||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (April 2011)|
|City of license||Erie, Pennsylvania|
|Slogan||"Erie's Rock Alternative"|
|First air date||1972|
|Callsign meaning||Education Radio Gannon|
On March 8,2014, WERG was presented the Abraham & Borst Award as "Best College Station in the Nation" at the 74th annual Intercollegiate Broadcasting System conference in New York City.
The Seventies: “The Little 10-watt Station that Could”
In 1970, a group of students at Gannon College, led by Mark Modlo, came up with the idea of establishing an educational radio station for the purpose of training students to enter the field of broadcasting. Father Thomas McSweeney, a professor in the Department of Theatre, took on the role of Faculty Advisor for the radio station. In December 1972, WERG signed on at 89.1 FM with an effective radiated power of 10 watts. The original studios and offices were located in the basement of the Zurn Science Center, and the format was rock: lots of Jethro Tull, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple. Some of the original WERG jocks were Jim Snider, Greg Zbach, Tom McCarthy, Marcia Malinowski, Dave Glasier, Rick Donato, Ron Piluso, Steve Collins, and Ken Darby. AJ Miceli was appointed faculty advisor to WERG in 1975. In 1977, the WERG offices were relocated to the old Schuster Theatre while the WERG studios remained across the street in the Zurn basement.
Throughout the seventies, students would operate WERG during the week. WERG maintained broadcast operations over the weekends with the help of community volunteers, who ran alternative programming for the Erie community. One of these shows, Super Soul Saturday, has become an institution in Erie radio and an integral part of WERG’s weekend programming schedule. Student managers began adding news, sports, and informational programming to WERG’s broadcast day: this was the era of A.J. Uhrmacher, Gary Loncki, John Stehr, Matt Rouch, Steve Bohen, Mike Robinson, and Lowman Henry. Around this time, Jim Griffey designed and implemented some of WERG’s first format clocks and playlists.
The Eighties: A Bigger Tower and More Power
Major technical upgrades came in 1980. That year, WTAE-FM radio in Pittsburgh, PA donated a 1949 Westinghouse FM-3 transmitter to Gannon. This enabled WERG to go to 3,000 watts, giving the radio station a strong signal throughout the City of Erie. This transmitter was one of the first to transmit stereo when it was in Pittsburgh. The new Shively antenna was mounted on a tower atop Nash Library, and WERG moved up the dial to 89.9-FM.
Throughout the eighties, WERG operated with an Album Rock format under the name Rock 89. With a regular weekday format, plus Super Soul Saturday, various community programs on Sunday, and a weeknight news magazine show -Total News at 6—WERG became known as an educational station that not only trained you in the mechanics of broadcasting, but let you do so while enjoying the benefits of having an actual sizable listening audience. Heard on the air during this era: Tony Fulgenzio, Norb Klebanski, Tracy Allen, Joel Natalie, Doug Hall, Joe Lang, Marsha MacKinnion, and Rob Jenks.
As the eighties drew to a close, WERG evolved from an Album Rock station and began playing New Wave and Alternative Rock. Some of the big names on the air at this time were Joe Martin, T.J. Johnson, Kevin Umberger, Andy McNutt, Greg Alquhist, Meg Rothgery, Mark Soliday, and Johnny Marx. It was around this time that The Rockman joined the WERG staff. And who could forget Norton McGee? In 1989, WERG obtained the necessary equipment to begin broadcasting in stereo. The decade ended with WERG's Top 100 Countdown of the 80′s.
While WERG’s new Modern Rock format took shape, station management was looking for a new identity to go with the station’s new sound. Student manager Scott Powell was in Pittsburgh one weekend and listening to the “war” between the two Contemporary Hit stations in the city: B-94 and Energy 105. Something clicked. “Energy” was not only a good-sounding name, it fit the call letters of the station as well: WERG. ENERGY. On the morning of August 29, 1989, WERG began identifying itself as Energy-FM 90. Program Director Andy McNutt developed the station’s signature sound as a home for the best new rock on Erie’s radio dial, with a playlist featuring artists like U2, R.E.M., Depeche Mode, Concrete Blonde, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Michelle Shocked, Pere Ubu, Big Audio Dynamite, Sting, Social Distortion, the Hoodoo Gurus, and Sarah McLachlan. Songs by groups like EMF and The Divinyls–which Energy-FM premiered–went on to become #1 hits on the Pop Charts that summer.
