One of the Great Storz Stations Tiger Radio in Miami
This site is dedicated to WQAM Radio, 560, Miami, Florida. Florida’s first radio station. Bought by the Storz Broadcasting Company in 1956, it became the top rated station in Miami throughout the sixties. This site contains WQAM memorabilia, music surveys, jingles, DJ information, historical data, trivial tidbits, sound bytes, newspaper articles, advertisements and other goodies.
If you have any WQAM memorabilia, jingles, air checks, stories to tell -- anything and everything about WQAM, please contact me! I’d love to have the opportunity to obtain copies or dubs for use on the site.
Below, Lee Abrams, a longtime radio producer, programmer and music producer; and Neil Sanders a WQAM fan. explain why WQAM was such a great radio station!!
Lee Abram’s Blog - May 22, 2006
REWIND TO THE GREAT AM STATIONS: PART 1
Most people passionate about radio have an all-time favorite station. Usually it’s one they grew up with. That station you’d listen to late at night under the covers. The station would paint pictures with the music and the magic that happened between the songs. Often it was a cinematic experience. True theater of the mind. It was for me. When I first started listening to radio I was amazed that the “fact” that the jingle singers would march into the studio every few minutes and sing the jingles…always perfect. Of course I later discovered that they were tapes, but it was fun while it lasted. That was just part of the experience. It was a soundtrack to life. Mesmerizing. I feel bad for younger people today who may have first gotten turned on to radio during the 90’s—the consolidation era. Many have NEVER heard a “great” station. That’s probably a core reason why so may under 30 find the Internet or other technologies far more engaging than radio. I’ve run into 18 year olds who think radio sucks…always has…always will. I try to explain that XM isn’t the kind of radio they’re used to...but the point remains that they were born too late to know of radios potential magic.
My life changing station wasn’t WLS in Chicago where I grew up. WLS was a wonderful station, but to me nothing tops WQAM in Miami circa 1966. They had it all. We used to drive from Chicago to Miami on Holidays. You’d go through Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, Atlanta, Jacksonville and every city has stations that reflected the character of the region. Make that same trip today and the local stations all tend to bind together into a very generic sound. But rewinding back to the mid sixties, the trip was capped by WQAM coming into range:
STAFF: You could feel the camaraderie. They were cool. I loved that they took their two local teen idols-- Roby Yonge (later known as the populizer of the Paul is Dead rumor while on WABC) and Rick Shaw-- and “packaged” them together as the “Rick ‘n’ Roby” show. I now believe they didn’t really know what they were doing as a station, but it worked. There was no research, just a keen understanding of what the audience wanted…and man, did they deliver. They were probably making 200 bucks a week…and probably a ton more from appearances…but that didn’t matter back then-- they were genuine stars.
THE COMPETITION: They murdered WFUN. WFUN had 20/20 news, so QAM had 20/20 Twin Spins. When the Beatles played Jacksonville, FUN rented a bus..then QAM came back with a fleet of buses…then FUN countered with a DC 7 Prop…QAM checkmated with a DC 8 Jet to take listeners there…it was that kind of battle…and WQAM always prevailed.
THE PRODUCTION: There was no more densely produced station on earth. It was Technicolor. You might here five pieces of production between two songs…but it worked. Short bits. Long jingles. Homemade stuff. They knew how to use production to manufacture excitement. It was riveting. They had this old device called a Mackenzie in the studio which allowed the DJ’s to rapid-fire production without loading tape cartridges. These DJ’s were master of the lost art of doing a SHOW, not a Shift. A machine gun barrage of sound that pulsated rather than rattled.
MUSIC: They had The Fabulous 56 Survey and they actually played all 56 songs. They were on the edge musically. The station was anchored in the hits, but the DJ’s had such cred that if they thought a new song was cool, you’d believe it…or at least listen and check it out. And they relished being first on songs…they SOLD that to listeners. Music was in their DNA and you could hear it.
THE STATON CAR: A blown-out GTO, of course, and it was actually driven around South Florida not parked in the back lot until a remote broadcast from a car dealer on a Saturday.
VIABILITY: They were everywhere. No Billboards or print…but they CREATED events. They had TIGERS’ DENS (They were “Tiger Radio”) around the area for dances…later in 68 they put on the legendary Miami pop Festival complete with George Harrison doing promos saying “maybe we’ll see you there” (they never showed). They seemed to avoid the goofy car wash remotes and focus on events that were in sync with the vibe of the era…Surfing Contests, for example. They of course had their own magazine and their weekly music survey was available EVERYWHERE. It was the Bible of music in South Florida.
INTERACTION: They were masters at the phone. Requests...they even had high school stringers reporting on local school info. “Fortune Phone” was one of their premier contests…far before the resurgence of phone contesting in the 70’s & 80’s. By today’s standards the station was extremely cluttered...but again, it worked.
ANTICIPATON: You hated to tune out because you might miss SOMETHING. And they always delivered. The DJ’s seemed to have this telepathic rapport with the listeners. Spontaneous. Madness. Always ON IT.
CLICHES. They had every one in the book. But they INVENTED most of them!
