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  • Writer's pictureJumpin' Joe

WJCU Turns Back The Clock

WJCU turned back the clock nearly 40 years as the station had its first broadcast from the old WUJC clocktower studio since 1985.

On Tuesday March 28, 2023 at 6pm eastern, WJCU went live from the 4th floor of the Grasselli Clocktower on the campus of John Carroll University. It was the first broadcast from the old studio using the call letters WJCU as the radio station was originally WUJC from 1969-1998.

Zach Sinutko (DJ Z-1-3) of 808s and Mixtapes hosted the six hour long event as he interviewed WUJC/WJCU DJs from the past and present. Music from each decade of the radio station's existence was played with the 60s at 6pm, the 70s at 7pm, and so forth all the way to present day at midnight.

With nearly 300 alums and loyal listeners of WJCU in attendance and thousands more listening on 88.7-FM and, it was the perfect opportunity for a special announcement.

(Watch as WJCU goes live from the clocktower for the first time since 1985)

WJCU General Manager Jasen Sokol announced the establishment of the WJCU Hall of Fame in 2024. "We're going to be recognizing some of the people who have made tremendous contributions to the station and who have done tremendous things after they've moved on from the station," said Sokol. "The first class will be inducted in the fall of 2024."

Three of the potential members of the inaugural WJCU Hall of Fame class then stepped up to the microphone: Milt Roney, Bob Lewis, and Phil Thomas. Roney was responsible for getting the station licensed and on the air, a process he began in 1967. Bob Lewis succeeded Roney as the station manager in 1970 while Phil Thomas became the first sports director. The stories they shared of the first years of WUJC are incredible:

(Milt Roney, Bob Lewis, and Phil Thomas discuss the early days of WUJC)

Jumpin' Joe Madigan then sat in with Sinutko as he took over the music selection for about 30 minutes. On the air, Madigan said, "We have listeners that remember hearing the band Yes for the very first time on WUJC in 1969, not on WMMS...not on M105, but right here on WUJC."

(Zach Sinutko (aka DJ Z-1-3) with Jumpin' Joe Madigan up in the old WUJC clocktower studio)

(Note: Because this WJCU airfeed recording was provided by WJCU Radio, the music was removed from this aircheck.)

Off air in the record library, Bob Lewis said that he was the first to play a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young record in Cleveland. "The record companies loved us. We got to play the test press of the first Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album. The guy had a metal disc, and we were the first in this area to play songs from the metal disc (acetate) and it turned out to be the first Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album (Deja Vu)," said Lewis.

Listen for more stories from the WUJC Record Library in the video below.

Jeff Rogo (sp?) flew in from Florida for the Turn Back The Clock event. Rogo succeeded Lewis as station manager before graduating from John Carroll in 1972.

"My dad had given us carpet... he was a carpet salesman, and we put the carpet on the wall so we could deaden the sound in the studio," said Rogo. "I was looking for the carpet and it's long gone." Back in '72, Rogo would go up one floor (just below the bells of the clock tower) and record the ABC news broadcast from shortwave. He would then bring the tape back down to the studio and play it at the top of the hour.

Ann Mannon spoke about a legendary concert that happened on campus in 1975. "He was brand new and practically no one had ever heard of him," said Mannon. "Tim Russert was originally responsible for the relationship with the Belkin Brothers, and Jules Belkin called Tim and said I gotta guy I want you to book at John Carroll and it was Bruce Springsteen." "He showed up on time and played for over 3 hours." Tickets were $5.

Tim Russert from NBC's Meet The Press? Yes, that Tim Russert!

Chris Johnson shared this great story via e-mail with Jumpin' Joe. "[We did a] call-in Talent Show, hosted by Freddie “Hell’s Fire” Pestello. And yes, he used Arthur Brown’s 1968 hit “Fire” as his theme song. The highlight of that episode was the night “Hell’s Fire” broadcast live from the bell platform on top of Grasselli Tower. Dressed in a silk red cape, he asked everyone listening to come out into the quad ... and they did. We were impressed with how many people came out of the dorms."

Whatever happened to Freddie "Hell's Fire" Pestello? Johnson wrote, "Ironically, “Hell’s Fire” Pestello is Dr. Fred Pestello, President of Saint Louis University.

Keeven Berman (sp?) fondly remembers WUJC as more than just a radio station. "It was WUJC back in those days and it took about 5 to 10 minutes to learn how pronounce it correctly and quickly," said Berman. "Everybody talks about being in a fraternity in college, well we came to the conclusion that this was a fraternity - being a member of this radio station." "It's a real pleasure to be back here... it's a real dream come true."

The 80s brought some big changes for the radio station. The first change happened in 1982 when John Reddy '84 took over the controls of WUJC.

"When I came on the station, the format was such that in the morning it was pop music, the afternoon was AOR, and the evenings was jazz. I was fortunate to be the program direction in 82 and 83... I blew it up. I blew up the format... it was bring me a show, bring me an idea," said Reddy. "We started to put reggae on... we put on punk and new wave, and got a real response from the neighborhood. The Jewish community had a real presence on the air with Phil Fink and it was a real outreach. We were able to put on a lot of shows."

With a new open format came a new studio. In the summer of 1985, WUJC moved out of the Grasseli Clocktower to it's current location in the DJ Lombardo Student Center.

John Riley was on the air in the new studio when an unusual event took place. "When we were in the new studio in January of '86, and I was on the air doing a show from 11 to 1(pm), and all of a sudden the turntables started bouncing up and down on the counter and we heard a rumbling noise and weren't quite sure what was going on when we suddenly realized we were having the Cleveland earthquake of 1986," said Riley. "My assistant who was helping out put a call in to Fr. Ott because John Carroll had a seismograph and a seismologist, and Fr. (William) Ott got on and confirmed that it had been an earthquake and told us what it was on the Richter scale, and we were the first news outlet breaking the story because we just happened to be on the air when the earthquake hit."

Cornelius "Corny" Gould then came in the studio and said, "And as we all know that happened to be 88.7 on the Richter scale." Long time listeners of WJCU know that phrase was coined by Mitch Capka who hosted Kick Out The Jams on WUJC/WJCU for 30 years from 1980-2010.

More stories and pictures to come from this broadcast of a lifetime. The goal is for this post to become an oral history of WUJC/WJCU Radio.

Jumpin' Joe Madigan

Jumpin' Joe Madigan was beyond thrilled to broadcast from the old WUJC studio for the very first time.

Madigan joined WJCU his freshman year in 2003. He immediately became acquainted with the record library as he apprenticed on "Vinyl Venue," a classic rock show hosted by John Baryak '04 that aired on Saturday nights from midnight to 2am.

After failing to land a show of his own later that fall, he remained on Vinyl Venue until the end of 2003. In 2004, WJCU Station Manager Matt Taylor gave Madigan the Sunday morning 5-7am slot. The first episode of Retro Radio aired on Sunday January 18, 2004. For the next 15 years, Madigan recreated the sound of WIXY 1260. The show moved to Tuesday afternoons in the fall of 2004 before becoming a Saturday fixture starting in 2007. It would remain on the air with Madigan as host until May 11, 2019. Ray King (Glasser) continued on with the show until June 05, 2021.

"Jumpin' Joe's Basement Show" went on the air on May 18, 2019, a show that is recorded weekly from his basement. While no longer in the WJCU studio every week, Madigan is honored to still be on the air on WJCU. Madigan will celebrate his 20th anniversary with the station in October.

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