WISX (106.1 FM "Mix 106.1") is a Hot adult contemporary (Hot AC) radio station licensed to serve Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and owned by iHeartMedia. The station has studios located in Bala Cynwyd and broadcasts using a 22.5 kW transmitter in nearby Wyndmoore.
Beautiful Music Era: WQAL/WWSH
Philadelphia's 106.1 began operation on November 11, 1959 as WQAL and was owned by George Voron, whose company provided businesses with "piped-in music". The first song was "The Star-Spangled Banner" as performed by Henry Mancini and the Warner Brothers Studio Orchestra. The first voice broadcast was that of Dave Custis, who was in charge of the station's format. The first song other than the National Anthem was "The Carousel Waltz" by Percy Faith. The station employed an easy listening format playing mostly instrumental versions of popular songs (Mantovani, Lawrence Welk, Percy Faith, John Fox, Chet Atkins, Richard Clayderman) with an occasional vocalist (Frank Sinatra, the Carpenters, Nat King Cole, Anne Murray). The station was sold to United Artists in 1970. The call letters then became WWSH and its brand, "Wish 106." The WQAL call letters are now used by another station, the Hot AC-formatted "Q104" in Cleveland, Ohio.
The station was sold again in 1977 to Cox Enterprises. Initially, the format remained easy listening. In 1980, more contemporary vocalists were added but the format still remained instrumentally based.
The Early/Mid '80s - changes
Despite the station's popularity, the "beautiful music" format was changed in 1982 to Hot Adult Contemporary. The station was known as "FM 106". In a market already crowded with four Adult Contemporary stations, it didn't go over well in the ratings, and one year later the format was modified to Top 40 to compete with "Hot Hits" WCAU-FM. In July 1984, the call letters were changed to WZGO (Z-106). On May 19, 1986, the station became WTRK "Electric 106," consulted by Mike Joseph, who had spearheaded the launch of Hot Hits on WCAU-FM five years earlier. Like WCAU-FM in its early months of Hot Hits, WTRK featured a very tight playlist of only current hit songs; unlike WCAU-FM, however, "Electric 106" was a flop, and 106.1 FM's ratings and revenues did not improve. The station's continued poor performance was a source of embarrassment for Cox, which then sold the station to Malrite.
Eagle 106 takes flight
On March 13, 1987, the station became known as WEGX (Eagle 106). The station kept the CHR/Top 40 format, but gave it a more adult-friendly makeover, designing the station to appeal primarily to women aged 18–24. Research had shown that listeners in their 20s and older scoffed at the more teen-oriented WCAU-FM as the "bubblegum" radio station, and WCAU-FM had trouble making a profit because of that perception (). Eagle 106 attempted to combat the teen-oriented image that came with the CHR format by conducting extensive music research with women in its target demographic, eliminating most jingles, and "dayparting" - playing more gold titles during the day to attract more adult listeners while continuing to program for teenagers at night with higher energy and more new music. The move paid off, as WEGX's ratings rose steadily through 1987 while WCAU-FM's fell. In November 1987, WCAU-FM dropped the Top 40 format in favor of oldies as WOGL, leaving Eagle 106 as the only Top 40 station. With the CHR format all to itself, WEGX's ratings climbed even higher, and by the spring of 1988, the station had moved into the top five in Philadelphia Arbitron ratings (). Former "Partridge Family" cast member Danny Bonaduce made his debut as a radio disc jockey as the station's night man around this time.
In 1988, WIOQ, which had gone through several unsuccessful format changes (including oldies to compete with WOGL), took a dance leaning Top 40 format as "Q102". This brought Eagle 106's ratings down slightly but the station still was profitable.
Smooth Jazz WJJZ
In the early 1990s, Q102 moved further toward Mainstream Top 40. Eagle 106, though, still held its own. Then, on March 13, 1993, at 1:06 PM, despite the moderate success, the format was changed to Smooth Jazz, a growing phenomenon at the time, becoming WJJZ. The final song played on "Eagle 106" was "I Will Remember You" by Amy Grant, with Basia's "New Day for You" kicking off the Smooth Jazz format.
