|City||Providence, Rhode Island|
|Broadcast area||Southern New England|
|Frequency||95.5 MHz/Channel 238|
|First air date||Frequency: May 10, 1948 (as WJAR-FM/95.5)|
|Format||Alternative rock, Jazz, Hip hop|
|Callsign meaning||BRown University|
|Former callsigns||WJAR-FM (original 1948 callsign), WPFM (circa 1958)|
|Owner||Brown Broadcasting Service, Inc.|
- 1 History
- 2 Buddy FM prank
- 3 Timeline of notable events
- 4 Concert Promotion
- 5 News department
- 6 Notable alumni
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
WBRU's traces it origin to the "The Brown Network", a low-power carrier current station that broadcast at 570 kHz on the AM band, and whose signal was limited to the Brown campus. This first-ever carrier current station was established 1936 by George Abraham and David W. Borst. Abraham had originally installed an intercom system between his and Borst's dormitory rooms. The intercom links were first expanded to additional locations, and then replaced by distributed low-powered radio transmitters, which fed their signals into various buildings' electrical wires, allowing nearby radio receivers to receive the transmissions. Abraham originally conceived of the idea as a way to share his record collection and serve as a personal disk jockey for his friends. By the next year, he had installed wires through the trees on campus in order to connect to a number of buildings, assigning students in individual dormitories to act as "section managers" who would receive the signal and retransmit it throughout the rest of their building. After being recognized as an extra-curricular activity, The Brown Network was assigned a studio and control room located in the Faunce House student union building.
The New England Hurricane of 1938 destroyed most of the distribution wires, and Borst and Abraham were forced to move the wires into the steam tunnels beneath the campus. On November 3, 1939, David Sarnoff, the president of the Radio Corporation of America (whose son attended Brown) made a broadcast over The Brown Network. On February 17-18, 1940 an organizing convention for the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) was held at Brown, attended by representatives from twelve colleges with existing or proposed carrier current stations. Abraham was elected the IBS Chairman, and Borst the Technical Manager. IBS's role was defined as a medium for the exchange of ideas and programs, in addition to working to attract national advertising contracts for the member stations. The first IBS intercollegiate broadcasts began on May 9, 1940, with a five-part series that was carried by stations located throughout New England at Brown, Harvard, Williams, and Wesleyan universities, in addition to the Universities of Connecticut and Rhode Island.
The '60s and '70s
In 1962, the Brown Broadcasting Service (BBS) was established as a separate entity from the University and in 1965, the BBS was donated a commercial FM license (WPFM) from The Outlet Company, a local department store chain and licensee of Providence stations WJAR 920 AM and WJAR-TV channel 10 (NBC). BBR was then split into two stations: "WBRU-AM" and WBRU FM. WBRU-AM continued to broadcast locally as a carrier current station (distributed through Brown's electrical system) and operated as the training station for WBRU FM. By the mid-'60s WBRU was considered an alternative station in that much of the music was folk and rock. Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Joan Baez had a home on this station and were not yet on mainstream radio. After 1966 much of the music format was not mainstream. The station was considered an "Underground Rock Music Station" similar to Boston's WBCN. It was home to Frank Zappa, The Fugs, Pearls Before Swine and other alternative rock groups not played on mainstream radio. Phil Ochs, Country Joe & the Fish and other anti-Vietnam War musicians received many hours of playing time at this station.
During the 1970s, WBRU broadcast at 20,000 watts on 95.5 FM and established itself as the principal progressive rock (aka, album-oriented rock or AOR) station in Rhode Island and southern New England. Attempts to boost the signal to 50,000 watts with a transmitter on the Sciences Library failed because of the interference it caused to sensitive scientific equipment, but the station was making plans to move its transmitter to the WPRO-FM transmitter location and increase power to 50,000 watts. This could not be done until 2009 because public TV station WSBE-TV's analog TV antenna currently occupies the tower space where WBRU plans to put its broadcast antenna. WSBE is locating its digital antenna at the WJAR antenna tower in Rehoboth, Massachusetts.
Switch to alternative format
WBRU was also frequently named one of the best radio stations in the country by numerous trade magazines such as Billboard and Rolling Stone (which named it best radio station in the country in a medium size market three years in a row, the only radio station ever to achieve that).
The station is part of the Providence music scene, and has been instrumental in introducing to the area alternative bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Skrewdriver, Skullhead, and countless other important bands. It was among the first radio stations in the United States to play Ben Folds Five and Talking Heads. Kurt Cobain's last radio interview before his death was on WBRU.
