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 24, 2014
*When longtime WEEI host Glenn Ordway got back behind a microphone a week ago for the launch of his new streaming sports talk show, it didn’t seem wildly exciting, at least not on the surface – the new website at SportsTalkBoston.com was barely even a placeholder, the audio levels were all over the map, and the talk wasn’t very different from what WEEI and archrival WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub) already fill the airwaves with hour after hour.
But if other ex-WEEI hosts have failed to set the world on fire after going out on their own (just ask Pete Sheppard, who tried his own show up the dial on WUFC 1510 before ending up working for Ordway), Ordway himself is a little different. With 27 years at WEEI under his belt, he’s a far better-known quantity than most ex-WEEIers – and he has more powerful allies, too, like one of his successors as WEEI’s top programmer, Jason Wolfe.
Wolfe also got the axe as part of Entercom’s attempt to overhaul WEEI last year, and as of April 10th, he’ll be on board at Ordway’s SportsTalkBoston as “chief content officer,” overseeing the expansion of programming beyond the 3-6 PM “Big Show Unfiltered” that’s now the sole offering there. Even as a single-show producer, SportsTalkBoston is already getting much better reach than your average podcast outlet. Starting today, “Big Show Unfiltered” will be heard nationwide on SiriusXM, and Wolfe says he’s looking for more outlets, too…which means the sports rivalry between WEEI and WBZ-FM may have a third serious contender in the mix now.
A veteran of even longer standing is returning to the airwaves of New York City. When John R. Gambling left WOR (710) at the end of 2013, there was a sense in the air that the host wasn’t quite ready to end the 88-year run of Gamblings on the radio in the city. Sure enough, last week brought the announcement that Gambling is reuniting with former WOR GM Jerry Crowley, in the former WOR studios at 111 Broadway, now home to Salem talker WNYM (970 Hackensack NJ).
Starting April 14, Gambling will take the 11 AM to 1 PM shift on “970 the Answer,” adding a second local show two hours after morning host Joe Piscopo signs off. Producer Frank Morano, who’s part of the Piscopo morning show, will join Gambling on the air from time to time, especially when Gambling’s broadcasting from his winter home in Florida.
*It’s been a long road back from the brink of oblivion, but WKAL (1450 Rome) is once again serving as a local radio voice for a city that’s long been served mostly by stations from nearby Utica. WKAL signed on way back in 1946, owned by the Kallett family and operating out of the co-owned Capitol Theater. For more than 25 years, the 1450 signal has been either a simulcast of an FM station (former sister WFRG 96.1, now WODZ and operating from Utica), or programmed from out of town with a satellite-delivered religious format (under Bible Broadcasting Network, as WYFY), or silent entirely.
But California broadcaster Ron Frisch didn’t want to see the station go dark, and for the last three years he’s been working to revive it after buying it from BBN. For the last few months, Frisch and engineer Bob Carter have been building out new studios in an office building on Black River Boulevard in Rome and testing the signal with programming from the 1920s Radio Network – and as of March 11, Frisch has WKAL back up and running with full commercial operation as “Talkradio 1450 WKAL.”
Five Years Ago: March 22, 2010
“Hello, Luv – this is Ron Lundy from the greatest city in the world!” That was the greeting Ron Lundy gave his listeners at the start of each airshift for more than three decades in New York radio, first as a key part of the airstaff at WABC (770) and then as an oldies jock on WCBS-FM (101.1).
The Memphis native returned to the south after retiring from WCBS-FM in 1997, and it was there that he died last Monday (March 15) at age 75. Lundy came to New York in 1965 after a five-year run as the “WIL Child” of St. Louis top-40 station WIL (1430), where he crossed paths with another up-and-coming DJ by the name of Dan Ingram. Ingram recommended Lundy for an overnight opening at WABC, and it didn’t take long at all for Lundy to get bumped up to the midday shift, which remained his home for the rest of his New York radio career – and it was Lundy and Ingram, side-by-side in the famous eighth-floor studio, who signed off WABC’s top-40 format in 1982. Two years later Lundy was back on the air at WCBS-FM, and it was by his own choice that he left the midday shift there in September 1997 to move to Mississippi with his wife Shirley.