WHAT HAPPENNED: Things unraveled for WQAM in the early 70’s. Most importantly, culture changed dramatically in the late 60’s: Moon landings, Drug Revolution, Sexual revolution. Riots in the streets, Viet Nam. WQAM was SO firmly rooted in the middle-60s Surf generation that they just couldn’t cut through. Add to that the emergence of FM, a new generation of artists that hardly identified with the WQAM era, and many unfortunate internal issues like a strike, firing their kingpin Rick Shaw, a haircut rule amongst the jocks and a management-forced deal where they had to wear these goofy blazers with a happy tiger on them to public appearances and a general losing of the vibe. OK in the Paul Revere and the Raiders era…kinda stupid in the Jimi Hendrix era. WQAM was one of the first Top 40s ever, a Todd Storz station. A guy credited, along with Gordon McLendon, with inventing the Top 40 format. My former partner Kent Burkhart was the original Program Director. Rumor has it that Top 40 was invented while sitting in a coffee shop, noticing that the patrons kept playing the same hit songs over and over—thus the “repeated play concept” aka Top 40. It was probably a bar. I can’t imagine sitting in a coffee shop all day. Anyways, WQAM dominated in the late 50s…then to cut costs they were probably the first popular station to automate. They died. Then they scrapped the automation in 63 in time for the Beatles invasion and in 64-68 they were untouchable. It seemed like an eternity, but to me that magic was a fleeting four-year spread. It shows how greatness is fleeting if you don’t work at it.
I grew up in south Florida in the 1960s (Miami Springs High School, class of 1967) and, like every teenager everywhere in America, I spent my days and nights listening to the radio. Viewed from the perspective of more than 30 years, the handful of years between 1962 and 1967 were clearly the last time when one radio station could capture the entire rangeof popular music. Within a few years, rock and roll and fragmented into half a dozen constituent pieces,each one catered to by a different FM radio station.
WQAM was as good as radio got. The station played an extraordinarily broad range of music, kept very close to local trends, and had, far and away, the best deejays. (There was no contest between WQAM and WFUN; WQAM won hands down.)
We continually were exposed to music beyond what was in Billboard’s Hot 100. For example, somebody at the station liked Cat Stevens. His music was played and charted three years before he achieved national recognition. We also heard music that was specific to other regions of the country, probably as a result of call-in requests from teens on vacation with their parents. The Cryan’ Shames were a Chicago group with a lone hit to their credit. But “It Could Be We’re In Love” was top ten on WQAM in the summer and fall of 1967, despite going no higher than #86 on Billboard. The Beach Boys “Heroes and Villains,” generally regarded as their masterpiece today, was quickly dropped by most stations. But not WQAM, where the record got daily air play for seven weeks. Betty Swan seldom if ever crossed over from the R&B charts, yet I’m looking at “Make Me Yours” at #5 from that same summer. On the same chart, though, was also my parents’ music”: Engelbert Humperdink, Al Martino, and Frankie Laine. On WQAM, the Summer of Love had many strange bedfellows.
The station’s loyalty to local bands was admirable to a fault. We heard every new release by the Birdwatchers, Steve Alaimo, the Clefs of Lavender Hill, and the Present, and their songs all went top ten (whether some of those Birdwatchers songs deserved to be so highly ranked is debatable). We heard Sam and Dave long before they achieved national prominence.
But it was the deejays that stay most in my mind. My clock radio awakened me to Lee Sherwood or Roby Yonge (did he really get his start at WQAM?), I came home to Jim Dunlap, and did my homework to Rick Shaw. They were empathic, they apparently enjoyed their jobs (and their celebrity) and they were funny. Yes, they played 16 songs an hour, but in between was a continual patter of jokes, contests and noises (I remember kissing a girl to Rick Shaw’s “kissing tone”).
The era of that kind of radio is long past. I once tried explaining to today’s kids; they couldn’t get it because they had no possible frame of reference. They could not image a time when a station’s playlist turned over every ten weeks, and when the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” could share the airwaves and the charts with Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night.” And today’s “oldies” stations have reduced the thousands of records that got airplay during those magical years to a hundred or so focus-group-approved perennials. It isn’t the same.
But I still have a battered copy of “Stop! Get a Ticket” (inspired by the tollbooths on the Florida Turnpike) and “Many’s the Slip Twixt the Cup and the Lip.” Rather than listen to the 15th weekly airing of “Wild Thing,” I play these forgotten records I once heard on WQAM, or play tapes of them, as I drive to work. And, for a few moments, I can envision myself headed not for my office in Boston, but to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park or the long strand of beach north of the Hollywood pier.
The music still sounds great. All it lacks is an introduction by Rick Shaw.
That’s what this web site is about! To bring back those great memories of Top 40 radio in the Sixties and Seventies. And WQAM was surely the greatest! Steven Geisler (Webmaster), Northeast High, Fort Lauderdale
WQAM Jingles Needed!!!
I am looking for the following WQAM jingle packages. I will trade for them or pay cash for dubs. If you have ANY WQAM jingles (or other prduction or airchecks) please contact me: Email: WQAM@560.com
PAMS Series 17 “The New Frontier” (I am missing many cuts, especially the instrumental cuts.)
PAMS Series 18 “Sonosational” (I am missing many of the instrumental cuts.)
PAMS Series 25B“The Happy Difference” Sonovox version. (I need the entire package).
PAMS Series 25D “Cheerleaders” Sung with Male vocals (I need the entire package)
PAMS Series 28 “Happiness Is” (Missing several cuts.)
Ullman “Onederful” (I need the entire package)
Futursonic or CRC Time and Temperature Jingles (Used in the early sixties for the automation (I need all)
Pepper “Fun” (I need the entire package)
CRC Christmas Series (I need the entire package)
The 1963 package of jingles sung by a group called the Skipjacks. It may have been a series called “Station Break” by Tucker productions. There are over 1000 cuts including a complete set of time and temperature jingles replacing the Futursonic jingles.