WERG entered the digital realm as compact disc players were installed over the summer of 1990. Then, Nirvana arrived and revolutionized the music industry: moving the format that is now called “Modern Rock” into the musical mainstream. The WERG jocks of the era were Jen Markham, Chris Tarbell, Chet Price, Chuck Peters, Scott Powell, Tim Miller, Matt Hamilton, Greg Mauz, Mark Hopkins, Chad Allen, Mark Freeze, and Josh Bricker. Energy-FM 90 was how the station was identified from 1989 to 2005, a run of sixteen years.
The 2nd floor of the old Schuster Theatre on West 7th was the original home of WERG’s production studio. When that building was demolished in 1994, the production facilities were relocated to Scottino Hall on Sassafras Street. With a fully digital studio, including SAW-32 and SoundForge production software, Gannon students obtain practical hands-on experience with exactly the same tools that the professionals use. WERG continued to pave the way for Modern Rock throughout the nineties, with the likes of Allison Counasse, Dan Rapela, Carrie Edkin, Ken Falkenhagen, Jen Mailey, Bert Copple, Dan Woodward, and Jason Makay behind the microphone.
In 1999, the welcome news came that WERG would be getting all-new studios and much needed office space. WERG was finally able to move from the hidden recesses of the Zurn Science Center basement, into the station’s present location in the Walker Building at 7th and Peach Streets. Construction on the new facilities began in the spring of 2000. Legendary station engineer and Gannon professor, Dr. John Duda, was instrumental in the design of the new facilities, but sadly was never able to see them finished. Dr. Duda passed away in 2000, leaving behind a legacy that is now commemorated each spring with the annual Duda Awards, presented to students on the WERG staff that have demonstrated excellence in various broadcasting techniques over the previous academic year.
A New Era: “Broadcasting from the Walker Building…”
The new facilities were ready to go by September of 2000, and early that month, Alex Knight (known on the air as “Baker Al”) did the first broadcast from the Walker Building air studio. In addition to the move, WERG obtained the funding to purchase digital programming technology: the DigiLink IV from Arrakis Systems. The DigiLink IV made it possible for WERG to begin continuous operation without having to sign-off after midnight.
Other innovations followed. WERG entered the realm of the World Wide Web. From its humble beginnings, www.wergfm.com has grown into a fully functional resource as a one-stop website for updated information on music, news, weather, sports, entertainment, and all manner of events both on-campus and within the Erie community.
WERG began broadcasting live via streaming audio. The station can be heard at 90.5-FM and also world-wide by going to www.wergfm.com and clicking “Listen Live.” Alumni, parents, and students can now tune-in from literally everywhere, as 90.5 WERG is world-wide on the web.
In 2002, Gannon University hired local broadcaster and Gannon alumnus Chet LaPrice to oversee WERG operations. Chet, most recently heard on Planet Radio 93-9, was the longtime music director and midday host on Country 98 WXTA.
WERG’s DigiLink IV system was expanded to enable WERG to go “CD-less” in the fall of 2002. WERG’s entire music library was now contained on the Digilink, and programming scheduled on a daily basis by the student Program Director. Over the summer of 2003, WERG acquired funding for several capital equipment purchases, including a digital audio editor for the studio. No more wrinkled tape or scratched CD’s–all audio on WERG during the week is digital. The on-air names at WERG around this time were Chris Tingley, Alexis Tate, Denise Kolivoski, Kate Neubert, Dave Twomey, Travis Phelps, Dave Dull, Jess Kuzemsky, and Zach Flock.
In October 2004, WERG began using Selector to schedule the station’s music. Selector software is the industry standard that broadcast stations utilize for their programming, and our students get hands-on experience.
“Transmitting from a Big Tower in Summit Township…”
Since its inception, WERG’s signal had emanated from an antenna in downtown Erie. The powerful 3000-watt signal could cause periodic interference on-campus and at adjacent facilities, necessitating WERG to suspend broadcast operations at various times throughout the day. This, coupled with the fact the downtown Erie antenna was below average terrain for Erie County, resulted in an inferior signal that faded rapidly as one moved away from the city. A.J. Miceli, Mary Carol Gensheimer, Chet LaPrice, and consulting adviser Joel Natalie, with the blessing of the Gannon University administration, began looking into the possibility of relocating the WERG antenna to high ground on Upper Peach Street.
With a wider broadcast footprint, WERG would need a new position on the dial: 90.5, and the Federal Communications Commission gave the go-ahead on March 24, 2005. Through negotiations with WQLN General Manager Dwight Miller and WQLN Head of Engineering Ed Upton, space was leased on the WQLN-TV tower. WERG’s brand-new ERI-LPX antenna was mounted in April 2005, and after several weeks of tests, we were ready to “flip the switch.” (Our ERI-LPX 2-bay antenna is pictured on the far left tower.)