Between April 17 and April 21, 2006, WBRU played their entire music catalog by title from A-Z, starting at 5:30 p.m. with "About a Girl" by Nirvana on the 17th and ending around 11:15 on the 21st with "Zombie" by The Cranberries. The songs ranged from new music (by such bands as Panic! at the Disco and Zox), 1980s and 1990s pop rarely played by the station (such as Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy") and classic punk (i.e. Sex Pistols and New York Dolls).
On June 15, 2006, the station began streaming live online.
WBRU aired its first voicetracked break at 5:17 PM on November 15, 2010, during the Afternoon BRU with Corey and Cato.
In 2006, WBRU was the first U.S. radio station to play "Supermassive Black Hole" by British band Muse and played the Beck single "Cellphone's Dead" before its release until Interscope Records filed a cease and desist order against the station.
In 2007, WBRU premiered the Smashing Pumpkins new single "Tarantula" only 15 minutes after KROQ-FM world premiered it, becoming only the second station in the country to play it and the first to play it twice when they played it a second time immediately afterwards.
In 2009, WBRU was the first station to debut Say Anything's new single "Hate Everyone." The single premiered at approximately 3:30 p.m. on August 17, 2009. The band's lead singer Max Bemis also premiered the song "Crush'd," playing acoustic in studio.
Brown Student Radio (BSR)
In 1997, WBRU's carrier-current AM station split off and became Brown Student Radio (BSR), broadcasting initially on WELH/88.1, under a license owned by The Wheeler School and online . In 2003, BSR added a community radio element to its mission, incorporating community members as programmers and volunteers alongside students. In August 2011 BSR lost their air time on WELH and became an internet-only station.
WBRU is operated and run on a commercial basis. Its current Program Director is Wendell Clough, who has been at the station for over a decade and is known by the on-air name "Wendell Gee", after the R.E.M. song of the same name. Its General Sales Manager is Jim Corwin, the former Vice President/Market Manager of Clear Channel Communications.
Programming and formats
Today, WBRU is known for playing alternative rock and hip-hop based programming with crossover artists on both formats (such as Lorde, Cee-Lo Green and Cypress Hill). The station's regular alternative format usually plays rap and urban contemporary on Sundays.
Buddy FM prank
On March 29, 2006, WBRU claimed to be sold to Initech (a reference to the 1999 film Office Space) and changed the format of the station from alternative rock to "Buddy FM" - a variety hits format similar to the Jack format that had emerged at stations around the country. WBRU "signed off" on 4:57PM March 31, 2006, cutting out 10 seconds before the end of what they proclaimed to the final song played by the station, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day and was replaced by dead air until 5:02PM, switching to "Buddy FM" with "The Sign" by Ace of Base. The hoax was complete with telling radio sweepers done in-studio. Some examples included: "Buddy FM: hits of the '70s '80s '90s and today... and the 1940s... and the 1850s...", and mentions that the station was "fun for the whole family" after which the station played "Me So Horny" by 2 Live Crew. Local network television affiliates WJAR and WLNE-TV reported that WBRU had been sold without gaining confirmation about the story.
It was later found out to be an April fools joke, and, as of noon on April 1, 2006, WBRU had "regained" control of their radio station and began playing their normal playlist once again. Later that day, they confirmed that they were back to being WBRU, and that Buddy FM was no longer functioning.
This is not the first time that this April fools joke had been pulled at the station, but it was the first time it had been taken to this extent. Previous April Fools Days featured similar pranks by WBRU DJs, announcing that the station would be switching formats, but the joke was usually only kept up for a couple of hours.
Timeline of notable events
- 1936 - First broadcast of the Brown Network
- 1940 - The newly formed Intercollegiate Broadcasting System holds its first meeting at Brown
- 1948 - WJAR-FM signs on (May 10)
- 1950 - According to the 1950 Broadcasting Yearbook, WJAR-FM broadcasts at 20 kW
- 1950s- 95.5Mc. is home to WPFM, a classical music station
- 1962 - Brown Broadcasting Service (BBS) is established as a corporation independent from Brown University
- 1963 - The first BBS/WBRU constitution is written
- 1966 - Brown University buys WPFM & signs on WBRU (February 21)
- 1969 - WBRU is the first progressive rock station in the market
- 1971 - Attempts to broadcast at 50,000 watts failed due to interference with sensitive scientific equipment
- 1974 - WBRU is granted tax-exempt status
- 1975 - First paid professionals are hired
- 1976 - Station receives first Gold Record for airplay of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run."
- 1979 - WBRU moves its studio from Faunce House to 88 Benevolent Street, its current location
- 1981 - (October) Competitor WHJY signs on
- 1982 - Due to low ratings, WBRU abandons its free-form format and hires the consulting firm of Burkhart, Abrams, Michaels, Douglas to institute a tight playlist of approved songs that "test well" with the station's intended demographic.
