In this week’s issue… Salem’s Pittsburgh moves – Mass. FM move approved – CRTC calls for new FM north of Toronto
By SCOTT FYBUSH
This past week brought two big developments: the return to the air of former Disney station WQEW (1560) in NEW YORK, and in western PENNSYLVANIA the impending sale of WDDZ (1250 Pittsburgh).
Pittsburgh first: it’s been 16 years since Disney (through its former ABC Radio unit) paid Jacor $5 million for what was then WEAE, the 5000-watt signal that was the old WTAE radio. It was an ESPN Radio outlet until 2011, when the ESPN affiliation shifted down the dial to Clear Channel’s WBGG (970), and it’s effectively been warehoused ever since. (It was, if we’re not mistaken, the very last new affiliate Radio Disney added to its over-the-air network as it began ramping down its broadcast presence.)
So what’s a 5000-watt signal worth these days in Pittsburgh? If you’re Salem (doing business as “Pennsylvania Media Associates”), it’s an even $1 million, less than half what Salem’s paying for its other Disney acquisition, WDWD (590 Atlanta). Why the disparity? The Atlanta signal comes with a big piece of land in the suburbs – but the Pittsburgh signal has been a tenant at its longtime South Hills transmitter site ever since Jacor sold the AM off separately from its FM sister (now WKST-FM 96.1) back in 1999.
It’s not hard to guess the “Answer” about what Salem will do with 1250: in a market where its two existing signals, WPIT (730) and WORD-FM (101.5), both do religion, the logical choice for a third signal will be the conservative talk format that Salem has been branding as “The Answer” all over the country. That’s especially logical in Pittsburgh, where the talk audience is somewhat in play after Clear Channel moved the top-tier syndicated players from FM to new talk entrant WJAS (1320) last year.
*Meanwhile in New York, that 50,000-watt 1560 signal came back to the air Friday just after noon, a week and a half after Disney took it silent. As expected, the former WQEW is now WFME, the revived New York-market outlet of California-based Family Radio, and it reportedly came back with a nice 10-minute tribute to its predecessors at 1560 on the dial, the standards version of WQEW from the 1990s and the long classical run as WQXR that preceded it. (We hear our broadcast history compatriot Peter Kanze helped out with archival audio for the production by longtime WFME station manager Charlie Menut.)
There are still a dozen or so stations remaining in the Disney portfolio, including two in NERW-land, and if Salem’s done buying, that rules out what would have been one of the more likely purchasers of WMKI (1260 Boston), which had been in Salem’s hands before going to Disney in the first place. So far, all of the Disney sales have gone to either religious broadcasters or Spanish-language broadcasters – will that change when WMKI and Philadelphia-market WWJZ (640 Mt. Holly NJ) find buyers?
We have a great lineup of podcasts here on our site. While you’re catching up with your summer reading, don’t forget about your summer listening. Now is the time to make sure you’re up to date with Top of the Tower.
Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
Don’t forget you can still visit our store to check out our other great products. We’ll be taking preorders for the 2021 calendar soon. Stay tuned!
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, ten, fifteen and – where available – twenty years ago this week, or thereabouts.
Note that 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.
One Year Ago: March 3, 2014
*There are some things that are simply unique to western PENNSYLVANIA. If you’re from Pittsburgh and vicinity, you do and say and eat a lot of things that are completely foreign to everyone else: Iron City beer, sandwiches with built-in fries, Sheetz M-T-O, Terrible Towels, the linguistic curiosity that is “yinz guys”…and Porky Chedwick.
Even in a radio industry that was so intensely local for so long, there were few jocks anywhere who had the incredible local stardom Porky enjoyed for six decades in Pittsburgh, yet were so completely unknown outside of town. But at home, Porky was as big as they came – and so the news of his death Sunday morning, even at the ripe old age of 96, still came with quite an impact.
