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Radio Day Reunion Highlights Missing Gems (And Formats) On DC's Airwaves

By Dave Hughes

It happened again and again -- a radio veteran addressed the crowd at the Radio Day 1999 charity fund raising event January 21 at the Warner Theatre saying he'd love to be back on the air if only a station would have him.

Bill Mayhugh said it. For years he was the overnight man at WMAL mixing his quiet banter between the quietly nostalgic tunes. WMAL now reruns Rush Limbaugh in his former time slot. But Mayhugh is still on the air - he does a weekend stint at a small Culpeper, Virginia radio station, a good 60 miles from Washington. But he'd love to be back on the air in the Nation's Capital "if someone would have me."

Paul Anthony also said it at the Radio Day gathering. The veteran radio and TV announcer and DJ who is now best associated with pledge break work on local PBS station WETA, would love to get his FM jazz show back. The only problem is that there's almost no jazz on the FM band in the DC market, apart from the commercial "smooth jazz" of WJZW or the part-time jazz on Pacifica's WPFW. DC's only fulltime jazz station, WDCU, died in 1997.

Or take another Radio Day featured speaker, Weasel (aka Jonathan Gilbert), one of the main voices at free-form, progressive rock (another missing DC format) WHFS way back when it was on 102.3 in the 1970s. WHFS has come a long way in the past two decades, moving to a new dial position (99.1) and becoming a commercial modern rocker owned by a large corporation (CBS/Infinity). But Weasel still hangs on to a weekend slot doing "retro New Wave" mainly from the early 1980s.

Weasel used the gathering to announce that he's taking his talents and starting a progressive music station on the Internet. Dubbed "Zero 24-7 Web Radio," the station will feature an independent free-form "format" (the DJ plays what he or she wants). The start-up date is February 1 and the audio stream will be available at www.zero24-7.org.

Many old-timers addressed the crowd including WWDC-AM's Eddie Gallaher, who is still on the air with his standards show on DC's only nostalgia station (albeit with a signal that doesn't make it to the highly populated western suburbs), Ed Walker, once half of the "Joy Boys" team (with Willard Scott), Frank Hardin, half of the legendary "Hardin & Weaver" team that dominated morning radio for decades, and Robert St. John, whose career goes back to the very early days of DC radio.

Many funny and touching stories of the bygone days of DC broadcasting were provided by a long list of DC radio greats. Dennis Owens, still the morning voice on WGMS, told of the struggles to make commercial classical radio a success in the DC market. WARW's Greaseman joked about pushing the envelope in comedy radio. Donnie Simpson (WPGC) and Glenn Harris (now with NewsChannel 8) told of the battles (eventually highly successful) to desegregate radio in the National Capital.

Cathy Hughes, owner of DC-based Radio One, the largest Afro-American corporate owner of radio stations in the world, was honored during the presentation and received a thunderous ovation.

WMAL's Brooke Stevens and WRQX's Marilyn Thompson told of the effort to turn the DC's airwaves, once an all-male bastion, into a co-ed workplace. Stevens jested that when she started at WMAL she wanted to rename it "WMALE" because it featured no women on the air (it still doesn't feature too many).

There was also talk about the death of the AM band in the DC area. Only one AM station, WMAL, ever makes it to the top ten most listened to stations anymore. WMAL morning personality Andy Parks jested that "the AM band still lives right here at 630."

By the way, WMAL's PM drive host Chris Core used the occasion to announce that his station would start offering its signal via the Internet, joining a lengthening list of DC area stations which can now be heard around the world. Definitely the main trend for the future.

And it appears that the Internet will be the only place, in the near future at least, that DC area radio listeners will be able to find a lengthening list of formats (jazz, big band, standards, progressive rock, folk, blues, opera, etc.) and talent not now available on the Capital's airwaves.

Here are a few pics from the 1/21 Radio Day 1999 event at the Warner Theatre.

Weasel of HFS (left)

Bill Mayhugh, formerly of WMAL

Night talker Jim Bohannon

WARW's Greaseman

A TV wife and husband - 5's Hillary and 9's Dave

WMAL's Stevens & Core

WMAL's Brandt & Parks

Dennis Owens of WGMS

WWDC-AM's Bob Duckman & Eddie Gallaher

Press Release - Turn Your Dial to Radio Day 1999

The Advertising Club of Metropolitan Washington Welcomes Voices of Yesterday and Today to a Truly Special Evening Thursday, January 21, 1999, at Warner Theatre

Washington, D.C. -- On Thursday evening, January 21, the Advertising Club of Metroplitan Washington will unveil Radio Days: A History of Washington Radio, a compelling multi-media stage show production which will take you back to the early days of radio, through the war years, and all the way up to radio of today.

For one night only, The Warner Theatre at 13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. will be transformed into a living museum of the Washington, D.C. radio industry, as voices old and new grace the stage.

Host Jim Bohannon will serve as your guide through this dynamic production. On-air personalities from every era and every format, including Frank Harden, Ed Walker, the Greaseman, Donnie Simpson, Billy Bush, Janet Elliott, Cathy Hughes, Dr. Gabe Merkin and other on-air talents from the worlds of news, sports, talk and music will share their memories and unique perspectives on the radio world in general and more specifically the Washington, D.C. market.

The evening will begin around 6:00 p.m. with a reception in the elegant atrium of the adjacent building. Ad Club members, invited guests, individuals from all facets of the radio industry and the general public are invited to visit individual radio stations booths and enjoy a rare look at radio memorabilia graciously provided by the Radio History Society. The show is scheduled to begin around 7:00 p.m. Following the show guests are encouraged to return to the atrium for a lavish Post-Show party and buffet dinner, replete with the opportunity to mingle and mix with the stars of the show and other big names of Washington radio.

Tickets to Radio Days are only available in advance through the Ad Club at (703)827-0135. Proceeds from the evening will benefit the Ad Club Foundation in their work on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Clubs.

Radio personalities planning to attend include:

Weasel, WHFS
Loo Katz, WRQX
Greaseman, WARW
Paul Harris former WARW & WCXR
Dave McConnell, WTOP
Bob Duckman, WWDC-AM
Eddie Gallaher, WWDC-AM
Ken Beatrice, WTEM
Tom Kelly, WBIG
Dave Adler, WBIG
Frank Harden, WMAL
Tim Brant, WMAL
Andy Parks, WMAL
Brooke Stevens, WMAL
Chris Core, WMAL
Bill Mayhugh, lots of stations
Paul Anthony, WTOP
Ed Walker, former WRC
Willard Scott, former WRC and others (on tape)
Glenn Harris, WOL
Donnie Simpson, WPGC
Candy Shannon, WHUR
Cathy Hughes, WOL
Robert St. John, Oldtimer
Billy Bush, Z104
Janet Elliott, Z104
Dr. Gabe Merkin
and more.....