UTICA-ROME — Many people will “Wear Red” today, to show their support in the fight against heart disease… but hopefully you don’t mind if the crew at Big Frog 104 (WFRG) happens to be wearing green today — it’s the 25th anniversary of the “Frog” country radio format in the Mohawk Valley. Or, as they’ve been known to call it, a “hoppy birthday.”
It’s not just an anniversary for the format — but also for morning co-host Matt Herkimer, who has been with the station since day one, when the station launched as Jumpin’ Country 96 Frog. For the first few years in the late 1980s, Herkimer was the afternoon host, but eventually moved to mornings, and he’s been there ever since. He’s the only original member of the on-air staff. Do you remember who the other original WFRG jocks were? Keep reading…
Earlier this week, Herkimer shared this pair of photos on the Big Frog 104 website. At left, he’s with a “younger” incarnation of station mascot Jeremiah B. Frog, donning a 96 Frog shirt and hat. At right, a more-recent photo of Matt and Jeremiah at a live broadcast. When the format debuted in 1988, the Frog-themed approach was a big hit with area listeners. The success in the Mohawk Valley led to the “Frog” format and branding being spread to many other stations throughout the country… the closest of which is former sister station “Froggy 97” (WFRY) in Watertown.
After five years of operating out of a relatively small building on South Jay Street in Rome, changes in the marketplace made way for “96 Frog” to move up the dial to the much more-powerful 100,000-watt signal at 104.3FM — hence the name it has used ever since, “Big Frog 104.”
In two articles on the station website earlier this week, Herkimer shared some of his most-memorable moments from the past quarter-century. Among them, he says “picking out a favorite FrogFest” (the station’s annual listener-appreciation concert) “is like picking out your favorite child.” However, he admitted it was a thrill when the station had “Rascal Flatts appear in 2000, before they were RASCAL FLATTS!”
Herkimer also recalled one April Fool’s Day where it was announced the station was changing its name to “Big Cow 104,” in honor of the area’s many farms. He changed his name to “Hugh Heifer” and midday host Cricket went as “Elsie” for the day. He said it was a lot of fun, but the request lines were busy all day, thanks listeners who got upset about the changes before taking a moment to check their calendars.
(Your editor’s most familiar memory was the day back in the early 2000s, when some rookie part-timer assigned the on-air name “Elvis Frogsley” was asked to fill-in for Herkimer one morning… but we’ll save that story for some other time.)
And for many radio buffs — perhaps better than the classic pictures — would be a classic aircheck. When Big Frog 104 reached its 24th anniversary one year ago, Herkimer posted a montage of clips from his afternoon show from 1988, back when jocks called the station “the All-New Jumpin’ Country 96 F-R-G the Frog.” In addition to the aircheck, that same article includes a list of the original 96 Frog jock line-up.
Congratulations — or should we say, “Confrogulations” — to Matt Herkimer and the rest of the staff at Big Frog 104!
- January 31, 2003 – Utica’s WFRG celebrates 15 years (a day early because the anniversary fell on a Saturday that year)
- August 3, 2012 – POTW: Back in Time to Jumpin’ Country (96 Frog coffee mugs and hat, in mint condition, found at a local garage sale nearly 20 years after the move to Big Frog 104)
We’re always grateful for the chance to share a look at what’s happening today inside your local radio or television station… or a neat “blast from the past,” like we did this week. We have another classic photo coming your way next Friday, but after that, the queue is open… so send those shots to firstname.lastname@example.org or upload via the Contact Form. There’s another Picture of the Week every Friday at 7:30am.