|City of license||Middletown, New York|
|First air date||1942|
(Townsquare Media Poughkeepsie Licenses, LLC)
|Sister stations||WCZX, WEOK, WKNY, WKXP, WPDA, WPDH, WRRV, WZAD|
WALL (1340 AM, "Fierro") is a radio station licensed to Middletown, New York that serves Orange County, New York. WALL is owned by Townsquare Media and broadcasts at 1340 kHz with 1,000 watts, daytime and nighttime, both nondirectional.
WALL came to air on August 2, 1942, the first radio station in the western part of Orange County, part of a series of low-powered local stations that took to the air in the period after the 1941 North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement and realignment.
WALL signed on with a full-service popular music format with a heavy amount of local news, and with only newspapers as competition, were successful. The station was owned by the Community Broadcasting Corporation whose partners were Roger Clipp, an executive with Triangle Publications (WFIL in Philadelphia) and John Morgan Davis, who ultimately served as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania.
In 1950, WALL hired Jim Patt from WNBH in New Bedford, Massachusetts, as General Manager; he ran the station until 1972. On-air personalities included Bill Swanwick ("Breakfast With Beaming Billy"), Jerry Wax ("The Wax Works"), longtime staffer Joe Ryan and Big Jim Pappas; Al Larson served as news director, with Johnny Zaimes in charge of sales.
Dominance in the 1960s and 1970s
The station was sold to R. Peter Straus, owner of WMCA in New York City ("home of the Good Guys"). Straus, who had aspirations to become a United States Senator, bought WALL as well as stations in Utica and Geneva, New York, so his editorials could be heard throughout the state. In 1964, however, Robert F. Kennedy decided to run for the Senate, ending Straus's political plans. Patt stayed on to run WALL for Straus, putting WALL-FM on the air, but when Straus sold his stations, Patt decided it was time to retire to Fort Myers, Florida, where he teamed up again with Roger Clipp to put a station on the air in that market.
In 1972, Straus Communications sold all their radio properties except WMCA. WALL was bought by Oroco Communications, Inc., headed by James F. O'Grady, Jr., who retained most of the staff and continued the Top 40 format on WALL-AM. Shortly after taking the reigns, Oroco decided to split the FM into the "Beautiful Music" format using an early automation system by Bonneville Program Services. Art Livesey was made program director of the FM. The move was a departure, but WALL-FM would still simulcast the live all-night and morning drive shows on WALL-AM well into the 70's.
In 1973, Berger was hired by ABC to program their Detroit Album-oriented Rock station, WRIF, and Dave Pound from New York's WNEW (now WBBR) was named WALL's program director. When Berger brought some of WALL's talent with him, Pound brought in newcomers - among them Howard Hoffman, Randy West, Simon Hendrix and John Fischer - to fill the vacancies.
The "NINE!" Satire Tape
In August 1974, WALL staffers Randy West and Howard Hoffman, along with radio friends Pete Salant and Russ DiBello, recorded a satirical tape known as "NINE!", a parody of industry marketing pitches and radio programming in general. The recording session took place in the WALL production studios after Hoffman's on-air shift ended at midnight. The tape, which takes place at fictional radio station AM 900 WVWA/Pound Ridge, New York, documents the progression of a top 40 station from earlier, awkward years (with odd sound effects, rambling disc jockeys, dead air, and wildly inaccurate weather forecasts) to a finely-tuned, professional-sounding station with various gimmicks, catch-phrases and promotions popular at the time. Ultimately, WVWA decides to go one step further and strip out all spoken-word content, leaving only a rapid-fire, barely intelligible station identification once an hour and the word "NINE!" screamed between each song. Even before an ending could be added to it, "NINE" immediately turned viral in the entire radio industry when an unfinished copy found its way to New York City's 99X (now WEPN-FM). The creators decided to leave the planned ending off since the payoff stood well on its own.
The fire and beyond
At about 8pm on Sunday, December 21, 1975, WALL suffered a fire which gutted its North Street studios, killing several residents in a third-floor apartment, and forcing the station to move to an abandoned, block-long Armory building in Middletown. WALL was off the air less than half an hour; using remote broadcast equipment that was stored at the transmitter site on Monhagen Avenue, the station began broadcasting from the transmitter building using records borrowed from employees. The old Armory building had already been purchased by Oroco (which changed its name to Castle Communications to commemorate the acquisition), with the intent of moving the radio station there within a year; instead, the move happened overnight. WALL signed on from the Armory at 6am the morning after the fire, using remote equipment borrowed from sister station WHVW in Hyde Park, New York. Temporary studios were quickly constructed in a basement gym, with permanent studios constructed as originally planned on the second floor of the Armory, and offices on the first floor.
In 1979, WALL and sister WKGL (the former WALL-FM) were purchased by a consortium headed by media mogul Robert F.X. Sillerman and legendary New York air personality Bruce Morrow ("Cousin Brucie"). Headquartering their group in Middletown at the Armory (now re-christened "Broadcast Plaza"), major changes took place with WALL flipping first to a top 40/adult contemporary hybrid format, and later to Adult Standards; WKGL went to an oldies format. The change was not a long-term success, and Morrow sold WALL and WKGL to Bell Broadcasting.
