|Broadcast area||Penobscot County, Maine|
|Branding||97.1 The Bear|
|Slogan||Maine's New Country Leader|
|First air date||March 15, 1961|
|Callsign meaning||BelFast Bear
(format originally started on 104.7 FM, licensed to Belfast)
|Former callsigns||WABI-FM (1961–1973)
|Affiliations||Motor Racing Network|
(Blueberry Broadcasting, LLC)
|Sister stations||WABK, WBAK, WBFE, WKSQ, WVOM-FM|
WBFB (97.1 FM; "97-1 The Bear") is a radio station licensed to and operating from studios in Bangor, Maine. The station is owned by Blueberry Broadcasting and is a country formatted radio station simulcasting on co-owned WMCM and WBFE.
The 97.1 frequency has a long history in Bangor, signing on March 15, 1961 as WABI-FM, owned by the Community Broadcasting Service along with WABI (now WABK) and WABI-TV. Initially a simulcast of WABI, on March 1, 1973 the station became WBGW, a country music station.
Community Broadcasting Service merged with Journal Publications in 1971 to form Diversified Communications; the company's broadcasting division retained the Community Broadcasting Service name until 1982, when WBGW was transferred to Diversified directly. The call letters were changed to WYOU-FM in 1986.
Diversified announced in 1993 that it would put most of its broadcasting properties, including WYOU and WABI, up for sale; while it would retain WABI-TV following the collapse of a deal to sell it to Vision Communications, the radio stations were sold to Bangor Radio Corporation. Two years later, the station adopted a modern rock format under the WWBX calls. The station eventually changed to a hot adult contemporary format. WWBX and WABI were sold to Gopher Hill Broadcasting in 1997.
WWBX was instrumental in storm coverage during the North American ice storm of 1998. It was Michael W. Hale who made the decision to suspend the music format and allow open phones and dialogue to help those with no power and to provide home-based entertainment. The station allowed listeners from all over central and eastern Maine to call in and share stories of prior storms, survival tips, and even just to let people know they were still waiting for power. Michael W. Hale (the morning host at the time) was so inundated with calls, the station effectively became a talk station for a time. The announcers, Les Newsome, Cindy Michaels (who later worked at WVII-TV), Ted Wallace, Dave Glidden and Rob "On The Radio" Rosewall kept people all over eastern and central Maine informed. Inbound calls for help and assistance were so many, volunteers came to the station to take calls and nearby states. The station than returned to its regular format after the power was restored.
In September 1998, the format was again changed to top 40, with an on-air slogan of "B97". The station was an overnight success, giving cross-town rival WBZN the competition needed to spice the small market. Although the ratings were often close, jocks from both stations demonstrated the skills to provide Bangor with large market sounds.
Clear Channel Communications signed a local marketing agreement with Gopher Hill in early 2001; a few weeks later, it bought WWBX and WABI. The company announced on November 16, 2006 that it would sell its Bangor stations after being bought by private equity firms, resulting in a sale to Blueberry Broadcasting to 2008. On September 1, 2008, WWBX dropped the top 40 format in favor of sports talk provided by Boston's WEEI, in a simulcast with WABI; the call letters were changed to WAEI. The call letters were modified to WAEI-FM in February 2009 in order to install the WAEI call letters on WABI. Though WAEI carried WEEI's talk shows, most game broadcasts were not aired on the station. However, it was the flagship of the Maine Black Bears from 2008 until 2011, when it was replaced by sister station WKSQ (WAEI's AM frequency remained a co-flagship).
Blueberry Broadcasting ended WAEI's affiliation with WEEI on January 11, 2010, replacing it with Fox Sports Radio, Imus in the Morning, and The Jim Rome Show; Blueberry cited a breach of contract. The station swapped formats and call letters with 104.7 FM on September 1, 2011 and became country music station WBFB, in effect returning the format to the frequency after a sixteen-year absence (104.7 became classic hits station WBAK the following February, leaving the sports format exclusively on WAEI's 910 AM frequency).
WBFB intellectual property
The "Bear" country format originated on the 104.7 FM frequency (now WBAK) on September 20, 1996, replacing top 40 station WWFX ("Fox 104.7"); the first song was "Gone Country" by Alan Jackson. The change, which gave rival WQCB its first competition since WYOU-FM became WWBX a year earlier, came soon after WWFX was sold by Group H Radio to Star Broadcasting, a company owned by Mark Osborne and Natalie Knox (current owners of WNSX) that already owned WKSQ and WLKE; the format change was intended to minimize overlap with WKSQ's playlist. The WWFX call letters were replaced with WBFB on April 25, 1997 after the station attempted to obtain the WEBR call sign. Osborne and Knox sold WBFB, WKSQ, and WLKE to Communications Capital Managers in February 2000; that July, CCM announced that it would sell the group (which through other purchases also included WBYA, WGUY, and WVOM) to Clear Channel. Blueberry Broadcasting bought the station along with the other Clear Channel stations in Maine in 2008; on September 28, 2009, WBFB began simulcasting on WLKE and WMCM, replacing their separate country formats. (WLKE would change its call letters to WBFE in 2013.) WBFB moved to 97.1 FM, swapping with WAEI-FM, on September 1, 2011.
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“Unfortunately, our affiliate in Bangor chose to end its contract with us (Tuesday),” said WEEI program director Jason Wolfe.
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