Friday, March 16, 2007
WPJB (JB 105) History
On August 1, 1975, WPJB, owned by the Providence Journal Co., switched from classical to top 40 as JB105. The original moniker was “JB105 has Big Hits”. The switch was advertised in the Providence Journal for about a week before it actually happened. JB105 immediately became the chief rival of WPRO-FM, which had switched to top-40 under PD Gary Berkowitz in April of 1974. This battle helped to give Providence listeners some great radio over the next few years. JB105 used an early variation of Mike Joseph’s “Hot Hits” format as only current hits were played and a jingle (the ”JB105 shouts”) led into every song. The station also billed itself as “The Big Banger”. The early lineup was as follows: Bill Silver with Mike Waite as the newsman (5am-9am), Dale Shaw (9am-12noon), Mickey Ashworth (12noon-3pm), Todd Chase (3pm-7pm), Robb Stewart (7pm-12min) and Rod West (12mid-5am). The JB105 Big Hit list (Top 50 hits) appeared weekly in local record stores and beginning in December 1975, in the Providence Journal, where it would be featured for the next seven years. Some of the hottest of the "big hits" on JB105 in its early months included "Get Down Tonight" and "That's The Way I Like It" by K.C. and The Sunshine Band, "Miracles" by Jefferson Starship, "Feelings" by Morris Albert, "Fox On The Run" by Sweet, and "Let's Live Together" by the The Road Apples (from Boston), which topped the chart for two weeks in December despite only charting at #35 nationally.
The station lineup would remain intact for well over the next year. Promotions included the Cash Bash contest, in which thousands of dollars were given away to several listeners, the Lucky License number contest, JB105 bumper stickers (win $100 if spotted), and the JB105 Bangin' Wagon, which patrolled the beaches in the summer of 1976. Also that year, listeners could call Robb Stewart at night and have their teacher or whoever they would like "eaten" by "Fred The People Eating Venus Flytrap". The top song of 1976 was Rod Stewart's "Tonight's The Night", which spent seven weeks at number one in the fall on the JB105 top 50 chart.
By 1977, changes were beginning to take place. DJ's could finally talk over song intros and the station no longer played all current hits. Brad Pierce came in from crosstown WGNG to take over late mornings while Mike Waite added the early afternoon shift (noon-to 3) to his news duties. Although just about all of the major national hits made the JB105 chart, there was one notable exception, namely "I'm Your Boogie Man" by K.C. & The Sunshine Band. Interestingly enough, WPRO-FM's afternoon jock at the time was named "The Boogie Man". In the fall of 1977, the Cash Bash was still going strong and listeners were calling in to "Beat the Gong" to win more cash. Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" topped the JB 105 chart for a record eight weeks in the fall of 1977.
In the summer of 1978, Waite moved to evenings. His high energy show, including the “world renowned Waite’s Complaints” had Rhode Islanders both rocking and laughing for the next three years. With polka music playing in the background, youngsters would call in with a complaint about their love life, parents, school or the music only to receive a smart answer or a hangup from Waite. The most famous complaint was the caller who would always tell Waite that "You don't play no disco". He was usually met with a "Disco This" and of course, a loud hangup. Waite would also find the wackiest caller he could and put him or her on the air to help him welcome in the nighttime at 8:00. Also in the summer of 1978, the JB Booty Buggy was cruising Southern New England with prize giveaways. The JB105 playlist was "shortened" from 50 songs to 40. In the fall, contests included "The Great Grocery Giveaway" and a "Hi-Lo" contest that gave callers a chance to win up to $100. By late 1978, the lineup was as follows: Bill Silver and Al Norman (6am-10am), Brad Pierce (10am-2pm), Todd Chase (2pm-6pm), Mike Waite (6pm-10pm), Robb Stewart (10pm-2am) and Rod West (2am-6am). The station sound was bolstered by heavy compression and reverb at this time. "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees spent nine weeks at number one, including the week after the Great Blizzard of '78 when the playlist was frozen.
