By Ashley Woodson, For New Pittsburgh Courier
Brotha Ash Productions
On Sept. 8, WAMO 106.7FM and AM 860 faded to black without any notice to the radio listening audience. Around 6 p.m. DJ Boogie, the program director and on-air deejay for WAMO 106.7FM, played “It’s so hard to say goodbye” by R&B group Boyz II Men. At 6:10 p.m. the radio station that began 61 years ago, was nothing but static. The community is outraged and no one has stepped up to the plate to bring in another urban radio so far.
There is hope for us who go online or will buy satellite radio, but for the rest of the community, it is over.
“Now that WAMO officially signed off the air for the last time, I am still saddened that the only Black radio station in Pittsburgh was unable to be saved from obscurity. I know that I will soon feel a great disconnect to my culture and the topics that impact me as an African-American female in the Pittsburgh area,” said Angela D. Stribling
Some of WAMO’s staff had a lot to say about the radio station and its impact on the community through the years.
“WAMO was a great place to work and the listeners hands down were the best,” said Quincy McConnell, former deejay of WAMO known as GQ, said. “You have some people that are happy they have shut down, and then you have some that aren’t feeling it at all. The most important thing for people to understand is radio always has been and always will be a business and just like any other business if you aren’t seeing a profit or growth in your business you can either lose money or sell and make money. I’m saddened by the closing of WAMO but I completely understand. WAMO gave me the opportunity to see and do things I may not have ever done and I’m grateful for that.
“Folks will almost be forced to scramble for satellite radio, or get up on the newest mix CD. At the rate things are going now, our market will be burned down and out by the end of the year, unless another network steps in and sets up shop with another radio station.”
Blakk Steel, a former deejay at WAMO, told what was going on behind the scenes.
“WAMO’s demise was a slow process in the making. If you take the programming, Pittsburgh radio where WAMO was involved, hasn’t been ‘Pittsburgh radio’ for years. There were no songs on-air that were unique to listening to radio in Pittsburgh. Instead, the playlist consisted of the songs forced into rotation in the top five markets in the country. Even though this has become the way of commercial radio across the board, every market, including ours, played songs that were indicative of their market.”
WAMO has long-since stopped “breaking” records, he said. They just “maintained” what was already going on in the rest of the country. So, songs new to WAMO listeners were already old in other markets, even though jocks got them the same time as everyone else, he said. Behind the scenes, there was plenty of cliques, jealousy, envy, greed, selfishness, nepotism and on certain levels, ignorance and incompetence, he said. They survived that longer than anyone in the know would’ve given them credit for. The biggest impact of WAMO’s absence was felt immediately, when the switch was thrown. For as many people that complained about the music and the too few songs being played, all can respect the fact that WAMO was good for getting information out for what was going on in the Black community, he said.
“It was the only thing that we had. Now our communities have become more divided than ever, due to the lack of knowing what’s going on in the city,” said Steel. Even though the community was aware of the sale, most people assumed they would be notified when it was officially going off the air, but that was not the case. This year has been a year of major losses in our community and people are wondering what’s next?
Arlinda Moriarty of Moriarty Consultants has been a WAMO listener for years and is thankful for the station and what it brought to the community.
“Thanks WAMO for showing me we can dare to dream beyond what we know that surrounds us. We should take what you have shown us and start anew. It is not the end of an era. It is time for a new generation of broadcasts and I welcome change and embrace challenge,” said Moriarty.
“I question if sustainable efforts were ever truly explored to resuscitate this now extinct local icon,” said Grace Dixon-Kizzie. “As a life-long listener, I grooved (Yes, I said grooved) to Brother Matt, jammed to the (annual) end-of-the-year music countdown and proudly accepted frequent invitations from Anji Corley and Allegra Battle to be their on-air guest professional. The reality is that this chapter of Pittsburgh’s history has come to a dramatic end and has left a major void in Pittsburgh, replacing the rhythmical sounds of K’Jon, Ginuwine, and so many others, with radio static waves. Whatever happened to “Change for the better?”
“First off, I would like to send my condolences to the Harvey Adams family. Pittsburgh has not only lost one, but two urban leaders, the other being WAMO,” said Ryann Joiner, known as Baby Geese. “WAMO not only played music but also helped the urban community. WAMO has helped me meet many people that I would have otherwise never met if it wasn’t for them. It saddens me that the younger generation will not be able to listen to WAMO as I did when I was younger.”
Other WAMO staff that worked behind the scenes are grateful for the time they had at the station.
Maria Davis, a receptionist, is one of the grateful ones because she had the opportunity to work for a radio station. It was a dream of hers to be there.
Ty Miller, sports director for American Urban Radio Network, said it’s sad that a major city doesn’t have an African-American radio station.
“It’s going to be missed because it’s been here since I’ve been here over the past 22 years. I feel bad for the people waking up in the morning expecting to hear WAMO whether they like the music or not or whether they like the personalities or not. I think that someone will step up to the plate and bring another urban radio station here. There’s a void here and it may not be overnight but I believe something will happen in less than a year,” Miller said.
Brian Cook, national news and sports journalist of American Urban Radio Network said, “Sixty-one years of history is gone. Hopefully in the future we will see a radio station come into the city or a major network bring an affiliate here or maybe we might see one of the stations that already exists here flip to an urban format. You never know what will happen. This business is crazy right now so anything is possible.”
Leisha Logan, former marketing and promotions director for Sheridan Broadcasting, said it was sad. She said that a lot of people in the area were not pleased with some of the things WAMO did, but she said it did provide a service for the community and that voice will be gone.
“I think sometimes we don’t realize the impact of something until it’s not there any longer,” Logan said.
Some people in the community felt WAMO was gone before the sale on May 15.
“I think WAMO was gone a long time ago,” Chill Montgomery said. “They never projected the opinions and views of the Black youth. There was no more promotion of community events. I feel that what they were pushing was more bad than good. Look at the poison they were feeding our children. If you’re speaking in the aspect of us losing a Black radio station, you have to look at the whole picture. We lost WAMO years ago. A great example is when BET sold out to Viacom. Now you see nothing but thong videos.”