WNCN   New York  104.3 FM  
Classical Radio at its Best  1956-1993

"America's Favorite Classical Radio Station " 



The WNCN saga is one of the great stories in broadcasting. Grab a cup of coffee and relive the almost forty-year long saga of America's greatest classical music station.

WNCN first signed on in 1956, as part of the Concert Network, which originated at WBCN in Boston, owned by Mitch Hastings. Other stations in the network included WHCN, Hartford, CT, WRCN, Riverhead, NY, WXCN, Providence, and of course, WNCN.

Because New York was the country's cultural capital, WNCN soon stopped relaying music programs from Boston (continuing with newscasts, however), and started originating its own programs.

Gordon Spencer, whose announcing/hosting career at WNCN spanned several decades, has written about his experiences at the very onset of WNCN in the fifties.  A link to his blogsite can be found on the "Early Years" page.
 
One of the early Music Directors was Albert Fuller, the renowned harpsichordist, followed by Brit Maurice Essam, and then David Dubal who guided the music playlist for over two decades. 

Some of the music presenters during the fifties and sixties included Harry Fleetwood, Gordon Spencer, Bernie Alan, Bill Watson, Matt Edwards, Bob Adams, Max Cole, Chris Borgen, Frank Waldecker, Lucien Ricard, Dana Bate, and many others.

The station went through several  ownership changes, but the on-air "sound" was surprisingly consistent, largely because the core group remained the same. There was no effort to appeal to a larger audience, since WQXR had locked up that market  thanks to its ownership by The New York Times. In the 60s, the station's on-air slogan was "Fulltime for Fine Music", although during the Essam years it was expressed as "Fulltime for Mozart" by the station staff.

For about a year, while under the ownership of Starr Broadcasting, it became WQIV, a rock station.  However, two listener groups "The WNCN Listener' Guild" and "Classical Radio for Connecticut" were quickly formed and mounted a legal challenge which led to a stay of the scheduled change by the US Supreme Court. However, on appeal, the station was allowed to become WQIV. A number of simultaneous issues were in play, including  SEC censures against Starr Broadcasting which resulted in a seven figure fine, and disciplinary actions against certain principals. The WNCN Listeners' Guild case is still studied in Communications Law courses. (A page of links to articles regarding the WNCN fight is in preparation)

The WNCN/WQIV saga came to a head when a Chicago group headed by William Benton (who owned the Encyclopedia Brittanica) formed Concert Radio, Inc. along with principals from WFMT (the Chicago Fine Arts station)  challenged WNCN's license at renewal. To avoid a competitive hearing at the FCC, which would be lengthy, expensive and time consuming, and with a questionable outcome, the situation forced Starr to accept an offer engineered by the Listener's Guild, for GAF Broadcasting to buy WNCN at a fire-sale price of around $3 million.

GAF, headed by Dr. Jesse Werner and Juliette Moran, promptly invested several more millions of dollars in WNCN. New studios and offices were built a block away from the old 45th Street quarters, and Richard Sequerra, a former Marantz designer and engineer and president of his own audio firm, was retained to build the studio equipment, some of it custom designed for classical music needs. At the same time, GAF hired Sedgwick Clark, a music journalist to edit a new arts magazine and program guide, KEYNOTE.

At this time, the station lightened up its music during the mornings, but substantial works (concertos, symphonies, and chamber music) were played after 10AM.  We have copied one day's programming on WNCN from March 1977, and included it in the Images page.

Ratings zoomed and soon WQXR, the crosstown rival began to sit up and take notice. WNCN soon claimed the title of the Most Listened to Classical Station in the Country. It is of interest that when WQXR and WNCN were competing actively for audience, they actually increased the size of that audience. Frequently, ratings would show a combined audience of about 6%, yet when WNCN disappeared, the only audience went to WQXR, but rarely exceeded 3%.

WNCN developed a new advertising campaign, and a new slogan "New York's YOUNGER Classical Music Station" which was placed on billboards, and on buses, and in subways. 

