WAAF (107.3 FM, simulcast on WKAF 97.7 FM) is a Boston, Massachusetts, area commercial Album Oriented Rock/Active rock radio station that mixes music that is popular in the modern rock, heavy metal and classic rock genres.
Originally the station targeted the Worcester, Massachusetts market, but by the mid-1980s, WAAF had begun to direct most of its attention to the Boston radio market.
WAAF currently broadcasts from Stiles Hill in Boylston, Massachusetts with an effective radiated power of 9.6kW directional (protecting three other FM signals) WAAF used to broadcast out of Paxton, Massachusetts on 107.3 FM and maintains a backup site there. They simulcast on 97.7 FM, which is licensed to Brockton, Massachusetts (where their signal can be better heard in parts of Boston). When its antenna was located in Paxton, the central part of New England, WAAF can be heard throughout much of Massachusetts, as well as parts of neighboring U.S. states New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont and New York.
In spring and summer of 2006, they began testing the new transmitter site, the station's signal strength decreased in most parts of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont and Western Massachusetts. WAAF was trying to concentrate the signal into its primary sales market, Boston. The new transmitter was operating on program test authority (and still is) from the FCC, on Stiles Hill in Boylston, Massachusetts. The first experiment with this antenna took place between October 31 and November 22, 2005 but the station had to resort back to Paxton for a couple of months to address multipath issues. FCC pdf (The issues being blamed on a faulty T1 line between their Brighton studios and the transmitter site after extensive testing).
On August 21, 2006, Entercom acquired Urban Contemporary outlet WILD-FM (97.7) from Radio One for $30 Million. Hours after that deal was made Entercom pulled the plug on WILD-FM's format at 7pm (EDT) and replaced it with a computerized voice countdown "T Minus  Hours,  Minutes,  Seconds and counting", also adding little funny snippets every few seconds leading up to the August 22, 5:30 PM start of simulcasting WAAF's format on that signal, beginning with AC/DC's "For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)". The addition of 97.7 now gives WAAF improved signal coverage in parts of Boston.
The WAAF call letters go back to Chicago, where they were on the air in late April 1922, owned by the Chicago Daily Drovers Journal. The call letters and ownership remained the same until the mid 1950s, when the ownership changed, but the station continued to broadcast from Chicago well into the 1960s. WAAF had been one of the first stations in Chicago to fully integrate, according to African-American newspapers like the Chicago Defender. During the 60s, WAAF became popular for playing black music and jazz, and it was the home of popular disc jockey "Daddy-O" Daylie.
The station that became WAAF was actually a distant cousin of an AM station from the early 1930s, WAAB in Boston. Owned by the Shepard Broadcasting Company, WAAB was moved to Worcester in mid-December 1942. Shepard was a pioneer in FM broadcasting, putting the first FM network on the air in December 1940, when two Shepard FMs, greater Boston's W1XOJ and New Hampshire's W1XER were linked up. While W1XOJ was presented as a Boston station, it was in fact located in Paxton, near Worcester.
By 1951, the station was operating under the call letters of WGTR, at 99.1 mHz, owned by Thomas S. Lee Broadcasting, which had also purchased the Shepard stations in the late 1940s. (Radio-TV Annual, 1952 edition, p. 1268) Subsequently, the WGTR call letters, and the station itself, seemed to disappear, and only WTAG, owned by the Worcester Telegram and Gazette newspaper, operated an FM in Worcester during the remainder of the 1950s.