At first, WJJZ lacked ratings and success and it seemed 106.1 was headed for another format change. In its early years, WJJZ featured an eclectic mix of Contemporary Jazz, some New Age music, as well as a sprinkling of Adult Contemporary vocals. The Smooth Jazz format evolved, however, and by the mid 1990s, under the ownership of Evergreen Media, WJJZ began to phase out the new age music and broad variety of Contemporary Jazz it played with more Adult Contemporary crossovers and some soft R&B. This coincided with its first strong ratings showings. WJJZ was becoming a fixture in Philadelphia radio, with free Smooth Jazz listener party concerts, and music not heard anywhere else. Also during the period, the station introduced the Vacation-A-Day giveaway, giving away free vacations to different locales. The station tabbed it as the biggest giveaway in Philadelphia radio history. This promotion was subsequently adopted by a number of other major-market smooth jazz stations across the country; WVMV/Detroit's version, for example, was called the "Trip-A-Day Giveaway."
In 1997, Evergreen Media was purchased by Chancellor Media, which eventually was purchased by AMFM and finally became part of conglomerate Clear Channel Communications. During the late 1990s, WJJZ saw its finest ratings, reaching into the top 5 of the Arbitrons for Philadelphia. However, like many stations across the country, the effect of cutbacks by owner Clear Channel (who would become iHeartMedia in 2014) started to take its toll. 2002 saw the dismissials of afternoon host Deanna Wright and longtime evening host Desirae McCrae. The music on the air began to feature far fewer instrumentals and more vocals, featuring the likes of Stevie Wonder, Al Green, The Police, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and Madonna, while still being called Smooth Jazz. Ratings continued to be solid until 2004, which also coincided with the sign-on of Urban Adult Contemporary station WRNB and Gospel station WPPZ, both appearing to be taking a bite out of the station's ratings. The station dropped out of the top 10 in ratings, and this also led to adverse effects on its billing. By the end of 2005, the signs were not looking positive for the heritage Smooth Jazz station. 10-year afternoon host Teri Webb was dismissed before Christmas, and the Vacation-A-Day giveaway was dropped.
The end of WJJZ on 106.1 and change to WISX
2006 brought some promise with the addition of two new air talents, Sherri Lee Stevens and Salina Jones, as well as a less expensive version of the Vacation giveaway. Although ratings were rebounding, rumors began to swirl in July that a format change was imminent. Clear Channel wanted to find a home in Philadelphia for its new syndicated talent Whoopi Goldberg, and it saw the perfect opportunity to blow up the Smooth Jazz format with a new morning show and a format not yet heard in Philadelphia, Rhythmic Adult Contemporary. On Tuesday, August 8, the conglomerate dismissed the airstaff of WJJZ, and on Thursday, August 10, at 12:00 PM, WJJZ's midday host and program director Michael Tozzi bid farewell to 13 years of Smooth Jazz, and the era of Philly's 106-1 began.
Initially, the opinions of Philly's 106-1 were quite dubious. A at Philly.com features twenty-one pages of angry former WJJZ listeners infuritated with Clear Channel's decision. The Rhythmic Adult Contemporary format WJJZ launched with was very repetitive and the airstaff was completely voicetracked. Although the station kept its WJJZ callsign for a month after the flip, it would eventually change its callsign to WISX. Not too long after, WISX changed its name to "My 106-1".
WISX was gaining ground in the AC market in Philadelphia, and was even at one point ranked #1 during the work day in Women 25-54 (Arbitron). Their typical audience consists of hard to reach working women.
Although their musical direction had a ventured toward Hot AC for a time, WISX started to concentrate once again on the Rhythmic AC fare. The station returned to hot AC by late 2010, as Clear Channel began withdrawing rhythmic AC stations in various markets.
By August 2011, WISX became the market's only hot adult contemporary after rimshot station WPST flipped formats back to CHR. By March 2012, Philadelphia returned to having two hot AC stations following the flip of WSTW from CHR to Hot AC.
Smooth jazz in Philadelphia since August 2006
Bucking what would become a national trend of Smooth Jazz outlets through the country shifting and/or flipping their formats (due to lower ratings and revenue), Philadelphia has seen a few revivals of the Smooth Jazz format on radio.
The first smooth jazz revival
After over two months without a Smooth Jazz outlet, rival broadcaster Greater Media announced on October 13, 2006, that its newly acquired property, WTHK, The "New" Smooth Jazz 97.5 WJJZ made its debut on November 17, 2006. The same on-air montage of various Smooth Jazz artists used at the end of 106.1's Smooth Jazz format was played to mark the sign-on of the new WJJZ.
Some of the former 106.1 airstaff had been reincarnated at the new address on 97.5, notably Michael Tozzi. He programmed the new WJJZ and handled the midday airshift. He brought on board Gerald Veasley, Teri Webb and Greg Purcell for weekend duties, thus writing a new chapter for Smooth Jazz in Philadelphia. Bill Simpson returned in late December to host an all-new version of Philadelphia After Hours, which had been dropped from the old station shortly before its discontinuation. Frank Childs reclaimed his role as the overnight host, and Desirae McCrae was the latest former WJJZ personality to return to the new station. Therefore, the new WJJZ's airstaff had some ties to the old station. It had also broadcast two syndicated weekday shows via Broadcast Architecture's Smooth Jazz Network: Ramsey Lewis hosted the morning show, and Dave Koz handled the afternoon drivetime shift. From November 2006 to April 2007, after a three-month hiatus, the new WJJZ held its Sunday Brunch at Zanzibar Blue, continuing a very popular Philadelphia tradition since the old station's debut in 1993.
There were a few noticeable differences between the new WJJZ and the old one. For example, the old station's branding placed the callsign before the frequency; the new station used the opposite arrangement in its branding for a year after its debut. The old station also had a very catchy jazz-themed jingle often sung as "WJJZ 106.1", as demonstrated by , and many different arrangements were used for it; this was a very common practice used by most Clear Channel-owned smooth jazz stations. The new station introduced a series of new jingles in July 2007, although they differed significantly from the ones that were used by the old station (most obviously, the fact that they were then sung as "97.5 WJJZ"). From November 2007, the new station had started to use the previous station's jingles (with vocals added in December 2007), as a tribute to the Smooth Jazz format's tenure at the 106.1 frequency. It had also reversed its branding practice, and was known as "Smooth Jazz WJJZ 97.5." The new WJJZ's jingles were sung as "WJJZ 97-5" (without the "point," as was the case when it was still located at 106.1), though the announcers still identified it as "WJJZ 97.5." Also, the old station's liners were spoken by famous voiceover artist Charlie Van Dyke; when the new station signed on, it decided not to use his services. Currently, Van Dyke is doing voiceovers for local ABC O&O WPVI-TV.
In June 2007, the new WJJZ relocated its transmitter from Trenton, NJ, to Wyndmoor, PA, a northern suburb of Philadelphia, closer to where all of the major Philadelphia stations' towers are located, including the one that the old WJJZ once used. Coverage for the new station was exactly the same as the old one, but the new signal was directional.
The second death of smooth jazz
By July 2008, there were rumors that the new WJJZ was about to undergo a format change due to low ratings, and on September 5, 2008, Greater Media dropped the "Smooth Jazz" format on the 97.5 FM frequency. A week later, the station dropped the WJJZ call sign which closely identifies with the Jazz format, in favor of WNUW. The Smooth Jazz format is currently broadcast on 106.1 HD subchannel 2, while 97.5-HD2 is used to broadcast classical music.
The two WJJZs ended their respective runs by playing songs by Philadelphia-based artists: The last song heard on the original 106.1 incarnation was "She's Gone" by Daryl Hall, and the last one heard on the 97.5 revival was "I'll Make Love to You" by Boyz II Men. The new station on 97.5 was called "Now 97.5," with a playlist closer in comparison to that of heritage AC station WBEB (B101.1), but with a strong emphasis on newer songs, as suggested by its slogan: "A Younger Approach to Today's Soft Rock." (Now 97.5 proved to be a failure: in October 2009, WNUW flipped to sports, simulcasting sister station 950 AM WPEN and changing their call letters to WPEN-FM).
The second smooth jazz revival
On June 10, 2013, at Noon, WISX's sister station WDAS (1480 AM) flipped from urban oldies to smooth jazz, returning the format to the market for the second time. The station, known as "Smooth Jazz JJZ", has no local personalities except for Michael Tozzi, and is also available on 106.1 HD2, somewhat returning the smooth jazz format to its original position on the dial.