Norman Wain, radio legend, has died
Norman Wain, one of the three founders of WIXY 1260, died on October 10. He was 92 years old. Wain, along with Joe Zingale and Bob Weiss, bought WDOK AM and FM in 1965. The call letters were changed to WIXY in December of 1965.
Prior to WIXY, there were two main radio stations playing rock & roll in Cleveland - 1420 WHK and 1100 KYW, which became WKYC in June of 1965. Clevelanders also tuned in to CKLW out of Windsor, Ontario.
WHK brought the Beatles to Cleveland in 1964, and WKYC had a power-house 50,000 watt signal. With now three stations playing rock & roll, how could WIXY 1260 compete? Wain knew the answer: promotions.
On a daily basis, WIXY 1260 had contests that gave listeners a chance to win records. One contest, sponsored by Manners Big Boy, had listeners try to match the names with the faces of the WIXY 1260 Supermen. The winner won a transistor radio.
WIXY made a few power play moves in their first full year in 1966. First, they hired a 20 year old kid from North Carolina named John Charles Larsh. Norman Wain gave him the air-name "Jack Armstrong," and a legend was born. Armstrong became very popular with the young teens in Cleveland with his nightly show on WIXY.
Wain also made another big move as he brought in a popular CKLW DJ named Duke Windsor. On WIXY, he used his real name - Larry Morrow. While Wain was on vacation, someone suggested to Morrow that he make reference of his former on-air name, Duke Windsor, so listeners could make the connection. Morrow would then refer to himself as "The Duker," which did not please Wain, but he eventually grew to accept it.
To top it all off, Wain, with some convincing from Jack Armstrong, brought the Beatles back to Cleveland in 1966. What could have been a historic show, as Cleveland Municipal Stadium sat 80,000 people, only 20,000 showed up to the August 14, 1966 concert at the stadium. The low ticket sales were due to the infamous John Lennon comments about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus.
WIXY 1260 broke even on the concert, but it was certainly a cannon shot to the other stations in town that WIXY 1260 was here to stay.
WIXY was on the air for just under 10 years, as it became WMGC on July 19, 1976. Little did Wain know that his station's memory would live on for years to come.
In the late 1980s, WMJI would host "WIXY Reunion Weekends," bringing back DJs like Jack Armstrong, Larry Morrow, Lou Kirby, Chuck Knapp, and more. Those reunions happened regularly for the next 10 years.
In 1996 or 1997, some kid named Joe Madigan got his first turntable. On the dust cover (pictured above) was a sticker of WIXY 1260. That sticker became the start of a rock & roll journey as Retro Radio would hit the airwaves in Cleveland in 2004 on WJCU, keeping the memory of WIXY 1260 alive to this very day.
In 2010, an online version of WIXY 1260 started streaming at wixy1260online.com. The station is celebrating 10 years. I don't think Norman Wain could ever imagine his little radio station back in 1965 reaching listeners of many generations from all over the world.
In 2006, I met Norm and his wife at a book signing event. Norm gave me some very specific instructions.
In the year 2020, 55 years after WIXY 1260 signed on the air, my goal is to keep the memory of WIXY 1260 alive for generations to come.
I'll share more about my quest of keeping WIXY alive later. For now, let's reflect on the incredible impact Norman Wain and WIXY 1260 had on listeners in Cleveland.
Rest in peace, Norm.
- Jumpin' Joe