HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WPLR (WNHC-FM)

99.1 New Haven

WPLR has an incredibly rich history . . . but we're having a hard time digging it up.  Of course before being WPLR the station was WNHC-FM, co-owned with WNHC (AM) and WNHC-TV (Ct's first TV station!).

If you can provide any station history please send it to us at admin@hartfordradiohistory.com.

    If you stopped in at PLR in the mid 70's chances are good it was Paula who greeted you. She and many others behind the scenes made it all possible for the voices you heard, the countless promotions, and the revenue to make it all happen. Paula went on to sales, then sales manager and after departing PLR, went to wNbc and worked along with Don Imus. She was always great to be aound!
    Barry Grant was
PLR's 3rd program Director "Yer Ole Friend".
    
The WPLR Jerry Lewis Radiothon on the New Haven Green July 1971 netted about $18,000 for Jerry's Kids and put PLR on the map 3 months after it changed call letters from WNHC-FM.
    Eddie Wazoo joined the PLR jock line up around 1974 doing the overnight slot. Ed later became the afternoon drive guy hosting Wazoo-Rama and had many interviews with rock celebs when they came to play the Coliseum, Toads, etc. Gordon Weingarth was program director then and also did 10AM-2PM with his "Out to Lunch" noon time feature. The 2 dudes in the middle? 
    Bob Herpe, the guy who bought the station from Triangle Broadcasting when the split up WNCH -TV -AM - FM as REQUIRED by the FCC's new rulings (about owning too many stations... times have changed, huh?). We all owe Bob a huge thank you for allowing and encouraging WPLR to evolve as it freely did all during his ownership in the 70's & early 80's. 
    By October of 71, about 5 months after PLR came into existence, it's former 'popular 99' theme faded along with the jingles. Jay Brooks the first morning show host moved to 10am-2PM and it became "Dark in the Morning" with one very creative Bob Dark (Al Santos). Bob is still active in radio and recently went to work for Voice of America.   
    Jay Brooks along with Bob Nary were the 2 DJs before "popular 99" WNHC-FM became WPLR on April 29, 1971. Back then the air studio was a very small room in the channel 8 transmitter building. All shows were taped, and rebroadcast later the same day and weekends. Time references were 'after the hour', or' before the hour' and were rarely accurate when played back because the automation always screwed up and nobody paid attention. Sometimes the system would just crash,and there would be dead air for many minutes. Jay was WPLR's first music director. He later worked for many years at WELI under another air name.
    Around 1975 after Bob Dark moved on and after Rick Allison had his slot for a brief period, Bob Nary took over the morning show with a lot of help from 'The Lovely Diane Lovely' Diane Raccio who came in and answered the phones, and News guy/ side kick Peter Kelly. This was about the same time Program Director # 3 came on board; Barry 'your old friend' Grant.
    Kevin McKeown was PLR's 8PM-2AM host. Back then, PLR signed off at 2AM and returned the next day at 5 or 6 AM. When it went 24 hours, a BIG DEAL at the time, Kevin took that slot. An excellent progressive radio jock; his shows were very cool. Joe 'from Chicago' Piasek took over that slot when Kevin left and overnights became pretty zany!

WPLR Memories:

