Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Memories From the Soundtrack of Your Life


November 28th, 2012

From the MCRFB desk of Jim Feliciano








DETROIT, November 28 — WXYZ radio. A Detroit radio legend. Rich in history as one of the most storied and oldest broadcasting institution in Detroit or for that matter, the entire country. Eighty seven-years ago, according to Wikipedia, the station spawn birth in the Detroit area under the calls WGHP on October 10, 1925.

WGHP was once a charter member (of 16 stations) that aired the first CBS Radio Network program in 1927. The station was then sold in 1930 to the Kunsky-Trendle Broadcasting Company who changed the calls to WXYZ. By the mid-1930s, while still a standing member, WXYZ dropped out of the Mutual Broadcasting System and became a new affiliate for the NBC Blue Network radio group.

In the 1930s and ’40s, WXYZ created and brought Detroit and the country great radio programming such as Eddie Chase‘s popular ‘Make Believe Ballroom’ and as well, serials such as the legendary The Lone Ranger, popularized nationally through Mutual affiliated stations after its premiere on WXYZ in 1933. Detroiters also tuned in on WXYZ for the latest thrilling adventures of The Green Hornet, The Challenge of the Yukon (tailored after dog personality Rin-Tin-Tin). These historic radio broadcasts were produced locally from the station’s annex-studios, located at the former Mendelson building on East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. Earlier on, these entertaining WXYZ radio programmings were heard on many stations through the Mutual group across the U. S. and Canada. Immediately after the war years, in 1946, the station was sold and was purchased by the American Broadcasting Network in New York.

WXYZ TV and radio Ed McKenzie hosts Saturday Night Dance Party (Carmen McRae; pic), early ’50s.

By the early 1950s, ABC and WXYZ brought out the best in quality programming in Detroit on the TV dial. Programs such as Wild Bill Hickok, Superman and The Cisco Kid. The Lone Ranger was still the big show on Thursday nights. Over on the radio dial, interspersed between network news and commentaries, music shows and local programming, WXYZ brought Detroiters Ozzie and Harriet, Corliss Archer and Big Time Boxing on Friday nights. Still prime on WXYZ radio since coming back to Detroit from New York in 1947 was Johnny Slagle. Slagle initially came over to Detroit (WXYZ) from Cleveland in 1935. And WXYZ had the most popular disk jockey in all of Detroit during that time – both radio and TV — Ed McKenzie.


L e g e n d

But by the mid-’50s WXYZ was in search of it’s own identity with ideas for newer audience appeal. The station management impressed the ABC brass in New York to drop many of the local shows and transcend to a more modern sound. Now with new alternative moves towards capturing better ratings in the market, much of the old ABC network programming was being replaced while diverting some attention to the music of the times. The added new voices on 1270 became the newest household names. Paul Winter, Micky Shorr and Jack Sorrell with his jazz-themed ‘Top Of The Town.’ It was a bold move which proved successful. Now riding on its new-found successes, WXYZ evolved into playing more of the mainstream pop hits, rock ‘n’ roll and current popular album themes being played around the country in the modern radio era.

WXYZ’s Fred Wolf broadcasting live during a remote in Detroit in 1955.

By 1958, there was a strict playlist with a more contemporary music format to follow. No longer were the deejays allowed to play whatever they wanted to play. Another page in Detroit radio history had been turned. WXYZ was to become the first ABC-owned radio station to play Top 40 hits (or then labeled as ‘Formula Radio’) in the entire country.

The top 40 formula at WXYZ was now growing in popularity on the Detroit radio dial. Now heading forward well into the early 1960s, the 1270 top 40 notables would comprise of great air names as Fred Wolf; Joel Sabastian; Paul Winter; Steve Lundy; Don Zee; Fred Weiss; Dave Prince and Lee Alan. It was during this time WXYZ was then battling Storer-owned WJBK and RKO General’s CKLW for the Top 40 crown in the Motor City. During the earlier top 40 transition period some of the old radio names would leave WXYZ. Others remained. By this time WXYZ radio had begun its fierce battle going full force head-to-head for top ratings going against Detroit’s top-rated WJBK 1500. Having gained ground, WXYZ and WJBK at times found themselves into a virtual ratings tie vying for the top 40 title on the dial, seemingly, with no end in sight.

