Bill notes in a postscript to the above - if I'm not mistaken, WRC-FM went to beautiful music - but you couldn't put it in the same category as WGAY - WRC was, IIRC (if I recall correctly) changed to WKYS and the music was not the result of a library or programming talent in-house as was the case with beautiful music pioneer WQMR/WGAY, rather it was a SHULKE client - syndicated, packaged programming for a new generation of radio stations that had no ability, knowledge or desire to program beautiful music themselves. Programming was provided on NAB open reels, and Washington DC also had another major syndicator (Bonneville, providing music for WJMD). You have to respect the fact that WQMR/WGAY were one of the pioneers, bringing us what became known as the "beautiful music" format in 1960, NOT 1972! So I can well understand Bob Chandler's reaction as noted above!
Bernie Harrison, Radio-TV columnist for the Washington Star, notes the move to the "resplendent new studios atop the world building..." Bernie had a daily 5-minute broadcast, I believe it was at 4:55 Monday-Friday on WQMR-WGAY until his death. The picture on the right depicts the real view of the block where the World Building is located (OK, not quite real, it's a perfect Mr. Bill view and you can see Mr. Hands on the rooftop of ... is that... the fire station? Ohhhh Nnnooooo!!! Anyway, photo sent to me by Dave Statter, of a model RR setup crafted by Nick Sklias. Courtesy of Bob Bell, we now know eggzactly where Giffords was located! In fact... here's a picture from 30 odd years prior!
We have lost Art McDougall, pictured below, he died of cancer on Sunday, July 9, 2006 at 2:30 am. I am very grateful for the emails and photos he sent via email over the last couple of years, and my condolences to all who will miss him. - Bill
ART McDOUGALL provided the classic "bubblemobile" Plymouth? or Dodge? picture at the top of this page, in front of our (snif) long-gone WQMR/WGAY art-deco building, with those ever-cool glass bricks... and here's a picture of Art - at WGAY-AM, long before mood music, and it would be another decade before Connie B. Gay became the station owner! Many thanks to Art for a classic picture!
FYI, I just came across this photo which was taken of me in front of
the 1KW Collins AM transmitter, probably about 1949. God, I was young
Art follows this with another picture he just found, another glimpse into the pre-Connie B. Gay WGAY-AM (I believe Art is working on a log as the station engineer). check out the mono board, with the ?RCA? ribbon mike on the left with the WGAY calls.
"You're tuned to WQMR, 1050 on Standard Radio - with WGAY, at 99.5 on the FM Band"
Bill Hamlin sent in a couple pics from WMJD and WEZR (we lost Bill to cancer in February 2008)
There were rumors of other radio stations on the dial at the very same time WQMR was broadcasting beautiful music! In celebration of that, thanks to Tom Gauger, I've included a few "new" clips from those great days when Ed Walker and Tom worked together when Harden and Weaver would go on vacation! They were great weeks to listen to H&W. Tom gives the time in these clips so they must be from occasions when Ed Walker dropped in on Tom during his regular show. Also hear THE MUSIC SCENE, the music by Pat Williams that Tom used to close his show for 17 years. Also for good measure, an example of his show closing - fast-paced fun. Radio wasn't always insulting and hateful; it was a joy to turn on, as a matter of fact; what a concept! So visit the "sounds" page to hear these clips. Below is a photo of Tom with the late Bob Omand, who Tom describes as "my favorite engineer." Scenic Greentree studio, I dunno what that thing is above Tom's head, some sort of telemetry recorder??? Emergency something or other? Fancy Scotch Tape dispenser?
In April, 1959, the popular/DJ intensive WGAY-AM, a 1000-watt daytime radio station, in Silver Spring, Maryland (more like Wheaton, Maryland) brought us "mood music" broadcast back-to-back in quarter hour "clusters" of instrumental, back-to-back music. I'm told there were parallel or earlier developments in NJ (WPAT?) and KABL in Los Angeles, but these were all the pioneers of Beautiful Music radio, which back then, was coined "Washington's Quality Music Radio."
