Category Archives: Radio’s Good ‘Ol Days

U100 WYOO AM/FM Minneapolis/St. Paul Revisited

40 years ago today, the greatest radio station in Twin Cities history pulled the plug and went dark. Now of course, that’s my personal opinion and many will disagree. But in my mind, U100 aka “The Supah Yeww” will always be the ultimate radio station to ever grace the Minneapolis/St. Paul airwaves.

U100 was actually two stations simulcasting as one: 980 AM and 101.3 FM. These stations began life as WPBC, the People’s Broadcasting Company. Husband and wife team Bill and Becky Ann Stewart owned the stations. The format was best described as Easy Listening. Or, as WPBC put it in their promotional announcements: “Playing more of the prettier, popular music for easier listening.” The Metropolitan Opera was broadcast on Saturdays. Rock and roll was absolutely forbidden on WPBC. It was rumored that Becky Ann even went as far as to scratch out album cuts which were “too loud” with the point of a compass in order to keep the airstaff from playing them.

In 1972, WPBC AM/FM were sold to Fairchild Industries. The stations were split and both formats were flipped. WYOO-AM 980 “The New YOO in the Twin Cities” broadcast a mix of mostly 1950s oldies and nostalgia programming. WRAH-FM 101.3 “Rah-dio for the Twin Cities” was automated, focusing on rock album cuts. The results were disappointing, both in terms or ratings and advertising revenue. Less than 2 years later, management made the decision to flip both stations to an AM/FM simulcast hybrid Rock/Top 40 format.

U100 was born on August 26, 1974. Live at the Minnesota State Fair, Program Director Rob Sherwood abruptly brought an end to WYOO’s Oldies format. Throwing the cart across the trailer, he promised not to play any more “turkey records.” Rob then played Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends”, announcing that since he had left KDWB five months earlier with this song, “I guess I’ll come back with this song. A new era in Twin Cities broadcasting…as we introduce you to boogie! Are you ready to boogie?” This was followed by a montage of the entire U100 jingle package. Which in turn was followed by the J. Geils Band’s “Give it to Me.”

U100 was in many ways an innovative station far ahead of it’s time. For starters, they broadcast in FM Stereo as well as standard AM. This was a big deal in 1974. All of WYOO’s competitors were available on AM only. The format was “Rock 40”, more than 10 years before Dan Kieley coined the term at KKRC/Sioux Falls. Sure, U100 played the current Top 40 hits by KC & the Sunshine Band, Wild Cherry, Hall & Oates, and Elton John. But they also played album cuts from Led Zeppelin, Yes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and many others. They also played the longer album versions of current hits, rather than the short “45 versions.” Two that immediately come to mind are “She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates and “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship. The latter was somewhat controversial due to it’s racy lyric content.

Which leads me to the most important reason I loved U100: their DJs were radical. Always pushing the envelope. The station even billed itself as “OUTRAGEOUS!” in their promotional literature. Drug references were subtle but frequent. The infamous “U100 Grabs Me” T-shirt had a pair of hands strategically placed right where a female’s ‘special features’ would be. Afternoon jock Chucker Morgan called himself “The Mother Chucker”, a play on words for you-know-what. He also hosted “Chucker’s Leak Line” where kids could call and leak test answers to other students. Parents and teachers hated that feature, of course. Teenagers loved it! Each weeknight at 10:30, “Boogie Check” allowed listeners to call in and speak their mind, tell a joke, or whatever. I had just started the 7th grade at Valley Middle school when U100 went off the air. It was an absolutely huge deal around school. Many kids wore their U100 T-shirts backwards or inside-out in protest. It was like losing a friend. More than any other radio station, it was U100 that inspired me to pursue a career of my own behind the microphone. John Records Landecker of WLS was the jock who had the most influence on me, but WYOO was my most influential station.

Why did U100 die? Depends on who you ask. Some claim it was simply impossible for them to compete against 3 other well-established stations. Minneapolis/St. Paul was unique in that it was the only market at the time with FOUR Top 40 outlets. KDWB-AM 630 and WDGY AM-1130 had been playing rock and roll since the 1950s. KSTP AM-1500 was a fairly recent convert to the format but had the money and the muscle of Stanley S. Hubbard’s Hubbard Broadcasting behind them. All 3 of U100’s competitors had bigger budgets and larger promotional warchests. Others claim that Doubleday (KDWB’s parent company) made Fairchild an offer for their FM frequency that was simply too good to pass up. By this time, it was early 1976. Top 40 stations had begun migrating from AM to FM in select markets. Smart programmers and owners knew the future of this format was in high fidelity FM stereo, not scratchy AM mono. In any case, the FM station was sold to Doubleday and would become KDWB-FM 101.3. Since FCC rules prohibited a company from owning more than one AM and one FM per market, the AM facility was sold to local Beautiful Music broadcaster WAYL-FM.

