Starting February 12, a Beasley Media Group FM previously owned by Greater Media will begin what amounts to a year-long fete celebrating its 50 years of serving “Detroit Rock City.”
The party will reach its crescendo on Sunday, as WRIF-FM 101.1 formally celebrates its life as a Rock station.
It’s all part of what Beasley is billing “The Riff’s Legends Weekend.”
The fun begins Friday (2/12) with morning hosts Dave & Chuck The Freak highlighting their favorite moments from their successful seven years at WRIF. Throughout the day, WRIF will then air vignettes paying tribute to legacy WRIF personalities — including “Big Daddy” Arthur Penhallow, Ken Calvert, Karen Savelly, and Steve Kostan.
The following “Legends” are scheduled to be in studio on Friday, Feb. 12 at WRIF-FM:
1pm Hour: Jim Johnson and George Baier from JJ and The Morning Crew with Jade Springart
2pm Hour: Ken Calvert and Karen Savelly with Jade Springart
4pm Hour: Steve Kostan with Meltdown
Detroit native and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Alice Cooper commented, “You can’t really talk about Detroit music without talking about Riff. Detroit was easily the hard rock capital of the United States and WRIF supported all those bands. I’ve dropped their name in a couple of songs over the years because it was so Detroit and everyone know what that means.”
What about Drew & Mike, a 22-year morning show that cemented WRIF’s popularity in a market that saw the demise, and return, of WLLZ as a Rock competitor?
At 7pm on Friday, WRIF will air the “Best Of Drew & Mike”, highlighting classic moments from the duo’s time at the station.
The celebration of WRIF comes after the February 4 death of notable local radio personality Jerry Lubin, at the age of 80. Lubin worked at WRIF, although he is largely remembered for his time as an “Air Ace” at another former competitor, WABX. WABX signed off the air in January 1984.
Meanwhile, WRIF successfully outlasted a third Rock station of note in Detroit: WWWW (W4), where Howard Stern was the morning host on the day it changed to Country.
While WRIF’s history dates to Valentine’s Day 1971, its time as a Rock station actually began in 1970. Under previous call letters WXYZ-FM, it was one of ABC’s “Love” network properties, airing a progressive album-oriented Rock format. From 1966, WXYZ-FM had attempted Middle-of-the-Road and, later, Top 40 programming.
Interestingly, WRIF-FM could have ended up at 95.5 MHz in New York — the home of WPLJ. Those calls were requested for the former WABC-FM. In Detroit, the WDAI call letters were sought; they infamously ended up in Chicago at WLS-FM, with a Rock-to-Disco move a catalyst for Steve Dahl’s 1979 “Disco Demolition.”
The WRIF call letters, of course, would not end up in New York. And with Lee Abrams in command, WRIF in its early days wasn’t shy of Top 40 product. That changed in 1975, when it decided to focus solely on rock ‘n’ roll — a formula that continues to this day.
WRIF’s corporate history saw it move from ABC to Capital Cities in 1986, and then to “Silver Star Communications.” In 1987, Great American Broadcasting obtained WRIF; it declared bankruptcy in 1993, and WRIF in 1994 was purchased by Greater Media.