By Alex Lloyd Gross
94.1 FM WYSP, a beautiful music station. It was complete with radio personailities and music aimed for someones grand parents. The station’s debut in Philadelphia on August 21 1971 featured that format. It was done on reel to reel tapes broadcast from the Suburban Station building in Philadelphia and was was short lived. August 6 1973 saw album Oriented Rock come to the mainstream. Glen Miller was gone and Chigaco and Hendrix were being broadcast. Friday September, 2 2011 at 3:00 PM WYSP will be dead. It’s what many in the radio industry are calling the biggest boneheaded move to ever be thought of , let alone implemented.
About 1976 the Boss Jocks and the boss sound of famous 56 WFIL on the AM band being played out in favor of WMMR and WYSP, the teen age audience was being exposed to Steely Dan, KISS, Led Zeppelin as opposed to bubble gum top hits. The teen audience was leaving the AM band and going to FM. Ratings were big. WYSP had a major competitor with their next door neighbor 93.3 FM, WMMR. From the mid 1970’s that is the way it was.
WYSP always took a harder edge approach, playing music that their competitor would not touch. While bands like Zeppelin and the Stones were mainstream, WYSP would also play harder edge bands like Riot, Motley Crue or even Iron Maiden. Let’s be honest. even the most loyal listener, will change the station. When you hear a song for the umpteenth time you will turn it off. WYSP was fresh. People only hear the same songs for so many times before they tire of them.
The promotion team of WYSP thought up some great promotion over the years. Some even caused the cops to come out for riots. Who could forget The first 94 people can get a tank of gas for 94 cents at the Amoco station at Knights & Street Rds in Bensalem in 1985. The line was a mile long
Then there was the in store KISS appearance in 1984 which caused a riot at the Cherry Hill Mall. How about the Hands Across America broadcast at the Tower Theater in 1986. When Howard Stern came on the air in 1986 , he took the station to number one. When he came into Philadelphia, entire sections of town were closed. In concert halls people hung WYSP banners in hopes of a ticket upgrade. In fact, fellow Examiner Cyndy Drue used to DJ for them back in the late 70’s and had her own television show on UHF. She would wear shorts which caused. banners that read “(Insert town here) wants Cyndy Drue’s thighs” to be hung from the rafters at the Spectrum with great regularity.
So with ratings higher than ever since Howard Stern left, why change? People unfamiliar with Philadelphia radio will say that Philly is a sports town and the new format, a sports talk station will be great. It’s clearer and in stereo. Guess they did not know that this town already has a sports talk format station. In fact, several of them. To carry the signal of WIP means counless jobs lost in this city and none created.
Radio deregulation means that big conglomorates such as CBS can own multiple radio and television stations in the same market. This was pushed through in the mid 1980’s by Lowry Mays, former CEO of Clear Channel Communications. CBS radio owns WYSP, and WOGL 98.1 as well as WIP and the 1210 AM. It could be argued that CBS talks around Philadelphia.
Howard Stern’s departure certainly hurt WYSP but in no way is he responsible for it’s demise. WYSP tried a talk format before and it failed miserably. Ratings were in the toilet. The “WYSP Talks” format failed miserably. So now they try the same thing with different call letters?
During the mid 1980’s a show called Metalshop was on WYSP. Mark Didia, Ken Sharp and Mean Ed Green took that show to great heights. Metalshop was responsible for helping bands sell out the Spectrum. Last Saturday, during the hurricane, they came back for 3 and a half hours. It was bliss. Denny Somoach, Anita, and a bunch of other on air talent also made a return for a last broadcast all this last week. There is no play list. Britny Fox, Iron Maiden, Kiss, are all played with regularity. It’s actually a great format. Steely Dan and David Bowie are also played.
Local musician Johnny Dee who made it big time and now drums for Doro remembers some fun times with WYSP. “it’s really a shame”, he said. “The older generation, thats where we went to get our music there. We were entertained by the DJ’s, the personalities. Metal shop was like a communal thing”. What made Metalshop so successful, was the banter between Mean Ed Green, Ken Sharp and who ever was in the studio. It seemed like a party and you were invited.
To be fair, some sports junkies welcome this change. The idea of listening to an argument over a sports team or game in stereo is appealing to those people. Yes, Philadelphia is a sports town. WYSP is a big part of that, broadcasting Eagles games since 1992. WYSP has held contests for game day tickets. However, the station has also given away, concert tickets and held instrument clinics with some of the biggest names in rock. 94.1 WIP cannot hold a candle to that.
They 94.1 WIP are in for a HUGE up hill battle. They have to win an audience, and keep them. Most of that audience is disgusted with the fact that 94.1 WIP is responsible for taking their rock away, and when they don’t listen on the FM side, it is hopeful that either CBS will realize the error they made, or someone else will come into town to capitalize on their mistake. By then, it will be too late for 94.1 WIP.
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