1990 WSAY Radio Feature
July 1990 WXXI-AM Radio

WSAY- Part I

INTRO: Last month marked the 11-year anniversary of "The Death of Rock 'n Roll"- 
the end of an unusual open musical format at Rochester's WSAY-AM, the forerunner
to WXXI-AM 1370... Three disc-jockeys from that period, KEVIN DeHOND, 
about WSAY's image, poor wages, music selection and SAY's impact on the competition.
JULY 1980   7:01

[ MUSIC CLIP: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young- "Southern Man" ]

    Try to imagine a break-even commercial radio station, without 
outside advertising, without a sales force, 20-year old equipment, 
minimum working wages with no raises and progressive rock 'n roll 
format- mixing with ethnic and religious programming and you'd
have WSAY in the mid-1970s.

DeHOND: Music from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young recorded live from Four 
Way Street. And a lot of these tunes going around the turntable for the 
last time. Maybe somebody will give them another spin or two, as we 
move on into Saturday and a little bit of Sunday that will be… 
smattered with rock 'n roll.. as the end draws near. Monday morning.. 
it's uh..the "Country King" I guess.

    7-year disc jockey, Kevin DeHond-

[ MUSIC CLIP:      ]

DeHOND: I still tune in, you know. It's not even SAY, it's XXI.. I just 
gotta hear the frequency, know what I mean? (laughs)

SIMMONDS: I know what you mean.

DeHOND: So everybody who never worked there must have tuned in once in 
awhile. And I wonder if they thought we were the big bunch of rummies 
that everybody else seemed to think we were-

SIMMONDS: They probably did.

DeHOND: Or if we were doing something that they always wished they 
could have gotten away with-

[ MUSIC:   ]

    Which was a musical format, so to speak,  that entrusted the disc-
jockey to produce commercials and play whatever music they wanted to.

[ MUSIC:   ]

SIMMONDS: (commercial clip) Well tonight, the Penny Arcade gives you 
the opportunity to eat as much free popcorn as you want- as loud as you 
want. After all, you'll be there alone won't ya, Casanova?! So cut the 
old girl a break and remove your face from her sight, and stick it the 
beer where it belongs.. at the Penny Arcade…

[ MUSIC:   ]

SIMMONDS: Total.. creative.. responsibility.

DeHOND: Nobody told you anything. Make your own commercial, make it the 
way you want...

SIMMONDS:  Every sound that went over the air was your responsibility. 
There are the turntables, there are the records. You have six hours. Go 
to it.

[ MUSIC:      ]

    In fact, it wasn't until Rochester Red Wings baseball came aboard 
in 1978, that a direct request line was available. Prior, 
listeners would mail in their music requests, or be transferred from 
the downtown switchboard to talk with the jock. Horacio Martinez worked 
at WSAY for two years. And went on to DKX, VOR and spent two 
years selling time for WPXY.

MARTINEZ: Alright maybe late winter, early spring. I remember we 
painted the place-

DeHOND: Electric blue-

MARTINEZ: Yeah, electric blue and real bright orange- that was the 
trim. That's when we got the phone. And I think we had a two-point-nine 
rating in the marketplace. And we were never the cellar station. I 
think the other AM station there at three-W-G was always the
cellar station.

[MUSIC CLIP: Rainbow- "The Man on the Silver Mountain"]

    Despite continuous bottom-of-the-ladder ratings, WSAY maintained 
its small- yet loyal- audience. Morning man Jack Simmonds says the 
listener could more-easily identify with the jocks at SAY. He admits to 
spending nights at the studio when his paycheck ran out , and
he didn't have gas money to go home and get back to work again.

SIMMONDS: So I would sleep on the floor, and the engineer would come 
up, and I had a tape set up with the national anthem on it. And that 
would be my alarm clock. And the engineer would come up and hit the 
button. And I had like two minutes to get up and out of the
sleeping bag in my jockey shorts and get to work. That was the point: 
we had really nothing. And I think the people that listened to us had 
essentially nothing, too.

[ MUSIC CLIP: Good Rats- "Klashkabob" ]

    Because of the open format, the jocks were at liberty to discover 
or "break" new bands on the airwaves; some that may not ever attain 
great commercial success- still, excellent musicians notheless. Groups 
like Triumph, Max Webster, The Good Rats, Moxie, Boomerang.
Listener "Rock'n Roll" Suzie Heikoop remembers.

HEIKOOP: Any new band that came along that was excellent, that was 
good, that one of the guys thought was good was on the air instantly. 
There was no questions, there was no debate. There was not "are they 
gonna like it?" "are they gonna hate it it?" "they're gonna hate it, we 
can't play it". It was "it sounds good" "it sounds great" "it's new"
"let's play it". That was the type of attitude that the station had  
and the spirit that they had which made it so unique.