Heading into 1979, the disco craze was in full swing and JB105 capitalized on it as disco hits were scattered all over their charts. Early that year, Robb Stewart left for WFBL in Syracuse and was replaced by "Late Night" Rick Everett. As "Super Summer '79" heated up, JB105, which once played jingles into every song, had dropped them entirely. The reverb had been toned down by this time and the weekly chart was again reduced, this time to 35 songs. The lineup was altered a bit heading into the fall of 1979 as Todd Chase relinquished his airshift to concentrate on his PD duties. Rod West finally saw daylight as he moved to middays, with Brad Pierce taking over afternoons and “Young” Johnny Dowd (aka JayBeau Jones) replacing West on overnights. Debbie (no last name used) was a weekend/fill-in host. Pierce began his popular “Big 35 Countdown” show every Thursday at this time (Note: In 1988, Brad Pierce was selected to audition for the opportunity to replace Casey Kasem as host of American Top 40). The station now billed itself as “Music Power, JB105”. Listeners were calling in to win cash with "Home Heating Hi-Lo" and "WAM" (Walking Around Money). The jocks were a close-knit group and would jokingly poke fun at each other on the air. One example was the "feud" between Bill & Al and Mike Waite over the Flying Lizard's record called "Money", which Waite refused to play. He then "broke" the record over the air and mailed out the pieces to listeners who had requested a "piece of the Lizards". Also, Everett would always "complain" when Waite would get him on the air a minute or more late after 10:00, which was most nights. In another example of how close this group was, all seven members of the weekday air staff from late-1979-early 1980 reunited over 35 years later at the 2016 R.I. Radio Hall of Fame banquet, coming in from all over the country as JB105 received the legacy station award. As 1979 ended, pop and rock tunes once again dominated the charts as the disco craze was quickly fading away. This was evident both on the Big 35 countdown and on Waite's "People's Choice" countdown each Sunday in which he took votes from 9-11am and played back the top 20 highest voted songs at noon.
As the new decade began, the station seemed to be on a roll as teen listenership was rising. WPRO-FM, while remaining top-40, began to focus more on adults under new PD Jack O’Brien. Early in the year, a volume 2 of Waite's Complaints was added at 9:20 each evening. in addition to the 7:20 edition. In March of 1980, television commercials were advertising a compilation album by country legend Slim Whitman. These commercials were claiming that Whitman had outsold The Beatles and Elvis. This caught Mike Waite’s attention and Slim became a main focus of his show for the next three months. Waite ordered the album and began playing cuts on his show (adding animal and barnyard sound effects to the music). Listeners ate it up, despite the fact that Slim’s music was about as far from Top-40 as could possibly be. Callers started yodeling like Slim on Waite’s show and Slim Whitman fan clubs started popping up in schools all over the state. Even rival WPRO-FM jumped on the Slim bandwagon briefly. JB105 went so far as to sponsor a Slim Whitman concert featuring Slim himself on May 18,1980 at the Ocean State Performing Arts Center. In non-Slim related promotions, a character called "Chicken Man" sponsored by McDonald's to plug their McChicken sandwich appeared on commercial spots called "The Adventures of Chicken Man" and even made live appearances on JB105 events from April until October. Also in April, listeners were calling to win up to $100 in the "Green Machine" contest. By June of 1980, Slim was a dead issue, but the station was still going strong, billing itself as “The Rock of the 80’s”. On the evening of July 10th, after the spring ratings were released, which were JB105's highest ever, Waite stated during his show that “Boy, did we kick their (WPRO-FM) butts”. Waite was so popular at this time that WPRI-TV (Channel 12) aired a short feature on him as the first of their “Night People” segments on the 11:00 news. Waite also broadcasted the daily business reports on sister station WEAN and was JB105's music director. As the fall of 1980 had arrived, there was a new "Bill" on the Bill & Al show as Bill Kelly from WOKY, Milwaukee replaced Bill Silver, who a few weeks earlier had left for WHDH in Boston. Dave Fallon was now handling news on the Bill & Al show. The remainder of the weekday lineup remained unchanged throughout the year. Another Bill, Bill Davis joined the station for weekends. In October and November, listeners were flooding the phone lines to play "JB Football" to win up to $1oo. As the year ended, however, PRO-FM was quickly regaining momentum with the return of Gary Berkowitz. JB105 closed out the year on 12/31 with a live broadcast by Waite and then Everett from United Skates of America in East Providence playing the top 50 songs of the year. Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in The Wall", number one for six weeks in the spring, took home the top spot.
