WMEX (AM)

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WMEX
WMEX1510.png
City of license Boston, Massachusetts
Branding 1510 WMEX
Slogan Where Liberty Has A Voice
Frequency 1510 kHz
First air date October 18, 1934 (1934-10-18) (at 1500)[1]
Format Libertarian and Personality Talk
Power 50,000 watts day
50,000 watts night
50,000 watts critical hours
Class B
Facility ID 12789
Transmitter coordinates 42°23′10.00″N 71°12′10.00″W / 42.3861111°N 71.2027778°W / 42.3861111; -71.2027778 (WMEX)
Former callsigns 2012–2014: WUFC
2001–2012: WWZN
2001: WSZE (11 days only)
1995–2001: WNRB
1990–1995: WSSH
1989–1990: WKKU
1987–1989: WSSH
1983–1987: WMRE
1978–1983: WITS
1934–1978: WMEX
Former frequencies 1940–1941: 1470 kHz
1934–1940: 1500 kHz
Affiliations TheBlaze Radio Network
Fox News Radio
Owner Blackstrap Broadcasting, LLC
(operated by Wallis Communications under a local marketing agreement)
Webcast Listen Live
Website 1510wmex.com

WMEX (1510 AM) is a radio station licensed to serve the Boston media market. Its programming is a mixture of libertarian and personality talk shows. It first began broadcasting in 1934, and after using various call signs since 1978, regained the original WMEX call sign on November 17, 2014. The station is run by Wallis Comm with an APA to purchase from current owners Blackstrap Broadcasting.

History[edit]

WMEX: Influential jazz and Top 40 station[edit]

WMEX was founded in 1934 by Bill and Al Pote, with studios in the Hotel Manger, and was originally on 1500 kc., with 500 watts day, 100 watts night from a transmitter site on Powder Horn Hill in Chelsea, and later (1940-1981) from a site off West Squantum Road in Quincy, near the then-WNAC/WAAB (now WMKI) site in the Neponset River valley. After several unsuccessful attempts to move to 1470 with a power upgrade to 5,000 watts, WMEX finally made the move (with power increase) in 1941, just in time for the North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement to move that channel to its current frequency, 1510 kHz. Throughout this period, WMEX operated as an independent (non-network) station with a program schedule filled with everything from live music remotes to ethnic programming. In the early 1950s, the station featured some notable jazz programming, and the recording of a WMEX originated Billie Holiday remote broadcast from a Boston club survives.[2]

In 1957, the Pote family sold WMEX to the Richmond Brothers. Max Richmond, one of the brothers, changed the format of WMEX to a rock-and-roll-dominant pop music format (one of the first in the nation) and hired Arnie Ginsburg, whose nightly rock and roll broadcasts on WBOS (now WUNR) were very popular. The format lasted from 1957 until March 1975. Max Richmond was reportedly a challenge to work for, with his alleged micro-managing and abrasive personality, yet there is no denying his uncanny ability to spot deejay talent, and to keep his station—despite a poor nighttime signal in many suburban locations—a major player and innovator for many years.[3][4]

Among Max Richmond's innovations was the hiring of Jerry Williams in 1957 to conduct a nighttime telephone talk show, with the caller heard on the air, a revolutionary concept in the late 1950s. With the weekday-only Williams show beginning at 10 PM (after many of the young rock and roll audience was in bed), Richmond shrewdly was able to expand the appeal of his station to the adult community in the late night hours. Malcolm X was a favorite guest of Williams, and many WMEX broadcasts featuring Williams and Malcolm X survive. When the Beatles broke in the USA, WMEX was at the forefront, playing virtually every Beatles song available and fueling the already rabid Boston fans. In the early 1960s, main personality Arnie (WooWoo) Ginsburg began his Sunday night Oldies Show, one of the first in the nation to feature early pioneer rock and rhythm and blues recordings in a specialty show on a top-rated radio station.

In the late 1960s, WMEX received a power upgrade to 50,000 watts daytime, still with 5,000 watts at night. Station engineers had to constantly adjust the phasing network as tides in the Neponset River would play havoc with the station's directional pattern. However, the salt-water marsh area provided the station with an excellent coastal signal. While the night signal could not be heard clearly inland to many Boston suburban locations (especially in the growing and affluent western and southwestern suburbs), the station's nighttime transmissions were heard very clearly across the salt water to the Boston city neighborhoods and the working class North Shore areas, which gave the station's programming a more gritty, earthy sound. The salt-water path nighttime transmissions kept going right up to Nova Scotia and Labrador, gaining the station an audience in those areas as well.

