Steve McVie’s Hot Hits story:
Here's how the story goes. It was 1979. I was 16 years old. I grew up in New Haven, CT as your basic radio groupie DJ wannabe. My two favorite stations were WAVZ New Haven and WTIC-FM "96 Tics" in Hartford. Before June of 1979, I had never actually rolled an "aircheck" of any radio station, but just assumed that was what radio was supposed to sound like. Hearing jingles and all currents Top 40 were radio formatics I grew to expect as a teenager. There were two developments that occurred on July 1, 1979 that would ultimately impact my life. WAVZ moved from AM to FM as an Adult Contemporary station KC101. They played lots of oldies, and was quite a conservative station. In addition, "96 Tics" in Hartford must have anticipated this competitive move by WKCI (KC101), and also made formatical adjustments. No more jingles, lots of oldies, and an end to the Mike Joseph formatics. As a teen listener at the time, I was disenfranchised. Around that time, a fellow schoolmate John Stempick also voiced his displeasure about the local format changes. But all along, John had been recording the TIC-FM weekly Top 10 countdowns with Bill Lenkey (now Bill Lee). We would listen to those tapes over and over. We would also make fake cassette tapes of "96 Tics" as if it never went away.
Chapter 2- WFBL: In approximately February of 1980, I was innocently tuning up and down the AM dial searching for Top 40 music, which in this era was hard to find. Mixed among the static, I thought I heard something familiar. It sounded like a familiar jingle. I moved my AM radio everywhere in my house trying to hear this station. After settling in the upstairs bathroom, this station kept fading in and out. HOT HITS!!?? WFB??? I grabbed a portable cassette recorder and waited and waited for the station to re-appear. It was 5,000 watt WFBL in Syracuse, New York at 1390 from 250 miles away. I made a personal commitment at that time to record every single moment of that station, because with the demise of AM Top 40 at the time, I knew it was only a matter of time before Hot Hits would again disappear. Sure enough, on November 16, 1980 that prediction would become true as "The Music of your life" meant the death of HOT HITS.
Chapter 3- WCAU-FM: By October of 1981, I was 18 and off to college at Bryant College in Rhode Island. My friend John Stempick called me to urge me to return home as soon as possible. He had a surprise for me. What could that be. The only thing I imagined was that HOT HITS was back. John had gone on a weekend excursion with his family to Atlantic City, NJ. He had recorded the entire weekend of the new Hot Hits station in Philadelphia, PA WCAU-FM. HOT HITS was back!! As my personal committment continued, I recorded every heard moment of WCAU-FM. The rest of the story: After WCAU-FM, there was WBBM-FM Chicago, WHYT Detroit, KITS San Francisco, WMAR Baltimore, WNVZ Norfolk, and even little WFEC Harrisburg. I never took the format for granted, and cherish every recording. With the help of the internet, I started to find others who not only remembered this format, but who had additional recordings of HOT HITS. I am lucky to have a fabulous website administrator who helped me launch this site inexpensively. After more than 2,500 visitors and hundreds of new airchecks collected, the fascination with Hot Hits has actually grown. I have heard from dozens of former Hot Shots, and I am thankful for their contributions to the aircheck database.
Chapter 4- 2002 Update: About a month ago, I received a telephone call while I was at work from Mike Jospeh himself. I wish I could have talked longer. Although it was a fascinating discussion, there were so many questions I've always wanted to know about the quirkiness of the format, such as "Why three jingles in a row four times an hour?" Finally, I recently received an E-mail from Mike Joseph’s son Michael A. Joseph: “ Hi Steve Ok, I give. What’s the fascination with my father’s now archaic HH format?” My reply was the story you just read!
To be continued....
Thanks to Mike Shwartz who recently E-mailed me looking for this story originally published on my original website. Over the past 15 years with the help of Facebook, the format, it's former "Hot Shots" and enthusiasts across the country, Hot Hits is still alive in 2018....
The Final Chapter: May 9, 2018:
Unfortunately, on May 9th, 2018, word finally was made public about the passing of Mike Joseph on April 14, 2018:
Thanks to Sean Ross for the mentions and credits over the years for his numerous articles related to the "Hot Hits" format including 5/10/18:
Mike was a drill sergeant with the format in "dry runs", but after we signed on he transformed into a nice guy and made us feel lucky to be a part of Top 40 history. I spoke to him a time or two in the 80's and early 90's and he was always gracious and a perfect memory. RIP Mike..hope you "go thru". Joe Dawson former WBBM-FM Hot HitsReplyDelete
Thanks Joe what an honor to hear from a former WBBM Hot Shot. I loved your work at B-96 and in Providence at Kix 106!Delete
I met him only once: after finishing a panel presentation at a Billboard convention in the late 90's, he came up to me, said "I'm glad I only had to compete with you in one market", turned and walked away. I considered that quite a compliment.Delete
Thanks for the 96 TICS aircheck. Sounds so great. The jingles are a bit much, but to me the premise and sound is so fun. It was radio like that that excited me about radio. Love the quick bursts. What’s missing from today's radio is the energetic personality. They didn’t talk much at each time, but and what they said projected a real person.ReplyDelete
Thanks! Chris W.
Fire 14 WFBL SyracuseReplyDelete
Sorry but you are an A-Hole. I sent you tapes of Hot Hits when you begged. Then I called you at whatever station you were working at and you gave me the bum rush. You are a conceited creep.ReplyDelete
Wow! Just discovering this comment 3 years later. Might be too late, but it's worth a shot. First of all sincere apologies. I have always attempted to be an honest, transparent straight shooter. For the life of me I honestly have no idea who you are, but would make every attempt to at least try to explain why I might have given a "bum rush". I admit earlier in my career I had my "A-Hole" moments. As I've aged, I have learned to appreciate the privilege it is to be in this business, especially approaching 40 years.Delete
KC101 came on the air Saturday July 14, 1979, the same day as the Yale Sunbowl concert. Someone from KC101 did indeed leak the upcoming change which caused 96 TICS to up their game.ReplyDelete
There was also a Hot Hits station in San Juan, PR - WKAQ-FM. Somewhere I have a tape of several PR stations that includes the WKAQ Hot Hits jingle and top hour ID, in Spanish of course!ReplyDelete
See below. I believe KQ 105 was the very first Hot Hits insofar as the rotations and mechanics and jingle usage.Delete
Little known, but I thing the early 1979 debut of Hot Hits (not called that on the air as the station was and is in Spanish) on WKAQ, KQ-105, in San Juan was the first real station in the format.ReplyDelete
With nothing to lose, Joseph had to react to the debut of WZNT, a top 40 salsa station that took the FM band from 18 shares to over 50 in just 90 days. He switched WKAQ FM to what we know as hot hits, and managed to get the station to the #2 FM position, but with much lower shares.
The format is nearly intact today.
amazing!!! Thank you David. I only wish I had more audio of KQ105!. I found one YouTube with a few jingles!Delete
I Wish Cincinnati has a Hot Hits! station.ReplyDelete
I wish all cities had Hot Hits station. I live near Boston in 1984 and WHTT came close but did "HitRadio" insteadDelete