A look back at WABC radio’s incredible moments as it turns 100

In 1964, a crazed younger Beatles fan ripped a really valuable medallion off the neck of drummer Ringo Starr throughout the band’s first journey to New York Metropolis.

“When The Beatles got here to [their] resort, the crowds broke by means of the police strains… it seemed like a tsunami, just like the tide broke. I noticed policemen on their horses go down,” famed radio disk jockey Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow informed The Publish.

“They wished souvenirs, so they might seize and rip. They took shirts, they took clothes, they took items of hair, they bought hair from The Beatles.”

Afterwards and in a state of panic, Starr and Paul McCartney rushed over to Cousin Brucie inside his WABC studio — the DJ had helped gasoline the band’s unbelievable recognition within the US — and enlisted his assist in getting again the St. Christopher medal.

Cousin Brucie’s lore is remembered fondly at WABC. Posters of him throughout iconic moments cling within the station’s foyer.
Stefano Giovannini

Moments later, Cousin Brucie was on the air requesting whoever had “discovered” it come ahead with the medallion — and, unbelievably, it was returned to the drummer as a part of a later press occasion.

It was simply one of many defining moments within the 100-year historical past of WABC — the enduring radio station first generally known as WJZ earlier than turning over to its present callsign in 1953, which is celebrating its centennial with a celebration on Sept. 7, in addition to producing a series of hourlong radio documentaries on the historical past of the station.

It was there that Howard Cosell launched his legendary broadcasting profession with a Little League baseball present; radio host Curtis Sliwa angered the mob and was shot up in a cab as retribution; and conservative commentators launched their careers with pull-no-punches discuss.

WABC radio with on air talents like Curtis Sliwa (right) celebrates over 100 years on air.
WABC radio with on air skills like Curtis Sliwa (proper) celebrates over 100 years on air.
Stefano Giovannini

However, simply over 15 years in the past, issues had been trying down when Disney offered the station to Citadel in 2006, WABC artistic director Chris Libertini defined.

The next yr, the station modified palms as soon as extra, this time to Cumulus, which gutted WABC and fired your entire information division, in accordance Libertini. By the late 2010s, WABC was vulnerable to turning into a repeater for both a Russian or Korean radio station earlier than native businessman John Catsimatidis and his spouse Margo acquired it for $12.5M in 2020.

“We consider in dwell radio,” Catsimatidis informed The Publish, noting that “music radio, discuss radio and information” are all a part of right now’s combine.

John and Margo Catsimatidis have brought a resurgence of old time radio to WABC.
John and Margo Catsimatidis have introduced a resurgence of outdated time radio to WABC.
Stefano Giovannini

To broaden the station’s give attention to nationwide politics, he rehired Cousin Brucie — “He was 86 years outdated, however I gave him a 30-year contract,” Catsimatidis joked — and introduced on extra weekend music hosts similar to Deana Martin (daughter of Dean) and Joe Piscopo.

Beneath, a take a look at a number of the station’s most memorable moments in its 100 years of broadcasting right here in NYC.

W-A-Beatle-C with Cousin Brucie

"Cousin Brucie" Morrow famously interviewed The Beatles in their NYC hotel in 1964. They became great friends.
“Cousin Brucie” Morrow famously interviewed The Beatles of their NYC resort in 1964. They grew to become nice mates.
Courtesy of WABC

The Beatles first invaded the USA airwaves in 1963. It was tunes like “I Need to Maintain Your Hand” that had American ladies and boys going berserk over the British sensation once they first toured the US — with the band taking part in Queens’ Forest Hills Stadium in the summertime of 1964.

Forward of the invasion, Cousin Brucie grew to become a mouthpiece for the band and even struck a particular cope with their document firm to play “I Need to Maintain Your Hand” forward of its 1963 launch — reaching 40 states on the time on his native sign.

It was such an unique coup {that a} safety guard for The Beatles’ label saved the document in a locked briefcase handcuffed to his wrist till air at 9 p.m. precisely.

“That’s the place [American Beatlemania] actually began,” Cousin Brucie informed The Publish. “I’m reaching half the world [at 9 p.m.] on WABC so I put her on the air. And all hell broke free. I believe I performed it eight instances.”

The Beatles became an American sensation very much due to radio DJ "Cousin Brucie" Morrow. They are seen with Ed Sullivan.
The Beatles grew to become an American sensation very a lot on account of radio DJ “Cousin Brucie” Morrow. They’re seen with Ed Sullivan.
Getty Photographs

Brucie’s particular relationship with The Beatles — which might earn the station’s nickname “W-A-Beatle-C” — grew in time because the band conquered US radio. He interviewed “the blokes,” as he referred to as them, inside their room on the Warwick Lodge on 54th and Sixth in that summer season of ’64.

