(courtesy of Burt Sherwood)
Let me begin by thanking this web site for allowing me to pass along my recollections about the era of Rock and Roll that began for WMCA back in 1955. I called Ruth Meyer who was there for guidance and then also received permission from Alan Lorber to include his note to me prior to this writing.
History is meant to be accurate and meaningful. I hope this will tell some of you who believe that WMCA was not in the music business of Rock and Roll before 1961. I will try to be a brief and accurate as I can recall.
I came into New York in late 1953 and was lucky enough to be associated with WMCA during the early years. The history is mind blowing and included some of the top people in broadcasting of that time.
WMCA became a solid rock and roll station against WMGM and WINS in 1955. Before that we would play some of the hits but not all of them , as some of the music was considered "race" music if you will, and could not be aired by the station in those days . We played the "covers" of some great hits that were featured on WWRL . Bob White was our music director and then he hired Alan Lorber and eventually was replaced by Alan in1956 or 1957. The staff was different from what eventually became the number one station in New York; Alun Williams was the Chief Announcer and the staff included Ernie Stone, Dave Leeds, Ed Welch, Roger Gallagher, and Bert Knapp. All but Bert Knapp and Joe O'Brien were gone by the time Ralph Atlass (WMCA's consultant, and owner of WIND/Chicago and WDGY/Minneapolis) came into New York and introduced us to Herb Oscar Anderson.
HOA became our morning man, Steve Labunski became our General Manager, and Ruth Meyer came in as a copy writer and then program director after a few months... as we entered a new era and threw all of our efforts into becoming a Rock and Roll radio station with two full five minute newscasts an hour 24/7. Our lineup was Herb Oscar Anderson, Bob Callan, Ted Steele, Joe O'Brien, Scott Muni , Barry Gray (two hour late night talk show 11PM to 1AM) and me, Burt Sherwood with the overnight show called the Nightwatch. We were up against WMGM and WINS, we had a 5,000 watt signal against them and they were both 50,000 watts. We beat them both in the ratings, and became number one and stayed that way until WABC lured both Scott Muni and Herb Oscar to join them in 1960 or 1961. I was gone in August, as I recall of 1961 and went on my way to the management scene and left New York.
Ruth put together the Good Guys in 1961 and that era you have down pat Allan except for the fact that WABC beat them all the time. As Ruth said to me, it was because of their signal, so when people left for vacation in the summertime they took with them WABC, as WMCA could not reach them because of their limited power. I have sanitized all the machinations of what went on during those years, as management changes have little appeal to those who are Rock and Roll fans. The man who did our music was the fabulous Alan Lorber. He weighs in on this piece..now!
What you say is exactly correct. Not only that, but the change over was historically vital to the future early 60s music forward in more ways than you realize. First, "rock n' roll" the term itself is the integrating of black or race music into the white charts, which we did since we played the previously unplayed race music station charts, the originals and the covers, as it became "ROCK 'N' ROLL" as WE charted them. Ours was a cross genre station that gave the past audiences and the present and future kids audience their due and therefore it paid off in cross-genre #1 rating.
I didn't dump the past but used it in the cross fusion with the then present. Now the kicker. I carried that musical learning into the early sixties when as the new top arranger and producer of the "street" of "rock 'n' roll" of that early 60s period I extended the genre to the next more sophisticated level, adding strings and new sound to the hits of The Shirelles, Chuck Jackson, Jackie Wilson, Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, and hundreds of the other top artists I made hits for. None of this would have been possible had it not for my earlier education and DJ support of making the turn over possible in '55-56 and the success of that concept.
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