August 15, 2020

In the beginning…

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August 16th marks the anniversary of a very special event.  On that date in 1967 a new form of radio was born in Philadelphia.

In 1967 there was an explosion of new music.  It was the Summer of Love.  Much of it centered in San Francisco where flower power was born along with a whole host of new music acts the likes of that no one had ever seen before. In the clubs of the city by the bay you could see and hear The Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Big Brother &The Holding Company and a host of other exciting new groups. 

In Los Angeles The Byrds had started something that was being labeled “Folk” by covering Bob Dylan songs.  That would lead to the success of The Buffalo Springfield.  The Doors were ruling the strip.  Love was more than part of a theme for the Summer of Love, it was the name of another LA based band that never did get their just reward despite great reviews. No one could ever argue that Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention weren’t completely different than anything anyone ever saw or heard before.

In England there was much more going on than The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s and The Rolling Stones. Many new groups were mounting a new invasion of the US. Pink Floyd, Cream, Ten Years After, Fleetwood Mac , and The Small Faces. Then there was the return to the US of Jimi Hendrix..Carnaby Street was also dictating fashion.

In the record stores albums were starting to out sell 45’s.  Some were selling despite the fact that there didn’t contain a hit single in it.  This just added to the many factors that was driving a new audience and awareness.

It certainly no surprise that the first radio station to take advantage of this new trend that even merited a front page story on Time Magazine, was in San Francisco. In April of ’67 the former WIBG in Philadelphia DJ Tom Donahue took over a San Francisco foreign language radio station and made KMPX the first alternative station in the country.

At almost the same time in New York City Scott Muni, another top forty refugee, started something similar at WOR-FM.  Unfortunately the WOR thing didn’t last long, but Scott he moved on to WNEW-FM that year where he remained for thirty years.

While it wasn’t possible to hear these pioneer stations in Philadelphia, I was aware that there was something going on that was new and different.  I was certain that I could do the same thing here even though I wasn’t certain what they were doing. Details on how I was able to convince WIFI to play the new rock are told in my book “Confessions of a Teenage Disc Jockey.”

At 7 PM on August 16, 1967 the new WIFI rock was born.  The very first song we played was an acknowledgement that the music started in San Francisco. We played “San Franciscan Nights” by Eric Burdon and The Animals and we were off and rolling. That first night we pretty much stuck to the known groups with the idea that you can’t convert people in an empty church.  So, it was The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, The Mamas & The Papas, Donovan The Byrds and even the top forty hit version of “Gloria” by The Shadows of Knight .Mixed in were the more unknown acts like Love, Tim Hardin, The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, The Who (still unknown to most) and The Blues Project (featuring Al Kooper).

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