The "really truly early" days of WGAY AM & FM (that's right, read on) are kind of before my time (though I was born in 1952, now a recently retired geezer, I didn't start listening until 1960). Correspondence with Arthur McDougall, (who died last year) (now engineer at WGAY throughout most of the 1950's, brings some new perspectives (just wish I had some tapes to listen to!) - Music In The Air was evidently a staple of WGAY for a long, long time, I remember it being billed as the "longest running radio program in Washington.") Evidently it was a "good music" show that was broadcast years before the station went with the CBG/Ed Winton "quality music" format. Mr. McDougall recalls that when Connie B. Gay first purchased the station, he instituted rock and roll; prior to that the station appears to have been a 'generalist' station with a little of this and a little of that. Lots of country, lots of pop, and some mood music too. Back in the 50's it was owned by John Kluge and Joe Brechner. Engineer McDougall stayed with the station until about 1959 and then went with WPIK in Alexandria, before moving to Orlando to work, once again, with Joe Brechner at his new television station. In the 50's, Ernie Tannen was Program Director.
Fidlin' Curly Smith had a "hillbilly" music show; Val Thomas did many on-air hours and his shows were popular music. It was Chuck Dulane who hosted Music In The Air and brought us the music of Faith, Winterhalter, and Rose.. Oh! I mentioned WGAY AM & FM. Newpaper listings show WGAY as continuing with "WQMR Music" until 9pm in the 50's. Art recalls that when Connie B. Gay bought the station the FM became more of a hobbyist country station, sometimes fed by a jukebox (not high in technical standards).
I was only about 5 years old so this is all speculation, but in the late 50's I've had the idea that FM radios weren't in that many homes, certainly not outside of major cities. The whole "hi-fi" aspect of FM with its inherent ability to ignore thunderstorms in the summer, lent itself to stations like WASH-FM (then in Wheaton, Maryland, not that far from WGAY) presenting Washington Metropolitan area "early FM" listeners with lots of classical music. FM featured wide frequency response and static-free listening. Coverage wasn't so great, however, and I do remember "drift" was a major problem with FM receivers (I remember a Meissner mahogany cabinet component tuner circa 1955 or so, that I found in the mid 60's, still worked, but drifted like crazy (it would "mistune" itself). Before long, more stable circuitry lent itself to drift-free listening, sometimes through advanced design, sometimes through brute-force AFC (automatic frequency control). The drill was, as I recall, turn off the AFC, tune to your desired station, turn it back on, and you'd stay locked in to your station. If your desired station was weak, there was also a good chance your receiver would lock on to a more powerful station (thus occasions when AFC couldn't be used).
* The Formerly Unknown Artist on the Living Strings MUSIC OF THE SEA picture at the bottom of this page has been identified! I've just heard from Alan Campbell - of WQMR's golden age - and one day hope to post a few notes he has kept all these years with lots of nostalgia.
FOUR DARK DAYS IN NOVEMBER, WQMR's memorable coverage of the John F. Kennedy assassination November 22-25, 1963, click here (then scroll to the bottom of the page)
The Early Years: WGAY 1050 AM memories in a letter from Ward Boote
Station Artwork by Kenny Flynn* (probably)
...a long running, successful format, with loyal, happy listeners -
this was - 1960's
Washington's Quality Music Radio
The QUALITY MUSIC (mood music) format was soon ushered in by new owner Connie B. Gay, a country music promoter and performer. Years ago, the late Doug Bailey, who ran a small ad/film studio in Rockville, Maryland, recalled to me that the major players in the "new" station hatched this idea at a luncheon held at the Peter Pan Inn, in Urbana, Maryland (a landmark restaurant, sadly long gone). Doug wasn't one of the players, he merely happened to be there, and heard bits and pieces of the conversation about the exciting new format. This was an exciting time - and all this over a 1,000 watt daytimer!
