Access To Rock

Access To Rock

Access To Rock

An incomplete history of the radio station and its Philly roots.

Curated by Kevin Gunn

Fifty-Five years ago, April 29th, 1968, Metro Media in Philadelphia turned its little-used FM frequency into a forward reaching experiment. It was 93.3 WMMR, and because it was a stereo signal, the company offered music on it. Some standards, like The Frank Sinatra Hour, but one show truly was an experiment-It was called The Marconi Experiment and featured a burgeoning genre call Album Oriented Rock.


    Many contend that 1968 was the most tumultuous year of the previous century. It was the time of Nixon, of Viet Nam, of college campus demonstrations, race riots in inner cities, a violent democratic convention in Chicago, and the assassinations. First, freedom preacher Dr. Martin Luther King, then presidential frontrunner Robert F Kennedy. America was on edge, and the musicians of the day leant their voices to these events.


    As the sixties melted into the seventies, radio was changing right along with society. While AM Top 40 ruled the airwaves, the pop music it carried began to lose some luster. With the far superior FM bandwidth making for far better sound, musicians were making more complicated, longer songs of social relevance. The music, the social tumult and the audience all coalesced and a new artform took shape.


    New art meant new artists, and spawned a fertile flock of geniuses. Top of the heap, of course, were The Beatles. But the Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Who and many others were replacing pop music with hard hitting songs of social commentary. As for the messengers, WMMR conversed with the city through visionaries like Jerry Stevens, Ed Sciaky, Michael Tearson, David Dye and Steve Martorano. Along with many others, this group would educate and inspire a generation of music fans here in Philly.


    WMMR originally made camp at 19th and Walnut, overlooking Rittenhouse Square . It was a fitting home, and part of our culture until an ownership change moved the station to 5th and Market Streets in February of 1992. Situated in historic Independence Mall, the station was still feeling the beat of the city. After another ownership change in 1997, we were relocated to our current home in the suburbs. Where at least, parking is free!

  • The 80’s:

    WMMR started out as a counter-culture alternative, but a funny thing happened on the way to cult status: We got popular and profitable! Lift off came in the early 80’s when John DeBella took over the morning show duties. What started as the DeBella Travesty soon became the Morning Zoo, and it took the city by storm. Quite simply, it was a club you of which you wanted to be a member. We gathered in the clubs, the stadiums, the shore, at parades and on the streets. DeBella was joined by Mark “The Shark” Drucker, Grover Silxcox, later Earle Bailey, Pat Godwin and Steve Lushbaugh, and a social and radio juggernaut was in full bloom. The other DJ’s of the era included Pierre Robert, Bubba John Stevens, Anita Gevinson, the return of Michael Tearson, Joe Bonadonna, Lyn Kratz, Steve Sutton, and many more.

  • The 90’s:

    A changing of the guard is inevitable, and so another era began when Pierre Robert took over the Morning Show in mid-1993. Called “The Breakfast Table,” it featured a music-centric approach, returning to the station’s roots. Matt Cord found his way to the station at this time and soon became one of its central players.

  • Y2K:

    Nobody was sure what would happen when we all bid adieu to the 20th century. Which is good, because, NOTHING HAPPENED!! Dire predictions of cyber-attacks and meltdowns failed to materialize and we were off and running in a new century. WMMR was firmly woven into the fabric of the city, and a new generation of listeners joined the daily celebration of rock n roll, and our fair city!


    In 2007, another epic era of WMMR blasted off with the arrival of The Preston and Steve Show. It’s a historically popular show, one of the most statistically dominant in the city’s rich radio history. With Casey-Boy, Kathy Romano. Nick McIlwain and Marisa Magnatta, and a revolving door of A-list guests, in-studio musical performers, conjured events and contests and brilliant wit, the single most important element of The Preston and Steve Show is the work that cast puts in, year in and year out. And in addition to one of the country’s biggest blood drives, annually, the high point of any year is Camp Out For Hunger. The perennial food drive has collected millions of dollars, and eleven thousand TONS of food for the hungry in the Delaware Valley. It’s the largest food drive in American history! The era is also the when we met Jaxon, Brent Porsche, and the one and only Jacky Bam Bam.

  • PST:

    What exactly is PST? Is it running every so slightly behind to make the crossover between morning show and afternoon? Is it engaging in a lovely conversation in the Green Room and forgetting that the song is ending? Let’s normalize Pierre Standard Time to stand for the 41 years and counting that the legendary Pierre Robert has graced the airwaves at WMMR. The man has a story for every situation, he’s been to every concert, he’s interviewed the best of the best and he’s shaken every possible hand in the tri-state area. God bless the Grateful Dead and god bless Pierre Robert.


    None of the above happens without a loyal and growing audience. The folks who found us on transistor radios, or the newly available FM dial in the early 70’s, now have children and grandchildren who can listen on our easy-to-navigate app. Never has it been easier to take WMMR with you. We’re no longer limited by signal-strength and boast listeners from around the country. But it’s always been a Philly thing, this experiment of ours. So excuse us if we take a  bow for being among the very fortunate, because it’s you that drive us. Thanks Philly, couldn’t have done it without you. And we’ll keep listening to you, so you’ll keep listening to us as we share everything that rocks.

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