WOR-FM: The Free-Form Year
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WOR-FM: The Free-Form Year
NEWS: WOR-FM Rock Announced
New York Times: Friday, June 17, 1966
“...but if there can be a quality rock station, that is what we will be.”
WOR-FM announces a rock format for the station.
NEWS: Rock WOR-FM Announces Start Date
Saturday, July 30, 1966
New York Times
WOR-FM announces that they're going to start broadcasting rock music, but without DJ's because of a union dispute.
AD: Broadcasting Magazine Cover
August 7, 1966
WOR-FM trying to promote itself to the industry with dynamic and colorful imaging.
When I first saw this ad on a subway poster, I found it hard to tell from this imaging whether this meant that WOR-FM was going to become a rock station or whether it meant that they would play elevator music versions of rock songs, perhaps because I wasn't able to imagine rock on a commercial FM station (although there was already some rock on Steve Post's and Bob Fass' WBAI shows and Pete Fornatale's show on WFUV as well as other smatterings here and there.)
But I was very excited by the prospect of full-time rock on FM as I had purchased an FM receiver (with no AM section because I couldn't afford it) the previous January and rock was pretty hard to come by most of the time. Rock sounded so good on FM, especially when they found tracks in stereo to play.
PRESS: FM Guide: WKCR College Student Radio Survey
circa August, 1966
“...93% of the student body--listen to WOR-FM every day.”
An interesting survey, which if accurate, gave credence to feelings that the traditional ratings services were not very good at counting college students. The only problem is that they also claimed that 93% of the students listened to FM every day which meant that every student who listened to FM had to listen to WOR-FM--not one Columbia student could have been a classical music listener (for example) who never listened to WOR-FM. That's a bit hard to believe.
NEWS: WOR-FM Announces Market Look
New York Times: Wednesday, August 3, 1966
WOR-FM announces a new logo designed by noted designer Milton Glaser. In actuality, the logo was designed well before this announcement as I remember seeing the poster on subways long before the July 30th, 1966 premiere date.
NEWS: Rock WOR-FM Announces DJ Start Date
Friday, October 7, 1966
New York Times
“We don't want to be just a jukebox....But we will not be a screaming station. We will not emulate our friends at WABC and WMCA...”
WOR-FM announces that the DJs are going to start on October 8th with a union minimum of $175 per week ($1230 in 2015 dollars), not very much for experienced air personalities like Scott Muni and Murray the K. In practice, I believe the actual minimum was $400 per week ($2898 per week in 2015 dollars). It's hard to believe that the DJs were delayed over two months over $175 per week.
Johnny Michaels, Scott Muni, Murray the K and Rosko will be joining the station. I originally heard this news from a mention in either the Daily News or New York Post back in August and I remember being extremely disappointed because I loved the jockless WOR-FM. Little did I know what would be coming.
AIRCHECKS: WOR-FMs First Day with DJs [scoped]
Saturday, October 8, 1966
“In Stereo, WOR-FM Rocks!”
Contributed by Rob Frankel
As you'll hear from these airchecks, WOR-FMs first day as a rock station with jocks wasn't particularly auspicious. They sounded like a low-key, very loose top-40 station. None of the jocks, with the possible exception of Rosko, had captured their rhythm as yet. And while there were a few hints of what was to come (someone actually does use the term "progressive rock"), it doesn't sound very impressive, especially in retrospect.
Recordings of WOR-FM's first day are extremely rare because few people were listening to FM in those days and the advent of going live with jocks was only announced the day before. Producer extraordinairre Rob Frankel dug into his archive and found these recordings, which he fully restored with music, but as usual, we had to re-scope it to avoid the copyright police.
We have short segments from each of the shows that day, starting with Scott Muni (9-noon), Johnny Michaels (noon-3pm), Scott Muni again (3-6pm, just a bit heard at the beginning of the next aircheck), Murray the K (6-midnight), and Rosko, broadcasting live from the Cheetah nightclub on Broadway and 53rd.
