Note: In the same way WHFS ushered in the weekend with this tune each Friday afternoon back in the 80s, I’m doing the same thing on this blog. That’s why you see it here now. It’ll be up each Friday afternoon for the foreseeable future.
Happy Friday everybody!
I doubt that many of you spent much time around the Washington, D.C. media market in the 1980s. But if you did, and if you liked “alternative” FM music, there was one station, and one station only, that you likely listened to: The legendary WHFS.
It’s hard to describe, and to do any justice, to this revolutionary Bethesda-based rock music station (they later moved to Annapolis). It was founded by a radio innovator named Jake Einstein. They were low power from Bethesda and didn’t have a lot of reach, but had many, many diehard fans in that densely populated area.
WHFS was distinctive in many ways. It invented, at least in the DC market, the album-oriented or alternative format. Rarely, if ever, did it play any TOP 40. They were the only local radio station that played recordings by local artists, such as Root Boy Slim and The Slickee Boys, and the station had live interviews and performances with rock stars who visited town — they were always eager to sit down with DJ Damian (Einstein’s son) or Weasel (Jonathan Gilbert) or Bob Here or Cerphe (pronounced Surf) or some of the others.
Here’s a nifty, live-in-the-studio duet of “Willin’ ” by Lowell George and Linda Ronstadt the station broadcast back in 1975.
None of the WHFS deejays had the smooth, slick-sounding radio voices you heard on regular stations. Damian, who had been crippled in a car crash years earlier, often slurred his words. He sounded drunk, but it was actually due to the disability he suffered as a result of that accident. Weasel had a voice like Alvin the Chipmunk, only just a little lower — no lie. Bob Showacre (“Bob Here”) had a laid-back and easygoing voice that sounded like an announcer on National Public Radio (who had just smoked a joint). These guys often made public appearances at local clubs to introduce D.C. musical acts. They were DC-rock-scene celebrities.
In short, WHFS was the anti-station of Washington D.C. radio.
Einstein ultimately sold WHFS to a corporation that took it in a more commercial direction. Years later, it changed into a Spanish-language station. But he bought another station, rechristened it WRNR and repeated the formula — and it worked again. WRNR is still on the air, broadcasting from Annapolis. (Einstein, who died in 2007, sold the station in 1998 to Annapolis-area resident and “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak.)
Okay, here’s the point of all this: Every Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. WHFS always played the same set of 4, 5 or 6 songs (I can’t remember exactly how many it was). It started with Joe King Carrasco’s “Party Weekend,” moved on to The GoGos “We Got the Beat.” It included a Dead Milkmen song, “Instant Club Hit (You’ll Dance to Anything)” and some others as well.
You’d be heading home from work, stuck in D.C.-area traffic, tired after a hard week, and that set would come on the radio and change your mood and your energy level and get you bopping and ready for anything that was going on that weekend.
So here’s the lead-off tune, folks. Have a great weekend!