Today marks Soul/R&B station 98.7 Kiss FM/WRKS’ 30th anniversary. One constant at the station has been morning news anchor Bob Slade.
In fact, Slade predates Kiss at 98.7, starting at the frequency in 1975 when it was the disco-led 99X/WXLO.
These days Slade, who FishbowlNY sat down with recently, is also an historian of all things “Kiss.”
“There had already been a few Kiss stations at that time,” Slade recalls. “So they figured that’s a good advertising slogan, people will remember ‘Kiss.’”
He says the lips created for the new logo belonged to former DJ, the late Mary Thomas.
Slade says RKO General wanted established DJs to get the station off the ground. Thomas and Chuck Leonard were among the first announcers added to the Kiss lineup.
Prior to becoming Kiss/WRKS, WXLO listeners were told about the changeover.
“Some actually came down to our then-location at 1440 Broadway to help us with [the] move,” Slade remembers. “We thanked them and gave the folks some station freebees.”
With “Disco 92” WKTU and Black-orientated WBLS, Kiss had to make a decision early about formatting the new station.
“We sort of divided, went down the middle and took from both stations,” Slade tells FishbowlNY.
Now as Kiss celebrates three decades in New York, Slade says it’s always about keeping listeners entertained.
“It’s a game. You have to keep playing the game, but also keep changing the game because if you don’t people will get bored,” Slade admits. “They’ll figure out the game and they’ll turn you off.”
To that end, Kiss reinvented itself last year as The Best Variety of the 1980s, 1990s, and Today’s R&B.
RKO kept Kiss throughout the 1980s, but ultimately had to give up their broadcasting licenses due to legal problems. In 1989, RKO General sold Kiss to Summit Communications.
Summit kept Kiss in its portfolio for the next five years.
Then Emmis, which ran Hot 97/WQHT, stepped in and bought Kiss, thus forming the city’s first FM duopoly.
Prior to the merger, Hot 97 switched from Dance to a full service Rap outlet. By contrast, Kiss was adding Rap songs into the playlist.
However, once part of the Emmis family, Kiss opted for an Urban Adult Contemporary format.
Also at that time, Emmis began adding popular artists heard on the Kiss air to become DJs on the station.
Issac Hayes had a five-year run as morning man starting in 1996, while famed R&B group Ashford and Simpson joined Kiss in 1995.
“These shows were locally produced, and we wanted to make the station a local station for local advertisers,” Slade recalls. “It worked out very well.”
Wendy Williams, now a syndicated TV talk star, rose to fame at Kiss from 1989 to 1994.
Although known to millions for his morning newscasts on Kiss, Slade hasn’t always been on a.m. drive.
After doing the early shift for a short time, Slade was moved to afternoons by program director Barry Mayo.
“He wanted Ken Webb [morning host] matched with a female,” Slade says. “They didn’t want two males on the air back in those days.
“Now we don’t even have afternoon news,” Slade admits. “Radio has changed so much, and most radio stations are like that.”
Slade isn’t just an accomplished newsman with 40 years under his belt, his other passion is music. Sunday night since 1995, Slade hosts Soul Beginnings, delving into behind the scenes stories, interviews, and of course Old School tracks.
“They sort of trust me after all these years,” Slade laughs “Leave him alone, he wants to play with his toys, go ahead and let him play with his toys.”
As for Soul Beginnings, it materialized a year earlier from producing the music documentary The Rise and Fall of Vee-Jay Records. That special earned Slade a Peabody Award, which he considers the most significant honor of his career.
Overall, you could make the case that the Harlem-native is proudest about his tenure at Kiss. He started as news director at 98.7 on April 1, 1980 as 99X transitioned to Urban music with FM 99.
“I’ve been the news director ever since,” Slade jokes. “They haven’t fired me yet.”