Philadelphia Radio Archives
History of Philadelphia radio station 900 WURD
In 1956, 900 AM was founded as the sister station to WFLN-FM, Philadelphia’s classical music station. Most of the time, the two stations were a simulcast of each other, with occasional separate programming.
In 1985, legendary talk radio personality Frank Ford and former WWDB salesman Jon Harmelin bought 900 AM and renamed it “Talk 900” with call letters WDVT (“We’re Delaware Valley Talk”) and studios at the NewMarket shops in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia. The station went on the air August 5, 1985 at 6AM. Large windows allowed shoppers and passers-by to watch the announcers in the air studio, and outdoor speakers allowed the programming to be heard. (Much to the annoyance of some other tenants.) Even though the station was practically invisible in the Arbitron ratings, (it registered a zero for five consecutive ratings periods) it boasted a strong lineup of talent, including Carol Saline and former WCAU-AM hosts Maxine Schnall and Ron Eisenberg. Ford himself was on the air daily from 12:30PM to 4:30. During his ownership, he broadcast Philadelphia’s first show on commercial radio with a gay focus, hosted by Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News.
The station’s major drawback was the fact that it was licensed for daytime operation only, which meant that each day at sundown, WDVT had to go off the air to avoid interfering with stations in other parts of the country. Competition from two other major all-talk stations, WWDB-FM and WCAU-AM, did not make things any easier. It also suffered from a relatively weak 1,000 watt signal, 1/50th the strength of competitor WCAU-AM!
WDVT signed off for the last time on July 25, 1988. Marlin broadcasting, which purchased WFLN-FM, also purchased the IOU for WDVT. Marlin gave WDVT the choice of buying the note (IOU) or turning over the station. In view of the severe decline in the market value of AM radio stations at the time, the management of WDVT elected to turn over the broadcast license to Marlin.
After a few months of simulcasting WFLN-FM, the station was sold to Willis Broadcasting Corp., headed by the Rev. L. E. Willis, a bishop in the Church of God in Christ and total or part owner of 22 religious-oriented stations throughout the South and Midwest. A religious format called “LOVE 900” was programmed under the call letters WURD.
In July, 1996, WURD was sold for $1.5 million to New Jersey-based Mega Communications, which was founded the same year and began assembling a number of Spanish-formatted stations. The format was changed to “hot” Spanish music under the name “Mega 900” and calls WEMG. John Musa and Super DJ were the original cast of a popular morning drive show known as “El Meneo”. The popularity (and controversial nature) of that show helped Mega beat the city’s other Spanish language station at the time, the more mild-manered WTEL.
In 2002, Mega moved the WEMG calls to 1310 AM and sold WURD for $8.5 million to physician and philanthropist Walter P. Lomax, Jr. under the name LEVAS communications, which stands for “lift every voice and sing.” Intially the format jumped between various types of music and CNN Headline news before settling into the current talk format.
According to the WURD website, “WURD Radio is the only African-American owned and operated talk radio station in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” The station’s studios and offices are located on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia.
- Interview with Jon Harmelin, 1996
- Melissa Dribben, “Buenos dias, Filadelpfia!”, Inquirer Magazine, 9/5/1999, p.18
- Peter Van Allen, “Brown branches out into radio at WURD”, PBJ, 3/19/2010
- Broadcast Pioneers, Frank Ford profile
Comments? Corrections? Worked there? Please let us know!
1. Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 by Ron:
Goodmorning, I am looking for the theme song of the host that came on after Fatima Ali?
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