WNCX: Wikis

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WNCX
WNCX Logo
City of license Cleveland, Ohio
Broadcast area Greater Cleveland
Branding 98.5 WNCX
Slogan "Cleveland's Classic Rock"
Frequency 98.5 (MHz) (also on HD Radio)
98.5 HD-2 for Spanish CHR
First air date 1948 as WERE-FM
Format Classic rock
ERP 16,000 watts
HAAT 293 meters
Class B
Facility ID 41390
Callsign meaning North Coast eXpress
Former callsigns WGCL (1972-1986)
WERE-FM (1948-1972)
Owner CBS Radio
Sister stations WDOK, WKRK, WQAL
Webcast Listen Live
Website http://www.wncx.com/

WNCX (98.5 FM, "98.5 NCX") is a Cleveland classic rock music formatted radio station. Its current studios are located in Cleveland’s historic Halle Building, in the Playhouse Square District. Its transmitter is located in nearby North Royalton, Ohio.

The station is currently owned and operated by CBS Radio, a division of CBS Corporation. It was among the first stations in Cleveland broadcasting a digital signal using HD Radio.

Contents

History

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WERE-FM

The station first went on the air in 1948 as WERE-FM and was the FM outlet for WERE (AM), where it primarily simulcast the programming of its more popular AM sister station over the next 24 years. WERE-FM actually signed on one year prior to its AM counterpart.

WGCL

"WGCL" logo

The stations were purchased by General Cinema Corporation in 1972, which would go on to change the call letters of the FM station to WGCL on August 15, 1972, while it flipped the station from its fully automated format to Top 40 as “G-98.” WGCL began as an affiliate of Drake-Chenault's "Solid Gold" and "Hit Parade" formats, which featured a Top 40/Oldies mix, but eventually went live and local with personalities such as David Mark and Mike Dix (formerly of the legendary WIXY 1260). Famed programmer Lee Abrams helmed the station; George Jay was its news director.

One of "G-98"'s most recognized air personalities was "Dancin' Danny Wright", who later had a long stretch in afternoon drive at country WGAR. He later became nationally syndicated with his current show, Jones Radio Network's Danny Wright All Night.

During the next 14 years the station would go on to enjoy moderate success in the face of significant competition from crosstown rock juggernaut, WMMS. Their best year was 1982 when they actually beat WMMS in the ratings, but after WMMS re-tooled and recaptured first place a short time later, WGCL slowly lost ground. The station was sold in 1986.

The call letters WGCL are now in use at the CBS television affiliate in Atlanta.

WNCX

"The North Coast's New FM"

With the station being sold to Detroit-based Metropolis Broadcasting, it ushered in a change. For only the second time its 38-year history, the station would change its call letters to WNCX (which was to stand for North Coast X-press, but Metropolis failed to service mark the slogan, which WMMS did) and format on October 22, 1986, when it adopted an eclectic rock/top 40 mixed format.

To signal a sign of the changes to come, the station aired Beatles records non-stop for 72-hours after the last day of the old WGCL format, just before the launch of the new WNCX format. This was one of the earliest examples of "stunting" in between formats, a practice which became common some years later.

It was rumored at the time that one reason for the stunt was that disgruntled WGCL employees who would be losing their jobs once Metropolis took over had stolen virtually all of the G-98 music library, forcing station staff to go out and purchase compact discs to play for when the new format launched (and in addition, the arrival of the compact-disc players the station had ordered was delayed for two days). Because of this, the station was one of the first radio stations in Cleveland to have a complete on-air library made up of compact discs, having spent thousands of dollars on what was considered a fairly new and advanced form of media.

While it was considered a new radio station, the staff was anything but new as it featured a well-seasoned lineup of Cleveland radio veterans—eight of whom were stolen directly from its heated rival, WMMS. Headed by the latter’s former Program Director, John Gorman (as WNCX Operations Manager) and 15-year WMMS veteran Denny Sanders (as WNCX Program Director), the pair promised “a much different sound than other stations,” and that they would “play a wide variety of music, 360 degrees of rock ‘n roll, from old to new to R&B.” WNCX's sizable playlist emphasized new music, local records, and included a Saturday night dance club music show. The format became a pioneering effort in what, just a short time later, would be a successful approach for many stations throughout the country, the "rock-CHR" format.

Its DJ lineup included former WGAR-AM personality Paul Tapie in the morning, former WHK Program Director and DJ Bernie Kimble in middays, Sanders in afternoons, former WMMS DJ Spaceman Scott in evenings, and Nancy Alden in late nights. Due to an inability by Metropolis Broadcasting to buyout his contract, Danny Wright was moved to the overnight slot for several months as a board-op with no speaking role whatsoever. Recorded station IDs and imaging was created by acclaimed "Word Jazz" artist Ken Nordine.

