The Greatest Top 40 Stations Of All Time!


Radio Ink recruited two of the best programming minds in the business, Lee Abrams and Randy Michaels, to answer this question: “What are the greatest Top 40 stations of all time?” Here’s how they stacked them up … and your lively debate, comments and disagreements on how they did.

Lee, in addition to answering the question, included what he considers to be the 15 characteristics of great Top 40 stations. Randy lists his top stations, and also details why each station he picked was great in the Top 40 format.

Radio Ink also held a three-week online poll and asked you which you believe are the best Top 40 stations of all time. Those results are at the end of this article. It was certainly an interesting assignment. Here’s how everyone stacked up against each other.

15 Characteristics of the Great Top 40 stations

Lee Abrams

By Lee Abrams

  1. Production. From the drama of news to the promos to the wild tracks, production was an art form that created a theater of the mind that manufactured sonic magic.
  2. The Bible of Music. From the printed playlist to the countdowns, station-generated chart positions defined what was popular in the city.
  3. 24/7 Personalities. There were shows, not shifts, and every daypart mattered. People still talk about Charlie Greer and Denison’s Men’s Clothier, on WABC at 3 a.m.
  4. Eccentricity. From crazed night DJs to whacked promotions — parents were appalled while the new mainstream ate it up.
  5. City Sound. Unlike the generic radio of today, these stations oozed the vibe of their city; they were soundtracks of the community.
  6. Anticipation. There was always something coming up.
  7. Swagger. A hard-to-define vibe that was all about confidence in everything they did.
  8. Well-Oiled Machines. Even the personality-driven stations were well-oiled machines that held the basics in high regard.
  9. Audience Respect. No bullshit. The stations delivered without needing to resort to tricks and promises.
  10. Completeness. From news and sports to sneak previews of Beatles songs, the stations were complete, with no need to tune away.
  11. Smarteners. The DJs turned you on to what was going on. The stations were hubs of local information.
  12. Graphics. They had visual identities that mirrored the on-air delivery.
  13. Technology. AM radio once sounded badass as resources were poured into signal integrity.
  14. New ideas. Every few years, “new ways” came into play. From Storz to Drake to Bennett, things evolved. It’s sad that radio is still executing a 40-year-old playbook these days.
  15. Selling new records. Especially in the mid-’60s, the great stations would make a new Herman’s Hermit record sound like the Second Coming.

And here are my picks for the 20 greatest Top 40 radio stations of all time:

  1. KHJ/Los Angeles
  2. WABC/New York
  3. WHTZ (Z100)/New York
  4. WLS/Chicago
  5. WHYI (Y100)/Miami
  6. KIIS/Los Angeles
  7. CKLW/Windsor-Detroit
  8. KCBQ/San Diego
  9. KFRC/San Francisco
  10. WFLZ/Tampa Bay
  11. KLIF/Dallas
  12. WQAM/Miami
  13. WKBW/Buffalo
  14. KFWB/Los Angeles
  15. WFIL/Philadelphia
  16. CHUM/Toronto
  17. Radio London/The North Sea
  18. WAYS/Charlotte
  19. WIXY/Cleveland
  20. WCFL/Chicago

And Now We Have Randy Michaels

This was a tough assignment. Top 20 based on what? One could consider ratings, longevity, originality, influence, or many other criteria. Some stations have been amazing at times and just awful at others. Many of the most spectacular Top 40 stations weren’t around that long. Many stations that are just average have lasted a long time. I based this list on originality and impact. These were stations worth traveling to hear. Getting it down to 20 was tough, unfair, and subjective. But here we go.

20. WTIX/New Orleans. WTIX spent its first days on the air reading the phone book to get attention. WDSU had number one afternoon show called The Top 20 on 1280. Todd Storz took the tight playlist formula from KOWH, doubled the number, and the first “Top 40” station was born. With only 250 watts way up at 1450kHz, WTIX debuted with a 50 share.

19. WKVQ (15Q)/Knoxville. It was a crazy idea. In the mid-’70s, Knoxville had a three-way AM Top 40 battle between WKGN, WNOX, and WRJZ going, while WOKI was playing the hits, sort of, on FM. A doctor’s son financed the killer Top 40 15Q until the money ran out. Suitcase Simpson, Chuck “Boo” Baron, Eddie Beacon the Swingin’ Deacon, and others have never sounded better. But the signal was awful, the staff was expensive, and 15Q failed quickly. It was worth driving 500 miles each way to hear live. I did.

18. KBOX/Dallas. Yes, I know KLIF was the first polished Top 40 station and the big station in Dallas. But KBOX was pretty amazing for having only 500 watts at night at 1480. John Box gave Gordon McLendon fits and forced KLIF to be even better. KBOX gave us Dan Ingram, Bill Ward, and many others. KBOX and the Balaban stations trained Stan Kaplan. And that news intro: With Morse code beeping in the background and plenty of slapback echo, the news opened with “From around the universe, around the world, around the nation, around Texas, around Dallas, and around the corner from your house, this is K-B-O-X news.”

17. WVAQ/Morgantown, WV. Morgantown? Have you heard it? This station has a major-market sound in a small market. WVAQ is a multiple Marconi Award winner for good reason: It sounds great. Longtime morning man Lacy Neff passing was big news last June. WVAQ is a giant in North Central West Virginia. It could compete anywhere.

16. KNUZ/Houston. With just 250 watts on 1230, KNUZ was the longtime market leader in Houston. Dave Morris was the owner/morning man. When Gordon McLendon signed on KILT with 5,000 watts down at 610, it should have been endgame, but KNUZ bested KILT for a long time. Gordon McLendon considered Dave Morris his toughest competitor.

15. WMCA/New York. Yes, WABC had more listeners and more attention. WABC was good but rarely great. WABC had 10 times more power. In the mid- and late ’60s WMCA soundly beat WABC, where the signals weren’t even close. WABC “won” by dominating the areas WMCA didn’t reach, and by raiding WMCA for talent and ideas.

14. WKTQ (13Q)/Pittsburgh. They were late in the AM game. They didn’t last long, but they were awesome. KQV had the heritage and was owned by a company that knew something about Top 40, so 13Q was instant roadkill. Buzz Bennett showing up the first day with a German shepherd — and a sledgehammer to knock the NBC logo off the lobby wall — set the tone.

13. WAKY/Lousiville. WGRC was purchased by Gordon McLendon and went Top 40 in 1958, debuting by playing “Purple People Eater” for a week. The FCC wasn’t amused, but the public was. With Johnny Randolph as PD, WAKY played one black and one country record every quarter hour. If that sounds crazy, look at the ratings. The “WAKY” shout was created by Johnny and a group of girls he met out just after the bars closed. (That’s 3 a.m. in Louisville. It was overdubbed several times. That shout is still in use at 620 AM and 103.5 FM, which use the WAKY calls today.)

12. WLS/Chicago. I like edgy Top 40 stations, and that WLS was not. WCFL was occasionally a better station. WLS was vanilla in most respects, but it was consistently excellent. That 50,000-watt night signal put everything east of the Rockies in earshot at night. WLS was the most influential station in the nation in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I know a PD in Texas who couldn’t afford research, so he just listened to WLS to see what to play. Kids all over the Midwest left their radios on 890, turned them on after school, and waited for darkness.

11. WKBW/Buffalo. WKBW went Top 40 in 1958 by stealing the PD and airstaff from WBNY, which was number one with only 250 watts. The studios were in a former carriage house with a false front to make it look taller and a mirror at the end of the long single hallway to make it look bigger when you walked in. Everything about KB was show business. When everyone in Top 40 was going to short jingles and less talk, KB hired big talent, played long jingles, and gave the jocks all the time they wanted if what they said was compelling. The equipment was ancient. All of that amazing talent spoke into a vintage RCA mic and spun records on 16-inch transcription tables, right into the 1970s. KB proved that great talent, not great equipment, make great radio.

10. WAYS/Charlotte. Stan and Sis Kaplan were fierce competitors. Stan was a sales animal, but like McLendon, Kaplan knew that advertisers spent money to reach listeners, not the other way around. Stan invested in talent and promotion. He stole and enhanced McLendon’s treasure hunts and other promotions and added a crazy outrageousness that hasn’t happened since, except maybe for the Power Pig, which owes a lot to the Kaplans. Listen to any aircheck from any era of Kaplan ownership — Jack Gale, Robert Murphy, Boo Baron, or Jay Thomas. It will be amazing.

9. KLIF/Dallas. Todd Storz had the first Top 40 station. Gordon McLendon made it theater. Top talent, memorable promotions, attention-getting advertising, over-the-top production, and a relentless focus on the listener, not the advertiser, made the McLendon stations ratings juggernauts. KLIF was the first and best. The McLendon format memos remain some of the best how-to handbooks for radio. With only a 1,000-watt night signal, KLIF routinely clocked more listeners than all other Dallas-Ft. Worth stations combined. Storz and McLendon traded PDs, air talent, and promotion ideas. Bill Drake and others refined it, but Top 40 was the child of Storz and McLendon.

8. WAPE/Jacksonville. The Brennans’ engineering genius and home-built transmitter pumped 50,000 daytime watts from Daytona to the North Carolina beaches. It was an awesome signal, but somehow they couldn’t get that hum out of the transmitter. WAPE introduced a lot of the south to Carolina Beach music. After it sold to Stan and Sis Kaplan, WAPE was just amazing. This is where the Greaseman was at his best. “Don’t get screwed, get WAPE’d!”

7. WHTZ (Z100)/New York. In 1983, right after NBC paid six figures to researchers to learn that there was absolutely no hole for Top 40 in New York, Milt Maltz paid $8.3 million for an FM in Newark that played show tunes, figured out how to move it to Empire, brought in a redneck morning man and PD (Scott Shannon, who was so not New York and went “worst to first”). History-making in so many ways, and still great today.

6. KFRC/San Francisco. Bill Drake’s KHJ was amazing and should probably be on this list. His KFRC was better. Edgier. Better production. Jocks with a bit more rope. It was the Top 40 station in San Francisco during the Summer of Love. And it had Dr. Don Rose.

5. WJET/Erie, PA. WJET dominated Erie as a daytimer on 1570 with 250 watts. After moving to 1400, still at low power, no one could touch them, and everyone tried. The founder and owner, Myron Jones, built the building and wired the studios himself. His wife did the music. He hired major-market talent and they stayed. Forever. No station was better about promoting, playing the hits, and focusing on the community. Many of the big AM Top 40 stations had FM stations. None of the big-market owners did the smart thing and moved to FM in the ’70s. Myron did, and because he had a TV station, he had to sell the AM to do it. At the time, the AM was still number one! WJET-FM debuted at number one. Pretty remarkable.

4. KCBQ/San Diego. Amazing talent, awesome production, revolutionary promotions. “The Last Contest” was born here. This is the station all of the “Super Q” imitators wanted to be. Great call letters, too. Listening to Happy Hare or Shotgun Tom or Charlie and Harrigan, you wouldn’t know the calls originally stood for “CBS Quality.”

3. CKLW/Windsor-Detroit. As “Radio 8-0” CKLW spent the early ’60s as a crappy Top 40 well behind WKNR and WXYZ. It exploded in 1967 with the Drake format. No one, ever, anywhere, did the basics better than the Big 8. With separate board ops for the jocks and the newsroom, intro times to the quarter second, including commercials, no station was ever tighter. The Drake stations all had “Kanner Boxes,” but Ed Butterbaugh’s setup, 50,000 watts, and lax Canadian rules on positive modulation made CKLW jump out of radios in a dozen U.S. markets all day long, and made the programming sound even better. The glory days of CKLW were only five years long, but the Big 8’s influence reverberates today.

2. WYHY (Y107)/Nashville. Maybe I’m biased, but it’s my list. This is my favorite Top 40. Marc Chase made more noise at WFLZ and WEBN, but this was his best work. Marc took “The Outrageous FM” to a 17 share, 500,000 cume in a market of less than a million at the time. The Power Pig was more outrageous, but Y107 was a better station. When Metro Traffic came to Nashville, Marc put a Dumpster in the station parking lot and asked listeners to donate scrap metal so Y107 could buy a plane. That’s how a Top 40 station owned the traffic image. Scott Shannon and other PDs stole from Y107 every time they came to Film House to cut a TV spot. “Lock it in and rip the knob off.”

