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WAPE-FM
Wape-fm.gif
City of license Jacksonville, Florida
Broadcast area Jacksonville area
Slogan Jacksonville's Number One Hit Music Station
Frequency 95.1 MHz
Format Top 40/CHR
ERP 100,000 watts
HAAT 300 meters
Class C
Facility ID 70863
Transmitter coordinates 30°19′22.00″N 81°38′34.00″W / 30.32278°N 81.64278°W / 30.32278; -81.64278
Former callsigns WJAX-FM (1978-1986)
Owner Cox Radio
Webcast Listen Live!
Website wape.com

95.1 WAPE-FM ("The Big Ape") is a Top 40/CHR radio station based in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. The Cox Radio outlet broadcasts at 95.1 MHz with an effective radiated power of 100 kW. Its transmitter is located in Jacksonville.

95.1 WAPE is licensed for HD Radio operations but currently has no secondary channel.

Contents

History

The station was very successful as an Urban Contemporary and Rhythmic Top 40 in 1980s as WJAX-FM before it flipped to its current format in 1986. WAPE is the second outlet in Jacksonville to use these calls and format, which was originally on the AM band at 690 kHz. WAPE in the past has celebrated anniversary milestones dating back to the sign-on of the original WAPE-AM in 1957. Some of its alumni include The Greaseman, Cleveland Wheeler, actor Jay Thomas, Mark Driscoll, Kandy Klutch (now on XM's "80s on 8"), and local legends Hoyle Dempsey, Tom Murphy, JJ the Night Guy, Tony Mann, Mark the Shark, Billy Goat, Steve Sutton, Chris Trane (Trane On The Radio) and Chase Daniels.

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WAPE-AM

WAPE (AM), 690 kHz, Jacksonville, Florida, was a Top 40 station with a powerful signal, covering a large area along the East Coast of the United States, during daylight hours.

The station, known as The Big Ape, debuted March 1, 1958 with 25,000 watts, operating sunrise to sunset only. WAPE’s almost unequaled daytime coverage area was a result of several factors... the frequency (AM stations on lower frequencies cover far more territory than those on higher frequencies during the day), the location of the tower near the coast (AM signals travel much greater distances over salt water than over land), and the power (25,000 watts packs a lot of punch... not too much less than 50,000 watts). The result was a station with strong coverage from Daytona Beach, Florida, to Charleston, South Carolina, and a very audible signal from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. In the mid '60s, WAPE further solidified its position by increasing daytime power to 50,000 watts and began broadcasting 24 hours a day.

Brennan Broadcasting overview

WAPE was owned by Brennan Broadcasting, a group behind three other high-powered stations in Alabama and Tennessee. These included WVOK, Birmingham (50,000 watts, daytime only and also on 690), WBAM, Montgomery (50,000 watts, daytime only on 740, known as Big Bam, now 10,000 watt WMSP) and Chattanooga’s WFLI, located at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, (originally 10,000 watts, later 50,000 watts on 1070, known as "JET-FLI" - pronounced as "Jet-Fly"). The Brennan brothers included Bill Brennan, who, to a great extent oversaw the stations from a business end while providing major contributions from a technical perspective, Program Director Dan Brennan (also a strong air talent in his own right) and engineer Cyril Brennan. Partner Billy Benns, Jr., a man with strong engineering skills, was an important part of this team, as well. While the Brennans were mostly responsible for WAPE, WVOK and WBAM, Benns was more responsible for the overall operation of WFLI (the only station among the group that operated both day and night, from the outset). The Brennans actually built the tower sections for both WVOK and WAPE’s 500 foot towers and for WBAM’s 750 foot tower. They also designed and built the transmitters and created the very contemporary building designs of the WAPE, WBAM and WFLI studio buildings.

The Brennan transmitters (two of which were water-cooled from fountains near their outside swimming pools) were capable of transmitting a rich, full sound that almost jumped out of the radio and was much louder in weak signal areas than other stations with similar power. Billy Benns, Jr. did the complicated engineering work required to design the WFLI “nighttime pattern” (allowing the station to operate after sunset on a congested dial position). This approach, in which members of a tight-knit team handled design, technical and programming details, required extensive and wide-ranging knowledge plus a major hands-on commitment. This was very unusual in radio, even at that more entrepreneurial time.

The early years

Although there were differences in the on-air presentations of each of the Brennan stations, there were more similarities. For many years, none of them used jingles (the short station "songs" played between records, with lyrics such as "77, WABCeeee", "WMCA, Yeah Yeah", "Music Radio, WLS" or "93, KHJ"). Especially prior to the British Invasion, the stations' playlists were quite deep and unorthodox, delving into deeper R&B than most stations while simultaneously playing large percentages of Country crossover (songs that were acceptable to both country and Top 40 listeners).