- 1984 - Elvis Costello stops by with a box of records and plays DJ for an hour
- 1988 - WBRU adopts a modern-rock format, called "The Cutting Edge of Rock"
- 1992 - Student station members reverse a decision which would turn WBRU into an NPR affiliate
- 1993 - WBRU wins first place in the Rolling Stone Readers' Poll for best medium-sized market
- 1994 - WBRU wins first place again in the Rolling Stone Readers' Poll
- 1995 - (June) WDGE signs on and becomes a direct competitor with WBRU
- 1995 - WBRU wins first place again in the Rolling Stone Readers' Poll
- 1999 - WDGE officially signs off (due to WBRU's dominance in the market) and is replaced by WHKK
- 1999 - Station members vote unanimously against a joint sales agreement with Capstar Broadcasting Company
- 2000 - WFNX, a Boston station, extends into Providence to compete with WBRU
- 2002 - WZRI becomes rock WKKB
- 2004 - WFNX signs off in Providence
- 2004 - WKKB becomes a Spanish station
- 2006 - As a three-day April Fools' Day hoax, WBRU pretends to be bought-out by "Initech" who change the station's format to "Buddy FM"
- 2006 - On June 15, WBRU begins to stream live on the web
- 2006 - The station plays its entire catalog from A-Z
- 2007 - As its annual April Fools' Joke, the station was stuck in a time warp - 1995; and all music played was recorded before the date.
- 2008 - Station plays its entire catalog from A-Z again.
- 2008 - Red Sox games air live on WBRU when WEEI broadcasts Boston Celtics playoff games instead
WBRU Annual Rock Hunt
The radio station holds a battle of the bands, the WBRU Annual Rock Hunt, which began around 1980 and was held most years since:
Past Winners of the WBRU Annual Rock Hunt
- 1980: The DC Tenz
- 1981: The Mundanes (featuring band member John Linnell, later of They Might Be Giants)
- 1982: The Schemers
- 1983: Critical Few
- 1984: no competition
- 1985: MX 
- 1986: The Dames (featuring band member Gail Greenwood, later of Belly and L7)
- 1987: Coat of Arms
- 1988: That'll Learn Ya
- 1989: Bop Harvey
- 1990: Jungle Dogs
- 1991: Superbug
- 1992: The Phobics
- 1993: Angry Salad
- 1994: John Monopoly
- 1995: Blairs Carriage
- 1996: unknown
- 1997: unknown
- 1998: The L.U.V.'s
- 1999: no competition
- 2000: no competition
- 2001: M-80
- 2002: Monty Are I
- 2003: Zox
- 2004: The Lingo
- 2005: Sasquatch and the Sick-A-Billys
- 2006: The Sleazies
- 2007: Triangle Forest
- 2008: It Was The Best Of Times
- 2009: Fairhaven
- 2010: The Wandas
- 2011: VulGarrity
- 2012: The Rice Cakes
- 2013: Torn Shorts
- 2014: The Rare Occasions
- 2015: Public Alley
- 2016: Le Roxy Pro
WBRU Summer Concert Series
Every summer the station puts on the WBRU concert series. The shows usually feature a popular band and a few local acts opening up. Initially, there were about 10 shows per year which were free to the public and paid for by sponsor booths, but in recent years the station has started charging for these concerts and has reduced the number of shows to 3 per year. In 2010, the station resumed free single artist Summer Concert Series concerts in addition to the multiple band for-pay concerts. Past concert series  include:
- 1996: The Cardigans
- 1997: Our Lady Peace; Echo & the Bunnymen; The Seahorses
- 1998: Candlebox and Fastball; Black Lab, Athenaeum, and Emmet Swimming Soul Asylum; Save Ferris and Gruvis Malt; Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
- 1999: Silverchair and Dovetail Joint; The Flys and Fountains of Wayne; The Verve Pipe; Sponge; Beth Orton; Fuel and Vertical Horizon
- 2000: Guster; Eve 6 and SR-71; Vertical Horizon and 3 Doors Down; Catherine Wheel, Wheatus and Amazing Crowns; The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Sum 41; Everclear; Silverchair; Caviar(band)
- 2001: Gruvis Malt and Poe;Better Than Ezra; Rustic Overtones and Bob's Day Off; Stroke 9
- 2002: New Found Glory and Goldfinger; Better Than Ezra and Maroon 5; Custom and Gruvis Malt; Pete Yorn and Sense Field (moved indoors to Lupo's due to rain); Trik Turner; Ash and Unwritten Law (moved indoors to Lupo's due to rain); Doves
