In this week’s issue… Buffalo vet retires – PA AM sold – Remembering a Maine radio owner and a Merrimack Valley legend – Binghamton broadcasters gather – Nolan Johannes, RIP – Tower Site Calendar 2016: Get Yours Now!
By SCOTT FYBUSH
Jump to: ME – NH – VT – MA – RI – CT – NY – NJ – PA – Canada
*When Buffalo’s WIVB (Channel 4) cut to the WGRF (96.9) studios on Thursday morning during the Make-a-Wish Radiothon, it was more than just a normal liveshot. After four decades on the radio in Buffalo and 30 years at “97 Rock,” morning institution Larry Norton had a surprise announcement to make:
After 40 years on the radio in Buffalo, and living my dream to be the morning radio host for my generation, I have decided to “Turn the Page” to the next chapter of my life. 97rock has been, and will always be an amazing and inseparable part of me. But now, together with my wonderful wife Barbara who has supported me for 36 years as of this month, it is time to elevate our life from our many blessed successes, to a life of more significance.
As of December we will be devoting more of our time to works of charity, for God and for our church. I can’t thank the people of Buffalo enough for their support for me and the charities of Western New York that together we have helped over the last 40 years.
From the entirety of my heart, thank you Buffalo!
Rock and Roll Never Forgets, and I will always Love You.
Norton’s planned departure December 4 will end one of Buffalo’s legendary radio careers. After graduating from Amherst High School and Buffalo State, he worked at WPHD (103.3) and joined what was then WGRQ to do middays in 1984. Norton’s first run at 96.9 was a memorable one: he staged a marathon broadcast to persuade the Police to add Buffalo to their tour schedule, a successful stunt that reportedly earned him a reprimand from the band for forcing them to rearrange their tour dates at short notice. But Norton’s initial “Q-FM” run was relatively brief one, interrupted by the station’s 1986 format change to AC, which sent Norton down the road to Rochester to do production at WCMF.
When new ownership brought “97 Rock” back in 1988, Norton was an important part of the new format. His morning show has consistently pulled high ratings, and his community involvement has been top-notch. That Make-a-Wish radiothon? It’s raised nearly the million dollars over the years for the charity, and it’s just one of the good things Norton has done for Buffalo. (Which reminds us: how in the world is Norton not in the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame? And is it too late to add him to this year’s ceremony, scheduled for Thursday night at the WNED studios?)
Cumulus hasn’t made any announcements yet about who will replace Norton in the WGRF morning chair at year’s end; given the company’s other problems (its stock closed below the $1 mark on Friday), it’s hard to imagine they’ll find a replacement who can bring as much to the seat as Norton has done over the years.
We’re a community.
*Sad news from MAINE: Dan Priestly, one of the good guys in local broadcasting, lost his long battle with cancer on Tuesday. Priestly was a graduate of Bangor High School and Husson College who spent his whole career in local radio. He owned WGUY (102.1 Dexter) and WIGY (97.5 Madison) in the 1990s, then built several new AMs from scratch: WNZS (1340 Veazie), WWNZ (1400 Veazie) and WGUY (1230 Veazie), adding translators to WNZS and WGUY later on. Priestly was 68. A memorial service is scheduled for this afternoon in Bangor; gifts in Priestly’s memory can be sent to the Lafayette Family Cancer Center, c/o EMHS Foundation, P.O. Box 931, Bangor, ME 04402-0931.
*New England Public Radio has a new FM outlet in western MASSACHUSETTS. NEPR’s main signal, WFCR (88.5 Amherst), runs a split format, carrying NPR newsmagazines in drivetime and classical and jazz music in middays and evenings. In recent years, NEPR has tried to increase its news service with the addition of the “New England Public Radio News Network,” a 24/7 news-talk service heard on WNNZ (640 Westfield) and three lower-powered FM signals, WNNZ-FM (91.7 Deerfield), WNNU (89.5 Great Barrington) and WNNI (98.9 Adams).
Now NEPR is adding more FM coverage for its news network: it’s entered an arrangement with Amherst College’s WAMH (89.3 Amherst) under which the NEPR news service will be heard from 2 AM until 4 PM. Amherst students will continue to program WAMH from 4 PM until 2 AM, and they’ll have internship opportunities and other chances to partner with NEPR’s professional staffers.
*”The Buzz” it is: Salem used its co-sponsorship of last Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate to officially launch its new talker in Boston. As we noted in last week’s issue, WBIX (1260) has no local talent on board, just the usual Salem national talk lineup including Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, Mike Gallagher and debate panelist Hugh Hewitt.
