Cumulus, New York (WABC, WPLJ, Nash FM, and WMBM) occupies about 3/4 of the 17th floor of Two Penn Plaza in New York City. That’s the building right above Penn Station, and in front of Madison Square Garden, that prompted the preservation outcry in New York, when the then Penn Station was torn down in the early 70s to build it. Since we moved here in 1989, my daily commute has been a Long Island Rail Road train from Mineola to the Penn Station basement, 3 escalators from track to street level, and an elevator ride to the 17th floor. But, it’s the last few minutes of my commute, when I head down the east side hall towards studio 17E that I want to talk about here.
A number of years ago, the office space on the 17th floor was reconfigured, and we lived through about 6 months of having to walk through a construction zone to get to the studios every day. One of the decorating features that was put in place when the construction was completed, was a series of wall posters highlighting the history of WABC. Some of the first posters depict the creation, and then the separation of the NBC Red and Blue Networks, and the beginnings of WABC. But it’s the posters that start a little later…from the Musicradio 77 days and beyond, that I notice each day walking by, as they depict my life since 1976 at WABC. So join me now on the last minute or two of my daily commute, and my daily trip down WABC Memory Lane!
The beginning of the Blue Network and the creation of ABC…long before my time…honestly!
The creation of WABC..the ABC version of the calls, not the earlier CBS incarnation.
The WABC I grew up with is on the move. The legendary All Americans capture the New York ratings, and give great financial support to the American Broadcasting Company in a real way!
Many familiar faces from the WABC I found when I got here in 1976. Harry, Ron, Dan, Johnny, and Chuck were all part of my Musicradio! Although music only lasted my first 6 years, proud to say that some of the most fun I’ve had in this business, happened in Studio 8A during those 6 years! From working with the WABC legends pictured above, to people like Howard Hoffman, Mike McKay, Liz Kiley, Mark Summers, and Sturgis Griffen, it was always so much better than working for a living!!
The NY Post called that day in May of 1982 “The Day The Music Died,” and it was a dramatic change for the station, and those of us who worked at it. Possibly because of my “talk” experience at WHN and WOR, I was charged by Chief Engineer Win Lloyd with conducting “Talk Classes” for the Engineering Department. Trust me, for folks that previously had just hit a button to start a record on the cue of a DJ, items like getting on and off delay, filling out logs and the like were very foreign. For many, it was the first time they’d done anything besides play music!
Bob Grant! Love him, or hate him, Bob was one of a kind, and a real radio pro! I first ran into him at WOR in the 8 months I worked there in 1978. He did a program late at night, and those of us who worked evenings, wanted to get out of the building as quick as possible so we weren’t hit with anything that might come up during his show. Years later at WABC, the mail room at the ABC Building called up to the station and wanted to know what to do with a package that had just been delivered for Bob…it was 50 pounds of Cow Shit! Did many remotes with Bob and they were always interesting!
Rush started on WABC from 10 AM to Noon on July 4th of 1988, and two weeks later, he started nationwide from Noon to 2 PM on what would become the EIB Network (Excellence In Broadcasting). He started with 58 affiliates that had been left over from the ABC Talkradio Network, and within a year, he was tearing up the airwaves. Credited by many with saving the AM Broadcast band, many may not remember that for at least a year, Rush did a local WABC program at 10 AM before doing his network show at Noon. Eventually the Network Show was expanded to 3 hours, and WABC became the flagship station of the EIB Network.
Curtis and Kuby start doing shows at WABC, and eventually become the WABC morning team. This will be the second time that Curtis was part of a team morning show at WABC…the first was when he was paired with then wife Lisa (she has gone back to her maiden name of Lisa Evers on Fox 5) on the Curtis and Lisa Show.
Sean Hannity takes over afternoon drive on WABC after Bob Grant is fired by Disney corporate. Bob goes on to do afternoons at WOR, and within 2 years, Sean is syndicated and becomes a staple in the nationwide Talkradio scene.
2007 saw WABC celebrating 25 years as a talk station with Curtis and Kuby in the morning, John Gambling at 10, Rush at Noon, Sean Hannity at 3 and Mark Levin at 6. I spent two hours every day doing the John Gambling show (reunited with a friend I made in 1978), and having the best time in a studio I’d had since the music days at WABC. Sadly, the WABC we knew was about to end.
This last poster tells it all…WABC becomes a “family member” of Citadel Broadcasting and the slide starts! Deemed “not in our core business,” ABC Radio and WABC gets cut loose by DISNEY/ABC and our lives change forever. No longer Disney Cast Members, we see many of our long time friends get the heave ho, as Citadel cuts costs and staff at WABC and WPLJ. Perhaps they were trying to tell us something when they put this poster right next to the fire alarm…we should have pulled that a long time ago! So Citadel went bankrupt, and then we became part of Cumulus and the stupidity continued. That continued until the Cumulus stock tanked, and the Dickey Brothers were forced out. Now we’ve got a new CEO, Mary Berner, who is trying to change the Cumulus Culture. Perhaps she will let our Market Manger, Chad Lopez, do what he’s got to do to return some spirit to this old radio station. If anyone can, it’s Chad! I’m pulling for him, and unlike so many others who seem to take great joy in the plight of so many legacy AM stations, hope that there is yet another success story for WABC in its future!