94.9 FM Decatur > Atlanta
WAVQ > WAVO > WPCH > WLTM > WUBL
Photos (click to enlarge)
(Left) Circa 1980- A young Steve Goss in the WPCH studio on the 4th floor of the Pharr Center building at 550 Pharr Road in Buckhead. Behind are the reel-to-reel machines on which the station rotated the Schulke beautiful music tapes. Within a year or two of this picture, WPCH engineer Jim Gantner enclosed the machines in sliding floor to ceiling glass doors to prevent the "clunk" sound they emitted when they shut down from getting on the air.
Audio and Video
WPCH Commercials-"Where's Dale O'Brien" campaign (Courtesy of Tim Johnson)
Peach 94.9-Steve Goss August 1998
Peach 94.9-Dale O'Brian Jan. 2, 2001
(From Wikipedia) The station signed on October 24, 1962 as religious WAVQ (changed to WAVO-FM in 1965), sister to Decatur’s WAVO (1420 AM), and licensed to the Great Commission Gospel Association, which then sold both outlets to Bob Jones University. It was sold to Sudbrink Broadcasting in 1972. (Wiki)
Long-time WPCH air talent and programmer Steve Goss picks up the story:
WPCH History —The Early Years
In 1978 Sudbrink Broadcasting sold WPCH-FM to Meredith Corporation of Des Moines, Iowa. At the time of that sale, WPCH was operating from a residential house behind the Toco Hill Shopping center in northeast Atlanta. After Meredith purchased “Peach” and sister station WGST-AM, both studios were moved to the 4th floor of the Pharr Center office building at 550 Pharr Road in Buckhead.
Peach’s power had been boosted to 100,000 watts, sharing space with two other FMs on a tower located near Sage Hill Shopping Center in Atlanta. Since the 1970s, Peach aired a “beautiful music” or “easy listening” format; that is, predominantly medium to slow tempo instrumentals, with an occasional vocal. The music provided on reel-to-reel tapes by Stereo Radio Productions, later Schulke Radio Productions (SRP), utilized the so-called “match flow” format. Each hour of music was divided into four 15-minute blocks, where the songs’ tempo began slowly then gradually reached a peak in the middle of the block, before slowing down again by the end of the quarter-hour. Vocals, if any, played in the middle of the quarter. The concept was designed to keep the listener “relaxed” quarter after quarter, hour after hour. To that end, the station was promoted as such, and in the early 1980s Peach ran a series of TV commercials promoting itself as “The Place to Relax.”
The beautiful music format’s golden era lasted from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, with like-format stations cropping up on the FM band in cities across America. During this time, Atlanta had three easy listening stations: WSB-FM (at 98.5, its slogan was “Beautiful 98”), WLTA-FM (at 99.7, referred to its dial location as 100-FM, and played the hook from “Tara’s Theme” from “Gone With the Wind” with the legal ID at the top of the hour), and WPCH (at 94.9, identified its location as FM-95). WPCH had a promotional advantage over its competitors during this period because of its call letters and the word, “Peach.” When WSB-FM abandoned beautiful music in March 1982 for a soft adult contemporary format, the ultimate arbiter in that decision was an often repeated story where WSB’s general manager was at an event when a listener approached him praising his easy listening station, saying “Peach is just wonderful, and I can get it at two places on my FM dial!” Within a year after WSB-FM’s flip, WLTA followed suit, becoming WRMM, and light rock. Thereafter, WPCH became the sole beautiful music station in Atlanta: “Peach” was synonymous with beautiful music, easy listening…and elevator music.
From the late 1970s and during the 1980s, John Lauer was the 2-station cluster’s Vice-President and General Manager, Jim Hutto, WPCH’s Operations Manager, Don Carle, Peach’s Sales Manager, and Arnie Katinsky, Promotions Director. Meredith Corporation, as station owner, offered little input to how the station was programmed. Targeting women, 25-54, and office workers, the station had impressive ratings—particularly 12+ and with women 45+. But, it was not an easy sell to advertisers, as its competitors claimed no one “actively” listened; it was just “background music” that people in an office could barely hear. Truth be told, Peach’s contract with Schulke stipulated that commercial spots should be dubbed at a dB level lower than the music, that only 6 units per hour could air (eventually increased to 8), and that spots should be a single voice, preferably male, with no music beds, jingles or sound effects. Between every element in a break, two seconds of dead air was mandatory. On-air announcers were told to count quietly in their heads, “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” before playing the next commercial. The legal ID at the top of our was this: WPCH, Atlanta….All Music…All the Time… (then followed after two seconds with the next quarter-hour of matched flow).
