An early WWDJ Logo

WWDJ Tshirt
A WWDJ T-shirt.

Mike Phillips on WWDJ Survey
A WWDJ Survey Sheet featuring Mike Phillips

Bwana Johnny
The world-famous Bwana Johnny, as seen on WWDJ.

The WWDJ Collection

[By John Porcaro] The Rock & Roll history of WWDJ, Hacksensack, New Jersey, began on Wednesday, May 12th, 1971 when WJRZ, a country station, became WWDJ - Top 40, a format which would be its cornerstone for nearly three years.

When WWDJ started, it looked like it would fill the AM gap left by the demise of WMCA and in many ways it was (especially to those who only had AM in their cars). Although 97DJ was no 'MCA, they still played more of a variety music format than 77 WABC. One example was Chuck Berry's My Ding-a-Ling, a song that hit number one on the WWDJ survey, but was not played on WABC. Unfortunately, as in the case of WMCA, it was another AM station with signal problems.

The first generation of WWDJ was similar to WOR-FM. It had a similar music mix with a little more energy and personality. At first, WWDJ, unlike WABC, seldom referred to its survey. It played plenty of oldies and had a full-time request line.

There were many excellent DJs who passed through the 97 DJ doors. They included Bwana Johnny, Al Brady,(who went on to become Program Director at WABC), Mike Phillips (KFRC and KRTH), Ronnie Grant, Howard Clark (who demolished a new Jaguar XKE that was to be a prize on "The Big 610" out in California, on the very first morning of the promotion), George Taylor Morris (who is the voice behind "Reelin In The Years" and the DJ who popularized the association between Dark Side Of The Moon & the Wizard Of Oz), Sean Casey (who was the last Program Director WWDJ had), Joe Conway, Steve Clark (who was for a short time a WMCA Good Guy in 1967, plus on WOR-FM & WCBS-FM), Mark Driscoll (also of WOR-FM and WNBC), Bob Lockwood, Don Cannon (he can be heard on the radio in the original Rocky movie), Bob Savage, Bobby Finck (aka Robert K. Oliver, or Rokko from 99X) and many more. Sean Casey worked at WOR FM and WPLJ before 'DJ, and then went on to work for a while at CBS FM. Steve O'Brien of ABC and WYNY fame worked afternoons for a period of time as did Jim King (99X).

As 1973 ended and 1974 began, the station dropped its all night show and signed off the air for the overnight period. There was less energy in the presentation and the playlist seemed almost thrown together. After three years of trying to battle WABC and the growing audience of WXLO and other FMs, WWDJ Top 40 rode off into radio history.

WWDJ became a religious station on April 1, 1974.

The Repository thanks Mike McCann, John Porcaro, Russ DiBello, Brian Nazario and Evan Dakes for their help in creating this exhibit.

[Descriptions by Uncle Ricky]

Evan Dakes remembers WWDJ:

"I have fond memories of that ranch house that stands no more. I recall the studios of WWDJ as a place that we as college students were able to go visit almost anytime. We had become good friends with the engineers there since they built the radio facilities at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, just across the river. This explained why we had such a good sound too. We got a great up close look at actual radio being done and we were able to use that experience later on down the road. We got to be known, and trusted. It was a perfect learning situation. Some of us (not me) answered the request lines. One went on to work for the Mets broadcasts. Another, Sharon Davis, landed the supreme brass ring....doing news, and remained with them even after the format change. I was able to get my job in sales through this association. It was an incredible matter of the right place at the right time for all of us."

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (14.5 Khz)
Gene Stuart, WJRZ and Bill Bailey, WWDJ, 1971 (9:23)
. . . This is Ninety Seven Radio . . .

The transition to 97DJ begins with the late Gene Stuart during the last days of WJRZ. The country format was gone, but the call letters had not yet changed. Bill Bailey, (not the Bill Bailey from Louisville) is featured with the new call letters.

Gene Stuart and Bill Bailey, 1971

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 16.2Kbps (8 Khz)
Bwana Johnny, Bob Lockwood, WWDJ 1971 (5:08)
. . . opening the doors to the college of rock 'n' roll knowledge . . .

Here's an early aircheck of Bwana Johnny, followed by Bob Lockwood on WWDJ in August of 1971.

Bwana Johnny, Bob Lockwood, WWDJ 1971

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0Kbps (16 Khz)
Chuck Cooper, WWDJ 1971 (8:33)
. . . Echoes of a Rock Era . . .

Chuck Cooper (Bill Rock) was an early performer in the long line of WWDJ air talent. Here's a short sample of Cooper on a Sunday night. During this period of time he was programming WTRY in Albany-Troy, N.Y. and would fly to from Albany to Newark and get a ride from Newark to Hackensack to do weekends as a DJ.

Bill says, "It cost me more to fly back and forth than I made at WWDJ. It was worth it, though. After all, I was on a rock station in the NYC market when I was 24."

Since 1995, Rock has been the promotional voice for NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press, prime-time billboards on the NBC Television network and many other NBC, MSNBC and CNBC promos and programs.

Chuck Cooper, WWDJ 1971

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0Kbps (16 Khz)
WWDJ Hackensack, N.J. Composite, 1972 (11:26)
. . . Hey Don, uh, stifle yourself . . .

