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New York

77 WABC Changes Format From Top 40 To Talk

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There’s not much to really say about this one. Throughout the 60’s and 70’s WABC was New York Radio and nationally known to the point in the early 70’s it was consistently ranked in Pittsburgh’s ratings. The 50kw Top 40 machine in America’s biggest market. In the late 70’s the radio landscape began to change nationwide as FM became a bigger player. In New York “Disco 92” WKTU and 107.5 WBLS reached the point where they battled WABC for the #1 slot in the ratings. Corporate Ownership saw the success they were having with an all talk format at KABC in Los Angeles and in what has become known as “The Day The Music Died”, May 10, 1982, WABC changed from Top 40 to Talk.

The WABC legacy lived on at 101.1 WCBS-FM, whose Oldies format played much of the same music WABC did in its heyday with many of the same DJ’s. It took a little over a year for Top 40 to return to New York, but when it did “Z100” made sure the mantle was in good hands.

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  1. 77 WABC was the best radio station back in the hey day of radio,they had great jingles and good personalities,I always had my radio,and this was what I had it tuned to!If I could bring anything back,I mean anything on the radio,it would be 77 WABC,I miss it still today.They had a certain style all their own,and thats the way it out to be,NY’s style 77 W-A-B-Ceeeeeeeeeeeee.No doubt,radio done right.Thank you to all the DJs!

    • Wow, Artie! You just quoted from one of WABC’s Adult Contemporary-era’s jingle packages! Specifically, the 1981-82 jingle package “You’ll Like Our Style” (the final jingle package both as an AC station and as a music station in general. I used to love the aforementioned jingle in particular. (By the way, did you know that at least a couple of jingles in that package were briefly revived (in terms of airing) in the summer of 1986?

      • I meant, “…You just quoted from one of the jingles WABC used during its Adult Contemporary era!”.

  2. I live near Boston, and that morning, I had to turn up my best AM radio’s volume all the way up to hear the WABC transition (since it had been well publicized).

    However, if my memory is correct, there was almost a full minute of silence between the final WABC Musicradio jingle and the beginning of the first WABC Talkradio jingle.

    WABC has now been a talk radio station for 30 full years and min fact has been a talk radio format longer than it was a Top-40 outlet (about 22 years).

  3. What the article doesn’t mention is when Disco died, so too did WKTU. It is often overlooked that it was another AM on 66 that took over as #1, long before Z100 came to town. WNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNBC.

    • Well WNBC would not stay long at #1 after WABC did its format change in May of 1982. In the next year 1983, 2 FM Stations WPLJ which is ironically WABC’s sister station and WHTZ better known as Z-100 switched to the Top 40 format and at that time WNBC’s ratings started to slip down in the ratings. Having both Don Imus and Howard Stern on WNBC, well those 2 still helped WNBC with good ratings. Then in September of 1985 when WNBC fired Howard Stern, WNBC’s ratings were sinking lower & lower. A few months later WXRK-FM hired Howard Stern which did do more damage to WNBC’s ratings. And then 3 years after the firing of Howard Stern, in October of 1988 NBC sold all of their radio stations including WNBC. WNBC was sold to Emmis Broadcasting and became all sports radio 66 WFAN. At the time of the format change at WABC in 1982, an ABC official was quoted as saying that AM Radio is finished with music formats. 66 WNBC is a good example of that because the music format on that station ended in 1988 just 6 years after the end of the top 40 format on WABC and 660 AM in New York became all sports. Years earlier in 1970 when another New York AM Station WMCA switched formats from Top 40 to all talk, a WMCA official predicted that the future of music radio would be on FM and that the future of AM would be the spoken word formats whether it is all news or all talk. That prediction turned out to be true. Today WABC still exists though as a talk station and WNBC would end up becoming WFAN.

  4. Technically, WABC modified its Top 40 format into Adult Contemporary in the late summer/early fall of 1980 (concurrent with its branding change from “Musicradio 77” [after literally 10 years] with “New York’s Radio Station”), first Nas what would now be called Hot Adult Contemporary, then as a straight-up AC station. But because Adult Contemporary is a softer version of Top 40 (and is an all-soft-rock version of Middle of the Road, for that matter), WABC’S AC format tends to get lumped in with its Top 40 format (for historical purposes, I’m *SURE*). So Joseph, not only has it been talk longer than it had been rock (22 years, as you said), but both its Top 40 format had and its talk format has lasted longer than its Adult Contemporary format.

  5. My bad. I meant, “first as what would now be called Hot Adult Contemporary…”.

  6. 1:55 to 2:07: Dan Ingram refers to his recorded legal ID throughout the Seventies: “WABC!, New YORK!”

    4:17: Probably the last time WABC was announced as “New York’s Radio Station” (its full-service soft rock branding). (And after the first WABC Talkradio 77 jingle played for the first time, no less!)

  7. I agree with Large Lee. And I own a very successful AM music station now in the year 2017. If WNBC were not sold, I believe they would still be playing music.

  8. I was a listener and fan of WABC from 1973-80, mostly during the late-1970s. I was a regular listener, even though I lived three hours away, in upstate NY. The following is a list of catch phrases I recall, plus the date they entered my quote and phrase chart, which I updated every Friday:

    their late-1970s slogan
    5. ALL THE GOOD STUFF 06/22/79
    their motto right after they had switched back to top-40 from the short-lived all-disco format
    their motto that summer

  9. # 3 and # 4: Sounds like WABC’s “Good Word about New York” contest from 1978, considering those were broadcast that year.

  10. I grew up during WABC’s nearly 22 years as a Top 40 Music Station. There will never be another time or radio station like WABC was back in its Top 40 heyday in the 60’s and 70’s. The Personality DJ’s, The Jingles and of course the Music. When I listened to the final music show on May 10, 1982 they had a 36 minute music montage of some of the music they played during the past 2 Decades. It was like seeing your life flash before you. It was like losing your best friend in life. To this day I still miss Music Radio 77 WABC and will take my memories of this station to my grave. Thank You to all the DJ’s who made WABC what it was back in the day. I am so Thankful I was Alive during this time period of my life.


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