    And though SAY never seriously threatened their progressive rock 
competitor at the time, WCMF-FM, the AM station had a definate impact 
when CMF started getting requests for tunes that listeners heard first 
on SAY. Jack Simmonds-

SIMMONDS: It wasn't that they were complimenting us either. It was: 
they had no choice. The public heard tunes and wanted to hear more. And 
CMF said "I'm sorry, it's not on our playlist". And eventually it got 
to the point where they would say, "Geez, we got 25 calls
this week to hear a band called The Good Rats. Where are these people 
hearing it? Well, it must be from SAY but let's look around and see if 
they've got something a little more, you know, 'hit' worthy. And that 
was  how we kinda got…

DeHOND: Credibility.


    Kevin DeHond-

DeHOND: And in the long run I think it was good for AOR/progressive 
rock stations like CMF. I think actually they had probably had more 
success because we opened the minds of some people. Kiss was the same 
way. They finally hit the new WBBF and they had that single. The Kiss 
concert sold out and everybody gave BBF the credit 'cause they were
crankin' the single. But we had been playing them a year and a half 
before that-

SIMMONDS: Like "Black Diamond"…

DeHOND:  And "Strutter" and all that stuff. And CMF wouldn't play that 
because it was a little bit too...


DeHOND: Too young, yeah. It was like the punk rock of its time.

MARTINEZ: I had a talk with a music director then at CMF, Gary Whipple. 
Gary said that for many years SAY was a thorn in CMF's side. 'Cause if 
we wouldn't have been there, CMF would have picked up that point or 
point and a half  that we used to consistently get out of the 
marketplace, you see. And that would have been much more revenue for 
CMF and much more credbility.

[ MUSIC CLIP: Argent- "God Gave Rock 'n Roll To You" ]

    Tomorrow, the trio of disc jockeys will discuss today's music on 
so-called rock 'n roll stations, remember groups that probably will 
never be heard from again, and not-so-fondly recall the late WSAY 
owner: the technical genius, yet eccentric Gordon P. Brown. Bill Flynn, 

[ MUSIC CLIP: Argent- "God Gave Rock 'n Roll To You"  lyrics:
God gave rock 'n' roll to you
Gave rock n' roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone ]


WSAY- Pt 2

INTRO: Looking back on the freeform progressive music at WSAY AM radio 
of the mid to late 70s in Rochester. Three of those disc-jockies, 
MIKE THOMPSON recall stingy owner Gordon P. Brown, rival musical formats 
and music that will probably nevr be heard from again.  JULY 1990  7:14

[ MUSIC CLIP: Masters of the Airwaves - "Gettin' Tight" ]

    At the helm, from 1936 'til his death in 1979 was WSAY owner Godon 
P. Brown- truly one of  radio's pioneers and technical genuises. He 
built a transmitter at age ten and envisioned sattelite-tv direct hook-
ups more than 25 years ago. He was turned down twice on bids to own TV 
stations in Rochester. Remembered as a maverick and a fighter, he
actually lost his life's savings winning a challenge against his FCC 
license shortly before he died. But as his former employees can attest: 
he was the "Ebeneener Scrooge" of radio owners- paying minimum to poor 
wages with no raises in sight. Seven-year disc jockey, Kevin DeHond-

DeHOND: (mimicking Brown) 'I sell advertising. I don't buy 
advertising'.  And that ain't the way it works. Nowadays you know, 
advertising agencies hire other advertising agencies to advertise their 
advertising agency. He thought that was a waste of money… and maybe he
was wrong.

MARTINEZ: He bid for a TV as a broacaster in television, and then I 
think what happened was..

DeHOND: He didn't hire the right lawyers and he didn't spend the money, 
you know, to get the people that have opened TV stations. He wanted to 
do it on his own his way- just like we wanted to do it on our own our 
way. And where are we now? We're talkin' about it in the back yard, 
instead of doing it for a living! (everyone laughs)

    The story goes: current area radio general manager Jack Palvino 
lost a battle with Brown over a half-cent raise in the 1950s. And that 
transmitter equipment in dire need was found by the boxful inside 
Brown's house after he passed away.  Water at the studio
site was un-drinkable because Brown refused to hook up with the town's 
system. And employees who served for decades still received that same 
five dollar Christmas bonus. Seven year disc jockey Jack Simmonds-

SIMMONDS: He liked his money. He counted it into dust. (mimicking 
Brown) "Records by the pound!"

MARTINEZ: In a way you an say that.

    Two-year SAY DJ Horacio Martinez-

MARTINEZ: He didn't go with the flow. And as a result he was a dinosaur 
in a time when dinosaurs were extinct.

DeHOND: God bless you, Jerry Garcia. (everyone laughs)


    DeHond says it's a shame today's owners won't go with an old SAY 
format, because greed rules in radio also.

DeHOND: Every station in America is sold to people that want to make 
money off the station.

MARTINEZ: Exactly.

DeHOND:  And they will play whatever they have to play to get a bigger 
bite of the market.