(In addition to WBIX, Salem announced last week that it’s picking up the last five remaining Radio Disney AMs that were still on the market in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, St. Petersburg/Tampa, Portland and St. Louis.)
There are some new newsroom leaders at Boston’s WGBH (89.7), where Kate McCarthy Zachry joins as news director from ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” while Aaron Schachter moves over from “The World” (co-produced by WGBH/PRI and BBC) to become executive producer/editor.
And there’s very late word as we hit “publish” this Sunday night of the death of Bruce Arnold, veteran Merrimack Valley radio talent. Arnold, born Bruce Arnold Salvucci, was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2010 for his many years on the air at the various incarnations of WCCM in Lawrence and vicinity, where he was a fixture beginning in 1959. Arnold also did some work at WBZ and WHIL in Boston over the years. We’ll have more remembrances of Arnold in next week’s NERW…
(This is a good place to note that Friday will be this year’s MBHOF induction ceremony. This year’s honorees include WCVB/NECN manager extraordinaire Phil Balboni, WCVB reporter Amalia Barreda, WBZ radio reporter Don Batting, Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione, WCVB/ABC medical editor Dr. Timothy Johnson, WBCN’s original rock program director Sam Kopper, WATD owner/founder Ed Perry, WBZ’s 1960-era night host Dick Summer and veteran jock JJ Wright. What a class!)
*Very sorry to share news of the death of a legendary CONNECTICUT radio talent, programmer and station owner. Frank Delfino was an officer in the Army Air Corps during World War II, then went on to spend the postwar years as an announcer at WSTC (1400 Stamford), WNBC in New York and then as PD and “Man About the House” host at WICC (600 Bridgeport). With partners Noel Cote and Dan Quayle, Delfino bought WDEE (1220 Hamden) in 1968 and changed the calls to WCDQ. After retiring from radio in 1989, Delfino then launched a new career outside of radio in sales. He died August 17 at age 91.
*VERMONT Public Radio has requested new calls for WWPV (88.7 Colchester) when it takes that station over from St. Michael’s College. The 88.7 signal will become WVTX; St. Mike’s keeps the WWPV calls for its new LPFM on 92.5.
*Reunion season is in full swing in upstate NEW YORK. Every two years, Ray Ross and his Binghamton Broadcasters crew put on a fun evening of memories and honors, and 2015 was no exception. Saturday night’s gathering brought dozens of attendees together, some from as far afield as Texas. This year’s guest star was Anne Serling, youngest daughter of Rod, who was signing copies of her recent book, “As I Knew Him,” and who shared some touching thoughts about her famous father’s deep love of broadcasting and of his native Binghamton.
Top: Serling and Ray Ross (left), Parker addresses the crowd (right); Bottom: Mosher and the audience (left), Gilinsky (right)
David Donovan of the New York State Broadcasters Association was on hand to honor Bill Parker, the dean of Binghamton TV, reprising Parker’s recent induction into the New York Broadcasters Hall of Fame, which led to several standing ovations. Dave Lozzi of WMXW (Mix 103) received the Audio-Technica Working Broadcaster award, Doug Mosher of WAAL (99.1) was named “Broadcaster of the Year,” Dave Whalen of Time Warner Cable was honored with the Bill Parker Distinguished Service Award, and Steve Gilinsky, who’s about to become sole owner of WLTB (Magic 101.7), was named “Living Legend.”
Why should Binghamton have all the fun? During Ray’s off-year in 2016, Rochester’s broadcasters will gather for their first reunion in half a decade. September 17, 2016 has been set as the date for the Rochester Broadcasting Reunion at the Blue Cross Arena, and we’ll have much more to tell you about that event as the date draws closer!
*Peter Rosenberg is adding a second set of New York City drivetime duties: in addition to his role on the morning show at WQHT (Hot 97), he started last Tuesday alongside Michael Kay and Don LaGreca in afternoons on ESPN Radio’s WEPN-FM (98.7). The WEPN-FM license is held by Emmis, which also owns Hot 97, but the station is in a long-term lease to ESPN.
It appears David Hinckley was among the job casualties at the struggling Daily News last week, and that’s sad news indeed. For more than 30 years, he’s been chronicling the goings-on in New York radio long after most other mainstream media sources cut out their broadcast columns; mark us down as very hopeful that we haven’t read the last of Hinckley’s top-notch reporting, which has made all of us in the field have to work that much harder to live up to his high standards.