Craig Chedwick’s childhood nickname didn’t really fit him as he grew into a lanky young man, but “Porky” he remained through his twenties as he built a career as a PA announcer for local sporting events. When he was 30, in 1948, he applied for a job at the new radio station in Homestead, and when WHOD (860) came on the air that year, Chedwick was part of the schedule with a weekend sports commentary. That five-minute slot quickly expanded into a longer show in which Chedwick played songs from his own collection of R&B 78s – and that grew into a daily afternoon gig that rivaled much bigger competitors such as KDKA, even with just 250 watts and a sunset signoff.
Chedwick came by the music honestly; while many listeners who never saw a picture of him assumed Porky must have been black, especially after hearing his on-air rhymes that presaged latter-day rap, he was in fact a white DJ who came from a neighborhood that was integrated in its intense poverty. “I was mainly looking for the gospel sound and down-home rhythm and blues,” Chedwick told his friend and biographer Ed Weigle, “the songs which spoke of the problems of poor people. That was my music.” (Weigle’s tale of Porky’s life can be read at Barry Mishkind’s OldRadio.com, and it’s a must-read.)
Porky’s music was so popular that it survived WHOD’s transition to WAMO in the fifties, which turned the station into country and western except when Porky was on. Two years later, WAMO went all-R&B, with Porky in a place of honor among an otherwise all-black airstaff. He remained at WAMO for decades, even as the station changed around him. By the time he was finally cut loose in 1984, he’d been at 860 on the dial in Pittsburgh essentially nonstop for 36 years.
Away from the radio booth, Porky was an indefatigable promoter of “his music,” emceeing record hops well into his nineties. Pittsburgh loved him right back: the city hosted “Porkstock” oldies festivals for several years at Three Rivers Stadium, oldies guru T.J. Lubinsky featured Porky prominently in several of his specials, and as recently as a week ago Porky was on the stage for the final installment of the long-running “Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll” concert series.
He moved down to Florida a few years ago as his health began to ebb, but that didn’t last, and before long Chedwick and his wife, Jeanne, were back home in Pittsburgh for good. He remained at least an occasional voice on the radio, returning to WAMO for a time amidst stints at WEDO (810 McKeesport), WLSW (103.9 Scottdale) and WKFB (770 Jeannette), among others.
Now the “Platter-Pushing Papa” is a part of radio history – and in Pittsburgh, at least, he’ll be remembered for a long, long time.
Memorial services for Chedwick were still being planned at deadline time; we’ll keep you posted here and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds as details are announced.
*A couple of big moves over the weekend in Philadelphia: on the studio side, CBS Radio’s KYW (1060 Philadelphia) is out of sight of Independence Mall for the first time in more than four decades. KYW moved from its Art Deco home at 1619 Walnut Street to the corner of Market Street and Independence Mall East (aka Fifth Street) in 1972. In 2007, CBS split its facilities, moving KYW-TV (Channel 3) and WPSG (Channel 57) westward and northward to the corner of Fifteenth and Spring Garden Streets and relocating KYW radio half a block eastward to the office building at 400 Market Street, overlooking its former home, which is now the site of a museum.
It turns out CBS had more space in that TV facility than it needed for the two TV stations, and so it decided to move the KYW radio newsroom once again. As of Sunday, “Newsradio 1060” now originates from newly-renovated space right next to the CBS3 newsroom at the Spring Garden facility (the street address is actually 1555 Hamilton Street); its former 400 Market Street space will now be rebuilt to house talker WPHT (1210) and classic hits WOGL (98.1), which will move into the city later this year from their current digs in suburban Bala Cynwyd. CBS Radio’s remaining Philadelphia stations, WIP-FM (94.1)/WIP (610), will stay put in their current studios one floor up at 400 Market Street.
(Want to see what KYW looked like at 400 Market Street? We featured it just a few months ago in a Tower Site of the Week Extra!)