Since originally posting this, we've found a bit more of the Rosko aircheck, so we've combined it with Rob Frankel's version.
AIRCHECKS: WOR-FM: Murray the K [scoped]
Saturday, October 8, 1966
“Hi, everybody, this is Murray the K, remember me?”
Contributed by El Misterioso
This is a more complete aircheck of Murray the K's first show. While not completely continuous and a bit choppy, it does give a better idea of what his first show was like, which wasn't all that different from his WINS shows. He would soon give up playing that incessant background theme and he would back off most of the "Murrayspeak" and other silliness as he got more into the new music scene.Pt1 Pt2
ARTICLE: "69 With A Bullet: Pt II" by Richard Goldstein
Village Voice: December 1, 1966
“WOR-FM is rock without the AM schlock”
Richard Goldstein uses "Society's Child" as an example as to why WOR-FM matters, compares the station to top-40 stations and describes how Murray the K has reinvented himself.
This article helped to promote WOR-FM to the hipper community in New York. In fact, when WOR-FM first started playing rock, it seemed like its only advertisers were Hohner Harmonica, the Cheetah dance club and the incredible number of haircutting salons on East 8th street in the East Village. (Who says hippies didn't get haircuts?)
NEWS: AM & FM Radio Splits
New York Times: Saturday, Dec. 31, 1966
This article describes the impact of the FCC ruling splitting AM and FM programming on radio stations in New York City.
ARTICLE: Portrait of a Station
FM Guide: February, 1967
“WOR-FM will definitely not be a screaming station...”
An interesting article about the early evolution of WOR-FM from the pages of FM Guide. Admittedly, FM Guide's writing style seemed both a bit naive and over-supportive of the station. If the article was written today under the same circumstances, it would probably be much more probing and written with a more critical and cynical eye.
What's frequently missed today is that even though there was some rock music already on FM in 1966 via Pete Fornatale's Saturday morning show on WFUV, the Princeton University radio station, WBAI's Steve Post and Bob Fass after midnight and the "Karen and Dave" show, the advent of a full-time, commercial rock station on FM was a shock to the system.
While FM Guide itself welcomed rock to FM (probably because they expected increased circulation and advertising revenues), many of their readers, who were primarily classical, jazz, show music and elevator music aficionados, thought that the advent of rock on FM would lead to the end of Western civilization.
While this article sounds like it was written for the station's premiere (and perhaps it was), it didn't appear until five months after the jocks started.
And note the photo of a 36-year-old Scott Muni, who already seemed like a radio veteran at the time and kind of "old" to this 16-year-old listener.
RAW INTERVIEW: Murray the K with Beatles manager Brian Epstein
circa March, 1967 (63:48)
Contributed by Matooli with thanks to Rob Frankel
In March of 1967, Murray the K interviewed Brian Epstein for his WOR-FM nightly show. This is the raw, complete, unedited source interview. It was likely later heavily edited for broadcast.
The interview was extensive and covered such topics as the upcoming Beatles LP (which would turn out to be Sgt. Pepper), Jimi Hendrix (who had just released "Hey Joe" in the U.S.), whether the Beatles would tour again, John Lennon's "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus" remark, whether "Strawberry Fields" or "Penny Lane" was the more interesting side of the single, how the Beatles made Murray the K aware of Bob Dylan in 1964; the Monkees, Cream, The Who, The Four Tops and Janis Ian; the Beatles recording of "Tomorrow Never Knows" and many other topics.
While Murray seems to have good ideas for what to discuss, he's a bit rough actually asking the questions and Epstein had apparently consumed some pills before the interview, although he becomes far more focused as the interview continues. It's still a quite interesting and comprehensive examination of both the Beatles and music in general in the seminal year of 1967, just after "Strawberry Fields" and "Penny Lane" were released, after Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Cream made their first recorded musical statements and just before the release of the groundbreaking "Sgt. Pepper". Epstein alludes to the fact that the next album was special, but it was impossible at that time for either Kaufman or the listener to understand just how different it would be.
