KQV-AM in January of 1958 became the first network owned Top 40 Radio station in the country preceding WLS in Chicago and WABC in New York. It was Pittsburgh’s second Top 40 station following WEEP which initiated its Top 40 playlist Pittsburgh a few months earlier in September of 1957. With its hot Top 40 playlist KQV held a large share of teen age listening audience Pittsburgh radio market from the late 1950s through 1975. It was the number 2 highest rated station in Pittsburgh through most of the 1960s with it popular DJs Chuck Brinkman and Dave Scott.
Adding new songs every week as the "Pick of the Week" KQV launched many hits by Motown artists. British Invasion bands, and Pittsburgh musicians. KQV introduced Pittsburgh to the Rolling Stones, the Supremes, the Beach Boys, the Dave Clark Five, Lou Christie, the Vogues, the Fenways, the Racket Squad, the Jaggerz and others. Songs that KQV broke nationally include Mungo Jerry's "In The Summertime", "Chapel of Love" by the Dixie Cups "Walkin' in the Sand" by "The Shangri-Las", and "Leader of the Pack".
KQV sponsored many concerts during the 1960s bringing the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, the Yardbirds, Simon and Garfunkle Tommy James, the Supremes and others to Pittsburgh for shows at the Syria Mosque, the Civic Arena and West View Park..
KQV promoted itself with tag lines which range from The Live One, Colorful KQV, Audio 14, Fun Lovin' KQV , Groovy QV, and the Big 14. It gave away thousands of dollars in contests and promotions. KQV's top rated DJs, who were known as the Fun Lovin’ Five, were Chuck Brinkman, Hal Murray, Steve Rizen, Dave Scott and Dexter Allen.
Top 40 Radio Comes to Pittsburgh
The Top 40 rotation playlist format was invented by Todd Storz at station KOWH in Omaha, Nebraska in 1951. Before 1950 most radio stations offered a mix of soap operas, live music, and news, along with network dramas, comedies, and variety shows. As the networks moved their programming to television, radio stations turned to recorded music programming. Observing teenagers putting money in juke boxes in diners and restaurants Todd Storz noticed that they played the same small number of favorite songs over and over again. He also observed that Juke boxes held only 40 songs and that Juke box owners would replace the least popular songs with new releases every week. Storz turned radio into a juke box. He limited the playlist to the top 40 most popular songs and played those songs several times a day. Every week he added new songs to the playlist to replace the less popular tunes.
Storz's Top 40 format rocketed KOWH’s market share from 4% to 45%. Storz repeated his Top 40 success at WTIX in New Orleans in 1953 and five other stations that he acquired in the 1950s.
Todd Stotz's associates brought Top 40 radio to KQV in 1958. The ABC radio network purchased KQV in August 29, 1957 for $700,000. ABC hired two executives from Storz Broadcasting to launch the top 40 format in Pittsburgh They hired Dale Maudy who had been an executive engineer for the Stroz group and Ralph Beaudin, who had been a KOWH sales executive, as the KQV general manager.
On December 20, 1957 entertainment writer Winn Fanning wrote in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette: “Look for considerable changes to take place at KQV within the next three weeks or so. The station, recently acquired by the American broadcasting Company, is keeping very mum on the subject, but major shifts in programming, local and national, are certainly in the wind. Trade rumors have the ABC outlet going in a modified "Top 40" popular music operation.”
KQV premiered its Top 40 format on January 13, 1958 with the new slogan “The Live One”. A t 6 a.m the Top 40 era began with morning man Chuck Dougherty and his imaginary characters, the network show Don McNeil and his Breakfast Club at 9 A.M, DJ Herb Oscar Anderson at 10 AM , Henry DaBecco’s platter show from 11 AM to 1 PM, Jim Reeves at 1 PM, Jim Backus at 2 PM, DJ Sam Holman from 3 to 6, Merv Griffin at 7:15 pm, and Dave Scott playing Top 40 from 9 PM to Midnight,. The playlist included the most popular songs across many genres including pop, rock, doo wop, folk, country, novelty songs, and R&B. KQV's weekly playlist surveys from 1958 through 1975 can be viewed online at Jeff Roteman's KQV Surveys page.
