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This is a tribute to free-form, progressive WHFS, 102.3 FM Bethesda, Maryland. "The Most Sounds In Town."


A mid or late 1970s WHFS poster..... Top row: [Left] David Einstein, [Right] Thomas Grooms; Bottom row: [Left] Jonathan Gilbert (aka Weasel), [Center] Josh Brooks, [Right] Larry Harris

Some History

Up until 1983, 102.3 was the home of WHFS, then one of the country's premier free-form, progressive radio stations. The old WHFS had a REAL progressive format in which the DJs actually played what they wanted. The station operated out of a condo in Bethesda, Maryland. Owned by Jake Einstein, HFS then featured a cast of diverse characters -- Weasel, Milo, David, Damian, Sara, Kim, Bob, etc. -- all of whom knew progressive music and transformed the airwaves (at least on 102.3) into their personal and rather artistic collages of diverse tunes often clustered by theme. In 1983, facing the commercial pressures of the owner of a valuable FM frequency in a major market, Einstein sold WHFS and the station went dark and soon emerged as WTKS, an easy listening station. (The frequency is now home to urban oldies station WMMJ.) Meanwhile, Einstein and Sons flirted with an idea to purchase WEAM (1390, now WZHF), an AM station across the river in Arlington, Virginia. But that deal fell through. Instead, Einstein purchased an Annapolis, Maryland FMer, WLOM at 99.1, and renamed it as WHFS and continued the progressive music tradition a few more years. With a series of ownership changes and signal improvements, 99.1 continues with "modern rock." But purists still mourn the ultimate demise of the old HFS.

WHFS was born in the early 1960s and was co-founded by Bob Carpenter. The "HFS" call letters denote "high fidelity stereo," and 102.3 was one of the first FM stereo stations. Old 102.3 featured a variety of formats including middle of the road music, jazz and classical music, and at least three owners before eventually being sold to Einstein. Since the Einstein years, the newer WHFS at 99.1 has seen its ownership change several times. And with each change a bit of the old, original free-form HFS format has been lost. Yes, the signal has become stronger as new owners have moved the 99.1 transmitter closer to DC, to suburban Crofton, Maryland, giving the station much more punch in the western suburbs. WHFS is now owned by CBS which owns a huge batch of area stations including WPGC, WARW, WJFK, WBGR, WBMD, WCAO, WLIF, WOCT, WQSR, WWMX and WXYV. The station still sports a "modern rock" sound which is a bit more adventuresome than other area rock stations, but nothing like the old, glorious days at 102.3.

Interviews

Here are interviews with David and Jake Einstein, and Weasel. They are courtesy of Alex Cosper, and were published in the December 2000 issue of VirtuallyAlternative, number 78. Alex has an alternative radio industry website at www.tangentsunset.com.

DAVID EINSTEIN

David Einstein was Program Director of WHFS for nearly two decades. He arrived at the station in September 1969 after serving in the U.S. Army, starting as a sales person and weekend jock. When his father, Jake, took over as GM in the early 70s, David moved up to the PD position and handled more prominent airshifts, usually middays. In the 80s he advanced into operations and engineeringwhile hosting the morning show as well as programming. After the station was sold to Duchossois in the late 80s, he stayed with WHFS for about 18 months and then moved on to the record industry. In 1989 he became a local promotions rep for RCA at the Mid-Atlantic branch. In 1991 he moved to New York to work as Director of East Coast Rock Promotion for Mercury until the label put him in charge of Triple A and Americana two years later. Einstein stayed with Mercury until the 1999 merger of Universal and Polygram. Then in May of that year he started with Rykodisc as National Promotion Director. He left in February 2000 to become Triple A Editor for Gavin.

WHAT'S A GREAT MEMORY YOU HAVE OF WHFS?

When it sold to the Duchossois outfit, I talked to Roland Johnson about how we could move the stick and create a potential dual-market signal. He bought into the idea and we got  to do that.

SO ARE YOU SAYING THAT THE SIGNAL WASN'T REACHING BOTH BALTIMORE AND WASHINGTON DC AT THAT POINT?

Oh yeah, but let's say it wasn't as effective as it finally was. It was a 50-kilowatt signal but it hadn't been potentiated. When Jake bought it, the antenna was mounted on the 24-hour AM stick, about 325 feet in the air, as I recall. That's where the pylon was. We moved it to the 600 foot position on a tower that was maybe 10 miles away. I think it's still there.