1. KIIS/Los Angeles. Other stations have been more outrageous, more groundbreaking, or more entertaining, but KIIS is the most influential Top 40 station. Chuck Blore used the name on the AM, 1150: KIIS=K115. But it’s been copied around the world just because it’s KIIS/Los Angeles. Few stations have been able to achieve consistent success in ratings, and the conversion of ratings to revenue and cash flow, like KIIS. None in major markets. KHJ lasted about 10 years. KIIS is going on 40.

I apologize to all those I left out.

Readers’ Top 10 Top 40s.
We held a three-week online poll asking readers what they think are or were the best Top 40s, and here are the results:

  1. CKLW/Windsor-Detroit
  2. WKBW/Buffalo
  3. KHJ/Los Angeles
  4. WLS/Chicago
  5. WABC/New York
  6. KFRC/San Francisco
  7. WING/Dayton, OH
  8. KLIF/Dallas
  9. KFMB (B100)/San Diego
  10. WFIL/Philadelphia


  1. Obviously there were many great stations back in the hay-day of Top 40! Having caught the radio bug at age 6, I soon got my first gig as a button pusher riding high as the weekend tape jockey. During my formative teens I was highly inspired by several including: WNOE, WTIX, KOMA, KBOX, KLIF, KONO, KNUZ, KILT, KXOK and WHB.

  2. What a great list. It would be impossible to make a top 20 list that everyone would like, but these are great! I have to mention the station that I listened to every night growing up in Utah (and made me fall in love with radio) — 1520 KOMA out of Oklahoma City. I went on to have a 40 year career thanks to that 50,000 watt monster. When it comes to Top-40 influence in its day, KOMA ranks up there and I’ve met so many jocks over my career who say KOMA was a big influence on them. And they had some great ones — Charlie Tuna, Machine Gun Kelly (at night!). I love radio. Will ALWAYS love radio.

  3. These are all good stations, who deserve their place in history, and our hearts. Respectfully, though, I would not rank WCFL below WABC, much less rank them last, undeR WIXY……??????

  4. The GOAT top Forty stations were in almost every market, major, large, medium and even many small markets. So many great stations not mentioned here. It’s easy to pick the ones you loved, but it’s also unfair to think those are the only ones. As a kid listening to WLS, WABC, WLAC, WSAI and any market I could pick up, the excitement was universal. I knew what I wanted to do forever. So many markets not mentioned. Here’s a shout out to them. It was a time that will live in our hearts forever.

    By far, #1: WPEN, Philadelphia (1975-76)
    Others I would rank very highly (not necessarily in order):
    WIOQ, Philadelphia (1987-88)
    WPGR, Philadelphia (c. latter 1980s-early 1990s, as recalled)
    WVLT, Vineland, NJ (for a long time and still currently, as far as I know)
    WFIL, Philadelphia (c. 1983)
    KRTH, Los Angeles (1980s,…Sorry I haven’t been out to the West Coast in a long time)
    WCBS-FM, New York (when they first launched, c. late 1980s into the 1990s–went downhill since)
    Apologies for any I’ve forgotten…
    -Bruce Scott
    (P.S., Rockin’ Ron did a great Oldies Show Sunday nights on WBT, Charlotte)

  6. WABC poached talent from WMCA? Really? The only WMCA personality who ever worked at Top 40 WABC was Harry Harrison, and he had already decided to leave WMCA when Rick Sklar called him to offer a job (just before they dropped everything that made them successful as the “Good Guys” due to a management change).

  7. When I grew up, I had a steady diet of WABC, WNBC, KB radio 15, CKLW and WOWO. About my Junior year in High School, i found WXLO in New York. The Drake and Drew format there tore my ears off! I was fortunate to work on 99X iin my 20’s! I also worked on 13/WAVZ New Haven, another great station. Before voice tracking, I would listen on the weekends to hear the next “hot jock!” I cut my teeth at the same stastion as Super Max and Pat Holliday of Big 8 fame, WKNY in Kinsgston, NY. What a great business it was back then!

    I also had stnts at WTIC-FM Hartford and WDOT Burlington! Still love it!

    • Hello Lee Roberts!
      Hope you are doing well in all of your endeavors. I’m still grateful for the opportunity when you hired me in New Have, CT all those years ago. Enjoyed working together in syndicated 24/7 formats as well. If you’re so inclined, send me an email so we might get in touch.

      Jon Holiday

  8. The only reason Randy Michaels didn’t rightfully list KHJ (which was number one on Lee’s list) is the fact that his anger towards Ron Jacobs and emotion ever came his logic. Ron Jacobs roasted you accurately years ago. Rather than take it like a man you delist the most important Top 40 station in the history of radio. KFRC was a good station, but anyone who’s honest it was strictly second-tier and never (especially during AM Top 40’s most dominant era) had anything close to the production magic and genius of Boss Radio, Morgan and Steele were the most influential in the business. Randy, get over yourself.

  9. For a 15 year-old growing up in East Texas, the best station in the country was WNOE in New Orleans. I could hardly go to sleep cause I was so revved up by that great music and Long John Silver. When I made the trek to Dallas, I was enthralled by
    the Mighty 1190, KLIF. Unbelievable! Later, as a student in college, whenever
    I went into Houston, i couldn’t turn off KILT. Jim Woods in the night time was the most exciting thing around. My point is whatever station you grew up listening to..
    the jocks, the music, the contests..they created the magic that made your station the very best!

  10. For me it was KFRC and KYA being born and raised and living my entire life in the Bay Area. I was still a AM KFRC fan up until 1983. After PD Cagle left in late 1983/early 1984 and the jocks Bill Lee, Jack Armstrong, Mark McKay left I switched to KMEL/KITS on FM.

    Of all the airchecks in recent years I have heard from the late 60’s through the 70’s from different TOP40 stations around the country, I wish I could have experienced listening to “Super CFL” in Chicago live back then. How many lost 45’s I have bought listening to those old WCFL airchecks is astounding. They had a broad playlist and I wish I could have been a kid in Chicago. You folks in the Windy City were lucky SOB’s LOL!!

  11. Growing up in southern Minnesota from the late 1960s through the late 1970s, my friends and I listened to WDGY AM during the day and WLS AM after sunset. During the summer I would break away and listen to WCCO AM for Twins baseball games. Even thought WCCO was not a music station, in the 60s and 70s, they would play softer top 40 hits during some of their programming. By the time I went off to college in 1978, there were more FM radio options that I switched to. Currently, WDGY is based in Hudson, WI and is back to playing hits from the 60s and 70s. WLS and WCCO are now news talk stations.

    • WDGY had Bob Dayton, Jimmy Reed and the great Gene Leader, more well known as Mean Gene Okerlund. The best years came in the early 70’s when the Top 40 battle was between WDGY, True Don Bleu’s KDWB before he went to KHJ, Chuck Knapp and MG Kelly on KSTP and Rob Sherwood moving from KDWB to start up U100. Those were some really good years on Twin Cities radio.

  12. Come on, no KOMA, Oklahoma City! Loved by everyone in all the western states!
    Charlie Tuna!

    Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, KOMA was the favorite of teens all across the western US. With the big 50,000-watt signal and the relatively few rock-n-roll radio stations across the plains, KOMA was the main station for the hits. KOMA (along with handful of other legendary stations including 890 WLS, Chicago; 1090 KAAY, Little Rock; 1060 WNOE, New Orleans; 770 WABC, New York; 800 CKLW, Windsor/Detroit; and 1100 WKYC, Cleveland) could be heard on car radios, in homes, and everywhere a kid could tune in. Often teens in New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and other western states would eagerly await sunset when the mighty 1520 would come booming through with the newest hits of the day. They would sit in their cars on hilltops, turn it up at parties, or fall asleep with the radio next to their beds as they listened to Chuck Berry, the Supremes, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Beatles. Soldiers in Viet Nam even reported tuning in KOMA to give them a little feeling of being back home.

    Led through the 60’s by Program Directors Dean Johnson, Dale Wehba, and Perry Murphy, some of the best-remembered DJ’s spun the hits each day and night. Charlie Tuna, Dale Wehba, Don McGregor, Paul Miller, John David, Chuck Dann, J. Michael Wilson, Johnny Dark, Buddy Scott, John Ravencroft, and many others were among those who played the hits from the studios in Moore, Oklahoma. And everyone remembers “Yours Truly KOMA” and the “kissing tone.” This was definitely an era where radio was fun. It was more than just the music. It was a magical blend of personality, jingles, contests, and fun mixed with the greatest music that defined the era and continues to live today.

    • While in the USAF in 1967-68 I visited KOMA. I was also working for Norman Petty in Clovis NM at the time. Perry Murphy was a great host… Took me home to meet his wife… and through the KOMA facility… BUddy Scott was doing his usual magic… He was a BIG fellow but full of energy. Perry told me that he had a microphone switch activated recorder and would review each jock, each day and provide help.
      While I was there a tornado hit nearby at a car dealership. Wiped out the used car lot, skipped over a gas station then wiped out the new car lot. KOMA interviewed the dealership owner and all he could talk about was that GD gas station was still standing amid all the rubble. During that same event KOMA lost power but had a generator… I asked Perry how he knew when to cut back to utility power. He said “I look outside and if I see lights then we give it a try”. Great visit… Great station!!

  13. Only one mention of Super CFL Chicago?!?! And that was Mr Abrams #20. Apparently all of the contributors didn’t pay much attention. If you go by Abrams characteristics, CFL was heads and shoulders above the rest (plus they had Chickenman…and Lujack…and King B, Jim Stagg (who traveled with the Beatles on tour), Biondi, Barney Pip, Jerry G Bishop, Joel Sebastion, Jim Runyon, Ken Draper as GM, a huuuge news department, and on and on). They only beat WLS in the ratings once, but that battle was David vs Goliath in signal and cash.

  14. Even to this day, as someone who, demographically, is supposed to be way outside the Top 40 parameters — I’m a 50-something male — I still love a great CHR-Pop station. Around these parts, that means 106.1 KISS-FM in DFW.

    But, I was lucky to have grown up in South-Central Michigan in the late ’60s and into the ’70s. Back in the heyday of exciting Top 40 AMs, that meant I was sandwiched between two of the greatest — 89 WLS to the west, and ‘The Big 8’ CKLW, to the east. Between the two, I slightly favored CKLW…which was really the work of a woman, Rosalie Trombley, who I believe was officially the Music Director. She was a ‘white chick’ with R&B and soul in her blood! But, that station, in its on-air presentation, was wound as tight a top-quality watch…it was flawless, with great talent like Dave Shafer, Tom Shannon, Gary Burbank, Jim Edwards, ‘Brother’ Bill Gable, ‘Super’ Max Kinkel, Charlie O’Brien, Charlie Van Dyke, and on and on. Even the news anchors, like Grant Hudson and Byron MacGregor (who had a hit record of his own, “The Americans”) sounded spectacular.

    Over at 89 WLS, during those years, we had John ‘Records’ Landecker, Larry Lujack, Tom Kent, Steve King, Jerry Kay and so many more. Even as a kid, I remember, by the mid-’70s, WLS wasn’t quite as exciting as CKLW, but still a wonderful ‘experience’.

    In more recent times, as a young man, I moved to Houston in the early ’80s. In that decade, it was an outstanding battle of the FM CHRs, 93Q/KKBQ and Power 104/KRBE. 93Q had the better air personalities, including John Lander and the Q Morning Zoo; but, the music battle between the two stations was just exceptional. In the end, it was 93Q that threw in the towel on the Top 40 format…but then went on to become ’93Q Country’, eventually slaying the KIKK 96 longtime country behemoth.

    But, it was my child and teen years listening to CKLW that had the lasting impact on me. Even that 50,000 watt blowtorch signal was so strong that it easily penetrated into my bedroom…down in the basement! 80 miles away, across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I would say, with certainty, that it was ‘The Big 8’ that stirred my interest and music, and then, eventually, a radio career of my own. The kids of today, sorry to say, really have NO idea what a true lifestyle broadcast radio station sounds like. We ‘old people’ lucked out in having ’60s and ’70s Top 40 radio!!!

  15. Chalk up one more who thinks WQXI should have been on the list; the liveliest sounding station in the South, the one that seemed the least canned. And I definitely remember John Leader.

    Also, chalk up WKIX; Mike Reineri (sp?) always got my day off with a laugh; I still remember the day he ran a commercial with Minnie Pearl and after it ended he said, “Boy, I’ll bet that dress is a booger to iron.” I also remember Tommy Walker, Gary Edens, and Jimmy Capps; don’t remember Pat Patterson because I wasn’t living in Raleigh then.