Air talent was generally more low-key on the Brennan stations than on typical Top 40's, projecting a warm, friendly, “real” attitude, without a lot of hype. Many of them were very good at what they did. They were bigger than life. Colorful word pictures and a sense of shared experience were definitely a part of the equation. Each of these stations was designed to serve a large, and largely rural, area. Typically, they might not be rated #1 in the Metro (the city and the counties closest to the city), but showed strong ratings in the overall area... Their greatest strength was in the outlying areas. For many listeners, these stations were a musical lifeline... the one radio station that provided a strong signal and played the music they liked.

Although WAPE signed on in the morning and off in the late afternoon with a short, fast-paced Star Spangled Banner, both WVOK and WBAM used a short, fast-paced Dixie. Dan Brennan hosted the pre-recorded "Dan's Dusty Discs" at 4:00 on all the Brennan stations… 30 minutes of oldies, with no commercial interruption. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, The Mighty 690 carried shorter newscasts and longer weather forecasts than most Top 40's (Leroy Cumbie was News Director, from 1958 until 1970). Dan Brennan was the station’s voice on station “drops”… with phrases like, “Every hour on the hour, the Big Ape scans the Weather Eye”, “Here’s a hit from the past that will always last” and “From the Big Ape Hall of Fame” (this one was always followed by a Country classic). Ken Fuller handled mornings (and served as Program Director) for some time, Jack Mock did mid-days and station star Dino Summerlin held down afternoons. Ken Rogers held down late afternoons (till sign off) during the summer months. Saturday and Sunday afternoons (from 3 to sign off) and was the host of the weekend pool party counting down the current top 40 hits. Other Big Ape alumni from the early years included Ted Jones, Bobby Dee, Bert James, Barry Kryspin, Cliff Hall, Jr., future Sales Manager Jim Atkins and former WBAM personalities Jimmie Adams and Charlie Herman. For years, WAPE had fewer commercials than other stations in the region, although this was certainly not part of the strategic plan.

WAPE featured the notorious and distinct Ape Call, a Tarzan-like yell taken from a 1956 song by Nervous Norvus. The Ape Call identified and branded WAPE more effectively than any radio station's jingles (almost fifty years later, WAPE-FM still uses The Ape Call at the top of almost every hour). Each summer, listeners looked forward to the Big Ape Convention, sometimes called the Big Ape Shower of Stars. These Saturday afternoon concerts featured an incredible lineup of the biggest stars of the day (with much of the lineup duplicated at shows in Birmingham and Montgomery). Another summertime feature of The Big Ape was the weekend pool parties. The pool attracted crowds who often became part of the on-air entertainment. WAPE was a major force in radio for listeners in Savannah, Charleston and Myrtle Beach. The station had billboards along the main north-south highway, US 17 in Georgia and South Carolina, wherever the road ran near the coast. The boards were short and distinctive, a cutout of the Ape holding a sign with the words "WAPE, 690… 500 Miles of Music".

The Big Ape followed its own path. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, radio stations in every format played only beautiful music (elevator music) and many dropped all commercials. Day and night, for three days, there was no rock ‘n roll on the radio, from WPDQ, Jacksonville, WQAM, Miami, WLOF, Orlando, WLCY, Tampa, not even from the New York City and Chicago stations. Big Ape covered it on the news, but stayed “in format” otherwise. The music played on.

Mid '60s evolution

In 1963(?), WAPE was given permission to increase its daytime signal strength to 50,000 watts. Not long after, they were granted FCC authority to broadcast at night. As AM signals can carry much greater distances after sunset, WAPE’s nighttime signal was greatly restricted, to avoid interfering with other stations on 690 in the US, Canada and Cuba, as well as stations in Mexico and the Caribbean. The nighttime signal was “directional” to the East, with 10,000 watts from a brand new transmitter location near Baldwin, just west of Jacksonville (the signal was required to be concentrated over the city of Jacksonville, with almost no signal to the north, south or west). This meant much of the loyal fan base was unable to hear the new, more marginal nighttime signal, even in areas as close as Ponte Vedra and Fernandina Beach.

As it turned out, this was a setup for the second stage of the Brennan-era Big Ape. The British Invasion (beginning in 1964) was a time of adjustment for the station, which had successfully built a Country/Pop/Rock 'n Roll coalition (using Rock ‘n Roll and Pop mixed with the “crossover” Country songs popular with rural Southern Rock ‘n Roll fans). This proved increasingly difficult to maintain as time went on, as the late 1960s were much more musically polarized than the first half of the decade. It was obvious that the station was in transition during this period… attempting to maintain what had been a successful formula. Popular personality Dino Summerlin left for Top 40 competitor WPDQ, already #1 in the Metro. Airstaff lineup changes didn’t work out. The Big Ape, which had been the station most willing to flex musical attitude, now sometimes seemed the tamest. Perhaps WAPE was in danger of slipping off the radar, for a time.