WAS WHFS A CONTINUOUS EVOLUTION?

We were trying to make it that way. There were a lot of things that stayed the same, but musically I think we were what we were in the 70s. We played a lot of progressive rock in the early 70s and mixed it with jazz. Took it into the late 70s with a lot of Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, John Hyatt and that kind of stuff. Then somewhere in the late 70s, we started playing some of the stuff that was coming out of England. U2, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and things like that.

DID YOU PLAY A LOT OF NEW WAVE?

Yes, as we got into the 80s, sure. We weren't a pure any type of format; we played a lot of different styles of music. A lot of the new wave that happened in the 80swas basically pop music without a format.

DID YOU TRY TO STAY AWAY FROM ANY GENERAL POP MUSIC THAT WAS CHARTING?

Yeah, I think we did. Sometimes there were those who thought we overdid it.

WHAT WERE MUSIC MEETINGS LIKE?

We basically had a group of people that were very well-versed in music, so they all brought something in. We all had strong opinions. We were very passionate about what  we did. From Bob Showacre to Damian to Weasel, everybody had their own opinion about how the station should sound and we were all pretty deeply invested. You gotta remember, I wasn't the only one who had years there. Damian did, so did Weasel. A lot of people had a lot of time invested, so they all had their own passion about what they thought. A lot of times it was not a job of leadership as much as it was a job of diplomacy. Of course, to manage all of the egos that were in that place, it's difficult to do that.

DID YOU BELIEVE OVER THE YEARS THAT THE STATION NEEDED TO STAY ON COURSE AS FREEFORM, OR DID YOU BELIEVE AT SOME POINT THE STATION NEEDED TO INCORPORATE MORE HITS?

We had to come from a place where we were - totally freeform - into new ownership with Duchossois. That's when the formatics started to take place. Up until that point we had a card system. Everybody understood that there were very few places like that. There were certain amounts of things that you had to play, that you had to do to make it work. But at the same time they were allowed to be individuals. They could certainly make a statement one way or another. For one reason or another that I can't quite explain, it made quite an impression on quite a few people.

DID YOU BELIEVE THE STATION WAS MORE POPULAR THAN THE RATINGS INDICATED?

In the early days, until '83, which is when the first class A station, 102.3, sold to Kathy Hughes, it was a three-kilowatt. It was a small signal, located at the top of the Triangle Towers in Bethesda, so it didn't cover the city as well as it should've. Then when that sold in '83, some of the people, including my father, took the money they made in that station and bought 99.1 in Annapolis and WNAV and about eight acres of land out there. They had a 50-kilowatt signal and that's quite a difference from a three-kilowatt signal. If you're not going to get your signal into where the population density is, you're basically not going to get any listenership whatsoever. We got it to the point where you could potentiate the RF system, get that 50-kilowatt up to where it ought to be on a proper antenna. Robert Benjamin was the guy to take it to a four share in both markets.

HOW DID YOU ENJOY BEING ON THE AIR?

I did middays for a long time. Towards the end I did mornings. Can I tell you I hated doing mornings? You had to get up at 4:00 or 4:30. I couldn't stand it. I like going out to shows, I like music. Doing mornings, you have to be a morning show person and I was never any good at it. I was too straight, too stiff.

WHAT WOULD YOUR DAY BE LIKE AT WORK, SAY, LIKE IN THE 70s?

On any given day we may have a meeting with the sales manager or production person. Usually there was something going on with Jake at any given moment. There was always a crisis going on. Then there was an airshift. There were numerous interviews that we did, and we did an enormous amount of live music over the air. I think the musical aspect of 'HFS was always a big part of it, but it was always involved on a community level.

HOW DID YOUR POSITION EVOLVE THROUGH THE 80s?

I guess in the middle of the 80s I became an Operations Manager when we had to rebuild the place. I just started buying equipment and dealing with the engineering side. We had to take on the mentality of not just programming it, but rebuilding it and upgrading it. On the programming side, I think it always remained pretty true to what it was trying to do. The music was a big driving force of that station the day we started. I think that is pretty much maintained today.

YOU ACTUALLY STAYED THROUGH SOME OF THE DUCHOSSOIS ERA.