*Is there anything more that we can add to the deluge of press coverage out of NEW YORK over Scott Shannon’s debut this morning on WCBS-FM (101.1)?
As we told you in a NERW Extra on Tuesday, today’s the day that the former WPLJ (95.5) morning man officially signs on at CBS-FM, though he showed up overnight a few days back to get a feel for the studio. Dan Taylor moves from mornings to middays, displacing Ron Parker from the lineup. (CBS Radio says it hopes to find a new spot for the versatile Parker somewhere in the cluster.)
*Big news on the NEW JERSEY shore: Marty Martinez is retiring after 37 years on the air, the last 13 as morning man on active rock WRAT (95.9 Point Pleasant). Martinez did his last “Carl and Marty in the Morning Show” on Friday, handing the solo reins to PD Carl Craft for now. Before joining the Greater Media station on the shore in 2001, Martinez spent 22 years at WNEW-FM (102.7) in New York, including the morning show from 1980 until 1999; he also spent two years as PD of the eYada.com online talk experiment. “After 37 years of rocking the airwaves, I believe it’s time to enjoy what life has to offer next,” Martinez said in the announcement of his retirement.
Five Years Ago: March 1, 2010
Clear Channel’s launch of “Rush Radio 1200” in Boston is coming faster than expected. As of next Monday, Limbaugh is gone from longtime affiliate WRKO (680 Boston), replaced by a local show hosted by political consultant Charley Manning – and over at rushradio1200.com, there’s now a website up, complete with a “Rush Radio 1200 WXKS” logo and Limbaugh himself shown as “on air.”
Meanwhile at WBZ, they’re mourning Don Kent, the veteran weatherman who died Monday night at his New Hampshire home. Kent came to WBZ-TV in 1950, and remained an icon of New England TV weather for three decades. He was 92.
That mythical “wheel of formats” was spinning fast in NEW YORK’s capital city last week, at least where Albany Broadcasting’s cluster was concerned. One format change was expected: on Wednesday, WKLI (100.9 Albany) broke out of the simulcast with WROW (590 Albany), which has inherited WKLI’s former “Magic” standards/soft AC format, becoming “The Bridge” with an adult hits format. There’s no live talent on “The Bridge” just yet, but Albany Broadcasting says the plan is to add an airstaff down the road.
The surprise came on Friday, when sister station WZMR (104.9 Altamont) ditched its “Edge” modern rock format to go country as “The Cat.” This is the second time Albany’s had country on 104.9; from January 2005 until February 2006, WZMR simulcasted country “Froggy” WFFG from up in the Glens Falls market before launching “The Edge.” It’s not hard to surmise what Albany Broadcasting has in mind here: the cash cow in their cluster is AC powerhouse WYJB (95.5 Albany), which routinely battles with Regent’s country behemoth WGNA-FM (107.7 Albany) for the top of the ratings pile.
As for the talk format that used to be on WROW, one of its personalities has landed across town: Premiere’s Glenn Beck show starts today on Clear Channel’s WGY (810 Schenectady), where it displaces local talker Al Roney from the 9 AM-noon timeslot.
The weather was the big story over the weekend in NEW HAMPSHIRE, especially at Saga’s cluster in Manchester, where high winds literally ripped the roof off the Commercial Street studios of WZID (95.7), WMLL (96.5) and WFEA (1370) early Friday morning. With several inches of water in every studio, WZID reportedly relocated to a conference room down the street at the WMUR-TV studios, staying on the air helping to provide emergency information as some 300,000 New Englanders suffered without power or heat. The power outages knocked some other stations off the air around the Granite State, too, at least temporarily; thankfully, there’s been no word of any other facility damage so far in New Hampshire.
One of CANADA’s most popular morning radio hosts says farewell today. Andy Barrie’s final “Metro Morning” will air from 5:30 until 8:30 on CBLA (99.1 Toronto), followed by a finale in front of a live audience in the CBC Broadcast Centre, in which new “Metro Morning” host Matt Galloway will interview Barrie as the morning baton is handed over.