Quality Music was a huge success with listeners - and therefore the sponsors. The station brought a new level of sophistication to the AM radio dial. The format offered listeners back-to-back music (detractors would say, wallpaper) and sponsors quarter-hour protection.
In the spring of 1960, 1050 AM was reborn as WQMR - Washington's Quality Music Radio. The call letters WGAY were then used for the 5kw FM "country" hobby-station for Connie B. Gay. WGAY was the station's call prior to Connie B. Gay's purchase, it wasn't a "vanity call" though it might have helped the sale, who knows? The music of WQMR was further refined to include a great deal of direct and indirect (covers) of tunes from Broadway and Hollywood. Bottom line: lots of music, back-to-back, and music carefully chosen, announcers closely adhered to the scripts. You could say... we had a sophisticated "high-brow" station that in a way sounded canned, and yet it was NOT. Live turntables (monster Gates) and live announcers. Brilliant thematic material, based on the "WQMR Concerto" that originally existed on 10" Lp's. I believe they were recorded at a production house in Texas, and it was based on a (key of C major) E - F - G - E note sequence (with the E tripled for the enunciated W). The theme existed in fully orchestrated form, which was used for station signoff and played just for the heck of it late in the evenings at times. There were also "harps" - based on the same theme - that were inserted between EVERY record. Yes, lots of cart button-pushing, for years and years. There were longer vibraphone and guitar sequences for PSA's and station self-promotions. There were sequences of many lengths by many other instruments, but only the harp was used for normal "insert-between-records" programming. Sometime in 1964 or 1965, the station acquired "new" harp sequences; it has been legend, that I could never confirm, that a member of one of the service orchestras was retained to record the "new" harps. In the last permutation of the harp, it is also legend that engineer Delbert Keeling introduced a "tape delay" to the harp in 1966 when the FM went to stereo, a simple but eloquent solution to making the single-source mono harp stereo!
This gets ahead of developments. WQMR made itself a fixture on many radio dials - self-described as "the music 'twixt classical and jazz - from Mantovani to Crosby." Successful? Must have been - a year later, April of 1961, we saw the addition of 20,000 FM station WGAY at 99.5 - simulcast with WQMR - which ended the country music broadcasts on FM. However, as Doug Bailey and I often discussed, WGAY-FM 99.5 was, in the early 60's, a well-kept secret. In other words, during the broadcast day, it was legally ID'd only on the hour and half-hour - but never otherwise mentioned. It was pure magic for "us listeners" as it offered the improved, static-free fidelity of FM (we won't mention drift, or its magic band-aid AFC) and best of all, the music of WQMR from 6AM to midnight - a vast improvement over the daytime operation of yore, which, in the days of shortest daylight, didn't even make it 'til 5pm. I will have to admit, one thing I loved about WGAY-FM at night was that it was (gulp) largely un-sponsored. That made for great commercial-free listening! The owners obviously knew the technology would catch on, and it did, in a big way.
The names I remember from the sixties were Ted Dorf (business), Ed Winton (created the musical clusters!), and Bill Doty (mucho announcing). Ed Winton programmed the music in those early days - and he gave us some very fine listening, with the likes of Percy Faith, Frank DeVol, Andre Kostelanetz, and many other recording orchestras. The station ran narrated shows on "MATINEE AT ONE" on Saturdays and Sundays (cut back to just Sundays at some point), and I believe there were five hosts over the years. There were many other "shows" - such as "The Breakfast Table Edition of The WQMR News" weekdays from 7:45 to 8:00am. Over the years, the "clock" had minor changes, but the basics didn't; quarter hour segments of music (really 9-13 minutes), harps, musical intros on the hour, news headlines on the hour, "full paragraph" news on the half-hour, weather at quarter past the hour, and sports, sometimes, at 45 minutes past the hour. All that, sandwiched around the "quality music." The station did delve into light classics in the evening (with STAGEDOOR at 8:30pm, one-song excerpts from Broadway albums). The enthusiastic listeners boarded 'show buses' to see the real Broadway productions they enjoyed hearing so much on the radio. Yup - the early 60's. Pssst: Does anyone remember the Secret Sound Game? Country Music Classics?
