June 27, 2019
iHeartMedia’s WDVE Pittsburgh (102.5) is the latest heritage rocker to celebrate its 50th anniversary and gets a feature treatment in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The lengthy article traces the station’s history back to being part of ABC Radio’s seven station “Love” network, launching in April 1969 under the calls of KQV-FM. A year later, the short-lived network ended and the station was being locally programmed as WDVE, a nod to the Woodstock dove associated with the upstate New York music and arts festival held a few months earlier.
Under Taft Broadcasting ownership, the Lee Abrams’ “Superstars” format was implemented in 1974, ushering in an era that included some of the legendary voices heard on the Steel City signal. Steve Hansen was brought in from Atlanta as one of the first jocks on the station, eventually paired with Jimmy Roach for a long run in mornings. Hansen remembered the style implemented by the airstaff in the early days. “It was this unique style of DJing where you were supposed to sound stoned,” he told the Post-Gazette. “Most people did it very poorly, including myself, but Jimmy Roach did it better than anybody. Even though he never touched anything, he sounded like he was stoned, and his voice was just magnificent. His pipes are about the only thing memorable about DVE for the first decade or so of its existence.”
The article explains the music scheduling system used in the “Superstars” day, index cards of musical categories for popular singles, familiar album cuts and deep album cuts, which Hansen said “would come up every lunar orbit.” Hansen recalls the extremely short-lived “X” category, which was the air talent’s choice. The first night the category was implemented, Hansen played “The Story of Bo Diddley” by the Animals, “which was probably six-and-a-half minutes –outlandish by the standards of the day – and the X category disappeared the next day,” he said.
By the end of the decade, WDVE bested free-form WYDD, which eventually went Top 40. “The edgier, trippier, free-formier stations all niched themselves out of business years ago,” Hansen says, “so in that regard, DVE saw the future of rock ‘n’ roll early on.”
After leaving the station for four years, Hansen returned in 1980 teamed with Roach in mornings. The duo was successful in the ratings, and a thorn in the side of management, being dismissed in 1986. “They thought we were just too wild,” Hansen says, “because we broke all their rules. We did great with the audience, but we were always at odds with management.”
That’s when another soon-to-be legendary name joined the station, Scott Paulsen. Paulsen felt the wrath of the former show’s loyal listeners, withstanding it solo for a year before Jim Krenn was added as a co-host. The show thrived in the market with big ratings in the late 80s and throughout 90s, until Paulsen left in 1999. Randy Baumann joined as his replacement and the daypart continued its dominance. Krenn left the show in 2011, with Baumann the marquee name on the show today.
“People ingest their entertainment a lot differently than they used to, and we tried to change with that,” Baumann told the paper. “I think the audience demand is a lot more like what a podcast is. You can burn out easily on a sketch-based format, so it’s more about rolling with the punches and keeping the conversational ball in the air.”
The article delves into the station’s undying support of local musicians, making acts like Houserockers, The Clarks and Donnie Iris and the Cruisers into household names in the ‘Burgh.
Programmers Greg Gillespie, Howie Castle and Gene Romano are recalled in the article which also talks of the long tenure of Michele Michaels, who after joining ‘DVE for nights was bumped to middays in 1985, and afternoon host Sean McDowell, who has been with the station since 1993. McDowell will retire on July 31.
WDVE celebrates its 50th anniversary as a consistent leader in the market, ranked first overall in the May 2019 PPMs, with an 8.9 (6+) share. The station is the flagship radio station of the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers.