What songs come to mind when you think of Washington, D.C.? Maybe Go-go music, or patriotic Sousa marches? Then of course there’s the “official” song, that instantly recognizable classic— “Washington,” by Jimmie Dodd (Yes, the composer is the same grown man who went on to lead the Mouseketeers in the original “Mickey Mouse Club” in 1955).
Doesn’t ring a bell? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
On June 11, 1989, 8,000 WHFS 99.1 listeners crowded into the parking lot in front of Joe’s Record Paradise in Wheaton, Maryland for an eight hour concert to protest, station owner, Duchossois Inc.’s, decision to remove Damian Einstein from the airways. Damian introduced the DMV to the newest music before it exploded on the national scene, and his sudden absence from the airways shocked WHFS’s most loyal fans who feared that Duchossois intended to move on from the progressive rock format. Centered on the freewheeling deejay, the progressive rock format defined WHFS defined the station since 1968.
Fans were right to be concerned. Over the course of the next decade, WHFS ditched the deejay for “gold-throated “on-air personalities who aired songs from corporately manufactured playlists. While these changes initially earned the station a score of new fans, by the end of the decade, it was clear that WHFS lost the loyal support of their “bumper-stickered fans” who felt as if they lost a friend.
“I was allowed to play whatever I wanted to play and interview whoever I wanted to interview,” said WHFS DJ Cerphe Colwell, who was hired in 1970 to do a Saturday night show. “By today’s standards, it’s astonishing.”
If you are a baseball fan, you know Vin Scully. Heck, even if you aren’t a baseball fan you probably know Vin Scully. He’s been broadcasting Dodgers games since 1950 – first in Brooklyn and then in Los Angeles. His smooth delivery and anecdotes have captivated listeners for decades. That's why he’s been called the “best of all time” and “a national treasure” amongst other lauds.
But had it not been for a summer job in Washington, who knows how Scully’s career would have turned out?
It was the roaring '20s and radio was taking off. Americans were tuning-in in droves for news, opera, popular music and sports. No other medium offered the ability to reach so many people instantaneously. Advertisers took note.
So, too, did the resurgent Ku Klux Klan, which was interested in its own sort of advertising: promoting a unique brand of “patriotism” founded upon white privilege and intolerance for blacks, Catholics, Jews and immigrants amongst others. The Klan's foray into broadcasting is still felt in Washington to this day.
There was a period, from the late 1940s until the early 1960s, when Washington, D.C. was a veritable Nashville on the Potomac, a mecca that provided country performers a chance to get their records played, and to perform before big audiences. The man who was most responsible for the District's country preeminence was a charismatic impressario who originally hailed from Lizard Lick, N.C. named Connie Barriot Gay.