Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, June 4, 2006
By: Art Vuolo
Some weeks back, I was trying to guess in what direction Clear Channel Detroit was going to take former classic hits WDTW-FM (106.7) best known as “The Drive.” Now we all know that they flipped back to country music. Last week, Mike Austerman expressed his personal disappointment at the station’s decision not to reinstate the WWWW-FM call letters and the strong brand of W4 Country.
The original name at 106.7 was WDTM, doing mostly classical music up through the end of the 1960s. When radio pioneer Gordon McLendon, one of the originators of the Top 40 music format, bought the station in 1969, he renamed it WWWW because in the newspaper listings it stood out the most. The station originally was a clone of his San Francisco beautiful-music FM, KABL. It later switched to solid gold oldies, then to rock with Howard Stern. Finally, in the early ’80s, it flipped to country music, which lasted almost 20 years.
Interestingly, the name never changed, until September 1999, when it abandoned country. So, why after 30 years did management feel they couldn’t bring back a set of heritage call letters?
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Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the death of oldies radio in both New York City and Chicago, when Infinity Broadcasting (now CBS Radio) switched two legendary stations to the “Jack-FM” format. New York is still without an oldies or country station on “regular” radio. Oddly enough, two oldies start with “The Third of June” as their opening lyric; “Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry in 1967 and “Desiree” by Neil Diamond in 1977. Spooky.
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Here’s a name you haven’t heard in a while — Crazy Al, the wacky ’50s-style DJ who once graced the airwaves of Oakland County on oldies/talk WPON-AM (1460). Broadcasting his daily show from high atop a high-rise in downtown Pontiac to the world over the Internet, this one-of-a-kind personality is now starting to land terrestrial radio affiliates. His first is WBCB in suburban Philadelphia’s Bucks County and Trenton, NJ. He also could wind up on oldies powerhouse WLNG-FM on Eastern Long Island. “Crazy Al’s Radio Party” can be heard at www.industrialinfo.com. Check it out mornings 6-11 a.m.
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Another name you may recall from the “glory days” of Detroit radio is Lee Alan, who recently relocated to Las Vegas. His superb program saluting the music of Frank Sinatra will start today on Sin City’s KJUL-FM. You can hear the program 8-10 p.m. online at www.kjul1047.com. Alan was a major radio star at WXYZ-AM (1270) in the early- to mid-’60s. In more recent years, his voice was heard on countless car dealer radio commercials.
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Unfinished business; Belated kudos to Deminski & Doyle, the afternoon duo on hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1). In a recent newspaper poll, they were voted Detroit’s No. 1 afternoon drive radio show. Who said a boy from St. Louis and a kid from New Jersey couldn’t make it in Motown?
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Quick hits: Fierce competitors news-talk WJR-AM (760) and all-news WWJ-AM (950) were on hand Friday, broadcasting live from the 2006 Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel. We are lucky to have two excellent information stations in this area ... At soft rock WMGC-FM (105.1), the fifth annual Women Who Make Magic awards banquet will be June 12 at Andiamo in Warren. This event benefits HAVEN, whose mission is to eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault throughout Oakland County and surrounding communities. Call (586) 268-3200 for tickets ... Rocker WRIF-FM (101.1) is zeroing in on HarleyFest, which will host a true bike-rstyle wedding for one lucky couple. The wedding day is set for June 17, and this promotion benefits the Karmanos Cancer Institute. Learn more at www.wrif.com ... Blues/jazz WGPR-FM (107.5) and mid-day host Maxine Michaels have parted ways due to what has been described as her inability to correctly execute the format. No official word yet on her replacement.
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Mitch albums used to be known as sing-a-longs, not as a writer or a broadcaster. This Mitch is a man named Miller and his music is featured 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5) with Tom Wilson’s “Somewhere in Time.”
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Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.