Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
With apologies for a bit of an unscheduled break in the Site of the Week action, we’re back in action, starting with a little overnight jaunt we took early last summer to hear some small town radio history.
The most direct drive from our home base in Rochester to Oneonta, up in the hills between Binghamton and Albany, takes three hours or so – but what’s the fun in that?
We wanted to hear some station IDs that were changing as part of a big ownership shift in the Elmira-Corning market, so we took a roundabout route, driving south to Corning for dinner along historic Market Street while recording airchecks.
It was after business hours, but we took a peek at the storefront studios along Market Street just as things were changing. For many years, the radio group that eventually became Sound Communications had a nice Market Street space for its stations, including “Magic 92.7/97.7” (WENI-FM/WENY-FM), talk WENY (1230)/WENI (1450), “Gem” WGMM (98.7) and eventually also Hornell’s WKPQ (105.3), but after being sold to Seven Mountains (with some signals spun off to Family Life), the Sound studios were about to shut down at the end of June 2021. Peering through the window, we could still see the old “Magic” and “Gem” automation churning away, even though those signals had already gone off the air.
A couple of doors away, the first station to call Market Street home is still there: Fox affiliate WYDC (Channel 48), which has a small control room easily visible through the big window in front, especially after dark. (One of these days, we’ll manage to get an actual tour inside here!)
It was a pleasant summer night’s drive east to Binghamton and then up Route 12 to Norwich, where a cheap hotel room awaited us so that we could set up recorders for the last show on June 30 from “Big Chuck” D’Imperio, the longtime Oneonta morning host who was retiring from Townsquare Media, where his show on WDOS (730) was eventually simulcast on WCHN (970 Norwich) and WDLA (1270 Walton).
The next morning, we listened to Chuck’s first hour on WCHN before driving through the hills along Route 23 over to Oneonta to say hello, goodbye and get a quick tour of the Townsquare studios, tucked away on a side street downtown.
Townsquare’s amalgamation of most of the commercial radio in this area eventually included those three AMs, plus two Norwich FMs, country WBKT (95.3) and the big AC signal of WKXZ (93.9), as well as Oneonta’s two commercial FMs, WZOZ (103.1) and WSRK (103.9), plus four more FMs to the south in the Walton-Delhi area.
We weren’t going to chase all of those towers, but the drive over to Oneonta at least took us close enough to get a shot of the WKXZ tower, whose signal reaches almost from Binghamton to Utica on a good day.
For all of those stations under the Townsquare umbrella, the studio facility was pretty quiet in morning drive, except for the parade of local notables stopping by to present Big Chuck with plaques and proclamations as he ended more than 30 years on local radio.
The studio at the front of the facility with the sidewalk view is home to the only other live morning show going on here, Leslie Ann on classic hits WZOZ, and we enjoy a quick conversation with her about her Buffalo roots.
Big Chuck made his radio home in the next studio down the hall, with a little Wheatstone board for the only local show that was on the WDOS/WCHN/WDLA network (and which was subsequently replaced by syndication after Chuck’s retirement.)
Otherwise? Syndication and automation – Anna and Raven from Connecticut on WSRK, Bob and Sheri from North Carolina on WKXZ, Big D & Bubba on “Big Cat” WBKT, and so on. For a little while, though, we enjoyed the last bits of local hometown radio as Big Chuck said his farewells, and then we headed back home… the more direct way.
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND….
It’s the annual Tower Site Calendar!
This is the 23rd edition of our popular wall calendar, featuring gorgeous full-color photos of tower and transmitter sites from around the country, and sometimes the world. Our photos capture the sites throughout the day and throughout the year.
This makes a great gift for the tower enthusiast in your life — or a special treat for yourself!
Because it’s not yet off the press, we’re offering a pre-production price of $20. Once the calendar is printed, the price will go up to our regular price of $21.
Don’t wait – order yours today!
We have the Radio Historian’s Calendar again this year, too. There are only 25 in stock and they sell fast, so don’t wait to order.
And don’t miss a big batch of where IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Jamestown, New York