➦In 1922...WHB-AM, Kansas City, Missouri, began broadcasting.
fadedsignals.com, Sam Adair and John Schilling signed WHB on the air in 1922 from Kansas City. Cook Paint and Varnish Company purchased the station in 1930. It was an independent station until becoming a Mutual Network affiliate in 1936.
WHB operated as a daytime-only station until the FCC granted it full-time status in 1946.
Cook sold WHB-AM to Omaha entrepreneur Todd Storz in 1954. He enjoyed success with a Top 40 pop format on his stations in Omaha and New Orleans. Storz flipped WHB to the nation’s first 24-hour Top 40 format. It became Kansas City’s most popular station by the end of the year.
WHB-AM’s 10,000-watt signal made the station one of the most powerful Top 40 stations in the country. It became a model for many stations around the nation seeking to copy the success of the Top 40 format.
Here’s a sample of what WHB sounded like in 1960:
Storz Broadcasting sold WHB to Shamrock Broadcasting in 1985. The new owner dropped Top 40 for a oldies. In 1989, KCMO-FM flipped to oldies, drawing away WHB-AM’s listeners.
WHB began simulcasting a farm/country music format in 1993. It swapped frequencies with KCMO-AM in 1998, giving the station a larger daytime coverage area. (DA50Kw-D, DA5Kw-Night). WHB had been broadcasting at 710 AM (DA10Kw-Day, DA5Kw-Night).
Union Broadcasting purchased WHB and flipped the station to its current sports format in 1999.
➦In 1927…In Boston, the Hotel Statler became the first such establishment to install radio headsets in each of its (1,300) rooms.
➦In 1934...announcer & voice actor Gary Owens was born in Mitchell South Dakota. After beginning in midwest radio in the 1950’s he moved to California and ended up with a two-decade career being creatively funny in afternoon drive at KMPC Los Angeles. As well as providing voices for cartoons like Roger Ramjet, he became widely known nationally as the hand-cupping-the-ear over-the-top announcer on NBC-TV’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Owens died Feb. 12, 2015 at age 80 from complications due to diabetes, a condition diagnosed in childhood.
➦In 1954...Bill Haley and the Comets released the classic "Rock Around The Clock," which became the first rock and roll song to top the charts.
➦In 1972…Writer/producer (radio serials The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet and Challenge of the Yukon)/lawyer/publisher/radio station owner (Michigan's WXYZ-Detroit, WOOD-Grand Rapids, WPON-Pontiac) George W. Trendle died at age 87.
A noted penny-pincher, Trendle specified that the music on WXYZ shows should be non-copyrighted classical so that the station would not have to pay royalties or performance fees. This is the reason the "William Tell Overture" was adopted as "The Lone Ranger" theme and "The Flight of the Bumble Bee" became the theme for "The Green Hornet."
Here is an episode of The Lone Ranger from 1937...
➦In 1982...Top 40 formatted WABC 770 AM, New York City, played it's last record before converting to talk Radio.
WABC ended its 22-year run as a music station with a 9 am–noon farewell show hosted by Dan Ingram and Ron Lundy. The last song played on WABC before the format change was "Imagine" by John Lennon, followed by the familiar WABC "Chime Time" jingle, then a moment of silence before the debut of the new talk format.
In 1959, Harold L. Neal, Jr. was named General Manager of WABC. Neal had been at WXYZ in Detroit. He was charged with making WABC successful in terms of both audience and profits. By 1960, WABC committed to a virtually full-time schedule of top-40 songs played by upbeat personalities during the first week of December 1960. Still, WABC played a few popular non-rock and roll songs as well. WABC's early days as a Top 40 station were humble ones.
Top 40 WINS was the No. 1 music station and WMCA, which did a similar rock leaning top 40 format, was also a formidable competitor, while WABC barely ranked in the Top Ten. Fortunately for WABC, the other Top 40 outlets could not be heard well in certain New York and New Jersey suburbs, since WINS, WMGM, and WMCA were all directional stations. WABC, with its 50,000-watt non-directional signal, had the advantage of being heard in places west, south, and northwest – a huge chunk of the suburban population – and this is where the station began to draw ratings. Early in 1962, WMGM, owned by Loew's, which then owned MGM, was sold to Storer Broadcasting. Upon its sale, WMGM reverted to its original WHN call letters and switched to a MOR music format playing easy listening and, unlike WNEW which played limited amounts of soft rock and roll, absolutely no rock and roll except maybe Ray Charles or Bobby Darin. WHN was considered MOR because it was vocal based and played about 75 to 80% vocals and the rest instrumentals.
(Note: Musicradio 77 WABC History segments were compiled by Ellis b. Feaster. Feaster is now morning host on Contemporary Christian WPOZ 88.3 FM in Orlando, FL. Thanks for the work Ellis!)
Sam Holman was the first WABC program director of this era. Under Holman, WABC achieved No. 1 ratings during much of 1962, after WMGM reverted to WHN. By the summer of 1963, WMCA led the pack, with WABC at No. 2 and WINS slipping to third place. It has been said, but is difficult to verify, that WMCA dominated in the city proper, while WABC owned the suburbs. This would be consistent with WMCA's 5,000-watt directional signal, although WMCA had the benefit of a lower frequency than WABC.
Then, Hal Neal hired Rick Sklar as the program director. Sklar would go on to become a member of the Radio Hall of Fame and be credited as one of the pioneering architects of the Top 40 format.
WABC was known by various slogans, "Channel 77 WABC", then "77 WABC", and later "Musicradio WABC". Also, like WMCA did, WABC played no more than two songs in a row and there was heavy talk and personality between every song. The station averaged 6 short commercial breaks per hour but they were short and no more than 3 ads in a row. Voiceovers by the live airpersonality on the air were often part of the commercial.
|WABC Daytime Coverage Map|
Especially in the afternoons and evenings, WABC was the station that teenagers could be heard listening to on transistor radios all over the New York metropolitan area. Due to its strong signal, the station could be heard easily over 100 miles away—as far as the Catskill Mountains, Pocono Mountains and outlying areas of Philadelphia.
WABC's ratings strength came from its cumulative audience. Most listeners didn't stay with WABC for long periods of time, as the station had some of the shortest "time spent listening" (or TSL) spans in the history of music radio—an average listener spent about 10 minutes listening to WABC. It was the price paid for a short playlist, and numerous commercials between songs, but what WABC lacked in TSL it more than made up for with its sheer number of listeners.
The end of the 1970s found FM radio beginning to overtake AM music stations in most markets. In June 1975, an FM station on 92.3, owned by the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Racing Association flipped to Soft Rock and became known as Mellow 92 WKTU. That station had very low ratings and had no effect on WABC. But on July 24, 1978, at 6 PM, WKTU abruptly dropped its Soft Rock format in favor of a disco-based top 40 format known as "Disco 92". By December of that year, WABC was unseated, as WKTU became the No. 1 station in New York City. The first "disco" ratings saw WKTU with 11 percent of the listening audience—a huge number anywhere, let alone in a market the size of New York City—and WABC dropping from 4.1 million listeners to 3 million, losing 25 percent of its audience practically overnight.
After this initial ratings tumble, WABC panicked and began mixing in several extended disco mixes per hour and sometimes played two back-to-back. Some of the disco songs ran in excess of eight minutes. What regular listeners heard was a major change in sound. While the station continued playing non-disco and rock songs about a third of the time, familiar format had seemed to disappear and as a result, WABC began to lose its identity.
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