Epstein would die of what was described as an "accidental" drug overdose five months later.
Here's a link to a web blog about this recording: Hey Dullblog
Thanks to Rob Frankel for referring us to this recording.
Murray the K
NEWS: Oldies on WOR-FM
Billboard: March 11, 1967
This article claims that WOR-FM, in its free-form days was going to spend the weekend playing oldies and Grammy Award nominated songs. I really have to wonder if this was a mistake and they got the call lettters wrong. In those days, the Grammys were very conservative and mainly awarded middle-of-the-road pop music. As a constant listener, I certainly don't remember this happening.
NEWS: 'The K' Leans; Audience Feels
Billboard: March 11, 1967
“...we have a reputation at WOR-FM of playing records other stations don't play . . . it's a whole different feeling.”
An article about how WOR-FM, which had only been on the air for eight months (five months with DJs) had already had influence on creating some hit records.
But the article was riddled with errors: "Society's Child" was by Janis Ian, not Nancy Sinatra and Bill Mercer's air name was Rosko, not "Roscoe".
AD: WOR-FM's Murray the K at the RKO 58th St. Theatre
Village Voice: March 23, 1967
Murray the K
Murray the K tried to reinvent his live rock shows by moving them to the RKO 58th Street Theatre with a combination of traditional acts as well as the new progressive rock acts. This was an impressive lineup that included Simon & Garfunkel, the Blues Project, the Young Rascals, Cream, The Who, Mitch Ryder and Wilson Pickett among others.
I believe this was the show in which Mike Bloomfield convinced Buddy Miles to leave Wilson Pickett and join the Electric Flag.
In spite of the presence of the R&B groups, the audience was completely different than those who attended the Brooklyn Fox shows. The RKO 58th St theatre was a far more intimate venue, with probably around 1000 seats as compared to the 4000 seats at the cathedral-like Brooklyn Fox.
AIRCHECK: Scott Muni (Restored & Scoped)
circa April, 1967
Contributed by Rob Frankel
A short restored aircheck of Scott Muni.
AIRCHECK: Murray the K (Restored & Scoped)
circa March-April, 1967
from Rob Frankel
A show put together from various segments recorded in Spring '67. Rob Frankel used his usual magic to restore the aircheck, but as usual, we had to scope it. But you don't need an aircheck to listen to the songs anyway.
Since these are segments (the opening says it's Friday, but then Murray says it's Easter Sunday), it's not quite typical of Murray's usual shows on WOR-FM, but it's still great to hear and we thank Rob for both preserving it and putting it together. It's worth listening to just for the audio collage that was the intro to Murray's show. While Murray's shows on WOR-FM were far different than his shows on WINS (although this particular one doesn't sound all that different), he still stuck by his "Swinging Soiree" branding for his show.
Murray the K
AIRCHECK: Pete Fornatale on WFUV Interviewing Rosko (scoped mono)
Saturday, April 29, 1967 [13:43]
Here's a segment from Pete Fornatale's college radio show, "Campus Caravan", where he interviewed WOR-FM's Rosko. Rosko talks about his day at WFUV on his own show in the following airchecks below. Pete would join Rosko at WNEW-FM 2 1/2 years later, but in this aircheck, you can hear that Pete was still refining his style.
AIRCHECK: A Complete Rosko show! (Scoped)
Saturday, April 29, 1967
A very low key show with Rosko spending LOTS of time talking to the audience one-to-one.