Ike Lee, Chief Engineer of WAPE from its inception, was well respected by the Brennans and highly influential in the decision-making process. According to Ike, who died in 1981 and long time News Director Leroy Cumbie, this period resulted in discussions as to the future direction of The Big Ape... with serious consideration given to flipping the station to a Country format. Fortunately, for a lot of its listeners, that direction was not taken.

The late '60s

In early 1967, Jim Shirah, who had grown up in Daytona Beach and worked in Daytona and Orlando, was brought in from WIRK, West Palm Beach, to do mid-days. After Jim took the ratings for his show from #16 to # 1 in a single ratings period, Ike Lee recommended to the Brennans that Jim be appointed Program Director and morning host. Shirah, who was 23, had been listening to the Big Ape since it hit the air. He was given complete freedom to put his vision on the radio and assembled a strong and varied lineup. The “In-Men” fronted an audience-driven radio station that successfully incorporated highly diverse elements… maintaining continuity and heritage, while taking on a hipper, late '60s attitude and significantly embracing what could easily have been polarizing rock from The Doors, Cream, Deep Purple and Eric Burdon and the Animals. WAPE took chances on songs like 'I Love You' from The People, 'Mechanical World' from Spirit, 'I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know' from (Al Kooper’s original) Blood, Sweat and Tears and 'I Put A Spell On You' from the Alan Price Set. The Big Ape featured local bands like Mouse and the Boys and (future Allman Brothers Band heavyweight Dickie Betts’) Second Coming.

The music list became The Tuff Thirty (tuff, not to be confused with “tough”, was a popular word at the time, meaning cool). Shirah added high-quality “PAMSjingles to the station and stepped up the showbiz qualities. As Jim put it, “listening to the Ape then was like listening to 5 different stations. I loved Elvis (still do) and played his stuff. Dale was more into country, so he sneaked in Dolly and Tammy. Alan loved Cream, The Doors and other "head" music of the time, and Honest John loved the Beatles and played lots of their stuff. Ron Wayne liked oldies and local bands, so he leaned on them.” The truth is, Jim knew the heritage and understood the people in the market. The station was coherent... to the listeners.

WAPE featured Jim Shirah from 6 to 9 a.m., Dale Kirby (formerly an assistant engineer), from 9 to noon, Music Director Alan Sands (from WIRK) until 3 and Honest John Ferree (from Daytona’s WMFJ) ‘till 7:00… with Dan Brennan’s "Dan's Dusty Discs" from 4 to 4:30. Ron Wayne (formerly of WPDQ) covered 7 to midnight and Tom Clark (of WLOF, Orlando) handled overnights. When the Big Ape In-Men made an appearance in Waycross or Savannah, they were celebrities. These were heady days for the Big Ape, which soon dominated the Metro, as well as the outlying area. Honest John Ferree recalls three ratings periods in a row in which more than 30% of the listeners were tuned to WAPE. By no means was Jacksonville without serious competition, either… WPDQ always sounded strong. The downside was a dramatic increase in commercials (even in the customized Jacksonville-only version of Dan’s Dusty Discs), plus five-minute newscasts. No doubt, though, The Big Ape was cool again. The ratings were strong throughout the late ‘60s. It looked as if nothing could stop The Big Ape.

The end of an era, however, was just around the corner. Bill Brennan died in a plane crash in 1968. After a time, the Brennan and Benns families divided up the stations, with the Brennans owning WBAM and 50% of WVOK. The Benns family now owned WFLI outright, plus 50% of WVOK. The decision was made to sell WAPE. In April 1970, Stan and Sis Kaplan (owners of WAYS, Charlotte) bought the radio station. The entire airstaff, with the exception of Honest John Ferree, was out. John stayed only a few months. A new phase began for WAPE (AM).

The early to Late 70's 690 WAPE continued to dominate the Jacksonville airwaves with Program Director Bill Burkett, 690 WAPE lineup included (Mornings), Larry Dixon (Dixon and Nixon) with Alan Moore Morning News, (Middays) Tom Murphy , (Afternoons) Cleveland Wheeler (Nights) King Kong Kirby, Weekend air-shifts included Nick Sommers (Nick Sommers Productions) Don Gatlin and many more up and coming Broadcast Legends, In 1975 The Greaseman Joined 690 WAPE as morning anchor replacing Larry Dixon as morning host.

Staff

On-Air

  • The Big Ape Morning Mess with Mark Kaye, Anna and Mikey P
  • Tessa Hall 10am-3pm
  • Tim Clarke 3pm-7pm
  • Orphan Andrew 7pm-12mid
  • Chris Tyler 12mid-5am

WAPE touts having live and local personalities around the clock, unlike many of the other stations in the market. Weekend personalities include Beth, Andreea, and Alison.

External links


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