Walled Lake . . . WXYZ Detroit Sound, October 6, 1964. (Click on image for larger view).

By then WXYZ radio held down a huge Detroit audience over the competition for market share. Radio 1270 became the hottest commodity on the radio dial for local music venues and dance entertainment. No. 1 in the ratings, they became a heavy influence for record sales in Detroit. The station’s playlist now comprised mostly the nation’s most popular records from the Billboard charts, and by 1962 WXYZ was center stage of what was happening in and around town. There was the legendary broadcasts from the Walled Lake Casino, Club 182 and more . . . and on the television side Club 1270 was gaining Detroit audience popularity as Joel Sabastian and Lee Alan introduced the hottest WIXIE hits on WXYZ-TV.

By early 1963, after coming on board the ABC-owned and operated station in February the previous year, Lee Alan, with theLee Alan Showwas by then pulling in a phenomenal 40 per cent share of the Detroit audience during the early evening and night time hours, according to a 1963 Hooper radio survey. Lee Alan. The name itself would come to be one of the most popular and recognized names ever in ’60s Detroit radio history.


M o r e  T o p  4 0  Y e a r s  –  T h e  ‘ 6 0 s

But by late-summer of 1964, WJBK was out of the Top 40 business. The ABC-owned station now found itself heavily competing against WKNR and CKLW for a greater market share they once dominated in recent years. Joel Sabastian left WXYZ for the Windy City that year. Lee Alan left momentarily, came back again, this time working in the WXYZ television studios. In the spring of 1965, the veteran morning-broadcaster Fred Wolf left WXYZ for retirement. Wolf, never one for the new limitations or “restrictions,” had been with the station since the early ’50s. With Wolf’s exit, it was out with the older traditions the station seemed to have embodied throughout the many years previous.

WXYZ, under the direction of Chuck Fritz, the 37-year old general manager at the station since 1963, was by then re-structuring the station’s appeal for a younger audience. With the Fred Wolf era gone and out of the picture, Fritz extended his sights in search for a younger (but calmer, more contemporary) voice in filling the morning void. They found that voice in Marc Avery. He was hired with the hopes in retaining the older Wolf audience, while at the same time appeal to a younger audience being drawn to the “New Radio 13” popularity on the radio dial. The new “Keener Sound” was by then fast retaining the largest rise in total market share in Detroit radio history. By the latter part of 1965, there was several changes in the WXYZ line-up. The WIXIE drive was gearing forward with their biggest run against the competition in the Detroit top 40 market.

Lee Alan as he looked . . .  back in the ’60s. (Click on image for larger view).

The WXYZ line-up in late 1965 consisted of some of the greatest radio voices heard on Detroit radio during that time. Marc Avery, 6-10; Steve Lundy, 11-2; Dave Prince, 2-6; Lee Alan, 7:15-10; Danny Taylor, 10-1; Pat Murphy, 1-6 AM.

But it was also during this time the station’s own commitment to recapture a higher market share, seemingly came to an impasse, a standstill in the ratings. But certainly not for any lack in trying. At the station, there were those who were beginning to feel their efforts moving forward for a larger audience share was by now, possibly, being hampered by all the network programming fed into the Detroit affiliate out of New York.

Here listed below is the ABC network programming line-up on WXYZ for a typical broadcast day, according to Billboard, July 17, 1965:


WXYZ Detroit SoundWXYZ: 5,000 watts. ABC affiliate. Music format: Contemporary. Editorializes twice a week. Highly-identifiable air personalities. Special programming: “Don McNeill Breakfast Club” 10-10:55 a.m. M-F. “Lou Gordon Comments,” 2-minute commentary, 6:25, 9:25 a.m., 12:05 p.m. M-W-F. “Call Board-Dick Osgood,” drama-critic with interviews, 9:30-10 a.m. Sun. Al Koski is in charge of 12-man news department, mobile units, Mini-Tapes.“Morning Reports” 6:55-7:05 a.m. M-F. “Assignment The World,” 1 and-a-half hours of news, sports, business, show world and special reports, 5:45-7:15 p.m. M-F.