Yeah. I got out of there in late '89. I think they bought it '88, so I was there for like 18 months. When Duchossois bought the station in '88, both Roland Johnson and (GM) Alan Hay wanted to see us get a consultant. Rather than get one of the by-the-book guys that works out of an equation, I felt we had more of an individualized reputation, so we needed to capitalize on that with the right consultants who knew how to tailor a station to the local market. Obviously, KBCO (in Denver) in those days did. They were the number one radio station in town, so I called Dennis Constantine and asked him if he had ever thought about consulting. Dennis said that he hadn't but he thought it was an interesting idea. So I talked him into coming out  and I got a meeting put together with Alan, Roland and Dennis and we all got along and decided to move forward.

WHEN YOU WERE WORKING WITH CONSTANTINE IN '89, DID YOU BELIEVE THE STATION NEEDED TO MOVE IN A NEW DIRECTION?

Let's say when the economic picture changes, everything changes. The economic picture certainly changed there. It was bought, and not only does the buyer have certain expectations, but they also have what they consider certain ways of getting what they expect. Research is one tool that we never had and that everybody wanted to try in there. There was rotation on the music, to see if it could be more effective.It's just a different way of doing it, that's all.

AS THE STATION SOLD, DID YOU BEGIN THINKING OF MOVING ON OR DID YOU WANT TO STAY?

Well, you don't get into anything assuming that's all you're going to do. You just kind of take it year by year. At the beginning I was working for my father. I don't think any of us thought it was really ever going to end, but it did.

DO YOU THINK THE 'HFS OF THE 70s AND 80s COULD BE MARKETED TODAY?

In a penetrative market, the way Washington is, it would have to depend on which particular signal you put it on. Sure, you could do it, there's definitely a market for it. There are some markets that had a demographic base that allowed a station like this to coexist and to thrive. They make it with an audience by connecting on a very human, very direct level. It's a lifestyle experience. They learn how to use that lifestyle experience to manipulate a family type of vibe between their audience and them and then they maximize it. WXRT is an incredible moneymaker and it has been for quite some time. I think it can be done. You have to look at your market and figure out where the audience is. Hopefully you have the signal to get to them.

SO WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WAS THE BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT OF THE EARLY WHFS?

Staying around as long as it did. Those call letters - there's not a vowel in them. Those are tough call letters. It stands for Hi Fidelity Stereo, which was, I believe, the first stereo frequency in the DC area.

WHAT IS A MAJOR STRENGTH OF WHFS THAT YOU NOTICE TODAY?

I think one of the more, if not the most, successful promotions I've ever seen is the HFStival. It's all about music and it's an incredibly effective and brilliant piece of marketing.

SOME PEOPLE COMPARE THE DAYS OF FREEFORM RADIO WITH THE ADVENT OF NEW BROADCAST TECHNOLOGY, SUCH AS DIGITAL SATELLITE RADIO OR INTERNET RADIO. WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THE COMING DECADE?

Very honestly, I don't see anything as being dominant. Every day there's the next big thing. It's never what it's painted to be and there's going to be shakeout whether you're talking about the streaming, wireless connections, satellite. No matter what you do, it's not going to necessarily be totally dominant. It'll do what it's going to do. I mean, how effective will cable be at that point? Where will satellite radio have its effect? Will it be able to compete on a subscription level against free AM radio? A lot of questions. I don't think it's very clear. There will be the Napster generation, the people that are song-driven. The sentiment is swinging both ways. People look at this entire technology as something that could be paradigm-shifting.

JAKE EINSTEIN

Jake Einstein owned newspapers, did some radio, wrote for politicians and sold advertising before coming to WHFS. The station signed on in 1961. When Jake arrived as a salesman two years later, he was asked what could make a classical FM station financially successful in an era when AM dominated listenership and advertising revenue. Jake recommended changing the format and finding a different niche. Jake's evolution at the station grew through his positions as General Sales Manager, General Manager and ultimately Owner. He's the man who interviewed and hired all the jocks to follow until he sold the station to Duchossois (pronounced Duchess Swa) in the late 80s. He then took over WRNR Annapolis in the 90s before retiring. Today he lives in Potomic, MD and enjoys reflecting on the heritage station that he helped create - one that has become a legend in American radio history.

WERE YOU ONE OF THE ORIGINAL OWNERS OF HI FIDELITY BROADCASTERS?

