U100 was on the air for only two years in the mid-seventies but it remains one of the most well-remembered, and infamous, stations of Twin Cities radio. With a format of rock music and some of the Midwest's wildest disc jockeys, U100 was the companion of thousands of young people in their teens and twenties and the disdain of parents, teachers and school boards all over the region.
The station that became U100 started out as something totally different. It began as WPBC "The Peoples Broadcasting Company," a folksy, conservative ma-and-pop operation owned by Bill and Becky Ann Stewart. WPBC played Lawrence Welk-esque music at 980 AM beginning in 1949, simulcasting at 101.3 FM by the mid-sixties. There were strict rules against playing that "awful" rock 'n' roll music and Mrs. Stewart would scratch away the grooves of some album cuts in the record library with the sharp end of a compass if they didn't meet her standards of "nice" music, preventing any renegade DJs from playing them.
When the Stewarts sold WPBC to Fairchild Industries in November, 1972, there was some talk that the format, personalities and call-letters would be retained. But it wasn't to be. The new owners swept away the entire staff and all the remaining remnants of the People's Broadcasting Company. The AM station was re-christened WYOO and was initially programmed with golden oldies while the FM became WRAH, playing harder rock and album cuts via automation. The AM station enjoyed a small but loyal following with a library of mostly pre-Beatles rock 'n' roll with vintage-sounding jingles. But the novelty of oldies quickly wore off and by early 1974, Fairchild was looking at new programming for its struggling radio stations.
The station hired former KDWB sales director Mike Sigelman as general manager and veteran “teen hit” personality Rob Sherwood was brought in as program director. There was no intention at first to turn WYOO into a KDWB-style top-40 station, and in fact Sherwood, then 28, said he looked forward to programming an “adult” station and “after working for rock stations I'm not compelled to scream and yell any more.”
The new format was a mix of selected oldies and soft-pop “adult contemporary” music, with a target audience of middle-aged women, simulcast on the AM and FM signals. The ratings tanked even further and the ownership was threatening to sell the station. So Sigelman and Sherwood decided to make a radical change in the most public of places, the Minnesota State Fair.
On the afternoon of August 26, 1974 milling crowds strolled past the WYOO booth at the State Fair, paying little attention as Rob Sherwood played moldy oldies from Lesley Gore, the Shirelles and the Critters when he abruptly stopped the music, declaring “I can't take any more of this…from now on it's Boogie!” As he played Joe Cocker's Woodstock performance of “With A Little Help From My Friends” he promised there'd be “no more turkey records.”
As the lengthy Joe Cocker album cut concluded, Sherwood, suddenly compelled to scream and yell again, came on and said, “What's it all about? It's Boogie. Boogie's what it's all about! BOOGIE!!” and a two-minute montage of U100 Boogie jingles blasted off like so many exploding fireworks.
The radio booth at the State Fair that had been playing quaint oldies was suddenly blasting hard rock. People were taking notice, especially teens bored with the local top-40 offerings. After the Fair ended on Labor Day, those teens went back to school and told their friends about a new radio station that boogies, U100. And the audience mushroomed like a nuclear explosion.
Soon U100 was not only on radios across the Twin Cities metro area, but on bumper stickers, billboards and a TV ad that parodied a toothpaste commercial. While Ultra-Brite asked “How's your love life?” U100 asked “How's your Boogie?” Then came T-shirts depicting two rather strategically-placed hands and the slogan “U100 Grabs Me!”
Although there were rumors that U100 was some sort of drug reference, YOO was simply a phonetic spelling of U and the AM and FM stations were both located near 100 on analog tuners. U100 came out swinging at the three AM rockers, KDWB "Position 63," WDGY "Music Radio 11" and 15 KSTP "The Music Station," but with a difference. U100 was ahead of the curve with an FM stereo signal to compliment its AM, while their competitors were AM only, and they played a mix of top-40 and hard rock, especially in the evening. There were commercial-free hours and an occasional commercial-free Sunday, while stations like KDWB were selling up to fifteen minutes per hour. But fewer commercials didn't necessarily mean “less talk.”
The motley crew of U100 DJs included Sherwood, morning man Captain Billy, and later Jerry St. James (with Michael J. Douglas doing the news), Brother Bob Hall, Pat McKay, Chucker Morgan, Jeff "Mother" Robbins, Gary DeMaroney, Scott Stevens, Dave Cooper (a.k.a. Dave Hamilton) and Rex the Radio Ranger, among others. With a constant bombardment of jingles the jocks would scream "YEEEEWWWW ONE HUNDRED!" and "Boogie!" when they weren't giving the time, temperature ("it's seventy-two degrees in Frriiidleeeeey!") or bad jokes. "Right on Super U" became a catch phrase on the station and amongst its fans. The presentation was tight, fast-paced and very foreground. Mr. And Mrs. Stewart were undoubtedly appalled at what had become of their beloved radio station.
Listeners were encouraged to take part in U100 by calling in. During a contest where an album or concert tickets were given away, or during the "Super U Battle of the Bands," where two songs would be played and listeners could call in to vote for their favorite, the studio lines would be so over loaded with calls that Northwestern Bell would threaten to shut down telephone service. The station tried to solve the problem by taking calls from only one community and then another, but that proved to be tedious and there was no means of enforcing it with 1970s telephone technology.