Just before midnight on Wednesday, September 15, 1976, U100 night DJ JoJo Gunne played the station’s signature song: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” At it’s conclusion, JoJo thanked the audience, saying “Remember, I love ya”, kissing the microphone, and then “We gone, bye bye” into Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends.” At the song’s conclusion, just a hurried Legal ID: “WYOO AM and FM stereo Richfield now leaves the air.” The transmitter was quickly turned off, presumably to comply with the 12:00:00 deadline. Just like that, the greatest radio station in Twin Cities history was gone forever. Across town, KDWB overnight DJ Mark Ranier gleefully announced “and they just went down for the last time!”

At 6:00AM on September 16, KDWB began their 101.3 FM simulcast as “The All New KDWB, FM-101 and AM-63.” On Monday, September 20, WAYL assumed control of the 980 AM frequency. I find it amazing how a station that was on the air for barely 2 years had such a profound effect on Twin Cities radio and it’s listeners. To this day, people in Minnesota still remember and reminisce about “The Boogie Station”, “Fun Lovin’ Super U”, “The Acapulco Gold Countdown”, and of course “Boogie Check.” For those of us lucky enough to grow up in that time and place, the day the music died was exactly 40 years ago today. Right On, Super Yeww!

Rewound Radio WOR-FM 98.7 Labor Day Weekend Special

Leave it to Allan Sniffen to come up with another great Rewound Radio special for Labor Day weekend! As you may recall, Rewound Radio brought us a full July 4th weekend of Dan Ingram airchecks. Not to mention the WABC Memorial Day weekend special!

For Labor Day, Allan is presenting the glory days of WOR FM Stereo in New York City. “The Big Town Sound” on 98.7. Original WOR-FM shows from 1967 to 1971. You’ll hear the original WOR DJ’s, music, and the distinct sound of Drake/Chenault Top 40 Radio in the 1960s and 70s. You can hear it all 3 days: Saturday, Sunday, and Labor Day Monday. Don’t miss Rewound Radio’s Labor Day weekend tribute to WOR-FM!

670 WMAQ Chicago: A Look Back at the Q 1922-2000

If you haven’t yet seen this, Scott Childers gives us an excellent timeline of Chicago’s WMAQ. Scott starts at the beginning: 1922, when it first signed on as WGU. The big 670’s days as a legendary country outlet and flagship station of the Chicago White Sox are covered. “WMAQ’s gonna make me rich!” The short-lived talk format and WMAQ All News 67 are also explained in detail. Finally, the sad demise in 2000 as CBS dumped 78 years of radio history, killing WMAQ and replacing it with The Score WSCR-AM.

Scott covers it all in his Chicago Radio Time Capsule. It’s well worth the read.

Rewound Radio Dan Ingram 4th of July Weekend Special

Allen Sniffen and his crew comes through again with a GREAT Rewound Radio holiday weekend special! “The Life & Times of Dan Ingram: In His Own Words” airs on Saturday, July 2, 2016 at 12 Noon Eastern Time. It’s a big SIX hour tribute to one of the greatest Top 40 radio personalities the world has ever known. At the conclusion of the program, “Dan Ingram Electric Radio Theater” will begin. Continuous Dan Ingram airchecks all the way through the 4th of July. Don’t miss it!

Rewound Radio WABC Memorial Day Weekend Special

Looking for something to listen to this holiday weekend? Check out Rewound Radio’s “WABC Rewound 2016”, now through Memorial Day. Enjoy original Musicradio 77 WABC Shows with everything that was included when they aired the first timn: the DJ’s, the commercials, the jingles, AND the music!

Allan Sniffen and his friends did a GREAT job with this! In cases where the original airchecks were scoped, the music has been restored. Not only was the music added back in, but it was compressed and processed correctly to give that authentic AM radio sound that we all knew and loved back in the day. I have been listening on my smartphone via the small built-in speaker. This sounds almost exactly like the pocket transistor radios on which these Musicradio 77 shows were heard in the 1960s and 70s!

