The worst local radio station format changes EVER!

I have a couple of Facebook friends that are involved in local radio – John Gabriel, the former voice of WTRY who now works for Magic 590 and YNN; and Richie Norris, who currently works for Magic 590 and was, like me, a former disc jockey at Schenectady’s 3WD radio station.

Yesterday, Gabriel commented on a Facebook picture involving some former disc jockeys at WPTR.  Here’s the picture.

Yeah, the words “Your Country WPTR” kinda caught me off-guard, too.

It’s not unusual for a radio station to change its format if the station isn’t getting decent ratings.  At one point in time, WPYX was a “beautiful music” station called WHSH.  FLY 92 once played classical music.  And long before the station at 1460 AM was a Radio Disney outlet, it was the powerhouse country station WOKO.

But sometimes, those station-changing formats are more of a hindrance than a help.  Longtime listeners who appreciate a radio station and have it tuned in on their car radios as the first channel to listen to, suddenly find themselves with a different type of music and they don’t like what they hear.

Now you may have different opinions when a station changes its format; however, as far as I’m concerned, these are some of the worst changes any station could have done.  So brace yourself.  This won’t be pretty.

WSNY (1240 AM) goes to an “All Presidents” format – In 1968, Schenectady radio station WSNY had a middle-of-the-road radio format.  That changed in 1968, when the station went Top 40 – and, in a weird quirk, had all their on-air staff take radio nicknames of famous Presidents and Revolutionary War heroes.  That’s right, your on-air staff included Paul Revere and George Washington.  Personally, if I want to hear Paul Revere on a Top 40 station, it better be with the Raiders, ‘kay?

The WGY-FM “Electric 99″ Format” – Long before they were “99.5 The River,” the station at that frequency was known as “Rock 99, WGFM.”  Their format was simple – they would play two Top 40 songs, and then after the songs finished, an announcer would simply say, “That was Boston, with ‘More Than A Feeling.’  And before that, Fleetwood Mac with ‘Dreams.'”  Then there would be the Rock 99 jingle.  Well, somewhere along the line, there was an attempt to create a more vibrant Top 40 station, so we received “WGY-FM, Electric 99.”  Ugh.  Blech.  It brought nothing new to the table.  And eventually it changed to The River, the station we all know and love.

“Disco 101.” At one point in time, station WWOM was an easy listening station, with the tagline that WWOM’s initials stood for “Wonderful World of Music.”  That changed in 1979, when some dimbulb at the radio station thought it would be a good idea to change to an all-disco music format.  Thus began WWOM’s run as “Disco 101.”  That lasted about a year, which was really a year and a half too long.

“The City Beat, WOKO.” Longtime Capital District residents know that long before WGNA was the local country music powerhouse, the best place to hear Conway Twitty and Eddy Arnold was on AM 1460, WOKO.  That was all well and good, until someone thought that country music was out of tune with younger listeners, and the station flipped into a Top 40/disco format and called themselves “The City Beat.”  That lasted from 1978 until 1980, when the station finally found its cowboy boots and Stetson hats again.

WGY’s “Angry Commentators.” Ah, WGY.  The station with Earle Pudney and Don Weeks and Martha Brooks.  The station that defined Capital District radio.  And then, in the early 1990’s, the station gave afternoon “drive time” airspace to a series of confrontational commentators like Mike Gallagher, Mark Williams, J.R. Gach and Andrew Wilkow.  These on-air personalities were the equivalent of on-air noise pollution.

The Death of WHRL’s “Channel 103.1” Alt-Rock Format. True story.  I was driving back from Yankee Stadium with a couple of friends on a cold September night in 2010, and in order to keep awake and keep driving, I let the passengers pick the radio stations.  One of the passengers picked 103.1 FM, which I knew at that time to be a nice loud alternative rock station.  Unfortunately, none of us realized that the day before, the station became a simulcaster to WGY’s AM news/talk format.  Maybe I’m wrong, but if WGY already exists as a 50,000 watt radio station that can be heard in Florida at night, was there really a need to have that same station take up an FM channel as well?

I’m sure there are other station formats changes that have made you want to stick cotton swabs in your ears and purchase a lifetime Sirius-XM satellite subscription.  You know – all-Christmas music formats, stations with tight playlists that play Katy Perry every hour on the hour, realizing that there is a station in this area that plays the Radio Disney format – so feel free to list the most jarring radio station format changes you recall in the Capital District days.

And believe me.  If I have to type the words “Disco 101” in a blog post ever again, I’m getting a box of cotton swabs for my ears as well.