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This article is about the internet radio station and history of WLIR/WDRE at 92.7 FM (and 98.5 FM and 107.1 FM). For the Hampton Bays, New York radio station at 107.1 FM, see WLIR-FM. For other uses, see WLIR (disambiguation).
Web address
Slogan New York's Original Alternative Station
Type of site Internet radio station
Launched September 2005;  (2005-09)
Current status Active

WLIR (WLIR.FM) is an internet radio station that plays the new music/modern rock that was originally heard on WLIR/WDRE (92.7 FM, 98.5 FM, and 107.1 FM) in the 1980s and 1990s along with the alternative rock of the 2000s to the present. The spirit of the original WLIR is maintained with the music mix and the personalities, such as Larry the Duck, Malibu Sue, and Denis McNamara. Bob Wilson, long time WLIR employee and historian, created the WLIR.FM website and programs the music playlist.[1]

WLIR on FM radio

WLIR was best known as an influential radio station that launched the careers of many music acts and disk jockeys from the 1970s through the 1990s. In 1970, it changed to a progressive rock format before switching to a new music/modern rock format in 1982. The station originally broadcast from studios at the Garden City Hotel, Garden City, New York, then 175 Fulton Avenue, Hempstead, New York, 1600 Stewart Avenue, Westbury, New York, and finally, 1103 Stewart Avenue, Garden City, New York, with its transmitter located at North Shore Towers in the Long Island, New York area.

1959-1970: 92.7 FM beginnings

WLIR was founded in 1959 by John R. Rieger. It was licensed to Garden City, New York on the frequency 92.7 FM and played a mix of Broadway tunes and classical music from a basement studio in the Garden City Hotel.[2][3]

1970s: The progressive era

In the early 1970s, announcer Richard Neer and part-time announcer Mike Harrison convinced Rieger to change to a progressive rock format.[3] This meant playing obscure artists, playing many cuts off an album (not just the hit singles), and having disc jockeys speak in a slow, mellow tone. At this time, the station adopted the famous WLIR Seagull as its logo. It also became known for its concert series and support of local bands such as The Good Rats.

As the 1970s went on, most rock stations drifted into a more commercial album oriented rock direction, but WLIR bucked this trend. As punk and new wave rock started to become popular at the end of the 1970s, most rock stations in the United States ignored these genres. WLIR, again, bucked the trend by playing artists from these genres.

1980s: Dare to be different

In 1982, it was decided that in order for the station to move into the future, a format change was needed.[4] Program director Denis McNamara recommended to the station's owner that he choose one of two formats, either progressive adult contemporary or New Music.[4] Although adult contemporary seemed commercially appealing, New Music was chosen because it was more in step with the "dare to be different" campaign being used to promote the new format and it was more "fun".[4] On August 2, the format switch occurred. The station featured new wave (McNamara "hated" that term because he felt it was a trendy phrase that might be out of style in a year[4]), synthpop, post-punk, early alternative rock acts as well as novelty records. The personalities of the disc jockeys became much more upbeat. The station became known worldwide for introducing new artists and playing singles months (if not years) before other stations. WLIR became the first radio station in the country to play U2, The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, Duran Duran, Madonna, George Michael, Men at Work and Prince. The station was one of the few commercial radio stations in the United States to play these type of artists. One method of doing so was the "Screamer of the Week," a feature in which listeners would call in and vote for their favorite new song of the week. New Order, Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Yaz and Blancmange were early staples of the new music format.[5] According to McNamara, the "entire music industry was looking upon 'LIR and that 'LIR marketplace of New York and Long Island as one of the hippest music areas of the world. People used to refer to it as the gateway to America if you were an upcoming artist."[5] A criticism of the station in this period was that it favored artists from Great Britain (and to a lesser extent western Europe in general) at the expense of local bands.[verification needed]

In 1987, the station's license was revoked after a fifteen-year battle, which began in the early 1970s when the station operated only on special temporary authority granted by the FCC.[6] As a result of this revocation, the station changed ownership on December 18, 1987, and the WLIR call letters were changed to WDRE by the new owner, Jarad Communications[6] (it would regain the WLIR call letters some years later). The interim operator (Elton Spitzer's Phoenix Media Corp.) took the WLIR call letters to an AM radio station in Rockland County, New York. The previous owners also took the "Dare To Be Different" slogan with them as intellectual property, so WDRE's moniker became "New Music First". The feature "Screamer of the Week" became "Shriek of the Week," and the station remained on the cutting edge of new music as they broke new bands into the next decade, like Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana and others.

1990s: Alternative rock expands

In 1991, the station changed its moniker again, this time to "The Cutting Edge of Rock."

The explosion in popularity of grunge and alternative rock in the early 1990s led to a period of turmoil. The synthpop-based music on which much of the station's playlist was based was now out of fashion. Alternative rock artists which used to be played almost exclusively on the station were now being played on many rock and pop music stations.[7]

In 1992, WDRE started simulcasting its programming with what was 103.9 WIBF-FM Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, which later became WDRE Jenkintown/Philadelphia. Subsequently, in the mid 1990s, Greg Morey claims to have created the first alternative rock network known as "The Underground Network."[8][9] The Underground Network consisted of the following stations:

Underground Network
Call sign (1995) Frequency City of license Call sign (2013)
KDRE 101.1 FM Little Rock, Arkansas KZTS
KFTH 107.1 FM Memphis, Tennessee KXHT
WDRE 92.7 FM Garden City, New York (New York City) WQBU-FM
WFAL 101.1 FM Cape Cod, Massachusetts WFRQ
WIBF 103.9 FM Jenkintown, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) WPPZ-FM
WMRW 98.5 FM Westhampton, New York WBON
WRLG 94.1 FM Nashville, Tennessee WFFH
WWCP 96.7 FM Albany, New York WDCD-FM

Four years after WIBF became WDRE's first affiliate, The Underground Network was disbanded. In 1996, it was decided that WDRE Garden City would switch formats to adult album alternative (AAA), bring back Malibu Sue[10] (who had been fired earlier by then PD Russ Mottla), change its call letters back to WLIR and change its moniker to "The Island". That same year, WDRE Philadelphia became a local, independent modern rock station.

