Aircheck: WLCY, 11/30/1979

Today is my “once every two weeks” look at airchecks, with an accent on Florida radio stations through the years.

This time around, it’s a look at 1380 AM on the radio dial, which was WLCY in 1979, and by this point had spent 40 years on the air, beginning as radio station WTSP in 1939 and was at one point owned by the St. Petersburg Times, which recently became the Tampa Bay Time.

Two years from this point, the hits stop playing, and the call letters changed to WNSI and format went to all-news. That format didn’t last long, as it would change again to an AM stereo simulcast of top-40 giant WRBQ, Q-105 in late 1982. The format has changed a couple of times since the simulcast ended in 1999 (with Q-105 a country station by then), with 1380 being the home for Radio Disney from 1999 to 2014.

It’s currently WWMI, one of two business talk stations in the market.

Aircheck: WRBQ, 1/21/1983

Aircheck time once again. This time, it’s another look at Q-105, but this time we’re going back a little further to January 21, 1983. Mason Dixon, Cat Sommers, and Tramonte Watts are the DJ’s on this Friday evening.

The Q-105 “Tookie Bird” was being heavily promoted that evening, probably to keep the listeners engaged on a busy night for many Tampa Bay residents before the weekend. If my childhood memories are correct, when the Tookie Bird sounder went off, (“Awk awk, eek eek, tookie tookie!”), whoever was the 3rd caller (or whatever caller was designated as the prize winning call) won some money. Usually it was $100, but there were occasions when the station would give away $1,000 or even $10,000 with their promotions.

Promotions like this you don’t see too often these days, mainly because interest in radio has declined in the last few decades. Radio stations have to make money through commercial advertising before they can give money away like that.

Aircheck: WRBQ, 10/3/1986

Thought it was time for another aircheck, and this one goes back almost 30 years ago to the fall of 1986. Yours truly was a sophomore at Largo High in this point of time, and Q-105 (WRBQ) was the big top-40 station in the market at the time. A few years later in 1990 came the birth of a rival top-40 station at 93.3 FM, branded as the “Power Pig” which within a few years ended WRBQ’s over decade-long dominance of the market as the pop market powerhouse.

Mason Dixon is the afternoon drive-time DJ, and it must be a Friday afternoon, as “Friday Festivities” are underway. After moving on from Q-105, Dixon worked for a host of local stations in the Tampa Bay market until coming back to 104.7 in the 2000’s when it became an oldies station after going country music in 1993. In 2005, the station went back to it’s “Q-105” branding to go with the oldies format it’s had ever since.

And yes, they play many of the same hits now that they played back in the day. It’s a station somewhere in time.

Flashback: “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie

If you haven’t heard yet, singer and occasional actor David Bowie passed away today at the age of 69.

I wasn’t really aware of David’s work until MTV played what would turn out to be his biggest hit over and over, “Let’s Dance,” in early 1983.  I had a little tape recorder on Q-105, the local Tampa Bay top-40 station one night, when I heard the now familiar opening 32 beats, “Ahhh, Ahhh, Ahhh, Ahhh” as it aired on the radio (and only the radio) for the first time.

The irony of his passing now is that his wife Angie is currently in the UK playing in Celebrity Big Brother. I hope the show lets her go from the game if that’s her wish. No need to keep her there once she finds out.

Rest peacefully, David. You were an innovator.

Flashback: “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” by Bonnie Tyler

Okay, okay. I teased it a couple of weeks ago, I figured I’d better get around to it.

There’s a huge story behind this song for me, and it’s not even my favorite song of Bonnie’s: “Holding Out For A Hero” is.

When I first heard this song on Q-105 (WRBQ here in Tampa) back in late June of 1983, I remember thinking, “This will be a #1 song.” It was so different from anything on the radio at that time, and my 11 year old mind remembered that Tyler had a hit back in 1978 with “It’s A Heartache,” so I figured this song was a lead-pipe cinch. In horse racing terms, she was a “proven jockey” of the time, as I would find out later that Bonnie was looking for a change of management after her career had been stuck in neutral after her success five years prior.

Later that night, I saw the video of the song on NBC’s hour-long late night video show (so short lived I don’t remember the name of it) and it only convinced me more that this prediction was the correct one. In the video, Bonnie is waltzing around (with the impression that she’s a teacher at a boarding school with teen-aged kids with magical powers attempting some sort of seduction) in a white robe singing the lyrics of this mega-ballad.

In the UK, “Total Eclipse” quickly shot to the top of the charts in the spring of ’83, knocking off “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. Here in the States, the song slowly rose up the charts, cracking the top-10 by Labor Day, then up the top-5 by the end of the month. On October 1, 1983, my prediction (and probably a few other music nerds out there) came true: it topped the Billboard charts and stayed there for four weeks.

The song was also a coup for composer Jim Steinman. Many thought “Eclipse” could have been meant for his usual running buddy Meat Loaf, but the rumors were that a fight over record labels and paying for the song kept the “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” crooner from belting that one out. “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” by Air Supply (which Bonnie eventually covered in 1996) was a number two on the US charts for a portion of Bonnie’s reign at number one, and that song was also written by Steinman.

A pretty song by most standards. No wonder there have been so many remakes of it over the years.