Pt1 Pt2 Pt3 Pt4
AIRCHECK: Barry Farber
Sunday, April 30, 1967
Barry Farber was simulcast from the AM side. As soon as Rosko's show ended, Farber's show was picked up in progress. There was apparently no attempt to coordinate timings to have Barry start a conversation at the top of the hour. This is just a little piece left on the end of the Rosko aircheck. The interesting thing about this is that we tend to think that radical conservative talk formats are a relatively recent phenomenon. But if you listen to this piece of Farber, he makes Rush sound like a bleeding-heart liberal. Even on a conservative talk station, I don't think he could get away with this today.
Link to aircheck
May 23, 1967
Like most pop music stations, WOR-FM issued a survey for distribution in record stores. While many look at this survey as evidence that WOR-FM was nothing more than a "quieter" top-40 station that played some album tracks, the fact is that for the most part, the jocks didn't follow the survey closely anyway. But they would mention the chart position if they happened to play a track that was on it.
Note the promotion for their birthday party concert featuring Janis Ian, the Blues Project and the Doors on one bill. Wow! And note the ticket prices: $2.50, $3.50 and $4.50.
The Village Theatre eventually became Bill Graham's Fillmore East. There's a review of this concert below.
June 17, 1967
While the WOR-FM jocks played many tracks that weren't on the survey, an analysis of the survey is still enlightening. WOR-FM had a very diverse playlist including everyone from Buffy St. Marie, Janis Ian and Country Joe and the Fish on one end of the musical spectrum to Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix on the other combined with a healthy dose of R&B acts like Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Arthur Conley, Joe Tex, Ray Charles, etc. Even when they played top-40 acts, they didn't necessarily choose the big hit for the playlist. Whether this represented creativity or incompetence is anyone's guess.
ARTICLE: The Village Voice's Richard Goldstein reviews the WOR-FM Anniversary Party Concert
Village Voice: June 22, 1967
“And WOR...a crucial liason between the New York underground and a hip suburban audience...”
Goldstein talks about the groups that appeared, including The Doors, the Blues Project & Jeremy Steig and the Satyrs as well as making other interesting observations on happenings in rock and the status of radio playing Janis Ian's "Society's Child".
NEWS: WOR-FM's Murray the K to leave station
Village Voice: July 27, 1967
“...Murray cites frequent hassles over controversial material, and management counters with charges of erratic behavior.”
Goldstein announces that Murray the K will leave WOR-FM in early August. When Kaufman left WOR-FM, it seemed devastating. I kept wanting to believe that the station wasn't going to change, but when Jim O'Brien was hired to replace Murray and it was obvious from day one that this was a return to top-40 style radio, I was extremely disappointed and couldn't listen to the show. I wouldn't turn on the radio until Rosko's shift, but he'd be gone in two more months as well.
ARTICLE: WOR-FM Trade Description
Broadcasting: July 31, 1967
A description from Broadcasting Magazine of WOR-FM, but the format would soon change substantially. As per the post above, Murray the K had already announced he would be leaving the station and his show generated most of the advertising revenue.
AD: WOR-FM Ratings
FM Guide: circa Fall, 1967
An ad claiming that free-form WOR-FM was the number one FM station in the United States. The ad also quotes an article from the Saturday Evening Post.
The quote from the Post was quite effective as it equated listening to rock music on FM with listening to classical music. Up until that time and in spite of the fact that groups like the Beatles were getting increasingly sophisticated, not too many people would have considered listening to rock radio an intellectual activity. In spite of the fact that even top-40 WABC had an audience across the demographic spectrum, rock radio was largely considered the province of 14-year-old girls.
AIRCHECK: Rosko Resigns from WOR-FM
Monday, October 2, 1967
“I cannot go along with the new policy here.”
The dream of any DJ is to resign on the air and on October 2, 1967, a few days less than one year from the day he started, Rosko (Bill Mercer) resigned on the air at WOR-FM. He cited interference from the Bill Drake consultants as the reason for his resignation.
In retrospect, it seems pretty obvious that Rosko would have soon been gone even if he didn't resign. Drake had a very particular sound in mind for his DJs and he probably wouldn't have wanted Rosko even if he were willing to work the format.
ARTICLE: “WOR-FM & the Future” by Richard Robinson
Village Voice: October 5, 1967
“...New York's only quality pop outlet is changing for the worse.”
Today, when a radio station changes format (not that anyone cares all that much), there are websites such as Allan Sniffen's site to ruminate about the reasons, politics, personalities, rumors, etc. That (obviously) wasn't true in 1967. So when Bill Drake was given responsiblity for the programming at WOR-FM, it was not clear to most people what impact that would have on the programming.
In 1967, the Village Voice was not the free rag with ads for escorts that it is today. It had been co-founded by Norman Mailer and while it certainly promoted left-wing politics and ideals, it was a highly respected publication. When Richard Goldstein published this column in the October 5th issue, it was a confirmation of the worst fears of fans of the station.
AIRCHECK: Pete Fornatale with Rosko
Saturday, October 7, 1967
“I was told by him [the consultant] we're not changing...and this was an insult.”
Several days after Rosko quit on the air at WOR-FM, he appeared on Pete Fornatale's 'Campus Caravan' Saturday show on WFUV to explain why. This is truly a great radio moment and Pete's careful handling of the interview is probably one of the things that led to his career at WNEW-FM. It's since been confirmed that WNEW-FM executives were listening to this show.
Pete Fornatale & Rosko
AIRCHECKS: Scott Muni & Jim Lounsbury (Scoped)
Thursday, October 19, 1967
from Rob Frankel
“Now you won't find I may warn you, screaming teenyboppers at the Action House, but what you will find are swingers like yourself.”
These airchecks, which were contributed by Rob Frankel, were recorded about a week before Johnny Michaels was fired and Scott Muni had his contract bought out. Rosko and Murray the K were already gone.
It's hard to tell how much control the Drake consultants were exerting at this point, but the station sounded terrible. There was a strange mix of songs including some real clunkers, like "Red and Blue" from the Dave Clark Five, although there are some worthy of a Nuggets compilation, like a track from The Paupers (with Skip Prokop). They were still playing some Simon & Garfunkel, but the progressive rock acts pretty much seem to be gone, except perhaps for The Doors.
Scott Muni seemed to be in Murray's old spot from 6-10pm and Jim Lounsbury, who was originally only doing fill-ins, was in Rosko's old spot from 10pm-2am. What's strange here is that I remember Jim O'Brien taking Murray's spot, so it's hard to say exactly what was going on. I don't know who was doing Scott Muni's original 2-6pm spot at this point. I had probably pretty much given up listening to the station, since Rosko had already moved to WNEW-FM. Lounsbury, at least at this stage in his career, certainly did not have the presence of Muni, Murray the K or Rosko. And as you'll hear, he announces the wrong Doors track and then you can hear the level changing on the track as he's probably deciding whether to fade it out or keep playing it. He kept playing it, then he played the correct track.
It was a sad ending to a landmark station. But at this point, it was wise to put it out of its misery and change the format.
When Lounsbury reads the news at the end of the aircheck, he talks about an anti-war demonstration at Brooklyn College in which war protesters and police officers fought each other. It's important to understand the Zeitgeist of the times, which is one of the reasons freeform WOR-FM and stations like it that came later were so important to so many people.
Scott Muni Jim Lounsbury
ARTICLE: “WOR-FM Has Gone All The Way...” by Richard Robinson
Village Voice: November 9, 1967
“...the station had fired Scott Muni and Johnny Michaels..”
While Rosko had already joined WNEW-FM by the time this column was published, Goldstein's piece served as an obituary for the free-form WOR-FM. Note that while Goldstein did refer to 'Boss Radio', it still wasn't exactly clear what Bill Drake was going to program on WOR-FM.
As noted elsewhere on this site, the night that Rosko premiered on WNEW-FM, he was supposd to be hosting a Vanilla Fudge & Cream show at the Village Theatre. When it was announced that Rosko wouldn't be appearing because he was on the air, the crowd went crazy with joy. These stations were immensely important to the culture back then and people really cared about them.
