected the FMs that Jacor bought last year from Auburn Cablevision. The AAA format of WMAX-FM (106.7 Irondequoit) and simulcast WMHX (102.3 Canandaigua) was first to go, replaced around dinnertime by Delilah and her blend of very soft AC. Delilah was followed by...Delilah, and then more Delilah, and then more, as WMAX/WMHX stunt with a unique all-Delilah format en route to a rumored soft AC format, countering ARS/CBS's WRMM (101.3).
  • Round two came just hours later - 2 AM to be exact - as the smooth jazz on WRCD (107.3 Honeoye Falls) gave way to rhythmic CHR as "Jam'n 107" -- the first direct competition to ARS/CBS' CHR WPXY (97.9) in a decade. "Jam'n" debuts with 15,107 commercial-free songs in a row; no word yet on who'll be on the air once the talent debuts there. The long-term strategy for WRCD remains unclear, considering that Jacor has filed to move the already-weak suburban signal even further south to Bristol Mountain, where it wouldn't reach the Rochester market -- except, perhaps, through an as-yet-unbuilt 107.9 translator on Rochester's Pinnacle Hill.
  • Moving along to MASSACHUSETTS, WQVR (100.1 Southbridge) could soon be putting a much stronger signal into Worcester. It's applied to boost its power from 2100 to 6000 watts and move from its current site near the Connecticut line to a site along route 169 just south of the Massachusetts Turnpike. Athol's WCAT-FM (99.9) has also applied to boost power slightly, moving from its current site near Athol to a site closer to Templeton and Gardner.
  • One of the sloppiest translator applications of all time has been rejected in MISSISSIPPI -- oh, wait, we mean CONNECTICUT. W220BS (91.9) was originally applied for as 91.3 in "Meriden, Mississippi" -- until someone realized that there's a Meridian in Mississippi and a Meriden in Connecticut and you can't hit both with one translator. In any event, the Monroe Board of Education's petition for reconsideration has been granted, and W220BS's construction permit has been rescinded.
  • And this from RHODE ISLAND: WKFD (1370) in Wickford is being sold by Jerome Gaudet to "Full Power Radio of Wickford, Inc." (Well, isn't 250 watts full power?) -- but the new owners will have to act fast, since WKFD's license will disappear April 9 if the silent station isn't returned to the air.

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