John Mack, 1380 WAMS Wilmington DE | August 3, 1979

1380 Wilmington DE WAMS WTMC

Was THIS any way for a great Top 40 station to end up? A Traveler’s Advisory Station?!!

WAMS, the call letters, went through a number of frequency changes at the end of it’s life from around 2000 till the end. Sitting on 1590, 1600, 1250 and even 101.1 FM fairly recently, this once GREAT radio station sure fell a long way.

Lets do what we do best, and turn back the hands of time.. this time, to one of the greatest years of AM Top 40, before the whole format flamed out and ended up reborn on FM – 1979. It’s August 3rd of that year, and an unbearable Summer on the northern Eastern Shore of MD. You’re cruising along U.S. Hwy 13, the main route from Wilmington and parts north, to Virginia Beach, Virginia. The top is down on your convertable and the Cumulous Clouds are building – you can hear the static in the background as you’re cruising to the Top Hits on WAMS 1380.

This is, understandably, for those of us around 50 years old, something of an audio treasure, along the lines of what someone around 60 feels when hearing Cousin Brucie on WABC from 1969. Only better! Sure, the (barf) sounds of Rex Smith (we really PLAYED him on the radio??) and the Charlie Daniels Band were fantastic on a well compressed AM station like this. And to hear Casey Casem doing an exciting spot for “American Graffiti” – just a WOW moment!

As you can tell, your webmaster really went to radio heaven listening to this. Everything from the boring, to the many Disco hits you hear parts of, to a jock with a decent sense of humor, even to the transmitter blinking on and off to the rhythm of dancing lightning bolts – which is why you hear a bit more of “Smoke On The Water” than we’d normally leave in a scoped aircheck – just so you can hear the transmitter hiccup!

We don’t know anything about our jock, except for he’s not the same “Mack” who did the overnight trucking show on WWL New Orleans. And WAMS? Stayed with Top 40 till 1988! Bravo to them for sticking it out that long. Today, its all part of radio history, one that we’re proud to show right here!

Aircheck #1,294 since May 2, 2002!

Aircheck courtesy of Big Apple Airchecks!

Big Apple Airchecks Matt Seinberg New York Traders


  1. Michael Klezaras

    John Mac is John McClement. Went from on air at WAMS to sales. Still working in the Wilmington market in sales. The REAL WAMS (Rollins owned, then Heritage Communications, the Joe Farley before going dark in 1991. Another party has tried on many occasions to resurrect the calls and format on many frequencies, but the REAL WAMS died in 1991.

  2. Guy VanderLek

    Michael Klezaras has it exactly correct. A lot of great people have been a part of the WAMS roster over the years.

  3. Chris O'Brien

    I was the last “official” Program Director at WAMS. Many great people worked there and made it one of the great stations. The final days were very sad to see this wonderful station go dark.

  4. JP

    The year-and-a-half I spent at WAMS (November, 1979 – April, 1981) were the best times I had in 21 years on the air. I worked with some of the best people in the business there: John Mack, Ken Brown, Chris Michaels, Leigh Elliot, Todd Doren, etc. (too many others to remember in my old age). I spent most of the next 16 years in Philly, but was never able to recapture the camaraderie I had with the WAMS staff.

  5. J. Robert Taylor

    Spent 6 months doing weekends at WAMS in 74-75. Under Ray Quinn, I learned a lot about radio. It was an interesting station with it’s many pattern changes to protect a 1380 in NJ. But it’s 5kw signal was a killer in Del Mar Va peninsula and south Jersey. Best station south of Philly you could listen to.

  6. Bruce

    Loved WAMS as a kid. By 1979 I had switched over to FM and WSTW, but still a lot of great memories of local AM radio growing up.

    • Your comment reminded me about how great WAMS sounded. Well engineered, the station just sounded GOOD on the average car radio – which really is where most AM listening has been during the Top 40 era anyway. So, that got me thinking about what the latest format of the station is and some very interesting information popped up. I’m pretty good about keeping up with station histories, you know, running this site and all, but I can’t keep up with everything. This one slipped through the cracks.

      WAMS, today is long gone. Instead on 1380, a station with the WTMC call letters. WTMC is the state flagship station of the Delaware Department of Transportation’s network of Highway Advisory Radio Stations. In fact, as most of you well know, there’s a whole class of low powered AM radio stations licenced as “TIS” stations. “TIS” standing for “Travelers Information Stations”. Most, and I mean the overwhelming vast majority of these class stations are located with transmitters adjacent to major interstate highways, most running substantially less than 100 watts. What makes WTMC so much different is that Del-DOT purchased what was then WAMS in 2000 and kept the station’s full service broadcast license intact. Which means instead of the average TIS station having a range less than ten miles, this one has a range that goes from the outskirts of Philadelphia, to just north of Baltimore on I-95 and part way down the Eastern Shore on US 13. For the rest of the state, Del-DOT has installed typical TIS transmitters in the fringe areas of WTMC’s coverage area to boost its signal. Furthermore… the whole network is on 1380.

      I don’t believe that there’s another system similar in the United States, although many other states have well built-out TIS systems, with transmitters usually in the expanded band above 1600 kHz.

  7. Rob

    I still have the diamond state cab jingle firmly imprinted by WAMS:”Call Olympia 84321 and bring the Diamond State to you!”

  8. Kenneth Shaw

    My 6th grade class did a restaurant commercial on WAMS we were touring the studio and they asked us all to gather up and the DJ ask us what our favorite restaurant was and we told him the longhorn Ranch I remember him playing it on the radio several times that was around 1974

  9. Diane Martin

    I worked at WAMS in 1973. Best time of my life. As a 19 year old working for a top 40 radio station was a cool job. Whatever happened to DJs Bobby Dark, Ray Quinn and Dave Banks? Anyone know?

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