New morning shows around the state: in Newburgh, Ryan Dalton and Peter “The Kidd” Harris are the new morning team at WJGK (103.1 the Fox) as of September 10. In Utica, Naomi Lynn will continue to do middays on Townsquare’s WLZW (Lite 98.7), but now she’ll be getting in earlier, joining Matt Hubbell on the morning show starting at 7 AM.
*As PENNSYLVANIA and New York prepare for the majesty (and traffic congestion) of the impending Papal visit, Catholic radio is about to come to the Philadelphia market in a big way. Radio Disney turned off WWJZ (640 Mount Holly NJ) a week ago as it handed off the license for the 50 kW daytime signal to Starboard Communications, which hopes to have its Relevant Radio Catholic format on the 640 AM airwaves before the Popemobile hits the streets of Philadelphia. Relevant Radio’s shows, including John Harper’s morning show, will be originating from Washington, Philadelphia and New York during the Papal visit – and we even spotted a billboard along Route 3 in Secaucus over the weekend promoting Papal coverage on Starboard’s WNSW (1430) for the New York market.
*If you’re looking for an example of how far many AM stations’ values have fallen, consider WEDO (810 McKeesport) just outside Pittsburgh. The daytime-only AM station that was once the CBS affiliate for the Pittsburgh market has been doing leased time for decades now. In 2008, owner Judith Baron listed WEDO for sale for $1.75 million – and seven years later, it’s finally been sold for exactly a tenth of that amount. When the deal closes, WEDO will join Bob Stevens’ Broadcast Communications Inc. portfolio, which also includes WKHB (620 Irwin), WKFB (770 Jeannette) and WKVE (103.1 Mt. Pleasant). In the Daily News, Patrick Cloonan reports that Stevens intends to move some of WKFB’s current leased programming over to WEDO, which will also pick up a simulcast on Stevens’ translator at 92.3.
Ritmo Broadcasting is adding another translator link to its “Supra” chain of Spanish top-40 signals fed from the HD3 of WPEN (97.5 Burlington NJ). In addition to translators in Philadelphia and Millville, N.J., Ritmo is paying $60,000 to buy translator W245CJ (96.9 Wilmington, Delaware) from iHeart.
In western Pennsylvania, they’re mourning Joe Gearing, who was a talk host in the 1970s and 1980s at WASP (1130 Brownsville), WJAS (1320 Pittsburgh) and at KDKA from 1974-1980 and 1987-1990. PBRTV.com reports Gearing had also been in charge of paid shows at WEDO and WKHB recently. Gearing was almost 81 when he died Monday.
In Buffalo, Nolan Johannes was an announcer of the sort you don’t find anymore in TV stations. At WKBW-TV (Channel 7) beginning in 1964, Johannes hosted “Dialing for Dollars” and filled many other on-air posts around the station before moving on in 1982. At his next (and final) stop in Scranton, Johannes reinvented himself as a newsman, taking over from Gary Essex as 6 and 11 PM anchor at top-rated WNEP (Channel 16). Johannes stayed in that chair for 14 years, then returned briefly in 1998, two years after his formal retirement, to fill in on the anchor desk. He died last week in northeast Pennsylvania, at age 81.
A veteran Erie morning host is changing stations again, though it’s all in the family. Craig Warvel was half of the “Martin and Warvel” morning show on WJET before Frank Martin’s retirement. For 13 years now, he’s been half of the morning show on Connoisseur’s WRTS (103.7) with Jessica Curry, but now he’s moving down the hall to sister station WXBB (Bob 94.7) to do mornings there.
*In a 67-season career calling baseball games on radio and TV for six Major League teams, Milo Hamilton called only one World Series win. That was the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979, and it was his last time behind the Bucs’ mike on KDKA (1020). On the heels of calling Henry Aaron’s 715th home run for the Braves in 1974, Hamilton came to the Pirates in 1975 to replace the legendary Bob Prince. Hamilton left for the Cubs in 1980 and then moved to the Astros in 1985, remaining in Houston until his 2012 retirement. Hamilton died Thursday at age 88.
*On the NEW JERSEY shore, WOND (1400 Pleasantville) has named a replacement for Pinky Kravitz. Scott Cronick, the director of entertainment publications for the Press of Atlantic City, moved his “Off the Press” show from 3-4 PM to Kravitz’ former 4-6 PM slot last week.
*In CANADA, Dave Cadeau is the new PD for Rogers’ CJCL (Sportsnet 590 the FAN) in Toronto, moving up from assistant PD to take the slot Don Kollins vacated when he headed to San Francisco’s KGMZ earlier this year.