    Finally, a plug for WGH. Dick Lamb and Gene Loving also did a show called “Disc-O-Ten” on WAVY-TV, and Lamb later had a morning talk show on WTAR (now WTKR), Channel 3.

  16. A top 40 station in the Washington,DC area in the mid to late 60’s had a DJ named Alan Afterhours. Does anyone remember the station?

  17. Sorry, I don’t mean to monopolize the conversation, but another old Philly station/format warrants mention: An all-Progressive Rock format launched by WDAS-FM, “Hyski’s Underground.” A good playlist and entertaining jocks. U of P’s WXPN also did a good job with that format. (For some reason, WMMR, which also joined in on that format, didn’t appeal to me as much.)
    Also, not at all intending to sound braggadocious, I think I was the first one to introduce a “Classic Rock” format. in the Spring of 1978, I was doing a late night fill-in on WKDU during their weekday Progressive Rock programming and I decided to do a show of all classic Progressive Rock tracks from the ’60s and very early ’70s, the music I had enjoyed from the afore-mentioned stations.

  18. Another station that deserves mention was WZZD, 990, when it was a Disco Hits format (i.e., disco hits played in a random Top 40-style format, as opposed to beat-blended, as on WCAU-FM.) Great jocks, a lot of personality, fun to listen to.

  19. Though I grew up and lived my whole life in Philadelphia, for Top 40, my all-time favorite station was WABC. (WIBG and WFIL were good, but ‘ABC killed them, as far as I was concerned.) As I was an avid DXer, at night I really enjoyed WKBW, WLS and CKLW. When WNBC went CHR in the ’70s, that ranked up there, too. (I’ll give an honorable mention to WARM, Scranton, the first TOP 40 station I discovered; the jocks didn’t have the personality of WABC, but the station played good music and had a nice flow.)

    My all time favorite Oldies format stations were WPEN, from 1975-76 (great jocks, jingles, funny newscasters) and WIOQ, during its brief stint in that format, 1987-88, as I recall. Also WFIL tried a comeback in the early ’80s with Oldies: Great jocks, personality, nostalgic jingles. WPGR, 1540, also did a nice job during their stint as an Oldies station. Some of their former personnel are at WVLT, 92.1 in Vineland, NJ. As did WPGR, ‘VLT plays a vast playlist, a lot of forgotten hits and a heavy smattering of old local Philly hits.

  20. May I put in a plug for non-commercial station that was run very professionally and achieved some notoriety in its time? I’m referring to WPWT, 91.7 FM, in Philadelphia, from mid-1978 to early 1980, of which I was proudly a part. Starting briefly as a mixture of Top 40 and Rhythm (“Rhythm and Rock”) [plus a Jazz show hosted by Demetrius], we quickly evolved into the only non-commercial disco station in the country (with the exception of my popular Oldies show on Friday nights, throughout). [Reportedly, WCAU-FM, the Disco Powerhouse at the time, was calling our P.D., to get reactions to new songs we were breaking.] At the very beginning of 1980, as Disco was rapidly dying, we went Top 40. As we were next to WIFI on the dial, people were tuning us in by accident and said they liked us better! The mainstay jocks on our station throughout this period were Big Bill Barthe, our P.D., who was legally blind, Sab Michael, Ken Nelson and myself, Bruce Scott. Disco Mindy was part of our Disco era, as well as Jim Chambers and Vernon Davis. [Apologies if I’m forgetting anybody.] When we went Top 40, we added Carl Lee. Early Feb., 1980, the station management purged us all.
    …Incidentally, almost all of us had been previously on WKDU, which shared time with us on 91.7 FM. ‘KDU was a great station in 1978 under P.D., Santo Canone, also very professional. For both stations I got our friend, Sam Lit (Hy’s son and a jock on WIFI), to produce great-sounding jingles and name shouts for us.
    Is there sill anybody around who still remembers us?

  21. Many of these great stations can be heard at Rock Radio Scrapbook – Canada’s Aircheck Archive – celebrating the Golden Age of Top 40 radio since 1996! More than 1,300 airchecks from all across Canada and the U.S.

  22. KISN in Portland was my favorite. Consider the voices who worked the window on Burnside at NW 10th… Tom Murphy, The Real Don Steele, Roger Hart, Sam Holman, Dick Sainte, Mike O’Brien, Tom Michaels, Roger W. Morgan, Dave “Records” Stone, and the all-night “Preacher,” Pat Pattee. At its prime, KISN was the king of Top 40 radio in this market.

  23. How about the Middle of the Middle West… Not WHO in Des Moines. KIOA. 40 share and better in the 60’s. Dic Youngs, Jim Michaels, Mike Pace…. A real crew. Yes, it was a ‘smaller’ market but, the 10kw daytime on 940 covered 90 of 99 counties in Iowa and at night with 5kw covered into Denver as well as WHO. A lot of people went to bed and woke up with the Good Guys at KIOA.

    • It was my good fortune to program KIOA in those days. Biggest problem was losing talent to bigger markets. Hal Moore and great newsman/dj…..Phil Thomas to KMIN in Denver. Sandy Shore went all the way to Drake LA as Marc Elliot.
      Thanx for listening……..

    • Unless you mean BOTH Z-100 AND Pirate Radio, the latter was a station in Los Angeles; in fact, he left Z-100 to helm the “Pirate Radio” format (I forgot what station had that branding).

  24. I love all of the comments! There were so many great “Personality” AM powerhouses in the 50’s-70’s. I loved WAPE 690. WJET 1400. KRFC. I grew up in Northern VA. We had Major Top 40 AM competition! It was great. WEAM 1390…..WPGC….1580….WEEL….1310 and one of my favorites WRC…The Great 98. (Willard “The Rat” Scott) rode the drive time shift. I miss those days! Thanks for all of the comments and memories!

  25. WOW! Great to see WHB from KC and KXOK from St. Louis on the list. I was stationed at Whiteman AFB in Missouri in the 60s and loved WHB with DJ Johnny Dolan and others. When I went on leave to Cincinnati I always dialed in KXOK in St. Louis as I wen east on old Highway 40 in the pre I-70 days. Wonderful memories from my days of driving my ’61 Chevy with the radio volume pegged listening to tunes during my Air Force hitch.

    • CKY came in like a local during the day at Bemidji, Minnesota. Was in college there in the mid 60s.
      After sunset… gone. Then 890, Chicago, 1520 KOMA, were the ones to listen to at night.

    • Yes! They had a New Years count down of the top 100 from the year and I listened to every song for several years. CKY was our main source of music in the 60s, we were only 6 miles from the Manitoba border in Warroad, though sometimes we could get WLS or KOMA in the night.

  26. I didn’t see WIBG Wibbage 990 in Philadelphia. Hy Lit was its best, played R and B on a top 40 station. 50000 good watts during the day, but cut back to 10000 at night, pointed at the city and South Jersey. The idea was to protect some station in Canada. Wibbage’s signal was not to cross the border into Canada. As a result, the signal to the Northwest started to die around Norristown, 5-10 miles away from the towers in Lafayette Hill, PA. WIBG started as a 25 watt station in a church in Elkins Park, PA, probably in the 1920s. Until WFIL became top 40 in 1966 WIBG was it in Philadelphia, although there was great R and B at WHAT 1340 and WDAS 1480. Wibbage was a true top 40 station from about 1958 until roughly 1977. Still there as WNTP, Salem radio. I am a DJ on a community station WRDV and my program is “AM Classics” so I really appreciate your website

    • You’re right: WIBG Philadelphia was started by a church in the Philly suburb of Elkins Park, PA in the ‘20’s. The aforementioned call letters are at least said to have originally stood for “I Believe in God.”

  27. Well, I’ve read the entire article, including the comments from beginning to end. But I’ve got to know, did anyone measure? Who pissed the furthest?

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  29. WMEX, Boston for sure. Early adopter in the format (1958, survived to the mid-70s). Mac Richmond (one of the owners) was a crazed micro-manager and abrasive as sandpaper, but he knew talent. Arnie Ginsburg, Larry Justice, Dan Donovan (Blaine Harvey….who carried the name to Minneapolis), Charlie Tuna, Larry Lujack, Jack Gale (Fenway), Ed Hider (another Fenway), J.J. Jeffries (Melvin X. Melvin) as well as talk show giants Jerry Williams, Larry Glick and Steve Fredericks all appeared on WMEX. While WBZ was more “sophisticated” in many ways, WMEX played to the city (where their somewhat limited signal was best) so they had a grittier, earthier, more high-energy city sound. Ed Perry bought the license and is putting it back on the air, by the way.

  30. Oh, yeah-former clear channel (that’s with a small C each) WOWO Fort Wayne, IN-as an *AC* station **AND**! as a Top 40 station. And while we’re on the subject of Midwestern 50 kay-dubba-you AM blowtorches, *(the Cleveland version of) KYW/WXYZ (Top 40)/WWWE (aka 3WE) (Adult Contemporary)* and *WGAR (Adult Contemporary-and probably Top 40 at one point)*, both in Cleveland!

  31. I listened to WMEX in 1970-71 when John H Garabedian was at the helm and in PM drive with Bud Balou in the eve and Ron Robin in the AM. It was a very hip kind of top 40 that meshed well with Boston at that time. At night I loved hearing Jackson Armstrong on WKBW, “boogie check” with the hilarious John Records Landecker on WLS and Supermax on CKLW!

    • The story (as I understand it) is that Mac Richmond (one of the WMEX owners) let Garabedian mix in some album cuts and long versions of the hits, and broke some stuff along the way (“Maggie Mae” by Rod Stewart being one). Reportedly with this approach and FM radios still uncommon in cars, WMEX was right up there with WRKO and actually beat them in some areas. The rumor (never been able to pin this down) is that Mac was ready to buy WBCN when he died suddenly. Imagine how the whole history of Boston radio would be changed if that happened. Anyway, brother Dick took over the station after Mac died and wrecked it.

      • Mac Richmond did not “wreck” WMEX. I worked there as a young man when Mac owned the station, so I know first hand. Mac converted WMEX to sports and talkradio…and WMEX was very successful with that format, both on ratings and revenue, until new owners bought the station a few years later. Mac was also a very nice guy, btw.

  32. Funny that nobody looked at the list and recalled Jeff Kaye’s often quoted positioning statement “WKBW one of America’s two great radio stations!”

    Instead of debating was KB the greatest, on has a tendency to wonder what the other station is! Now we know, it was CKLW!

    I lived in Buffalo and the Miami area and with kudos to WQAM and WFUN there was nothing like KB anywhere!

  33. The ‘Randy Michaels’ in Erie was in reality, Frank Bascik, who passed away in 1991. Jim Connors from WJET went to WMEX in Boston in 1971. He was the inspiration for the song, W*O*L*D from Harry Chapin. Jim later made his way to Buffalo in 1972 or so. Jim was replaced in Erie by the equally funny Jack Starr.
    Erie also had the talented Oogie Pringle who went from WJET to WRIE in Erie and then jumped to WNBC in NY.

    Listening to radio as a kid, hearing major talent in the major markets and locally here in Erie, PA, it inspired me to jump into the business at the age of 15. I ended up racking up 25 years total.

  34. Is this the fluff-stuff that fires the imaginations of contemporary radio people?
    Hey! How ’bout them Kardashians….?

  35. You mentioned Philly Top 40 station WFIL but not that same city’s WIBG? (As they’ve been saying on one segment of the “Monday Night Football” halftime show in recent years, ) “COME on, man!” Anybody who knows a THING about at least early PHILADELPHIA Top 40 radio knows that before there was WFIL (or at least the beginning of its own Top 40 format), there was “Wibbage”! And, plus, HOW can you even contemplate omitting New York’s WINS (That’s where Murray the K made his mark, don’tcha know that?), WOR-FM/WXLO, WNBC, and WPLJ! THAT’S! right, **WPLJ*!! (The legendary album-oriented rocker went Top 40 the same year as–in fact, two months prior to–what would become Z-100, and remained so until 1992, when it evolved into its current Hot Adult Contemporary format.)

  36. Lee and Randy…..Congratulations on putting together that list. NO way is it possible to please every jock and every station PD or group owner. What you guys have done is incredible, if only Radio today was like it was in it’s heyday of top 40 with those stations you mentioned. Thanks for putting in the time and effort, much appreciated.
    Johnny Holliday

    • The one basic element that the great stations “back then” were built around was the great music of the time. Great contemporary music doesn’t exist today. It must be hard to fire up an on-air staff when all they have to play is garbage.