Note his mentions of other rock music shows on FM -- many have been long forgotten.
ARTICLE: FM Guide Editorial
“Certainly the audience's interest is not being served.”
Author Wollheim seems to have gotten his info from the Richard Goldstein columns and it wasn't the strongest editorial that could have been written, but his heart was in the right place.
AUDIO: Rosko reading Gibran
One of the many unique things that Rosko did that was previously unimaginable on a rock station was to read the poetry of Kahlil Gibran on the air, usually accompanied by sitar music. This recording is not from an aircheck, but from one of several albums that Rosko recorded.
ARTICLE: “The Late Lamented WOR-FM” by Murray the K
FM Guide: April, 1968
“People either like me a lot or get uptight just at the mention of my name...”
Murray the K discussing WOR-FM from his perspective along with a soft-touch interview of Murray. While I was a big supporter of free-form WOR-FM, one argument he made that I don't agree with is that there was a binding "promise" made by WOR-FM to commit to the free-form programming akin to a public service commitment or a contest. He even claimed that he was going to take up the matter with the FCC. We don't know if he ever did or not, but he would have gotten nowhere: other articles on this site demonstrate that the FCC was generally opposed to any kind of free-form radio.
It's too bad that Murray never got anywhere with his proposed television show, which promised to have debates between opposing parties such as rock stars and politicians. While this seems common today, it would have been very unique back then and is very close to what Bill Maher created years later.
Murray didn't have too much of a career in radio after WOR-FM. He appeared on WMCA, WNBC, WWDC in Washington, D.C. as well as WLIR and WKTU, but he didn't last long at any of them. But in my young naiveté, I thought his other work was a sellout: what was the point of getting oneself fired from WOR-FM over content and control issues if you're simply going to show up somewhere else where you have absolutely no freedom whatsoever? But what idealists (such as myself) didn't understand is that people have to work.
There are additional articles about Murray's career on the General Radio History page.
Murray died of cancer in 1982 at the age of 60. I saw him on a telethon shortly before he died and he was almost unrecognizable. In fact, before I realized it was him, I said to myself, "why is that person impersonating Murray the K?"
WOR-FM: The Bill Drake years
AD: Memories Are Made of This
FM Guide - January, 1968
Memories are made of this: Drake's attempt at Oldies
SURVEYS: February 5th, 19th, 1968
Contributed by Kimball Brandner
The surveys for the weeks of February 5 and 19, 1968.
The good: The Temptations, the Marvelettes, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, the Soul Survivors, the Four Tops, the Delfonics and Elvis. The bad: The Lemon Pipers, the Cowsills, the Letterman, Nancy & Lee, Herman's Hermits, Bobby Vinton. Drake was always a sucker for white bread.
SURVEYS: April 1, 15, 22 and 29th, 1968
Contributed by Kimball Brandner
The surveys for the weeks of April, 1968.
I didn't listen much to WOR-FM in those days because I listened mainly to WNEW-FM, WABC-FM and WBAI, but looking at these surveys, it wasn't a bad set of music, even if it almost always avoided anything even remotely progressive. On the other hand, they did include a lot of great R&B. They also occassionally jumped on music pretty early: Otis Redding's "The Happy Song" appears Hitbound on the April 15th survey and it didn't make the Billboard charts until April 27th. Neil Diamond's "Brooklyn Roads" is Hitbound on the April 22nd chart and it didn't make the Billboard charts until May 11th. And "MacArthur Park", which did get a lot of progressive rock play, appeared Hitbound on April 29th and didn't hit the Billboard charts until May 11th.
SURVEYS: August 25th, 1968
Contributed by Kimball Brandner
The survey for the week of August 25th, 1968.
