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WWJZ (640 AM, "Radio Disney AM 640") is a Radio Disney branded radio station serving the Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker, United States, market. The station is owned by The Walt Disney Company through its Disney-ABC Cable Networks division. WWJZ broadcasts with a power of 50,000 watts daytime (950 watts at night) with a 4-tower array and is licensed to Mount Holly, New Jerseymarker. The transmitter is located near the intersection of US-206 & Cr-530 in Pemberton Township, New Jerseymarker, and station offices in Fort Washington, Pennsylvaniamarker.

History

Prior to Radio Disney, WWJZ was owned by John Farina, the originator of the sound adopted by Al Ham's Music of your Life format. Farina's dream was to re-establish the signal he had on 1460 kHz in Mount Holly in the 1960s as WJJZ. With the help of his long time friend and engineer, Ted Schober, he got New Jersey its first 50 kilowatt AM radio station in many years and was able to put his beloved sound on the air again.

The sounds of Brook Benton, Tommy Dorsey, Margaret Whiting, Doris Day, Frankie Laine and many others covered the east coast from Cape Cod to Cape Hattaras from October 1992 into 1993, emanating from an ancient General Electric transmitter of the type used by the venerable WJZmarker in its days as flagship of the NBC Blue Network. Then a bitter dispute between Farina and his financier-landlord, Edgar Cramer, put WWJZ off the air in August 1993.

Not to be defeated, Farina reestablished the station on a 1700 watt temporary transmitter in Florence, New Jerseymarker, with the help of Nick Grand and Schober. The sound was well received with thousands of letters and some modest Philadelphia ratings, but the weaker signal did not compare to the big transmitter. Heartbroken, Farina had a stroke and died. Nick Grand continued the temporary operation as executor through the end of 1999, unable to make peace with Cramer until Disney made its offer for the station.

From the 1950s through the inception of WWJZ operation in 1992, there were no broadcast stations on 640 on the East Coast. This allowed the frequency to be used by a number of "carrier current" college radio stations including La Salle University's student radio station, which would later become known as WEXP, Rutgers University's WRSU-FM, Drew University's WERD, Stevens Institute of Technology's WCPR, and others.

WWJZ's daytime local signal reaches from the New Jersey shore to Allentown, Pennsylvaniamarker and Rehoboth Beach, Delawaremarker to northern New Jersey. The daytime fringe signal reaches into the New York metropolitan area on the north and the Baltimore-Washington D.C. metropolitan area on the south. The station fills a void left on the Delmarva Peninsulamarker when the former Radio Disney station in Salisbury, Marylandmarker broadcasting on 1470AM went dark in 2003.

While WWJZ's previous programming has been described as a "Music of Your Life" format, the station billed itself on air as "640 WJZ, The Station That Remembers." In 1998, Nick Grand welcomed a new employee to the station by writing, "Welcome to The Station That Remembers. Hopefully you can help the rest of us remember what we are supposed to remember but have forgotten."

The WWJZ line-up during the final year as "The Station That Remembers" was as follows:

Monday - Friday

Bob Markel 6 AM - 10 AM

John Beatty 10 AM - 2 PM

Des McBride 2 PM - 6 PM

Dick Tyler 6 PM - 10 PM

Bob Markel regularly featured the "Daily 78" in which he played an actual 78 RPM record on his morning show. From 12 - 12:30 PM, John Beatty hosted "Piano Playhouse" which generally consisted of the entire side of one piano solo record album being played and sometimes part of the other side of the same album for the duration of that half hour. "Cocktails For Two" which was a relaxing hour of dinner music was aired from 6 PM to 7 PM on the Dick Tyler show Monday thru Friday.