GAF, the parent corporation, underwent upheavals in the boardroom from dissident shareholders, and soon a new Chairman, Samuel Heyman, was elected by the investors. One of his platform issues was that Jesse Werner had squandered GAF resources on his "baby", WNCN, yet it produced consistent profits and when finally sold in the nineties it fetched a price of $100 Million dollars, over thirty times the purchase price of about  $3 Million.

SIDE NOTE: The Chicago group had retained a right of "first refusal" should GAF decide to sell WNCN. A public statement by Samuel Heyman, the new GAF Chairman, trigerred a lawsuit (1981) over the terms of that agreement, and to settle it GAF had to pay $2.6 million to Concert Radio, Inc. as compensation.

In the late eighties and nineties, WNCN on-air personalities included Candice Agree, Bill Jerome, Annie Bergen, Clayelle Dalferes, and  Elliot Forrest, among others, most of whom can still be heard on WQXR today. (www.WQXR.com/announcers) 

WNCN's Assistant Music Director became Program Director of WQXR, and David Dubal, former WNCN Music Director now has a weekly program on WQXR. Thus WNCN's influence continues long after its demise.



             WNCN MANAGEMENT HISTORY

           

By Steven Smolian

Draft, 1/30/03

CONTENTS COPYRIGHT 2003 Used by Permission. 

 

On air, 1956/12/01-1993/12/17 (37 years)

 

Ownership

1.  1956/12/01.   Concert Network

2.  1964/04/15.   National Science Network  

3.  1973/05/01.   Starr Broadcasting Group

4.  1975/06/07.   GAF Broadcasting Co.

5.  1991?         Clear Channel Communications

6.  1993/12/17    Clear Channel Communications.  Becomes WAXQ

 

1.  Concert Network (Mitch Hastings financed)

 

1956/12/01 

1958 Broadcast Yearbook  gives Jan, 1957- on air?. Changed in
Bcst Yearbook, 1974 to 12/1/
56   
            28 West 44th St
.

                        T. Mitchell Hastings, Jr. Pres.

                        Roger H. Strawbridge, asst.

                        Norman Nelson, Dir. Of Sales

                  Network

                  171 Newberry St.Boston

                        WBCN (Boston)

                        WHCN-FM (Hartford)

                        WNCN-FM (New York)

                        WXCN-FM (Providence)

                        WRCN-FM (Riverhead, NY)

           

(1959 bcst yearbook gives November, 1957 for WNCN- see NYT Index )

                  1 Park Avenue

                        T. Mitchell Hastings, Jr. Pres.

                        L.Fred Cai                                       
                        
Roger Coleman, Sales Mgr

                        David Passell, Chief Engineer      

           

Network

            Addl sta: WNTW, Poland Springs, ME

                        T. Mitchell Hastings, Jr. Pres.

                        John R. Thornton, Genl Mgr

                        L. Fred Cain, dir. Network sales

 

1960 bcst yearbook:  

                    WNCN.

                    1 Park Avenue

                        T. Mitchell Hastings, Jr., President

                        L. Fred Cain, genl mgr & program dir

                        Jerry P. Kuklin, Station Manager

                        Robert Coleman, sales mgr

                        David Passell, chief engr

                  Network:

                  WBCN

                  WHCN

                  WXCN

                  WNCN (wholly owned),

WMTW-FM, Mt. Washington, NH,

WDAS-FM, Phila,

WWCN-FM, Washington, DC

                  Add New York office, 11 E. 47th St.

                        T. Mitchell Hastings, Jr., President

                        Leslie Cooper, exec V-P

                        H. Stilwell Brown, Genl Mgr  

                        Hamilton Benz, NE sales Manager

                        John Q. Adams, Program Dir (where does he fit?

 

1961-2 Bcst Yearbook

            WNCN  11 East 47th St.