General manager Charles D. Fritz. Send 4 copies of 45’s and 2 copies of LPs to program director Bruce Still, 20777 W. Ten Mile Rd., Detroit, Michigan 48219. WXYZ-FM: ERP 27,000 watts. Simulcast with WXYZ-AM.


Also, according to the Billboard issue dated above, WXYZ was now ranked third at 22% below CKLW’s 34% and WKNR’s 44% share of the Detroit market overall, in that order. But on the side, there was still glimmers of hope. Despite the lowest ratings of the top 3, WXYZ’s The Marc Avery Show held the No. 1 pick for the mid-morning time-slot over Robin Seymour at WKNR, according to Billboard’s Radio Response Ratings in the same July 17, 1965 issue.


B e g i n n i n g  O f  T h e  E n d

Moving into the new year in 1966, more changes were in the wind for WXYZ. Lee Alan, was by now in line for program director by station manager Chuck Fritz. The suggested appointment for PD was approved by the ABC brass-heads in New York. Replacing Bruce Still, Lee moved into his new position in March of that year.

By then Steve Lundy headed out west to another ABC-owned station, in San Francisco. Under Alan’s tenure as new station PD, Pat Murphy would move up in the afternoon time-slot on WIXIE, from the all-night hours. Meanwhile, during a short stay in Cleveland in early 1966, Lee Alan discovered the sound of Joey Reynolds at WIXY. By April, after talking to Fritz that he should hire him immediately, Alan had Joey Reynolds making the move over to the Motor City.

WXYZ DJs in 1966. (Click on image for larger view; from the Jim Heddle Collection).

About this same time, Jimmy Hampton was hired as the new over-night personality on 1270. In April, Alan also brought back the Detroit Sound Surveys for record retail outlets scattered throughout the Detroit metro area, highlighting the best in top 40 music WXYZ could offer from Broadcast House. Lee Alan also had written, composed and produced the music for the new ‘Personality-Plus’ jingles package (click highlighted reference for audio) for the station’s new sound for 1966. The new jingles custom were produced in Chicago by Dick Marx Productions for Lee Alan and were beautifully sung for WXYZ by the famous Anita Kerr Singers. Management, the entire radio staff and Lee Alan, now as program director were convinced the right formula was now in place moving forward for 1966.

But by mid-1966, not much had changed for WXYZ during their battle for higher ratings in Detroit. According to the Billboard trade publication dated July 2, 1966, CKLW lost five percentage points from the year before. Now holding a 29% share, a year earlier they held a higher 34% in 1965. Still at second overall in 1966, 3 of the CKLW share percentage points went to WKNR, who gained at 47 from a 44 previous. Meanwhile, WXYZ, gained two percentage points from the 5 CKLW lost within a year. By year’s end, WXYZ was now a slight 24 from the previous 22% they held in 1965. Yet, the station found itself still mired at third in the top 40 market.

But the “problem” about network programming was still there. For many at the station it only served as reminder who it was who still owned the station. Some had advocated openly to the station manager, Lee Alan among them, that network programming out of New York was “killing” the station. That it should be dropped. That in 1966 the listeners instead wanted more of the music. But pleas towards Fritz to persuade ABC in New York to drop network programming fell on deaf ears.

Lee Alan’s book “Turn Your Radio On!”

According to Lee’s book, entitled,Turn Your Radio On,” during the battle for ratings in 1966, Alan stated, “I have to say that in despite Chuck Fritz’s and ABC’s stubborn refusal to kill the old network programs, and let us be the pillar sound we needed to be, to get back on top — boy, we gave it everything, everything we had. And we had a terrific time doing it.”

In concluding, Alan elaborated further, “I still had hopes that ABC would kill the breakfast club and that listener-chasing hour and 20 minutes of news, 6 O’clock – 5:55 – when all of a sudden Bill Drake came into town and did exactly what Joel Sabastian, Dave Prince and I, had pleaded with Chuck Fritz to do back in 1963.

Bill Drake came here, and turned CKLW into the BIG 8. Bill Drake made the BIG 8 happen. Did it against WKNR just the way we could of. Now we have both ‘CK and Keener to contend with. Instead of staying in the battle, Chuck Fritz and WXYZ were about to give up, were about to surrender. Martin and Howard were hired . . . the scene was set for the end. And it would unfold just as I had predicted.”