No, I was not. I came into it in 1963. They were doing Beethoven, you know, classical. I came in to doctor it up financially. I came in uder consultancy to find out what was wrong with it or what to do with it. First thing I said was, "You have to come with a niche of some kind. You have to do something a little different instead of the top ten or the top twenty and letting the label people call you up and hype you on this thing. You want to get away from that." I knew some DJs who knew all kinds of music and that's where we went. I interviewed everyone that came in.

DID YOU BELIEVE AT THE TIME THAT FM RADIO WOULD BECOME BIG?

No question. It was a no-brainer because the reception' s better. Your fidelity's better and AM radio was boring. The FM band was naturally appealing and the FM band lends itself to music.

WERE YOU CONCERNED THAT IT DIDN'T GET A LOT OF ADVERTISING IN THE BEGINNING?

No, I wasn't concerned because anything I've ever done in my entire life - and I'm 82 years old - I always sold to develop. And the fact that it was not getting advertising was because the agencies didn't know what the hell it was. It isn't so today, but in those days agencies were made up of opinionated people who had been around so long that I had people say, "FM's not going anywhere. Where's it going to go?" We developed the dayparts in the evenings and everything else took care of itself.

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF MURRAY THE K?

I hired Murray The K. You needed someone who tooted his own horn. He did a good job in New York, but he was made for New York. He was a shock jock for Washington. Like Howard Stern came to me when he got bounced out of (DC) 101. He should've never gotten bounced except he had a manager at 101 that didn't know what the hell was going on in radio anyway, and Howard scared him. He had to do something to wake radio up because it was asleep!

WHAT DID YOU BELIEVE THE JOCKS SHOULD BE DOING ON THE AIR?

It's better to do something than to sit there and do nothing. That's my theory. It doesn't make it right, but that's my theory. You see, radio is like anything else. If you do it a little different, you're going to get core audience. And that core audience spreads because every human being, including you, including me, would like and enjoy something a little different. Radio is going to sleep on its ass and it's still on its ass a lot.

I know a lot of people who leave their TV on because it kind of gives them company, like someone's in the house. But you can only do so much with TV. You have to be there to watch TV, but radio is your constant comanion. It follows you around. It should be promoted as that. It's in the car with you. Normally when someone gets in the car and turns it on, the second thing they do is turn on the radio.

BUT BACK IN THE 60s, IT WAS HARD TO GET FM IN THE CAR, RIGHT?

It was, because manufacturers hadn't put FM in the car yet. They had an investment in AM radio and they had a lot of them on order. I got this first hand from the manufacturers. I was pushing to get FM radios into cars. I was on the commitees, as a matter of fact. It took care of itself because the reception was better, the fidelity was better.

DID RATINGS MATTER TO YOU BACK THEN?

I did pay attention but I couldn't get anywhere with the ratings because the big boys, the 50,000-watt stations, were a clique - a good ol' boy network. We were that upstart radio station in Bethesda, MD, who were playing the Grateful Dead and that "loud music" as they referred to it. They tried to taint us a little bit and the more they tainted us, the more we got the young market. So I baited them. We got good press coverage. We were the pied pipers. We were getting the young market because we were playing new music and we had guys like Damian, Cerphe and Josh Brooks - guys who knew music and they were delving into it. They back-announced and they gave you more than that. They read from the jackets, they told you who the keyboard player was and so forth. It got to be an educational situation.

DID YOU EVER HAVE INPUT ON WHAT JOCKS PLAYED ON THE AIR?

I didn't have input, I had denial. In other words, if I didn't like it, get rid of it. Sometimes it got a little on the fine line of what I considered wasn't in the best taste, for lack of a better expression, and I'd take it off. I got in a couple of arguments. Columbia and I had a hot one at one time, I remember. So I just threw Columbia out of the station. We repaired it after about a month or so and everything was all right.

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR MORNING SHOW HOST DIANE (IN THE 1980s)?

Diane was good. Diane was not the exciting morning person. She was a good housekeeper in radio, very good. She'd have her own opinion and that's fine. She wasn't any problem. She was more than an acceptable morning person.

HOW DID YOU MEASURE THE STATION'S SUCCESS?

How I went to the bank. When advertisers come back time and time again. People bought time constantly, week after week. I'm a renegade in the business. I did everything opposite of what the normal guy did. And our competition made us because they went out and beat us to death and we baited them. We did things that were not acceptable to WMAL and WASH. It's difficult because it's an education process. And people don't sell radio right today. They don't spend five cents promoting radio. They won't get together as a unit and develop this constant companion thing.