Quite a different sound from just four months earlier. You'd think the music for the summer would be more driving and more upbeat with more dance music. But it got a lot quieter: light cover versions of "Light My Fire", "Fool On The Hill" and "The Weight" accompanied by hits from Tom Jones, Dionne Warwick and Herb Alpert. Was this still a rock station or the precursor to Light FM? The only intensity was from "Street Fighting Man" and "Love Makes A Woman". The deep-voiced Drake DJs had more intensity than the songs they were playing.
I want to listen to the April 1968 station, but I wouldn't want to listen to this August version. What happened to Otis and Aretha?
AIRCHECK: Johnny Donovan (scoped)
A short (sloppily scoped) mono aircheck from the Fall of 1968 (probably September 22). You either believed that this was exciting, consistent, brilliantly produced, personality radio or that it was the beginning of the end for FM and what Frank Zappa called "ugly radio". But if you hated it, it didn't really matter because WNEW-FM was in full swing by this time and other progressive rock stations were coming.
AD: #1 in the Ratings
FM Guide - December, 1968
Although the move by October of 1967 from a free-form to highly-formatted Bill Drake-consulted sound was highly controversial, the Drake format was successful for a time. This ad claims that WOR-FM was the #1 FM station in the U.S. (although so was the free-form version).
SURVEYS: December 1st, 1968
Contributed by Kimball Brandner
The survey for the week of December 1st, 1968.
Typical top-40 for the time including some great soul (Stevie Wonder, Johnny Taylor, Temptations, Aretha, Marvin Gaye, Young-Holt Unlimited), some bad pop (Bobby Vinton, The Vogues, Bobby Goldsboro, The Lettermen), some class (Sinatra) and suprisingly, a Judy Collins track. Drake always had a thing for bad pop music.
Contributed by Jacob Zissu from the collection of Patricia J. Murphy
The late Patricia J. Murphy had worked at the FCC and then held legal positions at RKO General and at ABC. She collected these posters while working as an executive for RKO General at 1440 Broadway and saved them all these years.
They're unusual in that I don't recall them ever being used in a marketing campaign. The "New York" poster is dated 1969 and is by artist David Schiller. The "Gettin' It All Together" poster is signed by an artist named Larson.
SURVEY: The Top 100 of the 1960s
Contributed by Kimball Brandner
WOR-FM's top 100 list, probably generated in late 1969
AD: Bill Drake's WOR-FM: The History of Rock & Roll
Village Voice - 1971
The History of Rock & Roll was originally a "rockumentary" produced at Drake's KHJ. A modified version was produced for syndication. The original syndicated version was 48 hours (airtime) long and broadcast over Labor Day weekend 1969. An expanded 50-hour version was broadcast April 30 - May 2, 1971. Ron Jacobs produced these versions. Also credited were writer Pete Johnson, director Alan Pellisaro, production coordinator Sandy Gibson, music coordinator Vicki Larson, sound supervisor (and "production techniques" by) Bill Moffets and voiced by Drake jock Harvey Miller.
The show was reworked after 1977 into what appears to be a 37-hour version and re-voiced by Bill Drake, but I always preferred the earlier version -- I thought Harvey Miller did an outstanding job, the montages were better produced and the program had a better flow and rhythm. Miller's approach was consistent with the formal presentation of Drake jocks, but one in which he really made the history of rock seem important. Drake's approach to the voice-over was surprisingly passive.
Having said that, I did have some criticisms. If you listened for any length of time, the single "History of Rock & Roll" acapella jingle began to make one crazy. With some exceptions, the program wasn't really the history of rock & roll, rather it was the history of the songs played on top-40 radio (and their influences). The second 12 hours of the show was a chronological "pop chart sweep" and the third 12 hours was a chronological "rock chart sweep". I thought the pop chart sweep was unnecessary and had little to do with rock & roll, featuring such artists as Dick Haynes, Teresa Brewer, Sarah Vaughn, the McGuire Sisters, Mitch Miller, George Hamilton, Connie Francis, Steve Lawrence, etc., but they probably included it thinking they could get MOR stations to take the show if they did. But that didn't seem to happen and they would have been better off excluding it and expanding the rock chart sweep to 24 hours of airtime.