      • Your right Guy. The music was very attractive in those days. Today, tune in any format and 5 minutes later, you turn it off! Cant do it. Sorry. The formats would be better, if the music product was better. Great contemporary, traditional country, and rock and roll, are gone. At least in my city. Who wants to play that crap? Dennis Williams Toledo

  37. WPRO AM & FM Providence, RI were outstanding Top 40 stations. The FM is still Tp 40. Great program directors in Holland Cooke for AM and Gary Berkowitz for FM.

  38. I think one of the elements that is missing today is competition, radio wars. It’s hard to fight for supremacy when you own the competition.

  39. These are ALL good stations..the ones listed and the ones that aren’t. Johnny Holiday on WHK was awesome as well as when he was on 250 watt WRVM in Rochester in the fifties. They were king of radio, nevermind that they played beautiful music on Sundays..and had to sign off at sunset. They lost the crown when WBBF went full time Top 40. Everyone here has had the luxury of living through some of the best radio ever. Well vetted comments like Randy and Lee are so welcome

    • Mac Richmond did not “wreck” WMEX. I worked there as a young man when Mac owned the station, so I know first hand. Mac converted WMEX to sports and talkradio…and WMEX was very successful with that format, both on ratings and revenue, until new owners bought the station a few years later. Mac was also a very nice guy, btw.

  40. As a latecomer (1976) to the game, but well aware of the history, the key here is knowing and targeting your market, tailoring everything and everyone to it. Taking a chance on a record on-air from time to time and listening to their feedback, not just auditorium testing. The men who did it both wanted to make lots of money but also great radio. That rarely exists anymore. Automation, consolidation and syndication killed the small-and-medium-market ‘farm system’ that fed those larger-market stations. as well as creating the mess that radio is now. I remember when ABC proposed Superadio in 1981, putting jocks from WABC, WLS and KQV on your small-town station. Didn’t happen, but the writing was on the wall. Most every market had two or three pretty good Top-40’s back then; lucky if you can find one now.

  41. How can we not mention the stations owned and operated by the late Todd Storz which basically invented the Top 40 Format. WHB and KXOK were among his best. Both were top rated when AM Radio was King.

    • The Storz stations ruled for many years. Personally, I thought WQAM was the best and is on my list, but that’s not to take anything away from KXOK, WHB, KOMA, KOWH, WTIX WDGY

  42. A further thought on this string: As kids growing up in Welland, Ontario, most of the radio we listened to was from Buffalo. (Welland was kind of a suburb of Buffalo, just not as close as Tonawanda was.) There were some outstanding stations and many of the personalities became legends. One of those in the mid ’50s was George “The Hound” Lorenz at night on WKBW. Never missed him, as he made R & B come alive.
    That was the prelude…
    It’s fitting that ‘KB is on both of these lists. It really started in 1958 with Perry Allen, Russ “The Moose” Syracuse, Art Roberts and Dick Biondi. They took over…along with the likes of Tommy Shannon, the still-to-come Dan Neaverth, Joey Reynolds and so many others. The crew that made Pappy Smith famous. How’s that for some entertaining teachers?!

    • Pappy was the op for Joey Reynolds, among others…correct? The night I visited Joey in the studio, he asked me to take a 45 in to Pappy…Memphis by Lonnie Mack…played for the first time that night!

  43. WMEX Boston should be on this list and one minor market station that sounded and programmed like a major market WAVZ New Haven, CT

  44. Thanks Randy for clarifying the Randy Michaels on WJET. Also thanks for mentioning WROV in Roanoke. It was one of the several station whose doors I passed through. It was one of the stations that the great “Wolfman Jack did his show from. He also did a live show from the afored mentioned WGR in Buffalo. I am fortunate enough to have an aircheck of that broadcast. The story of Wolfman’s visit to WROV can be found under “History of Roanoke Radio” then click on WROV. K92 was mentioned and they picked up the number one spot a few years after they went on the air in 1980, dethroning WROV.

    • I love that people actually thought that Wolfman was LIVE on WGR. We had some pretty good board ops who could incorporate the Wolfman’s customs. The BEST show came out of 55KRC in Cincinnati. . . Rockin’ Ron Schumacher was the board op-and when Wolfman answered the phone he’d ask: “Do you know the difference between meat and fish?”. . .

  45. I’ll never forget the zany humor of Gary Owens and Don MacKinnon on KEWB. Monterey’s location was perfect, radio-wise: San Francisco all day, L.A. at night, including Wolfman Jack on The Mighty 1090 XERB.

  46. I’m surprised nobody’s talking about CHUM or CFTR … and God bless the late Tom Rivers, one of the best jocks ever … in Toronto, at the “Big 8” Windsor/Detroit, or anywhere! CKLW is definitely #1, and the most influential Top 40 of all time (thanks to Rosie). As a kid I surfed the dial nightly from my Guelph Ontario backyard on one of the first 6 transistor Sony battery radios … from Dick Summer on WBZ Boston to Cousin Brucie at WABC NYC, from Quixie in Dixie to WOWO Ft.Wayne to WLS & WCFL Chicago. I was also privileged to catch CHUM, ‘TR, CKEY, and CKOC during their hayday(s). They were as good as anything, anywhere. “Frank Brodie” (CKLW) was incredible on the air in ANY format, as were most of the jocks from the true Top 40 era. Years later, I hired him as Mike Marshall from an AOR station in Toronto to do Smooth Jazz. Talk about versatility!) And, I confess to plagiarizing “W-C-F-L of-a-Town…CHI-CA-GO” for the rebranding of CKSL London Ontario in the mid 70s. “C-K-S-L of-a-Town…LONNN-DONNN!!!” ran top of every hour. I can still hear Roger Klein’s growling delivery. It was just too great a line not to steal.
    Jim Craig – Professor, Broadcast Studies
    Seneca College School of Media – Toronto Canada

  47. This article and ensuing discussion brings back great memories of an era when radio was fun to listen to and fun to do.

    I was super stoked to see that B100 San Diego made the readers’ top 10. In March 1975, Bobby Rich (AKA “Dr. Boogie”) devised an audacious plan to go head-to-head with market-owning KCBQ. He trashed the beautiful-music automation and took KFMB’s little 10,000 watt FM live with no jingles, minimal formatting, an expanded uptempo playlist that was carted up at 46.5 RPM, heavy promotion, heavy Oganowski compression and a staff of crazed, hyper-caffeinated jocks including Rob Landree, Dave Conley, Rocketman (Scott Wright), Willie B Goode, Jimi Fox, Gary Kelley, Kevin Anderson, Phil Flowers and Billy Martin.

    Several on-air staff departed for KTNQ Los Angeles in late 1976, creating openings for Shotgun Tom Kelly in AM drive, Glen (Martin) McCartney middays, yours truly in PM drive and Gene Knight in the evenings. Part timers of that era included Jimmy “JR” Rogers, John “Mondo” Fox, Beaver Cleaver (Ken Levine–yep, THAT Ken Levine) and Dr. Boogie himself. B100 interns Dave Sniff and Tony Pepper went on to part time status. GM Paul Palmer just let us run with it.

    It worked! KFM-BFM San Diego was, IIRC, the first major market FM Top 40 to be #1 in all demographics 12+ and all day parts, in Fall 1977. While at age 20 I had only about 10% of an idea of how to actually be an effective PM drive personality, I had loads of freedom, encouragement from Bobby Rich, inspiration from all my peers and energy to spare. B100 really captured the San Diego sound. In stereo! There are many other B100 alumni (hi Kathy Aunan!) who contributed to that magic. Oh wait. We weren’t allowed to say the word magic, because KMJC Magic 91 was a competitor. 😀

    Even with Bobby’s departure for 99X New York and a format change in 1979, B100 kept me in flip flops, burgers and beers for 8 years, for which I am eternally grateful. Just as I was leaving B100 to trade PM drive for med school, Bobby returned and reinvigorated San Diego’s greatest station for several more years. Bobby’s internet tribute to B100 streams now at, featuring “all the hits that fits,” lots of fondly remembered mid-chart stiffs, and recent voice tracks from the surviving members of the B100 air staff.

    Best wishes to all alumni of radio’s golden age. Special thanks to treasured mentors Jhani Kaye, Bill Gardner and Dr. Boogie. You made radio come alive. Love your show!

  48. You mean that Lee Abrams guy who came to Toronto in 1977 to work his Superstar Format ‘Magic’ against CHUM-FM? THAT Lee Abrams guy? Poor Lee hadn’t been paying attention. We had already run over Jack McCoy and his Last Contest. ABC’s $50,000 Button? Toast. And don’t even get me started on Watermark and their Documentaries…….

    Most of The CHUM Jocks came up from pretty good Radio Stations in the U.S., including The Big 8. Some of them went back to the U.S. Ask most any of them……it was the greatest experience of their careers. But CHUM also did what no other mere Radio Station did. Produce documentaries chronicling the history of Top 40 Music. About 100 hours of them between 1970 and 1977. If you worked at Top 40 Radio in North America, chances are your station aired a CHUM Documentary.

    #16 on one List and no mention on the other?

    Reading what so many U.S. Programmers write about The Glory Days of Top 40 Radio reminds me of watching the movie Argo. And if you don’t know what I mean by that…….–85572

  49. Would Randy Michaels be the same who worked afternoons on WJET? I lived in Erie at that time and listened to Jet 14 and Randy Michaels, along with Frank Martin, Ronnie G (Seggi), Jim Conners, Jack O’Brien, and Al Knight. Jet was truly a phenominal station.

    • No, but I was “named” for him. Larry Anderson, the PD at WGR Buffalo, listened to WJET driving back and forth to see family in Ohio. He liked the name and had a jingle cut for WGR. When I started at WGR as a part timer, that became my new name. Many stations saved money on jingles by getting names cut during a session or by recycling house names.

      Randy Michaels

  50. And lets not forget WHK in Cleveland who owned that City from 1959 to 1964 blowing every other station away. Mad Daddy Pete Myers, Johnny Holliday, Scott Burton, Pat Fitzgerald, Johnny Walters, Ron Riley, Carl Reese and Keith Morris, what a great air staff. Then there was KYA in San Francisco with Bobby Mitchell and Tom Donohue, Gene Nelson, Tony Big, ed Hider and Johnny Holliday. Another great station that should have made the list.

    • If you’re THAT Johnny Holliday, weren’t you on WINS New York during the tail end of its Top 40 era (before flipping to (and pioneering) all-news radio in 1965? Was “Out in the Street” by the Shangri-Las really the last record you played on “Wins” and the last record heard thereon?

      • By the way, I have since heard, on the Rock Radio Scrapbook website, an composite aircheck of WINS’ last day as a Top 40 station (complete with [a] then-weekly Sunday night/Monday morning transmitter-maintenance sign-off followed by [a reinserted recording of] the National Anthem, [b] the then-weekly Monday-at-sunrise sign-on [with the prior or shortly-subsequent SSB edited out?] and the WINS head honcho’s intro of its all-news format). Yes, you were the last DJ on “Wins,” and , yes,”Out in the Street” (pun intended?) was the last song heard both on your show and on WINS in general.

  51. Radio Ink sure hit a LIVE WIRE here didn’t they! The comments pour in, what a fun read, and Tribute to how good it all was. Amen.

  52. Thank you RadioInk for opening the doors to a grudge match of passionate RADIO people. The best part of these 3 lists is bringing back the memories of when RADIO was competitive, creative, and most of all FUN. My decades of respect for Lee Abrams has increased thanks to his “15 Characteristics of the Great Top 40 stations” and his selections are 85% perfect. And the fired-up responses further support why great RADIO existed.

    We should celebrate the greatness. Especially those of us who contributed directly as jocks, PDs, GMs, Promotions, Sales, Engineering, and god love the Traffic departments.
    “C’mon people now,
    Smile on your brother”

    • Bobby— thanks for your kind comments. You won’t remember but at the 1969 Billboard convention, you were PD of KSTT and I asked you a bunch of questions. You patiently answered them for this 17 year old radio freak.