1966 saw some big changes (below) personnel-wise but technology gave 'us listeners' more to spend our money on - STEREO RECEIVERS! I guess it was time to abandon the little white building at 11306 Kemp Mill Road - and move to 8121 Georgia Avenue, a.k.a. "The World Building." Two big technological changes: a new RCA transmitter - a STEREO transmitter, and a studio full of new equipment. Not just stereo, but "Washington's ONLY 50,000 watt stereo station." It wasn't long before there were other 50,000 watt stations, but still - this was one beautiful studio, with nice equipment, and the FM tower on top of the 10-story building, which looked IMPRESSIVE. Poor old 11306 Kemp Mill Road is an address that no longer exists; somehow Kemp Mill Road and Arcola aren't aligned "the way they were" or something... mystery solved pretty much by imagining WQMR was once in the land occupied by the shopping center. Another site had to be found for WQMR-AM at the time of the move - which turned out to be the Sligo Creek Golf Course in Silver Spring. Everything was stereo (WGAY did an "all at once" cutover to stereo - no "stereo showcase" music programs here and there) - there are even TWO voice mikes, as you can see, for the one announcer. If the announcer reached for a pack of cigarettes while talking, you, the listener, heard his voice shift off center (trivial, but kinda cool, could cause listener vertigo). I happened to be listening the night Connie B. Gay decided to inject just a bit of country music flavor into the beautiful music station with "Country Music Classics" which ran on Saturday nights, I believe it was from midnight to two a.m., not sure about the time. I believe this was about 1970. That night, the microphones were separated, CBG was on one side, the announcer on the other, as he kicked off the show. It was totally in keeping with beautiful music already in the library, just country covers brought together - and it kicked off with Percy Faith's recording of CAROLINA MOON from the album "American Serenade" - and I recall CBG said this was one of his favorites. Now, forty plus years later, that album is once again available; it was recorded in 1963 and deleted from the Columbia Records catalog around 1968 and, like all 50's and 60's mood music albums, became VERY rare. I recall arrangements of country-tune covers by the Living Strings arranged by Johnny Douglas as another example of the tunes used. So no, there was no Patsy Cline or Jimmy Dean on WGAY-FM 99.5.
The end of mood music isn't pretty; to some just a matter of evolution; to me a matter of rock taking over people's minds (and corporate folks tend to march in lock-step with any perceived changes or the so-called "maturing" of an audience, rendering it "useless.") In summary, Ed Winton left for new ventures by 1965 and Bob Chandler came on board the same year. Bob Chandler did a wonderful job maintaining the quality and integrity of the station. Connie B. Gay put the station up for sale in 1970, and it was purchased by Greater Media of New York. Pressure was, "of course," put on the station to play covers of current hits, and as the years went by, the whole thing became a "fifty flavors of Muskrat Love - performed instrumentally" station - the "classic" beautiful music was itself gradually replaced by custom music, and standards and showtunes bit the dust. The station went to - what else - Adult Contemporary! Mood music listeners had no alternatives. No room on that vast radio dial. Our favorite corporate radio conglomerate even took away the last bit of nostalgia, WWDC-1260 which broadcast nostalgia in AM stereo and rebadged it - briefly - WGAY before killing it off for "yet another talker." Music be damned, I guess you could say (especially oldmusic!) Got to give the corporate owners of 1260 a lot of credit, they seemingly worked hard to run it into the ground, first by killing the AM stereo exciter, then by what seemed to be loose antenna connections that caused continually unreliable reception, especially on windy days.