The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album did not get extensive play on top-40 stations at the time, so it was a big surprise at the end of the program when "A Day In The Life" was credited as the greatest rock song of all time.
But the show was completely unique for its time, it was relatively comprehensive, it included a fair amount of folk, country, blues and other roots music that wasn't normally heard on top-40 radio and Drake deserves a lot of credit for taking a serious approach to the material, something that might have been more expected from an FM progressive rock station. I remember thinking at the time that Metromedia should have produced such a program. And in addition, it let the radio stations who played it give their jocks off during some long holiday weekends.
AIRCHECK: The History of Rock & Roll [scoped-mono]
Here are the first 58 parts (scoped) of the original syndicated (Labor Day Weekend, 1969) version of the History of Rock & Roll as broadcast on WOR-FM, constituting about 42 of the 50 hours of air time so far. Several minutes of the opening montage and some of the Dylan section is missing as well as two tracks from hour 42. This was recorded in quarter-track mono at 3 3/4 on half-mill tape, so the quality isn't fabulous, but you'll get the idea. The montage editing and Harvey Miller's voicework were outstanding.
We've now posted the 12 hour genre section, the 12-hour pop chart sweep, the 12 hour rock chart sweep and the first 6 of 14 additional air hours of singer-songwriters, modern blues, the Beatles, Stones and other groups.
We'll be adding additional parts from time to time. The final sections will combine the 1969 and the 1971 versions, the latter of which added an extra two hours of air time (but also removed a few songs).
Opening Montage and R&B section - Air Hours 1-5:
Pt1 Pt2 Pt3 Pt4 Pt5 Pt6 Pt7 Pt8
Country Music, Elvis, Country, Folk, Dylan & Folk sections - Air Hours 6-12:
Pt9Hr6 Pt10Hr7a Pt11Hr7b Pt12Hr8 Pt13Hr9a
Pt14Hr9b Pt15Hr10 Pt16Hr11a Pt17Hr11b Pt18Hr12
Pop Chart Sweep - Air Hours 13-24:
Pt19Hr13 Pt20Hr14a Pt21Hr14b Pt22Hr15a Pt23Hr15b Pt24Hr16
Pt25Hr17a Pt26Hr17b Pt27Hr18 Pt28Hr19 Pt29Hr20a
Pt30Hr20b-21 Pt31Hr22 Pt32Hr23a Pt33Hr23b Pt34Hr24
Rock Chart Sweep - Air Hours 25-36:
Pt35Hr25 Pt36Hr26a Pt37Hr26b Pt38Hr27a Pt39Hr27b Pt40Hr28
Pt41Hr29a Pt42Hr29b Pt43Hr30a Pt44Hr30b Pt45Hr31 Pt46Hr32a
Pt47Hr32b Pt48Hr33 Pt49Hr34 Pt50Hr35a Pt51Hr35b Pt52Hr36
Singers - Air Hours 37-38:
Modern Blues - Air Hours 39-40:
Words & Music of Rock & Roll - Air Hours 41-42:
WOR-FM 98.7 Schedule
The data behind these schedules are sourced from newspapers, FM Guide (which was usually a few months behind changes), Radio Guide, Richard Neer's book on FM radio, personal recollections of myself and DJs as well various postings on the web from people such as Bob Recchia and especially those of Vince Santarelli. Corrections welcomed. In some cases, the same dates are posted twice due to conflicting information from different sources. This shows the schedule for free-form WOR-FM before the Drake era.
More of WOR-FM can be found on Allan Sniffen's WOR-FM pages:
- Allan Sniffen's WOR-FM History page (off site)
- The Marty Brooks Collection at Allan Sniffen's WOR-FM History page (off site)