Tag Archives: WNEW-FM

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

WOR-FM

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
Please follow and like us:
0

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

January 26, 1937 – September 27, 1995

“The flutter of wings, the sounds of the night, the shadow across the moon, as the Nightbird lifts her wings and soars above the earth into another level of comprehension, where we exist only to feel. Come fly with me, Alison Steele, the Nightbird…”

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele
An official autographed portrait of Alison Steele, courtesy of Kimball Brandner
(According to Jimi Hendrix’s manager, Michael Jeffery, the song “Night Bird Flying”, recorded by Hendrix and released posthumously on the album, The Cry Of Love, was inspired by Allison’s late night Manhattan radio program.)

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

For those of us in the New York metropolitan area who discovered FM rock music in the 60s, WNEW-FM is the station we think of.  Yes, WOR-FM had preceded ‘NEW with a rock format and later there was WPLJ-FM where John Zacherle and Vin Scelsa initially were. But WNEW-FM really was where rock and our hearts lived.


WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele


And Alison Steele became one of those voices forever embedded in our hearts.


She began her time at ‘NEW in 1966 as part of  an all female DJ line-up.  An interesting legal adjustment WNEW made since FM stations in large markets could no longer simulcast what was being broadcast on the AM side. The experiment lasted 13 months.


WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele
WNEW-FM newsletter from July 1966. The station launched an all female DJ line-up. Alison Steele was one of that group.

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

WOR-FM, another NYC station, dropped free-form rock in the late fall of 1967 and WNEW-FM hired ex-WOR-FM jocks Rosko (Bill Mercer) and Scott Muni and added Jonathan Schwartz and Dick Summer. Alison Steele remained and became “The Nightbird.”


The wonder and beauty of WNEW-FM’s format was that the DJ’s were far more than disc jockeys. While certainly playing music–vinyl and likely albums–they also spoke to us. They commented on current events. They read poetry. They told stories.


In 1971, a New York Times article wrote, “In the radio world, Alison Steele is something of a rarity. As WNEW-FM’s self-proclaimed “Nightbird,” she is the only full-time woman disk jockey in the city and one of the few in the country.”


WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

Valentine’s Day, 1977


She left WNEW in 1979, but her voice continued to be her presence.


Alison died in 1995 of cancer. Our Nightbird had flown >>> NYT obit


References: NY Radio Archive site

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele
Please follow and like us:
0