At 10 o'clock Wednesday night, to the strains of "You Can't Always Get What You Want," the classic rock on WEGQ (93.7 Lawrence) came to an end, Prince's "1999" began playing, and kept playing until 3 PM Thursday, when Entercom debuted "Star 93.7, the Rhythm of Boston." Eagle PD Pete Falcone is gone, replaced by Ron Valeri (formerly APD at sister Entercom station WAAF) in the PD chair and Pat Paxton (formerly with consultant Guy Zapoleon) as operations manager. Paxton, who describes the new format as "rhythmic oldies from the 70s, 80s, 90s, along with some currents," also takes over as Entercom's group director of programming for AC and CHR stations.
So what does "Star" sound like? First song up was the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb On Me," followed by Michael Jackson, Gloria Estefan, Cher's "Believe," and the Bee Gees. No word yet on airstaff, although we hear the Eagle crew may be out, and no official new calls, although Entercom's said to be requesting WQSX.
NERW's take? An interesting strategy, clearly aiming at a much more female demo than the Eagle did, and apparently targeting listeners from Chancellor's Kiss (and, to some extent, Jam'n's urban audience), CBS' Mix (a former Eagle sister station in the ARS days), and Greater Media's WROR. Could it be that, with Mix out of the family, Entercom needed something with a less male-heavy demo to complement the very testosterone-driven trio of WAAF, WEEI, and WRKO?
If nothing else, the existence of Star is likely to deter any of the other groups from doing all-out rhythmic oldies (without the 80s, 90s, and currents), but then that's a Chancellor trademark (in the case of "Jammin Oldies," literally so!) and Chancellor's unlikely to blow up either of its two successful FMs and even less likely to be able to buy anything else in the market.
That's not all from MASSACHUSETTS this week: Staying at Entercom/Boston, there's a new host for the 11PM-1AM spot on WRKO (680). Longtime New York talker Jay Severin will fill the hole created by the Two Chicks' departure and Tai's move to the Chicks' earlier time slot. In mornings on 'RKO, there's a change in the weather, as Jacquie Murphy leaves Metro Networks for a new gig with The Weather Channel's Atlanta radio operation and Ivan Curtis takes over.
Not to be left out, Entercom rocker WAAF (107.3 Worcester) tried an April Fools' stunt that WASN'T offensive (unlike last year's "The Mayor of Boston Is Dead" gag), bringing former WBCN jock Mark Parenteau back to the Bay State airwaves for the afternoon. Parenteau called it the "farewell show he never got to do" before CBS fired him in Boston. We're not sure who ends up with the last laugh here; Parenteau , who's doing just fine for himself at WAXQ New York -- or former WAAF afternoon guys Opie & Anthony, who were canned for last year's stunt, only to repeat it verbatim this year in their new New York gig at WNEW-FM (102.7). Hey guys, it's still tasteless, OK? (which, incidentally, is why you won't be reading in NERW about any of the "Conceive the First Baby of Y2K" promotions that too many stations are doing this month!)
Out in Dorchester, there's an empty room at Greater Media for the moment. WBOS (92.9 Brookline) "sent its DJs home for the week," according to the promotions folks...but we can't help but wonder if Robin Young and the rest of the 'BOS jocks will be back at the end of their one-week breaks, and if so, what format they'll be playing. (You've gotta be versatile over there at 55 Morrissey Boulevard, at least if you're J.J. Wright; one recent evening found him migrating from the oldies on WROR across the hall to the smooth-jazz sounds of WSJZ all in one long shift!)
Meanwhile, up on Wood Hill, WKLB-FM (99.5 Lowell) has applications in to the FCC for two different changes to its current 26.5 kilowatts at 203 meters. One, filed last month, would simply increase power to 28.5 kilowatts; the other, filed just this past week, would boost power to 37 kilowatts but lower the antenna a bit, to 172 meters.
Digital TV news: Pax TV's WBPX (Channel 46) in Norwell applies for WBPX-DT on Channel 52.
