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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

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Milwaukee radio: a retrospective


(page 3)


Some Stations That Are No Longer With Us... how they flipped

WZUU -- 95.7 FM. Home of Larry "the Legend" Johnson and a number of air personalities who have moved on to Los Angeles, New York and national prominence in the industry. Several people still going strong in Milwaukee radio were at WZUU, including Jonathan Green, who now does afternoons on WTMJ, and Brian Kelly, who programs WMYX and Kiss FM.

The station was just called WZUU (FM 96, since this was before digital tuners were popular) throughout the 70s. They adopted the "Z95" moniker in 1984 while keeping the call letters. Not until late in 1986, in conjunction with an ownership change, did it move to a gentler adult contemporary format. It became WBGK for several years before morphing into WZTR, "Star 95." It moved to an oldies format in 1990 and kept the WZTR call letters until January 1, 2000, when current owners Clear Channel decided to resurrect the now-defunct WRIT call letters.

WEZW. If you wanted soft music, this was the station for many years -- from the '70s through 1995. It's now 103.7 Kiss FM (WXSS). When the station signed on in the 1960s, its call letters were WTOS for its FCC city of license, Wauwatosa -- get it?

WRKR -- 100.7 FM. Based in Racine, this station dominated the south side for years. Originally called WRAC, it flipped to WRKR around 1970. Throughout the '70s and part of the '80s, WRKR was known as "The Rocker" and "Hit Radio 100.7", among other things. In the mid-1980s, when Milwaukee had four or five pop music stations, they turned softer, added an R&B flavor, and for less than a year were called "Heartbeat 101" (WHBT-FM). In 1987, amid the "new age" music rage, it became WBZN, Breezin' 100.7. It flipped to an urban contemporary format in 1991 and remains V100 (WKKV-FM). They are also owned by Clear Channel.

WZMF -- 98.3 FM. Original home of Bob Reitman, "Downstairs" Dan Hansen, Mark Kruger and more, WZMF was arguably the first station in Milwaukee where second-hand smoke would regularly give you a buzz and the munchies. Debuting in 1968, WZMF began as a pop station in 1968, broadcasting from what was basically a house in Menomonee Falls. It soon began to evolve into a more experimental format. The station was initially a pop format but morphed into more of an FM alternative station.

When they signed off to go classical on March 23, 1979, their final song was Jimi Hendrix' "The Star Spangled Banner." The station was sold and went through a number of changes until finally settling on a classical format with the call letters WFMR-FM. The station stayed classical for years and can now be found at 106.9 FM; a frequency swap with WJMR-FM means that 98.3 is now R&B Oldies, known as "Jammin' 98.3."

WLPX -- 97.3 FM. Turn on 97.3 FM today, and you get so much Celine Dion it almost violates the terms of the Geneva Convention. You could turn it on in 1975, light up, crack a beer, and rock out for weeks on end. Terry Jeffords, who died at age 64 last year, worked at several stations but was best-known for WLPX promotions he arranged. Those included a taxi with two front ends, skydivers who dropped into County Stadium during Brewers games and flying an ultralight plane billed as the WLPX Flying Machine over Summerfest. WLPX, which called itself "Wisconsin's Best Rock" for a long time, battled with QFM for top station honors until it flipped to Top 40 in 1984 with the call letters WBTT, calling itself "B-97." It wasn't long before it switched its current Light 97 format.

WMGF -- 96.5 FM. Remember Girard & Luczak? Before hooking up with Carole Caine on their phenomenally successful, 15-years-and-counting run on WKLH, Dave Luczak woke people up on Magic 96.5 for a couple of years. Prior to that, the 96.5 frequency was classical, the home of WFMR-FM, now located at 106.9 after being at 98.3 for 16 years.

WQFM -- 93.3 FM. (1973-1996) When I was a kid, I thought the letter "Q" in the alphabet meant "rock 'n' roll." Current Lazer jocks Marilyn Mee and Craig Kilpatrick both cut their teeth at QFM for a long time. Home to more than 30 morning shows in its 23-year history... Bob Reitman was on the air for 222 hours and 22 minutes, spinning rock 'n' roll records for WQFM-FM in a trailer at State Fair in 1976. Reitman was listed in Guinness books for 1978 and 1979 before somebody broke his record and then the continuous broadcasting category was eliminated as too dangerous.

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Talkbacks

rreitman | Sept. 18, 2009 at 9:17 p.m. (report)

Anyone have OC White airchecks? rreitman@wi.rr.com

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Pangborn21 | June 18, 2008 at 1:50 a.m. (report)

Oh Roger you old cuss, no you're not. HA HA HA. How have you been?

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Pangborn21 | June 18, 2008 at 1:46 a.m. (report)

WAWA - home to Dr. Bop - and remember O.C. White? Two great voicesthat would be doing urban radio and hip hop if they were still with us. Two great men.

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Brian Stevens | May 10, 2007 at 6:08 p.m. (report)

Great job on the history. However, another set of calls you forgot were WAMG which was when the station was "Magic 103.7." WEZW flipped to Magic in March of 1995, but it wasn't until sometime that summer whe the new call letters took effect. Later, they stayed through their "Rythum and Romance" days. The calls didn't change until Kiss FM came on board in the summer of 1998. Also, don't forget that the WEZW calls supported both a Beautiful Music Format, and later, a Soft AC Format. I think that the early "Magic" days, when Dan and Jane temporarily moved form WMYX over there was an extention of that format. When Dan and Jane went back to WMYX, Glen Hanson and Carrie Whendt did mornings until Rhtyum and Romance when Greg Valentine took over the morning show. I hope that helps.

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doby | Jan. 3, 2007 at 11:29 a.m. (report)

How is it possible to review the histoy of milwaukee radio without mentioning station WAWA, or for that matter Dr. Bop, the icon of radio DJ's of his time? ? ? His airchecks are priceless and hopefully not lost forever.

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