Wednesday, February 8, 2012

1560 WQEW

Recently, I was thinking of my old favorite radio station, 1560 WQEW, the home of American popular standards.



I'd wake up on Saturdays with Jonathan Schwartz (or was it Stan Martin?) on the alarm clock radio playing nothing but Frank Sinatra and not want to get out of bed. For Frank’s 80th birthday, they played a non-stop, weekend-long tribute. “Sinatra all the way and then some, from ‘A Baby Just Like You’ to ‘Zing Went the Strings of My Heart.’ Brought to you by Harvey's Bristol Cream.”



In the evenings, you might hear big bands or some gloomy thing by Peggy Lee to serenade you while you ironed your shirts or had a drink or just looked out the window at the snow coming down, which it always seemed to be doing in my memory of listening to WQEW.

Sometimes I'd tune in on my little 1959 Granco with the tubes you have to wait for to warm up, and that would enhance the mood.



The station didn't last long. It was sold to the Walt Disney Company for children's programming in 1998. I was heartbroken and enraged--it was happening at the same time that Disney was taking over Times Square and the world I loved felt like it was ending.

According to Rock Radio Scrapbook, "The last song played before Radio Disney format was 'Stardust' by Nat King Cole."



Somewhere I've got a bunch of cassettes from when I obsessively taped the last days of the broadcast so I could keep listening to it after it had vanished. I listened to those tapes for awhile, then I stopped. Jonathan Schwartz is over at WNYC now, but I don't listen to music on the radio anymore. My alarm clock is set to the news.

Go back in time as you spend 41 minutes with the vanished New York station here--who will recall Mason Williams' "Classical Gas"? And stay tuned for the depression medication-study advertisement (Do you constantly worry, feel guilty or hopeless? You might qualify!):

39 comments:

John M said...

Well, I still have the 45 of Classical Gas that I bought when it was a hit...

Why does Schwartz sound so much less compelling on public radio than he did on commercial AM radio? It's odd.

EV Grieve said...

I liked the Les Davis jazz program on Saturday nights too. 8 to midnight.

Ken Mac said...

Now you're hitting where it hurts. I remember when AM 1130 was Schwartz with Sinatra Saturdays. Now it's all songs for the deaf.

randall said...

The demise of good radio really hurt. In middle school and high school in the late 80's - early 90's up I used to listen to 101.1 WCBS and they used to play really great oldies and had some real personalities as DJ's. Now they play such mainstream oldies music that it's like walking into a '50's themed Disney diner. I miss WNEW 102.7 and WXRK 92.3, when they were dueling classic rock formats. Now both are garbage. My wife (who's from out of town) really likes Z100 and is amazed when I tell her I used to listen to that in like 3rd grade. I remember the Z morning Zoo, when their competition came from 95.5 WPLJ. Radio is such a wasteland now and satellite isn't much better. They just seem to be on a bigger loop, plus there's no real DJ chatter, which in my opinion, makes or breaks any radio show.

I guess it's like everything else these days. Why take a chance on originality or personality when blandness has been testmarketed to be the most palatable for everyone.

Marty Wombacher said...

Thanks for putting that clip up, it was nice to go back in time for 41 minutes. And I had the 45 of "Classical Gas." Wish I still had it. A little trivia, Mason Williams was also a writer on the Smothers Brothers Show.

BrooksNYC said...

Constantly worry? Check.
Feel guilty? Check.
Hopeless? Check!

Wonderful post! I get a weekly dose of my parents' Depression-era music from Rich Conaty's "Big Broadcast" on WFMU (on the air for almost 40 years).

In love with your radio. Check out these old beauties: http://classicradiogallery.com/

Alex Kane said...

Danny Styles Music Museum

Anonymous said...

J, I'm feeling ancient today! From the ether of my memory: a station WPAT-AM, an announcer Allison Steele. She was called the Night Bird. What station was she on? I think she died young. She was unique.

maximum bob said...

Go the National Archive website:
http://www.archive.org/
In the search box, type in Radio
In the search dropdown menu, select
radio programs.After the page loads, select "Old Time Radio" in the refine your search area.
You have just unlocked a gold mine.
You can thank me later.

randall said...

I knew the The Nightbird from K-Rock 92.3 in the eighties and nineties, I think she also may have been on 102.7 at one point, but that may have been before my time.

I lived in Boston up until a year ago when I relocated back to NY and K-Rock and WNEW alum Meg Griffin used to DJ on Umass Boston's radio station. I used to wake up to her in the AM and another former K-Rock DJ Jimmy Fink spins on a station in White Plains.