Barry Grant:
    "... I can see that most of the real history of WPLR is totally missing. So here's a little more background of where I fit into the picture. I was hired to do the all night show on WDRC simulcasting on AM & FM. The AM station was heard in about 13 states, Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Newfoundland. I got calls from all those places. For many we were the only AM station doing an Album Rock they could hear. I had been doing the 7-Midnight shift at WAAF, Worcester when Charlie Parker heard me. At the time it didn't occur what a radical move he was making. I was allowed to play any music of my choosing, make up my own contests, and do anything with that time slot I wanted (within reason!). He never criticized me or told me what to do the whole time I was there-he knew it was working. My on air work was recognized when I was chosen by Billboard Magazine & the Broadcast Industry as Air Personality Of The Year. WPLR's ownership approached me about becoming the Prgram Director there. The station was floundering and going nowhere. It was my chance to take my programming concepts (which I believed in) to take on a new challenge. WDRC's ownership/management tried to persuade me to stay there, but I took the WPLR offer. However it was not without a rocky path to get there.The airstaff rebelled against the idea of me being hired as Program Director and went to the owners house for a meeting to protest it. He then met with me and asked if I could go along with some of the staff's concerns and work it out with them. I told him that if he wanted a station with high ratings & greater revenue, He'd have to let me do it with total control. He decided money and ratings were more important and hired me. The station was in a mediocre market position at the time. I knew we had real talent there- the late Stoneman (Joe Demaio) & Gordon Weingarth. I put Bob Nary on in the morning where he did a very good job and introduced information to the format-news,sports etc-believing that the majority of listeners were just regular people and not a bunch of radicals & druggies. I discovered Marcia Simon while listening to the radio and thought she sounded great-Marcia was absolutely not into much of the music we were playing on air-but her sparkling personality and willingness to do our format made her a listener favorite. I also found Eddie Wazoo and he was another big talent. Bruce Manke was multi talented and a major contributor to the station. I hired John Griffin from Akron, Ohio to be Production Director and he's still involved with the station. I won Program Director & Air Personalty Of The Year awards there & WPLR was Radio Station Of The Year. Later I would repeat these award wins in another market.
    WDRC approached me about returning as the Program Director of the FM station. At the time Charlie Parker had been the only PD for both stations for a long time. He again took a chance with a new idea and hired me. We did pretty well in the ratings, but ownership really wanted an Oldies format and I was done there and off to Pittsburgh.
So there's a little more background that you might not have known."


Kathy Cunningham:
    "I just found your tribute site via the WPLR group on Facebook.

     I can't tell you how happy I am to see that WPLR is FINALLY getting the recognition it so very much deserves!
      Jay Crawford..Bob Dark..Gordon Weingarth..Stoneman..Bob Nary and the rest circa 1971-1978..were/are legends!
      I was a longtime fan of WPLR's living on Long Island's North Shore. At the time..in 1972-'74..I was working at WBAB in Babylon NY as Music Director and on air 6p-10p.
I was 13 when I began in radio...doing commercials. I was music librarian and PT at WBAB when I was 15..which made me the youngest DJ and first AOR/Rock or Top 40 female DJ as well in this market.
     After a bad falling out with the boss..joining the ranks of those previously.  I called my radio buddies at WPLR..Joe "Stoneman" and Jay Crawford. Jay was PD at the time. Stoney had recommended me to Jay for a PT air shift that had come up. I had been in touch with Stoney for a couple of years by then..mailing him and telephoning him..theme sets and favorite segues....new music etc..that he put to good use and sometimes giving me credit! :^)
     I was just 17. Going steady with my first love...radio. In fact...it still is!
     Radio and me...married. It's been rocky..nevertheless...a great marriage!
      So...I called Jay...he asked me to come up ASAP with demo/aircheck and resume in hand. It also helped that he had listened to me at WBAB a few times.
    I drove. I got the job!!! I was over the moon!!!! Good thing...I had just been given my NYS junior driver's license!
      I began in early May 1974. I did Saturday nights from 7p-12am and then Sunday's from 10a-2p.
I was working with my favorite AOR DJ's...especially Stoneman..Bob Dark.. Jay!
Incredible talent. What's more..it didn't bother any of them that I'm a girl or that I was young...a bit too young in fact! :^)
     I sort of advanced my age and lied about my real age to quell any thoughts of hazard or danger!
I was now OFFICIALLY....the first female DJ on WPLR and fast becoming friends with most of them as well. Not only was I the first female DJ on WPLR..I think..to this day..I was the youngest.
      Some of my new friends and co-workers..were kind enough to even let me stay over their houses...because I lived on Long Island's North Shore.
During the Summer of '74...my time at WPLR...there was gas rationing....I don't know if you'll recall that.
Sometimes..I wouldn't have enough gas to get back and folks would help me with that..too!
     The studios on Chapel Street were amazing. Lots more equipment and more studios than I was accustomed to at WBAB. A multi-chief engineered station..one could tell at first glance! It was state of the art..everything!
I remember the Gates board in the main studio...very well. The production studio was loaded with a few Ampex 10" reel to reels...another Gates board...tons of cart machines.etc.
The processing at WPLR was rich...truly rich.
      While my time was short...entirely too short...from early May '74 through October '74.
It was memorable in so many ways.
I was hired almost simultaneously at WLIR to come on board AM drive..now making me the first female there and youngest DJ in New York..a title held at WBAB and continued.
      I was doing eight shows a week...communting back and forth and it became too much. I sadly made the decision to leave WPLR to concentrate on AM drive at WLIR.
     That would lead to a succesion of a few mistakes that I regret to this day...
      Needless to say..he didn't last long in radio. he pulled some stunts on Steve Mark Clark..The Big G..Glenn Walters and Bobby The Wizard Wayne and that was his tombstone in radio!
      That's why I was truly regretful that I left WPLR for that FT AM drive gig at WLIR.
I'll still to this day..be grateful that I was truly fortunate enough to work with these men.
It was my first glimpse of true "team work".
Everyone was a player for the same team..WPLR.
      A great team and an incredible radio station!
      I know I have a few airchecks around...somewhere...perhaps some pictures..too. I have much in boxes in storage."

