WMCA, 570 AM, is a radio station in New York City, most known for its "Good Guys" Top 40 era in the 1960s. It is currently owned by Salem Communications and plays a Christian radio format. Its three-tower transmitter site (easily visible on the right, from the northbound New Jersey Turnpike) is located on the Hackensack River, in Kearny, New Jersey.
Through its early decades WMCA had a varied programming history, playing music, hosting dramas, and broadcasting New York Giants baseball games. In 1943, it was acquired by the Straus family.
In 1945, host Barry Gray began dropping music and adding talk with celebrities and later call-in listeners; he is thus sometimes considered "The Father of Talk Radio", and his show lasted on WMCA through several decades and format changes.
(On Friday nights, Stevens ended at 10:30 and WMCA's locally-produced, half-hour news show The World Tonite aired; this was a local recap of the week's news, and should not be confused with Garner Ted Armstrong's The World Tomorrow religious program, which was not heard on WMCA until after the Good Guys era ended).
Daniel's countdown changed once a week, and was of the station's top 25 records. It also included a "Sure Shot" and "Long Shot" of records not yet on the chart. He also gave away his "Hit Kit" everyday to a listener who had been chosen from postcards that were sent in. The "Hit Kit" consisted of a copy of each of the Top 25 records of the week. The listener had to call in when they heard their name on the air to claim their prize.
Local promotions and on-air games such as "Name It and Claim It" were common; most prized were the yellow "Good Guys" sweatshirts, which could be won if a listener's name was read over the air and they called PLaza 2-9944 within a certain time period.
Another distinctive feature of the station was its "Call For Action" help line (PLaza 9-1717), which callers would utilize if they had any of various problems they needed assistance in resolving, usually related to consumer or public works issues.
The station had the distinction of playing the first Beatles record on New York radio, in late December 1963, when Jack Spector aired "I Want to Hold Your Hand". WMCA was keen on playing new product and breaking new hits, and consequently, was the radio station that introduced Beatlemania, and the "British Invasion" music movement to New York City. Not only did WMCA play new music first, but the Good Guys played more music in general, i.e., more hits per hour. While WABC was busy broadcasting New York Mets baseball games in the summer of 1963, WMCA was the music-intensive station that one would hear coming out of transistor radios at the pool and the beach; starting in 1963, the Good Guys were really on their game.
Besides the "Good Guy" personalities and the commitment to play new music, WMCA also excelled in on-air production. Each hour, WMCA presented its music, jingles, promotions, contests, stagers and even commercials in a tight, upbeat style that, to the ear of anyone that switched between WMCA and competitor WABC, would make WABC seem as if it were going at a somewhat slower pace. Some experts attribute this stodgy WABC sound to its staff of longtime (and older) studio engineers. The rumor is that WMCA employed younger, more "hip" board-ops who had a better understanding of the top 40 formatics. Whatever the reason, the sparkling sound presented on-air by WMCA also contributed to its ratings success in New York, the nation's largest radio market.
It wasn't supposed to happen, but in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966, WMCA was the undisputed ratings champ in New York City. WMCA was a directional, 5,000 watt radio station, while WABC operated with 50,000 watts non-directional, on a clear channel. Even though WMCA had a signal in about one-third the ratings area of WABC, it still showed up #1. This is basically because anywhere WMCA had a listenable signal, the audience strongly chose WMCA over WABC. WABC was more popular in the outlying areas where WMCA didn't come in well on a typical 1960s AM radio receiver. The areas where WMCA did not have a strong signal were southwest, west, and northwest of their transmitter in Kearny, NJ. If a listener was anywhere east of WMCA's transmitter, i.e., New York City itself, Westchester County in New York, or Fairfield County in Connecticut, the signal was much stronger. Between 1967 and 1968, WMCA still had a good run in the total survey area and always beat WABC in the city itself.
