Guest Post: The Days of AM Pop Music in New York City

Dan Ingram (September 7, 1934 – June 24, 2018)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Patrick, who shares the following guest post:


Dear Thomas,

Thank you for all good articles on the SWLing Post.

After the passing of Top 40 radio disc jockey Dan Ingram of WABC 770 AM and later WCBS 101.1 FM, the golden days of Top 40 radio in New York City, the biggest radio market in the United States has been observed in TV and articles. Since 1988, no major AM station in the New York market plays pop music.

Video: Big Dan Ingram Tribute of YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube.

In 1960 WABC 770 AM changed format top Top 40 with upbeat disc jockeys, taking advantage of its 50,000 Watts clear-channel undirectional transmitter with the possibility to reach distant suburbs even 100 miles away during daytime and large portions of eastern United States and Canada after sunset. Its competitors at time were Top 40 stations 1010 WINS, 570 WMCA and 1050 WMGM but with directional transmitters.

Link: News12: A look inside the WMCA Meadowlands radio tower

http://www.news12.com/story/38678814/a-look-inside-the-wmca-meadowlands-radio-tower

Link: WMCA Transmitter Building in LEGO

http://robbender.blogspot.com/2011/02/wmca-transmitter-building-in-lego.html

Link: Photos of the WMCA Transmitter on Flickr

https://www.flickr.com/photos/docsearls/albums/72157686311013535

In the mid-1960s and on to the 1970s WABC had a long line of radio personalities like Dan Ingram, Harry Harrison, Ron Lundy, “Cousin Bruce” Bruce Morrow, and Chuck Leonard to name a few. Teenagers would enjoy listening to WABC with their transistor radios being popular. In the 1970s WABC was often No 1 or 2 in the New York radio ratings.

However, the Top 40 format was to become less popular in AM with FM stations starting to play hits. WMCA dropped its Top 40 format in the fall of 1970. Despite rivals from FM stations like WXLO 99X, soul station WBLS, album-oriented rock stations like WPLJ and WNEW-FM, WABC stayed on top until 1978 with the only notable AM competitor being 660 WNBC with an adult-leaning Top 40.

But when FM-station Mellow WKTU 92 changed format to disco and became Disco 92, an FM became the No 1 station in New York City putting down WABC to No 2 in December 1978. WABC started to play more disco but the audience became confused. With new management WABC started to aim for an older audience playing more adult contemporary songs. By 1981 WABC played more oldies and started to promote talk shows. In May 1982 it was announced that WABC would become a talk radio station. On May 10, the music ended on WABC and it was in radio called the day music died.

Video: Dan Ingram air check from 1980 on WABC in AM Stereo (Youtube)

Click here to view on YouTube.

Link: AM Stereo – the Kahn system (WNYC)

https://www.wnyc.org/story/am-stereo-the-kahn-system/

Video: The end of music on WABC (Youtube)

Click here to view on YouTube.

Video: Aircheck from WKTU Disco 92 in 1979 (Youtube)

Click here to view on YouTube.

1010 WINS dropped rock and roll music in 1965 and became an all-news station. 1050 WMGM (WHN from 1962) had various music formats until 1987 when it became all-sports.

660 WNBC was the last of the major Top 40-stations to drop music. It had various pop music formats until 1988 when it became all-sports 660 WFAN since WHN/WFAN changed to that frequency. 660 WNBC introduced shock jock Don Imus and afternoon jock Howard Stern.

Videos: WNBC sign-off

(WCBS-TV)

Click here to view on YouTube.

(WNBC-TV)

Click here to view on YouTube.

Many of the disc jockeys, including Dan Ingram, would join 101.1 WCBS-FM, playing oldies with the Top 40 disc jockey upbeat. The classic Top 40 era with double-digit ratings and the nighttime signal reaching hundreds of miles away was gone.

The website Musicradio 77 has a lot of resources and memorial about WABC but also WMCA: https://musicradio77.com

Patrick


Thank you, Patrick, for the stroll down Memory Lane–and thanks for sharing the informative links and videos!

I truly appreciate honoring Dan Ingram as well–no doubt, there are many SWLing Post readers who remember him from WABC. He was and will always be a radio legend.

