Broadcast Pioneers member Dave Kurtz

Longtime Philadelphian David L. Kurtz, the radio pioneer who founded the nation’s first successful FM station, died on Thanksgiving day, November 24, 2005 in his East Falls home following an extended battle with cancer. He was 73.

Broadcast Pioneers member Dave Kurtz, who was the Chairman, Treasurer and Co-Owner of B101 Radio with Co-Owner Jerry Lee, founded the station that is now called B101 (originally it was WDVR) in 1963, when FM radio was considered more of a novelty than a business. The station Kurtz founded would soon change that, laying the foundation for FM radio as a viable music format and business platform.

With few listeners, and even fewer dollars, a small number of FM stations were beginning to experiment with recently approved stereo broadcasting. Their stereo schedules usually totaled no more than a few hours a week. WDVR started an industry trend by broadcasting in stereo 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Just four and half months after WDVR began broadcasting; it became the number one FM station in Philadelphia. By 1966, it had the largest audience of any FM Station in the entire country -- larger than any FM Station in NY, Chicago or Los Angeles

Noted for its beautiful music, WDVR received the award for being the best music station in the world by the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra in 1967. Soon after in 1968, WDVR broke a major financial milestone by becoming the first FM Station in the Country to bill $1 million ($6 million in today's dollars).

Many experts point to this accomplishment as the turning point for FM Radio. Up to that time, most investors felt there was not a large enough audience to make money in FM Radio.

Through the years Kurtz and business partner Jerry Lee continued to innovate. Their station created the first big money giveaway in radio ($101,000), and the first professional TV spot to promote radio. WDVR became WEAZ in 1980, before changing its call letters to B101.1 in 1993.

In the age of radio consolidation, B101 has continued to thrive, becoming the largest and most successful independently owned station in the country. In the last two years, the station won two of the industry’s prestigious Marconi Awards -- one for Best Station in a Major Market and a 2nd one for Best Adult Contemporary Station in a Major Market.

The station’s success is a testament to the vision Kurtz had more than 40 years ago. It was fitting that he graduated from Lehigh University with an engineering degree, because he helped engineer the rise of one of the most respected broadcasting companies in the business.

And while Kurtz’s broadcasting success was notable, it was his kind, humble nature that left an impression on all those he encountered. He was a quiet but generous philanthropist. He always gave back the community and helped countless others without ever seeking publicity or attention. Recently he formed the Kurtz Family Foundation along with the loved ones that he so cherished.

A devoted husband, father and grandfather, Broadcast Pioneers member Dave Kurtz is survived by his wife of 42 years Esther, his children David J. Kurtz of Lafayette Hill, PA (and wife Jennifer and children Anna, Christopher, and Leah), and Ellen Kurtz of Mount Airy (and husband Stephen and children Jacob and Asher).

On Friday, November 16, 2007, Broadcast Pioneers member David Kurtz was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia's "Hall of Fame."

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
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