Victoria said...

I miss Danny Stiles so much. Stiles on your dials. Does anyone have an audio clip of his show? He died just last year. I like to think of him now as happy with his wife, who he honored at the end of every broadcast with "goodnight my love". He was without her for so many years and never stopped loving or missing her.

Grand St. said...

Steele was definitely on WNEW through the 70s.

Several WNEW alum - Pete Fornatale, Dennis Elsas and Vin Scelsa - can be heard on Fordham's WFUV 90.7, which is an all-around great station. (As is its neighbor, WFMU 91.1 out of 'the Jerz.')

JAZ said...

There was a hard rock station that was around for a little while called WAPP - 103.5, The Apple. I loved that station, but if you turned the radio the other way, you'd lose the reception. Still remember listening to Imus and Howard Stern on WNBC radio 660 on my Panasonic one-speaker boombox that ate 8 D batteries like they were going out of style. Still have that radio, still listen to 1010 WINS on it in the morning, and the speaker still has little pieces of the peanut lodged in it from when I decided to run one down the front of it about 28 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, Alison Steele the Nightbird was on WNEW 102.7. Jonathan Schwartz was there also. And don't forget Scott Muni!

esquared said...

I was about to comment on WAPP, first radio station that I have recollection of and the song played was Love and Pride by King.

Never listened much to AM aside from the news so don't know about much about WQEW. But I do remember the early days of WPLJ (Scott Shannon) and Z-100 (Elvis Duran) and when the latter was the first one to broadcast from the top of the Empire State Building". And WNEW with Scott Muni and Alison Steele. Nowadays those radio stations have annoying DJS and programs, such as those prank calls (can't help listen to them at Supermarkets).

But the radio station I really miss the most is WLIR/WDRE. It played new wave and alternative with great radio personalities such as Donna Donna and Larry the Duck, and the screamer of the week.

The signal was hard to get in Manhattan, unless you're in a very fortunate spot (has nothing to do if you're out in the open). I remember wrapping foils around the antennae of the radio so that I can pick-up the signal. Saudade. Good times, good times.

As for big bands and the genre that WQEW played, i get them now via Internet at BBC 2 with shows such as Clare Teal Available and The David Jacobs Collection.

Sorry for the long-winded and somewhat off-topic comment. Just had a trip to nostalgiaville.

JAZ said...

Yes!! WLIR 92.7. - nice one. They used to run commercials for a nightclub called Malibu all the time as well. First time I ever heard U2, World Destruction with Johnny Rotten and Afrika Bambaataa, and a ton of British New Wave. Man, that signal was almost impossible to get from what I remember.

tim said...

Oh man this is like a flood of memories. I remember spending the summers of high school and college painting houses and the radio dial was basically glued to the WNEW and K-Rock. I still sing the tunes to the various show and game promos they used to air and drive my wife crazy and the musical education that I got was beyond compare.

@ Grand St. WFMU and WFUV are great stations. Columbia has a pretty good station too. I can't remember the letters, but I think the numbers are 89.9 and if you happen to make it up to westchester or have a good antenna, 107.1, if I close my eyes, kind of reminds me of the good old KRock and WNEW.

@ Victoria. I got misty eyed reading about Danny Stiles. What a loving tribute and I'm sure he's with his wife now.

laura said...

victoria, danny stiles was on radio in early 60s. 1961-62. either BLS or another harlem station. way @the end of the dial. it was called the KIT CAT club. i had no idea he did cross over later on. there was another DJ called frankie crocker on this station as well. all from harlem. frankie said "ladies, if you dont have a man you need a gig, if you dont have a gig then you need a man" he had a deep sexy voice. i could also be confusing crocker w/stiles. as i listened to both. then there was the white station w/murry the K, THE SWINGING SOIREE. he first introduced the beatles in 1963. my friend had told me about them first, thats another story. murry (THE K) kaufman), was also the first to play bob dylans "like a rolling stone" (1965) the original longer version. i have a good memory.

BabyDave said...

Oh, boy, did this one bring out the memories, as so many comments can attest. I was more familiar with WNEW-AM than with WQEW. Much the same music.
Jonathan Schwartz does a good job on WNYC. Educational and fun, too.

KenB said...