“They had been very nervous,” he stated. “They by no means actually had a New York Metropolis welcome earlier than. And when New York Metropolis welcomes any individual, there’s none prefer it, none second. It labored completely superbly. WABC in these days was the middle, we had been just like the management room for The Beatles.”

When radio stations would attempt recording WABC’s dwell broadcast to get playable copies of the music, Brucie got here up with the thought of vocally watermarking the tracks to dam the copy cats.

Serving to Starr ‘discover’ his misplaced medal

Beatlemania coming to America was in many ways facilitated by "Cousin Brucie." He would play their records ahead of scheduled release.
Beatlemania coming to America was in some ways facilitated by “Cousin Brucie.” He would play their data forward of scheduled launch.
CBS by way of Getty Photographs

That wasn’t the final time Brucie and The Beatles would join. Whereas the band was out and about within the metropolis that August, a rabid fan ripped off Starr’s St. Christopher medal. Each Starr and Cousin Brucie used the airwaves to get it again by means of one other interview.

“‘I misplaced me St. Christopher’s metallic that me auntie gave me,’” he recalled Starr telling him.

“And he was very upset. Any individual grabbed it off his neck as a memento. And I stated, very foolishly, ‘Was it actual gold?’… and he stated, ‘Cousin Brucie, I solely put on actual gold’ and he bought just a little snippy and we bought alongside nice after that.”

“So I went on the air and I stated ‘Look, whoever discovered — I didn’t say took — I stated whoever discovered Starr’s St. Christopher’s medal, you’re not in bother … I need you to have your mother and pop name me at this quantity.’ I knew that I had one thing essential right here. Nicely, after I bought off the air a couple of minutes later, I acquired a name.”

Cousin Brucie and the station organized for the fan who “discovered” the medal to fulfill in particular person in entrance of a large press corps on the resort.

“I informed her in the event you deliver this again, the St. Christopher’s medal, Ringo will kiss you. I stated to Ringo, ‘Ringo will you give her a hug and a kiss?’ and he stated, ‘Completely.’”

The retrieval of Starr’s medal is one thing the 2 nonetheless reminisce over to at the present time, Brucie stated.

The blackout of ’77

The blackout of 1977 led to looting, rioting, and chaos. Many clung to their radios to listen for updates on the situation.
The blackout of 1977 led to looting, rioting, and chaos. Many clung to their radios to hear for updates on the scenario.
New York Publish

The Bronx was burning and serial killer David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz was operating amok when town was plunged into darkness in the summertime of 1977.

With town already in a historic disaster mode, 25 hours at the hours of darkness introduced on by a considerable strike and a stay-at-home advisory from Mayor Abraham Beame merely had New Yorkers terrified on July 13, 1977.

Their panic was official: Over a thousand fires had been lit, 1,600 shops had been looted, and a 17-year-old was murdered in Carroll Gardens throughout the outage.

“All people was listening to us all in a single day, they had been within the streets ready to listen to what was occurring,” Libertini stated, noting that host George Michael and information director Paul Ehrlich had managed to get the mayor and reps from the Public Service Enterprise Group on air for updates — regardless of the 2 entities being at one another’s throats on the time.

In the summer of 1977, with a serial killer on the loose, NYC was left in darkness during a blackout.
In the summertime of 1977, with a serial killer on the free, NYC was left in darkness throughout a blackout.
Related Press Picture

Together with getting the massive pols on air, Michael and Ehrlich had been giving hyperlocal updates — speaking to New Yorkers and alerting listeners to studies of riots and chaos within the streets.

“In the end, the station saved town calm in a time of maximum chaos. It was considered one of our proudest moments,” Libertini stated.

WABC remained on air from a backup generator, which was put in after the 1968 blackout compelled radio host Dan Ingram to drive to Lodi, NJ, to broadcast.

The day the music died

Bob Grant became a staple for WABC talk radio.
Bob Grant grew to become a staple for WABC discuss radio.
Courtesy of WABC

On the morning of Could 10, 1982, WABC bid farewell to music programming and converted to strictly discuss radio that afternoon.

“The Day the Music Died,” because it’s since been referred to as, signaled a altering of the guard as FM radio took over as the popular method for listeners to get pleasure from tunes from its cleaner sounding audio.

Dan Ingram and Ron Lundy had been the ultimate music hosts on the station and put collectively a particular 36-minute compilation of music clips from 1953 — when WABC took over the station — by means of the early ’80s.