Ten Years Ago: February 28, 2005
If the measure of a man is in the lives he touched, then the late David Brudnoy lived a full life indeed. On Sunday afternoon, Brudnoy’s friends – and even his casual listeners on WBZ (1030) counted themselves as friends – lined up around the block to fill the Cutler Majestic Theater for a tribute to one of the most eclectic personalities ever to grace a microphone. For two and a half hours, the crowd – including Boston mayor Tom Menino and other local notables – heard from friends and family across the many facets of Brudnoy’s life.
“He did all things all the way,” said Peter Meade, Brudnoy’s close friend and former WBZ host, as he introduced the speakers. To judge from the stories Brudnoy’s family shared, that was a trait that distinguished David as far back as his childhood in Minnesota. His cousin Rachel Brudnoy shared the tale of how a 12 year old Brudnoy worked the phones and persuaded a Minneapolis hotel, a car dealer and a luxury restaurant to prepare for the state visit of a fictional “Grand Emir of Aden.”
Brudnoy’s doctors spoke of the incredible strength that brought him back to life after the 1994 illness that left him all but dead. Several of his students at Boston University spoke of the energy, enthusiasm and wit he brought to the classroom, including his attack on the use of the word “like” in students’ speech. In the last years of his life, Brudnoy was adopted by the Emerson College chapter of the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity, whose members were in turn adopted by “Brother Bruds,” who brought them into the whirl of what student Roman Sturgis called “the Brudnoy-centric universe.”
Brudnoy’s former producer, Kevin Myron, shared the nickname that the erudite, scholarly Brudnoy bestowed on him (“Yo”), saying Brudnoy’s direction to him when planning the memorial service was,”Yo, make it something I’d like to be at.” There’s no question that Brudnoy (“whose favorite topic was David Brudnoy,” as one speaker said) would have laughed and cried along with the crowd at the Majestic, especially as his longtime partner Ward Cromer closed out the afternoon with his stories of life and travel with Bruds. One of Brudnoy’s few unfulfilled wishes in a life he lived with incredible fullness was to visit India and the Taj Mahal, a wish Cromer said he’ll fulfill later this year when he travels there to sprinkle some of David’s ashes at the site.
Speaking of Sullivan, the radio station where he got his start is about to change hands. WLLH (1400 Lowell and Lawrence) and WAMG (890 Dedham) have spent the last few years doing Spanish tropical under the ownership of Mega Communications, but Mega’s been selling off many of its facilities, and now the company’s exiting New England completely. The investment firm of Waller Sutton is backing the $9 million purchase, but so far we know nothing about who’ll be running the stations or what happens next. Stay tuned…
And with that we come to PENNSYLVANIA and the week’s other top story. It was no secret that WPLY (100.3 Media) was losing the Preston and Steve morning show at the end of February; after sitting out a six-month noncompete, the pair will reappear this fall on Greater Media’s WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia). But it was something of a surprise even to Y100’s staffers when the end of the Preston & Steve show Thursday morning was followed just hours later by the complete demise of the station’s modern rock format. The duo’s final Y100 show was peppered with clues about the impending end, including their last song, “Alive” by Pearl Jam, which was the last song played on the old WDRE (103.9 Jenkintown) before it dropped modern rock in 1997.
There’s a powerful irony at work: upon its purchase by Radio One, 103.9, of course, went urban as “the Beat,” WPHI – and now those calls and that format are being heard on the more powerful 100.3 facility. Two hours after Preston and Steve signed off, dropping a mention of a new website at y100rocks.com, middayer Bret Hamilton noted “it’s my last day, too,” and at noon became the last live voice heard on Y100. After not quite 12 hours of automation, WPLY went to dead air at 11:55 Thursday night, resurfacing minutes later as “the Beat.” Over the weekend, 103.9 was running liners sending listeners down the dial to 100.3, but it starts the new week with the black gospel format that was widely rumored to be coming to Radio One’s other Philadelphia-market station, WRNB (107.9 Pennsauken NJ). You may recall that the 107.9 facility tested last fall under the calls WPPZ (quickly withdrawn, we hear, over concerns that it was tipping off competitors to the planned black gospel format) – and now those WPPZ calls have been applied for on 103.9. (The call changes will take effect Thursday.)
