Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Homebrew - WMYK K-94 (1980)

Interview with Wynn Evers conducted January, 2009

"WMYK 94, Love Broadcasting, from 1000 feet above Earth,
out in the woods, from the 100K watt Dismal Swamp tower."

In 1974 WMYK, or K-94 as it was known, signed on. The station broadcast rock across the Hampton Roads – the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News area of Virginia and North Carolina.

On any given day the station’s jocks made themselves visible, taking part in any number of remotes, events and contests. The promotions were wildly popular, if not notorious in the community.

“In 1980, or ’81, we gave away $25,000 to the 25th caller who called in when they heard “Another One Bites the Dust,” said Wynn Evers, the station’s 6-midnight jock. “However, when we actually aired the song, we actually locked up the phones surrounding Hampton, Virginia Beach area, knocking out phone service for the mid Atlantic Eastern seaboard.”

The telephone company wasn’t pleased.

“I believe people, as far away as Baltimore, had their phones knocked out – there were no dial tones,” he said. “They [the phone company] kindly informed us that if we pulled that stunt again, that they may pull our telephone service. So when we did the contest again, we had to notify the phone company, telling them when we were going to give away the money, in confidentiality, so they would have personnel on hand, to cover the switchboard.

In another promotion, the station produced its own “homegrown” album, Homebrew, featuring local bands, including Bull, Homegrown Vigilante Band, Bubit, Boothill Express, Streettalk, X-Raves, Sutters Gold Streak Band, Snuff, Virginia Fire Band, and Super Grit Cowboy Band

“The cover was taken at an outdoor concert that benefited MS research,” Evers said. “The photo of the air staff lineup was taken at one of those memory lane photo shops. We thought the photo would keep the theme of the southern rock outlaw sound of the album.”

DJs pictured: Randy Berner, Jim Stanley, Stella Jones, John Rodman
John Heimerl, Wynn Evers, and Mac McClellan

But while the station’s shtick was to make themselves visible to their audience, some personalities managed to maintain an illusion of character—namely the wildly popular, Zonar.

“Jim Stanley was our morning man for years,” Evers said. “He came up with a character for the morning show called Zonar.” Based on some of the fans often seen at the station’s outdoor concerts, Zonar was an outrageous, spaced-out, Tommy Chong-styled personality, who instantly took off with listeners.

“The listeners thought Zonar was real,” said Evers.

In reality, the character of Zonar was produced each day prior to the Stanley’s next show. “Jim would pre-record all Zonar drops onto a cart and then he would just interact with Zonar, who was on tape.”

To seal the deal with the listener, Jim Stanley dressed up as Zonar, complete with wig and beard, and appeared at one of the station’s Portsmouth concerts. “We brought Zonar out to emcee. Once people saw him at the concert [about 25,000 people], he was real to the listeners.”

In 1983, WMYK’s run would end, when WNOR and shock jock Henry "The Bull" Del Toro would dominate the market. Sensing a need to reinvent itself, WMYK changed its format to new wave-modern rock, a format that had taken off on the West Coast. “That was not the case in Virginia,” Evers said. “Basically it was the death of that station. East coast wasn’t ready for it.”

After less than a year playing Talking Heads and New Order, the station changed its format again—to urban contemporary, and was known as "K-94 The Rhythm of the City.” After several additional format and call letter changes, the station is now known as WPYA, and is now a “we play anything” Bob format station.

Evers left the station in 1986 for a production director gig at WNOR. He left radio in 1992 and is currently a successful commercial voice talent.

“It was a great place to work. When I went to a couple of other stations, before I got out of radio, it wasn’t the same. Those days of radio are gone.”