In Kitchener, Sound of Faith Broadcasting has been granted a frequency change and power increase for CJTW. Now on 94.3, the religious station will move to 93.7, boosting power from 50 to 420 watts.
In Moncton, N.B., CITA (105.1) has been granted a change to commercial operation, joining its sister International Harvesters for Christ stations in Halifax (CJLU 93.9) and Charlottetown (CIOG 91.3), which were already operating commercially.
In Halifax, the CRTC has approved Antoine Karam’s application for a new ethnic FM signal at 99.1. The new CHHU will run 300 watts average/355 watts max DA/224 m, programming 102 hours a week locally (mostly in Arabic) and the remainder simulcasting “Radio Moyen-Orient” CHOU (1450 Montreal).
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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: September 22, 2014
*When we left you at the end of last week’s NERW, we noted that there were some big changes on the way in central PENNSYLVANIA radio ownership – and that more were yet to come.
It didn’t take very long at all for that next shoe to drop, and it’s a pretty big one: on the heels of buying WZWW (95.3 Bellefonte) from First Media (a $2.75 million deal that also included three stations in nearby Lewistown), Kristin Cantrell’s Seven Mountains group is now solidifying its hold on the State College market by combining AC “3WZ” with the three FMs held by Nick Galli’s 2510 Licenses, top-40 “B94.5” WBHV (94.5 State College), oldies WOWY (97.1 University Park) and rock “Eagle”WEMR (98.7 Pleasant Gap).
*When Raphael Opida moved from Entercom to Clear Channel – beg pardon, “iHeartMedia” – here in Rochester a few weeks back, he hinted that there was more involved than just a cross-town CHR move from Entercom’s WPXY (97.9) to Clear/iHeart’s WKGS (106.7). And indeed there was: Raph’s Twitter bio now lists him as being heard in PENNSYLVANIA, on iHeart’s top-40 WIOQ (102.1), where there’s been a vacancy posted for a while.
*A call change on the NEW HAMPSHIRE seacoast: WSKX (95.3 York Center), which serves Portsmouth from just across the Maine state line, is now WTBU to match its new “Bull” country format. That callsign, of course, has a long unofficial history in Boston, where it has long identified Boston University’s carrier-current student station.
Way, way, way up the coast at the eastern tip of MAINE, Shead High School in Eastport has signed off 10-watt WSHD (91.7) and is now on the air with its 100-watt LPFM replacement at 93.3.
*And we close this quiet news week in CANADA, where CKEC (94.1 New Glasgow NS) has officially signed on its new sister station. CKEZ (97.9 Pictou NS) was testing on and off over the summer. It made its for-real debut September 15, as “Classic Rock 97.9.”
In Halifax, Antoine Karam proposed an ethnic station at 99.1 – and while the CRTC agreed that the market could use an ethnic radio voice, Karam’s proposal offered too little local programming and too many hours of simulcasts with Karam’s CHOU (1450 Montreal) for the commission’s taste, and so it’s been dismissed.
Five Years Ago: September 20, 2010
FM news-talk came to New York’s Capital District at midnight, when Clear Channel flipped modern rock WHRL (103.1 Albany) from “Channel 103.1” to WGY-FM, a simulcast of its venerable AM news-talker, WGY (810 Schenectady). As a class A FM signal transmitting from Rensselaer County, across the Hudson from Albany, the new WGY-FM covers only a fraction of the territory served by WGY’s mighty 50 kW clear-channel signal, but it brings WGY’s programming to the younger FM audience – and gives WGY an edge that, for now, AM-only standalone competitor WGDJ (1300 Rensselaer) can’t match.
Shamrock Communications split up a northeast PENNSYLVANIA FM simulcast on Thursday to launch a new format for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market: in place of classic hits WQFM (92.1 Nanticoke), Shamrock is now programming a 90s-heavy alternative format as “Radio 92.1” under new calls WFUZ. For now, at least, the new “Radio 92.1” appears to be running jockless (“more music, less yada yada”), but it’s got an experienced format veteran at its helm: Shamrock operations manager Willobee has programmed this music before at stations such as Vermont’s WEQX. As for the other half of the old “Cool 92 and 100” simulcast, WQFN (100.1 Forest City), it’s now carrying ESPN Radio in tandem with Shamrock’s WEJL (630 Scranton)/WBAX (1240 Wilkes-Barre) and their FM translators in both cities’ downtown areas. The WQFN signal extends the ESPN programming northeast to the Carbondale area; meanwhile, its former downtown Scranton translator on 100.5 is now carrying the WFUZ modern rock programming.