My knowledge of the station tends to run out in the mid 70's. While I have some air-checks of later years, I would not be able to write much about the station and could use some help - and in all honesty I'm not planning to go past 1980. Between the years 1980 and 1990, I'm afraid Bob Chandler was struggling to maintain the station's careful, strict sound while breaking in pop material in the guise of 'custom' music, an idea he helped to pioneer (including the International Beautiful Music Association, formed to help beautiful formatted stations share this custom music). I should add that "share" isn't exactly the right word, these recordings were expensive and therefore it was a way to recover the costs... Seems that original artists such as Percy Faith, Henry Mancini, and their peers, did not continue to record very far into the rock era, since their labels either fired them or forced them into retirement; more importantly, these musicians left no heirs - after all this music has all but vanished from the American pop culture scene. This forced radio stations to band together and record 'custom' music with European orchestras. This is not the music that made the station great; this is a "second generation" batch of music called 'beautiful music' but it's not the same as the classic mood music of the 50's and 60's - at all. (Alfred Newman, no, not the MAD magazine character, the composer-conductor-arranger, who wrote the beautiful musical scores of zillions of movies, is an exception; at least one of his sons, Thomas, writes some brilliant themes - using the - gasp - orchestra, to this day, but I leave that to the web sites that celebrate movie music, and there are plenty!)
By 1991 when the format finally flipped to AC, and Bob Chandler retired, the entire year preceding the "big" format change was "eased into" by wall-to-wall instrumental rock covers with several softer rock vocals; tremendous emphasis on Antoniono Bennedito, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand... no standards, no showtunes. Fifty flavors of Muskrat Love. Lots of repetition, lots of shallow arrangements. Just the thing to alienate an audience, who were about to be dropped. (Yes, yours truly did not move on, I question those who think music and popular culture in America are disposable; I like what was done in a certain era, and see no reason for its abrupt withdrawal for "business reasons" when the "reasons" are more like "demographics they didn't like, the graying audience." So to hell with them, let's all go rock, and they did. Now, even the rockers have little joy in radio with the last creative rock stations with wide play lists and experimentation, given over to voice-tracked corporate conglomerate stations with 10-song play lists (or that's how it sounds anyway).
...and what about the music? Can you still purchase some of the classic "mood" music dating back to the prehistoric late 50's through the early 70's? Indeed you can, some of it is being reissued. Check out this page (Nina's Discount Oldies, a.k.a. Collectables) and you'll find Faith, Kostelanetz, Conniff, even Frank DeVol. Some of the Faith and Kostelanetz reissues contain the very music heard in the BS (before stereo) days of the station, music long forgotten by radio - but music that deserves the careful preservation it has received. The music makes for some fine "rediscovery" or - travel back in time, where you find an artist you like, and trace their music backwards through the hi-fi era! When you get to Nina's Discount Oldies click on "Collectables CD's" on the lower left of the screen, then click on "easy listening" under "browse genres" and you'll see some fine albums you may recall - and can now buy in the ideal sound of the compact disc. For "non-Columbia" recordings, e.g., Capitol and Nelson Riddle, be sure to stay in touch with Collector's Choice - http://www.ccmusic.com(Collector's Choice often features gone-but-not-forgotten soundtracks by the masters, and many interesting "mood music" imports! Our music (hey, someone out there other than yours truly ;) is making some real progress in the reissue department. My tribute to the music of PERCY FAITH, whose music was a cornerstone of this station, is back on the web at http://www.percyfaithpages.org/
Note: Contents of this website may include copyrighted material, and such material is presented here as part of radio's history, under the Fair Use provision of the copyright law. Music and radio related sounds and pictures are for historical purposes; the radio stations honored on this site are long gone, and I hate to see them forgotten, so sound and visuals appear on this site in a historical way only. I only spend money on this website, it is not for profit, but it's nice to bring back some of a period of radio that has been swept under the rock and rap carpet. Quality Music - what a concept!
In some cases the call letters (and even frequencies) persist in different locales and ownership; there is no connection to what this web site celebrates (period, underscore). This is part of the history of radio in our small cow-town of Silver Spring and that rather larger city a few blocks down Georgia to the south - Washington, DC. Thanks for stopping by and, for reading the fine print.