Yet, three months after the cutting-edge station's high-visibility launch, all of the staff except for Paul Tapie were fired, and the station was put back up for sale. Most of the dismissed personalities enjoyed longevity in the market elsewhere. John Gorman became WMJI's program director in 1991 (and again at WMMS in 1994) and lasted until 1996. Sanders landed at WMJI in 1988, succeeded Gorman as Program Director in 1996, and stayed there until 2001; WMJI, under Gorman and Sanders, became the highest-rated and highest-billing Cleveland radio station of the 1990s. Spaceman Scott became the program direcor for WRQK in the late 80s, then came back to WMMS in the early 90s. Nancy Alden went to WDOK in April 1987 and has been a fixture at that station ever since; while Bernie Kimble was the program director at smooth jazz WNWV for over fifteen years.

The immediate offering of the station for re-sale, lead most observers to conclude that Metropolis Broadcasting was poorly organized and financed right from the start. Their sole other station (WDTX-FM in Detroit) was put up for sale at this time as well and, within just a few months, Metropolis Broadcasting had gone out of business completely.

The evolution to classic rock

During the time WNCX was offered again for sale, Metropolis Broadcasting employed the use of Cleveland-based radio consultant, Mike McVay, former program director and general manager at another Cleveland station, WMJI. McVay immediately relaunched WNCX as a 100% Classic Hits station, featuring an innocuous mix of pop-rock Classic artists like Elton John, Paul McCartney and Cat Stevens, with little promotion and dramatically reduced expenses.

The curiously swift abortion of the current-based eclectic format so soon after launch was a cause for concern in the local radio and musicians' community. However the oldies-based Classic Hits format had a level of success with Cleveland audiences as WMJI's heavy focus on 50's and early 60's Oldies (at that time) left a definite gap in the market for a station willing to serve listeners who enjoyed more recent memories. Over the next several rating periods, as WMJI began to compensate, WNCX eventually repositioned itself solidly between WMJI and WMMS, drawing from both stations by completing an evolution to pure Classic rock. Consultant Mike McVay departed about this time. McVay currently serves as president of McVay Media and is the author of the book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Radio Stations."

Metroplex: Personality radio

Not too long after the evolution to classic rock, WNCX and its AM sister station found themselves being sold once again, but this time to locally based Metroplex Communications. Metroplex was headed by two Cleveland radio architects, Norman Wain and Bob Weiss, the former owners of the legendary Cleveland Top 40 station WIXY 1260 during the 1960s.

Wain and Weiss set out to accomplish once again what they had done in 1965, and that was to build a radio station with personality, particularly Cleveland personality. Over the next few years they did just that.

Bill Louis

Cleveland native Bill Louis was brought in to do middays in 1987 — an airshift he continues to man to date. In 1996 Louis was promoted to Program Director of WNCX. Following that promotion, Louis named fellow Cleveland native and WNCX morning show producer Dave Jockers as his assistant program director and music director.

Michael Stanley

In 1990 Wain and then program director Doug Podell hired local rock musician Michael Stanley to host a one-hour radio program entitled “In the Heartland”; the show would eventually lead to Stanley taking over the afternoon shift on WNCX—an airshift he still does to date.

Mr. Classic

Cleveland native Mr. Classic, an on-air personality of legendary stature, has been on WNCX for since June 1987. A weekend highlight of radio is named the "Saturday Night Live House Party" five hours of great requests with musically savvy listeners. His knowledge of the world is unparalleled, knowledge he shares with his listeners during his many weekend and substitute air shifts. For a couple of years, Ron Sweed co-hosted his Saturday night all-request show under his "The Ghoul" persona.

Morning Shows

Paul Tapie

Comedian Paul Tapie, the lone holdover from the original staff, carried on in morning drive until his dismissal in 1989. The station posted several full-page ads adversting their morning-drive job opening as a result. Paul Tapie later went on to helm the morning slot at WKNR with that station's launch as a sports station in 1991, and would also host the Ohio Lottery TV game show, "Cash Explosion" from 1988 until 2004.

Those Guys in the Morning

Hired by then-PD Paul Ingles (at the suggestion of programming guru Andy Bloom) from KMJK in Portland, Oregon, Those Guys in the Morning consisted of Rick Rydell and Todd Brandt, with sportscaster Mike Trivisonno (a frequent caller to Pete Franklin's Sportsline on WWWE-AM in the 70s). Although WNCX' overall ratings climbed during the late 1980s, topping rival WMMS in key rating categories, "Those Guys" had only marginal success in Cleveland, and were regularly criticized by the local paper, often speculating on their departure date from WNCX. As it turned out, they lasted less than two years. Ingles himself was relieved of his program director duties and was replaced by Doug Podell from Detroit.

Rick Rydell is now the market dominant [1]morning-drive host at talk station KENI in Anchorage, Alaska (and simulcast on KFBX in Fairbanks), Todd Brandt is part of the highly successful 'T&T Morning Show' at KEZO in Omaha, Nebraska, and Mike Trivisonno is now the afternoon-drive host on WTAM. Ingles went on to success as a public radio producer and contributor to National Public Radio.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

WNCX's next attempt in mornings was former Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley with sportscaster Mike Trivisonno - the sole holdover from the "Those Guys" show - and Paul Ingles. Ingles soon left, and was replaced on the show with Skip Herman. Paul Tapie even returned as a sidekick for the show within a few months of its' debut.

