Pittsburgh's independent music source
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Look back at early WYEP hosts: DJ 'Mad' Mike, 'Buck' Brice, 'Harry the Wire' Wagner & 'Big' Al Smith

A man next to a record player and audio board.
Elliot "Buck" Brice hosted programs on WYEP from 1980 to 1989.

WYEP is celebrating our 50th anniversary, and we’ll be sharing aspects of the station’s history throughout the year. This week, we remember some of the memorable on-air hosts who could be heard on WYEP’s airwaves during its first decade of existence.

Noted Pittsburgh DJ “Mad” Mike Metrovich came to WYEP in the 1980s to host an oldies program called the “Sunday Night Jukebox.”

“Mad Mike is legendary in other parts of the country,” says Larry Berger, host of the “Saturday Light Brigade” and who worked at WYEP from 1975 to 2003. “In the ‘60s, he was on a radio station called WZUM and was playing a lot of unusual rock records that didn't get played very often. He called them 'moldies.'"

Local entertainer Johnny Angel says, “I went to a city high school, and there were two names that you talked about all the time: Mad Mike and Porky Chedwick. Mad Mike started out by doing a lot of the teen dances. Mike would turn you on to all the music that you weren't really allowed to listen to. Back in those days, Mad Mike had a great following in Pittsburgh, mostly of young kids, that were just tuned in to his radio show.”

Throughout his career, even on his WYEP show, Mad Mike was very protective of his music and would talk or play audio over songs so that they couldn't be recorded from the radio.

Eric Leaf Davin, who hosted a news show on WYEP from 1980 through 1982, says, “He had this little tape of a maniacal laugh, which was his signature sound. That’s where he got his name ‘Mad Mike.’” He would play the laugh over some songs as a kind of audio watermark.


Davin recalled another important contribution Mad Mike made to WYEP. "The other good thing about Mad Mike besides the fact that he played this music, was because in those days, WYEP's tenure on the air was very, very iffy. We were always, always, breaking down. The wiring was shoddy. We were always going off the air. Mad Mike had a certain amount of electrical engineering background and was the only guy who kept us on the air.”

Another important WYEP host was Elliott “Buck” Brice. Brice served in the Navy and was a dedicated jazz aficionado, and hosted programs on WYEP from 1980 to 1989. Rosemary Welsch says that Brice he knew more about jazz than anyone else in Pittsburgh.

Larry Berger offers this remembrance: “Buck Brice was kind of laid-back Pittsburgher, who's no longer living. He did a jazz program that was just exquisite. Buck knew jazz like the back of his hand and did a jazz program that was so relaxed and so laid back.”

Hear a 1985 clip of Buck Brice hosting his show on WYEP

Brice did a long-time morning show and was known to share another of his passions with listeners: coffee. "Brice was a great guy,” says Davin. “He would slurp his coffee out of his mug on the air. So you would hear him slurping his coffee, you know, very homey, very domestic.”

On one archival recording of Brice, he interrupted his own discussion of the music. “Excuse me for a minute,” he told his listeners. After a brief pause, he made a short sigh of satisfaction and said, “Mmmm, I love that coffee.” He would sometimes tell his audience, “OK, it’s 7:04 in the AM. It’s time for you to go into your kitchen and put the coffeepot on, or the teapot!”

The late Harry Wagner, A.K.A. “Harry the Wire,” is one of the most beloved and unique hosts in WYEP history. "Harry just loved radio and he was really a character,” recounts early WYEP host Marc Reiman.

Another early host, W.T. Koltek, adds, “He was probably the unlikeliest person ever to become a radio personality. He had this voice that sounded like nails on a blackboard.”

“Kind of squeaky almost on some level, but really distinctive,” says Rosemary Welsch. “And when you've heard Harry, you don't forget Harry.”

Hear a 1981 clip of Harry the Wire hosting his show on WYEP

Reisman hosted an overnight air shift with Art Nardini on WYEP in the late ‘70s and gave Harry his big break. “He loved punk music,” he says, “so he would hang around the studio with us when we did our show. And at some point, Art and I looked at each other and we thought, you know, we're not going to make it till 6:00 AM. And then we look over there, and there's Harry sitting. We basically said, ‘Hey, Harry, here's your chance, man.’ Harry was kind of a nervous fellow—you know, pretty wired. And so I started calling him and introducing him as ‘Harry the Wire.’”

Koltek says, “Harry was a teenager who had some pretty serious health problems. Boundless self-confidence and ego.”

"He had an innate ability to know when something was good,” says Rosemary Welsch. “He beat everybody to the punch on stuff that was coming down the pike, whether it was the Culture Club, whether it was The Clash, whether it was Sarah McLaughlin. And he didn't keep it to himself, either. Everybody had to know about it, because he wasn't selfish about the music he discovered. He wanted everybody to play it.”

Wagner was a DJ at WYEP until the mid ‘90s.


The blues has had a long and rich history on WYEP's airwaves. One colorful character playing the blues in the station’s early years was Big Al Smith. Big Al hosted shows in the late 1970s into the 1980s.

Fred McIntosh was a local musician who would sometimes join Big Al in the studio during his show. “When Big Al was doing his show on the air, he sometimes had friends and listeners join him in WYEP's South Oakland studio. And it was acceptable back then to just pop in and hang out for the night. One night we called in and said, ‘Hey, you know, we really like what you're doing.’ And he said, ‘Well, come on down. We're having a keg party.’ So we hopped in the car and drove down. And sure enough, there was a big keg party.”

Hear a 1977 clip of Big Al Smith hosting his show on WYEP

Al Smith passed away in 1991, but McIntosh recalls the person who was Big Al on the airwaves. “Oh, he was a very, very happy guy. The guy's a very large man. He earned his name. I believe he was a bouncer at a several local bars that had musical events, and he was also a bodyguard for a Pittsburgh Steeler or two. And he knew everything there was to know about local music and about the blues.”

WYEP salutes all the people who hosted shows on the station over the past 50 years. Their dedication has helped to make WYEP what it is today.

Mike Sauter started at WYEP in 2004 and held various positions, including Midday Mix host, music director, program director, and station manager.
Director of Creative Services and host of The Grooves Brian Siewiorek came to WYEP in 2004 from WCBU in Peoria, Illinois, where he worked as a journalist, hosting All Things Considered and managing operations. His award-winning career has included stints in rural Alaska as well as WKSU at Kent State in Ohio.