Dan Ingram, Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow), Harry Harrison, Ron Lundy, Roby Younge, George Michael, Johnny Donovan, Herb Oscar Anderson, Scott Muni, Bob Dayton, Bob-a-Loo (Bob Lewis) Charlie Greer, Frank Kingston Smith, and many more. They’re all on Rewound Radio this weekend. Give it a listen!

Remembering Radio & Records ‘Opportunities’

Time again for Drew to put on his “Old Radio Guy” hat and wax nostalgically about something we all knew and loved back in the day. The “Opportunities” section of Radio & Records magazine was where all the job openings were posted. As my friend Rob Walker said, “”it was always the first page you flipped to.”

Unless of course your PD or GM kept it locked in his desk. Many did, including a few whom I worked for. This is where being the night jock proved advantageous. Since there was rarely anyone in the offices after 5PM, the night jock was able to devise ways of opening the desk and retrieving the R&R. As a wayward youth who was always searching for a better radio gig, I must admit I became an expert at jimmying locks which supposedly protected the contents of managers’ desk drawers.

R&R Opportunities could also serve as a vehicle for assorted dirty tricks against your competitors. Did anyone ever post a fake “Situations Wanted” ad for a competitor and then make sure their PD or GM found out about it? How about responding to a job posting by sending an aircheck of the guy across town because he was good and you wanted him out of your market? I plead the Fifth on both of these questions.

A Radio Geek Looks at 50

Two days ago, I celebrated my 50th birthday. It’s true, kids: your author is as old as the Ford Mustang! By the way, I’ve been thinking it would be great to commemorate this occasion by purchasing a new 2014 Mustang GT. If you’d like to contribute to the fund for my indulgence, please let me know! 🙂

Most 50-year-olds are looking forward to retirement. I’m not. Instead, I’m searching for a new adventure. I don’t feel 50. Not in the least. I suppose this is because I have never been married and don’t have any kids. I basically live the same way now as I did when I was 25. Minus all the stupid things that I did in my wayward youth, of course.

On my birthday, I thought back to all the places I’ve been, all the accomplishments I’ve made, and how much the world has changed over the past 5 decades. My maternal grandmother lived to be 100 years old. She used to tell me how technology had progressed throughout her lifetime. She had witnessed the birth of the telephone, the automobile, radio, television, computers, and the Internet. Indeed, she was fortunate to have lived during the time of the greatest technological innovations this world has ever seen.

Specifically, I began thinking about all the changes radio has gone through during my life. When I was born in 1964, radio was the dominant medium in the U.S. Television was still in it’s infancy. Not everyone had a TV. But nearly every household had a radio. Most cars had radios. Aside from a few educational, “beautiful music”, and experimental stations, there was no FM to speak of. When someone said “radio”, they meant AM. Amplitude Modulation. Ancient Mary. 540 to 1600 kilohertz. Music of the Beatles had just arrived in America. The radio dial was filled with high energy, personality DJs who brought those sounds into our homes and our cars. The first song I remember hearing on the radio was “Penny Lane” at age 3.

Throughout the 1970s, commercial radio was vibrant and profitable. FM radio became a force to be reckoned with in many markets. In Minneapolis, our first Top 40 FM was WYOO-FM 101.3, known as “U100.” I remember hearing it in glorious FM stereo and thinking “the music sounds so much better on this station.” CB radio became popular, due to the truckers’ strike and the record “Convoy” by C.W. McCall. Now, the average person could talk to others by using inexpensive 2-way mobile radios in their cars and with “base stations” at home. CB radio was the cell phone and the Facebook of the 1970s and 80s.

In the 1980s, radio remained strong. FCC regulations prohibited any one entity from owning more than 7 AM, 7 FM, and 7 TV stations. This was known as “the 7-7-7 rule.” In 1985, the limits were raised to 12 AM, 12 FM, and 12 TV. So for the most part, radio stations were independently owned and operated. Now, more people listened to FM vs AM. Top 40 was now known as “CHR” or Contemporary Hit Radio. It was very much an exciting time to get started as a broadcaster, as I did in 1983. The future was bright on the airwaves!