Dick Kalt:
    "I was involved with WPLR from the beginning through the entire decade of the 70’s, from its sign-on on April 29, 1971 through December 8, 1980. I’ve worked with many of the names I see in the history (mostly provided, although limited, by Barry Grant and enhance by the very nice Kathy Cunningham) yet is barely scratches the surface. Having served as Sales Manager, Assistant general manager and General Manager, I can only say that it most exciting time in my radio life. Little know facts are that we had Don Imus appear on the station, literally when he got off the bus from Cleveland to Work for WNBC. We ran the first MD Radio thon ever and had Jerry Lewis perform for us on the air for 5 days from the New Haven Green. We did music experimentation others hadn’t even thought of yet, painted the 2nd largest mural and by far the largest rock and roll mural in the world, around the building separating the Hamden Plaza from the Hamden Mart.
    WPLR created the New Haven Roadrace (today is the 33rd running, I think).  In 1972 I arranged for Joe Sia to photograph Bob Dark as he posed nude doing his radio show (actually it was Jay Crawford’s at the time we shot the photos) and wrote the companion article for Playgirl Magazine."

Alan Bergstein:
    "WPLR was originally called “Popular 99”. That’s what PLR stands for. As you know the station was WNHC FM, and was owned by Triangle Communication, which owned TV Guide.
    Everything on WNHC-FM was on tape and sound awful in every respect. I believe the first PD for the new format was a disk jockey at WYBC, which at that time was a progressive rock station. One of the great ones too.
    He decided that what New Haven needed was a station that played Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand. This was around 1970. I was in high school and listening to the great WHCN and WYBC. Eventually the station got more top 40. I remember them doing a live remote on the green and hearing “Uncle Albert/Adminiral Halsey”. They played that song a lot. Then they went to album rock. I remember one slogan was “WPLR with gasoline powered turntables”.

 

 

 

 

 

 


1968


1969


1973


Marcia Simon, 3rd from L.


Bruce Manke


Bob Herpe


Bob Dark

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Transmitter engineer (L) demonstrates 20,000 watt WNHC-FM transmitter to Aldo DiDiminicus (R).


WNHC FM and TV transmitter building in Hamden.

Lobby of WPLR in Milford.









WPLR Memories:

Bob Olsen:
 I worked at 'PLR from '74 thru '76-ish. First as a volunteer, they didn't call them "interns" back then (remember the "Listener Line"?), and later as a paid employee. I stayed in friendly and loosely connected with the station thru the days in Hamden. My true claim to fame is that I was the President and, to my knowledge, the only member of the Bob Dark Fan Club.

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