The Howard Stern Show

But even with the debut of Shirley in morning drive, Podell had convinced Wain and Weiss that it was time to consider a radical option - pick up New York-based Howard Stern. Podell had worked with Stern once in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan at former rock station WWWW in the early 1980s, until it switched to all country, an historical event that was forever immortalized in Stern’s autobiographical film Private Parts. After little convincing, Wain and Weiss agreed to take the chance with the show.

It would take until August 1992 for WNCX and Stern to actually sign a deal and begin. The same programming consultant who had earlier helped convince Paul Ingalls to hire 'Those Guys in the Morning' from Portland, was brought back specifically to consult on the Stern start up. Bloom had been the program director at the first Stern simulcasts in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

The existing morning show was disbanded, except for Shirley, who moved to overnights and became the stations' public affairs director. WNCX was a longtime home for the Howard Stern morning show, having run it from August 31, 1992 to December 31, 2005. At the time, they were the sixth station to sign on to what would become a network of over 50 radio stations for Stern.

Among the most notorious Howard Stern programs/broadcasts occurred in Cleveland on June 10, 1994. Having taken his radio show from Arbitron ranked #13 to #1 among all radio listeners in less than two years, Stern promised to have a street party and to broadcast a "funeral" for his competition live from the streets of Cleveland.

During this now infamous broadcast, an engineer from WMMS snipped a broadcast wire that was used to feed the satellite uplink for the program. The engineer was subsequently caught, arrested and prosecuted. Stern continued on with the program over a phone line as engineers quickly patched the broadcast wire back together.

Corporate radio

In 1994, after seven more years of Cleveland radio ownership, Wain and Weiss retired by merging Metroplex Communications into the fast growing, Texas-based Clear Channel Communications. This spelled the exit for those two from Cleveland radio.

Following passage of the Telecom Act of 1996, Clear Channel continued its fast growth and announced a merger with Jacor Communications in 1998, the then-owner of a large group of radio stations in Cleveland. To comply with federal ownership guidelines, Clear Channel was forced to sell off numerous radio stations around the country.

In Cleveland, Clear Channel decided to divest its current properties before the merger. Sold to Radio One were sister stations WENZ and WERE-AM, while WNCX was sold to CBS/Infinity Radio. For the first time in their 50-year history, WNCX and WERE-AM were no longer affiliated.

Howard Stern, post-script

In October 2004, Stern announced that he would be moving his radio program to Sirius Satellite Radio, a subscription radio service where he could avoid the content restrictions being forced on to him by the Federal Communications Commission. His final live broadcast aired on WNCX on December 16, 2005.

David Lee Roth

With Stern's move to subscription radio, WNCX ended up carring a morning show hosted by musician David Lee Roth, which began on January 3, 2006 and originated from Howard Stern's former flagship, WFNY-FM in New York, the former WXRK "K-Rock." Notably, David Lee Roth had been among the featured performers at Stern's Cleveland funeral 12 years earlier. (Coincidentally, both the WXRK calls and "92.3 K-Rock" nickname landed on the former WXTM in Cleveland, WNCX's sister station that also broadcasts at 92.3-FM.) Given WNCX's history and relative ratings stability, they were one of the few affiliates not re-branded as "Free FM," nor did they change format to a hot-talk format that was associated with the Free FM name.

However, due to very low ratings and a critical drubbings in the press, Roth's show was canceled by syndicator CBS Radio on April 21, 2006. Roth's replacement in New York, Opie and Anthony - fired by CBS Radio three years earlier - aired on the morning drive on 92.3 (now WKRK-FM) until December 1, 2008, when Opie and Anthony were fired from WKRK, and the station switched to a format without live DJs.

"Mud, Mihalik and Mike"

Shortly thereafter, WNCX aired a locally-produced classic rock morning show with no regular host, and also used the slot for tributes to past Cleveland radio stations and personalities, with many of those personalities filling in during the slot.

On July 27, 2006, the station announced that Wynn Richards, aka "Mud" would become the primary host of the new morning show, joined by Kim Mihalik (former sidekick to WTAM's Mike Trivisonno) and newscaster Mike Olszewski. Wynn previously worked at WWWM "M105" and at WGAR-AM back in the early 1980s.

"Miller and Mike in the Morning"

Following the departure of Mud from the morning lineup, radio veteran Scott Miller was brought in to captain the three-person (Miller, Mihalik, and Mike) morning show. Kim Mihalik was dropped from the lineup in 2008, leaving the morning show to the duo of Miller and Mike Olszewski (a Cleveland native and former longtime WMMS jock)

"The 'NCX Morning Show"

Following the departure of Olszewski and addition of local stand-up comedian Jeff Blanchard, the Morning show has reached its current incarnation.

References

  • Cleveland Broadcast Radio Archives Project
  • Olszewski, Mike (2003). Radio Daze: Stories from the Front in Cleveland's FM Air Wars. Kent State University Press. ISBN 0-87338-773-2.  
  • Cleveland Plain Dealer archive news reports
  • WNCX staff reports and info on file

External links


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