  53. I agree with Steve above that WSGN was a great station under PD Jim Tabor.

    I also agree with Randy Michaels that KFRC overall became a better station than KHJ for the reasons he mentioned. However, I likewise agree with Lee that KHJ should be at or near the top of the list. The reason is KHJ, Drake’s first RKO project, was huge news and sent Top 40 radio on a new trajectory that would eventually affect virtually every station in the format. I do want to mention that Ron Jacobs had more to do with the sound of KHJ than he gets credit for. Plus, KHJ had The Real Don Steele, who made magic every day being a larger-than-life and unique personality within the Drake constraints.

    • Jacobs was a creative genius and the contesting and of course promos for KHJ started with him.
      He was an absolute perfectionist and the people who worked at KHJ like Betty Brenneman said the same thing about him. Heard he’d make the production director Bill Mousis redo the promos over and over again. Yes I was lucky enough to be in LA as a kid when KHJ was at its peak in the mid/late 60s and worked at KRTH in 70s when Paul Drew was National PD. I later worked with Jacobs on the KHJ book we put out together using his memos as a base(and yes he we had to redo the book over and over again til Ron thought it was perfect before it was released)

  54. I like the mention of Big WAYS and WTIX as I lived in those cities and I used to hear WAPE. One other station I listened to was WSGA in Savannah, GA. It produced a number of people including Mark Thompson who was part of the Mark & Brian show.

  55. I’m surprised no one mentioned WQXI Atlanta. From 1966- thru 1976 they were a huge Atlanta powerhouse even with their highly directional 1KW at night at 790. I always thought of them as the WABC of the South…. Quixie in Dixie. They were tight, bright, slight reverb and very punchy like WABC. Look at the Superstar talent that went thru there – Paul Drew, Dr. Don Rose, Tony Taylor, Big Ron, Randy Robbins, Scott Shannon, John Leader, Gary Mckee and so many more. WQXI was promotionally crazy at times (Rambling Raft Race) and very localized to the market musically. They were even the first station to carry the Atlanta Falcons when the team started in 1967. Yes, football on Top 40 worked for them with the excitement of a new team in town. No doubt WQXI held off FM competition for years after the city grew beyond its signal.

    • And if neither WAPE Jacksonville, FL NOR WQXI was the WABC of the South, so many of the larger Southern cities were contenders for that title: including New Orleans (WNOE as well as WTIX), Atlanta again (WPLO, WAKE (with its 1,000-watts daytime/250-watts nighttime–and prior to the early ’60’s, 250 watts full time–signal!!, yet!) and other stations that came and went long after the latter two did away with Top 40,) Dallas (the Fort Worth station whose call letters escape me as well as the aforementioned KLIF and KBOX), Memphis (WHBQ and WMPS), Charlotte (WAYS, most notably), Norfolk (WGH and WNOR, especially the former), and so on.

      • Not to nitpick, but you were off by one year as to the debut of the Atlanta Falcons: they actually started in 1966. (The same year the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta, by the way. (And!, here’s some *trivia*!! for you: they each began its first season [first season ever in the Falcons’ case, first season in a new market in the Braves’ case] at since-demolished Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.)

    • Is this the Ron Parker I listened to on 93Q in Houston? If so, I was an ‘RTV’ student at University of Houston, at that time, and came in and interviewed you for a term paper I was writing on Top 40 radio programming. Again, if that was you, you were so patient and kind to the then shy and dorky radio-loving kid! Thanks, to that Ron Parker, whether you or someone else…

      • You have the right RP, Robert. An industry veteran that’s been everywhere. He brought me to 93Q in ‘87 as the night jock from B97 New Orleans. Two legendary Top 40s that apparently didn’t make the cut for these lists. We had a blast in HOU. Ron is one of the true radio savants (alongside Zapper, Dan Vallie, Bill Richards, Nick Bazoo, etc.). I’m blessed to have been taught by the best. Great to see so many radio brethren on here. Much love – Boomer

  56. Late 1967…As Paul Drew gave me my first look at the Big 8 control room, Tom Shannon was introducing Glen Campbell’s By The Time I Get To Phoenix. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I still carry a Kennedy half-dollar I got in some change our first night in Windsor, a constant reminder of the magic, good times and wonderful people we shared through most of 1972. Hell, I even got to work for Les Garland for a day years later during the Return of The Million Dollar Weekend!
    Thanks to all the fans who voted CKLW #1.
    Mike Marshall (Frank Brodie) Burlington, ON

    • Great to see you comments Mike. Well said. I can still hear those dulcet tones of yours.
      Bobby Rich, you nailed it.
      Thank you Radio Ink for this amazing trip down memory lane.
      Jim Jackson

    • Hi there! Listed Mike Marshall as one of, if not THE Smoothest jock ever. Dave Charles once called me smooth but I couldn’t hold a candle to MM!

    • Hi Mike (Frank Brodie). CKLW definitely was THEE number one station in North America and Canada. Some of the greatest talent came through Detroit – Toledo Ohio. CK had yourself Mike (did you know that?), Dave Shaffer, Big Jim (Davis) Edwards, Brother Bill Gable, Charlie Obrien,” The morning mouth” Gary Burbank, Pat Holiday who could talk faster than a bullet, the smooth sounding Johnny Williams, Scott Miller, Ted “The Bear” Richards, Pat St John, Billy Mack, Ric Allen, and a guy who had a great voice Jim Jackson (below). And let us not forget the news department which was something to be reckoned with. Don Patrick, Dick Smythe, Randall Carlisle, Grant Hudson and the chief himself Byron McGregor all grabbed your attention with their excellent delivery and news writing.

      Not mentioned but it should be was WHND and the talents of Richard D haase, Boogie Brian, Jon Ray, Stew Wilkins, and the WKNR ”Keener 13” crew.

      Toledo also had a lot of great talent. Bob Martz was probably one of the most funny guys along with the likes of John Garry, Larry Obrien, Bob Kelly, Don Williams (and of course myself Rick Allen, I just had to toot my own horn didn’t I? LOL) at WTOD. And over at the Lou Dickey flagship station WOHO, The late Swingin (Frank) Sweeny, Bobby Rich, Ben Gall, Tom Dean, Jungle Jim Williams, Craig Edwards, Irwin Young, Peter Trip, Gary Calvert, Earl Richards (me again), Gene Wurley, E. Alvin Davis, The“ Mojoman” Sid Grubb, Buddy Carr, Sir Bernard J Quayle, Sam Holman, Don Armstrong, Ken R Deutch. To coin a sound alike phrase from the late Bill Drake, “AND THE TALENT JUST KEPT ON COMIN.”
      As far as CKLW goes I think every jock I knew all tried to emulate the great sound of the Big 8 jocks. And of course this is just my opinion on the greatest talent in the Motor and Glass Cities.

      • Hi Rick, you are right about other stations and jocks wanting to sound like CKLW, The Big 8. I know, because I was just cutting my teeth in Toledo radio beginning in 1973. EVERYONE wanted to be like you guys, including me who at the time had a lot to learn. CKLW was high on a pedestal in those days and people admired it. So today I credit you guys and of course others back then, who made a shy teenage boy grab on to something called radio, and go for the ride of his life! BTW, I was honored that I got to meet you at the CKLW Fifty Year celebration in Detroit in july. What a fun night!

    • Hi Mike! Remember you well from Toronto and would have loved to work some those famous stations you did…but then again, you were one of the smoothest jocks ever!!!

  57. Thank you Randy Michaels for the 102 WVAQ mention! We are very proud of what WVAQ has meant to West Virginia over the years. I grew up listening to KXOK in St. Louis during the daytime hours (Johnny Rabbit) – and WLS at night.

  58. WBZ, WPTR, WRKO, the ’60 led the way in our part of NE for those of us just coming in to the business. WABC drove us home from Ft. Dix when we signed out on pass at midnight. Bruce Bradley at WBZ told me at a record hop in 1963 NOT to go into Radio. His advice was 3 years too late. In ’67 we got an advanced copy of “Sgt Pepper” at little old WKBK in Keene, NH…before WABC (I was told)..that’s when turning on mike was fun. Generic syndication and voice-tracking leave little room for localized fun and connection and way fewer role models for the next generation of announcers.

  59. I wouldn’t leave out KEWB Oakland, where such notables as The Real Don Steele, Robert W. Morgan, and Casey Kasem played DJ before any of them became nationally known. Chuck Blore’s clever contests, tight production, and a great pick of music made KEWB one of the very best Top 40 stations.

    • KYA was also a great station with Emperor Gene Nelson, Tom Donahue, and many others. I think one of the elements that is missing today was competition, radio wars. It’s hard to fight for supremacy when you own the competition.

    • David Kaye, 8/10/2017:
      “I wouldn’t leave out KEWB Oakland, where such notables as The Real Don Steele, Robert W. Morgan, and Casey Kasem played DJ before any of them became nationally known. …”

      Don’t forget Gary Owens, David.

  60. There were many good radio stations all over the USA radio map, like for me KACY, Ventura, KIST, Santa Barbara, KMBY Monterey, KDON Salinas. all Air Talent/Music Driven Top-40s , and oh yeah all live people 24/7, when radio was fun to do and to listen to.

    • I agree, Scotty. All the Top 40 stations that Lee Abrams and Randy Michaels each included, those that many posters, myself included, called them out for omitting–including those that you mentioned in your own comment, plus WIFI Philadelphia (WIFI 92 (pronounced “Wi-Fi 92” (Who’d have thought, right?), WCAU-FM Philadelphia (not just its Top 40 format, but also the Disco format that immediately preceded it), WOR-FM/WXLO New York, AOR-turned-pop WPLJ New York (as Top 40 and later Hot AC, the latter since defunct (the owners of the syndicated Christian AC network K-Love bought the station almost four months ago and took over WPLJ just nine days ago)), WBUD Trenton, NJ, and WYNG Goldsboro, NC come to mind. Like the stations you name-dropped (call letter-dropped?), all air talent/music driven Top 40 stations. And not only live (as you also said), but LOCAL!

      • I grew up in Goldsboro, NC, and there were a couple of stations that played top 40. You mentioned WYNG, which was more hip than its competitor, WGBR. WGBR still exists but I’m not sure the format. Like other stations, it rolled with the times and changed. I’m not sure what happened to WYNG except that it was possibly drowned in the FM tsunami. Those two local stations, though, played the soundtrack for many folks’ pre-teen and teen years here in our area.

  61. WROV in Roanoke deserves a mention… On the market for close to five years with more listeners than all other Roanoke stations … Bert Levine, who owned the station, believed very much in developing personalities without exception all the personalities on the station became major celebrities in Western Virginia. The station was 1000kw days 250 nights but still was credited by many of the major record labels as being great market for breaking new artists and new singles

    • I agree that Burt Levine created magic in that quonset hut! WROV was the lowest powered full time station in the market and often beat all other stations combined. This was a tough assignment because so many great stations had to be left out. WROV could have easily made the cut. Like I said this was a tough assignment.

  62. Its been fun reading everyones passions for their picks for the best Top 40 Station. Just goes to show ya how good radio was when it was competitive. Especially before I Heart and Cumulus took over. Boy what trash we have now.

  63. The greatest Top 40 station of all time? Sorry, John ‘Records’ Landecker, but Chicago’s WCFL wins this one. Not long after you came on board in early 1972, WLS reduced its published chart to a “Big 8 + 9” playlist. While I was a devoted listener of the Big 89 for years before, that’s when the (Top 40?) station lost me.

    Behind “Production” on Lee Abrams’ characteristics list of great Top 40 stations, number two is “The Bible of Music.” From 1965 until its demise in 1976, WCFL never let go of a Top 40 playlist/format. And looking at the remaining characteristics, “Big 10” had it all.

    The greatest Top 40 station of all time? Super ‘CFL!!

  64. Lets also at least have some hat tips toward the unmentioned above: WKIX in Raleigh (with Pat Patterson and other huge talents, and huge numbers too), WCOG in Greensboro, WTOB and WAIR in Winston-Salem, WIBG and WFIL in Philly, WMEX in Boston, WOLF in Syracuse, WPTR in Albany, WQXI in Atlanta, WQAM in Miami, XERB (Wolfman era) in Tijuana/San Diego/Coastal CA), WIL in St. Louis, KOMA in Oklahoma City (as big with skywave in the West as WKBW was in the East), KAAY in Little Rock (another skywave monster) WXYZ in Detroit, CKEY in Toronto, WMID in Atlantic City, WINS and WMGM in New York (which lost to WMCA and WABC, but still), WAPE (The Big Ape) in Jacksonville and the coast up to Hatteras, KFWB and KRLA in Los Angeles, KYNO in Fresto, KFRC and KSFO in San Francisco, KIMN in Denver, KLIF in Dallas, WSAI in Cincinnati, WING in Dayton, WITH in Baltimore, WEAM and WPGC in DC… Okay, I’ll stop there.