The first quarter of 1981 saw a number of changes at JB105. The station started to lean a bit toward the rock side and even instituted “Album Rock Sundays” for a short time. This included mini-concerts, triple plays and commercial free hours. The most requested song on the station at this time was the novelty record “Eugene” by Crazy Joe and The Variable Speed Band, featuring the unforgettable lyrics of "I'm a cool dude in a loose mood". The song never hit the Billboard Hot 100 (it bubbled under the 100), but hit number one at JB105. On February 8, 1981, Rod West said goodbye after 5 1/2 years and headed to nights at WPRO-AM. He was replaced in middays by Rick Everett. Johnny Dowd moved to Everett's late night shift, while Doc Holiday came in from WTIC in Hartford for overnights. John Monk was a new part-timer. Later that month the station suffered a major blow as the popular morning team of Bill & Al did their farewell show on February 28, 1981. The final show included goodbye calls from listeners and radio/television personalities including George Colajezzi and Magee Hickey from WLNE-TV Channel 6. Bill & Al headed for WGBS-AM in Miami (they changed the show name to Kelly & Kline and worked together on various stations for over 20 years). Mike Waite was moved up to fill their slot in the mornings. Dr. Grady Brock, formerly of WCFL, Chicago and WGNG, replaced Waite at night. The station just didn’t have the same feel after these moves as Brock could not fill the incredible shoes of Waite at night, and even Waite just didn’t quite sound the same in the morning without his yelling, screaming and the tastefully obnoxious behavior that made him famous at night. (Note: From 1993 to 2010, Michael Waite went on to become one of the most popular morning show hosts in the country, as well as VP of Operations at adult contemporary 99.5 WJBR-FM in Delaware). One of Waite's morning bits included Ask the Manager segments with "station manager Juan Tontomato" (Waite in a somewhat disguised voice). This was essentially the morning version of Waite's Complaints. Listeners were now calling in for a 50-50 chance to win $50 by correctly selecting one of two answers of an obscure music question or by picking the right jock in "Jock In The Box'". Dr. Brock was gone after three months and was eventually replaced by “Smokin’” Willie B. Goode (aka Gnarly Charlie) from KC101, New Haven CT in August. Mickey O (aka Mike Olsen) joined the station for fill-ins and weekends in July. The JB Booty Buggy was again cruising Southern New England beaches with Cosmic Jeff handing out prizes. In the summer of 1981, broadcasting from its new studios, the station continued its rock lean, billing itself as “New England’s Best Rock”. For the first time in many months, a Billboard Top 10 hit (“A Woman Needs Love” by Ray Parker Jr.) was not added to the JB105 chart. Rock-leaning songs that flopped on the Billboard charts, such as “Sign Of A Gypsy Queen” by April Wine, “Tom Sawyer” by Rush, and “Pay You Back With Interest” by Gary O were huge hits on JB105. Urban-leaning hits, such as “Double-Dutch Bus” and “Ai No Corrida” were not played. There were some personnel changes as Jeff Baker from WVBF in Boston joined Mike Waite for mornings starting August 31, 1981 to form the Mike and Jeff show. Baker impersonated celebrities as one of his main bits. Also, Johnny Dowd and Rick Everett flipped shifts. In September of 1981, WHJY became the first album rock station in Providence. Suddenly, a different sound began to emerge on JB105. A jingle package was used for the first time in two years and the “Best Rock” moniker was dropped for “Southern New England’s Best Music”. Top 40/Urban hits such as “Super Freak” and “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” were again being added and were top 10 hits on the station. Still though, there was a sense that the station was not the top 40 mainstay it once was as they were later than ever to add songs, and the songs were taking longer to leave the charts. The order of songs on the JB105 music survey seemed to be the same every week as songs rarely jumped over each other until they hit the top 10. Also, hits such as “Oh No” and “Theme From Hill Street Blues” were never added. In the fall of 1981, households listed in the phone book were called at random in the "Celebrity Sweepstakes" contest. If the person being called was listening and knew the celebrity of the hour, they would be rewarded with a cash prize of $1,050. Once again, the year ended with a live broadcast of the top 50 songs of the year at United Skates of America. Goode and Everett handled the duties with "Endless Love" by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie coming in at number one.
As 1982 began, the chart had more of an adult flavor to it as rock-leaning hits such as “Spirits In The Material World” and “Working For The Weekend” were passed over in favor of yawners such as “Sea Of Love” by Del Shannon and “Daddy’s Home” by Cliff Richard. The station billed itself as “Southern New England’s Exciting FM”, but with the possible exception of Willie B.’s night show and his nightly "Hot Tracks" countdown, did not sound anything like that. Not a whole lot changed into the summer, although the station did add most of the current hits, with the exception of “Let It Whip”. By late August, Goode had moved on and the lineup was adjusted as follows: Mike and Jeff (5:30 - 10:00), Johnny Dowd (10:00 - 2:30), Brad Pierce (2:30 - 7:00), Doc Holiday (7:00 - 12mid), Rick Everett (12mid - 5:30am). Vic Michaels and Mark Ambrose joined the station for weekends, with Michaels remaining there until June 1985. In September 1982, PD Todd Chase headed to Kansas City to program KBEQ after seven years at JB105. Listeners were heading to Burger King to pick up their "trip tickets" for a chance to win a vacation. As the fall approached, it was even more obvious that something was up. Several rock-leaning songs that were on the music survey were not played on the station during the week, and they were even skipped over with no mention on the now Sunday night countdown show. Something seemed wrong with the station’s compression and processing as songs just didn’t sound right coming out of jingles. The top-of-the-hour slogan was changed to "JB105, the FM station with more variety in the music". Finally, on November 26, 1982, the top 35 music survey failed to appear in the Weekend section of the Providence Journal ("Up Where We Belong" was JB105's last number one song), and the station was now playing a majority of adult oldies and a few current adult hits, while still going by the JB105 name. I was told by one of the DJ’s that the change to an AC station was made because the station could not make money selling ads for kid’s products such as acne medicine. Mike Waite left the station in November to join former rival Gary Berkowitz at WROR in Boston. Dave Scott was another part-timer as the year ended.
In 1983, the station continued its adult lean, still as JB105, playing only two current songs an hour, but it was obvious that an image change was needed to complete the transition. The lineup consisted of Jeff Baker (6am-10am), Johnny Dowd (10am-230pm), Brad Pierce (230pm-700pm), Jon (Formerly Doc) Holiday (7pm-12mid), and Rick Everett (12mid-6am). By the summer of 1983, Tom Hunter had become station PD. Hunter tightened things up at the station and gave it a better sound. I know for a fact that he didn’t allow visitors in the studio because I was personally kicked out of the station by Mr. Hunter while visiting. Hunter changed the moniker of the station to “105 WPJB” and added a new jingle package. A couple of more currents were added per hour and the station seemed refreshed and was a decent sounding AC station. Gregg Daniels, who would later become a fixture in Boston radio, joined for weekends, along with George Allan. In late 1983, the station scored a major coup as longtime WPRO-AM personality Gary DeGraide became the new morning host. Len Mailloux handled news duties. Also heard on the morning show were: John Flanders (weather), Walt Perkins (sports) and Tony DiBiaso (traffic).
There were no changes in the lineup or in the station sound until August of 1984. Suddenly, the station, while using the same presentation and jingles, began calling itself the “All New, All Hit 105 WPJB” and again started to play most of the current hits, except for some harder-rocking songs. One of the station promos proclaimed that this was “hit music for adults”. Dowd and Holiday’s shifts were switched, although Dowd promptly took the train up to Boston in early September to work at WHTT. Rick Everett then moved into the night slot. Kathy Doran (sp?) and Neil Sullivan joined for weekends. Promos and sweepers were voiced by Charlie Van Dyke. Brad Pierce once again hosted a countdown show as "The Hometown Countdown" aired each Friday from 4p-6p featuring the top 25 songs of the week. Listeners were putting "105 WPJB" bumper stickers on their vehicles in the fall of 1984 for a chance to win a cash prize of $105 if their license plate was announced over the air. The station had a strong Fall 1984 ratings book, finishing second with Women 25-54.
