WODS (103.3 FM) - known on-air as 103.3 AMP Radio - is a radio station in Boston, Massachusetts. WODS airs a Top 40 (CHR) radio format, and is owned by CBS Radio. Its studios are located in Brighton, and its transmitter is in Newton.
WODS began as WEEI-FM in 1948. It ran CBS's "The Young Sound" format beginning in 1965 after Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations forced it to cease to be a 24-hour simulcast of the AM side (WEEI 590, now WEZE). "The Young Sound" was an easy listening format focusing on instrumental versions of recent pop tunes, which aired on many of CBS's FM owned-and-operated stations. By 1969, "The Young Sound" had evolved to a Top 40/AOR hybrid format, voice tracked on WEEI-FM by Dick Provost. In late 1972, WEEI-FM flipped to an adult contemporary format. The station evolved into its famous "Soft Rock" format in 1977, which remained in place until 1982 when it flipped to a Top 40 format. (During the Soft Rock years, WEEI-FM would only play the softer hits by Rock-oriented artists. Artists heard only on Top 40 stations were not aired.) By 1981, all of the other owned-and-operated CBS FM radio stations employed the "Hot Hits" format except for WCBS-FM in New York City. Unlike its sister stations, though, WEEI-FM played hits from the past several years as well as the hits of the current day.
HitRadio 103, Power 103, and Q-103
On March 9, 1983, at Midnight, WEEI-FM changed call letters to WHTT, and rebranded, first as HitRadio 103, and then The New Power 103 WHTT. (After 590 WEEI was sold, WEEI-FM became the call letters of Lawrence-licensed 93.7, initially as a simulcast of WEEI.) WHTT, for a time in the mid-1980s, was one of Boston's most popular stations, but its stay at the top of the Arbitron ratings was not to last. WHTT continued with a Top 40 format until July 7, 1986. At that point, ratings were decent, but it was determined that it was tough competing directly with WXKS-FM, as well as WZOU (now WJMN). Top 40 formats are generally hard to sell unless ratings are extremely high. It was also determined that Boston could not support three viable Top 40 stations. As a result, WHTT launched an adult rock format known as "Boston's Quality Rock" playing a blend of softer Album Rock cuts, pop rock cuts, some eclectic smooth jazz, and a few mainstream pop hits. The station's call sign changed to WMRQ, branded on-air as "Q-103". The on-air staff stayed on from WHTT initially, though most gradually left over the next year. Their ratings went downhill fast.
On October 7, 1987, the station switched to an oldies format, playing the Rock and Roll Hits from 1955 to 1969, and was branded as "Oldies 103". The first song on "Oldies 103" was "Fun Fun Fun" by The Beach Boys. The station had a very deep playlist, playing a larger number of songs than most oldies stations. The station's call letters were soon changed to WODS to reflect the oldies format. WMRQ's airstaff stayed with the station despite the format change, and a couple people continued at the station right up to the station's final day in 2012. By 1989, WODS was also playing a very limited amount of music from the early 1970s up to 1972 mixed with the 1950s and 1960s.
As time went on, Oldies 103 added more 1970s music but continued to focus on the 1960s and still played a considerable number of pre-1964 oldies. In the late 1990s, the station rebranded as "Oldies 103.3". In 2001, WODS began to move away from 1950s' music. The station added more late 1970s songs and a few 1980s hits. In 2001, Little Walter's Time Machine was replaced with the Boston-based syndicated show "The Lost 45s" was added to the Sunday night line-up, after long runs at WZLX (1985-1992) and WBMX (1993-1999). It brought more music from the 1970s and 1980s to the playlist, and the program's host Barry Scott stayed with the station until WODS's final day, when he became the first to be hired away by long-time rival WROR. In 2002, WODS eliminated most of the pre-64 oldies and by 2005, WODS was half 1964-1969 and half 1970-1979 with a few pre-1964 oldies and 1980s' songs mixed in.
In 2005, WODS, along with sister stations 100.7 WZLX and what was then Mix 98.5, were rumored to flip to Adult Hits as "Jack FM". WODS seemed the likely victim, as CBS Radio flipped, or were in the process of flipping, similar Oldies stations in Chicago, Baltimore, and New York to Jack. Had WQSX (now WEEI-FM) not flipped to the format as "93.7 Mike FM" on April 14, WODS might have flipped to 103.3 Jack FM the next day.