If it’s dedication you’re looking for, the folks at northern NEW JERSEY’s WGHT (1500 Pompton Lakes) might be good people to ask. As we’d mentioned last week, the little AM station sits right on the banks of the Ramapo River, which crested at some seven feet above flood stage after that “storm without a name” that ravaged the East Coast. WGHT’s studios take on water when that happens, and this time it was a whopping 13 feet of water that inundated the lower two floors of the building. Fortunately, the WGHT facility was designed for just such an event: the studios and transmitter are on the top floor, and the three towers and transmission lines are elevated high above the swampy land out back – and that meant that WGHT was able to stay on the air with emergency information throughout the storm and its aftermath, though staffers had to use a fire boat to get to the building.
In Philadelphia, the wrecking ball is leveling the famed “Concrete Donut” at City Line and Monument, the round studio building that WFIL radio and TV built in 1964 as its state-of-the-art new home. That building replaced the building at 46th and Market that went up in the late forties as one of the first purpose-built TV studios (and the eventual birthplace of “American Bandstand”); by the turn of the century, though, the building had become too cramped for the former WFIL-TV, now WPVI (Channel 6). The ABC-owned station built another state-of-the-art building last year right next door to the 1964 building, and the pressing need for more parking on the site meant the end for the “Concrete Donut,” shown here in a photo from last September, just after WPVI moved out.
There’s a significant obituary leading off our MASSACHUSETTS news this week as well. While the general public will remember Edmund Dinis as the district attorney who prosecuted the Chappaquiddick case, the New England radio community knows Dinis as the longtime owner of WJFD (97.3 New Bedford), the most prominent broadcast voice for the Portuguese community that’s such an important part of the region. The son of an Azorean immigrant, Dinis entered politics on the New Bedford city council in the early fifties, later serving as a state senator before becoming Bristol County district attorney in 1959. On a trajectory to higher office, Dinis’ political career was derailed by Chappaquiddick; controversy over his inquest into the case contributed to his reelection loss in 1970, and subsequent bids for Congress in 1976 and for a return to the DA’s office in 1982 failed as well.
Out of office, Dinis returned to his career as an attorney, but along the way took an interest in media. In 1975, he bought what was then WGCY from Gray Communications, renaming the all-Portuguese station WJFD after the initials of his father, Jacinto F. Dinis. Dinis later added a Springfield station, WSPR (1270), to his holdings, a prelude to what proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to build a new AM signal, WLAW (1270 North Dartmouth), on the South Coast. Had the AM station been built, it would likely have taken the Portuguese format from WJFD, allowing the FM to flip to an English-language format; in the end, battles with zoning authorities forced Dinis to allow the construction permit to expire unbuilt just before the turn of the century. Dinis died March 14 at age 85; for now, “Radio Globo” continues to be run without changes, though speculation is already swirling about the station’s future.
Ten Years Ago: March 21, 2005
Back in the fifties and sixties, just about every TV market had its own beloved local kid’s show host. In Boston, it was “Big Brother” Bob Emery and Rex Trailer; in Buffalo, Dave Thomas and “Rocketship 7.” And in NEW HAMPSHIRE, it was “Uncle Gus” Bernier on Manchester’s WMUR-TV (Channel 9). Bernier joined WMUR radio (610, now WGIR) in 1944 as an announcer, moving over to the TV side of the operation a few years after its 1954 debut. “Uncle Gus” began by accident, according to Ed Brouder’s authoritative history of New Hampshire broadcasting, Granite and Ether, when station manager David O’Shea asked Bernier to go into the studio and introduce the afternoon cartoon show. The rest was two decades of history, as an appearance on the “Uncle Gus Show” became a rite of passage for young New Hampshirites (after a wait that could last a year and a half.) Bernier retired to the Florida Keys, later moving to Hawaii, where he died in his sleep Saturday morning. He was 85.
Meanwhile on the present-day Granite State radio dial, Nashua’s WHOB (106.3) indeed made the flip to “Frank FM” on Thursday, replacing its hot AC with classic hits. WHOB morning drive host Sarah Sullivan adds PD duties, and new calls WFNQ are said to be on the way.
One of the iconic voices of NEW YORK radio has died. Ted Brown (along with his then-wife, “the Redhead”) was the morning voice on WMGM (1050) from 1950 until 1962, when the station returned to its former calls of WHN. Brown soon headed up the dial to WNEW (1130) and afternoons (mornings at that point still being the domain of Klavan and Finch), where he’d remain for most of the decade, becoming known for his wry humor and for on-air stunts that included getting drunk on the air at holiday time (with a police officer present) to illustrate the dangers of drunk driving. In 1970, Brown moved to afternoons on WNBC (660) and went nationwide as one of the “communicators” on NBC’s weekend Monitor. He returned to WNEW’s afternoon drive in 1972, moving to mornings in 1978 upon Gene Klavan’s retirement and remaining there until his own retirement a decade later. Brown returned to WNEW’s airwaves on the station’s final day in 1993, becoming one of the last voices heard there before WNEW signed off for good. In later years, Ted was heard on WRIV (1390 Riverhead) and on WVNJ (1160 Oakland NJ). He suffered a stroke in 1996 that left him incapacitated. Brown died in his sleep Sunday morning (Mar. 20) at his New York home.