On a relatively quiet week in NEW YORK, we begin with a format change in Binghamton, where Clear Channel quietly flipped WBBI (107.5 Endwell) from classic rock “107.5 the Bear” to classic hits (don’t say “oldies!”) at midnight Wednesday. The new “Big 107.5” includes something the Bear lacked: a live, local morning show. Sonny King, who was last heard in the region at WXHC (101.5 Homer/Cortland) before becoming the victim of budget cuts, got the call – apparently on just a few hours’ notice, we’re told – to do morning drive on “Big.” (King had worked with Binghamton Clear Channel GM Joanne Aloi a few years back at WIII/WKRT in Cortland.) The flip means Binghamton now has two old- er, “classic hits” stations, since Big is competing directly against Equinox’s “Cool 100” (WCDW 100.5 Susquehanna PA).
Eastern MASSACHUSETTS wasn’t slated to get a Catholic radio station until the end of October, but the deal to sell WBIX (1060 Natick) to Holy Family Communications moved ahead of schedule – and so last Wednesday night (Sept. 15) marked the end of business talk on WBIX, followed (after a few hours of silence) by the launch of Catholic programming under new calls WQOM. Alex Langer’s sale of WBIX is valued at $1.5 million – $1 million in cash, plus $500,000 as an in-kind gift to Holy Family.
A surprise format change gave Burlington, VERMONT another top-40 station on Friday. WXZO (96.7 Williston NY) had been running Citadel’s “True Oldies Channel” under the nickname “DOT-FM,” in an attempt to revive the legacy of Burlington’s old WDOT (1400/1390), but it’s now “Planet 96.7,” with a lineup that includes the syndicated New York City-based Elvis Duran morning show and apparently at least a local midday shift.
Another deletion marks the official end of the oldest college station in NEW HAMPSHIRE: Dartmouth College’s WDCR (1340 Hanover) signed on in 1958, continuing a history that began with carrier-current broadcasts as early as the 1940s. But with the later addition of an FM station (WFRD 99.3) and a webcast (WebDCR.com), coupled with serious transmitter and ground-system problems, interest in the AM station waned. It fell silent in August 2008, and was resurrected by a group of alumni in the summer of 2009 for just long enough to keep its license alive. With the one-year silent clock again ticking, Dartmouth recently notified the FCC that it was surrendering the AM license, which has now been officialy cancelled. (Why not sell the AM? The tower sat on Dartmouth property, adjacent to athletic fields, and the college apparently felt buyers would be uninterested in a bare license requiring the speedy location and construction of a new tower site in a municipality known to be hostile to tower construction.)
Ten Years Ago: September 19, 2005
It’s far too early to say whether it’s a brilliant move or just an interesting dead-end, but the outcome of last week’s speculation about the future of The Morey Organization’s three NEW YORK FM stations on Long Island’s East End is certainly stirring debate within the broadcasting community. The new formats on the three stations are collectively known as “FM ChannelCasting,” and the idea – according to TMO – is to bring listeners the same benefits that they’d get from satellite radio, without the expense of buying new equipment or paying a subscription fee.
Late last week, active rock WBON (98.5 Westhampton) became rock “FM Channel 98: Long Island Rock”, dance/top 40 WDRE (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke) became top 40 “FM Channel 105: Party Hits” and modern rock WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) became “FM Channel 107: Neo-Breeze,” an unusual (and interesting-sounding) melange of standards, soft AC and smooth jazz. What’s new about the stations, though, isn’t the music; it’s the programming concept: Morey says “FM ChannelCasting” aims to bring listeners the same benefits they get from satellite radio – long sets of music uninterrupted by DJs or commercial breaks – without the costs. In practice, what it amounts to are jockless 15-minute music sweeps, with just one sponsor for an entire hour of programming and very brief sponsor announcements (15 to 30 seconds) four times an hour. Morey says it hopes to lure nontraditional sponsors, even individuals wishing to honor anniversaries and birthdays and such.
Moving upstate, Double O Radio hopes to add to its dominance in the triangle between Binghamton, Utica and Albany with its $3.8 million deal to buy WDOS (730 Oneonta) and WSRK (103.9 Oneonta) from Ultimate Communications. Double O already owns Oneonta’s only other commercial station, WZOZ (103.1), as well as the stations in nearby Norwich, so this move creates quite the cluster along I-88.