Up in the Merrimack Valley, the Lowell Spinners will have a new radio home this season, what with former flagship WLLH going Spanish soon. WCCM (800 Lawrence) will broadcast 65 of the 80 games (the missing ones are Sunday conflicts with WCCM's leased-time schedule), with the WLLH team of Bob Ellis and Chaz Scoggins remaining intact. Ellis, the longtime voice of WLLH news, is switching his full-time job to Costa-Eagle's WCCM newsroom soon -- but that may not mean a daily commute up 495 to Lawrence. Costa plans to build a WCCM studio in Lowell to help improve the station's profile in that city. Some Spinners games may also be heard in Spanish this season on Costa's WHAV (1490 Haverhill).
In Southeastern Massachusetts, another veteran radio news director is changing jobs. Jim Marshall is leaving WBSM (1420 New Bedford) to become an aide to state Senator Mark Montigny. His replacement is Lynn Poyant, another veteran of the Bristol County radio scene. WBSM's sister FM, WFHN (107.1 Fairhaven), is getting out a bit better, we're told, since "Fun 107" flipped on the new 6 kilowatt transmitter on the UMass/Dartmouth campus...
Western Mass This Week: We hear the April Fools' stunt on WMAS-FM (94.7 Springfield) sounded almost like the WEGQ format change...except that the day of "Disco 95" on Thursday really WAS a joke!
Congratulations to Tom Star, who becomes Acting President at Talk America this week.
Did you attend the old Grahm Junior College in Boston, in the classes of 1970 or 1971? If so, Randy Woessner wants to hear from you...contact him at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
And our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Ben Gailing, who died on Saturday (3/27) at age 100. Gailing was one of the country's longest-running radio hosts. His Yiddish-language show with Hankus Netsky was still being heard on WUNR (1600) at the time of his death.
Concord's WJYY (105.5) pulled an April Fools' format-change stunt, as listeners awoke Thursday to "Kool Oldies 105," complete with Konrad Kane, former morning man at real oldies station WNNH (99.1 Henniker) in place of WJYY morning jocks Kevin Hilley and Suzanne Fox. Hilley and Fox 'fessed up after 8 AM and went back to the real format.
On the TV side, it's a return to New England for Kevin Kelly (formerly of WSPR and WWLP-TV Springfield, among other stations). He leaves his post as news director at WLFL-TV in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. to take the same post at Portland Fox station WPXT (Channel 51).
Being the home station for the NCAA champions was certainly a good thing for WFSB (Channel 3) in Hartford; the station says its 49.7 rating/66 share for the big game last Monday was the second highest in its history, with only the Kerrigan-Harding Olympic skate-off back in '94 rating higher. NERW wonders what the other 34 percent of the audience was watching...
On the "clever" side of the equation fell WISY (102.3 Canandaigua)'s morning change to all-disco "Boogie 102" (which was over before we could catch it on tape, alas) and the Syracuse stunt in which WNTQ (93.1)'s Ted and Amy told listeners that the city was imposing a $78 tax on red cars, because it's the red ones that get in all the accidents.
Our favorite stunt this year, though, came courtesy of station owner John Bulmer (whose WWFY 93.7 Addison VT is not yet on the air). He also owns WZOO (102.5 Edgewood OH) in the Ashtabula market, which decided to take advantage of a "change in Canadian law" that allowed the station to move to Pelee Island in Lake Erie and (play along here, won't you?) boost power to a cool million watts. Of course, a move like that demands new calls, right? Sure it does...so what else but "CKLW"? Throw in some classic jingles (tweaked by JAM to say "Pelee Island" instead of "The Motor City"), some former CKLW jocks, and presto -- "The Big 102." Fun, classy, not hurting anyone; why can't they all be that way?
Other news around the state: In Buffalo, the rumors of a format change at "Alice" (WLCE 92.9) were for naught; the big announcement at 10 Thursday morning was nothing more than a new contest. Buffalo's first DTV station will also, it seems, be its least watched; religious WNYB-TV (Channel 26) in Jamestown has applied for WNYB-DT on Channel 27.
CBS's Rochester market manager has left the building. Bob Morgan was closely associated with the former owners of WCMF, WPXY, WZNE, and WRMM, American Radio Systems. Now he's rejoining former ARS head honcho Steve Dodge at American Tower Systems, where Morgan will head up the ATS Tall Tower Division (now that's a job we like!). No replacement has been named yet, but CBS officials are promising a quick decision.
