Farewell WHFS, Where I First Met Good Music
By Erin Huebschman
When WHFS 99.1fm went off the air for good at noon January 12, switching to El Zol 99.1, a Latin dance format, an era ended for me and many other faithful listeners. I heard the news of their passing on my car radio. Driving home from work that evening, I'd happened to push the WRNR button and was shocked to hear the DJ mourning the "late, great HFS."
With the shock came a flood of memories: the first time I heard "Feels Like Teen Spirit" ... my first music festival ... old friends who shared my love for HFS.
I can't believe it's all gone. This was the station that introduced me to good music. They offered up a mix - from Elvis Costello to Pearl Jam - you couldn't find anywhere else. It was where you went to get away from the teen-pop and the hard-rock, big-hair bands on every other station out there.
In the 1960s, Jake Einstein created 102.3, the station that would become WHFS 99.1. In 1983, the Bethesda station was sold and Einstein found a home and new call letters in Annapolis. In the beginning, the station gave free rein to their DJs to play the music they enjoyed. Those were the great days, when you never knew what you might hear.
In 1990, WHFS hosted its first HFStival. Begun at middle-sized grounds, the festival grew into huge two-day events at RFK Stadium. With headliners like Violent Femmes, INXS, The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots and Rage Against the Machine, the HFStival drew fans that numbered in the tens of thousands. Its success spawned imitators, as 98 Rock and DC101 followed their format.
But as ownership changed over the years, the DJs endured a more defined play list. WHFS was eventually acquired by the Infinity Broadcasting Corporation and lost its hold on the market and many listeners. A slow decline over the past few years pushed the change to Latin music. "We have made clear our desire to expand into this burgeoning market and believe this move marks an important step in our commitment to Spanish radio," said Infinity President and CEO Joel Hollander.
Over the weekend I couldn't help pulling out old photos of friends enjoying hot summer days at HFStivals long past. Checking eBay for HFS stuff, I got a good laugh at one fan selling a preset button on his radio to any station that dares to fill the void. His price was $50.
So hold on to those old T-shirts. They might fetch a good price from devotees holding on to the past. I also found forums where fans could voice their opinions on the station's untimely passing and a petition drive to bring back WHFS.
I'm glad I'm not the only one stunned by the loss of such an influential voice of the times. But WHFS's passing doesn't mean the music will go away. It lives on in all our memories. Me? I'm back in my room being wowed by music that changed me forever.