One in this series of seminars conducted by The Museum of Television & Radio. In this seminar, moderated by Museum radio department manager Ken Mueller and presented in New York, members of the creative team behind the original WKTU-FM reunite. In July 1978, New York's WKTU-FM switched from a "mellow rock" format to disco, and within months went from low-decimal-point to double-digit ratings that have not been matched in the market since. WKTU was the first FM station in the market to reach number one, knocking then Top Forty AM powerhouse WABC out of first place. Although WKTU's rating dominance was short-lived, it changed the face and sound of New York radio and helped pave the way for FM's ascendancy in the city. Mueller begins the evening with a reel of air check clips highlighting the work of several of the panelists from 1978 to 1984. After the highlight tape, Mueller is joined on stage by the following panelists: radio personalities G. Keith Alexander, Johnny Allen, and Al Bandiero; former music director Frankie Blue; programming consultant Kent Burkhart; air personalities Joe Causi and Freddie Colon; former music director Michael Ellis; and radio personalities Diane Prior, Paco, and Ann Tripp. The panelists discuss the following topics, among others: the genesis of the switch to a disco format in 1978; WKTU's initial hybrid disco-salsa format; the phenomenal ratings jump that took place within six months after the changeover; the elements that made the station unique -- the DJs sounded like the people to whom they were talking, representing the full range of New York's ethnic/cultural mix; how WKTU's appeal bridged nearly every segment of the population, including blacks, whites, and Latinos, and gays and straights; WKTU as an extension of the club lifestyle of the period; the fact that all the on-air talent were from New York as another of the station's assets; WKTU's news coverage as a precursor to today's MTV News; WKTU's competition at the time -- WABC, WBLS, and later, KISS; recollections of the young Madonna, who got some early breaks from the station; and the looser, less research-driven approach to programming at the original WKTU. Questions from the seminar audience lead to comments on the following topics, among others: how Prior joined WKTU soon after college; Paco's unusual pre-WKTU background -- he had never done a broadcast in English before WKTU took a chance on him; how the city's growing Hispanic population contributed to the success of WKTU; how the long-standing dance music void in the New York market was filled recently by the new WKTU, propelling the station to number one again nearly twenty years later; the power and influence of club deejays in the late 1970s and early 1980s -- most notably John "Jellybean" Benitez; the original WKTU's pioneering broadcasts of club-mixes; the new WKTU as a generational bridge between parents who came of age in the disco era and their children, who are now appreciating the music of that period; New York's consistency as a market for dance music; the more mainstream, tightly formatted approach of the new WKTU; what other original WKTU colleagues, including Rosko, are doing now; the success of the original WKTU as a product of a pre-AIDS age when clubs were more ethnically mixed; and the importance of tenacity in the radio business, as evidenced by the success stories of Frankie Blue and Michael Ellis.


  • DATE: November 6, 1996 Wednesdasy 6:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:33:18
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:46173
  • GENRE: Seminars


    • Kenneth Mueller … Moderator
    • Keith G. Alexander … Panelist
    • Johnny Allen … Panelist
    • Al Bandiero … Panelist
    • Frankie Blue … Panelist
    • Kent Burkhart … Panelist
    • Joe Causi … Panelist
    • Freddie Colon … Panelist
    • Michael Ellis … Panelist
    • Paco … Panelist
    • Diane Prior … Panelist
    • David Rapaport … Panelist
    • Ann Tripp … Panelist
    • Benitez, John "Jellybean"
    • Madonna
    • Rosko (Bill Mercer)