Just across Chestnut Street, Entercom made some PD shuffles this week, ousting Chris Whittingham at oldies WBBF (98.9) and Mario at classic rock WQRV (93.3 Avon), and bringing Bobby Hatfield in as a replacement (his previous stint at 98.9 was in the mid-80s country WZKC days). We hear Chris is looking for new employment and can be reached at <email@example.com>. Over at Jacor, Friday marked the debut of new morning team Marc Murphee (from Nashville's WRVW) and Diane Dinero (from CKEY Fort Erie/Buffalo) on "Mix 100.5" WVOR. Noncomm WBER (90.5) is reportedly in need of a new transmitter. An article in the local paper last Saturday quoted a station official as saying the station could "go off the air any minute." NERW would be more inclined to care about the fate of the area's only pure modern rocker if station management were more inclined to believe FCC rules applied to them (and if YOU hear a legal ID on 90.5, or can spot a transmitter remote control or telemetry, let us know, won't you?).
Geneva public broadcaster WEOS (89.7) made its big move this week to 4 kilowatts from the new Continental transmitter out on Lake-to-Lake Road. The new 89.7 signal is getting good reviews as far down as Ithaca, while new translator W212BA covers Geneva proper on 90.3.
Albany's newest FM station is playing the "Slogan of the Week" game, it seems. Just two weeks after WSRD (104.9) moved from Johnstown to Altamont and became "the Point," things have turned, er, point-less. The new moniker is the highly imaginative "Z 104.9," and word has it that plans for new WAAP calls are being dropped while station management searches for something good with a Z in it. Also playing musical slogans is WABY (94.5 Ravena/1400 Albany), which is now calling itself "94.5 the Capital Region's light FM, WABY." Albany bureau chief Gavin Burt reports no big format change here yet...but it sounds like WABY is moving ever further from standards and closer to AC.
Downstate, two occupants of 92.7 are making changes. WRRV in Middletown is moving its tower a few feet and going from 3 kilowatts at 97 meters to 6 kw at 82 meters, while out on Long Island, WLIR-FM is finally ready to double its power from 1 to 2 kilowatts from its rooftop stick.
And Big Apple DTV viewers will soon have something besides WCBS-DT to look at. WWOR-TV (Channel 9) in Secaucus NJ is applying for WWOR-DT on Channel 38 from the World Trade Center.
The CRTC approved the application of CJSS (1220 Cornwall ON) to move to 101.9 FM with 3000 watts; guess we need to point the NERW-mobile up the St. Lawrence Valley, and soon, to catch this one before it goes.
Finally this week, we get ready to say farewell to one of the best-known names in radio, as well as some of the best-known voices in radio news. On April 17, Westwood One will offer the last newscast to bear the "Mutual" name, some 65 years after the network first went on the air. "Mutual" newscasts have been a pale shell of their old selves since last September, when the Westwood One newsroom in Virginia was practically shuttered and news operations for "Mutual" and "NBC Radio" moved to the CBS newsroom in New York.
While the disappearance of "Mutual News" is all but a formality, we're more concerned about late word that impending budget cuts at CBS Radio News will end the CBS careers of well-respected newspeople like Claudia Marshall, Bill Lynch, Paul James, David Jackson, Lisa Meyer, and Ed Crane. NERW has been watching with some concern as CBS has downsized its radio news division over the last few years (including the inexcusable closing of the Radio Stations News Service in Washington a few years back), and our sympathies go out to the hard-working, talented CBS Radio newspeople losing their jobs, as well as to the equally talented folks who'll have to work that much harder to fill the gap. We don't usually have a lot of nice things to say about the Mouse, but we have to hand it to them this time -- they've left ABC's sterling radio news division largely intact over the last few years. Still, we're hard pressed to see why anyone would get into the radio news business right now, with each week bringing news of another merger or cutback. If only a few of them were April Fools jokes...but the only joke right now seems to be the one being played on newsroom after newsroom -- and on the listeners who will eventually stop thinking of commercial radio for substantial news coverage of any sort. It doesn't have to be that way, though we admit the counter-examples are becoming harder to find.
And on that gloomy note, we'll close things out this week. See you next Friday!