Growing up, I was always listening to Top 40 radio stations like Musicradio 77 WABC-AM, in New York City. I remember listening to Chuck Leonard at night, with a little transistor radio under my pillow. What kid hasn't done that?
As I got into high school, I graduated from Top 40 to real rock music, listening to WABC-FM sister station, 95.5 WPLJ-FM, which called itself "New York's Best Rock." We also had true progressive radio with WNEW-FM, "Where Rock Lives."
Each had great DJs, many of whom I met over the years. When I was in college, my friend Fred and I used to go into Manhattan, at least once a month, to walk around and visit our radio friends.
In radio, especially New York City, everyone knows everyone and then some. Once you got friendly with one person, a whole world opened up of all their radio friends. It was a great time to be in radio and know people that worked in radio. The DJs actually picked up their own phones back then!
In 1976, the NBC Owned and Operated all-news station in New York City, WNWS-FM 97.1 changed formats on 1 January, and WYNY-FM became Movin' Easy Y97. Some of the first DJs included some of the former news staff, including Don Rollins, Don Reynolds and Mitch Lebe; in his teens, he started his career in New York City radio. That earned him the nickname, "The Teenage Disc Jockey" at WINS-AM.
Other air personalities included Bree Bushaw, Herb Barry and John Vidaver. I came to know Herb and John fairly well; I am still friends with Herb, today. Vidaver faded away into the wetlands of New Jersey, after he left WYNY.
For a rock fan, such as me, to like a soft rock station like WYNY-FM was an oxymoron. The DJs only had a certain amount of talk time an hour, which a computer controlled. It turned the microphone on and off; gawd help the jock who didn't time his breaks correctly.
I started to notice a pattern, especially at night. The same songs played at the same time every night for weeks on end. I thought someone was asleep at the controls. It turned out that nobody bothered to change the 10-inch reels of tape that held the music supplied by Bonneville International, a radio content supplier. If the average listener burned out on the same songs, I can only imagine how the DJs felt.
There was one night where one of the stereo channels was completely out. I called one of the Dons to tell him what was going on. He thanked me and soon after it was back on.
I often recorded some of their music specials, especially Billy Joel and “The Beatles.” I mentioned that to John Vidaver and he asked if the station could borrow the tape, because something happened to their copy. I said okay as long as I got it back. I wasn't set up at that time to make copies, as I am now.
In 1987, after numerous types of Adult Contemporary formats, WYNY-FM became "Country 97," with a gold-based country format. Then on 22 September 1988, WYNY-FM and WQHT-FM flipped frequencies. We now had "Hot 97" and "Country 103.5"
Now that I'm an old fart, as a couple of coworkers recently called me, I miss the soft rock radio stations. Sure, we have WLTW-FM Lite 106.7, but there is nothing lite about them anymore. There were three soft rock stations; now two soft rock stations I listen to on the Internet. The first was KIFM in San Diego, which recently changed it format from soft adult contemporary to straight ahead AC.
In Miami, Florida, two stations are battling it out for that soft rock listener and they are only tenths of a rating point apart. One is Entercom's WLYF-FM101.5 Lite FM and Cox Radio's WFEZ-FM Easy 93.1. They have two things in common. The first is current WFEZ-FM weekend personality, Ellen Jaffe, who used to do nights at WLYF-FM. The second is current WLYF-FM afternoon host, Kimba, who left WLYF-FM for WFEZ-FM and returned to WLYF-FM, in 2014.
The argument against soft rock stations is that they attract older demographics that advertisers don't want. Advertisers covet the 24-54 demographic and those over 54 years of age don’t count. Are you kidding me? Over 54s more disposable income than any 24-year-old does. As we get older, hopefully, we make more money and buy more stuff.
You know what George Carlin says about your stuff. It multiplies at night when you're not watching it. That's how we get more stuff!
I truly wish that New York had that soft rock broadcast station. Sure, I can get it on any number of apps from my phone, but I like the personality of a DJ to come through, even though their time may be short.
I like a voice talking to me from that magical box in my car or home.
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
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