All of us that love radio have one station that stands out in our memory.
The station that caught our ear and will forever mean something whenever we hear the call letters mentioned.
For me, that station is WWRL.
In the 1960s and 70s WWRL was as great a station as WABC, CKLW, KHJ, WFIL, and WLS. Unless you grew up around New York it’s a station you might not know.
WWRL broadcast from Woodside Queens on 1600 with 5,000 watts. Not exactly prime real estate on the radio band.
I grew up in the suburbs of North Jersey. Not exactly in the prime coverage area of the station.
It was the first Soul Station I ever heard. I’m sure it’s the reason The Dells, The Originals and Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band are still some of my favorites.
In those days, I always had a Motorola AM transistor radio with me. I do mean always.
It was good enough to pick up the signal until the pattern change at dark.
WWRL had an amazing talent line up in that era.
The morning show was hosted by “The Dixie Drifter”, Enoch Hawthorne Gregory.
Jeff Troy who later worked at WRKS did midday, Jerry B afternoons.
Al G later on WPIX worked there, as did Chuck Leonard of WABC.
One of the most outstanding talents was Gary Byrd. His ‘Gary Byrd Experience’ or GBE was the first time I heard someone rap.
Gary did his own rap bits and later recorded an album for RCA.
Then there was “The Chief Rocker” Frankie Crocker.
Fast Frankie was one of my early heroes on WMCA, but he had left WWRL by the time I discovered the station.
These guys all had personality. Frankie needs no introduction. He was one of a kind.
“If Frankie Crocker’s not on your radio, your radio’s not really on”.
I still have the letter written on WMCA letterhead when he wrote back to me about how to get into radio.
Go to college was his suggestion.
Perhaps my all time favorite on WWRL was Hank Spann, “The Soul Server”.
Hank had a huge voice, I loved how he’d work the records with rhyme. He was tight too. I never heard him miss a post.
I was thinking about Hank and all of the greats at WWRL today because his son Tone sent an email saying his Dad’s health isn’t so good.
Hank suffered a stroke and congestive heart failure earlier this year. He struggles with Alzheimer’s now.
Keep him in your prayers.
And as Fast Frankie would say,
“May you live to be a hundred, and me a hundred minus day. So I’ll never know that good people like you have passed away.”
“Peace, Love, Truth and Soul.
How I’d love to hear him introduce an oldie right now.
“Back in time you scratchy old record….”
The Soul Server is one of a kind.