The station which took the call letters of WAAB-FM did not go on the air till the autumn of 1961, operating at 107.3 dial position and owned by Bernard E. Waterman. (Radio-TV Annual, 1962, edition, p. 411, p. 695) When Chicago's WAAF changed format and changed call letters in the summer of 1967, the WAAF call letters were selected and given to what had been WAAB-FM. The new WAAF broadcast a Beautiful music format, which was still the most popular FM format at that time. But WAAF switched to its long running Rock music format two years later, in 1969. WAAF still broadcasts from the same Paxton, Massachusetts site that pioneering FM W1XOJ used back in the 1930s and early 40s. For more on the early history of WAAF/W1XOJ see FM broadcasting in the USA and History of radio. For an excellent history of FM Broadcasting, see "Sounds of Change: A History of FM Broadcasting in America," by Christopher Sterling and Michael Keith (University of North Carolina Press, 2008)
Radio station WXOJ-LP 103.3FM "Valley Free Radio" in Northampton, Massachusetts is a low power station whose call letters pay tribute to WAAF's ancestral origins. The FCC reissued W1XOJ as an amateur radio club call sign to Kurt R. Jackson on March 14, 2003. Jackson uses the call sign on a network of simulcast amateur radio repeaters throughout New England, which he named the Yankee Network, a reference to the regional broadcasting network established by Shepard Broadcasting in 1928 that came to include the original WAAB.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Rock format WAAF ran was referred to as Freeform, where the air talent is given total control over what music to play, regardless of commercial interests.
From the late 1960s through the early 1970s WAAF featured typical rock artists of the day such as The Beatles, The Who, Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, It's a Beautiful Day, Aerosmith, The Doors, Chicago, Stevie Wonder, Electric Flag, Billy Preston, Sly & The Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Steppenwolf, Blood Sweat & Tears, and many others.
In hindsight, some of these artists are now considered more pop sounding and part of the Oldies or Classic hits musical genres. Some are more eclectic sounding acts, popular during the hippie/counterculture era of the 1960s and early 1970s and not remembered as well past that time period. With FM radio stations expressing a wide artistic freedom at that time, various musical styles were considered proper for a Rock station.
During the summer of 1974, WAAF briefly switched to a hybrid Top 40/Gold format. WAAF played a mix of hit music from the 1960s mixed with then contemporary hit music of the 1970s such as Abba. This format continued until September when Dean Landsman and Jason Janulus came in to program the station and return it to a rock oriented format.
By the mid-1970s the format WAAF practiced became known as AOR (Album Oriented Rock). The ownership also changed. In the summer of 1976, the station was acquired by Robert L. Wiliams, who also owned WEZN Radio in Bridgeport Connecticut. ("Broadcaster Receives Aid in Purchase." Hartford Courant, 23 July 1976, p. 56.)
Though some critically acclaimed artist like Blue Öyster Cult, Elvis Costello and Tom Petty were played, this was the era of Arena rock and the majority of airtime was given to mainstream rock bands with such examples being Boston, Kansas, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Journey, Foreigner and Foghat.
"MOR" pop rockers like Billy Joel and Elton John were also core artists. While most of the Stevie Wonder/Billy Preston/Chicago styled music was considered too pop by the late 70s, a few upbeat pop sounding classics like "Good Lovin'" by The Young Rascals and "Shout" by The Isley Brothers were still in the stations music library and frequently played.
During this era WAAF helped promote the careers of Van Halen and Rush by giving them heavy airplay. And, the station underwent yet another ownership change, having been purchased in 1978 by the Park City Group, owned by Dick Ferguson.
WAAF's slogan in this time period was, "WAAF, The Rock N' Roll Air Force" and had a station mascot that was a giraffe, with the hook the station used: The WAAF GirAAF.
WAAF went through several more ownership and management changes in the 1980s, but excluding one brief format shift, the station had a very consistent and commercially viable rock format for most of the decade.
During this period of time, the station came to rely on playing an increasingly large amount of older music to meet advertisers demographic demands. The 1980s was a more conservative time and the height of the 'Yuppie' subculture. WAAF wanted to branch out to this large baby boomer audience located in the nearby Boston market, while not alienating its core Worcester and Central Massachusetts listeners who tended to be younger and working class. They did this through the heavy use of dayparting, playing mostly older music and lighter artist during the day and saving airplay for most harder music for evenings after 7:P.M. when younger listeners were more dominant.
As a result, for most of the 80s, WAAF was a broad based Album Rock station. The range included relatively light pop/rock artists such as Huey Lewis and the News and Phil Collins, played more during the morning and afternoon hours. Hard rock and heavy metal artist like Iron Maiden, Ratt, ZZ Top, Slade, Def Leppard and Guns N' Roses were heard more towards the late afternoon and were played more heavily at night.
