Seven Days of WAKR’s 70 Years

A really big birthday party is forthcoming for Rubber City Radio oldies/news WAKR/1590 Akron.

So big, in fact, that it will span seven days.

Starting with Ray Horner’s Morning News at 6:00 a.m. Friday, WAKR will begin a week-long celebration, with each weekday focusing on a “Decade In A Day,” examining the culture, economy, entertainment and life in Akron – corresponding with WAKR’s rich history. This project is the brainchild of WAKR program director/midday host Chuck Collins, who compiled most of the historical airchecks, features and interviews.

Here’s the full schedule of decades to be spotlighted:

Friday, October 9 – The 1950s
Monday, October 11 – The 1960s
Tuesday, October 12 – The 1970s
Wednesday, October 13 – The 1980s
Thursday, October 14 – The 1990s
Friday, October 15 – The 2000s to the present day.

The next day, October 16, will be WAKR’s official 70th birthday, when it was signed on S. Bernard Berk and his family-owned business Summit Radio Corp.

WAKR has had its’ share of legendary alumni, most notably Charlie Greer (midday and overnight host on Top 40 77/WABC New York throughout the 60s), Art Fleming (the first host of “Jeopardy!”), Lola Albright (Edie Hart on “Peter Gunn”), Scott Muni (long-time afternoon host on rock station WNEW/102.7 New York) and Alan Freed (prior to joining then-WJW/850 and coining the phrase “rock-and-roll”).

Other long-time personalities on WAKR include the just-retired Bob Allen (who stayed in mornings throughout three format changes in the 90s, and most recently did weekend and fill-in duty), Adam Jones (Allen’s morning co-host throughout the 80s and early 90s) and Jerry Healey (a former morning host and WAKR/23 sportscaster who later did weekend work for Westwood One’s adult standards channel – which WAKR carried from 1999 until 2006).

Not to forget, WAKR was also a long-time affiliate of Paul Harvey News and Comment, until his passing last April. (I presume that started in 1968, when ABC established the American Entertaiment Network, of which WAKR is an affiliate of to this day.)

It’s sister FM station at 97.5 went from WAKR-FM to WAEZ in 1968, playing beautiful music up until January 1, 1985, when it turned to album-oriented rock at WONE-FM.

And yes, there was a TV operation in ABC affiliate WAKR/23, from its’ 1953 sign-on until owner Group One – descendant of WAKR’s founding owner S. Bernard Berk’s Summit Radio Corp – was broken up in 1986. WAKR-TV was retained by the Berk family and renamed WAKC/23, and was eventually sold off to ValueVision in 1994. Today it is Cleveland-targeted ION O&O WVPX/23, with its’ master control at WKYC/3’s digital broadcast center.

Of course, WAKR went through much turnover in the late 1980s and early 1990s upon the dismantling of Group One. It was first sold to to DKM Broadcasting in June 1986, then to Summit Communications Group in 1988, then to U.S. Radio in December 1989. A 1992 format change to news/talk – including Rush Limbaugh and Larry King – was not well received by the public. Finally, in December 1993, WQMX owner Thom Mandel purchased both WAKR and WONE, establishing Rubber City Radio in the process.

The formats bounced between adult standards in 1994, to a mostly syndicated-talk and ESPN Radio lineup in 1997, then over to Westwood One’s adult standards channel in 1999. Upon Collins’ 2006 arrival, WAKR reverted back to a locally-based lineup, and eventually gravitated to a 50s/60s oldies format.

Sounds like the week-long “Decade In A Day” celebration will be a must-listen!


3 Responses to Seven Days of WAKR’s 70 Years

  1. Yekimi says:

    Jerry Healey was lured back from the west coast to WCUE in the early to mid 80s when they changed the format to oldies. Soon as the then-current station owners announced they had “sold” the station to a religious network (actually they “donated” it to them so they could claim a tax write off), Jerry packed his bags up [along with Sam & Serena] and headed back west.

  2. Secondary Editorial Voice (tm) says:

    That’s true. And don’t forget that Chick Watkins, who was heard in late mornings on WAKR as part of the Westwood One standards channel lineup (and was the format’s PD for many years) is also a WCUE and WGAR/1220 alum.

  3. yekimi says:

    Yep. Knew that also.

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