                        T. Mitchell Hastings, Jr., President

                        P. Roberts, Gen Mgr

                        C. Miller, station mgr & program dir

                        D. Passell, chief eng.

            Network:   

WBCN

WXCN

WHCN

WNCN

                  T. Mitchell Hastings, Jr., President

                        John Q. Adams, Program Dir

                        Hamilton Benz, NE sales Manager

 

            1963 Broadcast Yearbook (no 1962 issued)

WNCN: 11 E. 47thSt.

T. Mitchell Hastings, Jr., President

                        P.Roberts, Gen Mgr

                        C. Miller, station mgr & program dir

                        J. Parry, sales mgr

D. Passell, chief eng.

            Network:

                  WBCN

                  WXCN

                  WHCN

                  WNCN

                        T. Mitchell Hastings, Jr., pres

                        Karl S. Kritz, gen mgr

 

2. National Science Network   (L.W.FroehlichAdvertisingAgency- Pharmaceuticals)

 

 

1964/04/15

1964 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 11 E. 47th St.

                        Gene La Brie, vp

                        Lyal Marshall, gen mgr

                        Louis Rossillo 
                        
L. Mitchell Hastings, Jr., President

                        P.Roberts, Gen Mgr

                        C. Miller, station mgr & program dir

                        D. Passell, chief eng., comml mgr

                        John Hood, program dir

                        Thomas Carlson, news dir

                        Martin Gersten, Chief Engineer

           

1965 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 11 E. 47th st.

                        John A. McCorkle, gen mgr

                        Edward J. Shaughnessy, asst mgr

                        John B.P. Hood, prog dir

                        Joe Brooks, prog dir (why 2?)

                        Jerry Graham, news dir

                        Matthew H. Rubin, chief engr

           

1966 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 2 W. 45th St.

                        Stan Hamilton, station mgr

                        Edward J. Shaughnessy, operations mgr

                        Albert Fuller, music dir

                        Matthew H. Rubin, chief engr

                       

1967 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 2 W. 45th St

                        Stan Gurell, vp & general manager

                        Maurice Essam, music dir

                        Jim Galbreath, chief engr

 

1968 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 2 W. 45th St.

                        L.W. Froehlich, Pres.

                        Stan Gurell, general and comml manager

                        Maurice Essam, music dir

                        Jeremie Lesser, program mgr

                        Ralph Olsen, chief engr

 

1969 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 2 W 45th st.

                        L.W. Froehlich, Pres.

                        Stan Gurell, general and comml manager

                        Maurice Essam, music dir

                        Jeremie Lesser, music dir.         

Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

 

1970 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 2 W 45th st.

                        L.W. Froehlich, Pres.

                        Stan Gurell, general and comml manager

                        Maurice Essam, music dir

                        Jeremie Lesser, program mgr

                        Ralph Olsen, chief engr

 

1971 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 2 W 45th st.

                        [L.W. Froehlich, Pres.] not listed

                        Stan Gurell, senior vp and genl manager

                        Thomas F. Bird, station mgr              

                        David Dubal, program dir

                        Jeremie Lesser, syndication & program mgr

                        Eric Small, chief engr

 

1972 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 2 W 45th st.

                        [L.W. Froehlich, Pres.] not listed

                        Stan Gurell, senior vp and genl manager

                        Thomas F. Bird, station mgr              

                        David Dubal, program dir

                        Jeremie Lesser, syndication & program mgr

                        Eric Small, chief engr

 

1973 Broadcasting Yearbook

           WNCN: 2 W 45th st.

[L.W. Froehlich, Pres.] not listed                   
Stan Gurell, senior vp and genl manager

                        Thomas F. Bird, station mgr              

                        David Dubal, program dir

                        Jeremie Lesser, syndication & program mgr

                        Eric Small, chief eng

 

 

3. Starr Broadcasting Group (William F. Buckley financed.  Had other, pop stations as well). 1973/05/0 William F. Buckley financed.  Paid $2,100,000

 

1974 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 2 W 45th St.