The music provided to stations by Schulke featured instrumentals by Henry Mancini, Frank Chacksfield, Johnny Pearson, 101 Strings, Living Strings, Ricard Clayderman, Hagood Hardy, Ferrante and Teicher, and many more. Popular vocalists included Johnny Mathis, Anne Murray, Roger Whittaker, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, the Carpenters, Dionne Warwick, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and the Lettermen.
Schulke provided client stations with program logs that scheduled which reels were to be played and when. At WPCH, two reel-to-reels were each loaded with a one-hour tape. Each tape with four 15-minute quarters was embedded with a 25Hz tone that would shut down the reel-to-reel machine at the end of each quarter-hour. That was the cue for the on-air announcer to read an image line, play spots, read a brief news update or weather, then re-start the playback machine. After two hours, the tapes would be changed, the playback rollers swabbed with a cleaning solution, and the process resumed. It was common knowledge amongst the air staff that the beautiful music format was the easiest to execute, but among the most difficult at which to excel. Since virtually everything an announcer said was scripted and brief, it was essential to focus on how much relaxed, genuine personality one could inject.
In 1987, Jacor Communications of Cincinnati bought WPCH and WGST from Meredith. Jacor proved to be much more involved in the programming of WPCH than Meredith had been. From the outset they had a goal of flipping WPCH’s format, and toward that end insisted that all songs be transferred to cart, and programmed via Selector. In early 1988, Jim Hutto resigned from Peach; Vance Dillard was hired as his successor, Steve Goss promoted to Assistant Program Director, and David Joy, who had been brought on part-time to assist with the transition to Selector, became Music Director. Peach continued as an easy listening station but added a few more vocals and now used Carson Radio Services as music supplier, instead of Schulke. In March 1989, after the popular “Jazz Flavors” evening program was dropped by WQXI-FM, WPCH added its own version, dubbing it “Peach Flavors” and airing it weeknights from 7 til midnight. A bit of an odd amalgamation, the show featured new age and light jazz, along with easy listening vocals from artists like Johnny Mathis and Anne Murray. That experiment was short-lived, however, as Peach dropped it within a year. Still, this was yet another step toward Peach abandoning instrumental-heavy easy listening for a mostly all-vocal, soft adult contemporary format in the summer of 1990.
After the transition to a soft AC was completed, Peach re-designed its logo and slogan to “Peach 94-9.” About that time John Hogan succeeded John Lauer as VP and General Manager. In 1992, Hogan negotiated the radio broadcast rights for Atlanta Braves games for WGST and WPCH. As such, Peach became the first FM station in the United States to regularly broadcast Major League Baseball, in stereo no less. Peach and GST broadcast Braves games for three seasons,1992-1994. The 1994 season was cut short due to the players' strike.
Throughout the 1990s, Peach continued to evolve as a soft AC station, competing primarily with arch-rival WSB-FM (B 98.5 FM). During that time, Peach experimented with programming changes during 7p-midnight: an all 70s show; Love Songs with the host taking calls; and eventually picking up the syndicated “Delilah” love songs program. Similarly, Saturday nights went through a few iterations of Oldies programs; although Sunday mornings continued with the “Sounds of Faith,” a 4 to 6-hour program of Christian praise songs that had been developed in the late 1970s by Jim Hutto and Jim Dickson. Peach also maintained its reputation and commitment to being Atlanta’s Christmas music station. Since 1979, Peach had played nonstop holiday music from Christmas Eve through Christmas night. In the 1990s, WPCH added nonstop holiday music on Thanksgiving, then expanded it to Sunday afternoons during December, before going nonstop on Christmas Eve and Day. Prior to 1999, management at Peach had discussed the pluses and minuses of playing all Christmas music from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day, but never pulled the trigger.
When Vance Dillard left WPCH for a position in Knoxville in summer 1999, Steve Goss became interim PD during which time the full-bore holiday music experiment was launched. It proved to be a ratings success, which prompted other Atlanta stations to follow suit in 2000. For a few years thereafter, multiple stations played non-stop holiday music from Thanksgiving on—WPCH, WSB-FM, WFSH, and WJZZ.
Steve Goss, February 2022
NOTE: In the middle of its all-Christmas music format, and more than a week before Christmas Day, Lite FM changed to country music as "The Bull" at noon on December 18, 2006. WLTM's call letters were then changed to WUBL.