Prior to the 1990s, WODS only played moderate amounts of Christmas music during the holiday season and did not go wall to wall, even on Christmas Day. Beginning in the early 1990s, the station began wall to wall Christmas music on Christmas Eve and continued until Christmas evening. Beginning in 2003, WODS played holiday music from a week before Thanksgiving until Christmas Day. However, in 2007, it started its Christmas music on Monday November 12; and in 2008, it commenced on Thursday, November 6 - the earliest it has ever been. This tradition was continued in 2009 with Christmas music playing on Friday, November 13, and it started on Thursday, November 18 in 2010. In 2011, Christmas music began on Friday, November 11.
WODS added HD Radio operations in 2006. 103.3 HD1 carried the standard analog radio format, 103.3 HD2 carried a "soft rock" format known as "The Cove," and 103.3 HD3 carried a simulcast of WBZ. After the sign on of "98.5 The Sports Hub" on August 13, 2009, the simulcast moved to the HD3 channel of 98.5, while 103.3 HD3 flipped to Christian rock, branded as "Mercy Rock: The Christian Rock of Boston."
In 2007, WODS added Casey Kasem's American Top 40: The '70s Saturdays nights at 11 p.m. and The Wolfman Jack Show Sunday nights at 11. In October 2008, WODS switched nights for the two shows and added a second airing of AT40:70s Sunday mornings at 10. The 2-hour version (second and third hours) played in the morning and the entire 3-hour version played at night. In 2009, the morning broadcast was dropped with AT40: 70s airing only Sundays at midnight.
In 2008, WODS added Tom Kent's nationally syndicated show weeknights from 7-10 p.m. As a result, the Top 20 Countdown—a Thursday night staple on WODS for many years—was moved to Saturdays from 7-9 a.m. with Patrick Callahan as host as of October 4. The Top 20 Countdown was originally known as the Thursday Night Countdown, with hosts including Sandy Benson, Patrick Callahan and J.J. Wright. Tom Kent's syndicated show only lasted a few months and was replaced with local programming again.
In October 2009, WODS changed its station branding from "Oldies 103.3" to "103.3 WODS". At that point, WODS began focusing on Classic Hits from 1970 to 1984, with only a few 1960s songs per hour. The station also played an occasional 1990s song as well. However, this adjustment did more to hurt than help in the ratings.
Notable WODS on-air personalities
"103.3 AMP Radio" (2012–present)
On June 27, 2012, CBS announced that the station would flip back to Top 40 as "103-3 AMP Radio" the following day at Noon. Within hours of the announcement, the airstaff was laid off and the station began to run jockless, running liners thanking loyal listeners of WODS and advising them that "Boston's Greatest Hits" would move to its HD2 subchannel. One of the now-unemployed DJs, Paula Street (who had been with WODS since February 1988), confirmed on the Radio-Info Boston message board that a goodbye show for the format would happen before the flip at Noon. The last show of the Breakfast Club with John Laurenti and Karen Blake took place on that day by ending their show with "I Got a Woman" by Ray Charles. Jay Gordon then played his last song, "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley. Barry Scott then played his last song, "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks. Paula Street and J.J. Wright then played their last song, Fun Fun Fun by The Beach Boys (the station's first song as WODS) at 11:20AM. Then, the station went into these songs, jockless and during commercial breaks:
- Chairman of the Board - "Give Me Just A Little More Time"
- Bon Jovi - "Livin' On A Prayer"
- David Bowie - "Changes"
- Donovan - "Sunshine Superman"
- The Beatles - "P.S. I Love You"
- Donna Summer - "Last Dance" - the last song on WODS
Like most of the CBS Radio O&O Top 40 stations, WODS' music direction tends to favor Rhythmic and Dance Pop hits, but unlike the others, WODS places less emphasis on Hip-Hop tracks and recurrents. This choice of direction puts them in a unique position, as WODS takes on iHeartMedia's Mainstream Top 40 WXKS-FM and Rhythmic WJMN, thus reigniting a Top 40 war between the three stations for the first time since 1986. At the same time, the move also allows sister station WBMX to adjust to an Adult Top 40/Hot AC direction.
After a few months of being jockless, WODS added a full-time airstaff.
Because WODS no longer plays Christmas music during the holiday season, 103.3 HD3 flipped from Christian rock to Christmas music on October 19, 2012, in order to capture that previous audience. The "Mercy Rock" format moved to WBMX-HD3, moving the "New Sky Radio" talk format to the new WBMX-HD4 channel. On January 23, 2013, 103.3 HD3 flipped to "The Cove", returning the previous soft AC format heard on 103.3-HD2.