Fifteen Years Ago: March 3, 2000
We begin this week in NEW YORK’s scenic Finger Lakes region, an area we don’t usually talk about much in this column for the simple reason that radio there tends to just chug along without much change or disruption — until now.
George Souhan, the 70 year old owner of Seneca Falls’ WSFW (1110) and WSFW-FM (99.3), announced last week that he’s selling the stations that his family has owned (except for an 8 year interregnum) since they signed on the air decades ago.
Here’s how the deal shakes out: Souhan will sell the stations to Family Life Ministries of Bath, which operates an extensive noncomm network of religious FMs across upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania. Family Life will then trade WSFW AM/FM to George Kimble’s Radio Group for Kimble’s WLLW (93.7 Clyde), which serves the eastern Finger Lakes from studios in Auburn. From a programming standpoint, WLLW’s rock format and calls will move from 93.7 to 99.3, Family Life will take 93.7 religious under new calls, and WSFW(AM) will switch from satellite classic country to satellite adult standards (the same format Kimble now runs on WAUB 1590 in Auburn).
So why is this being treated as a big deal in Seneca Falls? Simple: WSFW was an unusually community-oriented radio station. From the little downtown storefront with the big radio dial over the window, WSFW was the voice for community events and information in Seneca County. The county has no daily newspaper of its own, and its only other radio station is WNYR (98.5 Waterloo), which is owned by none other than George Kimble and runs a mostly-satellite AC format from studios in Geneva, Ontario County. Once this deal closes, Kimble will own a string of Finger Lakes stations from WCGR Canandaigua to WGVA Geneva to WNYR to the new WSFW/WLLW combo to WAUB — and his only commercial radio competition in the northern Finger Lakes will be WFLK (101.7 Geneva) and WYLF (850 Penn Yan), owned by his brother Russ Kimble.
In fairness to George Kimble, he’s trying to make the best of the situation — he tells NERW no decision has been made yet about whether the Seneca Falls studios will be closed, and he says he’ll try to keep as many WSFW employees as he can afford. And we’re certainly happy to see the stations stay in the hands of owners based in the region. It’s just hard to imagine that the state of affairs in Seneca County will be helped any by the inevitable decrease in local programming that will follow WSFW’s farewell broadcast next Friday…
Moving along to New England, the big news this week comes from NEW HAMPSHIRE, where the classic rock of “Arrow” (WXBB 105.3 Kittery ME and WXBP 102.1 Hampton NH) gave way to a repeating loop of bad “Stairway to Heaven” covers and the theme from “Jaws” Wednesday night, with a promise of something new Friday morning at 6. Unfortunately for Citadel, the secret got out a bit early, thanks to the folks at broadcastmusic.com who handled WXBB’s Web streaming. Visits to their WXBB site on Thursday showed the logo and calls for “WSHK, The Shark” — and sure enough, that’s what launched this morning as the repositioned, male-oriented version of the station’s classic rock format. (Visits to the shark1053.com site before the launch were greeted by the words “Go Away.”)
From CANADA this week comes word that Cornwall’s AM 1220 could soon return from the dead. TRI-CO Broadcasting, which moved CJSS from 1220 to 101.9 FM last year, has applied to the CRTC to reactivate the 1220 frequency, again with 1 kilowatt, running a nostalgia format. Will the CRTC approve? We’ll find out at a May 9 hearing, at which they’ll also consider applications for a new FM up the river in Kingston.
Twenty Years Ago: March 4, 1995