The 1990s were the beginning of the end. “Duopoly” passed in 1992. Radio entities could now own two AM and two FM stations per market. Total ownership caps were raised to 18 AM and 18 FM stations. This profoundly changed the radio landscape in many markets. Now, instead of owning a sole FM station and trying to make it dominant, companies would often use a second frequency as a “flanker” station to protect their cash cow. If your established FM was traditional country FM, you would program “Young Country” or “New Country” on the new station. If your established FM was running a rock format, put “Alternative” or “Modern Rock” on the recently acquired station. The purpose was to “tag team” a direct competitor or to keep another company from launching a direct competitor against you. In 1996, the ownership caps were basically eliminated as the Telecommunications Act was passed. This allowed huge national conglomerates like Clear Channel and Cumulus to purchase hundreds of radio stations and operate multi-station “clusters” in several markets.

The new millennium saw increasing levels of radio consolidation. Many independent owners sold out to the national operators, often for a huge profit. Faster computers and improved Internet/Intranet technology allowed the proliferation of voice tracking. One DJ could now prerecord shows for multiple stations in their cluster and/or for multiple markets. Jobs were cut and live airstaffs reduced as companies realized the cost savings of sharing voice talent among several stations. Listeners soon discovered radio was not as entertaining as it used to be. The local disc-jockey had been replaced by an unknown voice, often emanating from several states away. First listenership, then revenues began to fall in many markets.

In 2014, radio is very much a corporate playground. In all but the smallest markets, the radio landscape is dominated by the large national conglomerates. Nationally syndicated morning hosts have replaced local talents. Radio’s share of the media pie continues to shrink. It has become a downward spiral. Faced with lower ratings and revenues, companies continue to cut payroll costs by eliminating more live personalities. This causes ratings and revenues to sink even lower. The process then repeats itself. It’s a race to the bottom. My last day on-the-air was Friday, May 21, 1999. I saw this “consolidation tsunami” approaching and decided to cash out of the game before the house of cards came tumbling down.

Can the present state of radio be reversed? I certainly hope so. Even though I have been “out” for 15 years, I still love the industry very much. The existence of this website should provide sufficient proof! I would like to get back in the game someday IF the landscape and the outlook for radio’s future were to improve markedly. That’s a big “if.” But all things are possible. Time will tell. Until then, this 50-year-old radio geek still has 5 decades of great memories to look back on.

Check Out These 11 Abandoned Radio Stations

Usually, when a radio station “goes dark”, all the equipment is removed from the location. The building is either sold to a new business. If it’s in extremely bad condition, the site is bulldozed to make way for new construction. Sometimes, however, the facility is simply abandoned. Years later, it still exists as it was except for the inevitable vandalism and weather damage.

Here are eleven abandoned radio stations. WARNING: If you love radio as much as I do, these photos will be painful to look at. These facilities are all in terrible shape, having been left for dead several years ago.

Interesting story regarding one of the stations: the building which originally housed WGGG-AM 1230 in Gainesville, Florida was later used by Entercom’s WKTK-FM 98.5. Licensed to Crystal River, WKTK required a STL hop of over 30 miles to their transmitter at Morriston. Local ordinances prohibited the construction of towers at the height that would be required for a microwave link at that distance. However, existing towers were grandfathered and allowed to remain. This is where WGGG comes in. Entercom took the lower half of the 1230 transmitting tower and used it to support the large STL dish which pointed SSW towards Morriston. Even though it was a self-supporting tower, the old WGGG stick was guy-wired to provide reinforcement. Because if that tower were to collapse in a wind storm, it could not be rebuilt. WKTK would then have no way of getting a signal from it’s Gainesville studio to the transmitter.

This facility was used for several years with excellent results. Now, of course, modern digital technology has eliminated the need for long distance analog studio-to-transmitter links via microwave. WKTK and sister station WSKY-FM 97.3 now broadcast from a new facility on NW 43rd St. Last time I checked, the old WGGG/WKTK building and tower is still standing at 1440 NE Waldo Road. The large STL dish has been removed.

The Customers Called: We Want Our Old Radio Shack Back!

Did you happen to catch Radio Shack’s commercial during the Big Game this past weekend? It was a great flashback to Radio Shack stores of the 1980s. The spot began with a Radio Shack employee talking on the phone. When the call was finished, he tells his co-worker “The 80s called. They want their store back.” As a huge Radio Shack fan of past decades, I would say “Your old customers called. We want our 1970s/80s Radio Shack back!”

