April 19, 2014

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Radio's Top 10

My favorite radio stations of all time...and I know you've heard at least a couple of them!

Last December, a site called Hz (Hurts) So Good listed its followers preference for their all-time favorite radio stations.

It seems like I've been listening to radio all my life (and worked in it it for a few years). It began with a station in Cleveland called KYW (which later moved back to Philadelphia; see below), and has continued ever since. A lot of others have as well, in spite of its apparent decline in the age of the Internet and I-phones. So I decided to compile my own list of favorite stations: some I listen to now, some I haven't listened to in years, and some which no longer exist.

So here, counting backwards from ten to one (in Casey Kasem style), they are:

10. WMSA-AM , Massena, NY: This is purely for sentimental reasons. This was one of only two stations based where I lived during most of the 1960's. But it represented the best of what radio had to offer: music (some contemporary, some "adult" for the times), news, sports and community involvement. No station I've heard, regardless of market size, did it better.

9. WGAR-AM, Cleveland, OH: In the early 1970's, it was "All The Hits, All The Time" (contemporary and what by then were known as "oldies"). By the mid-'70s, its slogan was "Means Music and More", reflecting its more Top 40 sound. I wish I still had the interview I did with its program director for an Ohio University term paper I did in 1976.

8. WXIL-FM, Parkersburg: It's still on the air, of course, but its heyday was in the 1970's and '80's, when it not only played Top 40/CHR music, but aired hourly newscasts (even on Saturday and Sunday mornings).

7. WOUB and ACRN (All-Campus Radio Network), Athens, OH: I had to list these, because they're where my voice was first heard to a large (pre-Internet stream) audience. They're also where I had my first real experience covering news stories.

6. WTVN-AM, Columbus: Still around, as a highly-popular talk station, and one of its former DJ's (Bob Conners) is still on the air there. But I liked it when it was "The Full-Service Giant", featuring music, news, great personalities, and, at one time, Ohio State football and basketball play-by-play.

5. WLW-AM, Cincinnati, OH: Where this Cleveland boy first heard his beloved Cincinnati Bengals. But it's also where I heard DJ's like Jim LaBarbara ("The Music Professor"), who originally worked in Cleveland, and Gary Burbank's "Earl Pitts, Uh-MUR-Ican" and "Gilbert G-N-A-R-L-E-Y")

4. WNBC-AM, New York: I'm sure no one ranks this station that high, because of all the changes it went through (as you'll see later, that wasn't unusual for NBC stations). But it's the first station I picked up from afar, and I became a fan of "The Time Machine" oldies show, from its last years, through airchecks.

3. WLS-AM, Chicago: A station I've heard mostly through airchecks, but it lasted a long time with a music format...longer than #2 did...and it gave us DJ's like Larry Lujack (sort of an earlier Imus), Art Roberts and Kris Eric Stevens. And although a new generation knows "The Big 89" as Talk Radio, it hasn't forgotten its music heritage, even before it was Top 40.

2. WABC-AM, New York: Contrary to public belief, WABC still plays music (if only on Saturday nights), and it also hasn't forgotten its glorious past as a music station. But "Musicradio" was known for its great personalities as much as it was for "playing the hits": Dan Ingram, "Cousin" Bruce Morrow (still heard on Sirius XM Radio), and the late Ron Lundy, Chuck Leonard and George Michael (the same guy from "The Sports Machine", not the singer). It stayed on top...and its personalities stayed put...longer than on most stations, and it's not difficult to find out what it sounded like. It, along with a couple of these other stations, has a "tribute" website. I've given the address before, but it's www.musicradio77.com.

And, finally...drumroll please...my favorite station of all time (in fact, I've already previously mentioned it):

1. KYW/WKYC Cleveland: This station has perhaps more of a checkered past than any 50,000-watt "blowtorch" station I have ever heard of: in the 1950's and '60's, NBC and Westinghouse Broadcasting (Group W) made a station swap which the Federal Communications Commission cancelled, which forced NBC to own a Cleveland station it didn't want. It affected the quality of the operation (and its ratings), but my favorite radio memories include listening to it not only in suburban Cleveland, but occasionally picking it up from New York State at night (when station #10 signed off for the evening). It went through an even shakier period as WWWE (always referred to on-air as 3WE, except for the legal station identification), before finally getting some stability as WTAM-its original call letters, by the way. But even throughout the turbulent years, it had some of the best personalities I've ever heard, at least on Cleveland radio: Harry Martin and Specs Howard (perhaps one of the first morning radio "teams"), Jim Runyon, Jim Stagg, Jerry G. (Bishop), Jay Lawrence, Al James, Larry Kenney (whose voice is still heard on national radio commercials), Jack "Your Leader" Armstrong, Ted Lux, and so many others. I'm not technically inclined enough to start one, but this is a station in desperate need of a tribute site.

Those are my favorites. I'm sure you have some of your own, and you can list them in the comments section.

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
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