It was over.

After just two weeks going into 1967, it was apparent the top 40 run at WXYZ was finished, over and was done. By January’s end Lee Alan was gone. The format was changed. Martin and Howard was in, Joe Bacarella was the new program director and WXYZ was officially “Sound Of The Good Life.”


The end of a Detroit broadcasting legend. The end of an era.


mcrfb-com-logo-2(This WXYZ feature was updated November 28, 2016)

A MCRFB NOTE: For more on WXYZ radio on this website, go to the ‘Categories’ archives and find WXYZ, or go here. Relive many of the classic ’60s WXYZ “Detroit Sound” (some 40-plus total!) in our Aircheck Library, here.

For the latest on Lee Alan today, go to his website blogroll and click on Lee Alan’s blog. Where can I buy Lee Alan’s book, ‘Turn Your Radio On!? It is still available, here.

The last of the WXYZ Top 40 air-aces: Dave Prince; Danny Taylor; Pat Murphy; Jim Hampton; Lee Alan; Marc Avery, 1966. (Photo courtesy Jim Hampton)

LAST OF THE WXYZ Top 40 AIR-ACES: Dave Prince; Danny Taylor; Pat Murphy; Jim Hampton; Lee Alan; Marc Avery, 1966. (Click on image for largest view; photo courtesy Jim Hampton)

WXYZ 1270 Detroit Sound Survey for November 28, this date in 1966. (Survey courtesy the Jim Heddle Collection)



  • Henry Krueger says on: November 28, 2012 at 6:28 PM


    I was a young teen when WXYZ was the top station. I had to go to bed at ten, in those days, but I had a transistor radio under my pillow and would never go to sleep until I had listened to the last two hours of Lee Alan and his closing theme “I Can’t Get Started” by Frank Sinatra. Then I’d listen to the 11:55 newscast and the first ten minutes of Don Zee with his zombie theme “Tarantula” by the Tarantulas.

    • Jim Feliciano says on: December 2, 2012 at 10:21 PM


      Hi Henry, thank you for your WXYZ comments. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reflections on the website as well. We truly enjoy hearing from everyone!
      –Motor City Radio Flashbacks

    • David Moore says on: December 4, 2013 at 6:00 PM


      Henry, I never know where I’m going to run into you next. Similar memories long before we went to Specs—-8 transistor radio Zenith under the pillow from 10-12, Lee’s opening theme was Plink went the strings of my heart (At least that’s my memory) And yes, Sinatra’s Can’t get started to close and into Don Zee. Ah, those were the days my friend…thanks for the memories Henry!

    • Bill says on: July 26, 2014 at 3:39 AM


      I loved all the comments about the early 60’s WXYZ’s radio. I listened
      to Don Zee almost every night for awhile before going to bed.It has
      been many years,but I thought Don Zee’s theme song was an
      instrumental. Am I wrong or just losing it ?p

      • Lin says on: January 21, 2016 at 11:28 AM


        Don Zee worked the graveyard shift from midnight until 6 am, and always signed on with Dracula (Bobby Pickett), Elvira, and “Trantula” by The Trantulas.

  • Lee Alan says on: January 25, 2013 at 11:23 AM


    I only recently ran across this article. In a comparatively short space you have captured a great deal of the essence of the battle for ratings that took place in the 60s.

    It is absolutely true that Brother Joel Sebastian, Dave Prince, and I went to my late friend Chuck Fritz and literally begged him to champion the cause and petition the New York Brass (Hal Neal – President ABC owned and Operated Stations) to drop the old, out dated network programming. But ABC kept it there because they had national sponsors that bought in and were promised all the top 10 markets.

    The three of us actually went to Chuck BEFORE Keener was launched while it was still WKMH. A least two of us had been approached by WKNR to leave WXYZ and join them with their plans which they outlined to us in detail. We told Chuck what was going to happen, but he and many others were convinced that nothing could ever topple the historic WXYZ.

    Then, on Halloween Eve of 1963 the KEENER onslaught began. Just as we had outlined. When WXYZ insisted that I recommend hiring Martin & Howard we all knew that with the size of that investment at stake the station would back off and drop the mainstream audience format we had going. Fact is that changing the format was the specific move that insured the failure of Martin and Howard.