However, about two thirds of the stations core artist and style of music for most of the 1980s was from the late 1960s to 1970s, what was then coming to be labelled classic rock. The stations two popular slogans from the autumn of 1981 through the summer of 1989 were "Crank It Up" (1981-1985) and "Non-Stop Rock" (1985-1989).
The station also adopted it's long time, and very recognizable, 'paint splash' style logo during this era in the autumn of 1981.
For a brief period of time in the spring of 1983, WAAF shifted its format to having an alternative rock slant. During this time WAAF called itself "The Rock Of The 80s" and was consulted by radio programmer Rick Carroll. Mr. Carroll introduced the format on KROQ in Los Angeles in 1978 and by 1983 was having much success with it. WAAF was one of many stations he consulted with the format. Core artist during this brief period included Boy George and Culture Club, A Flock of Seagulls, Human League, Talk Talk, Duran Duran, and Spandau Ballet. WAAF also mixed in some pop music during this period, most notably two of Michael Jackson's hit singles from his Thriller album, Billie Jean and Beat It. This was WAAF's first attempt at getting a larger audience in Boston (The stations ratings were already up in that market due to the success of the 'Bob and Zip' morning radio show). The experiment failed as the stations ratings took a deep drop in its home market of Worcester and failed to impact the Boston market (at that time in Boston 'Alternative' station WFNX signed on in the spring of 1983 as well as the short lived, but extremely popular from 1983-1985, Top 40 hits powerhouse Hitradio WHTT). WAAF quickly switched back to its broad based Album Rock format that summer.
After many years with a broad based rock format WAAF changed directions in October 1989. WAAF dropped many acts from the 1960s and 70s (though they continued to play a few such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd). They began only playing harder songs by core artists while increasing the amount of current music product being played. They became a "Rock 40" station playing only rock and heavy metal (mostly metal in the more pop oriented Glam metal genre) but in a manner similar of that to Top 40 stations. WAAF's new slogan between late 1989 and 1991 was "Untamed Radio". The station during this period was inspired by Los Angeles radio station KQLZ , "Pirate Radio 100.3 FM" (WAAF aired the live and nationally syndicated KQLZ produced show "Pirate Radio U.S.A." on Saturday nights from November 1989 through October 1993 when the show ceased production several months after the Los Angeles station changed its format).
In early 1992 heavy metal and hard rock rapidly lost ground to the growing popularity of various "Alternative Subcultures" and the music associated with them. In trying to keep up with the times, WAAF began adding more music acts popular in the alternative music genre to its playlist rotation.
Alternative artists, including Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Beck and Belly received ample airplay. Such college radio acts as Sugar and King Missile were also added. WAAF was one of the stations to launch the career of Alanis Morissette in the summer of 1995, by playing the first two singles from her Jagged Little Pill album, "You Oughta Know" and "Hand In My Pocket".
Though WAAF included more 'Alternative' acts in their programming during this era, they still played many hard rock and metal bands other stations during that time would not play. These included harder heavy metal bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Pist.on and Prong, as well as progressive rock act Dream Theater.
With this music mix, WAAF had evolved to one of the pioneers of the Active Rock format.
During this time WAAFs slogan was "The Only Station In Boston That Really Rocks". The "In Boston" part of the slogan had to be dropped after several years due to complaints, and eventually a cease and desist order, filed by rival WBCN. For many years prior, WBCN used the slogan "The Rock Of Boston" and claimed ownership for the combined use of the words 'Boston' and 'Rock' in any company slogan. WAAF, to avoid a legal battle, at first started to insert the names of various New England cities and towns the station could be heard in instead of just exclusively saying 'Boston'. (Examples being, "The Only Station In Manchester That Really Rocks" citing the New Hampshire city or "The Only Station In Wellesley That Really Rocks" recognizing the popular Boston suburb).
By the mid-1990s the station had shortened the slogan to simply "The Only Station That Really Rocks"
From the beginning of 1995 till the summer of 1999 radio rival WBCN switched to a broad alternative music format putting them more in competition with Boston's WFNX. With two stations fighting for the same audience, WAAF decided to reembrace hard rock and heavy metal as its main music focus.