Post readers: Do you have any memories of AM Pop Music in New York City? Please comment!

10 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Days of AM Pop Music in New York City

  1. Mike S

    I grew up listening to Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, Chuck Leonard, Harry Harrison, Bruce Morrow, Scott Muni, and the other greats on WABC in NYC. Sill have a firmly ingrained memory of standing at the gate to (Rye) Playland as a child, with Dan’s made-for-radio voice booming across the park over multiple speakers. When Dan Ingram passed away last month it was yet another shock to the system. Besides the tremendous loss of a radio professional widely acknowledged to be the best that ever was, it represented yet another dying memory of things long past.

    I spend the next week or so coming through Allen Sniffen’s archive of airchecks on the musicradio77.com web site, to relive the lost world of Top 40 AM radio, hear all the commercials from businesses long past for which I still knew the jingles by heart, and experienced once more the sheer genius of a radio personality that everyone in the industry wanted to be, running the studio with the precision of a surgical suite using equipment that would be considered crude and primitive today.

    The musicradio77 web site is a treasure trove of radio memorabilia from a lost world. Worth a look; especially the Dan Ingram archive.

    Reply
  2. Christopher Lochner

    As a kid, my family vacationed at Ocean City in Maryland. Had an old and wide Realtone acting as the beach radio. Boom. Fidelity was just adequate but who cared! So many happy memories of sunning myself and checking the scenery ( actually, the reverse) and listening to WABC blasting down the coast. ?w..aB..C ( ding) ?? Oh yeah!! Time and place in a bottle.

    Reply
  3. Joe

    With all the well-deserved tributes to Dan Ingram in the wake of his passing, one thing about him that I haven’t seen mentioned at all has to do with his final regular radio gig, on WCBS-FM in New York. In the early years of the George W. Bush administration, at a time when people like the Dixie Chicks and Michael Moore were attracting a lot of hostility for being critical of the administration’s foreign policy, Ingram often managed to get away with sneaking in pointed on-air comments about Bush.

    I never heard anyone call Ingram “un-American” or ask why he hated freedom. Maybe it was that by this time his role was not high-profile enough to attract attention from the sort of people who would be bothered by his remarks. I suspect, though, that it had a lot to do with his ingratiating manner on the air. In any case, his final months on the air at WCBS endeared him to me all the more.

    Reply
  4. Mike S

    Yep, agree. Ingram always managed to give his critical comments that tongue-in-cheek quality which probably shielded him from such criticism. He definitely became more cynical and pointed as the years went on; I’m not sure how his programming would fare with modern audiences and the current political environment.

    Reply
    1. Joe

      I suspect he’d have a receptive audience, judging by the calculated risk that entertainers like Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and others have taken not to censor themselves. I’d love to hear what Big Dan would be saying now if he were still around and active!

      Reply
  5. Mario

    Was born and raised in the NY Metro area so these beloved radio personalities are very familiar. Back then there were four major Rock n’Roll stations.
    On the low end of the band was WMCA (570 AM) with the “Good Guys” DJs who would give Good Guy T shirts to listeners calling in. Now it is a religious station.
    Next was WABC (770) with Cousin Brucie and the gang.
    Next was WINS with the jingle “WINS WINS WINS New York.” I think Murray the Kay and his swinging swaray was on 1010 WINS, now an all news stations for many years.
    Lastly there was WMGM up the dial, on 1050 AM where I first heard Neil Sedaka sing “Calendar Girl.” It later became WHN. Think WHN was initially country music.
    Just about every kid back then had a shirt pocket AM radio, touting the number of transistors it had. Cheapies had only two. If you had a 6-transistor, you were cool. Higher than that well that was for adults hi hi.

    Reply
  6. Bob LaRose

    I grew up in Binghamton, NY, which is about 150 air miles from NYC. Until about 1963 we had no local Top 40 stations except a small low power daytime-only station abut 30 miles West that didn’t reach very well to where I lived. WABC, with DJs like Dan, was my go-to daytime Top 40 station. At night we had several additional choices – WKBW, WBZ, CKLW and WLS.

    RIP Dan!

    Reply

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