On June 30, 2005 at 9:50 a.m., with station engineer Mike Kobylka handling the technical issues and student General Manager Evan O’Polka on the air, WERG moved from 89.9-FM to 90.5-FM and began transmitting from the new antenna in Summit Township. On-air, we began proudly identifying the station simply with our call letters and fresh new position on the dial: 90.5 WERG. Our new-and-improved signal brought clear reception throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania including Erie, Millcreek, Waterford, Harborcreek, Fairview, Lake City, Albion, Girard, North East, Edinboro, Wattsburg, and Wesleyville; as well as Conneaut and North Kingsville in Ohio; and Ripley in New York. Voices heard on WERG during the first few years of this new era: Matt Walker, Becky Fresch, Dave Dull, Katie Gabelman, Mahala Sass, Brad Mealy, Lacey Johnson, Dennis Trapani, Liz Hudson, Monika Bach, Katie Trapp, Shawn Hladney, Ally Buyny, Emily Cooper, Wally Heinl, Kelly Fennessy, and Wendy Sowizral.
Over the next few years, improvements to the station facilities in the Walker Building were implemented. A new computer was installed in the jock lounge, with industry-standard software to manage and update all facets of station operations, including website, sports updates, news writing, copywriting, and showprep. With the addition of Adobe Audition, FrontPage, PhotoShop, and Sound Forge software; a production music library and microphone, a fully functional production facility was designed with digital transfer capability direct to the WERG studio. Graduates from this era include Amanda Flick, Sean Amicucci, Kristin Babjak, Lauren Debick, Katie Gabelman, and Deb Carlson.
The next major capital upgrades occurred as the decade of the 2000s drew to a close. In May 2008, a brand new Audioarts Wheatstone D7512 studio control board was installed in the WERG studio. The following year, we upgraded to the Google Radio Automation master control system (now Wide Orbit Automation for Radio), going on-line December 2, 2009. These enhancements to WERG enable Gannon students to gain practical experience utilizing industry-standard equipment, allowing us to continue to fulfill our two-part mission: serving Gannon students and the Erie community.
- Sonic Sunrise 5-9 a.m.
- Rockin' Through the Work-Day 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
- The Afternoon Wind-Down 4-6 p.m.
- Rockin' Into the Night 6 p.m.-Midnight
- 'ERG Overnite Midnight-5 a.m.
Weekly specialty programs
- The Tuesday Top 30 Tuesdays 6-9pm
- Fazed Cookies Wednesdays 9pm - Midnight.
- The Prime Time Sports Guys Thursdays 6-9pm
- The Electric Circuit Fridays 9pm-Midnight
- Super Soul Saturday from Saturday at 12 a.m. until Sunday at 9 a.m.
- Festa Italiana Sundays 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
- Potencia Latina Sundays 12 - 3 p.m.
- The Polka Party Sundays 3 - 5 p.m.
- Hot American Polkas Sundays 5 - 7 p.m.
- Services from the First United Methodist Church of Erie Sundays 7 - 8 p.m.
- Lincoln Radio Journal Sundays 8 - 8:30 p.m.
- Planetary Radio Sundays 8:30 - 9 p.m.
- Unpackin' It Sports Sundays 9 - 9:30 p.m.
Super Soul Saturday
For 33 hours every weekend, a variety of soul, R&B, gospel, blues, jazz, rap, club and hip-hop music is broadcast on WERG.
Super Soul Saturday announcers
- Winston "Sony" Ellis (1975), worked at WUFO and WKBW in Buffalo, NY;
- Steve Collins (1975), worked 1330 AM WRIE and K104 (WCCK) in Erie before leaving to work at KDIA and KBLX in San Francisco, California and Berkley, California
- Harry Hairston (1977), worked for WQLN-FM, WSEE 35 and WICU before joining Fox 2 in Detroit, Michigan
- James "Jim Christopher" Eaton, worked at WQLN, 1450 WEYZ, WLVU Stereo 99, Q1400 WBLQ and WXKC Classy 100
- Several staff members were employed with Q1400 WBLQ in the eighties, including Homer "Lee" Smith, Timmie Mack, Danny "Mr. J" Jones, The Captain, John "Chilly J" Norton, the late Bobby K., and Dorothy Smith
- Mike Carbone (Mike West) joined Super Soul Saturday with broadcast experience at WBLK FM in Buffalo and CING-FM in Toronto, Canada, was awarded Top Mix DJ in the US in 1990 by the Westwood One Radio Network after winning their nationwide Club Mix Competition
- WERG official website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WERG
- Radio-Locator information on WERG
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WERG