Tag Archives: FM rock

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

A man of principles
(click below to listen to Rosko’s theme)
Fall 1969

We, all of us, sitting here in our small comforts, worrying about inflation…swapping small talk at lunch…wrapped in ourselves in our banalities…all of us must sleep tonight in the knowledge that we share in mass murder.”

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

William Rosko Mercer

William Roscoe Mercer was born on May 25, 1927, in New York City. After first working as a government clerk and a men’s-room attendant, he began his radio career as a jazz disc jockey at WHAT in Chester, PA. Later he was a DJ at WDAS in Philadelphia and then to WBLS in New York.

In the late 1950’s, when DJ were trying to form a union, he refused to cross a picket line. Management black listed him for six months.

In the early 1960’s, Rosko was back on the radio in Oakland and then back east at WBLS.

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer


Rosko, though obviously experienced, was not as well-known a name as Murry the K and Scott Muni when WOR-FM switched to rock in 1966. He quickly became a favorite.

Only a year later in October 1967, WOR-FM management began to use the Drake system, which emphasized the replay of hits songs. It upped ratings, but greatly diminished the person style that the DJs  had developed.

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

Monday 2 October 1967

“I cannot go along with the new policy here.”

On October 2, 1967, without warning the station’s management, Rosko spoke for five minutes about why he was resigning, saying, ”When are we going to learn that controlling something does not take it out of the minds of people?’‘ and declaring, ”In no way can I feel that I can continue my radio career by being dishonest with you.

He added that he would rather return to being a men’s-room attendant.

Click the link below to hear his resignation.

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

WNEW-FM > France

By November 1967 WNEW-FM, hired Rosko  where he stayed for just a year.

It was in August 1968 that Rosko read the anti-war piece you hear over today’s blog entry. It was a new time in radio and Rosko was at that DJ forefront.

In 1970 he moved to France for five years and worked for the Voice of America.

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer
Back in the USA–Still principled

He returned to the US and was heard during the 1980’s on WBLS-FM and WKTU-FM. In 1985, Mercer quit WKTU-FM while on the air, because of a reported dispute with the station’s hierarchy.

In 1992, when he learned he had cancer, he refused chemotherapy, turning instead to alternative medicine.

He died on August 1, 2000: NYT obit

Full recording of Rosko on My Lai

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer
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WOR FM Announces NYC Rock

WOR FM Announces NYC Rock

June 16, 1966 announcement

NYC WOR-FM Goes Rock

Scott Muni…Saturday 8 October 1966, the first day of DJs on WOR-FM

In the New York metropolitan area, we Boomers had grown up listening to AM music in our parents’ car (when they’d let us) or on our own transistor radios (when we finally got one). We could watch teenagers dance to the top singles on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. His shows included a lip-synched performance by a current top 10 artist or band: like this one by Roy Orbison on June 5, 1966.

WOR-FM switched to its rock format on July 31. I remember seeing advertisements beforehand and using my parents’ radio–it had FM unlike my AM-only transistor radio.

WOR FM Announces NYC Rock

WOR-FM Goes Rock

WOR-FM Goes Rock

I didn’t realize that union difficulties meant no DJs at first. All I knew was that the lack of DJ chatter meant more room for music. And that’s what I wanted. The down side was that if I heard a song I liked but didn’t recognize (e.g., Buffalo Springfield‘s “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing”) I was stuck.

WOR FM Announces NYC Rock

Those songs of those first days were far from the future of album-oriented playlists. Here’s are some examples from that first day:

  1. Supremes, “Can’t Hurry Love”
  2. Supremes, “Baby Love”
  3. Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, “Get Away”
  4. Simon & Garfunkel, “Dangling Conversation”
  5. Rolling Stones, “Mother’s Little Helper”
  6. Beatles, “Paperback Writer”
  7. Petula Clark, “You’re the One”
  8. Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces, “Searching For My Love”
  9. Frank Sinatra, “Strangers in the Night”
  10. Sandy Posey, “Born a Woman”
  11. The Capitals, “Cool Jerk”
  12. Herb Albert, “A Taste of Honey”
  13. [I don’t know and neither does Shazam] 
  14. Tommy Roe, “Sweet Pea”
  15. Billy Stewart, “Summertime”
  16. Ruby and the Romantics, “We Can Make It”
  17. The Supremes, “Back In My Arms Again”
  18. David Garrick, “Dear Mrs Applebee”
  19. Them, “Gloria’s Dream”
  20. Percy Sledge, “Warm and Tender Love”

Quite a variety, but obviously not the album cuts that many of us would come to love.