WQEW was the final iteration of WNEW, which went back to the 1930s.
The old Make Believe Ballroom was actually the first radio program that played records as its designated format. Prior to this music on radio was all about live performance broadcasts.
Many of us remember William B. Williams, Ted Brown and the singer Julius La Rosa as hosts/DJs on WNEW. RIP.

James Campbell Taylor said...

"The melody haunts my reverie..."

Anonymous said...

Wow, Schwartz is really terrible on WNYC. Very bad. The fact that WNYC devotes so much time to him on weekends is a slap in the face to all good radio producers. There are some really good radio stories being produced around the world, young and diverse voices creating interesting, sound-rich work for the airwaves, and we have to be subject to this guy playing the same crap week in and week out? Please don't tell me readers of this blog are pining for this. Culture in this country needs to evolve with respect for the past, but JS is the poorest example of that.

Omababe said...

I do remember Classical Gas well. 1968, iirc. Herb Oscar Anderson played it. Harry Harrison also, iirc. That was when I was just growing up (15) and I soon discovered FM, WNEW with Alison Steele (we spelled it NyteByrd) and yes, Jonathan S. Pete F, Scott M., and of course Rosko! :)

Wow, I can remember all of those radio people and can't remember where in the lot I parked!

Pat said...

Don't forget Rosko (Bill Mercer) on WNEW-FM from 1967 to 1970. He read poetry by Khalil Gibran and made no secret of his opposition to the Vietnam war, which led to his separation from WNEW-FM.

And, in more recent years, at least we got rid of "Jack" radio which supplanted WCBS-FM a few years ago after which there was such a public outcry that WCBS-FM returned, but not before "Cousin" Brucie Morrow promptly got himself a gig on satellite radio. Jack radio has a playlist selected by a bunch of suits and no DJs at all. Take a look at their website, http://www.jack.fm/faqs, where they answer "Why does JackFM not have DJs? "We did not start out thinking “No DJs”, but we soon learned that in North America, listeners felt that conventional radio DJs were associated with adding clutter to the music. By not having DJs, we provided a strong point of value and differentiation to listeners in those markets." Maybe WCBS-FM is not what it was years ago, but at least it is not Jack. That would have been the final nail in NYC's coffin.

BrooksNYC said...

@Victoria:

Saturday between 8:00-9:30 p.m. WNYC (AM) airs reruns of the Danny Stiles show. Download a PDF of the weekly schedule here:

http://www.wnyc.org/resources/96650/wnyc-schedule.pdf

Jack Womack said...

WPIX-FM 1978 to early 1980. Buzzcocks & Jerry Lee Lewis live. Playing the entire PiL Metal Box album day it came out. One weekend playing all the Beatles songs, alphabetically. Going from Eddie Cochran to the Ramones to some beautifully obscure act from mid-sixties. Greatest radio station ever.

Anonymous said...

I listened to WQEW probably at the end of their run when I started to realize the value of that music (I was in my late 20s). Unfortunately I came to the party too late. The demise of 'QEW seems to be an early example of a strong NYC heritage entity that would be wiped out in exchange for a more mediocre 'entertainment', if you even want to call it that. Over the last 10-20 years New York terrestrial radio has become an amazingly hollow wasteland. I'm amazed that the one classic rock station here has actually sustained . IT SUCKS! They play the same Pink Floyd songs every-freakin-day! Someone in an earlier post mentioned that satellite radio is just as bad. I DO NOT agree. Thank god for satellite radio! Without it there would be next to nothing to listen to. It saves you from being held hostage by the ridiculousness of what NYC FM radio has to offer.

Victoria said...

@brooksNY Thank you so much. I know his show used to air on sat ev on 820 am from 8-10 but after he dies I thought it no longer aired. I know what I'll be doing this Saturday evening. Sippin' martinis and listening to Danny Stiles.
Anonymous @ 10:50 pm I agree Jonathan Schwartz is not my favorite and wnyc does devote a bit too much time to him, but it beats that Praie home show that I loathe.

John M said...

Somebody mentioned Frankie Crocker...he was a great dj, on WBLS in the 1970s ('WBLS...stereo, in black'). I think about his little promo tape with an over the top sexy female saying, 'Frankie Crocker--he's my hero' and 'Ohhhh, Frankie', and I still laugh.

mpr said...