Ground Floor Radio
To bring more addition to the station KQV moved is studios to storefront windows on the first floor of the Chamber of Commerce building in October of 1958. Located on the corner of Smithfield and Seventh the KQV site was christened the "Corner of Walk and Don't Walk" by DJ Dave Scott. The station's broadcasts were be piped outside to the street. Fans watched the jocks working their on air shifts from the sidewalk. Evening DJ Rod Roddy, who later became the announcer of The "Price is Right" TV game show, dressed in hospital scrubs and gloves performing for the crowds outside. He drew 200 to 300 teens every night during his 9 P.M. to Midnight shift.
One Pittsburgh most popular DJ's join KQV in 1960 working the graveyard shift and fill in slots. .in August of 1961 he took over the 9 PM to midnight slot the next five years to become the number two rated DJ in Pittsburgh. Chuck became one of KQV's "Fun Lovin' Five" in 1963. He moved to the 3 to 6 PM drive-time slot in 1967 and later became the music director.
Audio 14 and the British Invasion
KQV's rating success eroded in the early 1960s with strong competition from KDKA radio with own top 40 playlist, strong on air talent, and its 50,000 watt signal. Clark Race went on the air at KDKA in March of 1959 to begin his ten year domination of the afternoon time slot. KQV brought in the successful program director, John Rook, from Denver in late 1963 to rejuvenate the station. Rook quickly turned the station into a music powerhouse. Rook cut back on DJ chatter to increase the number of songs the station played, switched to more mainstream pop tunes, and picked tunes based on audience response. To create “music excitement” KQV become the first station in town to play the hot new hits and the Beatles. He focused on winning teen audience in the afternoon and evening time slots. To upgrade the on air talent he hired a new crew of successful out of town DJs bringing in Hal Murray from Minneapolis, Steve Rizen from Texas and Dex Allen and news man/commentator Al Julius from Denver. Rook called his new sound "Audio 14". KQV doubled its audience within a year.
The April 1964 Billboard response rankings of Pittsburgh Singles radio stations listed KDKA number 1 with a 46% share and KQV at number two with a 39% share, The top rated DJs were Clark Race of KDKA at number one and KQV's Chuck Brinkman and Dave Scott at number two and three. KQV jumped to number 1 in singles radio with a 51% share over KDKA's falling 43% share in 1965. John Rook was rated as the most cooperative program director in exposing new records.
Under Rook KQV became one the the first stations in the country to break new records. New songs were aired on the nightly "Disc Derby" show. The artists were not identified. Listeners called in to vote for the songs that they liked. Songs with the highest votes and the most requests were added to the station's playlist the next day. KQV broke "Memphis" by. Johnny Rivers, "Walkin' in the Sand" from the ShangriLa's, several hits by the Vogues, and dozens of other hits. KQV became a station that other stations across the country watched for playlist adds.
John Rook had an inside track to get new Beatles singles before they were released in the United States. KQV played world premieres of new Beatles tunes before sending them to its sister ABC network stations in New York and Chicago. KQV beat out KDKA to be the radio sponsor of the Beatles concert at the Civic Arena on September. 14, 1964. With Rook's success at KQV he was promoted to become to program director off WLS in Chicago in 1967.
KQV actively promote many major concerts from 1960 through 1971. Beginning in 1964 KQV presented its Shower of Stars concerts at the Syria Mosque and the Civic Arena. KQV's first Shower of Stars show was held on July 13, 1964 at the Syria Mosque with The Supremes, Gene Pitney, The Dixie Cups, The Shirelles and more. KQV presented the unknown band the Rolling Stones on their first U.S. tour at West View Park on June 17, 1964. Civic Arena attendance records were broken when performed for 14,300 fans turned out on December 28, 1964 at the KQV “Christmas Shower of Stars” concert.Starring Roy Orbison, the 4 Seasons, Bobby Rydell, Reparata and the Delrons, Vic Dana and the Fenways.
History of the King of the Quaker Valley
On the ninth floor of the Doubleday-Hill Electric Company building on Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh Mr. Florence C. Potts and Richard Johnstone built a 20-watt transmitter using a spark gap from a Ford automobile, nails, a dry cell, and a sending key. They began experimental broadcasts in 1919 using the amateur call letters 8ZAE. making it one of the first radio stations in the United States.
Doubleday-Hill Electric Company sold crystal radio receivers kits in its downtown store. If customer wanted to listen to a crystal radio set, a sales person ran upstairs, turned the station on, and did a demonstration broadcast reading literature or something from the Bible. People in Pittsburgh with crystal sets could hear the broadcasts. As sales of crystal sets increase station 8ZAE began regular broadcasts later in 1919.