This excellent HI-FI composite of WWDJ from early 1972 (February?) could be called "The Program Director's 'Check". It features Mike Phillips (KRTH PD) and Al Brady (WABC PD), in addition to Gary Russell, Sean Casey, Ronnie Grant, Bwana Johnny, George Taylor Morris, and newsman Don Levine.

With such a lineup of talent, it's obvious someone believed that WWDJ would have an impact on the New York market.

WWDJ 1972 Composite

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 16.2Kbps (8 Khz)
Bwana Johnny, WWDJ May 31, 1972 (Part 1)
(01:00:39) NEW! May 25, 2003
Bwana Johnny, WWDJ May 31-June 1, 1972 (Part 2)

. . . the Bwana Johnny radio program and sneaker painting festival . . .

[Debut: May 26, 2002, Description by Uncle Ricky, updated May 25, 2003]

On May 25, 2003, we added an additional (partially-scoped) hour to this exhibit. It's the first hour of the evening, recorded between 9 and 10 PM.

That's followed by almost two hours of Bwana Johnny (d. 10-28-2005) on WWDJ (Hackensack, N.J.) in a partially 'scoped aircheck from 10:15 PM on May 31, 1972, into June 1, 1972 at 1:00 AM. Not only did our debut presentation mark the 30th Anniversary of this broadcast, among other treats, it's a bonanza for soft drink nostalgia. This aircheck features the top-of-the-pop May-June 1972 campaign for RC, (Ike & Tina for) Pepsi, and The Un-Cola.

In the opening minutes, this aircheck features a news report about farm labor leader Cesar E. Chavez. Then it's Aretha, Billy Preston, Wayne Newton and Sammy Davis, Jr., then Aretha Again, some Chi-Lites and Stones, The Jimmy Castor Bunch, Commander Cody, a LOT more, and other specialized moments to remember, like a radio station with 2-unit, 2-minute stopsets.

Technical note: the original exhibit, (for which we thank John Porcaro), had a noise level only 10 db below the average program level, nothing above 8Khz, and was heavily compressed. Reducing the noise level digitally would have substantially degraded the original recording. So I did nothing with the original contribution other than to clean up some edits and add a little boost around 6KHZ (to compensate for low-bandwidth Real Audio.) The "pumping" and noise you hear is in the original. The fidelity of this exhibit is what you would expect from an "AM/FM Radio Cassette Recorder" with automatic gain control, in a noisy signal area, circa 1972, with the "treble" control wide open.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.1Kbps (20 Khz)
Bwana Johnny, WWDJ 1972 (11:07)
. . . Can I see a lyric sheet for that record . . .

Bwana Johnny 2004
Bwana Johnny, 2004.
This composite of two airchecks of Bwana Johnny was created for this REELRADIO exhibit. They were distributed by Programmer's Digest, one of the world's first "audio magazines", (on vinyl).

A portion of the first aircheck here was previously featured at REELRADIO, and it was published in the September 25, 1972 issue of PD. The second aircheck, which begins at 5:47, was included in the January 29, 1973 issue. Both feature classic Bwana Bits from 1972, and the fidelity is very good.

Bwana Johnny (birth name, Richard Johnson) passed away on October 28, 2005.
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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.1Kbps (20 Khz)
Bwana Johnny, WWDJ 1973 (10:57)
. . . coming to you tonight in glorious living monaural . . .

In the first part of this WWDJ Bwana Johnny (d. 10-28-2005) aircheck from 1973, Bwana is counting down the brand new WWDJ Top 20.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.1Kbps (20 Khz)
WWDJ Composite, 1973 (38:32)
. . . Pass The J . . .

This outstanding composite of WWDJ from 1973, created especially for REELRADIO by Russ DiBello, from tapes contributed by Mike McCann, includes Sean Casey (Program Director), Mark Driscoll, Bob Savage, Johnny Michaels, Jim King, Don Cannon, Bobby Finck, Howard Clark, Steve Clark, Gary Russell, and The Beauty on Duty, Bwana Johnny.

And, the outrageous Pass The J promotion was inspiration for the classic NINE.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (14 Khz)
WWDJ Steve Clark and Last Days, 1974 (40:14)
. . . 97 DJ will change, to become the new voice of inspiration for the metropolitan area . . .

This remarkable record of the last few days of WWDJ (as a Top 40 station) was created especially for REELRADIO by Russ DiBello. While the fidelity of the source material was far from excellent, Russ provided an exceptionally clean exhibit and we are fortunate to enjoy his audio expertise. Some of this REEL "off the air" recording demonstrates the WWDJ signal problems, particularly at night. But every second is worth your time - right up until the final sign off. When the carrier leaves the air, we hear one second of Larry King (from where? - or does it matter?)

Chief among the highlights of this composite is Steve Clark, who concluded his WWDJ employment with this show. Clark and sidekick Maharishi talk with studio visitors, and Clark includes his radio recommendations for stations in the New York market. Gary Russell, Sean Casey, Bob Savage, and some of the most unusual music segues you have never imagined are all here, too.

These guys were losing their jobs. The great 97DJ experiment was over. Were they bitter?

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There will be more from the WWDJ Collection...

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