94.1 began as WIBG-FM, the sister station of WIBG-AM, and basically simulcast the AM top-40 station until separate programming was decreed by the FCC in 1966. At this point, half of the day's programming was provided by a Gates automation system. At first it was a mix of pop standards, country and classical, but by the spring of 1968, some progressive rock was being played, although it was without announcers. The station had fairly weak coverage due to the fact that its antenna was hastily hung at the relatively low height of 250 ft. on one of the WIBG-AM towers.
In the late 1960s, WIBG owner Storer Communications attempted to get permission for an increase in transmission power. 94.1 was a restricted class B station at the time, limited in range to avoid interfering with another station on 94.1 FM in Sunbury, PA. Around 1969, the WIBG calls were changed to WPNA, but only on paper, since the FM station had been shut down. Having been unsuccessful in getting the Sunbury station to agree to a FCC waiver, Storer sold WPNA to SJR Communications. (SJR stood for "San Juan Racing", referring to the company's lone US holding: a racing track in San Juan)
SJR changed the call letters to WYSP ("Your Station in Philadelphia"), and quickly made a deal with the Sunbury station that allowed WYSP to increase it's power. The sation became a full class B, with a non-directional, 550 ft. antenna resulting in 39,000 watts ERP. On August 23, 1971, the transmitter was turned on, and WYSP went on the air. The format consisted of live announcers playing big-band and easy listening music from half hour long reel-to-reel tapes that were produced in-house. The WYSP studios were located in the Suburban Station Building at 16th and JFK Parkway in Philadelphia. A new RCA transmitter and circular polarized five-bay gates antenna was installed at the transmitter site.
At 6am on Monday, August 6, 1973, WYSP abruptly stopped playing big-band music and started playing album-oriented rock (AOR). The entire announcing staff was fired (regardless of attempts to unionize) and five new announcers were hired, including Tom Straw, Dean Clark, and Doug Cristian with Frank X. Feller as program director. The music included popular cuts from albums by artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Chicago, and Crosby Stills and Nash. Radio consultant Kent Burkhart was called in and along with Lee Abrams helped to develop and refine the format.
In 1974, WYSP became Philadelphia's "quad" station, piping its audio through a Sony Quad encoder, which provided "ambience" effects to the rear channels of the handfull of quad radios in the market. Due to a compatibility problem with regular mono radios, and a lack of interest from the listening public, the quad encoder was quietly dismantled in 1976. At the same time, WYSP moved its studios to their present location at One Bala Plaza (then called One Decker Square) in Bala Cynwyd, a suburb of Philadelphia. In 1977, the transmitter site was also moved to its present location in Roxborough.
Around 1980, WYSP began using the term "classic rock" to describe it's music mix. In 1981, the station was sold to Infinity Broadcasting, along with two other SJR stations, WKTU and WJIT New York. The price tag of $30 million for all three stations made many in the industry stand up and take notice.
In 1984, there was a brief attempt at a heavy metal focus in the playlist, but it lasted less than a year. A major station event occurred on September 10, 1986, when Howard Stern debuted in the 6am - 10am slot, simulcast from WXRK in New York City. Many industry obsevers felt that a morning show produced out of town would not be successful in Philadelphia. However, Stern slowly, steadily and methodically rose past rival WMMR morning host John DeBella to eventually become the city's top morning personality. In 1992, Stern accomplished the unthinkable: he beat out all-news stalwart KYW-AM for first place overall in morning drive.
Also in 1992, the Philadelphia Eagles Football play-by-play moved to WYSP from all-sports WIP-AM. In the fall of 1995, WYSP, concerned about the "antique" image of classic-rock (and its aging listeners), switched to a modern rock format, aimed mainly towards a young male audience.
The 1996 purchase of Infinity by CBS placed CBS over the limit of stations it was allowed to own in Philidelphia. As a result, WMMR-FM was sold to Greater Media. This left empty space at the KYW studios on Independence Mall, so on Saturday, April 5th, 1997, WMMR and WYSP switched studios. WYSP moved downtown, and WMMR moved out to Bala Cynwyd. For the rest of the 1990s and early 2000s, the station tried out a number of various talk shows or talk formats. On October 25, 2005, WYSP switched to the talk-intensive Free FM format, which included some music. When Howard Stern moved to satellite radio in 2006, Opie and Anthony took the morning slot.
On the weekend of March 17-18, 2007, the station moved its studios from the KYW building at 5th and Market to new studios at 4th and Market. (KYW-AM is located in the same building on a different floor. The old building has since been demolished.) By November, 2006, all music programming was removed during weekdays. In June 2007, the term "Free FM" was completely dropped and WYSP was known as "Philadelphia's FM Talk Station"
In September, 2007, the station returned to an "Active Rock" format and then on August 25, 2008 returned to the Classic Rock format using the slogan "The rock you grew up with from the 70s, 80s, and 90s."
WIP-FM Sports talk format
On August 18, 2011, CBS Radio announced that sister station WIP would simulcast its sports talk format over 94.1 FM begining on September 6. The change actually took place on September 2, four days earlier than announced. In the days leading up to the change, numerous WYSP alumni showed up for on-air interviews as well as to guest host. On its final day, Howard Stern called into the station to discuss his time on WYSP with host Spike Eskin. At 3:00 PM on that date, WYSP ended its music format with "Fade to Black" by Metallica.
According to Marc Rayfield, a vice president for CBS, the rationale for "sunsetting" WYSP was "to introduce sports radio to a whole new generation of listeners," presumably referring to the younger generation of listeners that ignore AM radio. The call letters soon changed to WIP-FM ending the 40 year run of WYSP. The WIP-FM calls had previously belonged to 93.3 FM until 1966, when 93.3 became WMMR.