Through the 1960s, WMCA would beat WABC on most Beatle records, scoring firsts, causing WABC headaches. In part desperation, WABC countered by going against their music policy, promising promoter Sid Bernstein to play a new group he was handling first. WABC never added records out of the box, but they did for Sid Bernstein by playing The Young Rascals' "I Ain't Going To Eat Out My Heart Anymore" first. In return, Bernstein would provide the station with exclusive Beatle interviews the next time they were in town. Since WABC knew that WMCA had the Beatles - what could they come up with as a promotion? WABC came up with they thought was a brilliant promotion - "The Order of the All-Americans" - tied with their DJs. They would present these "medals" to each of the Beatles the next time they were in town. Everything was set. The whole idea was to get each Beatle to comment on the "medal" - and say the call letters W-A-B-C, so they could use them in station IDs, promotions, etc. - but the whole thing backfired. WABC got their interviews, but the Beatles were on to them. They wouldn't say the call letters when asked to comment.
Indeed, WMCA played new records faster than its rival WABC. Its weekly countdown was 25 records long instead of WABC's 20, and it included the "Sure Shot" and "Long Shot" speculations. Its countdown was also "faster" than WABC's, in the sense that records climbed to the top quicker, while WABC's rankings tended to follow. A comparison of both stations showed WABC to be two, sometimes three weeks behind WMCA.
Between 1964 and 1968, Billboard Magazine rated WMCA as (New York's) most influential station for new records. Although every market had one station with record-buying influence, WMCA was in the top market, making it responsible for producing much of the 1960s hits still heard on oldies radio. Not every record added to the WMCA playlist became a hit, but as soon as sales stirred, late-comer WABC would be forced to add the same record.
Although radio historians tend to treat WMCA as the 1960s radio stepchild, radio ratings throughout most of the decade say WMCA beat WABC easily in the New York City area. WABC's audience build-out came outside of the WMCA 5,000 watt listening area. In fact Pulse ratings, which also took a city-area ratings poll, said the WMCA was still beating WABC as late as February 1969. One of these reports stands out. When Pulse took its annual February-March (city-area) ratings in 1967, it found WABC with a 6 share against WMCA's 15 share.
WMCA's eventual slippage wasn't due to WABC - both stations could compete fine even though WMCA had less power. Because WMCA had such big New York City numbers, any city-based competitor would and did become a ratings issue. This began to happen as early as 1967 with the ascendence of a soul station (WWRL) and two "album oriented rock" stations- WOR-FM and finally in 1968, WNEW-FM. All three took an average 6 rating points away from WMCA.
Later in the 1970s, John Sterling hosted one of the first confrontational sports talks shows, as well as doing play-by-play for the New York Islanders and games that WMCA carried. It was there that his knowledgable but bombastic and over-the-top broadcasting style would first be heard. WMCA also carried New York Yankees games for much of the 1970s, with the classic Yankees broadcasting crew of Frank Messer, Phil Rizzuto, and Bill White. During the 1970s, ratings were healthy for WMCA as a talk station. Most surveys showed the station in the top 10. This was before WOR became exclusively talk, and also before WABC changed to talk in the early 1980s.
The Strauss family sold the station in the late 1980s; it was the last family-owned radio station in New York. New owner Federal Broadcasting kept the talk format, then sold the station in 1988 to Salem Communications, who initially adopted a financial news format.
WMCA ran extra Christian programming on WWDJ 970 AM in the New Jersey/New York area, also owned by Salem Communications. This second station was publicly billed as "WMCA II" or "WMCA 970" until its calls were changed to WNYM and it adopted a talk format.
WMCA also runs NEWSTALK WMCA.COM, an Internet feed which re-broadcasts nationally syndicated talk shows with a social conservatism viewpoint, including those from Mike Gallagher, Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, and Laura Schlessinger (all of whom can also be heard on WNYM).
In recent years, WMCA has attempted to establish a connection back to its "Good Guys" era. Their website has a tribute to the 1960s jocks , while their current air personalities — "a whole new team of 'Good Guys' filling the airwaves with the Good News" — make appearances and give out an updated version of the Good Guys sweatshirt On air, the station is billed as "The Home of the Good Guys" and 1960s-style Good Guys jingles are sometimes used to identify personalities on air.