WABC Memory Lane

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!

1953

The creation of WABC..the ABC version of the calls, not the earlier CBS incarnation.

1962

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!

1972

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!!

1982

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!

1984

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!

1988

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.

1996

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.

1998

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.

Early 2007

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.

Late 2007

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!

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3 Responses to WABC Memory Lane

  1. Great trip down memory lane. The radio in the picture on the 1982 poster is my kitchen radio today. Keep your posts coming!!!

  2. Joe from North Babylon says:

    Just read your story. Very interesting. I started listening to WABC in 1975-76 and stayed with them until October 16, 1978 when I was introduced to 66 WNBC. George Michael was my favorite at WABC. Been following Imus since his return from Cleveland on Monday September 3, 1979, stayed with him at WFAN, and now at WABC. It’s a shame what has happened at 770AM, regular weekday programming followed by mostly unlistenable time bought shows on the weekend. The latest ratings were released today (12/26) for the December book, they registered a 1.1 share in NYC and 1.4 in Nassau & Suffolk. When the “Holiday 2017 Book” is released next month, I would not be surprised if they fell below a 1 share in NYC and near a 1.0 on Long Island. Mary Berner & Chad Lopez have a long road ahead of them. Many on the NY Radio Soundboard Facebook page have bantered about what they could do to improve the numbers. I personally would like to see a total revamp, eliminate a stop set on Imus (4 down to 3), give Bernie & Sid more airtime and lose the long breaks. Tighten up the TOH news/ traffic/ weather all into 5 minutes with 1 minute of commercials. Short breaks at ;18, :38 & :58 with a 60-90 second news update at :30 (no spots). Do the same with Curtis Sliwa. I hate to say this, but try to score a major coup by offering Mike Francesa a 3-7PM slot beginning April 2nd. Take Mark Levin live from 7-9 and delay his 6pm hour. Make John Batchelor go from 10pm-1am, and the overnight show from 1am-5am before the 5am news hour. Just my opinion.

  3. David says:

    During at least Rush Limbaugh’s second and/or third year on WABC, the station ran a taped version of his daily national show late Sunday mornings, while his local talk show ran during the week. That tape of his during-the-week national show may have continued when it added the live version thereof immediately after his local WABC show when the latter was continued.

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