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!