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History of Philadelphia radio station 990 WNTP (Salem Communications)

  • Religious origins

    WIBG was founded in 1924 as a 25 watt religious station for St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Elkins Park. (WIBG apparently stood for "I Believe In God") Until the mid 1930s, the station only broadcast religious services on Sunday afternoons. When the church was forced to broadcast on a daily basis by the Federal Radio Commission, the owners decided to sell the station to an electrical construction company. The new owners immediately recieved permission to increase power to 100 watts, and new studios were built in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. In 1939 the station was sold to Seaboard Broadcasting with Paul F. Harron as president.

    In 1941, the FCC approved the station's request to move to Philadelphia, and new studios at 1425 Walnut Street in Center City were constructed. Plate glass windows at street level allowed passersby to view the newsroom and celebrity interviews. In 1943, the station's power was increased from 1,000 watts to 10,000 watts. In 1957, WIBG was sold to Storer Communications along with sister station WPFH TV channel 12 which at the time was licensed to Philadelphia.

    WIBG ad

    Top 40

    WIBG was best known for its wildly popular top 40 format that began in the mid 1950s when DJ Joe Niagara began slipping rock and roll songs into the station's pop standards format. By 1958, the station was playing rock and roll 24 hours a day, the only station in Philly to do so well into the 1960s. WIBG, known as "Wibbage," ruled Philadelphia radio, especially among teenagers. The station hosted local "record hops" and was the first to publish weekly "Top 99" surveys of the most popular music that could be found at local record stores. The jocks were known as the WIBG "Good Guys" and included Dean Tyler, Jerry Stevens, Frank X. Feller, George Gilbert, Jack Star, Don L. Brink, Bill Wright and Hy Lit. WIBG included songs with a "Philly" edge (such as R&B) that were not heard on similarly formatted stations in other cities. Some hits, such as Chubby Checker's "The Twist" and Martha and the Vandellas' "Heat Wave" actually got their early airplay in Philadelphia and then became hits nationwide.

    In September, 1966, WFIL flipped to a top 40 format with the intention of dethroning WIBG. WFIL had a similar playlist but played 3-4 more songs per hour. WFIL soon passed WIBG in the ratings with their tighter, slicker presentation of the hits. WFIL also had a superior signal, especially in the suburbs where many young listeners were flocking.

    1970s

    WIBG spent most of the 1970s trying to regain their former ratings success but was hobbled by their "staid" image and the gradual shift of music listeners from the AM to the FM band.

    WIBG 99 logo

    In 1969 Buckley Broadcasting bought WIBG from Storer, brought in all new airstaff, and tried a newer, lighter take on top 40. Eventually, they experimented with "progressive rock" in the evenings. A brief and disasterous foray into AOR (album oriented rock) was attempted in 1972. Several other approaches on top 40 were tried as the station evolved into an adult contemporary format in 1975. More sports and sports talk was added into the mix, and WIBG was even the flagship station for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1975 and 1976. On April, 1, 1976, Fairbanks Broadcasting purchased the station and switched to a "Hot AC" format. In the spring of 1977, the station was back to top 40. In September 1977, it was decided that the WIBG name was no longer an asset, so the station held a week-long "Wibbage Wake," with guest jocks from the past and old jingles. The final hour of WIBG was hosted by Hy Lit and Joe Niagara on September 10, 1977.

    Some of the many personalities heard on the station in the 1970s included Long John Wade, Don Cannon, Tom Rivers, Gary Brooks, Cat Martin, Doug James, Sean Casey, "Giant Gene" Arnold with his "Giant Gene's Electric Scene" program, Dick Clayton, Dennis John Cahill, Steve Hatley, Crazy Bob, Bill Gardner, Chuck Knapp, and J.J. Kennedy.

    As WZZD

    The station was renamed "Wizzard 100" - this was a rounding up of the 99, which was shorthand for the actual frequency of 990. (Many analog radios eliminated the last zero from their dials to save space.) The calls were changed to WZZD and a heavily researched adult top 40 format was adopted. Listeners did not respond, and the format evolved into disco and R&B, briefly competing with WCAU-FM's "Fascinatin' Rhythm" format.

    In November, 1979, the station was purchased by Communicom Corporation for $4.5 million. By the spring of 1980, the format was switched to a religious format described as "Information, Inspiration and education" retaining the WZZD calls. About half of the programming consisted of music.

    in 1986, the WZZD antenna array was redesigned which improved coverage to the north and west.

    WZZD 990 logo

    In 1994 Communicom sold WZZD to Salem Media. Initially, Salem retained the Christian music and teaching format. By the late 1990s, music was cut back to a couple hours a day. By 2002 WZZD ran nearly all teaching and almost no music at all. Since Salem already owned former rival WFIL, the two stations were eventually co-located at the former WIBG complex on Ridge Pike in Whitemarsh Township.