2000s: Move to 107.1 FM

On January 9, 2004, Univision bought the 92.7 frequency and other assets for $60 million[11] and began simulcasting the Spanish radio format of WCAA Newark, New Jersey on 92.7 under the call letters WZAA. The last song played on WLIR that day was "Forever Young" by Alphaville.[12] The WLIR call letters moved to the 107.1 frequency on Eastern Long Island, which had been simulcasting WLIR for several years. The new WLIR adopted an active/modern rock format and new image as "THE BOX".[13] Since 107.1 FM is located about 50 miles east of the original WLIR at 92.7 FM, many of the station's fans in New York City, southwestern Connecticut, southern Westchester County, New York, northeastern New Jersey, and even the western parts of Long Island itself could not easily receive the station. Many of these areas were closer geographically to other stations occupying 107.1 FM (WXPK in central Westchester County and WWZY in Long Branch, New Jersey) which hindered reception.

On September 12, 2005, WLIR changed formats to a block-sponsored smooth jazz/chill music format known as "FM Channel 107: NeoBreeze." This same block-sponsored type formatting was also instituted at two other stations owned by The Morey Organization, WLIR's owner. As a result of this change, all of the on-air staff was fired. This truly marked the end of WLIR's unique over the air "new music" format after almost three decades. In addition, with the new format, the station would run commercial-free during the day, with the actual airtime during this period paid for by advertisers. According to the station's owners, this move was made as an attempt to take on satellite radio and MP3 players, which had been cutting into listeners of traditional radio.[14] In an effort to keep WLIR and its alternative music alive, longtime WLIR employee and historian Bob Wilson developed the WLIR.FM website and began an internet broadcast of WLIR music called "Next Wave".

On December 20, 2005, after three months of low ratings, the NeoBreeze format was dropped, and the WLIR alternative format returned.

On December 26, 2006, President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Metter announced the purchase of three Long Island radio stations: Alternative WLIR-FM (107.1 FM), Classic Rocker WBON (98.5 FM), and Top 40/Rhythmic WDRE (105.3 FM).[15] WBON was renamed WBZB and flipped to a business talk format on January 2, 2007. The sales of WLIR-FM and WBZB were approved on February 27, 2007. The selling price for WLIR-FM and WBZB was $1.75 million for each station.[16] The total selling price for all three stations would have been $5 million, however the sale was never completed, and WBZB returned to the WBON calls.[17]

In September 2007, WLIR began broadcasting from a new antenna at a location 5 miles to the west of the original.[18] On October 11, 2007, WLIR-FM began simulcasting on a translator in Manorville, W245BA (96.9 FM), expanding its coverage area into western Suffolk County and a portion of eastern Nassau County. On November 18, 2007, this simulcast of WLIR-FM ended with the new simulcast of 98.5 WBON, "La Fiesta", taking over the 96.9 frequency.

On January 3, 2008 in part because of the reach of the new antenna WLIR-FM began simulcasting programming from sister station WDRE (Party 105), fueling speculation that a change in format to ESPN was imminent.[19] On January 21, 2008, WLIR-FM became an ESPN Radio affiliate via a local marketing agreement with New York City radio station WEPN (then on 1050 AM, now on 98.7 FM).[20]

2010s: Jarad sells 107.1 FM

On February 9, 2011, Jarad Broadcasting of Hampton Bays entered into an asset purchase agreement with Holding Out Hope Church d/b/a WLIX Radio to sell the station for $650,000. On February 17, 2011, Holding Out Hope Church assigned the agreement to Livingstone Broadcasting, Inc.[21] On May 25, 2011 the sale of WLIR-FM to Livingstone Broadcasting Inc was completed. On August 1, 2011, WLIR-FM began broadcasting Christian programming as part of the WLIX Hope radio network.

WLIR/WDRE legacy

As of July 2012, a documentary entitled Dare to Be Different - WLIR: The Voice of a Generation by Ellen Goldfarb was in production. It is expected to detail the 1980s format change, the influence the station had, and its battles with the FCC. The stations staff and fans were also to be documented.[22]

The original "World Famous" WLIR alternative music, air personalities, sounders, jingles, shrieks and screamers as well as today's new music can still be found at WLIR.FM.

People, places, and memories

Many WLIR personalities have had continued success and notoriety both on and off the air. Some of these include:

WLIR had many memorable and unique shows. Some of these include:

WLIR music and bands were featured at many Long Island venues. Some of these include:

See also

  • List of Internet stations
  • WQBU-FM — the current Garden City, New York radio station at 92.7 FM
  • WBON — the current Westhampton, New York radio station at 98.5 FM
  • WLIR-FM — the current Hampton Bays, New York radio station at 107.1 FM


External links

  • WLIR.FM — New York's Original Alternative Station streaming "The World Famous" WLIR
  • Facebook
  • Greg Morey at iMedia Connection
  • WLIR Loses Its License (December 18, 1987) — audio clip of the last day of 92.7 WLIR in 1987

Fan websites

  • 92.7 Archive & Aircheck Registry
  • Official WLIR Fan Website
  • WLIR Screamers & Shrieks lists
  • (history of 92.7 WLIR)
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