PHOTO INDEX: WARM BLOG EDITOR TODAY IN FRONT OF 1958 CHEVROLET, COURTESY JO-DAN MOTORS, BOTTOM PHOTO, BLOG EDITOR IN BACK OF 1956 CHEVROLET, COURTESY OF MY UNCLE LENNY, THE UBIQUITOUS TRANSISTOR RADIO AND THE FIRST "NEW WARM" LOGO.
If you look at the plethora of subjects on the Internet, you will not find a tribute to one of the greatest entertainment stories of 20th century broadcasting. That of course is WARM Radio, the Mighty 590. Today, with the launching of “590 FOREVER, WARM RADIO”, that changes. Since I began The LuLac Political Letter in 2006, I have seen first hand the impact of a blog/site that people respond to. My initial effort dealt with politics and I thought I might be just a voice in the wilderness. After all, I was told, everyone was blogging. But much to my surprise, LuLac has become a “must see” for political and pop culture junkies of all stripes. And for that I’m forever grateful and continually amazed.
Now most sites are entertaining and self serving. Many autobiographical. With LuLac, my personal references dealt with the politicos I’ve met in my life and how it connected to the site. Because WARM was such a major institution in this area, 590 FOREVER will be filled with personal references. I’m hoping that fans of WARM, former employees, people who have WARM memorabilia, and anyone remotely connected to the radio station will share the information with me. We’ll post them as part of our “Five Ninety Mighty Memories” series, as is or with editorial tweaking. If you have something that might not be as polished as you like, we’ll pull it together and post it. My point is the memory doesn’t have to be perfect. E mail me with your stories and photos, we’ll make a historical record that will do this institution proud. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Our mission is to make this great radio station alive once more in the hearts and minds of its fans.
My own journey with WARM has lasted 50 years. I was just 4 years old sitting on my front porch with my sister when a neighborhood boy ran excitedly down the street saying “There’s rock and roll on the radio”. WICK in Scranton did play rock and roll but the station did not have the power to reach a large audience. Just the year before in 1957, Dick Cark’s “American Bandstand” went on national TV. Having an older sister in high school, gave me an entre into the world of hula hoops, poodle skirts and 45 singles. Sunday evenings were spent after supper tuning in to WARM because until the Sullivan Show, there wasn’t much on TV. When I turned 10, I got my own radio and would steal away at night listening to WARM feeling a sense of triumphant mischief when at midnight, Father John Catour of the Christophers would broadcast his 60 second message of faith to start the new day. Ten years old and up at midnight! That was living in 1960s Pittston Junction. Much to my surprise, I found that WARM Radio not only entertained but educated us all. From an early age, WARM News exposed me to politics and world leaders. Terry McNulty told us of the death of John Kennedy, Robert Oliver, in dulcet tones announced that “the 31rst President of the United States, Herbert Hoover had died”, and Jack Doniger chronicled the death of World War II statesman Winston Churchill.
As childhood gave way to my teenage years, I became acquainted with members of the WARM staff. The voices in the radio box came to life in the form of actual human beings. Writing a music column at the time, I coaxed the editor to include an assignment about local radio so that I could have an excuse to “drop on by” as credentialed media. I walked through Pittston with Bill Kelly when he did his “March of Dimes” walk and Joey Shaver recruited me for a broadcast school in Washington, D.C. In later years, these two men would become my bosses, Kelly at WVIA TV and FM and Shaver at Cable Rep Advertising. In their own ways, both imparted practical business knowledge that is still with me to this day. I confess I used WARM for my own career purposes as a PR person for United Way and other entities. Tommy Woods used his incredible voice to do videos for companies I was associated with giving them a network feel. The late Terry McNulty was game for any type of promotion involving the community. The late George Gilbert and I sat on the Bi County Bicentennial Commission together in 1976. When I wrote a sports column in the 80s, I constantly crossed paths with Ron Allen. My boyhood idol, Harry West got involved in more of my projects than I think he’d care to remember. There wasn’t a promotion WARM Radio wouldn’t try and there wasn’t one I couldn’t dream up. Some soared and some sunk but the commitment was always 100% from the WARM staff. Attending to the task at hand, sometimes I’d look at the banner or the behemoth station vehicle and think, “I’m here with WARM”. At times, when I was in the company of Woods, West, Gilbert, Allen, McNulty or Shaver, I’d think, “Jeez, this guy was one of The Sensational Seven!” Later, I worked at WARM as a sales rep when it went Talk. So my history with WARM is a known commodity to all who know me. But because of what WARM meant to me, I realize others might have more interesting and compelling stories. And this blog/site will be a vehicle for those inclined to share.
Before I came up with this concept, I thought long and hard of why I should do it. My friends on The Radio Info Board say WARM is dead and can never ever be revived. A few members of the “Sensational Seven” have expressed apprehension that even now with other careers in the rear view mirror, the only thing they are best remembered for was WARM. My younger colleagues give me blank looks when I wax poetic about a 5,000 watt radio station that was popular when their mom and dads were just in diapers. All of these things are true. WARM Radio as we knew it will never return. Currently the people at 600 Baltimore Drive (Phil Galasso, Brian Hughes and Sam Laguori) are making a valiant effort to preserve the music and I commend them for it. But the WARM we knew is no more. But so is The Latin Mass, Roger Maris’ home run record and The Ed Sullivan Show. Even though those things have lost their luster, they deserve a point of reference in our culture. The miracle of internet blogging will assure WARM of its niche in the history of broadcasting.
Once, in a conversation with a member of The Sensational Seven, he wondered “why are we that popular after all these years?” My answer to him was that after WARM declined, nothing of comparable worth succeeded it. WARM was left for dead on the side of the road, yet 60s powerhouses like WABC in New York, WKBW in Buffalo and CKLW in Detroit reinvented themselves and became forces once more in their local markets. The only things fans of WARM have to hang on to are those “Glory Days”. As I mentioned earlier, when I worked as a sales rep for WARM in the late 90s, advertisers didn’t buy the station with the 2.1 share I was selling, they bought that one moment in time where WARM had a 40 plus share. Clinging to a good memory is sometimes better than nothing. And the people who brought us WARM after its heyday, gave us very little to attach our emotions to.
As far as those blank looks from the young people, I’m used to it. I’ve explained the difference between the band “The Dead Kennedys” and the real Kennedys who have passed on, the Beatles vs. Wings debate, and the fact that there was once black and white TV more times than I care to say. This internet history of WARM is welcome to all, those of us who lived with it daily, those who shaped and formed it into the giant that it was and those who are just a bit curious about what the fuss is regarding “The Mighty 590.”
So, I invite you to take a journey with me into the world and memories of 590 FOREVER, WARM. When WARM switched formats 50 years ago, a song blared from the tiny, tinny transistor radio urging its listeners to “Come Go With Me”. Now, as we begin this endeavor, courtesy of the Del Vikings, I invite you to do the same.