There was also "Boogie Check," where listeners were invited to call in and tell their best bad joke live on the air (with the disc jockey's finger always ready to quickly cut off a caller who crossed the line) and "Chucker's Leak Line" where nighttime jock Chucker Morgan (a.k.a. the Mother Chucker) would let junior and senior high school kids "leak" test answers to friends. He greeted callers with "Chucker's Leak Line. Take a leak." The feature was a heated topic at PTA meetings across the Twin Cities.
After a Wayzata student gave answers to a science quiz one evening, he offered up a poem: "Roses are dead, Violets are through, I listened to U100 and you better too."
As program director Rob Sherwood explained to Minneapolis Star columnist and closet U100 fan Jim Klobuchar, "We started out by calling it 'Cheat Line' but we got a lot of complaints because of the bad moral connotations of the word 'cheat'...we don't think the feature is ethically wrong. See, it's a fun thing, plus it attracts listeners to our station.
Just like with "Boogie Check," the DJ had to be ready when a caller crossed the line over the air, such as the kid who called in and said "The answer to question number 1 is F. The answer to question number 2 is U. The answer to question number 3 is…"
But the station also had a social conscience. In November 1975 U100 broadcast a radio documentary about the slaughter of the harp seal in Norway, narrated by Jerry St. James. Working with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the station recruited its listeners to collect thousands of signatures decrying the slaughter and forwarded them to the government of Norway. Over 7,000 petitions were distributed by the station.
When U100 was on the air, Minneapolis-St. Paul was the only market in the country with four AM rockers. Not even New York, Chicago or Los Angeles could make that claim. But it was soon realized that there wasn't room for everybody in that medium-sized market.
Fun Lovin' Super U
As the year turned into 1976, U100 started to go a little more mainstream. They shifted away from “Boogie” and introduced a new theme, “Fun Lovin' Super U” and a new jingle package to go with it. New personalities such as Jo JoGunne “The King of Blue Jeans” and Mesa Kincaid “The Fox That Rocks” were brought to U100 to keep it fresh and lively. Mesa was the only female personality among the four AM rockers, putting U100 ahead of the curve once again. But even before the new theme was completely rolled out, there was bad news.
In February 1976, Doubleday Broadcasting, then the owner of KDWB (630 AM), announced it would be buying, pending FCC approval, WYOO-FM with the intention of simulcasting KDWB on the FM signal. Since one company could not own two AM or FM stations in the same market at the time, WAYL (93.7 FM) agreed to take over WYOO-AM.
In response to listener concerns, U100 ran full-page newspaper ads insisting they were NOT “selling out.”
“The truth of the matter is that two broadcast companies have filed applications with the FCC to acquire the licenses of U100 AM and U100 FM. If you like U100, be assured that we will do nothing to change your station…Several months from now, if there are any changes on U100, they will be made only by the new owners of the station when they acquire the licenses.”
Just a few months earlier, the station did a promotional stunt saying they would “stop the music,” fooling listeners, who flooded the station with letters and phone calls, into thinking that they were either going off the air or changing format. As “Last Song” by Edward Bear played, a telephone operator counted down the minutes until the plug was pulled and the record slowed down to a stop. But that was just a gimmick to announce a contest. This time it was for real.
While the new owners awaited the federal green light, U100 stayed on through the summer, as rowdy as ever. The final broadcast was on Wednesday, September 15, 1976. Toward the end of the evening, Jo JoGunne played the Led Zeppelin classic "Stairway to Heaven" and then said "U100, the station you made famous. We thank you so much...remember, I love you." He kissed into the microphone. "We gone. Bye-bye."
He then played Joe Cocker's Woodstock performance of "With a Little Help From My Friends," the song that kicked off U100 just two years earlier at the Minnesota State Fair, and at midnight somberly announced "WYOO AM-FM Stereo Richfield--now leaves the air." And U100 went silent. Seconds later, over at KDWB, a disc jockey gleefully announced, “Well they just went down for the last time!”
At six o'clock the next morning, the old Channel 63 officially became "Stereo KDWB," simulcasting the True Don Bleu and company on "FM 101 and AM 63." WAYL's "beautiful music" was heard on 980 AM the following Monday.
Few likely realized at the time the profound impact of the demise of U100 would have on the landscape of Twin Cities radio. The combined ratings of KDWB AM and FM, coupled with Doubleday's deep pockets, made it the undisputed number one music station in the Twin Cities (although still second to chatty WCCO). One year later, in September 1977, WDGY switched to country music after 22 years as a rocker. KSTP hung on for two more years before they gradually began to replace disc jockeys with call-in talk shows. The era of AM rock radio was over.
Meanwhile, WAYL, in addition to taking over the signal at 980 AM, had moved into the old U100 studio on Cliff Road in Eagan. In the mid-1980s, during remodeling, some drug paraphernalia was found hidden in a wall, a time capsule apparently left over from the days of the "Boogie" station. Right on Super U!