    Joe Baccarella had never experienced being with a number one rated station. He came from WCAR the low rated “good music” station and was able to convince ABC to concede. and throw in the towel. So instead of dropping the outdated programming they added more.

    WXYZ was in fact the legend of which you speak. It was bigger than all of us. Now Fred Wolf, Paul Winter, Marc Avery, Steve Lundy, Pat Murphy, Barney Stutesman (Traffic Copter) and Don Zee are all in Heaven. When they were at the station, being number one was no big deal. It was expected of us.

    By the Way, the original call letters before they were WXYZ, WGHP stood for George Harrison Phelps an advertising man who made his fortune working for the BBDO Agency on the Dodge account. He invented the phrase: “DODGE – DEPEND ON IT”.

    More great information can be found in Dick Osgood’s book: “WYXIE Wonderland” if you can find a rare copy.

    Kindest Regards
    Lee Alan

    Interesting to note that had we not hired Martin and Howard I never would have known Specs Howard. And two years later I could not have sold The Lee Alan School of Broadcast Arts to him, and 10s of thousands of people may never have experienced the excellent school it has become under his direction at The SPECS HOWARD SCHOOL.

    • David Moore says on: December 4, 2013 at 6:03 PM


      Lee if you read this=you and Purtan were two of the reasons I got into this crazy business back in 1974…ouch that was a long time ago. Don’t know whether to brain you or thank you==but 40 years later, here I still am, morning drive news at an NPR station in Grand Rapids for 25 of those 40.\

      Oh===thanks for the horn and its fine tone. As a teen, to me, you and the horn were as close to teen heaven as it got…..

  • Bill Presley says on: August 23, 2013 at 1:05 PM


    Absolutely loved Lee’s personality, voice and humor in the early 60’s. I never missed he and Joel Sebastian hosting the Club 1270 TV dance show. I’ll never forget new DJ Weird Beard coming on the dance show for the first time and being out of control wild. Spinning on the floor and flying around crazed!

  • Gwen says on: October 18, 2013 at 2:21 AM


    Hi Lee,

    I have been remembering back to when I was working at WXYZ radio in 1966 til May 1967. Dick Kernan was my boss. I did the commercial logs and billing. I loved it!. All of DJ’s were a pleasure to work with. I remember the Christmas party of 1966, Dave Prince jump into a snow bank, and for some reason the phrase “Turkey Lurkey” came about. Went with Mel to the Motown Review. I found out that Dick Kernan was at Spec Howard. Anyways, it has been great going down memory lane.

  • Evelyn Smith says on: October 9, 2014 at 8:31 PM


    I have a picture of a musical group of 7 people. They look like a country music group. Names on the pictures are Elmer Thompson,Jumbo, Jinny, Bob Long, Will Karson, Mel Karson, Paul ?Young. They are in front of a WXYZ mic. Any idea what group, year they are from?

  • Jerry says on: December 7, 2014 at 10:19 PM


    In a group of items I won at an auction there was an unused round sticker for the WXYZ 1270 Batman Club. Just curious what era it may have been from.. Thanks!

    • Jim Feliciano says on: December 8, 2014 at 8:45 AM


      WXYZ 1270 in 1966. While the Detroit radio station was ABC parent-owned at the time, the button concept was dual inasmuch as a promo while pushing their new (at that time) ABC-TV series “Batman” both on WXYZ-AM radio and WXYZ-TV television here in Detroit.

  • Bill says on: March 15, 2015 at 5:51 PM


    I found Don Zee’s theme song:
    Tarantula by the Tarantula’s ( instrumental )
    It brings back great memories!

  • Randy Hayes says on: March 18, 2015 at 6:52 PM


    In the early and mid sixties WXYZ was absolutely my favorite station.Many a night i went to bed listening to Lee Alan who i still regard as 1 of the best DJ’s ever in Detroit

  • Leen Alan says on: March 21, 2015 at 12:04 PM


    My compliments to Jim Feliciano and the MCRFB staff for this terrific site.

    I revisit this site now and then and just want to thank all who have commented about those halcyon days and of course about my colleagues and me and the shows we all loved to hear. So Thank you for remembering !

