As The Great 98 hit the airwaves, The Washington DC area had only one real Top 40 radio station...WPGC.I grew up listening to Big Ol Fato Dino, Tiger Bob Raleigh, Barefoot Larry Justice, Cousin Duffy,Marvelous Marv Brooks and my hero Harv Moore.Even though I've worked at various stations in the DC suburbs, I felt that I could never match the quality of 'the big boys' at stations like 'PGC.I did feel that my behind the scenes skills were better than most...especially in production.I was working at Channel 20 (doing all kinds of stuff including being the villain on the Bozo Big Top) when the opportunityto work at WRC surfaced. It was an engineering job! WOW...I had to join the union and everything.I took it not really knowing what it would it would consist of...but that decision was one I would never regret.Enough about me, Let's get to the good stuff.
Remembrances by Skip McCloskey
It was 1972 and NBC made the decision to take their Middle-Of-The-Road station to a Top 40 formatand challenge DC champ WPGC in the ratings game. The decision was a good one!But as with most major corporations...they had to mess it up.The birth of The Great 98 had a lot of help from some Philly radio vets. Lee Sherwood was brought in as PD and Bob Gross was Promotions Director. Both were from WFIL. The original on air team consisted of Johnny Andrews, Bobby McGee, Simon Trane, James Michael Wilson and Ron Starr.Being an NBC O&O had its drawbacks: NBC hourly News, NBC Monitor on weekends, special features (Graham Kerr, Gene Shalit, etc) had to be carried. The ever nervous NBC lawyers didn't help matters either. It wasn't that any of these were all that bad, but for a Top 40 station to stop down and play 3 minutes of Julia Child discussing how to stuff a flounder was unheard of in the days of speeding up turntables and limiting stop sets.Changes were made as time went on: Mark Driscoll came and went giving way to a young skinny kid from Rochester NY who called himself The Greaseman. Jim Elliott was hired when Ron Starr departed. Lee Sherwood left and was replaced by Dan Clayton (Ken Wolt) who wanted more of a BANG BANG Top 40 sound. Very little talk and a lotta music was a reason for The Grease's release.Despite the many changes, the station was closing in on WPGC. Harv Moorewas let go after many years of excellent service at 'The Pig'. We had a lot of fun with record reps coming into WRC. Candy Wesling was Music Director and her office was directly across the hall from the production studio. When I was given a signal, I would play (loudly) a WRC nameplate jingle and insert Harv's name which I got from an old PGC jingle package. Candy would look at the record reps with a shocked look on her face and beg them not to repeat what they just heard. It took less than 2 hours for the rumor to get back to us that Harv Moore was coming to The Great 98. We even played the phony jingle on the air during Jack Harris' morning show.
Harv Moore Phoney Jingle
The beginning of the end was near when Harold Green (GM from WMAL...a DC talk station)was hired to be WRC's General Manager.He brought in Gordon Peil to program the station. Poor Gordo had never programmeda station before in his life...much less a Top 40 format on its way up.We never did beat WPGC! Harold and Gordon just had too much WMAL in them.After the ratings started to slip, Dennis (The Menace) Waters was brought in to save the station. It was too late.NBC was going to rip the station apart whether it was #1 or not. The peacock and Jack Thayer were determined to start the News & Information Service.For two weeks The Great 98 simulcast on AM and FM (93.9). Listeners were told that they could hear their favorite music in stereo...WRONG!After the simulcast ended, WRC....er....now WKYS had more of a disco sound.Within a month it was known as Disco Stereo KYS. For more on this go to our WKYS Page.Meanwhile, NIS was floundering and stations that eagerly signed onto the service were dropping out when their contracts ran out.
Samples of NIS
As disco started to fade, KYS had to choose another way to go.Gordon was still in charge of programming and came up with NINE THREE NINE STEREO!His belief was no one would ever forget the frequency if it was part of the imaging.3x5 cards with liners on them read like:Uptown - Sophisticated - 9 3 9 StereoandMangione - Jazz - 9 3 9 StereoThere were no verbs...just words thrown together. Thank goodness it didn't last that long.I remember Jack Harris and I were at Gordon's house and everyone wanted to hear the station.Gordon fumbled with the tuning knob around 103 to 105. His wife finally reminded him, "Gordon! 9 3 9 Stereo".He sheepishly tuned to the frequency.Bill Bailey (formerly of WLS) was hired to bounce the station back.Bill was a good guy to work with/for. He knew programming, processing and wanted to get back to Top 40 roots.It sounded too good to be true...AND IT WAS!Politics entered into the situation when Bill refused to make concessions to the sales staff.As anybody in the business knows, it's sales that run the station. With his hands tied, Bill soon left and the station coasted. Bill passed away in June 2013 doing what he loved...playing golf at a radio station event.Donnie Simpson was doing afternoon drive at this time.With his keen sense of music and outgoing personality, the ratings started to rise when Donnie took over programming duties. KYS evolved into a powerful Urban Contemporary ratings grabber which amazingly kept the sales staff happy.It also kept WRC, which had then dropped NIS and gone News Talk, afloat.