AT WHAT POINT DID THE STATION START MAKING MONEY?

I think it was '68 when it turned around. But that wasn't any brainer. We didn't have anyone to put on the streets, but we changed format gradually and then I got some good people with me. They all got to where they knew how to put up with me. When Duchossois came in, they brought in a communications professional. He taught communications from the University of Indiana. Now, don't ever learn anything from a teacher. Forget it. You gotta get someone on the street in radio. He was very knowledgeable, but he was taking it out of a textbook. It ain't that way, because you go in to sell a man radio time and he tells you to get the hell out. You can't show me a page in a textbook that tells you what to tell the guy. And I never hired anybody that didn't have sales experience in radio. Damian spent time on the streets, David spent time on the streets. Cerphe, Josh, they all spent time on the streets.

WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR SELLING TO DUCHOSSOIS?

Eight point eight million. It was originally $144,000. Then we sold it, then we bought it back. I was motivated absolutely by profit.

WAS THERE EVER A TIME WHEN YOU CONSIDERED CHANGING TO A MORE POPULAR FORMAT?

No. As a matter of fact, I was in favor of getting a little more avant-garde. But you see, if you tell me not to paint the door green, I just like painting it green because you couldn't give me enough reason not to paint it green. I don't know, it's cost me a lot of money to make some money, but it's cost me a lot in my days. I worked with my gut. I know people by nature are antagonistic subconsciously.

JAKE, WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER A GREAT ACHIEVEMENT AT WHFS?

I guess the great achievement we had at 'HFS was we came in and turned everything around. If it was black we turned it white. If it was red we turned it green. We gave theyouth, the guys that were coming up, the renegades, the street fighters, for lack of a better expression, something to listen to. We put knowledgeable disc jockeys on the air. They researched music and we taked to everybody that came through the door who wanted to do something. Damian and our jocks interviewd local bands that were looking for breaks. We became a local radio station with local, local music. It was a good mix.  

WEASEL

In October 2000 Jonathan Gilbert, more commonly known as Weasel, celebrated his 30 year anniversary at HFS, the only commercial radio station he's ever worked. From the station's early days as a progressive outlet through the present, Weasel has seen the entire history unfold and he is the longest running individual to work at HFS. He started his radio career at American University in Washington D.C. in 1970 under Steve Leeds, who at some point became his roommate. Weasel arrived at HFS in 1970 via friend Jimmy Fink to run weekend foreign language programs. Within a year he was helping Murray the K and Steve Leeds in the morning. In the 70s Weasel went on to do nights at HFS and then in the 80s and 90s he did afternoons. Since 1998 he's done weekends, as he has shifted his career towards internet radio. Weasel remains the primary historian on HFS...because he's the only one who can say he's been there all along.

WHAT STATIONS DID YOU GROW UP LISTENING TO BEFORE YOU GOT INTO RADIO?

I grew up in New York on WABC and WMCA and then I made the transition to FM. I started listening to the public stations. To DAI. I listened to NEW and PLJ as they were starting up in New York. Like most people my age, I made the transition like Tom Donahue did in San Francisco. I made the transition from the top 40 guy to expanding my horizons and getting into all sorts of different kinds of music.

WAS IT THE CHANGES ALREADY GOING ON IN RADIO THAT AFFECTED YOU OR DID YOU ALREADY HAVE IDEAS HOW RADIO SHOULD CHANGE?

A little bit of both. I think we all had ideas on how we thought it should change. It started a little bit earlier in New York, where I grew up, than it did in Washington. Of course, I was going to school in Washington (at American University). I had the chance to basically start doing it myself in Washington.

WHAT WAS HFS LIKE WHEN YOU ARRIVED IN 1970?

It was very much like other stations that had become progressive. Very much like BCN and XRT and KSAN. It was a station that was kind of running a magazine format. It was all over the place. It was very freeform, but it was middle of the road in the daytime, and after 4pm it was progressive rock. In other words they played Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney and Tony Bennett and stuff like that during the daytime and after 4pm they started playing rock.

AT WHAT POINT DID YOU GET A REGULAR SHOW ON HFS?

Well, I went through all sorts of things. I did everything there. I ran ethnic shows on Sunday mornings, I'd run shows in Italian, produced shows in Arabic, I did a Jewish hour, I did the Lutheran hour, then I worked for Murray The K, the very famous New Yorker who went to Washington and did an MOR thing for a year and then decided he wanted to get back into rock. So in 1971 I started working with Steve Leeds, who was Murray's producer. I was kind of a co-producer and board op for Murray The K and I did that for a year, although while continuing to run foreign language shows on Sunday.

