When I was hired at WOWZ/WOWB in 1994, it was as their Music Director and night time air personality. I was excited about the gig; the Top 40 radio station I had been on was sold, the entire staff was fired, and the station was switched to Classic Rock. This left a gap in the market and I was excited to be signing onto this new station to bring it to the masses.
The station didn’t have a clear direction for its first 18 months or so; they wanted to be “Adult Contemporary” during the day (for at work listening) but at night they wanted to turn up the heat with dance and rhythmic Top 40 music. A radio station will not succeed without a solid identity, a cohesive format, and most importantly, without listeners. Women 18-54 tuning into the day didn’t want to hear the rhythmic music at night and vice-versa. After a couple of poor performances in the Arbitron ratings, the Program Director was fired, I was put in place as Program Director, and I was given the green light to make it a Top 40 Rhythmic Station with a focus on dance music full time.
Earl and I would drive around the state on the weekends and listen to what other stations were doing and I stole ideas from all of them. By the end of 1996 the station had a cohesive sound in both identity and music, was starting to get traction with the audience, and most importantly, started showing decent ratings giving us two things: more advertising dollars and “reporting status” in Radio and Records. Record companies didn’t care about radio stations that didn’t have reporting status. Once they found out who we were and that what we played matter, I was suddenly everyone record company rep’s best friend.
One of the challenges I faced at the time was filling in the back catalog with music from the mid to late 1980s. The disco stuff was easy to find; there were plenty of CD collections out at the time with the likes of Chic and Blondie and Pamala Stanley and Gloria Gaynor and the like. It was the dance music that had been released in the mid to late 1980s that was hard to find, as it didn’t make it to collections on CD yet and cassette singles sounded awful on the air.
Up until the days of Napster and Limewire (and I will never admit that I played music obtained through those services because of course I didn’t, wink wink), we relied on 12-inch singles found in record shops. I’d end up recording the 12-inch singles onto reel-to-reel tape and then editing down the longer formatted tracks to a friendly radio length. Because of this we would play versions that were familiar to listeners but weren’t quite the radio edit heard back when the songs were originally released. One or two of these edits caught the attention of record reps that were visiting the station and they made their way back to the record companies to get released on compilation albums or other music services.
One of the songs I had a really time getting my hands on didn’t actually do that well in U.S. Top 40 radio but plenty of folks knew it. (It had hit #40 on Top 40 radio in 1989). The song had done fairly well in U.S. clubs but had done really well in Canadian clubs, so there was enough familiarity with the track to put it into the back catalog. The 12-inch single was scarce, but I finally scored a copy while combing through the record collection of a club DJ. I never edited down the 5+ minute mix and instead just burned it as is to a CD-R; I figured the DJs could use the track to step away from the console to use the bathroom. We’d often jump in 20 seconds to start the song, but some of the jocks didn’t do that.
From 1989, here’s Shana with “I Want You”.