Metromedia Radio broadcasts music in the tradition of the World’s Greatest Radio Station, WNEW-AM. In 1934 businessmen Milton Biow and Arde Bulova purchased a Newark, New Jersey radio station, WODA. They changed the call letters to WNEW for “the NEWest thing in radio”. Indeed, it was the newest thing.
The station was launched in a ceremony performed on February 13th at 9 pm by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. From the White House the president pushed a button and moments later a lamp illuminated in a New Jersey transmitter room. As the light shined, soprano Yvonne D’Arle sang the Star Spangled Banner and WNEW-AM 1130 officially went on the air.
A radio institution throughout the majority of the 20th century, 1130 was the first radio station to ever use disc jockeys. In 1935, while listeners to New York’s 1130 WNEW were awaiting developments in the Lindbergh kidnapping trial, radio personality Martin Block built an audience by playing records between the Lindbergh news bulletins. This led to Block’s show, Make Believe Ballroom, which began February 3, 1935.
In the late 1930’s, a skinny young singer performed regularly on WNEW-AM. Airing from the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, the singer, Frank Sinatra would ultimately become the greatest singer of the twentieth century. It all started from the little independent station in New York City.
WNEW-AM would continue to invent new concepts for radio. In the early 1940’s, two very talented young men, Jack Lescoulie and Gene Rayburn, entertained New York City morning commuters with a show called “Anything Goes”; thus becoming pioneers in the morning drive venue. Years later listeners would enjoy the teaming of Gene Rayburn and Dee Finch and in 1958 Gene Klavan and Dee Finch.
Under the direction of General Manager Bernice Judis the voice of radio changed. Ms. Judis built up a team of broadcasters that no longer spoke with structured affected voices. Ms Judis instead hired professionals with a relaxed “sexy” style of communicating. Judis wanted her radio talent to “appeal to women”. Great voices like William B. Williams, Dennis James, Ted Brown, Art Ford, Jerry Marshall and Al “Jazzbo” Collins entertained with an effortless coolness.
As television came on the scene, radio was on the ropes. The big networks converted radio shows for television. Independent radio stations, like WNEW-AM, had to compete against the new media. With a combination of news, sports, and music formats WNEW-AM flourished. By the mid 1950’s, WNEW-AM was one of the most profitable radio stations in the country.
WNEW-AM was always linked to quality music. The station showcased the great American Songbook; switching the radio dial to 1130 would guarantee hearing a tune by Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein, Rogers and Hart or Johnny Mercer.
The station promoted jazz formats. William B. Williams could be heard on air hosting Music Spectaculars with the likes of: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Stan Kenton, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald. WNEW-AM’s audience was very diverse serving many communities in the metropolitan area. Diversity was the norm at WNEW-AM, years ahead of its time.
In 1956 WNEW-AM was purchased by Metropolitan Broadcasting (the former DuMont Network) as more exciting changes lay ahead. In 1958 the new management team partnered with Larry Greene of Sande and Greene Productions to develop an integrated “jingle pack”. The resulting eight note hypnotic jingle would be embedded into the heads of every New Yorker for the next 30 years.
As the sixties emerged, WNEW-AM started to transform into a middle of the road station. Less jazz and more Mitch Miller, the station started to lose its way. As the Beatles hit the shore and musical tastes changed dramatically the station entered a dark period.
Thankfully, under the direction of new management, by the late 1970’s WNEW-AM returned to its roots. The great radio talents were again spinning jazz, big band and the Great American Songbooks tunes.
William B. Williams was entertaining listeners with Frank Sinatra interviews at the Waldorf. Al “Jazzbo” Collins was performing 2 ½ stories below 42nd street in The Purple Grotto.
Jonathan Schwartz along with Tony Monte & the WNEW Muso’s would host eclectic shows in the WNEW-AM studio or in various New York restaurants and cabarets with the stars of Broadway. Les Davis hosted a series of jazz concerts with the likes of Frank Morgan and David Sanborn.
As the listener base aged and tasted in music changed there was an negative impact on ratings. Upon the breakup of the Metromedia Radio network in 1986, WNEW-AM was sold to outside investors. Over the next couple of years the station changed hands again, ultimately ending up with Michael Bloomberg. WNEW-AM was shut down on December 15th, 1992, and the Bloomberg Financial Radio was launched.
It will be impossible to recreate the greatness of the legacy WNEW-AM. That said, Metromedia Radio® aspires to recreate the spirit of 1130. The hypnotic jingle, the timeless music and former WNEW-AM radio talent will grace the internet radio airwaves in over 60 countries. We’re just a click away, Anytime Anyplace N E W ®.