HOW DID STEVE LEEDS HELP YOUR CAREER?

He had a lot to do with me getting into radio. When I was in college, he was the Program Director at the station of American University. I came up to him one day and I said, "Gee this radio station sucks, it's the worst thing I ever heard." And instead of punching me, he kind of looked at me and said, "well if you really feel that way, why don't you join us and help us improve it?" Which I did, but I kind of owe it all to him for doing that.

WHAT WAS A BIG HIGHLIGHT OF THAT EARLY PERIOD?

I got a chance to talk with John Lennon when I worked with Murray. This was 1971. As an engineer I had to call John and Yoko and set up an interview and run levels on them. Murray did the interview. I had to get the voice levels. It was pretty thrilling. I couldn't believe it was happening.

WAS THAT AROUND THE TIME "IMAGINE" CAME OUT?

A little later. But, yeah around that time.

HOW DID YOUR CAREER EVOLVE AT HFS?

At one point I was doing morning engineering. I would dub all the spots and write copy and do production. At one o'clock I would come in and do four hours on the air. At five I would tape ethnic shows and more production. And I'd get up at 6 o'clock in the moring and do it the next day. I did afternoons for a few months and then I was moved to nights, where I became sort of a legend. I did nights from 1972 until about 1979. We traded shifts back in those days. Like 4pm-8pm, 5pm-9pm. I think it wound up being 5pm to 9pm. In those early 70s iffy days nights were really the prime time for album-oriented radio.

DID YOU GET TO PLAY WHATEVER YOU WANTED BACK THEN?

Actually we did up until about 1991. HFS is perhaps the last station to have so much jock input.

WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE FREQUENCY SWITCH IN 1983?

The station was sold and there was all sorts of protests. The night we went off the air there was a big rally outside the studios in Bethesda. We were actually just starting to get the station working. So Jake figures he's going to look at another property. We were all given severance. We were off the air for a couple of months while the whole thing went through the commission. And they moved the entire staff to 99.1 in Annapolis. It was different group of owners. The common thread was the staff and Jake. October 83 was the official sign-on. It was WLOM in Annapolis because we couldn't get the call letters for a couple of months. The call letters stood for Hi Fidelity Stereo. The 102 frequency back in 1961 was the first stereo station in the Washington area.

WHAT WAS THE REACTION WHEN HFS RETURNED IN 1983?

It was amazing. It was pretty much word of mouth for the first month. They didn't have the call letters so we kept calling it Progressive 99. The station was actually an automation machine. It was a beautiful music format on 10 and a half inch reels and carousels and cart machines. We came in there and started playing rock music on there and there were a lot of old line people in Annapolis that really freaked out. The change was incredibly drastic.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR THE ORIGINAL HFS AUDIENCE TO FIND YOU ON THE DIAL AGAIN?

It took a couple of months. We started getting some press and that really unleashed the audience.

WHAT DID YOU CALL THE FORMAT AT THAT TIME?

We still called it freeform progressive rock. We had music meetings, but there was still a flavor that each jock had doing their own show. At night we would get even more progressive. It was a combination of a lot of the rock of the 80s stuff. New wave stuff. It sounded very much like KROQ but yet it still had a feel where we'd play some blues, folk and jazz.

DO YOU SEE ANY CONNECTION BETWEEN THE EARLY FREEFORM FORMAT AND WHAT LATER BECAME KNOWN AS ALTERNATIVE ROCK?

I think it's a continuum. When I started doing this net thing I kind of flashed back to the early days of HFS. Like I'm starting all over again. A lot of us doing web stuff right now think, gee, this is just like the stuff back in 1970, 1971. It has the same feel to it.

DO YOU THINK THE ESSENCE OF ALTERNATIVE IS TO HAVE AN UNPREDICTABLE PRESENTATION?

Yeah, I think that was it. I think there's a lack of that now. We've gone back to those AM techniques of the mid '60s, they've kind of re-adapted them in mainstream radio.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT SPEAKING ON THE RADIO THAT IS COMPELLING TO YOU?