Fifteen Years Ago: March 24, 2000
Just outside Bangor, Communications Capital Managers strikes again, adding one more station to the group it’s assembling in the market (WVOM/WBYA, WKSQ, WLKE, WBFB). This time, it’s WGUY (102.1 Dexter), for the price tag of $1.475 million, from Dan Priestly’s Innovative Advertising Consultants. NERW thinks WGUY would make a useful simulcast to one of the other rimshots in the group…WBYA, perhaps?
Down to MASSACHUSETTS we go, to find yet another high-powered AM signal on its way to the airwaves. Carter Broadcasting’s WCRN (830 Worcester) has quietly become that city’s most potent AM signal, especially with the grant this week of a daytime power increase from 5 kilowatts to 50. WCRN’s new daytime signal will use the same three towers and the same pattern as the current signal, nulling towards the southwest to protect WRYM (840) in New Britain, Connecticut.
Coming soon to a TV dial near you: “WHUB.” That’s the new name for USA Broadcasting’s home-shopping outlet, now known as WHSH (Channel 66) in Marlborough, and before that as music-video WVJV “V66.” July 1 will be the starting date for the new programming on the independent station, following in the heels of USA’s WAMI in Miami, KSTR Dallas, and WHOT Atlanta. Look for WHUB-TV to build downtown studios and try to line up major-league sports committments to build its image in town, just like the other three stations have done.
The rumors in RHODE ISLAND turned out to be true: Steve Mindich is indeed buying WWRX (103.7 Westerly) from Clear Channel in one of the final spinoffs of the AMFM purchase. No price has been put on the deal, though we’re hearing 16-18 times cash flow rumored. The move will give Mindich’s FNX modern-rock network a huge boost to the south, picking up everywhere from the far southern suburbs of Boston (where flagship WFNX 101.7 Lynn is blasted by Clear Channel’s WWBB 101.5 Providence) all the way to eastern Connecticut.
Twenty Years Ago: March 28, 1995
Although Haverhill MA’s WHAV 1490 (1 kw ND-U) flipped from oldies to Spanish talk a few weeks ago, the fireworks have just started. Seems the whole thing is closely intertwined with the long-running rivalry between the small Haverhill Gazette and its much larger competitor 10 miles away in Lawrence, the “Eagle Tribune.” The Gazette put WHAV on the air some 50 years ago, and sold it about a decade ago, with the hope that WHAV would continue to be a local voice for news and public affairs. So the Gazette’s local owners were distressed to hear WHAV becoming the second all-Spanish station in the Merrimack Valley (and the fourth to run some Spanish), and with a satellite format out of LA, at that! To make matters worse, WHAV’s new operators (and, with an LMA-to-buy, its prospective new owners) apparently have financial ties with the Eagle Tribune! (This is the same firm that owns and operates WNNW, 1110 in Salem NH, serving Lawrence and Haverhill with a Spanish format).
In the meantime, WCCM in Lawrence has started paying much more attention to Haverhill news, and today a Gazette official turned up on WCCM’s talk show to talk about how the Gazette now wants to lead a fight to prevent this LMA from becoming a sale…and to bring WHAV back to local news etc. Among the things the Gazette will be focusing on will be some problems with the way the LMA is working (most noticeably, the near-complete lack of legal IDs on WHAV – I listened for 2 hours this weekend and heard not a one), and perhaps a problem with unauthorized transfer of main studio location as well (WHAV is apparently operating from WNNW’s studio at 462 Merrimack St., Methuen). We shall see where this all goes.
WBMA 890 – yes, them again – launched their first local sports talk show Monday morning 3/27, as former Red Sox player Rico Petrocelli hosted 3 hours from 6-9am. It’s the first break in the satellite Prime Sports since it debuted last month. Studios are now at “a temporary location in Kendall Square, Cambridge,” and will reportedly move to Flagship Wharf, Charlestown, soon.