After a few weeks of listening to what some referred to as a “Top 40 playlist,” listeners tuned into the new WAMO100 June 6 for the radio station’s official launch. Those who hadn’t already prematurely given up on the station were disappointed to hear the station hadn’t changed much musically from its initial start in May.
|WAMO LEADERS—From left: Laura Varner Norman; Tim Martz, owner Martz Communications; Orlana Darkins Drewery, director of marketing and events; and Tim Steele. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
“I thought the idea was to bring back legitimate hip-hop and R&B back to Pittsburgh. Oh yeah I forgot, this is Pittsburgh. Hip-hop means nothing here cause all you big money suits give your ‘listeners’ what they want,” said Billy Thomas. “The real WAMO 106.7 was the reason I fell in love with hip-hop music, the DJs were colorful and brought a different delivery to radio. They too played everything hip-hop from old school, new school, something for everybody.”
The new WAMO100 is owned by San Francisco based Martz Communications Group. At a press conference on June 3, station representatives announced the station would officially launch on June 6 as “Pittsburgh’s Home for Hip-Hop and R&B.”
“It’s going to be an urban hit music radio station. We’re going to be heavily involved in the community. We want to be a local radio station,” said Drew Scott, corporate program director, in an interview with the New Pittsburgh Courier. “We’re fully staffed. We did a nationwide search for the best talent.”
Heading WAMO’s team will be Laura Varner Norman, the station’s general manager and former general sales manager for Sheridan Broadcasting, the original WAMO 106.7’s owner. Serving as program director will be Tim Steele, former program director of urban AC WBBK Magic 93.3 in Dothan, Ala., who will be anchoring weekday mornings.
“There was a format hole in the market when WAMO left; nobody filled the void,” Scott said. “WAMO was such a powerful brand it made sense to bring it back. It’s a heritage radio station.”
MCG purchased the station last year from the Langer Broadcasting Group in Framingham, Mass., for $290,000 and has since purchased the WAMO call letters. Other DJs will include Mia at midday, Mike Jax in the afternoon and Jay Stylz on nights.
“I like to call this WAMO 2.0. We’re bringing back the essence of WAMO, what it was 10 years ago. It was a powerhouse hit music radio station. It wasn’t until the last few years that it started to play different music,” Scott said. “Every radio station should listen to the audience.”
Scott’s words should be reassuring to many listeners who had lost interest in WAMO toward the end of its run due to the over saturation of Top 40 hip-hop music. However, while the station claims to be a better alternative then Pittsburgh Top 40 station KISS FM, many say the two stations sound the same.
“This radio station is not urban. Listen to your listeners, Big Suits. An executive is not a DJ,” said Eric Epps. “Bring back the Steve Harvey show, Sunday morning gospel, with jazz on Sunday afternoon. Bring back Sly Jock and Nick Nice. Bring back the Quiet Storm. Get in touch.”
There are some who are waiting to judge the radio station until it has been on the air for more than a month. Many of them say they are happy to have an urban radio station at all.
“You do realize that (June 6) was the first official day for the station and the other days they were just preparing the signal and physical station? They were just playing mix tapes from their other areas to fill in the gap. Based on that fact alone, I am not sure what I think of the station yet. Until I have a chance to hear it with live DJs and in its ‘real’ form, I will not have a view,” said Simone Arnold. “So, for everyone that said no gospel, not old school, etc., you may want to wait it out and see. Just my opinion.”
“We have to respect the ones who brought back WAMO. Give them credit for what they are doing for the Black Community,” said Regina Finney-Brown. “We are so easy to criticize and not one of you made this happen. Support them as we did KISS when we did not have them.”
Many listeners are hoping the station will bring back WAMO 106.7’s Sunday gospel programming. Scott said the station is working to provide a religious program on Sundays.
“I have to agree the ‘New WAMO’ is for who? It’s hard to listen to get it clear and it’s not R&B,” said Chanel Thornton. “Sunday gospel was the best getting dressed for church or if you missed it. You couldn’t tell if you was in Church or at home. Please give us what we ask for.”