WITS: Information, talk and sports[edit]

By the late 1960s, WMEX was facing tough competition in the top-40 format from WRKO, which featured a tight playlist, a more "suburban oriented" polish, and a 50,000 watt day and night signal which was heard clearly in all suburbs. However, under the programming of Dick Summer and later, John Garabedian, WMEX countered with an expanded playlist featuring some "progressive rock" album cuts. WMEX shot back up in the ratings and actually beat WRKO in a few demographics and time periods, but it was a temporary—and final—victory for the venerable station. Shortly thereafter, Max Richmond died, and FM radios became more common, especially in cars where WMEX was getting the FM audience who didn't have an FM car radio yet. WMEX decided to abandon top-40 in 1975. Although briefly a middle of the road station with some talk programming, WMEX captured the broadcast rights to the Boston Red Sox beginning with the 1975 playoffs and became an all-talk station in 1976. In 1978, to better promote its talk format and sports coverage, the station changed call letters to WITS ("We're Information, Talk and Sports")

Adding the Boston Bruins hockey team in the 1978-79 season boosted WITS' sports profile, but the station came in for considerable criticism after the 1978 baseball season when it fired the popular Red Sox commentary duo of Ned Martin and Jim Woods. Although Martin was able to continue broadcasting the Red Sox on television, Woods never again broadcast the team's games on a regular basis.

Long a 5,000-watt station, WMEX/WITS in the 1970s had a daytime power output of 50,000 watts and a nighttime power of 5,000 watts, which led to a less-than-perfect signal in parts of the Boston area, especially at night. WKBW (now WWKB), with 50,000 watts, right next door to WMEX on the dial, at 1520 from Buffalo, New York, and directional straight at Massachusetts, all but buried the weaker 5,000-watt WMEX after dark in the western Boston suburbs (like Wellesley). On the other side of WMEX, was an equally strong signal from WTOP (now WFED) in Washington, DC, which, together with WKBW, would really put the squeeze on WMEX's signal at night. One would really have to "eke out" the 1510 signal, in the face of these 50 kW blowtorches. In 1981, the station moved its transmitter to Waltham and was able to boost power to 50,000 watts day and night. But while some areas did get an improved signal, especially at night, other areas did not.

Not long afterwards, WITS' owner at the time, Mariner Communications, suffered financial problems. The station lost the Red Sox and Bruins, and had to abandon its talk format.

Since 1983: Multiple call signs — and formats[edit]

WWZN's logo as "1510 the Zone", used from the fall of 2002 until December 2008.

WITS flipped to an adult standards format under the call sign WMRE "The Memory Station", but was not successful. Other formats quickly followed, one after the other. Among them were a return to talk (featuring Morgan White Jr. and Bob Katzen), soft adult contemporary (as WSSH), country music (as WKKU), a return to soft adult contemporary (again as WSSH), and (as WNRB) first, brokered religious programming and then Spanish-language programming, before settling on sports under the call letters of WWZN. Most WWZN programming came from the One-On-One Sports Network, and from One-On-One's successor, Sporting News Radio. For a time, there were local sports talk hosts on WWZN such as Sean McDonough, Ryen Russillo and Boston sports-talk legend Eddie Andelman.

During this time, Paul Allen's Rose City Broadcasting held the license. Allen also owned Sporting News Radio and The Sporting News magazine. For a few years, WWZN had the local radio broadcasts of the Boston Celtics basketball team, but the station did not renew the deal when it expired at the end of the 2004–2005 NBA season.

Prior to the station's sale, WWZN started to rely on time-brokered programming in addition to its coverage of Sporting News Radio. On May 31, 2007, Blackstrap Broadcasting completed its purchase of this station and WSNR in the New York City area (licensed to Newark, New Jersey). In the fall of 2007, WWZN moved from Burlington, MA to brand new studios overlooking the ocean at Marina Bay in Quincy, MA.

WUFC's logo from 2012 to 2013 during its NBC Sports Radio affiliation

From 2008 until 2012, the station aired progressive talk shows as brokered time including a local show hosted by Jeff Santos. The station then changed its call letters to WUFC and returned to a sports format as an affiliate of NBC Sports Radio from 6 AM to 10 AM and 7 PM to 1 AM weekdays, with a local show, "The Bawstin Diehards", from 10 AM to noon. Yahoo! Sports Radio (the successor to Sporting News Radio) aired at other times. The NBC Sports Radio affiliation lasted until late 2013, when Yahoo! took over during NBC's hours. In June 2014 the station began airing a Libertarian Talk Radio format. On November 17, 2014, the station reverted to its original call sign WMEX; the change coincided with the move of The Howie Carr Show to the station from WRKO. Other programs on WMEX include Kevin "Dr K" Wallis, an hour of Boston Herald Radio, The Glenn Beck Program, Dennis Miller, The Sean Hannity Show, and Bob Levy.[5]

The highly directional, 50,000 watt signal of WMEX protects directional Class A, 50,000 watt, WLAC in Nashville (which also protects WMEX since the station pre-dated WLAC on the frequency).

References[edit]

External links[edit]


Preceded by
850 WHDH
1947–1975
Radio Home of the
Boston Red Sox
1976–1982
(as WMEX/WITS)
Succeeded by
99.1 WPLM-FM/680 WRKO
1983–1994