Wednesday, June 8, 2011
WAMO Back on the Air
Tim Martz of San-Franciso based Martz Communications purchased stations WPYT AM- FM in Wilkinsburg, and got control of the legacy WAMO call letters from an inactive eastern Pennsylvania station. The new WAMO started airing taped stuff in late May, and is now unrolling live.
They have some big shoes to fill. They know it, and plan on being more than Pittsburgh's urban station. WAMO had a resume of 50 years on the air in this town, and most of them were spent as audio voice and fabric of the black community.
Early WAMO DJ Mary Dee has been credited by many with coming up with the black radio formula of serving up urban music mixed with a strong component of community involvement, and WAMO became its epitome. The new ownership promises to return the station to its roots; they're already reaching out for people to join the "WAMO Street Team," which hopefully will serve as more than a PR vehicle.
We'll see how that community rep thing works out. One thing that's certain, though, is that the hip-hop, rap and urban scene needes a jolt, and WAMO can provide it. Hey, just filling the urban void in Pittsburgh will be welcome; it's hard to fathom how a region as large as ours was left without a full-time urban station.
Another aspect of city living that may have fallen below the radar is Pittsburgh's ability to draw urban acts. They were a tough enough sell when WAMO was in its heyday, but without a station to promote the show and push songs over the long haul, many national acts just bypassed the area.
Now, WAMO 100 is joining with Live Nation to bring acts such as Bootsy Collins to Stage AE on June 24th, and rapper Lil' Wayne to First Niagara Pavilion on July 23rd. With locals like Whiz and Mac blowing up and other area acts right behind them, Pittsburgh may become a destination spot for urban shows.
Hey, they're having their on-air shakedown problems. Pittsburgh is an old-school town, and they'll have to weigh that when coming up with a playlist. Even when WAMO was all that, the mix among the latest hip-hop, adult contemporary, gospel, older sounds, local flavor and talk was hotly debated. Brittany Spears and Ke$ha seem to be a stretch for an urban format, too.
But that's all stuff the station manager, Laura Varner Norman, will sort out. And she has the local cred; a Pitt grad, she was a long-time sales exec for Sheridan Broadcasting and was hired away from Philly's Radio One.
People are waiting for jocks, too. WAMO always had a stable full of personalities in the past, but haven't announced a regular schedule of hosts yet (heck, they haven't even tweeted on their Twitter account or posted anything on their Facebook page) so it would seem they're still feeling their way around in the market.
We're hoping it all works out. The market needed an urban station, and the black community was looking for a nexus to reconnect with both musically and socially. WAMO has always been that presence.