Broadcast Pioneers’ member Dave Shayer was a “pioneer” in the early days of Philadelphia FM radio.
The date was Monday, May 13, 1963, the first day on the air for WDVR (101.1). Dave was one of the original announcers, and was with the station for a number of years. He was music director from 1969 until 1972.
WDVR had a listing in the telephone book before actual broadcasting had begun. Dave noticed that listing and went to check things out. He met Dave Kurtz, the owner and chief engineer, who was installing the console, turntables, and other equipment. Kurtz told Dave to come back in a couple of weeks and speak with station manager Marlin Taylor who would be doing the interviewing.
Dave returned, made an audition tape, and was hired along with a handful of others, eager to get their first start in radio. This initial group of announcers also included Richard Franklin, Lou Klawansky, Frank Goshy, and Joaquin Bowman.
WDVR started operations very modestly from facilities in an aging office building on Chelten Avenue in Germantown. The transmitter was at this site, and the antenna was erected on the building’s roof. There was no soundproofing, and as a result, it was not uncommon to hear fire sirens, buses, and other street noises behind the newscasts!
The station, calling itself “Delaware Valley Radio”, rose to #1 in the ratings virtually overnight with its format of familiar “beautiful music”, in stereo, 24 hours a day, and only four commercials per hour.
In 1966, WDVR increased its power and began transmitting from the Roxborough antenna farm, and early the following year, the studios and offices were relocated to Presidential Boulevard in Bala Cynwyd, where they’ve been ever since. Eventually the call letters were changed to WEAZ, and then finally to WBEB.
Some early “hands-on” experience had come about thanks to WHHS, the Haverford High School FM station. Dave was the chief announcer and program director in 1962, his senior year. With only 10 watts of power it just about covered the immediate Havertown area, but provided invaluable training for what was ahead. At the time, Haverford was the only high school in Pennsylvania to own and operate an FM radio station.
Before joining WDVR, Dave had taken a position in the mailroom of WFIL-TV (now WPVI), which was located at 46th & Markets Sts. in West Philadelphia. While not involving any actual on-air duties, the job provided an insight into the broadcasting business, as the building also housed WFIL’s radio operations.
During this time, Dave had the opportunity to meet such local legends as Chief Halftown, Bill Webber, & Sally Starr, and to become friendly with some of the technical crew and directors.
Of particular interest was “American Bandstand,” which originated just a few feet away from the mailroom, in Studio B. He recalls the excitement brought on by what was taking place: the kids, the cameras, and the chance to see the recording artists of the day, in person, lip-synching their current hit songs.
In the summer of 1967, WDVR’s sales manager, Gordon Potter, was named the General Manager at KBMS in Los Angeles. Gordon then asked Dave to join him in the capacity of program and music director. Dave accepted, then traveled to California and transformed the station into a West Coast clone of WDVR.
After a year, Dave became homesick and returned to the Delaware Valley. The travel bug bit again a few years later, and this time the destination was Hawaii, and a slot at KUMU, the top-rated easy listening outlet in Honolulu. While there, Dave joined the Screen Extras Guild and made a few appearances on the locally filmed series “Hawaii Five-0.”
Along the way, Dave was also affiliated with WJBR in Wilmington and WTMR in Camden. For many years he was the voice of WLVT-TV (Channel 39), and would commute to the Lehigh Valley every month to tape a new batch of station breaks and promos. Here, he produced a popular documentary on the famous “Liberty Bell” trolley line that once ran between Allentown and Philadelphia.
Dave’s last broadcast employment was with WWSH from 1974 to 1979, where he worked with the late Nels Hobdell. Today, Dave is with the Service Planning & Schedules department of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
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