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WXRK

WXRK

WXRK (92.3 MHz.), known on-air as "92-3 K-Rock", is a radio station in New York City. Owned by CBS Radio, WXRK broadcasts an active rock music format. It is the station that Howard Stern had joined from October 1985 to December 2005, before his move to SIRIUS Satellite Radio. On May 24, 2007, due to vastly declining ratings, the previous WFNY-FM call letters, along with its hot talk format known as "Free FM" was replaced as the station returned to its former call letters and rock music format.

History

Early years (1948-1975)

The station, first known as WMCA-FM, went on the air on December 25, 1948. It was co-owned with WMCA radio (570 AM) by former New York state senator Nathan Straus. FM radio was not a successful venture for Straus, and he sought to either sell it or close the station down altogether.

In late 1950 Straus sold the station to the owners of WHOM radio (1480 AM, now WZRC), and WHOM-FM appeared on February 26, 1951, featuring a variety of formats, including ethnic, background music, classical, Spanish, and easy listening.

WKTU (1975-1985)

The station then became WKTU, taking on an adult contemporary format that ran from June 5, 1975 until July 1978, when a station executive visited New York's Studio 54 discothèque and was very impressed with the crowds there. He then got the idea that a disco music-based station was needed, as several FM-based Top 40 stations were leaning disco in other markets. As a result, the station, which was suffering from low ratings, would abruptly adopt a disco format as "Disco 92" (WKTU) at midnight on July 24, 1978. That fall, the station rose from "Worst to First", unseating WABC in the 18-30 age demographic. During the height of the disco craze, WKTU was the station to follow in New York.

Initially, WKTU played only dance/disco and a few pop songs by disco artists, but by 1979 , the station began to add R&B music. By then, the station was still regarded as a disco station, but could be more accurately described as rhythmic contemporary hit radio. During this period, disc jockeys such as Paco, Roscoe, J.D. Holiday (Paul Zarcone), Dale Reeves, Bob Bottone, Jim Harlan Carlos DeJesus, Joe Causi, Guy Broady, Jay Thomas, Freddie Colon, Al Bandiero and Diane Pryor graced the airwaves, as the station continued to be at or near the top into the 1980s. Paco later went to jail for drug dealing, which is curious considering he had a successful career in radio and didn't need the money that the illicit profession of drug dealing provided.

In 1981, SJR Communications sold WKTU to Infinity (which would later merge with CBS Radio, the station's current owners). Also that year, WXLO evolved into a rhythmic CHR format as "98.7 Kiss FM", and WKTU added dance-based New Wave to the format.

WKTU remained among the top ten New York City radio stations until 1983. By then, the station had introduced a new dance music genre called Latin Freestyle. At this point, WRKS became an urban contemporary station, while the station received new competition from Z-100 and WPLJ, both of which adapted a CHR format. By the next year, the station maintained respectable but declining ratings, thanks to the new competition.

By mid-1984, WKTU went to a CHR format as well, but the ratings continued to decline. That fall, the station added legendary disk jockey Dan Ingram to afternoons, and "The Madame", from Miami's Y-100, joined Jay Thomas in the morning and did her own midday show, but the station continued to struggle in the ratings. To make matters worse, then-named WAPP also went CHR that fall.

So strong was the memory of the late-1970s WKTU that despite all the subsequent on-air changes, the general public still regarded it as a disco station. Even though WAPP moved back to playing rock music in the form of a rock-based CHR in June 1985, giving WKTU one less competitor, the station management thought a more drastic change was needed. Since New York City only had one full-time rock station with WNEW-FM, there was an opportunity.

WXRK (1985-2005)

On July 13, 1985 at midnight, the same day WKTU aired the historic Live Aid concert, the station switched to an album-oriented rock format, adopted the nickname of "K-Rock", and changed their call letters to WXRK. (The WKTU call letters would reappear on New York City's 103.5 FM with a dance pop format in 1996).

Initially, the format at WXRK was similar to the pre-1983 WPLJ, as the air personalities left the station gradually in the next several months (exceptions were Maria Malito and Jo Maeder, who became known as "The Rock and Roll Madame"). Jimmy Fink from WPLJ was one of the first new radio personalities to be hired. After being fired from WNBC that October, Howard Stern signed on to do afternoons, and initially combined music with talk, but in February 1986, Stern took over the morning slot. He would garner highest-rated morning show in the market, dethroning Don Imus, who had had the highest-rated morning show for several years on WNBC. Later that year Stern's show became syndicated, with WXRK as its flagship station.

By 1987, Stern stopped playing music on his show altogether, while the station would evolve a classic rock format that same year. The airstaff became full of veteran refugees from other New York rock stations, including Dave Herman, Pete Fornatale, Meg Griffin, Vin Scelsa, and Alison Steele from WNEW-FM and Jimmy Fink, Tony Pigg, Marc Coppola, and John Zacherle from WPLJ. In 1993, The Greaseman's syndicated show was put in the nighttime slot, bookending Stern with an act that was often quite controversial.