In early 1996, WAAF responded by playing only harder guitar based 'Alternative Rock' acts (ex. Bush, Stone Temple Pilots) and became instrumental in helping several local Massachusetts metal musical acts achieve success, including Godsmack, Staind and Shadows Fall. WAAF also helped many national Nu metal acts to prominence from the mid-1990s through mid-2000s. These acts include such heavyweights as KoЯn, the Deftones, Disturbed, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park.
By the summer of 1999 WBCNs alternative format started to lean more Active Rock, once again putting them in direct competition for many of the same musical acts played on WAAF.
WAAF's two slogans during these years was "The Only Station That Really Rocks" (1992-2002) and "If It Rocks...It's 107.3 WAAF" (2002-2005).
In the autumn of 2005, WAAF adjusted it's format again to include a wider variety of music that fits under the umbrella title of 'Rock'. Using the new slogan "Everything That Rocks" WAAF continued to play the hard rock, modern rock and metal acts that it was known for (such as Mudvayne, System of a Down, Nickelback, Rage Against the Machine as well as acts new to the WAAF playlist Wolfmother, Hinder, Flyleaf and Avenged Sevenfold). The station also began to mix back in more long-time alternative music acts (such as Weezer and U2), and classic rock acts (such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Yes) that had not been played on the station in many years.
In addition, WAAF added many new current alternative and rock acts that it had not been playing. These acts included, minimalist blues-rock duo The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and virtual band the Gorillaz. Many artist influenced by such alternative music subgenres as power pop and pop-punk were also placed on the stations playlist, including The Killers, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and AFI.
In January 2007 the station, while keeping the same wider format of rock music styles played, updated its slogan to "The Widest Range Of Rock On The Radio!".
Saturday programming features Matt Leonard Midnight-6am (former host of 'Saturday Night Hairball' from April 2005 until July 2006, overnights Midnight - 6am), Twice Baked 6-10am (The Best Of The Hill-Man Morning Show), Bob Hannah 10am-3pm, Gomez 3-8pm, Skratch 'N Sniff 10-Midnight.
Sunday programming features Matt Leonard Midnight-6am, Harry Hawkins 6am-10am, Denny Doherty 10am-2pm,, Ron M. 2PM - 6PM, Johnny Costello 6pm-10pm,and Bay State Rock (Started in 1986 and hosted by Carmelita).
The program has spawned a Calendar and DVD set, branded Mantown, in which local women are featured. Women appear on the show to interview for a position in the calendar, and are asked a standard set of questions about their anatomy, their sexual preferences, and their sexual history.
In the past, women were often asked to fake an orgasm on the air, for the listeners to vote on.
"The Hill-Man Morning Show" has been the top rated morning drive radio show in the Worcester radio market since 1990, almost always winning in both the all adult listeners (age 12 and up) demographic as well as the 18-34 and 25-54 male demographics sold to advertisers. In addition, "The Hill-Man Morning Show" has always done very well in the ratings in the larger Boston market against rival WBCN. WAAF makes a large portion of its total revenue off of advertising sales made based on the stations performance in the Boston market in addition to the Worcester market. Much of this revenue is generated during the morning drive time slot, when people are more likely to listen to the radio as they get ready for and commute to their jobs or school.
From 1989 till the spring of 1996 Greg Hill and his cast competed with popular longtime WBCN morning show "The Big Mattress" with host Charles Laquidara. "The Big Mattress" mixed political and topical humor with the stations usual rock music programming. Like "The Hill-Man Morning Show", Charles Laquidara and "The Big Mattress" cast were live and local broadcasting from the WBCN studios in Boston.
In 1993, Kevin Barbare joined "The Hill-Man Morning Show" to provide comedic content with his wide range of musical and celebrity impressions as Co-Host. Kevin previously worked for WROQ in his hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. Lyndon 'LB' Byers, a former Boston Bruins player, joined the show a few years later as their Sports Director and additional Co-Host. Anthony Parziale, aka Spaz, became the show's Producer in 2001. Anthony gained his nickname of Homo-Spaz after the other members of the show noticed how odd his personality is. Anthony's sudden outbursts of rage when he would mess up on the show didn't help much in fueling his co-worker's produced nickname. Though through Anthony's outbursts he slowly became a recognizable voice for the listeners and started talking more and more on-air. In late December 2007 it was announced that Spaz would be stepping down from Producing the show and stepping up to the microphone as the show's newest Personality. It was also announced that former Intern turned Assistant Producer "Super Producer" Dave would become the new Producer for the show starting January 1st 2008. Danielle Murr, current News Director, got her position on the show after doing such a good job of filling in for (then News/Traffic Director) Major Dick for a week back in late 2005. The show also has an Assistant Producer, Big Red, though he is very rarelly heard from but regulerly mention and poked fun of from the cast members of the show.
