pirate radio WCPR WFAT WHOT RFNY oldies top-40 rock and roll
So what was it that caused me to be such a willing participant in something like WHOT? Good question. The answer is complicated. I certainly didn't do it for any sort of "stick it to the man" reason - hell, I'm the farthest thing from a left-wing, neo-anarchist you are gonna find. I had no soapbox, no axe to grind. I'd become more and more aware of the restrictiveness and futility of the FCC's licensing policy, and while I deplored it, it wasn't what really drove me.
I guess it was my love of radio that brought me to it. During and after WHOT, I had many stints in "legit" radio, but nothing ever equaled the fun and freedom of The Hot One. I always felt that it really gave me the chance to do the thing I really wanted to do, and that was to truly entertain people. Time checks and playlists are all well and good, but I never felt that connection with the listeners that we had on WHOT anywhere else. Not even in college radio. So I guess the REAL question is, why wouldn't I do it?
It was mainly all these warm and fuzzy feelings that made me hate having to say goodbye to WHOT. It may have been six, seven months after WHOT's one-shot December farewell show that I first heard from Hank about the possibility of doing shows legally. We looked into buying time on WNYE (how convenient THAT would have been!), but the costs were simply ridiculous. It was then that we heard that 100,00-watt shortwave station WWCR in Nashville was leasing time at very reasonable rates. In fact, some of the old RNI crowd were already buying time from them, so we inquired about it.
We started scraping our nickels and dimes together and before you knew it, we were ready to debut a new venture - "Radio Free New York" to a worldwide shortwave audience! The show debuted October 27, 1990 and was covered by Manhattan Public Access show "Fusion Artists Presents". RFNY would air every Saturday night - with Hank, Jim and myself, plus Jay, Terry, Ivan and newcomers "Big" Steve Short, Will Power and John Parker. Even former WHOT listener "Al The Chemist" had a regular science segment!
Response to RFNY was immediate and eclectic. Feedback came in from across the spectrum...from old WFAT / WHOT listeners to shortwave DXers and soldiers stationed in Kuwait during the Gulf War. Never without a problem, we had to fight over the name "Radio Free New York" with a pair of goofballs that tried to rip it off...but what else was new. We received a ton of mail, positive feedback and reception reports, but the constant technical problems, minimal advertising and gradual increases in WWCR's rates made keeping the show on the air very difficult and after a little over a year, we pulled the plug.
Then in the Winter of 1995 into 1996, a bold, surprise move - WHOT-FM returned to the airwaves! Yet another new location and a new transmitter brought back Hank Hayes, Jim Nazium and Pete Sayek, but only for a few months with very sporadic shows. The FCC was still active in the New York City area, so it was eventually decided that putting WHOT back in mothballs was probably the safest thing to do.
1998 saw the return of Radio Free New York to the airwaves and the internet. Despite his well-documented "underground" excursions, former RNI architect Allan Weiner managed to start up WBCQ - a LEGAL shortwave station located in Maine. As we had done previously with WWCR, we pooled our resources and returned to the air on Saturday nights on WBCQ. In addition to the old crew, we had new additions like AJ Felder and Yukon Jack. The NEW Radio Free New York featured Live Music shows, remotes, specials on classic DJs, a Sports Talk show and tons of cool new stuff. The RFNY web site kept a show archive as well, so missed shows could be caught for later listening.
The new incarnation of Radio Free New York was another successful endeavor, and a lot of fun. But as had happened before, it was hard to stay financially afloat. Plus, our individual schedules made it hard to keep cranking shows out every Saturday night. After almost two years, RFNY once again went dark...but would it be temporary?
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