                        Peter H. Starr, Pres.

                        R.H. McDoyle, V-P/gen mgr

                        Thomas F. Bird, station mgr              

                        Gerry Scher, comml mgr       

                        David Dubal, music dirr

                        David Sandhoff, program mgr        

                        Tom Whitmore, chief engr     

     

                        Larry Miller, program & music dir        

                        Mike Linder, prog mgr

                        John Parsons, news dir

                        Bob Beamish, chief engr

           

1975 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 2 W 45th St.

                        Peter H. Starr, Pres.

                        Alan J. Eisenberg, gen mgr

                        Paul Wachsmith, comml mgr          

                        Larry Miller, program & music dir        

                        Mike Linder, prog mgr

                        John Parsons, news dir

                        Bob Beamish, chief engr

      1974/11/07  Format change to progressive rock in all quad, 24 hrs

                  WQIV, but still WNCN, Inc

 

1976 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 2 W 45th St Classical again.

                        Peter H. Starr, Pres.

                        Alan J. Eisenberg, gen mgr

                        Paul Wachsmith, comml

      1975  Format change to classical music (WNCN)

        1974/?-1975/09 Listeners’ Guild formed, forces return to                   classical programming.

 

4.  GAF Broadcasting Co. Paid $3,100,000, put about the same into improvements Began by loosing money.  When sold, station was making (or grossing?) $4,000,000 per year  (anecdotal)   1975/06/07


1977 Broadcasting Yearbook

            WNCN: 2 W 45th st.

                        Juliette F. Moran, Pres.

                        Robert E. Richer, gen mgr

                        Marian Lawston, comml mgr          

                        David Dubal, music dir.      

                        Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Rep: Bolton/Burchill   

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

1978 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        Juliette F. Moran, Pres.

                        Robert E. Richer, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        David Dubal, music dir.      

                        Matt Bieberfeld, prog dir                

                        Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

1979 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        J.F. Moran, Pres.

                        Robert E. Richer, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        David Dubal, music dir.      

                        Matt Bieberfeld, prog dir                

                        Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

           

1980 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        J.F. Moran, Pres.

                        Robert E. Richer, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        David Dubal, music dir.      

                        Matt Bieberfeld, prog dir                

                        Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

1981 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        J.F. Moran, Pres.

                        Matt Bieberfeld, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        David Dubal, music dir.      

                        Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

1982 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        J.F. Moran, Pres.

                        Matt Bieberfeld, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        Mario Mazza, prog dir

                        David Dubal, music dir.      

                        Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

1983 Broadcasting Yearbook

                  1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        Jesse Werner, Pres.

                        Matt Field, gen mgr (re:Bieberfeld)

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        Mario Mazza, prog dir

 

1984 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        Jesse Werner, Pres.

                        Matt Field, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        Mario Mazza, prog dir
                        
David Dubal, music dir.       
                        
Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

1985 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        Samuel Heyman, Pres.

                        Matt Field, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        Mario Mazza, prog dir


David Dubal, music dir.      


Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

1986 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        Samuel Heyman, Pres.

                        Matt Field, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        Mario Mazza, prog dir


David Dubal, music dir.      


Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

1987 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        Samuel Heyman, Pres.

                        Matt Field, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        Mario Mazza, prog dir
                        
David Dubal, music dir.      
                        
Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

1988 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        Samuel Heyman, Pres.

                        Matt Field, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        Mario Mazza, prog dir
                        David Dubal, music dir.

                        Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

1989 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        Samuel Heyman, Pres.

                        Matt Field, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        Mario Mazza, prog dir
                        
David Dubal, music dir.          
                        
Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine

 

1990 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        Samuel Heyman, Pres.

                        Matt Field, gen mgr

                        Elise Topaz, sales mgr             

                        Mario Mazza, prog dir
                        
David Dubal, music dir.       
                        Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine*

 

1991, 1992 Yearbooks not found

 

1993 Broadcasting Yearbook

            1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        Samuel Heyman, Pres.