By the mid-1990s modern rock was popular across the globe. During this period in New York City radio, Z-100 would play a lot of modern rock despite being a CHR station. Moreover, WNEW-FM would switch to a modern rock format in the summer of 1995 evolving to an adult-based modern rock format by the end of that year, and adopt a more eclectic adult rock mix by 1996. Finally, Q104.3, which had a hard rock format during this period, played a good portion of modern rock that fit its format. Nevertheless by the beginning of 1996 , there was no full-time modern rock station in New York City.

To fill the void, WXRK switched to a modern rock format on January 5 1996 right after Stern's show. To kick off the new format, which he enthusiastically endorsed as a better fit for his audience, Stern stayed on the air until 1:06 pm that day playing music. The first song Stern played was Marilyn Manson's cover of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)". Most of the classic rock DJs including Jimmy Fink, Tony Pigg and Marc Coppola disappeared from the station with this change, as did The Greaseman. By August 1997, the station added music that suited to an active rock station, which continued this format for several years.

By 2003, with a new program director, the station would drop the active rock variant of music. No matter what the format, the longtime problem for the station was that while Stern always had very high ratings, the rest of the station did not fare as well. Moreover, it was hard to classify K-Rock an alternative station (considering classic rock acts like Led Zeppelin being played), while it was hard to label them active rock due to the inclusion of pop alternative artists.

Concerned about Stern's move to Sirius Satellite Radio at the beginning of 2006, and acknowledging that its target audience was looking elsewhere for modern rock music, WXRK made another format adjustment on April 4, 2005, which would rely heavily on classic hard rock such as Guns N' Roses, Metallica, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Nirvana, while playing new music from such established artists as System of a Down, Nine Inch Nails, Green Day and Weezer. At this time, New York City was one of the few large cities in the United States without an alternative rock station. To prevent any backlash from fans of modern rock, an Internet-only radio station called " K-Rock2" was launched at the same time as the format adjustment. The strategy would not work, as ratings did not improve much.

As a result of the imminent departure of Howard Stern, an announcement was made on October 25, 2005 that the station would adopt a talk format on January 3, 2006.

At 10 am Friday, December 16, after the last Howard Stern broadcast, K-Rock stunted a melange of audio sound bites, music and program line-up announcements. At 10:20, K-Rock DJ Julie Slater announced "Welcome to Free FM" and went into music.

WFNY-FM (2006-2007)

The WXRK call letters were replaced by WFNY-FM (Free New York) on January 1, 2006. The station, which was one of several CBS Radio stations around the nation branded as "Free FM", featured David Lee Roth as its morning show host. Other talk shows aired throughout the day, while an active rock music format continued to be played on the weekends, called "Free Rock Weekends."

Simultaneously, the WXRK call sign moved to the former WXTM in Cleveland, also owned by CBS Radio, and coincidentally at the same 92.3 frequency, and was rebranded as 92.3 K-Rock.

Free FM's ratings had plummeted since the change to an all-talk format. As the replacement for Howard Stern, Roth lost nearly three-quarters of Howard Stern's previous audience, dropping a 7.9 share to a 1.8. Among the core audience - 18-34 year-old men - the numbers fell from 13.8 to 1.3. Overall station ratings went from 3.2 in Summer/Fall of 2005 to 2.7 in Winter of 2006, and later to a 2.0, leaving it in 20th place in the New York market.

On April 25, 2006, Chris Booker, host of "The Booker Show", announced that he was broadcasting his last show on Free FM. He soon moved over the morning show at Q102 in Philadelphia. The abrupt end of his show, which had evolved on afternoon drive before the format switch, led the station to revert to "Free Rock" music at nights.

The following day, on April 26, 2006, Opie and Anthony replaced David Lee Roth in morning drive on Free FM, while simulcasting on XM Satellite Radio. The show airs from 6-9 am on both terrestrial and satellite radio, then continues on XM exclusively to 11 am.

By spring 2007, Opie and Anthony managed to slightly improve WFNY-FM's ratings to a 1.4. However, this performance left the radio station ranked #22 of 25 in the NY market.

Weekends continued to use the "Free Rock Weekend" format, which included hour-long "Freecasts" in which a single listener chose the (approxomately 15) songs played during the hour. The listener would also act as guest DJ over the phone during the time.

The station was also used as a secondary broadcaster of sister station WFAN, serving as a secondary outlet for NFL football games, New Jersey Devils hockey games and New Jersey Nets basketball games when there was a conflict with another game on WFAN.