Since I've gone back on the web I've gone back to the delivery that I used to have in the '70s and '80s. I've slowed down and started describing the music. Then I go back on HFS every Saturday morning and start doing short bits of '99.1 HFS.' I do the slogans, the liners.

DESCRIBE THE BOND BETWEEN THE STATION AND THE COMMUNITY THAT SEEMS ESSENTIAL FOR ALTERNATIVE.

We still hear about the old HFS. And of course it hasn't sounded like it did in the 70s for years. There are still people that have these just incredible fond memories of what happened in 1969, 1970. What other format is there where people have this bond and memory of something that happened 30 years ago? It was that bond of someone actually talking to them and being part of their lifestyle. In modern rock and Alternative we strive to be that lifestyle thing but I don't know if it exactly has that bond that we used to...

WHAT IS THE ESSENCE OF CONNECTING WITH THE AUDIENCE THROUGH THAT BOND?

Just sitting there and talking to them as if they were people.

IS THAT DRIVEN BY CONTENT OR MORE OF A FEELING?

It's both. You can't say it's either one or the another.

WHAT ARE THE TOPICS YOU LIKE TO USE TO BOND WITH YOUR AUDIENCE?

It's basically the music. That's the first thing that we both relate to. With classic rock you're supposed to treat your audience like they are there today, not back in 1969.

TELL US ABOUT THE INTERNET STATION YOU'RE NOW DOING, ZERO24-7.ORG.

An environmental organization called Zero Population Growth had a very unique idea of how they wanted to start a station. They didn't want to sit there and broadcast what they call "talking heads" with environmental messages. They said that would be awfully boring. They thought it would be kind of neat that they had an eclectic freeform music station that sounded like the old days of radio. In between the music they would put in short bits of environmental messages. Instead of preaching, what we do is take the messages and put them into 30 second to a minute buttons that go between very cool music. I think you'll find it pretty eclectic and interesting. I'm doing three hours a day. It's on 2-5pm Eastern Time, which is 11-2 Pacific Time. That's why I'm doing it live and then we're looping it for several other times during the day. You can hear throughout the day. My colleague Mark does an indie show. It's pretty much indie rock. What I'm doing is pretty much a cross between Triple A and Alternative Rock.

HOW POWERFUL DO YOU THINK INTERNET RADIO WILL BECOME?

There's still a bit of resistance from record labels and even from the listening public. I think they will catch up to us. When Kerbango comes out with appliances where you don't need the computer and as wireless internet comes on, it's going to be as good as radio. I think in a couple of years when broadband happens and when the public catches up I think we're really going to be on to something.

WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF RADIO GOING?

I think consolidation has really hurt radio. We're seeing the rise of national formats. I think being local is important. Even though there are attempts to do it, it's not really happening. I think that the MTVs and VH1s have created not only a national but a worldwide phenomona and its driving the way radio sounds worldwide. You listen to radio in the UK and it sounds like American radio now.

I received this from Ed Bauer on October 24, 1998:

  • "Here is a postcard photo taken in 1973 or 1974 at Glen Echo Park, featuring the "original lineup" of WHFS DJs:

    Left to right, they are: Don Colwell (aka Cerphe), [front] Jonathan Gilbert (aka Weasel), [back] David Einstein, Josh Brooks, Damian Einstein, and Thomas Grooms. The photo was taken before Damian's accident, but the postcard from which it was taken is labeled 1976, after Damian's accident. Hope you find this interesting enough to add to your web site, and perhaps the names of the guys on the poster, as well."


    Jake Einstein, founder of the progressive days of WHFS


    The WHFS logo, circa late 1970s


    Two of the later, 99.1 WHFS logos

    Comments

    Here are comments I've received from DCRTV website visitors about the late great HFS:

  • "WHFS at 102.3 was the first progressive format in the area (other than WMUC-AM which covered just about all of the College Park campus of the U of Md...) If I recall, WHFS began progressive programming in about 1968 or so. I used to listen to a show called Spiritus Cheese on HFS. I first heard The Firesign Theatre there as well."

  • My brother just sent me the url to your WHFS site. Wow, you're bringing back some memories. I hope you have a chance to really flesh out the site. I remember a song about HFS sung to the tune of We're an American Band. I think it was by the Star Spangled Washboard Band. '..at 102.3, it's there for you and me W-H-F-s, wooo!' I still hear the song in my head on those days I get RNR in clearly. (Oh man, I just remembered Mother Earth News!)"

