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History of Philadelphia radio station 101.1 WBEB (WEAZ Inc.)

  • WDVR Philadelphia

    On May 13, 1963, Dave Kurtz, then an engineer with Philco Electronics, turned on the master switch of WDVR-FM in the Barker building at 18 W. Chelten Ave. in Germantown and played "The Theme From The High and the Mighty." Within four months, the station's mix of "familiar music" such as Mantovani, Percy Faith, and Lawrence Welk made it the number one FM station in Philadelphia. At this time, the world was dominated by AM radio. WDVR-FM logo Few FM stations had ever shown a profit, nor were they able to compete with AM stations in ratings, advertisers, or recognition. Indeed few people had FM radios, or ever bothered to listen to FM. Most car radios, even in new cars, were equipped with "AM only" radios, and sales were slow for FM sets in general. AM was considered "real broadcasting" and FM was considered "hobby broadcasting." With few listeners, and even fewer dollars, a small number of FM stations were beginning to experiment with recently approved stereo broadcasting. Their stereo schedules usually totaled no more than a few hours a week. WDVR started an industry trend by broadcasting in stereo 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This was not the only groundbreaking event undertaken by Kurtz and business partner Jerry Lee. In 1968, WDVR became the first FM station anywhere to gross $1 million a year. The station also created the first big money giveaway in radio ($101,000), and the first professional TV spot to promote radio.

    In 1968, WDVR moved its studios to 10 Presidential Boulevard in Bala Cynwyd, then known as the Reynolds Aluminum Building. The transmitter had moved earlier from the roof of the Barker Building to a tower in Roxborough. In 1969, United Artists offered $3.3 million for the station. Although this was a staggering amount of money at the time for a single FM station, the offer was turned down.

    WEAZ Eazy 101 Philadelphia

    EAZY 101 logo

    On September 15, 1980, WDVR changed its call letters to WEAZ and started using the name EAZY 101. The first song on EAZY 101 was "Nice 'n' Easy" by Frank Sinatra. The station's TV promotions featured spokesman Patrick O'Neal telling viewers: "Other station's call letters begin with a 'W'. Ours begins with an 'E'. E-A-Z-Y." (Note that the station's call letters did actually begin with a 'W', despite what O'Neal said on TV) When easy listening rival WWSH (106.1) switched to Top 40 in 1982, EAZY 101 was the only remaining Philadelphia beautiful music station. During the mid and late 80s, it was often tied for first place in the Arbitron ratings.




    WEAZ Radio Giveaway

    Around 1985, WEAZ began offering free radios to local businesses through a letter writing campaign. The radios were permanently tuned to 101.1 FM and had no external knob for changing the frequency. These were high quality table units in a rosewood cabinet weighing almost 13 pounds and featuring a six inch speaker. An optional matching speaker-only attachment was also available. According to owner Jerry Lee, they gave away 50,000 radios worth $1.7 million.1 As a result of this promotion, 101 FM in Philadelphia likely had the highest percentage of daytime listening of any station in the country for almost 20 years. Some of these radios are still in operation today and are routinely seen in medical office waiting rooms throughout the Delaware Valley. A label on the radio reads "L&K Sales" which refers to the station owners at the time, Lee and Kurtz. At one point, rival station Kiss 100 offered a kit containing a small plastic screwdriver and instructions for re-tuning the radio to the nearby Kiss 100 frequency of 100.3 FM. The station met with protest from Eazy 101 over this offering, and very few radios are known to have had their frequency altered. Because the radios did not use a quartz crystal-controlled tuning system, they were very prone to becoming slightly de-tuned over time, resulting in many being discarded by the late 1990s due to audible interference.

    EZ-101

    New EZ-101 logo In 1987, Jerry Lee arranged an industry study of American listening habits and determined that "People who grew up after the advent of Rock 'n Roll basically do not like instrumental music."2 So on February 6, 1988, WEAZ dropped the easy listening format and started on the road towards adult-contemporary (AC). The station was extremely popular at the time of the switch, and was inundated for days with angry, distraught callers. The new TV spokesman was Robert Urich, and the station's name was shortened to EZ-101.

    WBEB

    By the early 90s, WEAZ had evolved from a very light AC station to a very mainstream AC station, yet it was still called EZ-101. All of that changed on April 25, 1993, when WEAZ broke its final ties with the old easy listening image and became B101.1, "More music with less talk." The call letters were changed to WBEB and Robert Urich was dropped from the TV ads in favor of anonymous, attractive thirtysomethings. The last song played on EZ-101 was "Easy" by the Commodores. The first song on B101 was "Some Guys Have All The Luck" by Rod Stewart.

    The station's morning show received more focus under the B101 name. After the name change, EZ 101 morning man Bob Bateman was dismissed and Don Dawson took over the slot. The following year, Chris McCoy and Joan Jones ("Chris and JJ") became a popular morning team. Joan Jones was replaced by Tiffany Hill in the late 1990s. In 2007, Chris was let go and Samantha Layne joined Hill. The following year, Michael Chew replaced Layne.

    In the early 2000s, WBEB began playing an all-Christmas music format begining around mid-November and lasting through Christmas.

    When Dave Kurtz died in November, 2005 Jerry Lee bought out his share to become sole owner of the station. In the current media landscape, dominated by large corporate ownership, Lee stands out as the only solo owner of any major market radio station. The estimated worth of the station is more than $180 million, and Lee vows that he will never sell.