The Hill-Man Morning Show has had many Interns over the years, some notable ones are:
-Abe - His nickname steamed from the Abe Lincoln like beard that he had. Through bad calls, that were put on air, he had caused Greg to become so frustrated at times that he would restart the show (starting with replaying that morning's opener) with a clean slate. Abe is also notable due to Greg asking him on-air to go after a Miss Mantown Candidate that was over weight and had become upset over LB's comments about her looks.
-Mistress Carrie - Started as an Intern for the show in 1991, moved onto a Part Time position with the station until 1998 when she became the Host of the Weekday Evening slot in 1998. In 2001 (until 2005) she moved to Mid-Days as well as becoming WAAF's Music Director. In 2005 Carrie moved again to her current slot of Afternoon Host with her (since January 2008) Producer Gomez.
-Bob Hannah - Interned for awhile in the 90s for the show, moved onto different stations across the country then came back to WAAF in 2003 or 2004 to do Weekday Overnights.
-Super Producer Dave - Interned with the show from late 2003 or early 2004 for a couple of years before becoming an Assistant Producer which lead to his Promotion to Producer of the show in January 2008.
-Big Red - Interned for the show from early 2004 till he became an Assistant Producer a few years later.
From April 1996 through December 2005 "The Hill-Man Morning Show" went up against nationally syndicated media favorite "The Howard Stern Show". "The Howard Stern Show" previously had been airing in the early evening 7pm slot on WBCN since March 1993. On April 1, 1996 Charles Laquidara and "The Big Mattress" cast moved crosstown to do mornings on WBCNs sister station, classic rock station WZLX. On that same day "The Howard Stern Show" was moved from evenings to become WBCNs new morning show.
David Lee Roth, former lead singer of the rock band Van Halen, aired his short lived nationally syndicated morning drive show on WBCN from January 3, 2006 till April 21, 2006. This marked the first time "The Hill-Man Morning Show" and WAAF beat WBCN in the morning drive time slot in the Boston market. "The Hill-Man Morning Show" bested David Lee Roth, both in the overall Arbitron Ratings and also in the key 18-34 and 25-54 male demographics both stations use to sell advertisers.
Since April 26, 2006 Greg Hill and his cast have been fending off competition and attacks from current WBCN morning show and former WAAF employees Opie and Anthony on their nationally syndicated show. In the spring 2006 Arbitron Ratings "The Opie and Anthony Show" is above "The Hill-Man Morning Show" among all adult listeners (age 12 and up). "The Opie and Anthony show " in Boston has a 3.4 share of listeners compared to "The Hill-Man Morning Show" which has a 2.5 rating. In the 18-34 demographic "The Hill-Man Morning Show" has a 6.2 share compared to a 6.7 rating for the "The Opie and Anthony Show". (One share equals 1 percent of all the radio listeners at a particular time). David Lee Roth previously had a 1.6 (age 12 and up) and a 1.9 in the 18-34 demographic. During his last ratings period, in Fall 2005, "The Howard Stern Show" had a 6.4 (12 and up) and 10.9 (18-34).
Every November, starting in 1993, WAAF has held its popular annual charity event "Walk and Rock for Change". During this event, the DJs (Greg Hill 1993-2003) from the station walk across Massachusetts, asking for change from the people as they stop in each town. The station will often air interviews with people as they come across interesting events. Starting in 2003, while this event is proceeding, the DJs at the station will play requested songs, for a price. While the station will play any song requested, obnoxious or unpopular songs, such as the Spongebob Squarepants theme, will have a higher price than the station's standard fare.
The station has released a number of mostly limited edition CDs containing exclusive in-studio performances and various comedy bits from the on-air staff.