Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — When WHOT Became 1330 AM

On April 15, 1963, sixty years ago, the four ads appearing above, were scattered through the pages of the Youngstown Vindicator. Most of us grew up associating WHOT with 1330 on the AM dial. For most of us, our radios were permanently set to 1330, as we listened to the rock ‘n’ roll hits of the day. George Barry, Dick Thompson, Johnny Kay, and Boots Bell, and the other “Good Guys” who later joined them were DJ personalities not only on the radio but at dances throughout the Valley.

These ads actually represented a big change for WHOT. Myron Jones acquired the station in 1955, broadcasting at 1570 AM from a low power station. Located at the far end of the radio dial, at that time, meant you could only broadcast during the daytime. So how would we listen to rock ‘n’ roll on the earphone that came with our transistor radio at night? The only alternatives were stations in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, if we could get them. In 1959, its sister FM station, then WRED, and later WHOT-FM, still broadcasting under this call sign at 101.1 FM.

In 1963, the 1330 radio frequency became available and WHOT snapped it up, moving to a 24 hour format. Remember “Big Al Knight”? He wouldn’t have been possible without this change. WHOT firmly established itself as one of the top TOP 40 stations in the country.

Photo by cottonbro studio on

The “twist” in the ad is a clever play on words. Most radios at the time had a “dial” with a needle or pointer that you moved by twisting a nob. Most of us just turned the knob until we found 1330 on the dial and left it there. Our car radios also had buttons you could use to set the radio to tune to your favorite stations and we’d set one to 1330.

But “twist” was also a popular dance in the early 1960’s, popularized by Chubby Checker, who you could hear on WHOT. Here’s a fun video to bring back memories:

The Twist – Chubby Checker

WHOT continued to broadcast on the AM dial until 1990, when it moved to the former WFMJ’s 1390 frequency. There is no longer a WHOT on the AM dial but WHOT-FM carries on the top 40 tradition. One other tidbit I discovered is that Johnny Kay and Dick Thompson worked together until 2007. After retiring from WHOT, both of them went to Salem’s WSOM where they worked until their “second” retirement in 2007. The two had been together since 1961, when Johnny Kay joined Dick Thompson at WHOT. Johnny Kay died in 2014 and Dick Thompson in 2017. Boots Bell, another of the good guys came to WHOT in 1959. He passed away of a heart attack in 1993. I’ve not heard what happened to George Barry.

But sixty years ago marked a big change for these guys who were joined by people like Jerry Starr and Smoochie Causey who helped fill the broadcast schedule when they moved to a 24/7 format.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

6 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — When WHOT Became 1330 AM

  1. Another article that squarely hits our collective memory. Not long ago, my wife asked what the outside temperature was. I couldn’t resist the chance to invoke the memory of everyone’s Bearded Buddy Boots Bell, so I told her it was 62 WHOT degrees. She laughed out loud.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, what great memories. Our kitchen counter radio was always set to 1390. We listened, not only to great tunes of the 60’s and 70’s, but had the best DJ’s. I was a big fan of The Wizard on FM as well. You can’t forget Tommy John too. Great article.

    Liked by 1 person

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