At the end of my last blog post I asked you to e-mail me if you had any other questions about WDFN over the last twenty years, I got a few and decided to answer the questions here.
Hey, former Berkley/Royal Oak resident when you used to live there too.
Today is the 20th anniversary of the birth of Detroit’s first all-sports radio station…AM 1130 WDFN, The Fan.
As most of you know I was the third person hired at WDFN right behind Rich Pemenko and Art Regner. The station was way before its time and was a struggle for a few years before it finally gained its footing and began to thrive. WDFN was so much more than a radio station, it was a connected family for Detroit sports fans. I think the relative youth of the people at WDFN was a blessing to the audience as we were all far too inexperienced to NOT be real with our audience. We had yet to raise the protective walls around us individually and were very open, accessible and honest with the folks who listened to us everyday. I think that made the radio station unique, the accessibility! It wasn’t uncommon for 10 to 15 WDFN staffers to show up at a bar on a Friday or Saturday night and just hang out, many listeners even showed up just to hang. Can you imagine that happening with any other radio station in Detroit? In short NOBODY with a couple exceptions took themselves to seriously, we were all grateful for the opportunity that we had earned.
We had some great wins at WDFN. The first big win was when we acquired the radio broadcast rights to Michigan State football and basketball in the late 90′s. The next big win was signing the Detroit Pistons in the early 2000′s just before their fortunes turned and they won the 2004 NBA Title. Needless to say the station had come a long way since the days of the Detroit Vipers, the Motor City Mustangs and the Detroit Fury. Watching the WDFN float in the Pistons Championship parade was particularly cool.
I’m constantly reminded of the impact that little radio station had on the lives of some, check out some of these tweets from this morning.
Great to hear the stories this morning..As a day one DFN listener…those times will never be replicated. From Hammer to Van Earl…when nobody would call in..they would have the bartender from the townsend hotel dean call in..under an assumed name..To Sabrina..and all the cast of characters In the day….Heck..even all my porno faxes back in the day..can you imagine getting away with that today……Those days will never happen again..It was radio at its best…unscripted and by the seat of the pants..! You guys made history in this town. I still listen and keep in touch with Stoney…One big mistake xyt made was snubbing the dfn listeners when the plug was pulled on dfn..XYT is not a warm place for listeners and some of the hosts act like pompous pricks….so I don’t. call in.. You can take Mcallister, Doug Karch, and Gator and Pithian.. for openers and flush them..down a toilet…I would rather listen to elevator music than any of those hosts…they are a joke. Too bad xyt..couldnt pair..wojo and stone in the am…and give jamie more air time…You guys made it feel like a family…at wdfn..And were self made..Now most sports radio is cookie cutter and that’s sad!!! You guys were the true hall of famers In this town.!!! You did forget to mention wizzer…he was classic..still remember pulling away from the compound on woodbridge and you could always catch him peeing…!!
@GreggHenson Hey Boss! Heard you were going on with Art on the DFN 20 yr anniversary.I can’t believe its been so long.I owe u everything.
— Freight Train (@lamboftrain) July 11, 2014
You cannot begin to understand how flattering these messages are 20 years later. To know that we had that deep of an impact on anybody is a tremendous feeling. This radio station has impact beyond its terrestrial reach. When WDFN started the only two sports shows in town were “Sports Wrap” on WJR and “The Sunday Sports Albon” on WLLZ. The landscape certainly has changed. Detroit now has two sports stations and one of them is the number one overall station. The transformation is amazing, one prominent Sports Talk Host once quipped in the newspaper that WDFN has less listeners than “airport radio.” The station was the object of much ridicule when it started, nobody understood it and the “establishment” was afraid of it. I’m glad we stuck to our plan and weren’t deterred by the naysayers! You can only imagine the anger of the Detroit sports teams when they were actually criticized for their performance, that just didn’t happen prior to sports radio. The Lions had the most difficult time adjusting to WDFN, they were constantly trying to control our host and our message but thanks to strong leadership the radio station NEVER acquiesced, we just kept doing our thing. The Tigers had a hard time adjusting as well, at one point or another they yanked credentials, canceled money, threatened lawsuits and stop giving away tickets, all in an attempt to get the radio station “in line.” I think they all finally gave up when I stayed the course NO MATTER THE THREAT. The radio station was for the fans, NOT the local franchises! Although they all called my bosses attempting to force me out as Program Director because I couldn’t “get with the program.” It wasn’t petulance, it wasn’t arrogance, it was all about sticking with the plan. The plan was to provide the FANS with a station where they could have a voice, we had to reflect the mood and sensibilities of the local fans, NOT deliver the message of the teams. It was a tough transition for the teams.
Before I left WDFN, there were three things I wanted to accomplish before I moved on to my next challenge.
1. Move the studios OUT of the garage downtown. Check
2. Get the Pistons. Check
3. Flip 1310 to sports as a deterrent to any other station going sports. check.
I’m proud of what we accomplished in a relatively short period of time, my biggest disappointment was not successfully lobbying my bosses to put WDFN on 106.7 in 1999. It ended up as “The Drive.” My proposed lineup for WDFN on 106.7 in 1999???
6a-10a: Drew and Mike (with Trudi)
10a-2p: Jamie and Gregg
2p-6p: Stoney and Wojo
6p-10p: The Sports Doctors
I had a 10 page plan and this was the lineup I submitted and was approved (we were going to make a run at Drew and Mike when their deal was up). I think we were just days away from actually going to 106.7 in ’99, but for some reason it was decided that they would flip from “Alice” to “The Drive.” Can you imagine what WDFN would look like today if we had put it on FM 15 years ago? So there ya go, some good insight into the WDFN years, amazingly the station still exsist and it’s gratifying to know that it outlasted most of the naysayers and converted a few.
If any of you have any specific question about the radio station, feel free to e-mail me at Gregg.Henson@gmail.com.
This is pretty cool. Wait for Gwen Stefani.
Having you ever wondered what your parents were listening too on the radio when you were conceived? Nope, me neither, but there is now a web site that will tell you.
The aptly named Porktrack.com puts a disturbing spin on the usual Billboard search, by jumping back nine months earlier, revealing the likely soundtrack to your parents doing something you don’t ever want to think about, ever.
I love the name too!!! We should bring back the word “porking.”