    • Doc… thanks for the shout out to Drake/Chenalt’s 13KYNO, in Fresno, where so many radio (and television) notables passed through. As an engineer, I was lucky enough to work along side many of them, and even heard Humble Harve and Bill Drake cutting IDs and voice-overs in the early 70s. Gene Chenalt was a gentleman who was always good to me. KYNO deserved the inclusion, Doc…

      • I remember visiting my cousins in Dinuba as a teen in the summer of ’63. KYNO was THE station for them, and they actually enjoyed hearing the station bid farewell to outlying towns at sunset, when the station dropped from 5kw to 1kw (same pattern, though). They’d say “Goodbye, Dinuba, goodbye Orange Cove…” Then my cousins would tune in KONG/1400 from Visalia, or surf the iffy skywaves of KRLA, KFWB, KFRC and or other relative weaklings, since the West Coast at the time lacked a Top 40 flamethrower such as the Midwest, prairie and East enjoyed with the likes of WLS, WABC, KAAY and KOMA. I do remember, however, getting WLS on my Zenith Royal 400 7-transistor radio on the floor of Yosemite Valley that same summer, though. No way that can happen today, with so many other signals on every formerly clear channel.

        Others from that same summer (as we were on a long road trip from our home New Jersey, where WABC’s tower stood outside my bedroom window): KMEN in San Bernardino and KCBQ in San Diego.

        • No one has said anything about the greatest radio promo of all time…in my humble opinion… that would be Jack McCoy’s “The Last Contest!” Which I heard on the also great KCBQ in San Diego with Mason Dixon!

          • When I was a baby DJ at the Q, there was a reel tape box way up in a corner of the production studio marked “The Last Contest”. Every time I went in there I’d look at that thing and was kind of awesome. I arrived after that promotion but of course it was well documented. I heard the audio, listened to stories. Even though I was over my head, I was well aware I was standing in a historic spot. At least as far as CHR radio goes …

            One night I decided to check out thatr box. I had to climb onto the counter to reach it. When I finally got it – it was empty.

            Somehow it seemed appropriate. “The Last Contest” was all about perception and theater of the mins. For a long time I’d wondered what was in that box and – theater of the mind. It kind of reminds me of the famous scene with Wolfman Jack in “American Graffiti”.

            It sure was a lot of fun.

        • You mentioned KONG AM Visalia. Wasn’t a very large market, but captured Visalia and immediate area in a big way… late 60’s. I worked there for a spell and the phones were lit up constantly. I remember “Howard Taylor” working the AM side then we had middle of the road on the FM side which captured the older crowd well. LONG time ago, but good memories…. My how things changed!

      • Thanks, you guys for all your work on this list! WOW.
        I did all nights at WFUN during my junior year in college at Miami and did the same in my senior year at WQAM. I will always be thankful to those great PD’s, Bill Holly, Dick Star, Charlie Murdock and Lee Sherwood. Thanks to those folks I managed to make a living in radio for a good bit of my life and I will always be grateful for their willingness to teach new guys!
        Thanks again.
        Mac Allen

    • I worked at WCOG Greensboro during the short lived revival of the station under PD Phil Valentine now doing talk in Nashville, TN…it was a Mann Media owned station then which included WGLD, and WKIX Raleigh…..The Flying Dutchman started out in Mornings, only to leave and Steve Early movin in thereafter!!! Definitely a slick imaged station!

    • And if all of those weren’t enough, WADO in New York, which broadcasted Top 40 programming from 1959 to 1963. Pardon the rambling, but that station was Top 40 during the day and Italian-language programming in the evening, with overnights split between jazz & R&B (the latter three from when it was WOV prior to the ownership change in 1959 that changed it to WADO and shuffled at least either of those dayparts to a different time slot). In the very-early Sixties, thanks in no small part to three fulltime Top 40s in NYC, WADO reintroduced African-American and Italian programming to its daytime schedule–this time, sharing it with Top-40 rock ‘n’ roll. A program devoted to the type of both early R&B and early rock ‘n’ roll that today is called “Doo Wop” was added to WADO’s schedule at this time. Later in the early ’60’s, Spanish-language programming was added to the daytime schedule. Shortly thereafter, the Sunday time share that WADO had with religious/ethnic WHBI Newark, NJ was discontinued, and the former inherited (at the very least, some of) the latter’s Spanish programming, expanding WADO’s Spanish daypart to Saturdays, and probably some of not all of the WHBI’s Sunday religious programming during that day of the week. In mid-1963, the remaining Top-40 pop rock programming was dropped in favor of even more Spanish programming and a primarily-Spanish format. In the mid-’60’s, the remaining R&B/Soul, group harmony (Doo Wop) and Italian (and jazz?) dayparts were themselves jettisoned in favor of additional Spanish-language programming. Except for the late-Sunday evening religious (African-American Protestant church services) broadcasts, WADO had become all-Spanish and so remains (having switched its Spanish format from music or music/talk to all-talk circa the turn of the decade before last, dropping its aforementioned English-language religious daypart). Again, pardon the rambling, but New York City even had a PART-TIME Top 40 rocker in the early days of said format.

      Oh-let’s not forget about three more Top 40 stations in the City That Never Sleeps: WWDJ Hackensack, NJ (1971-74); in the City itself, WPIX (1971-77, 1980-82) and WAPP (mainstream Top 40, 1984-85; Top 40/Rock 1985-86).

      • And would this surprise you? (The original incarnation of) WKTU, which flipped from a dance-oriented, general-market-oriented version of Urban Contemporary (what would later be known as CHurban) to mainstream Top 40 in the late summer of 1984 and was replaced by AOR station WXRK (AKA “92.3 K-Rock”) in July 1985.

      • WADOs 1280 signal was originally a time share of WAAM Newark, WODA in Patterson and WHBI. WOV was on 1130. WAAM and WODA started to cooperate and eventually both taken over by Audre Bulova (of watch fame) and Milton Biowand renamed WNEW, which reintroduced DJs to New York. Later WOV and WNEW switched frequencies.

    • Mind if I add a few more Top 40 stations of the past, anyway, Doc? CHUM Toronto (I mean, COME! on. That wasn’t the WABC of Toronto or even Ontario; that was the WABC of Canada, period!); WGH and WNOR Norfolk, VA (the former licensed to nearby Newport News); WGLI Babylon, Long Island, NY (one of the first rock ‘n’ roll stations not only ever, but also in suburban New York City in general (if not THE first suburban-NYC station of its kind); WYNG Goldsboro, NC (was it also Top 40 under its previous callsign WGOL, I wonder?); WKIX Raleigh, NC.

    • David – Amen to WKIX 850 AM/96.1 FM – The Giant of the South with a healthy share of PAMS jingles! Talent like Ken Lowe (Steve Roddy), Rick Dees, Pat Patterson, Mike Reineri, Gary Edens, Tommy Walker, Eddie Weiss (Charlie Brown) with Jimmy Capps and “Our Best To You” in the late night hours – and a terrific news team – Joe Goodpasture, John Tesh, Doug Limerick, Bill Leslie, Mike Blackman. From the early 60’s to the mid 70’s, WKIX was a powerhouse. Owned by Hugh Holder, then Henderson Belk, Southern Broadcasting and Mann Media.

    • Do you mean KFRC and *KYA* San Francisco? KSFO was MOR, not Top 40. Or maybe KSFO went all-soft rock later on in its years as a music station? If it did, then Adult Contemporary was the closest KSFO ever came to being a Top 40 station.

      • Doug Limerick, you might remember, was later a news reader for the ABC Information Network. And John Tesh…well, we all know what became of him.

  65. Holy shit! I made two of them. Who knew?

    I’d like to thank Randy. Lee and… my mom.

    I cannot think of two greater, more knowledgeable guys one could ask to create this list (those who are gnashing their teeth and should have been included… damn, dudes). The editorial staff at “Radio Ink” came up with a great story and executed it well. (OBW, I was there too!).

  66. Had the joy of being an RKO national sales rep for several of these outstanding radio stations: KHJ, KFRC, CKLW. WRKO, KLIF, KCBQ. Even got to bring Les Garland a 6 pack of Pearl Beer in my suitcase. Didn’t lose a single bottle in flight from DFW to SF. Great fun and memories.

  67. I listened to CKLW from the early 60’s to the mid-70’s and it is a shame that more people could not have experienced the glory of an astounding presentation radio. Even though they had such a large audience with the 50,000watt tower. The number one selection by the fan picks proves that the entire country would have benefited.

    • CKLW in late 60s and early 70s was like listening to a non-stop party. I was in college at the time and walking down the hall of the dorm all you heard was the Big 8 in Bowling Green, Ohio

      • I went to a birthday party in my city not long ago. During the party, the dj there played the Doobie Bros ‘Listen to the Music’. While it was playing, some lady went up to the dj, grabbed his microphone, and sang the CKLW top of the hour ID jingle! I couldnt stop laughing! The Big 8 will NEVER be forgotten! Dennis Williams, Toledo,Oh

    • Storz didn’t own KOIL. As noted by one of the experts, it was KOWH. He had 60 shares with a 500- watt daytimer. Only then did KOIL take notice and knocked off the daytimer with the larger 5kw day/night signal. KOWH went off to other call letters and other formats. Old timers in Omaha still remember KOWH.

  68. My brother Lacy Neff loved what he did and was very very proud of his station and co workers. Thank you for still give g praise to him.

    • Marlene I am so sad to hear that Lacy is no longer with us. I sent him an audition tape about 20 years ago. got a reply that he would love to have hired me but he needed someone who lived locally and could fill in on short notice. I completely understood but I was so happy to have heard back from him and that he liked my work. he was a great talent and a class act! I hope he and his legacy will never be forgotten…

  69. You can thank Rose Trombly for a great deal of CKLW’s success. As the song says tear open my shirt to show Rosie on my chest.

  70. Your leaving KJR Seattle out of the top 20 is typical of how poor that list is. Great stations produced great stars and huge ratings. KJR gave the industry Larry Lujack, Kevin Metheny. Mike Phillps, Jerry Kay, Lan Roberts, and many more, plus grabbing as much as 35% of all radio listening in the nations 13th largest market. It held the number one position from 1960 until 1977. Lets see here, who did WAYS Charlotte create that we remember? What about Kimn in Denver? KISN in Portland? KILT in Houston? and many others that would have put stations on Lee Abrahm’s “Those that I liked” list too shame. Radio INK. reconsider your sources. Your input sucks!

    • Amen! I can’t believe the PNW was left off of everybody’s “list”. Seattle and Portland had great radio in the Top-40 days. Even Hot AC, or Uptempo MOR stations like KING and KGW were top notch.

      • @Phil Dirt
        (“Amen! I can’t believe the PNW was left off of everybody’s “list”. Seattle and Portland had great radio in the Top-40 days. Even Hot AC, or Uptempo MOR stations like KING and KGW were top notch.”)