After Jim Cramer's Real Money went off the air on in December 2006, WFNY-FM was left with just 4 talk shows (one from syndication). As a result, the station attempted to revamp its lineup with the addition of several new talk shows. The first of which occurred on December 20, 2006. Ron & Fez, who also have a show on XM radio, signed an agreement to broadcast a 92.3 Free FM-exclusive radio show from 6pm to 9pm Ron and Fez had previously been employed by CBS at WNEW-FM (now WWFS) shortly after that station switched to FM Talk in 1999.

Additional new shows soon followed. On December 28, 2006, John and Jeff started being broadcast from syndication out of 97.1 Free FM in Los Angeles. They broadcast live 2 am to 6 am. On January 2, 2007, Larry Wachs, who was half of The Regular Guys morning show on WKLS-FM in Atlanta, began hosting the 10pm to midnight slot on 92.3 Free FM for 2 weeks. That same day, Nick DiPaolo became host of the 12pm to 3pm time slot. He had done some preview shows the previous week. Beginning January 3, Loveline with Dr. Drew Pinsky & Stryker aired Late Nights, tape delayed, from 12am to 2am.

Danni was Free FM's Music Director and was still a Free Rock jock. She has been heard doing DJ shifts on Fresh 102.7 as well. Free Rock Weekends aired 6am Saturday to 12am Sunday and 6am Sunday 2am Monday. Infomercials ran 2am-6am Sunday. Game Show Radio rans 12-2am on Sundays.

Free FM was using guest hosts for the 10pm to 12am time slot. March 2, 2007 was the last Penn Jillette show on Free FM and CBS Radio stations. The following Monday, WFNY-FM expanded the guest host time slot by an hour, making it 9pm to 12am.

In April 2007, during an interview with a local band "A Brief Smile" on The Dog House, the hosts JV and Elvis directed numerous vulgar anti-gay slurs at the band’s bassist. The hosts then referred to the bassist as "Fag Number 1" and asked, "How many badges of honor do you have in your colon?" The interview revealed that the bassist self-identified as bisexual, and he was eventually kicked out of the studio while being told that his "sexuality makes him a bitch." The hosts also rated the band’s song poorly, calling it a "little faggy."

JV and Elvis were later suspended on April 30 over a six-minute prank phone call peppered with ethnic and sexual slurs to a Chinese restaurant, only after numerous racial equality advocacy groups demanded an apology from the show’s two hosts and from CBS Radio.

Beginning on May 7, Free-FM started using guest hosts 9 am to 12 pm to replace The Dog House. On May 12, 2007, the AP News wire reported that CBS Radio spokeswoman Karen Mateo said, "The Dog House with JV and Elvis will no longer be broadcast [on Free-FM]." CBS fired the co-hosts JV and Elvis, as well as the producer ofThe Dog House after numerous complaints received from various civil rights groups.

On May 15, 2007, XM Satellite Radio suspended the Opie and Anthony Show for 30 days because of comments made by a homeless man about raping Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and First lady Laura Bush made on an uncensored May 9 broadcast. Their suspension was effective immediately. During this time, CBS Radio kept the show on from 6 to 9am. However, it was not simulcast on XM. *NOTE the word RAPE was never used by the homeless gentleman, he said he just wanted to have sex with the ladies using the "F" word.

Return of WXRK and K-Rock (2007-present)

On May 24, 2007, an eight-hour countdown began on the former "Free FM" website and a sound collage had been broadcasted all day, after which the "K-Rock" format returned to the New York airwaves. On 4:57 pm that day, the station's general manager apologized to listeners for taking K-Rock away. Minutes later at 5pm, the station returned to the air as K-Rock, playing alternative rock from the 90s and 2000s along with heavy classic rock. The first host to present the revised format for WFNY-FM/WXRK was Gregg "Opie" Hughes of Opie and Anthony.

The station reverted to its previous call letters, WXRK, on May 31 2007. The previous WXRK (92.3 K-Rock in Cleveland Heights, also owned by CBS Radio) received the callsign WKRI.

Initially, the station had no on-air staff, although on Mondays it featured a Hostile Takeover show where guest(s) sat in as the jock. The station also had contests which begun after Opie and Anthony. Sometimes O&A would pick up the phones and mess with the callers using fake voices, often asking if they "Suck cock for K-Rock".

On February 8th, 2008, it was announced that program director Tracy Cloherty was among the many non-programming staffers that was let go by CBS Radio, in an attempt to "more effectively monetize the aggregate number of listeners who hear us on the radio and the Internet."

K-Rock: Return of the Rock was launched after it was revealed the station is sponsoring the Stone Temple Pilots reunion show at PNC.

Programming

The weekday lineup includes Opie and Anthony (which is simulcast on XM Radio) followed by Nik Carter in the mornings. Marci in mid-days, and Ian Camfield during afternoon drive followed by Schwenker in the evenings.

