WUSL, better known to the listeners as "POWER 99FM", is a mainstream urban radio station, owned by iHeartMedia, Inc. and licensed to Philadelphia. WUSL broadcasts from a class B signal with an effective radiated power (ERP) of 27,000 watts (27 kilowatts (kW)) on the 98.9 Megahertz (MHz) frequency from a tower located in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, and its studios are located in Bala Cynwyd.
In 1961, the 98.9 frequency signed on as WPBS "Philadelphia's Bulletin Station", under common ownership with the city's largest daily newspaper at the time, The Evening Bulletin. The station was cross-promoted with the newspaper and featured an easy listening format. At one point, WPBS was called "Velvet Stereo".
In 1976, the newspaper sold the station to LIN Broadcasting, which at the time also owned WFIL 560. WPBS changed calls to WUSL, which stood for "US-1", and Program Director Jim Nettleton instituted a Soft Adult Contemporary format mixed with standards which had crossed over to the 1960s/1970s pop charts (e.g. Engelbert Humperdinck, Barbra Streisand, etc.). The morning newsman at this time was Jim Gearhart, who is now on NJ 101.5.
On July 3, 1981, the station switched to a "3-in-a-row" country music format as "Continuous Country, US-99FM". Two months later, co-owned WFIL switched to a more personality and information-leaning country station. Realizing that they were splitting their own audience, WUSL signed off the country format in the early hours of October 9, 1982. The last country song played was "Get Into Reggae, Cowboy" by The Bellamy Brothers, and went silent for 24 hours.
The next day, at 6 AM, the station became a CHR/Urban Contemporary station as "Philly's New Kiss 99" trying to copying New York's WRKS a.k.a. "98.7 Kiss FM". The station even applied for new calls WPKS which would stand for "We're Philadelphia's Kiss!", but somehow the owners of WKSZ (see below), who at the time had not launched their station, said they were signing on as "Philly's New Kiss 100" and had already copyrighted the name, and started legal action against WUSL. At this time, LIN Broadcasting was the owner of WUSL.
WUSL backed off, dropped the "Kiss" name and was simply "99FM" for a few weeks until October 1982, when it began using "The New POWER 99FM". Within months, the station had surpassed WDAS-FM in the ratings. Its first and only slogan until the late '80s was "POWER 99FM, I've Got The POWER!" Stations around the country including WPEG, WTLC-FM, KKFR, WPLJ, KPWR, WAVA (FM), KMEL, WFLZ, WPHR, WHYT, WPOW, and even WBLS adopted the "Power" brand (but not always with an Urban, CHUrban or CHR format). WUSL continues to be the dominant urban leader in Philadelphia today.
In 1982, the station began presenting its annual major concert event, "PowerHouse."
EZ Communications, owner of rival WIOQ, would purchase WUSL in July 1994.
In February 1997, EZ Communications was attempting to merge with American Radio Systems of Boston, and would swap its two stations in Philadelphia with Evergreen Media's Charlotte, NC stations (Evergreen also owned WJJZ and WDAS-FM and AM). EZ would exchange its Philadelphia stations, WIOQ and WUSL, plus $10 million, for Evergreen's four FM and two AM stations in Charlotte: WPEG; WBAV AM/-FM; WNKS; WRFX and WFNZ. After the merger, WUSL focused its programming on a younger audience while WDAS serviced an older demographic.
One of the most well-known programs to air on WUSL was "The Carter & Sanborn Morning Show" a.k.a. "Carter & Sanborn In The Morning", which was hosted by Brian Carter and Dave Sanborn. The show featured a cast of off-beat characters, all voiced by Sanborn, including wise-cracking horoscope reader "Horace, the Taurus" and fall down drunk blues singer "Lunchmeat Mumford". Horace became such a popular character that many listeners had mini urban legends circulating that he was a relative or friend from school or the neighborhood, not realizing he was Sanborn. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the show was a main draw in Philadelphia among younger members of all demographics. Bill Simpson, who would later host a nighttime show on both incarnations of Smooth Jazz WJJZ (first at 106.1 and later at 97.5), used the alias Dave Sanborn on the show, which often created confusion with the well-known jazz saxophonist David Sanborn, especially among those who were not regular listeners. The show was briefly revived in 2005 on WDAS after that station dropped Tom Joyner from its schedule. Some of the other personalities in the 1980s were Fred "Bugsy" Buggs, who left the station in 1986 and went to WRKS/New York City, Jo Jo Davis, Mike Jackson (not to be confused with singer Michael Jackson), B.J. Johnson, of "B.J. In The Morning" (pre Carter & Sanborn In The Morning), as well as two female former rappers turned Power jocks, Lady B. and Monie Love, Barbara Sommers, and Don Juan Banks, who is still with the station today.
From 1991 to 1998, Power 99 aired the groundbreaking hip hop show "Radioactive", hosted by Colby Colb. Also on the show were DJ Ran, DJ Cosmic Kev and Robert "Laid Back" Black. Colby Colb started as an intern at the station and following the success of Radioactive went on to host nights (6–10pm), mornings were with Wendy Williams and Dee Lee (The Dream Team). From 2002 until 2011, WUSL had been the only urban contemporary station in Philadelphia, when Radio One's WPHI-FM switched formats to urban contemporary from rhythmic contemporary again.
WUSL was also the home of the controversial Star annd Buc Wild Morning Show from late 2005 to May 2006 and was also the home of Miss Jones in the Morning, Shamara – "The Midday Princess" and The POWER 99FM's Hot Boyz with Poochman, Mikey Dredd and Uncle O at night.
The current 2013 on air line up consists of "The POWER 99FM's Rise N Grind Morning Show" with Mina SayWhat (former DJ of Sirius/XM's The Heat), Mikey Dredd (former member of The Hot Boyz), and Muthaknows, Cappuchino in Middays, T-Roy in the Afternoon and DJ Cosmic Kev dominating at nights. DJ Doc B, DJ Diamond Kuts and DJ Johnny V are also on staff as a personalities/mixers. WUSL is also home to "The POWER 99FM's Come Up Show", hosted by DJ Cosmic Kev.
WUSL has won numerous awards for its news and public affairs programming, a hallmark of which was their Sunday morning programming. From its inception as Power 99, Sunday morning was dedicated to two public affairs shows: Sunday Morning Live, hosted by longtime news anchor Loraine Ballard Morrill and later Empower Half Hour with Lehronda Upshur. Morrill and Upshur continue to host shows and broadcast news and traffic on other Clear Channel stations (WDAS, WISX and WIOQ) as programming changes have forced public affairs shows from Power 99 to those other stations.
Awards and honors
The station was one of 10 stations awarded the 2007 Crystal Radio Award for public service awarded by the National Association of Broadcasters. Winners were honored at the Radio Luncheon on April 17, 2007, during the NAB Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.