Suitcase Simpson, WTAE “96 Kicks” Pittsburgh | January 31, 1977

This aircheck is somewhat confusing. The call letters are used at the top of the hour legal ID only. The station sometimes calls itself 96 KX, and other times 96 Kicks. And as if listeners weren’t confused enough, there’s a sweeper midway through using the slogan “Two Letter Radio – KX”. Boy, am I confused!

If you’re not from Pittsburgh and haven’t yet listened to this aircheck, you might think that 96 Kicks is a Country station. Its not. Kicks is a Top 40 station, complete with sped up records and jingles (used infrequently). Suitcase Simpson is a typical Top 40 jock for 1977 – hits the ‘post’ every time and definitely has the ‘pipes’. He works the phones quite well, too, as you’ll notice toward the end of this aircheck.

At 8:51 and scoped, this is not a long recording, but it is an important one. Despite the station’s apparent identity crisis, just the fact that WTAE was a fully staffed Top 40 station on FM is a big deal. In 1977, most of the hit music was still being played on AM – and that puts “96 Kicks” in that small but unique category of emerging FM CHR stations of the 1970s. This is good… and perhaps the only thing that really would have made it stand out would have been some WABC-style reverb.

Courtesy of Matt at Big Apple Airchecks!


  1. 96 KX was programmed by Bobby Christian. It was pretty new at the time of this aircheck. It was WTAE-FM. It was a simulcast of WTAE-AM in the morning. It had previosuly been WTAE -AM until 7 pm and the at night was Disco 96.

  2. Jeff Roteman

    Sorry, Here is more. It was originally automated. On January 31, 1977, 96KX added live personalities. Suitcase Simpson, Jay Stone, Shaun McCoy (George Hart), and Susie Barbour were among the first to join the staff. Dennis Elliot would join from WPEZ, Blake Lawrence took over mornings. Alan Jennings joined for news. Steve Garrett was added as well. In September, Mike McGann moved over from WTAE and Chris Reynolds joined 96KX too. The call letters switched from WTAE-FM to WXKX. It was really more of a top trax station for most of it’s existence than a true top 40.

  3. Walter Janaro

    I don’t remember 96KX speeding up the music (that was a 13Q thing and was pretty much over in Pittsburgh by ’77). I do remember thinking that they sounded kind of like a live version of automated.

    • Darius Kooros

      I’m definitely with you, about 96 KX not speeding up the music, and in fact, from the 1970s, I can’t think of a station in Pittsburgh (the city, at least) that did speed up the music, other than, maybe WESA, in Charleroi. Didn’t do as much listening to 13Q, in the late ’70s, as I did in the early to mid ’70s, but they never stood out, to me, as intentionally speeding up music, to get the most on in a day.

  4. Paul In PHX

    Love the Kraco CB commercial!

  5. Mike McGann

    We never sped up the music that was a 13Q thing.

  6. Tom Lacko

    I have an aircheck of their automation days. Will have to search for that.

    Hearing the temperature in farenheit and celcius brings back memories. In the mid to late 70s the federal government was trying to force us over to kilometers on highway milemarker signs and celcius for temperatures. The majority of the people HATED that! People would call on the request line and ask, “What’s celcius?”

    “Rock the Boat” sure sounds sped up on this aircheck. Could have been the recorder. Many cassette records in this era are variable speed record/playback knobs on them.

  7. Jeffery James

    “96 KX” was also used in Denver in the late 70’s. I have an aircheck of Brant Miller doing afternoons from 1976 somewhere. They refer to KXKX Denver as “Two Letter Radio” and “96KX” Same sounders as this station.

  8. Frank Hanel AKA Steve Garrett

    96KX did speed up certain songs. I recall a time when America was in the studio and we we’re playing Sister Golden Hair. The guys were laughing at how they “sounded like Micky Mouse”. There were quite a few songs that we sped up.

  9. Susie Barbour

    Nice to hear Suitcase Simpson again! Yes, Jan 31, 1977 was our first day going ‘live’ with the new format. The station had been automated prior to that. The new staff was put up at the hotel by Monroeville Mall for about a week or so as we all converged on Pittsburgh. I came from WNAM in Neenah Menasha (my first gig in Wisconsin) where I worked with the young Don Geronimo. Suitcase came from West Virginia, I think.

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