The station began broadcasting regularly with the call letters KQV on January 19, 1921. The letters KQV were chosen to represent King of the Quaker Valley. It was one of only four radio stations east of the Mississippi River with call letters which starting with K: KQV and KDKA in Pittsburgh, KYW in Philadelphia and KFIZ in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. T It was Pittsburgh's second radio station after KDKA which launched in November of 1920. KQV was granted a commercial license in 1922. The station aired commercial free until 1925 as the station executive G. Brown Hill did not think radio should be commercial.
Doubleday-Hill sold KQV to H.J. Brennan in 1932, who also owned WJAS in Pittsburgh. The stations shared a transmitter. site. Brennan moved the KQV studios to the Chamber of Commerce Building in downtown Pittsburgh where they remain today.
In the 1930s and early 1940s KQV was part of the NBC Blue Network. It broadcast the networks shows of Amos and Andy, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Gene Autry and the Sons of the Pioneers, Fibber McGee and Molly , and Information, Please! starring Pittsburgh's Oscar Levant. KQV also broadcast live music performed by Pittsburgh musicians from its studios during the 1930s and 1940s.
The Allegheny Broadcasting Company purchased KQV for $575,000 in 1944 and changed the station's network affiliation. The NBC Blue Network wanted to broadcast on WCAE which had a larger range with its 5000 watt signal. WCAE on the Mutual Network and KQV swapped networks. KQV became part of the Mutual Broadcasting network on June 15, 1945 and WCAE joined the NBC Blue Network. KQV then broadcast the popular national shows the Lone Ranger. the Adventures of Superman, and the Shadow.. Bill Burns became a KQV news reporter in 1946.
KQV aired one of Pittsburgh most popular and long running shows, the Wilkens Amateur Hour, from 1950 to 1955. Simulcast on WDTV and KQV is aired a 6 P.M. on Sundays and was hosted by KQV DJ Al Noble.
Shift from Entertainment to Music
In the early 1950s radio's biggest national stars Jack Benny, Milton Berle, and other moved to television. The popularity of radio declined. Radio stations began to search to new ways to attract audience and to compete against each other. The Allegheny Broadcasting Company cashed out and sold KQV to the ABC Network in 1957. ABC instituted the Top 40 Format in 1958 that continued until 1975.
13Q Wins the Ratings Battle over KQV
New Top 40 station "13Q" WKPQ-AM was launched in 1973 and beat KQV in the ratings battle to become the number two station in Pittsburgh. Owner Cecil Heftel bought the 5000 watt WJAS from NBC and relaunched it as 13Q. Heftel hired DJs ans sales staff away from KQV. 13Q attracted listeners by making random "Cash Calls" to listeners and awarding cash prizes any who answered their phones saying "I listen to the new sound of 13Q". Six winners were awarded $43,000 in prizes during first four weeks on the air. 13Q also cut down to eight commercials per hours so that it could be more song per hour than KQV. Hefel also hired one of the most successful DJs in the business, the high energy Jackson Armstrong, who was known as the World's Fastest-Talking Human". Armstrong became the number 1 DJ in Pittsburgh from 1973 to 1975
In response to the challenge from 13Q KQV changed its tag line to "14K" brand, but did not invest much money into contests and promotions. 13Q continued to best KQV. ABC Radio gave up on the Pittsburgh radio market and put KQV and WDVE up for sale.
The Switch to All News
On April 7, 1975 the ABC Network sold KQV (AM) and its sister station- WDVE (FM), to Taft Broadcasting for $3.5 million. Taft quickly began to make changes firing the music director in May and several DJs over the summer. In September Pittsburgh Press writer Barbara Holsopple reporting that the KQV DJs were notified that they would not be needed as of October 1st as KQV was moving to a news format. KQV announced that to lower costs it would broadcast the network news feed of the NBC News and Information Service and provide 30 minutes of local news each hour during the morning and evening drive times. The street level studios would be closed and as most of the KQV broadcast would originated from NBC's New York studios.
The music stopped on Top 40 KQV on October 15, 1975. DJs George Hart & Billy Soule played the last song on KQV which was Neil Diamond's tune "Brother Love's Travellin' Salvation Show". The all news format began with the morning drive slot at 6 A.M. KQV became Pittsburgh fist all news AM station.
Taft Broadcasting switching its music programming efforts to WDVE-FM and brought in its rising young program director John McGhan in 1977 to make DVE the dominant music station in Pittsburgh.