    I will soon be releasing the Audio Book version of my book, “Turn Your Radio On”. It has all those voices in it for all to hear again. I will announce it, and how to get it on my Face Book Page. So…

    Watch How You Drive That Automobile Now……..And Don’t You Dare Turn It Into a Couple of Tons of Deadly Weapon…. Regards Lee Alan

  • Lee Alan says on: March 21, 2015 at 12:06 PM


    My compliments to Jim Feliciano and the MCRFB staff for this terrific site.

    I revisit this site now and then and just want to thank all who have commented about those halcyon days and of course about my colleagues and me and the shows we all loved to hear. So Thank you for remembering !

    I will soon be releasing the Audio Book version of my book, “Turn Your Radio On”. It has all those voices in it for all to hear again. I will announce it, and how to get it on my Face Book Page. So…

    Watch How You Drive That Automobile Now……..And Don’t You Dare Turn It Into a Couple of Tons of Deadly Weapon…. Regards Lee Alan

  • mary kiernan says on: April 2, 2015 at 6:05 AM


    I have a letter from Jack McCarthy if anyone would care to have it.

    • Sean Mathews says on: May 10, 2015 at 9:28 PM


      Which Jack McCarthy? What does the letter say?

  • carol robin says on: May 6, 2015 at 11:14 AM


    looking for the signoff song at 12am by sinatra. Driving myself crazy!!

  • ROBERT WESOLOWSKI says on: June 30, 2015 at 5:12 PM


    Where did Joe Bacarella jr go when he left the radio business? Was he released after the sexual harassment accusation?
    Reply to me adeernest@umich.edu

  • Robert Wesolowdki says on: September 15, 2015 at 3:12 PM


    Please send any info you have regarding Joe k. Bacarella and any lawsuits in which he was a participant.
    3113 Archer Ave

  • Vince says on: December 26, 2015 at 1:43 PM


    Do you remember the CKLW Batman sticker that we got when we joined the batman club in the 60’s? I was looking for it on line but no such luck.

  • Robert Alpiner says on: March 12, 2016 at 9:46 PM


    I too remember the days when Mr. Alan and his crew were doing wonders at WXYZ radio in the early 1960s. Obviously I have heard Mr. Alan’s voice on various commercials and really appreciate his bringing us up to date on his colleagues.

    Hopefully, we can keep this website going for many years, thanks to Mr. Alan’s kindness.

  • derek berry says on: November 13, 2016 at 12:46 PM


    In the late sixties did Radio Detroit have a disc jockey named Dave Dawson

  • brucelavoie says on: August 17, 2017 at 5:41 PM


    holy smoke! I graduated high school in 1966 and all we listened to was Lee Alan (the Horn), Joel Sabastian, Dave Pince and Robin Seymore The Bird. wxyz, cklw, and wknr.
    Cool to have Lee still knocking around. We had a rock band and used to play for free at sock hops etc. Our drummer would call Joel Sabastian etc. and ask do you need a live band somewhere? We’d pack up and go. Never got paid, but it was a real blast.

    • MICHAEL says on: January 9, 2018 at 11:12 AM



  • pat halterman says on: October 12, 2017 at 12:30 PM


    looking for cds from 60s-70s wxyz

  • Ed McCAHILL says on: November 17, 2017 at 11:39 PM


    __ TRIBUTE to a FRIEND __Sorry to say it took SEVEN YEARS for me to hear of the passing of a Detroit radio legend on June 23rd, 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Speaking of a very special friend, Mr. JOEY RYAN ( Joseph Pietruska ), interned at The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans Cemetery . Although I never met him, I listened to his__ Saturday Night Oldies Party__ every week-end on Magic 95 WMJC-FM from 1982 until 1987. Tragically, his engineer on that very show, Tom Knight ( Margellar) would meet a violent death on June 5, 1997. I never talked to a nicer guy in my life while Joey was on the air. A true lover of the oldies, BOTH of these guys will be remembered and MISSED! GOD Bless you BOTH! Thank goodness I have most of those memorable shows on tape! Joey, THANK-YOU for your service to the USA! ” Ed from WAYNE ” Nov. 17, 2017 __ WHO STOLE THE KIESKA???___

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Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Memories From the Soundtrack of Your Life