MARTINEZ: The problem with an SAY format is that it's low quarter-hour 
radio… the appeal of such programs, and compared to what the industry 

DeHOND: I'll take a two-share of the market. I'll run that place. Just 
let me have that place, give me the equipment. I'll take a two-share of 
the market and I'll be happy, with my forty grand a year, okay? But 
these guys don't. They have to make hundreds of thousands of dollars-

MARTINEZ: There you go. It's again what the industry demands. And I'm 
not saying that it's right. I don't agree with it in many ways. I think 
it, in a sense, homogenizes the industry to a great degree.


    Shortly before the break-up of the progressive rock format, WSAY 
was behind a bumper sticker seen around town: "Rochester Radio Insults 
My Intelligence"- a blast at uncreative, repetitive, so-called rock 'n 
roll stations that were actually just playing the hits over and over.

DeHOND: You know, nowadays the record company comes in with "Hey Mr. 
Radio Guy, I got this brand new group, these are the two hits on the 
album, push these. Hey, when the group comes to town, I'll give you 
first shot at an interview. The program director goes boom, carts up 
the two tunes, those are the two tunes you hear. But the cranker is on 
the "b" side of the album, and it's seven-and-a-half minutes and they 

MARTINEZ: And they won't play it-

DeHOND: And they won't play it!

SIMMONDS: It'd be nice for you to have another reason to buy the album 
than the one song.

[ MUSIC CLIP:  Roy Buchanan- "Ramon's Blues" ]

    Mike Thompson, known as "O.T." during on-air requests, remembers 
the dull rock 'n roll offerings of area radio, before stumbling on to 

THOMPSON: And I listened some more and then all of a sudden there was 
some lady saying some prayers, and I said: what's going on here? Then 
there was some more hard rock coming back on, then a ballgame. And I 
figured then and there that I had to seek this place out. What it 
reminded me of was just going over to a friends house and playing some 
records.. getting together with your friends, and they're listening to 
the same music that you like. And they would honestly put on a request.


    One sad outcome with the loss of SAY's rock 'n roll format was the 
actual loss of the music.

SIMMONDS: A group called Good God… Bull Angus… Neil Merriweather-

DeHOND: Oh, yeah!

SIMMONDS: Neil Merryweather… was.. a killer!

DeHOND: Michael Fennely.. Crabby Appleton they were hip. Like, REO 
Speedwagon I, Gypsy Woman's Passion- you ever gonna hear that song 
again? Never again! And like it's one of their best songs- they don't 
even play it live anymore, it's so good… White Witch.. Eric
Quincy Tate… Beck, Bogart and Appice, right? But Bogart and Appice 
started in Cactus- they should play old Cactus just like they play old 
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but they won't. 

MARTINEZ: I guess they weren't playing at Woodstock. (laughs)

DeHOND: Johnny Winter. Oh sure, he comes and plays a blues concert once 
in awhile in a small club out in the outskirts of town-

SIMMONDS: (sarcastic) Yeah, didn't he work with Muddy Waters?

DeHOND: The rock 'n roll albums he's got that burns!


    Looking back, it's easy to remember the good and forget the bad. 
And Jack Simmonds says he wouldn't have changed anything- other than to 
make his SAY days last longer.

SIMMONDS: I got memories that'll last me a lifetime. I mean it's not 
like I'm living in the past. There's plenty-enough going on now to keep 
me busy. That part of my life is very special to me. There's a 
special.. something.. about-

DeHOND: It's like your first girl.

SIMMONDS: It is. And I did make some money at it. It wasn't you know, 
like I was starving to death, but very nearly. I'd save the tartar on 
my teeth for Wednesday afternoon when things got tough, sure. I know 
what it was like.

[ MUSIC CLIP:     

    Horacio Martinez-

MARTINEZ: I think SAY's listening audience wanted exactly what they 
were getting. They couldn't get it any place else- not with the 
continuity.. not with the desire to find new music that fit along  
those parameters. And that's what kept them there loyally.

[ MUSIC CLIP: Tommy Bolin- "Teaser" ]

    And, Kevin DeHond-

DeHOND: It was like a…

SIMMONDS: Cult following.

DeHOND: Yeah, a sub-culture. As much like Greatful Deadheads, as much 
as yuppies and hippies and what ever you want to call them. There was 
like an SAY cult.. you know, hanging out at the beach, with their cars 
and windows down, listening to AM radio and turning it up loud and just 
having a good time.

SIMMONDS: Part of a lot of people's growing up process was SAY.

[ MUSIC CLIP: The Good Rats- "Songwriter"  lyrics:
The songwriter can make you laugh or cry
He's pumping gas at night just to survive
And all he asks of you is sing his songs
And put his name in lights where it belongs

    Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370

[ MUSIC CLIP: The Good Rats- "Songwriter"  lyrics:
They won't play my music, so I'm never coming back ]