The “all hit” music continued into 1985. Changes began to abound in the new year. The station, along with WEAN, was purchased by Eastern Broadcasting in March, which laid off several staffers including PD Tom Hunter. Tyler, formerly of WPRO-FM and several other stations, took over the afternoon shift. As of April, the WPJB name was being phased out and the station was simply calling itself the " All-Hit 105 FM". The morning newsperson at that time was Katie O’Malley. O’Malley was actually Joan Edwardsen, who shortly after, became the morning newsperson and then co-host at crosstown WSNE, lasting until late in 2006. Weather forecasts were provided by meteorologist Dr. Mel. "Getaway Escape" vacations were given away in the spring of 1985.
A format change back to a full-blown CHR station was in the works at this time under new OM Chris Gable and new PD Don Hallett. However, the station decided to go in a different direction after sales projections showed that CHR would not work. On June 13, 1985, listeners were treated to a continuously repeated recording pronouncing that “WPJB is dead!”. This was followed by the continuous playing of Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life", along with "Taps". The next morning, Gary DeGraide introduced the new WWLI “Lite 105”. Lite 105 played a unique blend of light adult contemporary music with little talk. There was virtually no current music in the original format. The only on-air holdovers from WPJB to the new format were DeGraide in the morning and Tyler on the “Nite Lite” show from 6pm to midnight. OM Chris Gable followed DeGraide in middays and PD Don Hallett did afternoons. E.G. Williamson (overnights) and Peter Doblin (weekends) were other personalities that I can remember on Lite at this time. Normally a high energy top-40 personality, Tyler, (going by “Terry Tyler” for the first time in this area; he had used his first name early in his career in Ohio) seemed out of place in this format and was gone within a few months. DeGraide, meanwhile remained the morning host, bringing a familiar and friendly voice to WWLI listeners (until the end of 2005). In 1989, Eastern Broadcasting was acquired by Tele-Media Broadcasting. In an ironic twist, with Tele-Media's acquisition of former rival WPRO-FM in 1993, both stations were now owned by the same company. A few months before then, a familar voice had joined Lite 105 as Charlie Jefferds took over the afternoon drive shift that he held until January, 2009. Another voice from the early-mid 90's with a long run on the station until November, 2011 was NiteLite host Art Spencer.
In July 1997, WPRO AM/FM and WWLI were acquired by Citadel Communications and today operate under the same roof at the Brine Broadcast Center in East Providence owned by Cumulus Media. The station became a full-fledged AC outlet in the 90's under PD Tom Holt, who programmed the station through late 2002. In 2001, the station moniker was changed to "Lite Rock 105", along with a brightening up of the overall sound of the station. Gary DeGraide's replacement on the morning show in December, 2005 was longtime WSNE morning co-host David Jones. As of January 2009, the weekday lineup consisted of: Jones & Heather (6a-10a), Tanya Cruise (10a-3p), OM/PD Tony Bristol (3p-7p) and Art Spencer with NiteLite (7p-12mid). In August 2011, the station welcomed in native Rhode islander Amy Pontes as its new midday host. In February 2013, WJBR Wilmington, DE PD Brian Demay was hired as the new PD and afternoon host replacing Tony Bristol. As the station was in its all-Christmas mode in late 2013, David Jones left the building and was replaced in December by WXLO, Worcester morning co-host Stephen Donovan. The lineup as of January 2014 was as follows: Heather and Steve (5:30a-10a),Amy Pontes (10a-3p) and Brian Demay (3pm-7pm). In February 2014, the syndicated John Tesh radio show was added for nights from 7p-12mid. Brian Demay moved to sister station WRRM in Cincinnati in May, 2016. He was replaced in afternoons by former WPRO-AM PD Paul Giammarco in July 2016 as PD by Emily Boldon, who was also heard on weekends, along with Patrick Austin and Tony Mascaro.