From NEW JERSEY – or is it PENNSYLVANIA – comes word that Nassau has now taken the inevitable next step in the move of WTHK (97.5) into the Philadelphia market. The former WPST changed city of license from Trenton to Burlington a few weeks back, and now it’s applied to move its transmitter from the downtown Trenton site it’s called home since the sixties, all the way into Philadelphia. The move comes with some very tight spacing requirements, though: while there’s no restriction on spacing to third-adjacent WOGL (98.1), thanks to pre-1964 grandfathering, the relocated WTHK can’t increase interference to WIXM (97.3 Millville NJ) or WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue NY), with which it’s also grandfathered, nor can it move much closer to WRVV (97.3 Harrisburg).
The result? As we’d sort of expected, WTHK is applying to move its transmitter to the Wyndmoor section of northern Philadelphia, adjacent to the Mermaid Lane site of WJJZ (106.1). From there, WTHK will be a full class B signal, 43 kW at 525 feet above average terrain, but with a deep directional null to the northwest to protect WRVV and a shallower null to the south and east to protect WIXM. What’s next? Expect the CP to be granted fairly quickly – and then the speculation will build about a sale of the station. Nassau isn’t a big-market player, especially not with a single FM signal, and a full-market FM like this would certainly bring big bucks. Stay tuned…
All-news radio, in English anyway, is now history in one of CANADA’s biggest markets, as Corus quietly pulled the plug on “940 News” at CINW, replacing it with a news-talk hybrid branded as “AM 940, Montreal Radio.” The new AM 940 retains a news-heavy presence in morning and afternoon drive and during the noon hour, but it adds more talk elements outside of drive time, including the syndicated Charles Adler show from 3-5 PM. (Adler also joins the lineup at sister station CFMJ, “AM 640 Toronto,” where he’s heard from 2-4 PM weekdays.)
To the east of Toronto, CKDO (1350 Oshawa) is asking the CRTC for permission to move up the dial to 1580, where it would run 10 kW fulltime (up from the current 10 kW day/5 kW night). The 1580 frequency was where CHUC (1450 Cobourg) was going to move, but now CHUC is headed to the FM dial instead.
Fifteen Years Ago: September 18, 2000
This week’s big news from NEW YORK was, of course, the end of a 75-year tradition at WOR (710), as John R. Gambling parted ways with the station that employed his grandfather, John B., and his father, John A., as hosts of “Rambling With Gambling” weekday mornings. The younger Gambling had hosted the show solo for the last decade. He tells the New York papers that he could have stayed at WOR until the end of his contract in December, but chose to leave with a farewell show that aired last Monday (9/11) on short notice. No replacement has been named yet, and WOR is showing the unusual grace of letting its listeners openly discuss the end of the Gambling dynasty on the air. Where next for John R.? The rumor mill is pointing towards WEVD (1050), as that station struggles for respect as a talk outlet.
Moving upstate, WOFX is the new set of calls for Troy’s AM 980, the first call change there in the station’s history. (The WTRY calls live on at 98.3 FM in Rotterdam, along with the oldies format that had been simulcast on both outlets for years). Now a sports outlet, WOFX will offer Imus, Jim Rome, and Fox Sports Radio to the Capital District.
Syracuse’s big country station, WBBS (104.7 Fulton), can breathe easy — it’s not being challenged by Galaxy Broadcasting after all. The “Big Cow” stunt on WRDS (102.1 Phoenix) last weekend lasted just a day before the former urban station was relaunched (at 8 AM last Monday, 9/11) as “Sunny 102,” variously described to NERW as an AC outlet and as a classic hits station. Whatever it’s playing, the new Sunny has Bill Baker as morning man, returning home to Syracuse (where he was WSYR 570’s morning host for years) from a stint down in Richmond.
A broadcaster who left his mark on MASSACHUSETTS radio died last month down in Florida. Richard M. Fairbanks took Framingham’s WKOX from a kilowatt daytimer to a major local voice in the MetroWest area, and helped make FM a force in the Boston market in the early seventies by flipping WKOX-FM to rock as WVBF (105.7), named for his wife Virginia B. Fairbanks. Fairbanks Broadcasting was founded way back in 1948 to purchase WIBC (1070) in Indianapolis. Fairbanks (who was the last surviving grandson of Teddy Roosevelt’s vice president, Charles W. Fairbanks) sold most of his properties in the last decade, leaving just WKOX in his portfolio at the end. He was 88 when he died August 11 at his home in Key Largo. Funeral services were held in Indianapolis August 13.
Twenty Years Ago: September 18, 1995