The weekend line-up was as follows:

Saturday

"Somewhere In Time" with Dom Conti from 6 AM - 10 AM

"Sophisticated Swing" with Michael J Carr from 10 AM - 2 PM

"Radio Rhythm" with Rick Lewis from 2 PM - 6 PM

"Jukebox Saturday Night" with Smilin' Lou Powers from 6 PM - 10 PM

Sunday

"Breakfast with Bitterlich" with Walt Bitterlich from 6 AM - 10 AM

"Radio Rhythm" with Rick Lewis from 10 AM - 2 PM

"Big Band Jump" with Don Kennedy from 2 PM - 4 PM

"Sophisticated Swing" with Michael J Carr from 4 PM to 6 PM

"The Nickel Serenade" with Mitch Cohen from 6 PM to 10 PM

Original label 33 RPM record albums were used for much of WWJZ's broadcast day even up until the end of its existence as "The Station That Remembers." Many of these albums were donated by both staff and loyal listeners to the radio station. The station did possess some C.D.s, but most of the extensive WWJZ record library (which included hundreds of 78 RPM Records) was locked up at the old studio at Edgar Cramer's farm on North Pemberton Road.

One staffer described working at WWJZ by saying it was similar to "doing a radio show on your home stereo." WWJZ did not have cart machines or a computer at the Florence, NJ facility, as all of the recorded commercials were on recycled answering machine leaderless cassette tapes. Older model Technics turntables were in place at that studio, along with home model Sony Single Tray CDP-XE300 CD Players. Between 10 PM and 6 AM daily, WWJZ utilized a single six cassette tape changer for its overnight broadcasts, and a Solid State Stereo Console from the late 1950s was in regular use on the air until 1998.

WWJZ never used a playlist for its format, instead it relied on its on-air staff to program the music from the record library in the following sequence:

1) Instrumental Track

2) Female Vocalist Track

3) Male Vocalist Track

4) Duo, Group, or Chorale Track

That sequence was used for every hour of the broadcast day, except during John Beatty's "Piano Playhouse" and Don Kennedy's "Big Band Jump." At the beginning of every hour immediately following network news, the sequence was repeated categorically from 1 - 4, regardless of where the format ended in the previous hour.

Toward the end of "The Station That Remembers" there was a problem with certain songs clipping through the processor, creating moments of inaudibility on the air. In sound processing, clipping involves the primary means of peak limiting. Numerous records were affected by this inconsistency, most notably Kay Starr's 1951 hit record "Wheel of Fortune" which was practically knocked off the air on one occasion.

Mitch Cohen signed the station off the air on Sunday, September 12, 1999 at midnight. All of the WWJZ on-air staff, except for Bob Markel, were present that evening for the six hour sign-off which included a telephone interview with Don Kennedy. Bob Markel's absence was mentioned on the air, along with his home phone number, as listeners were assured that he "would love to keep in touch." At precisely midnight, the 1,700 watt temporary transmitter was signed off followed by approximately 3 minutes of silence until Radio Disney signed on the 50,000 watt transmitter at 12:03 AM.

The final "640 WJZ, The Station That Remembers" staff and listener get-together was known as "The Hangar Dance." It took place at the South Jersey Regional Airparks' Air Victory Museum on Friday, September 17th and featured a food buffet and dancing with The Russ Patrick Big Band. At the time, there was talk of re-establishing the format as "The Station That Remembers" on the expanded AM Band. Through the end of August to the last broadcast day, listeners were encouraged to send cards and letters complete with return addresses to "The Station We Hope You Will Remember" as on-air staff espoused that "the possibility remains that we may pick up another frequency in the near future" and staff wanted to keep listeners informed of a possible return to the airwaves. Such a return never happened.

Post WWJZ, Bob Markel, Dom Conti, and Michael Carr hosted radio shows at WBZC in Pemberton, NJ. John Beatty, Walt Bitterlich, Rick Lewis aka Fred Rice, and Smilin' Lou Powers went to WRDV in Bucks County, PA. Former WWJZ sales person Bob Schwartz went to WBUD in Trenton, NJ. As of this writing, Smilin' Lou Powers works at WBCB in Bucks County, PA and Michael Carr at WVLT in Vineland, NJ. Nick Grand and John Beatty have passed away.

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