Laments Loss of Pittsburgh Urban Community’s Voice

HARRISBURG, JULY 28, 2009—State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana today recognized a local radio station for its years of broadcasting in the Pittsburgh region.

According to Fontana, WAMO-FM, Pittsburgh’s only urban radio station, WAMO-AM and WPGR-AM will stop broadcasting after over 60 years of service and a long history in Pittsburgh’s African American Community.

“Generations of Pittsburghers have grown up with the sounds of WAMO,” Fontana said. “It has been a staple to African-American culture in Pittsburgh, and will always be a treasured part of the city’s broadcast history. I’m sad to see it go.”

WAMO first signed on to Pittsburgh radio in August 1948 as Homestead AM station, WHOD. The station later changed its call letters to reflect area pride by referencing the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.

Fontana said WAMO was at the center of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, broadcasting live from civil rights rallies. That commitment to the local African-American community continued through the 1970s when the Sheridan Broadcasting Corporation purchased WAMO and began separate programming—gospel programming on WAMO-AM on weekdays, R&B programming on WAMO-FM on Saturdays and gospel programming on WAMO-FM on Sundays.

Fontana said WAMO alerted listeners when visiting gospel choirs would be in town, when revolutionary artists, such as James Brown, would be appearing locally and was home to several popular radio personalities, including Mary Dee, John “Sir Walter” Christian and “Brother Love.”

In recent years, WAMO launched “Stop the Music/Stop the Violence” special broadcasts, bringing discussion of urban violence and minority issues to the airwaves. According to Fontana, today’s WAMO is a mix of classic R&B and talk radio and WPGR is one of several local gospel stations.

“WAMO provided African-American organizations, businesses and city residents a voice to discuss issues and successes relevant to the African-American community,” Fontana said. “It’s truly a source of pride and a window on the African-American experience in Pittsburgh. It will be missed.”