101.5FM WPDH: Local Radio Station and “The Home of Rock ’n Roll” Celebrates 35 Years
The “Home of Rock ’n Roll” celebrates 35 years
Disc jockey Robyn Taylor
Photographs courtesy of WPDH
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With the advent of satellite radio programming and Internet music streaming, it seems many FM radio stations have fallen by the wayside — being bought out and changed, or experiencing major turnovers in staff to try and draw more listeners.
This year, however, 101.5 FM WPDH — which bills itself as the “home of rock ’n roll — is celebrating its 35th year of rock radio, and is still going strong. WPDH plays a variety of classic rock (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Who, and similar artists are staples) with a few current bands thrown in, such as Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Pearl Jam.
During its infancy in the late 1970s, WPDH was more of a prog-rock station, but evolved by the ’80s when heavy metal reigned, and into the late ’80s-early ’90s as alternative rock was starting to push through. Ratings soared, but competition was growing. In 1994, owners Crystal Radio Group — headed by philanthropist Rob Dyson — noticed that other alt-rock stations were causing ratings to slip a little, so they strategically bought an Orange County-based station the following year to play strictly alternative and new rock (now WRRV, which is still thriving as a current-rock avenue). WPDH reformatted itself as a classic rock station. In the last decade, it’s increased its range to include a few current artists, but still mainly sticks to its classic roots.
“One of our challenges is that we play a lot of music that’s 30-40 yrs old, but we want to present it in a fresh fashion for both the generation that grew up with it and for the younger generations,” says program director and afternoon DJ Gary Cee. “With games like Rock Band, a lot of younger kids listen to this station now. The challenge has been to keep the station vibrant interesting for everyone, with a wide range of rock ’n roll.”
Celebrity sightings: Some of the stars in the WPDH photo archives:
Cee, who’s been in radio since 1987, became the station’s program director eight years ago when he moved to Lagrangeville from Queens. To keep things interesting, he organizes themed “decades of rock” weekends, “time-warp” weekends — during which they’ll play music from a different year every hour — or extreme countdowns, such as the Top 1,015 Songs program that lasts through the course of several days, the next one taking place through Labor Day weekend.
What else has kept WPDH a favorite among local rock ’n roll enthusiasts? “We really put a great emphasis on the community,” Cee says. “We do a lot of work with charities — including ones that benefit juvenile diabetes research and muscular dystrophy organizations — and we started doing a “Let’s Go Vets” weekend, that features local veterans doing one-hour shows — it affects me emotionally, all these terrific people talk about their experiences in between songs. They love doing it. So do we.”
(Continue to next page for Q&A with morning show host Mark Cooper)
To view a listing of upcoming events the station’s involved with — where you can meet some of your favorite DJs — visit www.wpdh.com.