Once upon a time, Black radio listeners locked in 1600 — the last frequency on the AM dial – in order to hear music, news and the latest in cultural entertainment broadcasting from WWRL.
On Jan. 1, 2014, WWRL will transform the media landscape by providing the same service to a Latino audience and delivering the same cutting-edge programming to a Spanish-language audience.
Although no official announcement has been released, program hosts at the station said they were notified of the New Year programming conversion from English to Spanish.
Founded Aug. 26, 1926, the station has been steadily losing its appeal with target Black audiences due to the FM revolution, the emergence of numerous Black-oriented outlets and the departure of personalities who provided unique programming.
Frankie Crocker, Hank Spann, Douglas “Jocko” Henderson, Gerry Bledsoe, Bobby Jay, E. Hawthorne Gregory, Gary Byrd and Jeff Troy were celebrated names to broadcast from the flagship station.
“They played a blend of Motown, Stax and Memphis and early James Brown-styled funk. In the 1960’s WWRL became the principal rhythm and blues radio station “focusing on popular music aimed at the young Black community. The station was owned during this period by Sonderling Broadcasting. In the 1970s WWRL stressed Philadelphia soul and other and soul artists.
In 1979 Sonderling merged with Viacom.
At night Bob Law commanded a curious audience who tuned in to listen to his “Night Talk.”
According to Wikipedia.com “by 1999, WWRL began mixing in paid programming during the week,” and “by 2001, the station evolved into a diversified station selling blocks of time to various interests.”
Trinidad & Tobago native Peter Noel co-hosted a popular morning, drive time talk show with Orthodox Jewish author and inspirational speaker Boteach Schmuley.
Yours truly also co-hosted a Saturday morning talk show with Rennie Bishop named “Caribbean Views.”
During that period Caribbean music found a medium with producers buying blocks of time to air reggae, soca and calypso music. Some include Simon Templar and Prince Kalunda.
Prior to that Jeff Barnes helmed the news desk and also honed his skill as a deejay.
When the station relocated from Sunnyside, Queens to 333 Seventh Ave. in Manhattan, WWRL became an affiliate of Air America, a liberal talk radio network.
Station managers desperately tried to make the station viable by offering live coverage of basketball games with the New York Liberty of the WNBA. However, on Dec. 31, 2013, one of New York City’s landmark radio stations will depart from an 87-year tradition by signing off in English before ushering in the era of Spanish-language broadcasting at 1600 AM, WWRL.