As WOR-FM’s DJ gained experience and confidence with the evolving format, management began to balk. Murry the K left in August 1967.  His replacement, Jim O’Brien, played more of a Top 40 format that management preferred to the free-form that had started to happen. By the fall of 1967, the Top 40 format, much like the traditional AM format, had happened. [Music Radio 77 article]

WOR FM Announces NYC Rock

WOR-FM Goes South

On October 2, 1967, DJ Rosko announced his departure and the reasoning for that departure right on the air. His discussion reflect the thinking and the approach that some young people were realizing was a preferred format and one that they had become attached to (click to listen):

WNEW-FM took up the reins of that more relaxed, increased choice, and variety-filled approach the fall of 1967. Rosko arrived. Scott Muni arrived. Alison Steele (already there) became the “Nightbird.” Jonathan Schwartz and Dick Summer also became part of that line-up.

WOR FM Announces NYC Rock


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FCC delivers FM Rock

FCC delivers FM Rock

FCC delivers FM RockIn the early 1960s, people were watching TV more and listening to  radio less. In July 1964, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a non-duplication rule. That meant that FM radio stations in cities of more than 100,000 people could no longer simulcast the programming of their AM counterparts. Stations fought the rule and delayed implementation.

FCC delivers FM Rock…close

March 21, 1965: a record growth of FM radio was reported at the opening session of the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters, but a controversy developed over what course the high-fidelity medium should pursue. More diversity in music? Did FM need more bop and and less Bach?   (FM needs more bop and less Bach)
March 28, 1965: a column appeared in the NYT about how television had made inroads into the radio audience, but soon New York listeners will likely have more to listen to.

FCC delivers FM Rock…closer

March 28, 1965: overshadowed by the more spectacular doings of television, radio had interesting and hectic days ahead. New York City metropolitan area listeners were probably not aware in the fall there would be nine "new" radio stations for half of the program day.

FCC delivers FM Rock

December 13, 1965

December 13, 1965,  the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would give consideration to requests from radio broadcasters seeking exemption from the simulcast rule. (NYT article)

FCC delivers FM Rock…closer again

It seemed to take forever and still by June 8, 1966 there are indications that NY "Music lovers in the Metropolitan area will be singing the praises of the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 1." (see June 8, 1966)
Finally! FCC delivers FM Rock!

FCC delivers FM Rock

June 16, 1966: announcement that NY radio station WOR-FM would be first NYC FM station to play rock and roll music on a “regular basis.” (click >>> WOR to broadcast rock)
July 31, 1966: WOR-FM  began running a free form progressive rock format for most of its broadcast day. There were no DJs at first because management was unable to come to an agreement with  AFTRA (the union that represents on air talent).
October 8, 1966, WOR-FM disc jockeys started. A NYT article led with: Radio station WOR-FM, which has been broadcasting rock 'n' roll music without interruption by announcers, will add the chitter-chatter of four disk jockeys, beginning tomorrow. A station official asserted, however that WOR-FM would not become a "screaming station." (article: Oct 7, 1966...djs start)

Here's a taste of it on one of Rosko's shows:

Ironically, on October 2, 1967, Rosko resigned over corporate interference with his choices of music. (''When are we going to learn that controlling something does not take it out of the minds of people?'' and declaring, ''In no way can I feel that I can continue my radio career by being dishonest with you.'' He added that he would rather return to being a men's-room attendant.
But he continued of course. How many of you learned the name Kahil Gibran from him?

A great site with lots of NY radio history is the NY Radio Archive site. Check it out sometime.
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