    As WNTP

    In 2004 WZZD and WFIL's programming was merged onto WFIL and WZZD dropped the Christian format in favor of conservative news-talk, changing its call letters to WNTP. WNTP sports coverage includes Saint Joseph's University Hawks college basketball, as well as college sports of Penn State University, Drexel University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

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  • Discuss 990 WNTP Philadelphia

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

    1. Posted at 6:05 AM on 10/4/2009 by Edward Adelman:
    Why was the Penn State game on Oct 3 not broadcast?

    2. Posted at 11:29 AM on 2/27/2010 by Christopher Savoy:
    Hello. I am sad to hear the the christian music station that grew up on in the 1980's is no longer around.

    3. Posted at 12:29 PM on 6/16/2010 by Delores P:
    I hope I can only have an archive version of WZZD 990 the way I remember the christian radio. You Don't hear music like that anymore. Maybe there is a CD out based on that music that was played back then.

    4. Posted at 8:10 AM on 7/18/2011 by Bill Cain:
    It needs to be added that WIBG was co-owned with WIBG-FM (on tower #3 of 5) at 94.1 Mc, later to change to WPNR, then sold off as unprofitable and changed to WYSP. Storer also operated WIBG-TV 12 Wilmington, now WHYY.

    5. Posted at 8:15 AM on 7/31/2011 by Richard Franklin:
    I was a young intern at WVUE TV 12 when it was owned by Storer Broadcasting. They had a TV studio and WIBG/WVUE-TV sales offices on the top floor of the Suburban Station Building (Pennsylvania Railroad terminal). I was on "Bingo at Home", Grady and Hurst dance shows, and others which originated from their Philadelphia TV studio. Fond memories.

    6. Posted at 12:43 PM on 4/23/2012 by Roberto R:
    When St. Paul´s sold WIBG one of the clauses in the contract was to continue broadcasting the 11:00A.M. Sunday Services, Holy Communion or Morning Prayer. That continued well into the 60´s. When I was a teen I remember it was always DAWN on WIBG, Douglas, Arthur, Wright, and Niagra. Sweet memories.

    7. Posted at 9:45 PM on 6/21/2012 by Roy:
    My best memories of WIBG were the mid-60's when they were the most popular station in Philadelphia. I'm writing a book about Philly radio and WIBG is where it starts, because rock and roll started in Philly on WIBG. They should have never given up those call letters. 99 AM to me will always be "WIBBAGE". It was rock and roll and that's how I remember it.

    8. Posted at 12:53 PM on 7/3/2012 by Art Robinson:
    there is no mention here of Paul Harron Sr who owned it during it's heyday. (before Storer) at that time the ratings were off the charts: no other station before or since had those shares. Secondly, during WIBG's final week as WIBG, Hy Lit(and Sam) and Joe Niagara had 6 hour airshifts from 6am to 6pm, the Geator was on at night (live) and Bob Charger did the overnights, then the station handed in the old call letters and became WZZD

    9. Posted at 10:16 AM on 8/9/2012 by denise biondi:
    Can you look in the WIBG archives from the mid 60's and early 70's for a DJ named Jumpin J Peters. I have been looking for him and can't find him anywhere. what was his real name?

    10. Posted at 1:53 AM on 9/24/2012 by Dan Mahoney:
    my father, Jack Mahoney was GM of WIBG when it started playing rock n roll. mid 50s

    11. Posted at 9:11 PM on 10/4/2012 by Bruce Scott:
    From what I've read, Paul Harron's transfer of WIBG to Storer was a "throw-in" deal when he was desperate to unload his failing TV station, WPFH, Channel 12, in Wilmington. (He had bought the TV station from the Steinman Family who also owned WGAL-TV, Channel 8, in Lancaster. [The Steinmans sold Channel 12 after WPTZ got the FCC to rule that Wilmington was part of the Philadelphia market and the station could no longer be an NBC affiliate.]) Storer renamed the TV station, WVUE, but surrendered the license c. 1958. Storer, as I think I recall, also owned Wilmington's Top 40 AM Station, WAMS, 1380. WIBG became WZZD in 1977, shortly after the station was sold to Fairbanks Broadcasting.

    12. Posted at 7:25 PM on 11/14/2012 by chris:
    My dad, John Mahan, was PD at WIBG late 50s early 60s. Jocks at that time were Bill Wright, Bill Jones, Jerry Stevens, Harvey Miller (Humble Harve)and Dean Tyler. Humble Harve went on to LA fame and fortune (KHJ, KKDJ, KIIS and other stations)Greatest jock ever.

