John Dowling, WPGC AM/FM Morningside (Washington DC) | Sunday, May 27, 1984
Here’s a very different sounding 95 WPGC than the others you’ve heard on this site. By 1984, WPGC, an AM/FM simulcast operation, had completed the transition from Top 40 to Adult Contemporary, and the usual elements you’d find on AC radio are all here.
In this 13 minute scope you’ll hear John Dowling (who sounds suspiciously like someone from the old WXLO 99X New York), the *soft* hits of the day like Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias’ “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” (at this point I step in and say… thank GOD this is SCOPED!), recurrent songs from Dan Fogelberg and others, and a real GOLD library – you’ll be amazed to hear Elvis’ live version of “My Way” on WPGC! Lest we not forget the jingles. Never heard on the Top 40 incarnation of WPGC were jingles, but here you’ll find Up, Medium and Slow tempo’d cuts that sound GOOD in rotation. We even left the commercials in, as they make good historic markers on this, the only AC aircheck we know of from WPGC AM and FM!
About the Contributor
I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the 60s and 70s and was raised on great stations like KDKA, KQV, 13Q and WTAE. As a kid I would memorize the weekly KQV “Hit Parades” (weekly top 40 play lists) I’d pick up from National Record Mart. My uncle had a huge record collection and he started my collection by buying any and all 45s I’d ask for. As I grew up I remember calling DJs to chat and trying to win contests. I often won 45s and 33s from KQV.
During my senior year of high school in 1976 my family and I moved from Pittsburgh to south-eastern Washington state to a small place called the Tri-cities, encompassing Richland, Pasco and Kennewick Washington. One class offered at Hanford High School was “Radio and Television Production.” I signed up and was immediately hooked on the concept of working in radio. The school had their own radio station. Pretty cool! I eventually got to know many of the local DJs and started doing the weekly Hanford High School reports on the local Top 40 station, KALE AM 960. After graduating from high school, KALE’s Program Director, Chris Michaels (real name Robert Rockne) hired me to work the midnight to 6 a.m. shift on weekends. Either Chris or the station’s engineer, Chuck Bryson, would baby sit the transmitter while I learned the mechanics of running the board, trying to come up with something to say, answer the request line phones and business office phones, play commercials, routinely check the UPI wire service and learn the difficult task of back-timing songs to hit the live feeds of the ABC Contemporary News at 55 minutes past the hour. Wow! A lot to learn but what better way to learn it than on the late night shift in a small town?
Since KALE was a directional AM station, DJs on the air after sunset needed to possess a First Class FCC Radio Telephone Operators License. Chris Michaels said if I wanted to keep working at the station I needed to get that license. So, off to Spokane, Washington, to the Ron Bailie School of Broadcasting to study for my license. At the same time I was moving to Spokane, two KALE jocks I knew were just getting hired at Spokane’s KJRB. Bruce Butterfield and Gary Danielson put me up for a few nights and helped me find a small apartment. Bruce also knew a young kid named Scott Burns who, like me, needed that license too. Scott and I roomed together while we studied for our licenses and shared a ton of laughs. Scott is now working mornings in Seattle at KBSG as half of the “Fastlane and Burns Show.”
After getting my license, Chris Michaels welcomed me back to KALE in 1977 where I continued to work weekends. A full time position opened up shortly after that at Soft Rock KORD FM. Again it was the midnight to 6 a.m. shift. Working there was fine but I didn’t like the formatics of the station. It was a bit more laid back and lacked jingles and, to me, didn’t have a very contemporary sound. When I heard about another opening back at KALE, I went for it! After spending about a year doing overnights at KALE, I was promoted to the 7 p.m. to midnight shift.
In 1979 I decided to move back to Pittsburgh, PA. After being “home” about a month I saw a classified ad for KDKA AM 1020 advertising to hire a Board Operator. I jumped at the opportunity to work at what I thought was the greatest station ever. I was hired to monitor Westinghouse Broadcasting’s Hub and Spoke network during the early morning hours and provide actualities and interviews to newscasters like Dave James, Bill Steinbach, Bob Kmetz and John Hadar. I also ran the board for such folks as Jack Bogut, Art Pallen, Trish Beattie, Roy Fox, John Signa and Perry Marshall. I learned more there than I ever though I would. What a great experience!
In 1981 I decided I wanted to get back on the air and knew I’d never be able to get on KD’s airwaves because, at that time, their line-ups rarely changed and my on-air skills weren’t as sharp as they used to be. I was hired by Rockin’ Easy WFFM, FM 97, Program Director Dave Popovich to work weekends and produce the morning show, “Morning Magazine.” At FM 97 our line-up had Doug Southerland and Sharon Kennedy doing mornings, George Hart middays, Jeff Walker did afternoons, Jan Patton evenings and Trevor Ley did overnights. When Trevor left for a job in sunny Hawaii, I took the overnight shift. In 1983 after Dave Popovich left Dennis Elliott was hired to replace him. Not long after that heads started to roll and I left for WESA in Charleroi, PA.
In 1984, things changed. I got married and took a job for the FBI in Washington, D.C. For the past 20 years I’ve been working for the Federal Government. Most of it at the National Institute of Standards and Technology doing computer-related work.
I’ve worked weekends from time to time including a few years at WARX in Hagerstown, MD. Like anyone who has been in this business, once bitten by the radio bug it tends to stay with you. I do a lot of computerized airchecking and am quickly running out of places to put all my home made CDs.
I used to be the regular contributor of the Washington, D.C., area radio news to the Usenet news group rec.radio.broadcasting and web site airwaves.com. When the site and group’s creator and moderator, Bill Pfeiffer, was killed in a car accident a few years ago I decided to just contribute regularly to an excellent DC area web site that serves DC Radio and Television called DCRTV
(//dcrtv.com). I also regularly visit and contribute to that site’s sister-site which covers the Greater Pittsburgh area, PBRTV (//pbrtv.com).
Thanks for taking the time to read about me.
Tom Lacko, email@example.com