                        Matt Field, sr v-p

                        Junior Winkauer, gen. sales mgr

                        Joni Challonor, prog mgr                 

                        Mario Mazza, prog dir
                        
Ik Malone, music dir.         
                        
Warren Dean, news dir   
                        Richard Koziol, chief engr

                        Publications: Keynote Magazine*

 * Note: Last Keynote Magazine March 1990 


5. Clear Channel Broadcasting  1991/?-1993/?  P
aid $100,000,000  1993/? Format change to grunge (WAXQ-FM) Rock  Bcst yr gives 4/16/92 as bought by GAF! As WAXQ

 

1994 Broadcasting Yearbook

Now WAXQ         

1180 Avenue of the Americas.

                        Samuel Heyman, Pres.

                        Randy Bongarten, sr vp

                        David Lebow, gen sales mgr               

                        Mario Mazza, prog dir
                        
David Dubal, music dir.      


Richard Koziol, chief engr


=================THIS PERIOD NEEDS MORE RESEARCH. NY Times Index=========

 

Programming

 

From beginning?   Some formal, c. 15’  informal.  Time was left open for ads.  Not many ads.     Announcers would choose music to fill out remaining time.

 

GAF         Completely programmed, no announcer discretion.

 

 

Citations in Broadcasting index.  Index 1972-1980 only

Still to be edited.  I also xeroxed their clipping file, about 15 pp.

 

1972  9/4, 23.  NSN selling to Starr bct group

11/6, 6672. National Science Net selling to Starr

1973  4/2, 63 & 102.  transferred from NSN to Starr

1974  AM 9/23, 9  AM??????????????

Cl to pop WQIV-FM. 9/2, 9; Bardash on Buckley comment on format change. 9/16, 13; cits grps protest cl format ch. 9/30, 40. Ct stays call ltr change in format shift dispute, 10/7, 5; delays cal letter & format shifts, 11/4, 6; ct clars way for change, 11/4, 36; citzn group sees case as fairness doctrine test, 11/4, 36; changes call letters to WQIV & to progressive rock, 11/11, 10.; granted call letters WQIV-FM, 11/25, 56; format protesters to check Starr fin reports, 12/23, 17; FCC checks Starr reasons for format ch, 12/23, 17

1975  citizens grp demands Starr preserve pledgers list, 2/10, 75; 2/24, 13 see WQIV, 5/5, 4; FCC divided on format spot fairness, 5/5, 4; Concert Radio and others challenge renewal, 5/5, 6; GAF agrees to buy from Starr, 5/12, 7; Concert Radio & Benton compete for freq, 6/2, 21; Starr selling to GAF, 7/7, 27; cits grp drops petition after Starr agreement, 7/21, 25; GAF promises challengers reimbursement, 7/21, 25; editorial on cits grpoup protesting format change, 7/21, 60; GAF-Starr promise challengers reibursement, 7/28, 25; agreement near on format change dispute, 7/28, 25; GAF offers to buy, return to classical format, 8/25, 62; agrees to return to cl, 8/25, 62; Starr to reimburse lic challengers, 8/25, 64; granted call letters, WNCN-FM, 11/3, 56;

Starr WQIV selling to GAF, 10/27, 36; 11/3, 54. Call letters granted WQIV-FM, 11/3, 56

under WQIV. Eisenberg & Miller resign from, 1/20, 32

PUT IN ORDER

1976  FCC concern over payments in Starr trans, 4/26, 5; ct upholds FCC on cits grp unfairness chg, 4/26, 36; FCC trns approval ignores legal payments, 5/3, 26; transfer from Starr WQIV to GAF, 5/10, 67; CCCW awaits IRS ruling on reimbursement by, 5/31, 9; Star transfer to GAF closed, 6/14, 31

1977  1/31, 26.  transfer from Starr to GAF

1978  nada

1979  nada

1980  nada