    13. Posted at 6:57 PM on 4/13/2013 by Gene Pierce:
    I remember "Happy, Heavy, Hefty Harveee Miller on Radio 99."

    14. Posted at 7:50 PM on 7/1/2013 by RonC:
    Also known as 'Humble Harv', Miller was the first jock I ever really listened to. He got on the wrong side of a union dispute and got bounced to a 250 Watt daytime station, WAAT 1300 in Trenton. One weekend, a buddy of mine took me there and I saw Harvey 'workin' hardy for the party' and I knew that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! I went on spend 37 years as a jock, including a stint in morning drive at the #1 FM in San Francisco, and now am part owner of 14 stations. Just a few years ago, I had the pleasure of talking to Harvey and I related the story about my visit to WAAT that day! BTW...I don't think WAMS was ever owned by Storer. When I worked there, it was owned by Rollins Broadcasting from Atlanta. The Rollins brothers were in the building maintenance business and also owned Timex watch company and Orkin Exterminating.

    15. Posted at 10:38 PM on 11/24/2013 by Bob Knox:
    Also, in the 50's my dad, Bob Knox, who was known as the Gray Ghost because of his hair color was a dj who worked along with Joe Niagra and Tom Donahue. When the next group of dj's came in, Hy Lit, Jerry Stevens, Dean Tyler.....he went into the news dept at WIBG. He stayed with the station until the late 60's.

    16. Posted at 12:03 AM on 12/8/2013 by Gene F:
    Does anyone remember anything about two djs who worked early evenings at WIBG in the early 70's--Dylan and Jay Gregory McKay?

    17. Posted at 7:49 AM on 12/19/2013 by Kevin Wasser:
    Could anyone describe the original signal pattern for WIBG? Being that 990khz is a Canadian clear channel and WIBG was not allowed to place any signal over the border, why was it's nighttime signal so poor, even for 10,000 watts nighttime power? Why couldn't WIBG place a signal that covered all of PA and NJ?

    18. Posted at 4:31 AM on 3/3/2014 by Mae West:
    DJ Harvey Miller is referred to as 'Humble Harv' and 'Happy, Heavy, Hefty Harveee Miller' but I remember him as 'Heppy-Peppy Har-VEEE Miller'--am I the only one to remember this?

    19. Posted at 11:40 AM on 12/17/2014 by George Baylie:
    I was on WIBG Radio doing Traffic and News for about seven years in the 60's. They were wonderful times. It was a pleasure working with all the greats of that era. Don't forget those Newsmen like Bruce David and Jerry Grove. Bruce Davis and his wife, Miss Tilly use to go to many of the Beef and Beer suppers that we advertised on the Community Bulletin Board. They would just show up with their kids and Miss Tilly would always bring extra containers to take food home.

    20. Posted at 4:50 PM on 12/17/2015 by giant gene arnold:
    I enjoyed being on both stations with two different formats on WIBG in the 70s I had giant teens electric scene with progressive rock in another eraI was doing a syndicated version of gene Arnold's superstar concerts which featured one artist a week two years later I created the history of disco series that ran on wiz and is still available on many stations and sites worldwide fun times to be on the air I still do our sounds of philly shows worldwide currently great memories on both stations

    21. Posted at 1:43 PM on 2/13/2016 by Terry Arnold:
    My husband, (Giant Gene Arnold) brought both progressive rock to daytime radio on WIBG with his :"Electric Scene" shows, but also presented his Gene Arnold's Superstar Concerts series on WZZD, That show was syndicated nationally at the time. Both stations were a VITAL part of Philly Radio History. His selection as a member of The Philly Radio and TV Hall Of Fame, The DJ Hall Of Fame, The Legends Of Vinyl Hall Of Fame, and the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame Archives is much APPRECIATED. His History Of Disco series as heard on WZZD is still highly rated and qwell listened to around the world on various internet stations, and can also be heard with some of his Sounds Of Philly Shows at www.giantgene.com Thanks for the good info.

    22. Posted at 1:21 AM on 9/27/2016 by TU FIDELIDAD TV:
    I am a Pastor now, I can remember the great impact that WZZD, had on me as a young man. It was in the 1980, Christian programing and music, I am still on the "Bible Bus" that THOUGHT THE BIBLE Ministries stop for me to get on and I never got off it. Those great teachings from Dr. J Vernon McGey are para of what got me trought some difficult times as a young man. I wounder, if we could travel back in time and hear it now as it really was. Would it sound the same as we remember it? I missed its absence on the radio. It was right for me.

    23. Posted at 12:51 PM on 11/23/2016 by Gary Philips:
    I was on WIBG in 1970 while also working at WIFI under the name Paul Troy. I did news with Paul Howard...about 3 stories a morning for The Paul Howard Report, part of the Ed Richards Show. I am voiceover artist today and a member of The Philadelphia Broadcast Pioneers.

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