Morris Blum signs off Half-century after starting WANN-AM, radio pioneer getting out.

January 22, 1998

AMONG AMERICA'S thousands of radio stations, WANN-AM is a rare bird. Fifty-one years after it went on the air, the dawn-to-dusk station is still owned by the man who began it. Not for long, though. Morris H. Blum has sold the station for $400,000, pending approval from the Federal Communications Commission.

The buyer is New World Radio. It owns WUST-AM in Washington, which specializes in programming in foreign languages, and a station in Philadelphia. The company's plans for WANN-AM are not known.

Annapolis did not have a local station until after World War II. WANN was the second of three to go on the air. Since the stations started within a few months of one another, Mr. Blum had to devise a way to develop a distinct audience. He decided his ticket to success would be to broadcast to an African-American clientele whose needs were not being met by another area station.

For the next 45 years, WANN (which switched to country music in 1992) had a lock on much of the region's black audience with

popular disc jockeys such as "Hoppy" Adams. WANN's real contribution, though, was hiring blacks in announcing and managerial positions at a time when most stations, and other employers, would do neither. "In 1947, before the world had ever heard of a Martin Luther King Jr., Morris H. Blum was practicing the equal opportunity policies that Dr. King marched for and died for," noted former Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden, once a WANN employee.

One of the reasons WANN continued as a distinctive venue, even after the format change, was Mr. Blum himself. A broadcast pioneer, he lived and breathed radio. Even now, when old-timers gather to share "war stories," Mr. Blum's achievements are often recalled; for example, how he and a group of other FCC buddies cleaned the attic of a Laurel farmhouse of half a ton of bat dung so it could be converted into a World War II intelligence listening post.

Less than a year ago, another area radio innovator, Jake Einstein, sold his FM stations. With Mr. Blum bowing out, an era is coming to an end. With control of local stations shifting to out-of-town hands, Maryland's capital belatedly, and a little sadly, joins the mainstream of U.S. broadcasting.

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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