As a child of the seventies and early eighties, Radio Shack was that one special store. It was the retailer I loved more than any other. I would beg my mom to take me there whenever we were out shopping. They had a “Battery of the Month Club” to get people into the stores. You were issued a card which you would then bring back each month for a free battery. Your choice of “D”, “C”, “AA”, or 9-volt cells. I would always choose a 9-volt because they were the most expensive and also because I had several transistor radios and walkie-talkies which used these batteries. Of course, I had multiple cards: one for each Radio Shack store in my area!

When I was 8, I built my first radio transmitter. Naturally, it came from Radio Shack. The Science Fair AM Broadcaster Kit cost $7.95 and contained all the necessary parts to build a low power AM transmitter. Once assembled, it would transmit to a distance of about 40 feet. Your parents could hear you and so could the next-door neighbors if you lived close enough. After learning how to perform a few “modifications”, the rest of the neighborhood could hear me, too 🙂

Also when I was 8, I received a Archer Space Patrol Base Station for Christmas. This was a self-contained unit that would receive all 23 CB channels as well as standard AM broadcasts. It would also transmit with low power on CB Channel 14. (This was the channel that nearly all of the “kiddie” walkie-talkies used at the time.) For me, it was an introduction to the wonderful world of CB radio. A few years later when I got a “real” CB, the antenna, coaxial cable, and mounting hardware all came from Radio Shack.

I can’t count the number of other products that I purchased from Radio Shack during this time: TV antennas, FM antennas, antenna rotors, police scanners, car stereos, electronic project kits (remember the P-Box kits?), FlavoRadios, Deskube radios, soldering pencils, tape recorders, and parts. Oh, those glorious parts aisles of yestetyear! A seemingly endless number of peg hooks, each holding a specific value of transistor, resistor, diode, capacitor, or cable connector/adapter. I made so many parts purchases that I knew the layout better than the employees. I’d walk in, the guy or gal behind the counter would say “Can I help you”, and I’d respond “I know where it is. Thanks!”

I sure miss the Radio Shack stores of the 1970s and 80s. Are they ever coming back? Doubtful. Very doubtful. Recent reports suggest the company is getting ready to close around 500 stores. This is in addition to the several hundred that were closed back in 2006. Will The Shack survive in it’s present form? Guess we’ll have to wait and see. But wouldn’t it be fun to travel back in time and walk through the doors of that Radio Shack store as it was in 1975? We can dream, can’t we?

KFYR Bismarck ND 50th Anniversary 1975 Memories

I’ve always been a big fan of Bismarck, North Dakota’s KFYR. Since my maternal grandparents lived near Devils Lake, I became familiar with this station at an early age. With the largest daytime coverage in the United States, KFYR’s massive signal footprint covered parts of 6 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The station boasted of 5 state coverage, but they were being modest by not counting Iowa. Having lived in Sioux City during the 1980s, I can tell you that KFYR was easily receivable in northwest Iowa. This amazing range was due to the combination of the incredible soil conductivity in the region plus the low dial position. Those AM radio waves have very long legs at 550Khz!

It wasn’t just the big signal that made KFYR special. More than anything else, it was the people and the personalities! KFYR sounded much larger than Bismarck, a city with a population of around 35,000 at the time. The talent and caliber of programming on this station would have been competitive in any large market. I grew up in Minneapolis, and I would rate KFYR as an equal with any of our four Top 40 outlets of the day: KDWB, WYOO, WDGY, and KSTP.

1975 marked the 50th anniversary of KFYR. R. David Adams held down the evening shift from 8:00PM-1:00AM. A few days ago, I stumbled across some YouTube videos which he had produced. The audio consists of airchecks which were made during the time of the anniversary celebration. The video features photos, newspaper clippings, and sales literature which was distributed by the station. As evidenced by the music being played, there are also a few segments from 1976. These videos offer a rare look/listen at KFYR’s glory days of the 1970s, so I wanted to include them here on RadioGeekHeaven.

Featured on this collection of KFYR aircheck videos:

Orly Knutson aka “The Happy Norwegian”: Mornings
Al Gustin: Farm/Ag News
Dan Brannan: Program Director & Middays
Sid Hardt: Afternoons
R. David Adams aka “The Dakota Mother”: Evenings
Black Jack Dave Novak: Overnights
Smokin’ Joe: Weekends

Finally, a big “THANK YOU” to R. David Adams for preserving these classic North Dakota radio history artifacts and making them available for us to enjoy!