        THERE!!! you go, Phil; *THAT’S!!!!!* what I’m talking about! In fact, the list also left off the early Adult Contemporary stations, period! (In other words, Uptempo MOR, Pop Adult, Rock MOR or whatever (at least soft rock hits-oriented) Adult Contemporary radio was called during most of the ’70’s.) Additional examples: (New York:) WNBC (later Top 40, back to AC even later), WPIX, WYNY (first as AOR-oriented AC, then as hybrid MOR/Soft AC, then as Mainstream AC), WNSR Soft Rock 105/WMXV Mix 105; Today’s 93.1 (simulcast of former BM/EZ’s WPAT-AM/FM “Easy 93” Paterson, NJ); (Philadelphia: ) WIP (which had made a gradual transition from traditional MOR to AC from circa 1969 to the mid-70s if not the latter part of the early 70s [and, ironically, was itself Top 40 from 1960 until the following year, when it flipped to MOR (all MOR radio then was traditional, regardless of whether such stations occasionally played softer rock ‘n’ roll hits);

        • (CONTINUED)
          WMGK “Magic 103” (soft rock-oriented AOR until modifying to hits-oriented soft rock in the early 80s); WSNI “Sunny 104″/”104 and-a-half”/”Sunny 104.5” (first hybrid AC- /MOR-based easy listening, then all-soft rock hits), Kiss 100 (WKSZ Media, PA) WSSJ Camden, NJ; WJBR Wilmington, DE; and even WIBG and WFIL (1975-77 (before briefly going Top 40 for the last time) and 1977-81, respectively). Plus, (Boston: ) WBZ (AM & FM [separate broadcasts]), WHDH, WROR (to name just three in Boston); (Pittsburgh: ) KDKA, (oldies/AC hybrid) WTAE; (Chicago: ) WFYR, WIND (two jocks who worked at the latter during its AC era: Clark Weber (who not only previously did Top 40 at WLS and WCFL, and contemporary MOR and later Uptempo (read: all-soft rock hits) MOR at WMAQ, but also remained at WIND during its first all-talk format), and Connie Szerszen (pronounced SIR-zin)–aka the “Top Rock Girly Jock” and the “Polish Princess”); (Charlotte: ) WBT; (Louisville: ) WHAS;

          • (Los Angeles: ) KNX-FM, KOST (still going strong as an AC station), KFI (which, IINM, was AC twice–in the mid-Seventies [when the AC format was known as Pop Adult, Soft Rock, Uptempo MOR, etc.] and from the mid-Eighties until it went all-talk in ’88); (Nashville: ) WSM (Not only was it MOR during the day and country at night (before going all-country in ’79), but in ’73 or ’74, it changed its MOR daytime format from either standards or standards-slash-soft rock (traditional MOR) to all soft rock hits (contemporary MOR nka Adult Contemporary)), WSM-FM “SM95” (I don’t know if WSIX switched/modified its MOR format completely to AC/lite rock, but you just read at least two of Nashville’s AC stations of the past. By the way, if you asked me to list The Greatest *ADULT CONTEMPORARY* Stations of All Time (or did Radio Ink already put out such a list?), I personally would ALL of the early or present AC stations mentioned above.

          • And as I’m originally from northern New Jersey (and currently living in the central New Jersey ‘burbs of New York City, here are some previous or current Top 40 and AC stations in the New York City suburbs, PERIOD!

            (Top 40)
            WBLI Patchogue, LI (Long Island), NY
            WGLI Babylon, LI, NY
            WJLK-FM Asbury Park, NJ (now Hot AC 94-3 The Point)
            WDHA Dover, NJ (since reformatted to (Album-Oriented) Rock
            WHLW/WOBM-AM Lakewood, NJ

            (Adult Contemporary)
            WERA Plainfield, NJ (went dark in 1997 due to WWRL New York’s then-impending wattage boost)
            WCTC New Brunswick, NJ (went talk in ’91, w/AC on Sunday overnights only, literally all-talk in ’92, (syndicated) oldies in 2008 and reverted to talk in 2011)
            WMGQ “Magic 98.3” New Brunswick, NJ (WCTC’s sister station)
            WICC Bridgeport, CT
            WEBE “WEBE (pronounced “WEE-bee”) 108″ Westport, CT (WICC’s sister station)
            WBEB Philadelphia (What did it change its nickname from B101.1 again?)
            WFAS White Plains, NY (gold-based AC)
            WFAS-FM Bronxville, NY (renamed WNBM “Boom 103.9” and reformatted to Urban AC in the early 2010s)
            WKMB Stirling, NJ (reformatted to country in ’79; to black gospel/[mostly] African-American-oriented Christian talk/preaching/teaching out of Plainfield but still licensed to Stirling] in 2003; went dark in 2017)
            WJLK-FM Asbury Park, NJ (before reformatting to Top 40 and then to Hot AC)
            WRAN Dover, NJ
            WGBB Freeport, LI, NY

            And this is only a partial listing. As are the respective lists of Top 40 *AND* Adult Contemporary stations that I listed above.

          • Oh-two soft rock stations I meant to name-check (I list those among the greatest AC stations of all time, as well): WSB and WSB-FM Atlanta (WSB’s full-service format had, musically, reformatted to Adult Contemporary by circa early 1980s).

          • “WSB (read: WSB-AM)’s full-service format had, musically, reformatted to Adult Contemporary by circa early 1980’s,” that is.

          • Oh, yeah-the aforementioned WMAQ Chicago (during its AC format from circa 1972 to 1975); and KMPC Los Angeles (which like WIP in Philly, transitioned gradually from MOR to soft rock from well into the early ’70’s to about 1976. KMPC retained its AC format from circa 1976 through the rest of the decade. And in Buffalo, the list of the greatest Adult Contemporary rockers of all time would have to include not only the aforementioned WGR, but also WBEN and-particularly circa mid-to-late ’80’s-are you ready for this?-WKBW,

          • And did I list Philly’s B101 in my list of suburban-NEW YORK CITY AC’s? That station is on my list of the greatest Adult Contemporary stations of all time as it is. And as for the aforementioned KFI Los Angeles, that also belongs on the list of the greatest Top 40 stations of all time, as it was a Top 40 station from the mid- or late ’70’s to about the mid-’80s.

          • Oh–as far as Adult Contemporary stations of the past–and the greatest such stations of all time–are concerned, I’d be remiss if I omitted KMPC Los Angeles. From well into the early ’70’s through the mid-’70’s, it underwent an MOR-to-soft rock transition not unlike what WIP Philadelphia underwent a half-decade earlier-and-change, tops. KMPC remained Adult Contemporary (the soft-rock radio format’s name by then) until about the turn of the following decade.

        • (Re my comment on 5/22/2018 @4:03 PM:)
          As does WICC Bridgeport, CT belong on not only my list of the greatest Top 40 stations in the New York suburbs, but also one of THE greatest Top 40 stations, PERIOD.
          (Re my comment posted same date @3:29p:)
          The last sentence should have read, “And in Buffalo, the list of the greatest Adult Contemporary rockers of all time would have to include not only WGR, but also WBEN and–particularly circa mid-to-late ’80’s–are you ready for this?–WKBW.”

    • I listen to the Crusin’ 1966 album almost religiously. Favorite part is the commercial for the Barracuda (or Baccaruda as the Plymouth man said).

      • Randy, if you ask *me*, you can name every single radio station that ever was or has been Top 40 and the list would *still* be too short.

    • WHAT the damn FUCK??? My God!, you namechecked KJR AND DIDN’T THE HELL EVEN MENTION *PAT O’DAY*?? You might as well leave Larry Lujack out of your list of WLS jocks, yo!

      • @Pat O’Day:
        Oh!, SHIT! YOU ARE!!! PAT O’DAY! SON! of a damn BITCH!! ***HELL***!!!, *yeah*!!, your damn input sucks, Radio Ink! (Jesus!, to leave out some of the Top 40 stations in any major city and yet mention WABC, WLS, CKLW or even Z-100, your input has gotta the hell motherfuckin’ suck SHIT!)

        @Phil Dirt
        I agree. That list should’ve included AT LEAST *ONE* station in the Pacific Northwest-especially KJR!

    • WHAT THE DAMN FUCK? OH!, my GOD, Pat! Didn’t your ass spin the Top 40 tunes on KJR? MY GOD!, ANYdamnbody who the hell KNOWS A GODDAMN FUCKIN’ *THING* about Sixties and Seventies rock ‘n’ roll radio KNOWS that KJR was one of the ALL-TIME GREATS in Top 40 radio AND IN RADIO, PERIOD!!!!! Jesus, that station was the damn WABC, WTIX, CKLW, WLS, WINS, WMCA, KHJ, KRLA, KLIF, WQXI, etc. of THE PACIFIC MOTHERFUCKIN’ NORTHWEST!!! Pat’s right, Radio Ink, your damn input DOES!! suck! Back to you, Pat O’Day: KIMN Denver?!? KISN Portland?!? (Shit, KJR was the KISN of *Washington State* **AS IT WAS**!) KILT Houston? PLEASE! WHAT ABOUT WPGC Morningside, MD/Washington, DC!?! OR KQV and KDKA in Pittsburgh? Or WTAE Pittsburgh-ONE OF THE PIONEER AC’S! WHAT ABOUT WSGN BIRMINGHAM, AL!!!!, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! DAMN!!!!! >: >:0

  71. In the mid 7Os WLS was the greatest top 40 radio station of all time. The personality line up was one heavy hitter after another. Including two that are in The National Radio Hall Of Fame. It was a PERSONALITY driven format. With all do respect KHJ, KFRC, CKLW. WRKO were all slices from the Bill Drake pie. There was no mold for WLS.

    • IMNSHO I felt WLS hit their pinnacle right about 1981-2 when they segued to a ‘Rock-40’ format. It was a GREAT station to DX back then. Unfortunately from what I understand, you were not part of the team at the time IIRC. FTR I remember seeing this back when I was in the 8th grade on a movie reel.

    • Absolutely correct.

      But let’s be honest, there were TONS of great Top 40 stations and narrowing it down to 10 or 20- or 40- is nearly impossible because of what appeals to the one making the choices. For me, WLS’s personality driven approach was magic. For others, the hyper-high energy and tight production of talents like JoJo Kincaid was the Holy Grail.

      Side note- thanks to Randy Michaels for seeing what I saw- that great radio isn’t necessarily only in great cities.

      • I agree: there were SCORES! of great Top 40 stations. And for the very reason you named–the stations that personally floated the proverbial boat of the person making the choices–narrowing them down to any given number at least falls short of impossible. (Any wonder why omissions of such stations have prompted responses–mine included–saying that the poster forgot such and such Top 40 station?)

    • How about a shout out for KSTN-AM in Stockton, CA. A tue rocker in it’s days. Another station that is still around but with new ownership I believe. Like a lot AM stations.

  72. This list is bull–it. KY-102, KC . Really. WHB710. The station which invented Top Forty. Sorry no credibility.

    • Storz owned WHB but invented the format at KOWH. Only later was the format extended to WHB and the other Storz stations in larger markets. I’d say ask Dick Fatherley but he’s gone now. You might turn up some of his historical pieces online.

      • Dick Fatherly was my first source for the story that WTIX, then on 1450, was the first station to use the phrase “Top-40”. I’ve had this confirmed by others since. Dick worked weekends at WDAF Kansas City when I was Ops Manager there in 1977. His stories were fascinating especially told in that booming authoritative voice. KOWH was the original Storz station in Omaha, where Todd’s dad brewed “Storz Beer”, and KOWH was the first to focus on a tight list of the most popular songs, but KOWH leaned towards MOR and didn’t really target a young audience. According to Dick, the phrase “Top 40” was coined in New Orleans.

        • I worked in Trenton, MO in ’78 and thought that WDAF 61 Country was great Top 40 radio and how good country radio could be programmed.

        • All Top 40 radio leaned towards MOR in the early Fifties. There were no general-market oriented rock ‘n’ roll stations in the early and probably even well into the mid-Fifties. As the name implied–and implies–Top 40 played, then as now, the most popular songs (read: hit recordings). Rock ‘n’ roll became so popular to the point of almost dominating the research charts that Top 40 became practically a rock ‘n’ roll format from that point on.

    • KY102 was AOR not Top-40. WHB was an early top 40 station but “The World’s Happiest Broadcasters” were not the first. Todd Storz introduced a tight pop music format on KOWH in 1953. Later that year he bought WTIX and it was there that the phrase “Top 40” was first introduced. WHB was added in 1954. WDGY and WQAM were purchased in 1956, KOMA in 1958 and KXOK in 1960.

  73. WRKO-FM/98.5 (“R-KO, The Shy But Friendly Robot”) should get some honorable mention. It pre-dated WRKO (“Now 6-8-0”) on October 12th, 1966. It put rock and roll on the FM map in Boston and eventually made WRKO/680 the legendary Top 40 rocker in Boston beginning in March of ’67.

      • WMEX started in late 50’s. Mac Richmond brought Arnie Ginsburg to 1510 from WBOS-AM. At night despite having a terrible signal at night(WMEX could be heard across at the pond but couldn’t be heard in parts of Boston). Ginsburg was topping everybody at night in the Boston Metro with shares of high 30’s to mid 40’s. WMEX went on the auction block on this past December 15, 2017.