    MoreFM

    On December 10, 2013, WBEB announced they would be rebranding as "MoreFM". The Announcers and format would stay the same. The name change took place on December 26, 2013.

    Further Information:
    1997 CNBC Report on B-101

    Sources:
    1,2The Pulse of Radio magazine, 3/2/1992
    Interview with Dave Kurtz, 1993
    Rich Franklin
    WEAZ aircheck, 4/25/1993

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  • Discuss 101.1 WBEB Philadelphia

    Comments? Corrections? Worked there? Please let us know!

    1. Posted at 4:13 PM on 10/8/2009 by Bill Stephens:
    During the EAZY 101 years, WEAZ would lease radios which were permanently tuned to 101.1 FM. These radios were often found in doctors' waiting rooms and other such environments.

    2. Posted at 1:14 AM on 10/10/2009 by Alan Boris:
    Actually, the EAZY 101 radios were free to businesses. They had excellent speakers and sound quality. You can occasionally still find these playing WBEB in offices today, 20+ years later.

    3. Posted at 7:46 PM on 10/23/2009 by Michael J. Gushue:
    I enjoyed listening to 101.1 FM when it was WDVR. It was nice and easy as they would say in the late 1970's.

    4. Posted at 1:35 PM on 2/16/2010 by Brian Stroud:
    I just found one of these radios last night. I'm definitely outside of the listening area, and since I'm on the opposite side of the state, I can barely pick up WGGY 101.3 on it. Just the appearance of the radios themselves make them well worth holding onto, as does the sound quality, whether they are in the listening area or not. As for the "permanent" setting, if you are well outside the listening area and would like to use the radio for something else, you can find the receiver mo

    5. Posted at 11:49 PM on 2/16/2010 by Brian Stroud:
    Oops. I hit the character cap. I meant to say you can find the receiver module inside the speaker cabinet and you can set it as you wish by adjusting C2, C5, and L3. Or you can replace the module altogether with one that's more convenient. Once you get them set where you want them, they'll work great in environments where you don't want the tuning tampered with.

    6. Posted at 11:44 AM on 4/14/2010 by Phil:
    I know one place that still has an EAZY 101 radio box. Its at Ambrozy Tax Service at Richmond and Venago Sts in Port Richomnd. Seeing that box brings back old memories.

    7. Posted at 8:20 AM on 10/18/2010 by Crystal:
    @ Phil omg yes they do i use to be their neighbor and i remember going in there and selling them candy bars and seeing te radio my dad still goes there for taxes

    8. Posted at 4:16 PM on 6/2/2012 by Wes:
    I found one of these today at a thrift store, works great, paid a whole $5 for it. I live in Jensen Beach, FL and I'm picking up some 101 station, the speaker quality does sound really good.

    9. Posted at 12:54 PM on 2/22/2013 by Mark:
    I found an EAZY101 radio in a dumpster after an office cleanout about 10 years ago. I remembered my Dr's office had one when they were still WDVR. They are really good radios but the only time I turn it on is during the Christmas music time from B101

    10. Posted at 6:14 PM on 8/13/2013 by Lee Martin:
    I was Program Director and Morning Man from January 1981-December 1987, during the EAZY 101 heyday. When I got arrived we were number 8 in the market 12+, and within three years we were number 1, using the Bonneville music format. I was highest-rated morning man off and on for about two years in the middle of that stretch. It was a great time, a great station, and I really miss it. I left because of the impending format change.

    11. Posted at 12:27 PM on 8/2/2014 by john tier:
    craft litho @655 long lane still has a working model

    12. Posted at 4:16 PM on 11/5/2014 by DRC929:
    I can't wait to stat hearing Christmas music on 101.1 I've been listening for a number of years. I've been tuned in for christmas music on 101.1 since 10-25, 2014. I can hardly wait please start early please please

    13. Posted at 4:14 PM on 3/2/2015 by DEDRIA:
    Today I donot like this station anymore at first it was nice hearing Sinatra and other smooth singers as Dean Martin Sammy Davis nat king Cole Ella Fitzgerald and others. This station today is not eazy 101 this be101 is horrible........ Help change back to what it was????????

    14. Posted at 6:36 PM on 12/20/2015 by Dick Tyler:
    I was a announcer on WDVR and WEAZ up until August 1986 and worked there along with Lee Martin,PD.The format changed soon after thanks to a "Focus Group".Like DEDRIA's comment above I think todays 101 is crap.Maybe with the ownership up-heaval things might change but I am not very hopeful.

    15. Posted at 11:09 AM on 2/5/2016 by k.bealer:
    I have a eazy101radio. I ouned a business at the time. it's a sept 1987. wondering what it is worth today.

    16. Posted at 8:21 AM on 6/18/2016 by kve777:
    I see these radios at flea markets and thrift stores in South Jersey and Philly on a regular basis. Although I buy lots of vintage audio, I avoid them. Now that these radios are 30 years old, they will be in need of an overhaul. To k.bealer- they are worth about $0 to 5, depending on condition. Supply far exceeds demand. I may now pick one up, just to try to tune it to WXPN.

    17. Posted at 11:41 PM on 12/30/2016 by Terry Brennan:
    The absolute best gig I have worked in radio. Loved the music. Extremely well treated by the station. Lee Martin was a super PD. Learned a lot from Rod Phillips as well. Russ Mundshek a super engineer.

    18. Posted at 9:21 AM on 6/18/2017 by Rod "Storm" Phillips:
    Those were excellent radio days, indeed.

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