Composite: 94 1/2 WCOZ Boston | 1980

94.5 Boston WCOZ

Courtesy of longtime Contributor Robyn Watts, this 7 1/2 minute composite is the first feature on a tape called, “Billboard Radio Competition Winners”. We know this is from the year 1980.

The clip opens with a narrative by Program Director John Sebastian. This is the man who took WCOZ to the very hard rock “Kick Ass Rock And Roll” format in 1977. The format flamed out as the 1980s kicked in, leading to the eventual demise of AOR on 94.5 in 1983.

The voices heard in this aircheck include morning man Tom Doyle, Cindy Balin and Jeremy Savage, who would go on to do many years of CHR at WKSS Hartford.


  1. John Sebastian

    Thanks for featuring WCOZ this week. Some clarification:

    I didn’t create Kick-Ass Rock and Roll until I became PD at COZ in 1980. We broke all-time national records for ratings success, that still stand. We weren’t that hard rock, really, very mass appeal, dominating every key sales demographic for a couple years! And we didn’t burn out. The AOR format evolved after I left the station and Classic Rock, a close relative of what we did in Boston, came into being.

    • My God, John. I was completely addicted to WCOZ when I was able to pick it up. Where I lived, way out in Orange, I did get WCOZ, barely. Usually we had to settle for WAAF. I still remember the TV commercials!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and setting the record straight. In 1980, at 17 years old, I didn’t know who programmed the station or anything behind the scenes. I just know that me and my friends really loved it.

  2. Tom

    Got to say FM radio in Boston really sucks right now, no real hard rock it’s all garbage. Miss the COZ, BCN, the real AAF and others days. Too many stations have turned to hip hop crap.

    • 94 1/2 WCOZ Boston – “Kick Ass Rock n Roll!” Oh yes, you betcha I remembered that station. I think the station’s best years were 1978-82. Then former WAAF/WVBF jock Harvey Wharfield did PM drive on ‘COZ in 1982-83 just before they quit playing hard rock. Tom, did you EVER meet Wharfield? I met him at WAAF in 1981… very long hair down the middle of his back, his beard was seemingly just as long, and a horrible temper! But he was also a very funny man! Last I heard, he lives in New Hampshire somewhere. Wished I had stayed in touch with him.

  3. Robert Buxton

    What was WCOZ like as a rock station back in the day. I didn’t listen to ‘COZ, Mostly WAAF & WBCN when I was a kid. Wish WCOZ would make a rock & roll comeback

    • What was WCOZ like? A bit of history for you. Until the very early 1970s, 1972, I think, 94.5 was actually WHDH-FM. Since 1967 or so, the station aired “Beautiful Music”. That was a format heavy on instrumentals… otherwise known as elevator music at least that’s what people remember it as. In 1972, the station was sold by the Herald-Traveller newspaper to Blair radio. They kept the low rated Beautiful music format until 1975, when the station made a huge splash in the Boston market by changing formats to Album Oriented Rock, or AOR. I could write an entire article about the AOR format, what happened to it and why it no longer exists per se as a valid radio format today. Robert, to answer your question more directly, WCOZ from 1975-1980 was a very successful and quite popular and memorable Album Rock station, like its direct competitor WBCN, and Worcester rimshotter at the time, WAAF. And, if you were a fan of WBCN in the 1980s, you’d be interested to know that Ken Shelton, George Taylor Morris, Leslie Palmiter, Lisa Karlin, Mark Parenteau and Robert Desiderio were all on WCOZ in the beginning, before going to WBCN, and Harvey Wharfield, one of my friends whom I actually met at the WAAF/WFTQ studios in Worcester was also a member of the WCOZ airstaff, he was the PM drive guy after his gig with WAAF.

      Here’s where things get interesting. In 1980, the station hired a consultant by the name of John Sebastian (see Sebastian’s comments above). This guy made a name for himself WCOZ. He took the station from the middle of the pack in the ratings, to number one, virtually overnight. His format was still AOR, but he tweaked it, tossing out much of the softer album cuts in favor of all the hardest rock of the best albums. Boston. AC/DC. Molly Hachet. Skynyrd, The Who… you get the picture. The on air slogan at this time was “94 and a half WCOZ Boston – Kick ASS Rock N Roll!”. Sebastian even commissioned a TV ad campaign that aired at least on Channel 56 in Boston and 38 in Worcester, which consisted of a video of Keith Moon destroying his drum set on stage with the rest of The Who, at the tail end of the song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. Perhaps some will remember that. As the AOR format evolved in the 80s, WCOZ ended up morphing from an Album Rocker to a Soft Rocker, almost like the old WEEI-FM, but sleepier, and without half the character of the old 103.3 FM. So, in 1984, and by this time 94.5 had been sold to Sconnix, they blew the station up completely and flipped to CHR as WZOU – “Boston’s Zoo!”. Three years and mediocre ratings later, they would change the slogan to simply Z-94. And that didn’t work, so, on May 11, 1993 (my daughter Jessica’s 5th birthday, ironically), they blew up 94.5 once again, and turned it into WJMN, “Jammin 94-5”, the Hip Hop and R&B station that it remains today.

      So there you have it. The shortened version of the history of 94.5 and the what did WCOZ sound like.

      The shortest answer I could have given you was, “It was GREAT! The finest Hard Rock station Ever! In your humble webmaster’s opinion!”.

  4. Alan

    WCOZ was awesome. I liked it better than BCN at the time. It had a special appeal. Listening to this air check is great. Some great jocks from the early days!

  5. Paul Hopfgarten

    Boy…I miss the old “COZ….Had COZ and AAF bumper stickers om my ’76 Impala back in 1980 with the after market add on FM radio where you had to tune the AM to 1400 LOL….Mozzy Stafford…..STILL doing Boston radio 34 years later (Magic???) I loved COZ back then,,,,,and NO BCN left wing Politics…I was NEVER a BCN fan

  6. Robert

    I had the misfortune to work there doing morning news in the summer of 1978. the station was at that time living on whatever past laurels it had and the staff was pretty much composed of paranoid backstabbers. I had to report to an overweight, anal-retentive, condescending turd who thought his sh*t did’nt stink and I otherwise was ignored by the rest of the staff unless they had some grunt work they felt they were too good to do themselves. the ONE exception to these miserable excuses for human beings was Lisa Karlin. she was a real sweetheart and couldn’t do enough to help me with song suggestions for news features. Karma really did prevail though…none of these losers ever went any higher in broadcasting or any other profession EXCEPT for Lisa who became a nationally-known entertainment reporter for Time Magazine.

    • Kat

      Wow. You’re not bitter. At all.

    • Past laurels? For GOD sake! WCOZ was only a few years into it’s AOR format in 1978… the only ‘laurels’ the station could have possibly have earned was being a sleepy Beautiful Music station! Look, I don’t know you, and this comment certainly got by me, but one thing I’ve learned in life… when EVERYONE else is an ass or a turd, it’s not everybody else.

      I disagree with you on ‘these losers’ ever going any higher in broadcasting. If I remember correctly, the airstaff in 1978 included Mark Parenteau, Ken Shelton and a lot of incredibly talented people who stayed at the top of Boston Rock radio for a long time. So.. this is one man’s opinion.

  7. Russ

    Does anyone know what became of Mr. Integritous (sp?) Steven Clean. He was the DJ after school and I can remember him playing Alabama getaway by the Grateful Dead, Around the dial by the Kinks and Donny Iris’s Aleah. Very unique stuff you rarely ever hear now on the radio.

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