  74. Seeing Lee’s List recognizing Big WAYS as a Top 20 Station and Randy Michaels actually listing 15Q, WAYS, and the Funky Monkey– WAPE, gave me some warm fuzzies…
    None of the 15Q guys Michaels mentions, were there when the station signed-on… Dr. Steve (Bridgewater) West am drive, Ron Baptist midday, Shot Bob Kelly pm drive, Bro Mick Rizzo 6-10, Kid Curry did 10-2a…
    Baptist hired me and as soon as they realized they were over budget– they told him to let me go… I was ‘boned’ since I’d just got into an apartment, furniture, utilities… He waited til Sat Nite to drop it on me…
    Alan Sneed & Gary Adkins had my back– Monday morning they got me to Vic Rumore “Jim Bob”, who was GM at KGN and their consultant, ‘Mr.Green’– Kent Burkhart… I was on the air Monday Nite… I stayed there until Big WAYS came a calling… which is another story for another time…

  75. Jerry Clifton blazed a huge trail when he turned WXLO FM into 99x. He outgunned WABC within a year and made history for bringing FM into the 20th century.

  76. How could this survey overlook two important Philadelphia stations: WIBG- an early giant from the late 50’s thru mid 60’s at a time when the local American Bandstand set the tone of the nation. WIBBAGE had personalities, good on-air production and a remarkable audience share; WFIL came along in 1965 and had the best example of tight production and format anywhere. Two very prominent stations in the TOP 40 history book!

  77. Randy’s list is more insightful, but both of them left out WFIL, which some felt at the time was the best Top 40 station in the U.S. (around 1968-1970). Also, I can’t believe that Lee left off WMCA and WTIX, two of the greatest Top 40 stations ever. Lee felt WABC was the greatest Top 40 station, but I think they were way out-programmed by WMCA. WMCA killed WABC in the ratings from 1963-1965.

    • I had WFIL at #15. WTIX was a great station, but I felt WQAM was a better example of Storz. If I could go to 30, TIX and MCA WOUKD certainly be in the mix. Thanks

      • Ah, but Randy included the great WAPE!! Ya just can’t ignore a station that spawned Jay Thomas, The Greaseman, and Hoyle Dempsey, as well as having a swimming pool where you could dive in OUTSIDE and surface INSIDE in the lobby! Lol! Ps. Hope you’re doing well, Lee!

      • WMCA outgunned WABC and WINS – both with terrific signals. They did the impossible and stayed there for years, despite the signal handicap. WABC won where they could – no WMCA competition. That’s a fact. No dispute. That’s the real story – so if WABC was great, WMCA was much more.

        • What’s easy to forget (especially if all the history happened before one’s time) is that top 40 stations had strong loyalties akin to ball teams. WABC was the Yankees of the group. WMCA was more like the Dodgers: deeply loved inside the boroughs. (I still haven’t forgiven the Dodgers for leaving.) As for signals, WINS was 50kw,but with short towers and a headlight-narrow beam across the city. It was nowhere upstate or on the Jersey Shore. WMCA, with its broader signal pattern and low dial position, covered the Monmouth and northern Ocean County beaches quite well, despite being only 5kw. WMGM had a better signal (broader pattern, full-size half-wave towers with 50kw) than either WMCA or WINS, and a good sound too, but I guess Storer didn’t feel like competing when they bought the station and turned it back to WHN in ’61. Still, WMGM had its legends, most notably Peter Tripp. So, a small hat tip to WMGM as well.

          • And even without WABC’s reach vs. that of WMCA in the equation–forget the Yankees and the Dodgers or even Mets of NYC Top 40–WABC was the proverbial 800-pound gorilla of NYC Top 40 radio. In fact, owing to its location in New York City, it was the proverbial 800-lb gorilla of Top 40, period.

            Also, WMGM went MOR/EZ and reverted back to WHN in ’62, not ’61.

            A little known fact is WADO (now a Spanish station) had a split-daypart format of Top 40, R&B, jazz and Italian from ’59 through the early ’60s, with Spanish being added in ’61 or ’62.

          • And, ironically, WINS might have carried the Yankees at one point in its history as a Top 40 rock ‘n’ roll station, but WMGM definitely did so. And let’s not forget that WABC was the first flagship of the Mets–during its third and fourth years as Top 40. And during its last two years as a music station (continuing as a talk station almost a month-and-a-half into the latter of the two years), WABC was the Yankees’ flagship station. WWDJ Hackensack, NJ carried Mets games during its first year or two as Top 40 (continuing its contract with the Mets that dated back to when it was country station WJRZ).

          • With WEAF/WNBC, WABC/WCBS, WJZ/WABC and WOR all having network shows and WNEW having success with DJs, the baseball teams were stuck with the three remaining stations when they started broadcasting baseball in 1939–the Dodgers on WHN/WMGM, the Yankees on WINS and the Giants on WMCA. For the same reason, these stations became the first rock stations in NYC. When the Dodgers and Giants fled, the Yankees moved to WMGM. When that station had to be sold or loose its license and it went to beautiful music WHN, the Yankees went to a non-rock station–WCBS. The Mets started out on WABC during its first 2 years until Rick Sklar kicked them off. As I recall, the only other time baseball was on a rock station was in 1969 when WABC-FM supplemented WJRZ in broadcasting the Mets, and on the very end of that WJRZ contract when the station transitioned from country to become top-40 WWDJ.

          • I have to add to my list of rock stations in NYC carrying baseball. WABC carried the Yankees during its final years, and I vaguely remember WMCA caring one of the teams in its final rock/talk years.

      • And I agree that WQAM was a better example of the Storz sound. You could say the same about WHB and KXOK. I listed WTIX because they were the very first “Top 40”. How could you leave that out?

  78. I remember in the late 50’s and rarly 60’s living in northern Illinois, we always tried to tune in to WBZ Boston that broadcast just a little higher on the dial than WLS in Chicago! They had a very strong signal at night and played all the latest hits!!

  79. Nobody, and I mean nobody, listened to KLIF in Fort Worth. Dallas was a separate media market back then and rightly so, as the enmity between the two cities was at its peak when Gordon McLendon was working his magic at KLIF.

    KFJZ 1270 was Fort Worth’s Top 40 station, headlined by Marky Baby, later known as Mark Stevens of the Stevens & Pruitt morning show on KFJZ-FM (“Z-97”) which morphed into The Eagle (KEGL) on the same frequency. It deserves mention here.

    • Also, Randy Brown, who commented just before me, is right. KNUS was a big deal when FM became commercially viable.

    • The original KLIF night signal was only 1kw. They got 60 shares in Dallas with that signal. From a site south of Dallas they beamed north. The later 5kw night site used 12 towers to put a lobe over Dallas that also covered the mid cities and just reached Ft Worth. Coverage to the north was lost, and unfortunately, Dallas grew to the north. McClendon may have guessed wrong. On the other had he sold the station for a then record price. One KLIF engineer told me the new night signal was “so tight it went down Commerce Ave without touching either curb”! Agree that KFJZ was the station in Ft Worth.

  80. Look, I am a total Drake disciple (and in my early years, I had the privilege of working for Gordon McLendon…twice). I completely agree with KHJ being #1 on the list. My list would probably put KFRC #2, KCBQ #3 and CKLW #4. (That’s three Drake stations in the top 4.) I’ll give you Z-100 in New York (a bit later era, but still deserving). KIIS belongs on the list, no question. And I won’t pretend to be as up on some of the other legendary calls as many of my radio brethren. But any list that completely overlooks the Todd Storz stations, including WHB/Kansas City, KXOK/St. Louis, WTIX/New Orleans and WQAM/Miami (or at least one of them) can’t be taken seriously. Before there was Drake, there was Storz and McLendon. Also, while I suppose KLIF/Dallas has to be on the list, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we dusted their asses when I was at KNUS/Dallas (the station Fairchild foolishly didn’t want to buy when they purchased KLIF from McLendon, but passed on his FM station). I’d say most folks who heard KNUS during its brief glory years would tell you it belongs on the list. Certainly those of us who worked there would say so. Just consider the staff: Ken Dowe (& Granny Emma), mornings; Michael Spears (PD), middays; Beau Weaver, middays; Kevin McCarthy, afternoon drive; Tommy Kramer, nights; Christopher Haze (that would be me), late nights; Jim White and Nick Alexander, overnights. Every single one of us is in the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, every single one has gone on to stellar careers in our chosen branch of the business, most of us still going strong. Yeah, I’m biased, but KNUS belongs on the list.

  81. Wow, I’m as proud today as I was back in the day when I enjoyed the honor of programming two of each of your picks! Of course, I’m referring to CKLW and KFRC. I LOVED the 6-years+ I spent at the helm of those prestigious monster radio stations. Kudos to the very talented people at those stations who contributed to creating the well deserved legendary status that still exists. Thank you, Lee and Thank you, Randy. “And now ladies and gentlemen, MORE music and LES garland” 🙂

    Warmest personal regards,
    Les Garland

  82. CKLW went Drake and WXYZ and WKNR went away.50,000 watts put the Big 8 into Cleveland,Toledo and eastern PA.I remember CKLW giving the weather for Toledo and Cleveland. Then the Canadian govt. put their content rules into the playlist.Too much Ann Murray and other Canadian artist.

  83. Glad to see the two stations I grew up with listed here. KLIF with Ron Chapman, Hal Martin (Michael Spears, who gave me my first job at 14), Michael O’Shea (who gave me my first tour of a radio station), Jimmy Rabbit, Dave Van Dyke (who kicked me out of the building when I sneaked up the fire escape), Paxton Mills, Jim Taber and Rod Roddy (I was his call screener when Gordon gave him an evening talk show). Frank Jolly did afternoons on KBOX and was great and a little crazy. But let’s not forget KXOL/Ft. Worth where Paxton Mills started and George Carlin got his start (

    I think it says something that I remember all those *personalities*. Not just morning drivers, but the whole day.

  84. What I love best about this story is how it gives the reader a little glimpse into how Randy thinks. I was lucky to work with Randy for a long time (and regret that I didn’t take better advantage of that connection as a petulant 20-something.). Write a book Randy.

  85. I had the pleasure of listening to 4 of these stations back in the day…

    CKLW from 67 through 74/75 before that WING Dayton in the Mid to Late 60s, WFIL in my early Air Force Days before shipping off to Vietnam, while stationed at Dover AFB in 68/69, and on occasion WLS with and without Lujack[WCFL as well} back in the mid 70s…

    Great Stuff and why I got into radio for a few years full time and a couple of decades, part~time.

  86. great memories from back in the day when radio was great. Now its boring as hell. Thank you I Heart, for ruining the industry. You will get your reward soon- in bankruptcy court!

  87. My thanks to Randy and Lee as this would have been a difficult task, since there were so many stations back in the day. It was fun reading about these different stations and what made them excel, and I wish we still had many of them. To me, radio was riveting in the 60’s and 70’s, and it fascinated me enough to get in to it, which I enjoyed for over 40 years. But now,looking back, it was a different era, and AM rode the wave while it was there. I am glad Dr. Don Rose got a mention at KFRC as I know he was huge out there in CA. and I was glad to see CKLW made #1 on the readers poll, also mentioning engineer Ed Butterbaughs work on their signal was unbelievable, CKLW actually DID jump out of radios, like I’ve never heard since. Again, I enjoyed reading about all the other great stations across the country as well. THANK YOU for the whole thing! Fun.

    • I would agree with how great WRKO was.
      Another memory WMEX had the jocks names locked in… like Fenway in the morning, Dan Donovan, Melvin X Melvin and so on…

      • WMEX had what they called “House” names. “MEX had Dan Donovan and “Fenway”. For a number of years “Fenway” was the morning man. Station was located at 70 Brookline Avenue. Fenway Park was in back of 70 Brookline Avenue. Hence the morning man”s name “FENWAY”. They were called the WMEX “Good Guys”. The best 1-2 punch: Fenway 6-10 am and Ginsburg 8-10 pm M-S.

        • And Blaine Harvey went on to Minneapolis and later Philadelphia broadcasting as Dan Donovan. (AND TO THINK THAT AT HIS PREVIOUS RADIO EMPLOYER IN BOSTON–WMEX–THAT WAS ONE OF THAT STATION’S–AS YOU SAID, PAUL–“HOUSE NAMES”!

  88. I am surprised that WXLK K-92 didn’t make the cut… small market but Russ Brown and company had a major market sound that dominated the airways in 1980 and Beyond

      • A Top-40 jock named Eddie Haskell?!? TALK! about IRONY!!, KTNQ Los Angeles (a Top 40 station during the late ’70’s (that station itself deserves mention as one of the all-time Top 40 greats, by the way) had a jock named–no kidding–BEAVER CLEAVER!!


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