  • "Ain't NO radio like old 'HFS."

  • "I enjoyed browsing your whfs info. Having grown up with 102.3, 4853 cordell avenue, bethesda, md, I was disappointed to learn that the station is no longer what it once was. If this is all true, I am further saddened to see that 'weasel' has: a. apparently lost more hair, and b. is still with the station. He was by far my favorite and I can well remember listening to him during his overnight slot. I also remember Damien and Josh and Cerf (or what it 'surf'?, I never knew) as well as Randi, and (late 70s, early 80s) the guy that did 'London Calling' and Susan who did overnight...... I am reasonably sure the 'Home Brewed Radio' poster you show dates from the late 70s not the 60s. I have one just like it...probably picked it up at either Kemp Mill Records in Wheaton, MD or Penguin Feathers in Georgetown sometime between '77 and '79, maybe as early as '73 but not before. I believe I have a line positive transparency of a 'Harvey the Homegrown Rat' WHFS tee shirt somewhere. As I recall, the shirt had Harvey in sandals blowing sax on the front and the Psyche Deli logo on the back. Nice shirt. I wore it to shreds."

  • "...Later on I graduated to WHFS 102.3 and WGTB. They seemed pretty radical in 1977/78/79, when I could barely pick them up on my hand-me-down 'Hi Fi' system, because they played Elvis Costello and the first Blondie album. I used to drive around in my mothers car all afternoon because it picked up WHFS better than my home stereo. I was also driving home from a party when WHFS ended it's days at 102.3 with the Velvet Underground singing 'if you close the door...I'll never have to see you again...' and felt like the radio world was coming to an end."

  • I wandered over to your site from the 'We Have Foolishly Sold-out' page and took advantage of your link to the tribute to the old HFS. I used to fall asleep in the summer of '73 listening to Weasel playing cuts from 'The Missing White House Tapes' and other Watergate-related comedy (tragedy?) albums. One I remember was Nixon being thrown into a cell with a hippie and taking his first hit..."

  • "The last song played on WHFS in its 102.3 incarnation was "After Hours" by the Velvet Underground after Weasel read the sign off. The first song on October 20, 1993 at 99.1 was at 'After the Rain' by Bruce Cockburn by Diane at around 6am, the station when they started up in Annapolis was known as 'Progresive 99 WLOM' until Jake Einstein got the WHFS calls around thanksgiving of 1993. I have tape of the last 3 hours of WHFS in Bethesda. The only thing was screwed on that tape the Daily Feed, which in that episode 'Closing Time' which was about a Restaruant in Bethesda, Maryland called 'Wanda and Harry's Fish and Salads,' which had a reference to chefs, which sort was a reference to the DJ's. The management wanted to sell the restaruant to a national chain who wanted to change the menu to 'All French Fries all the time!' That was an interesting evening."

  • "I recall WHFS (102.3 FM) as the station that my father listened to in the 1960's (maybe 1961??) until it turned into the 'underground' progressive rock station in the 1967-1968? time frame). In the early and mid 60's, WHFS played what I think was then called 'popular' music. They published a crude, mimeographed 'program guide' which we received in the mail each month. It must have had a low-power transmitter, as it was hard to receive even just over in Silver Spring. I believe that WHFS claimed to have been the first station in the Washington area to broadcast in FM Stereo -- hence the call letters, which stood for 'Hi-Fi Stereo'."

  • "As a co-founder of WHFS 102.3 back in the early 60s, I can fill you in on some of the info you are missing. Your review of 102.3 is more a review of Jake Einstein's radio progress. He was about the 5th in the succession of WHFS 102.3 owners. --- 1st - WHFS - MOR/classical/jazz - High Fidelity Broadcasters, Inc., located in Bethesda Medical Building; 2nd - WHFS - similar - H. Peter Nesbit, moved to storefront in Woodmont triangle; 3rd - WHFS - SERIOUS classical, didn't last long; 4th - WHFS - Einstein might have been 4th not 5th owner; 5th - WHFS - Progressive rock - Einstein, who sold for $2M, Station moved to condo by Einstein, I think; 6th - WTKS - Light rock, WTOP (Outlet Co) who had to sell when they bought WASH. They got $7.5M for 102.3 after holding it for about 2 years. The 102.3 transmitter was moved to WAMU-FM tower by Einstein(?); 7th - WMMJ - Light Urban, Radio One." - Bob Carpenter