1980s and 1990s
By 1985 WALL began to regroup by bringing in program director Rob Dillman and flipping to a higher-energy oldies format. With this change came the acquisition of sports programming such as New York Mets baseball, New York Giants football, and various local sports and other community events. Additionally, WALL rehired some of the air talent from its Top 40 heyday, including Joe Ryan.
In the WALL's "45th Anniversary Reunion Broadcast", on the weekend of August 2–3, 1987, the station looked back to its past and reunited air personalities including "Cousin Brucie", Howard Hoffman, Dave Charity, John Fisher, Ray Arthur, Randy West, Gene Pelc, Al Faust, Art Livesay, Alex Miller, Dick Wells, Jim Frey, Mark West, Chris Rogers, Jim Brownold, Jon LeMieux, Jimmy Howes, Jim Pappas and Al Larson.
In September 1988, local power company Orange and Rockland Utilities purchased WALL and WKGL (now WRRV); with the sale came a mass purge of staff with WALL flipping to a satellite news/talk format in all but mornings. There would be no fiftieth anniversary celebration in 1992: Joe Ryan died, as did news man Al Larson.
In 1994, Orange and Rockland would sell WALL and WKOJ to the Poughkeepsie-based Crystal Radio Group. Despite slumping ratings, WALL's news/talk format continued undisturbed for most of the rest of the 1990s. WKOJ's format was changed to modern rock and its calls to WRRV; the station remains the same as of 2013.
WEOK simulcast history
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (April 2014)|
- (for a detailed history on these formats, see the article on WEOK)
While WALL was left alone and did moderately well given its signal and status in the market, Crystal Radio had problems with WEOK given the aging demographics of that station's longtime adult standards format. Looking at an opportunity to fortify their holdings, in August 1999 Crystal decided to join WEOK with WALL and renovate WALL's talk format into a station that would target all of the Hudson Valley. On September 6, 1999, WEOK dumped pop standards and joined with WALL to simulcast talk, a format known as NewsTalk 13. John Moultrie, WALL's morning man since switching to talk, was dumped in favor of WEOK's Larry Hughes. (Moultrie later turned up doing afternoons on WTBQ; and mornings at WVOS.)
Up against the highly rated WABC in New York (and sharing much of its programming), the NewsTalk 13 simulcast struggled to find an audience, especially in Middletown; many listeners there thought the new station was too "Poughkeepsie-centric". In August 2000, the ESPN Radio programming that the station aired nights and weekends became the full-time format of the station. Soon, Aurora Communications would purchase the assets of the Crystal Radio Group. Both NewsTalk 13 and the ESPN Radio simulcast featured a large amount of sports rights including Yankees baseball, Giants and Jets football, and Marist College basketball.
Aurora's ownership of the station would prove to be short-lived; in October 2001 they would be purchased by Cumulus Media. At 2pm on September 15, 2002 (following the rueful announcement "This was ESPN Radio"), WALL and WEOK would flip to a Spanish language Hot AC format as El Ritmo ("The Rhythm"), the first Spanish-language station in the Hudson Valley.
Poor ratings and revenues led Cumulus, in March 2005, to flip the stations again, this time to Radio Disney; Cumulus had actually considered switching to Disney three years earlier.
True Oldies Channel and return to live radio
On February 22, 2010 the WEOK and WALL simulcast dropped Radio Disney for Scott Shannon's The True Oldies Channel, a syndicated format similar to the Top-40 WALL of the 60s and 70s (and the high-energy oldies format of the mid-80s). With the switch, WEOK and WALL stopped being a true simulcast, running liners, jingles and commercials specific to each station.
On April 11, 2011, former WALL personality Mark West brought live radio back to Middletown for the first time since 1999 when he began programming a local morning show from his studio in New Hampton, New York. West leased the morning shift (6-10 a.m. weekdays) from Townsquare Media and sold commercials and covered local news.
Ownership under Townsquare Media
On August 30, 2013, a deal was announced in which Cumulus would swap its stations in Dubuque, Iowa and Poughkeepsie, New York (including WALL) to Townsquare Media in exchange for Peak Broadcasting's Fresno, California stations. The deal is part of Cumulus' acquisition of Dial Global; Townsquare, Peak, and Dial Global are all controlled by Oaktree Capital Management.  The sale to Townsquare was completed on November 14, 2013.
On January 8, 2015 WALL changed its format to regional Mexican, branded as "Fierro". Mark West's brokered program in English continued, on a month-by-month basis, until May 8.  Due to community outrage over the change in format, a Facebook campaign was launched demanding that the Mark West show remain, and the Oldies format returned.
- Berger, Larry "FM Radio History Interview with Larry Berger", August 25, 2013
- Howard Hoffman, WALL Middletown, NY March 1975 at ReelRadio Top 40 Radio Repository, April 13, 2014
- "Official: Cumulus Buys Dial Global, Spins Townsquare, Fresno Spun To Cumulus". All Access. August 30, 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
- "Cumulus Makes Dial Global And Townsquare Deals Official". RadioInsight. August 30, 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
- "Cumulus-Townsquare-Peak Deal Closes". All Access. November 15, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
- WALL/WEOK Flip to Regional Mexican
- Official website
- Official Website for Mark West Morning Show
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WALL
- Radio-Locator Information on WALL
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WALL