Weekend DJs include *'Aussie' Dave Kirwan, Soder, Mike Jones, Steve the Kid, Cat, and Kal. Nik Carter also is featured on Sunday afternoons.

Notable WXRK Alumni

  • Jimmy Fink Various air shifts, now on 107.1 The Peak WXPK in suburban New York City
  • Dead Air Dave 2-6AM and weekends, Howard Stern's censor from April 2002-December 2005. Now using the name 'Dylan' doing afternoon drive on Fresh 102.7.
  • Maze 6-10PM. Now doing mornings on KC101 New Haven.
  • Demos Various shifts on the station. Now on SIRIUS Satellite Radio rock channels.
  • Woody 2-6AM before promotion to 10PM-2AM. Now doing mornings on LIVE 105 San Francisco.
  • Sluggo 2-6PM when station first flipped to alternative, in later years did shows from the west coast. Now on KROQ Los Angeles and SIRIUS Satellite Radio rock channels.
  • Matt Pinfield Hosted 'The Buzz', K-Rock's new music show. Now on VH1 and HDNet, as well as hosting the morning show at competitor WRXP.
  • Liquid Todd Hosted 'Solid State', K-Rock's Saturday night electronic show. Now on 103.5 WKTU New York and SIRIUS Satellite Radio.
  • Ben Harvey 6-10PM. Now a TV host for here! Networks.
  • Cabbie (a.k.a. Lee Mroszak) Nights and afternoons with Cane before moving to overnights solo. Served one year in jail for tax evasion. later a weekend DJ for Free FM.
  • Razz 2-6PM on the station before being moved to 2-6AM. Now on WXTU Philadelphia, a Country station.
  • Carol Miller Various shifts on the station. Now on Q104.3 New York.
  • Lazlow Sundays 6-10 p.m. The final show was broadcast December 18, 2005. Does shows once a month on XM Channel 202 "The ViRUS"
  • JoJo Morales, weekends/swing. Now on the staff of XM's 80's on 8.
  • Loscalzo, former APD/OM and air talent.
  • Chris Booker various weekday shifts throughout the modern rock format years and then evenings with Free FM

Stuttering John Melendez middays after Howard Stern then out to Lunch in Julie Slater's midday run. Originally a Howard Stern intern

  • Christy Taylor weekends. Now night show host at 91X in San Diego, CA.

Past WXRK shows

  • The David Lee Roth Show (Roth Radio), Mornings 6-10 a.m. | January 3 - April 21, 2006
  • The Booker Show, Weeknights 7-11 p.m. | January 3 - April 25, 2006
  • The Nick DiPaolo Show, Weeknights 7-11 p.m. | February 27 - March 2, 2006 (during David Lee Roth's "Vacation")
  • Jim Cramer's Real Money, Weekdays 1-2 p.m. | March 6 - December 1, 2006
  • The House of Wax with Larry Wachs, Weekdays 10 p.m.-12 a.m. | January 2 - 12, 2007 (guest host)
  • Penn Jillette with Michael Goudeau, Weekdays 9-10 p.m. | January 3, 2006 - March 2, 2007
  • The Dog House with JV & Elvis, Weekdays 9 a.m.-12 p.m. | January 2, 2006 - April 30, 2007
  • Nick DiPaolo, Weekdays 12 p.m.-3 p.m. | January 2 - May 23, 2007
  • The Radio Chick with Chuck Nice and Butch, Weekdays 3-6 p.m. | January 2, 2006 - May 23, 2007
  • Ron & Fez Weekdays 6-9 p.m. | December 20, 2006 - May 23, 2007

Concerts

K-Rock2 & HD Radio Operations

As part of the K-Rock format change on April 4, 2005 from alternative rock to classic rock, K-Rock2, a new Internet-only radio station, was created. The programming on K-Rock2 consists mostly of alternative rock; however, some shows originally broadcast on K-Rock continued on K-Rock2. Throughout the Free-FM period, K-Rock2 continued to stream on on krock2.com.

Staring shortly after 2am on on October 6, 2008 the K-Rock2 audio stream was added to WXRK-HD2. A few minutes earlier a simulcast of sister station WFAN was added to WXRK HD3. 92.3 HD3 was initially using the delayed audio feed from wfan.com complete with internet only commercials and not the over the air broadcast feed used by WFAN on 660AM.

See also

  • WKTU – the "new" WKTU started in 1996 at frequency 103.5

References

Former station employees

  • Steve Stone (voice actor), a nationally known television and radio promo announcer. Steve Stone worked as the in-house creative director for WXRK-FM for three years, from the end of 1999 to the end of 2002.

He went on to launch his own voiceover and audio production company. http://www.stonevoiceovers.com Steve Stone is currently one of the station promotional voices heard on the air at the newly re-launched "92.3 K-Rock".

External links

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