I guess it must have been 1988 or 1989 and I was about 12 or 13 listening to WBLS after having been turned onto that station by U2's song "Angel of Harlem" and somehow I put together the line "on BLS I heard a sound..." referred to WBLS. Must have read a rolling stone article that mentioned it or something. Anyway, I tuned in and they had just got done playing the whole of the Jazz at Massey Hall album which basically blew my mind and were interviewing Max Roach on air and in a call in format, so I called in and told him that there were lots of kids my age grooving on these old jazz guys, I really had nothing else to say since my jazz knowledge was basically zero at the time, but he was kind and thanked me and told me to keep listening or something like that. I guess that kind of thing probably doesn't happen anymore.

I agree with ANON 7:54 that NYC terrestrial radio is pretty much worthless, I disagree that satellite is much better. They seem to recycle their playlists too though they do go deeper. I know the Iphone and smart phones take a lot of heat, but one thing I've found is that I can pull in low on the dial stations from all over the US and the world and get a whole array of great music streaming in my house.

Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?

laura said...

speaking of radio: this may be off topic? but while listening to danny stiles/frankie crocker (1961-1963), i also listened to reverend ike. maybe on BLS, not sure. he is on you tube. i am checking youtube for old BLS music broadcasts as well. not all people my age did hippy stuff. (jimmy hendricks, early stones, janis- exception- thats soul to the core).

laura said...

frankie crocker was also on WWRL #1600 on the dial. youtube goes back to 1967, but not '60-63. his rap is the same, "you got a hole in your soul" "im your love man". BUT i see on youtube danny stiles was WHITE? i could swear he DJ'ed the KIT CAT CLUB. this could have been on a jazz station like LIB. this program was oldies from early 50s to late 50s. all acapella, & the original versions before the white groups stole the songs. i would listen to frankie crocker than danny stiles. & reverend ike the preacher. i was in the 7th 8th & 9th, 10th grades. i am grateful for the program LIMEWIRE as i had downloaded most of the '60- '63 R&B music. & its mostly what i listen too now, w/some tupac, biggy, jayz, flatbush project, gay disco club, &always mozart but thats another post.

laura said...

one more DJ: ROSCO! thanks JM for this post.

Dane Vannatter said...

Loved 1560 AM, especially coming into New York from Boston to sing at some cabaret club like Eighty-Eights or Danny's Skylight Room. It wasn't all that long ago when there was Rainbow & Stars (watching Anita O'Day pull it together for an amazing "Honeysuckle Rose" before her set fell apart again..or to hear KD Sullivan do an all-Bart Howard show with the composer beaming at her from the front table), or to see Paula West for her annual sojourn from San Fran to the Oak Room. But 1560 and all those music rooms are closed now. Sad.

Anonymous said...

99-X! WXLO Radio! Now there's one I really miss.

Uncle Waltie said...

You just brought back memories: Ed Beach at WRVR and WNYC. A legendary Jazz DJ. Did a quick search for him and found out he passed away 2 years ago.

http://jazztimes.com/articles/25611-legendary-jazz-dj-ed-beach-dies-in-eugene-oregon

James C. Taylor said...

I just watched an episode of Seinfeld in which a poster for 1560 WQEW can be glimpsed briefly during a fantasy sequence in which Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei appears in George's apartment.

Bob New York said...

On Feb 8, Victoria made a post asking if anyone had any clips of Danny Stiles. I have some from when he was on WEVD-FM in 1978 playing Big Band and Nostalgia recordings. It is just by coincidence I find this blog while I am in the process of transferring what I have of Danny Stiles from tape to CD for better preservation.

As I get time I will explore this blog further as it looks like an interesting one.

I attended some of Danny Stiles big band dinner dance parties at the Holiday Inn North in Newark. WoW, at $16.95 those were a bargain, great food, live Big Band featuring many of the original big band musicians, and usually a celebrity performer as well. Real Eligance at a very reasonable price ! These parties would pack a full capacity crowd of 500 in the Crystal Ball Room, every time !

Unknown said...

Any of you remember: "GOOD JUST BARELY AFTERNOON!", w/Bob Landers?
Sadly, and as I recall, Bob Landers committed suicide; possibly when he learned he was told he was going to be doing the "Milkman's Matinee" slot.

Remember Jim Lowe? Dick Shepard? Klaven & Finch? Dick Partridge? Lonnie Starr?

Also, any of you recall "Bob & Ray" on WINS in the mid-'50s? I remember when, during a news-break, Peter Roberts remarked (after an obvious breakage in the background): "That noise was the studio-clock hitting the floor! (and then laughing)".
Bob and Ray would often call him, ON THE AIR: "Bob Peters".

John Diefenbach
Mason, New Hampshire