WABC has produced radio documentaries of historical moments on air from the past 100 years.
WABC has produced radio documentaries of historic moments on air from the previous 100 years.
Courtesy of WABC
Sean Hannity made a name for himself on WABC radio.
Sean Hannity made a reputation for himself on WABC radio.
Courtesy of WABC

“They coated each [iconic] piece of music there had been throughout their time on the air,” Libertini, who put collectively a documentary on the fateful day, stated. They performed tunes like Invoice Haley’s “Rock Across the Clock,” Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and even “Begin Me Up” by the Rolling Stones.

The primary ever discuss host was Artwork Athens, who invited Ingram and Lundy on as his first friends in tribute to their mark left on radio, in response to Libertini.

Two years later, famed conservative host Bob Grant — who made waves tearing then-Governor Mario Cuomo to shreds (each in English and Italian) and even wore T-shirts mocking the politician — would cement the station’s new identification in right-wing political commentary.

WABC owner and show host John Catsimatidis is putting emphasis on live programming, especially music for his station.
WABC proprietor and present host John Catsimatidis is placing emphasis on dwell programming, particularly music for his station.
Helayne Seidman

Following the trail Grant laid, WABC would go on to supply extra broadcast icons like Rush Limbaugh in 1988, Sean Hannity in 1996, and Mark Levin, who first did a Sunday present totally free with the station in 2002.

Curtis Sliwa will get shot after going on the mob

Curtis Sliwa was broadcasting for WABC from Bellevue Hospital after he was shot five times in the early 1990s.
Curtis Sliwa was broadcasting for WABC from Bellevue Hospital after he was shot 5 instances within the early Nineties.

In 1992, still-active discuss present host and former GOP mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa was shot 5 instances with hole level rounds behind a cab — an tried hit considered ordered by John Gotti Jr. in retribution for Sliwa speaking about his father, John Gotti Sr., who was on trial for murder and related organized-crime charges at the time.

Whereas doing the “Angels within the Morning” present together with his spouse Lisa Evers, Sliwa informed The Publish he “would critique” the trial regardless of being warned in opposition to it.

“The remainder of the [competition] stated, ‘We’re not speaking in regards to the man, that’ll get ya killed early.’ They’d all warn me,” he stated.

He was attacked by baseball-bat-wielding mobsters who broke his elbow on the Decrease East Facet in April 1992 “as a warning,” he stated.

However he bought proper again on air the subsequent day, speaking a few homicide allegedly dedicated by then-boss John Gotti Jr.

Curtis Sliwa was a radio host for WABC at the time he was shot after speaking out against organized crime.
Curtis Sliwa was a radio host for WABC on the time he was shot after talking out in opposition to organized crime.
Stefano Giovannini

“Then on June nineteenth in 1992, as I used to be on my technique to WABC to do the present, growth! They shot me… I dive out of the again of the cab, survive it and I’d say that was probably the most intense second. It appeared I used to be useless.”

Nonetheless, even the presumed work of La Cosa Nostra couldn’t preserve the Guardian Angels founder off the air.

“I truly was broadcasting from Bellevue two weeks later with my spouse, Lisa.”

In 2005, Gotti Jr. went to trial on expenses that included conspiracy and kidnapping of Sliwa, although a mistrial was declared after jury impasse. Gotti’s Gambino affiliate, Michael Yannotti, was additionally cleared on expenses associated to the capturing, although he was given a 20-year sentence for a racketeering conviction.


After 9/11, frantic New Yorkers called into WABC trying to locate loved ones.
After 9/11, frantic New Yorkers referred to as into WABC making an attempt to find family members.
Corbis by way of Getty Photographs

The voices of WABC made it a mission to “attempt to make sense” of New York’s darkest day because the tragic assaults of September 11 unfurled, Libertini stated.

Within the panic, confusion, and anger that got here with the collapse of the Twin Towers, WABC — like each information outlet — had been fielding data on the fear assault and gave close to minute-by-minute updates on the standing of New York and Washington DC.

But their protection shifted to one thing far more private. The station in the end doubled as a lifeline the place distraught household would go on air and name out for lacking family members.

WABC became a platform where many called in after the attacks of September 11th. Many tried using the radio to locate loved ones.
WABC grew to become a platform the place many referred to as in after the assaults of September eleventh. Many tried utilizing the radio to find family members.
Corbis vis Getty Photographs

“We did a present for New York Metropolis, everyone would name in. ‘I haven’t seen my husband, I haven’t heard from him since 9 a.m.,’” Libertini stated. “Listeners shared the actual, actual loopy issues that they had been going by means of. We might commiserate with them and be there for them.”

WABC’s method of being a shoulder for New Yorkers to cry on all through the despair was recommended by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani — who now hosts a present on the station himself.

“WABC to me, after I was the mayor, was an arm of New York,” Giuliani informed The Publish. “They had been there to catch criminals… they had been there to calm folks throughout September 11.”

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