- 2003: Guster and ZOX; Third Eye Blind and Hot Hot Heat; Brand New and M-80
- 2004: Lit, Local H and Finger Eleven; New Found Glory, The Living End and The Lingo; Lostprophets, Midtown and Monty's Fan Club
- 2005: The Bravery and Hot Hot Heat; Finch, ZOX and the Rx Bandits; My Chemical Romance, Alkaline Trio, and Monty Are I
- 2006: Guster and Blizzard of '78; Hawthorne Heights and Yellowcard; Dropkick Murphys, Madball and The Sleazies
- 2007: Plain White T's, The Academy Is... and Arcadia Landing; The Bravery, Shiny Toy Guns and Triangle Forest; Guster and Hello Mahalo
- 2008: Death Cab for Cutie and Amanda Palmer; ZOX, Badfish, Someday Providence, Hello Mahalo and Scotty Don't; Paramore, Jack's Mannequin, Phantom Planet and Paper Route; Ben Folds and Missy Higgins
- 2009: Third Eye Blind and Wild Light; The Airborne Toxic Event, Metric, Cage the Elephant and The Nightwatchman; The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Ida Maria and Catch-22
- 2010: AFI, Violent Soho and New Politics; Fanfarlo; Civil Twilight; Sit Down Baby; Fairhaven; Constellations; Santa Mamba; The Wandas (canceled); Sarah Potenza and the Tall Boys; OK Go; Coheed and Cambria, The Dear Hunter and Manchester Orchestra
- 2011: Santa Mamba, Young the Giant, Deer Tick, Sleeper Agent, Viva Brother, VulGarity, The Wandas
- 2012: Grouplove, Delta Spirit, White Rabbits, Walk the Moon, The Tower and the Fool, The Silks, The Rice Cakes
- 2013: New Politics, Torn Shorts, The 1975, The Neighbourhood, The Mowgli's, Cold War Kids
- 2014: Phantogram and The Brother Kite; The Rare Occasions and Torn Shorts; Magic Man and The Complaints; Max Frost and Roz Raskin and The Rice Cakes; Kongos and Satellites Fall; Sleeper Agent and The Americans
- 2015: Joywave and Jetty; Public Alley and S. Walcott; Saint Motel and We Were Astronauts; In The Valley Below and The Rare Occasions; Andrew McMahon the Wilderness and Forest Fires; Life in Film and Le Roxy Pro 
- 2016: The Joy Formidable and The Heavy with VulGarrity (PVDFest), 2016 WBRU Rock Hunt winners Le Roxy Pro with Weezer tribute act The Blue Album, Mainland with Eric and the Nothing, Lucius with Math the Band, AURORA with Young Lincoln, Nothing But Thieves with Tall Teenagers, The Wombats with Wild Sun.
WBRU Birthday Bash
The station also has their Birthday Bash concerts in November to celebrate the station's anniversary. From 2007 to 2010, the Birthday Bash was split from one concert to multiple concerts throughout November. Previously, the only time it was split was in 2001 where two concerts were held. Past Birthday bashes include:
- 1994: Stabbing Westward, Hole, Weezer and Sheryl Crow
- 1995: Lisa Loeb, Ben Folds Five and Everclear
- 1996: Superdrag, Republica, Soul Coughing, Local H, Luscious Jackson, G. Love and Special Sauce, The Lemonheads, Goldfinger and Fun Lovin' Criminals
- 1997: Letters to Cleo, Ben Folds Five, Catherine Wheel, Everclear, Sneaker Pimps, Days of the New, Blink-182 and Ben Harper
- 1998: Placebo, Cracker, Local H, Everlast, Marcy Playground, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Godsmack and Eels
- 1999: G. Love and Special Sauce, Vertical Horizon, Guster, Primus, Our Lady Peace, Foo Fighters, Run-DMC, Staind, Kid Rock, Tori Amos and Marcy Playground
- 2000: Orgy, Disturbed, Dexter Freebish, VAST, Linkin Park and Collective Soul
- 2001: Tantric, 311, Adema and Lit; Coldplay, Remy Zero and Delta Clutch
- 2002: SR-71, Ash, Ok Go and Box Car Racer
- 2003: The Crystal Method, Rancid, Something Corporate, Yellowcard, Brand New, Kill Hannah, Story of the Year and Three Days Grace
- 2004: Skindred, Papa Roach, The Used, Taking Back Sunday, Lit, Coheed and Cambria, M-80 and Presidents of the United States of America
- 2005: Zox, Story of the Year, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Morningwood and Sasquatch and the Sick-a-Billys
- 2006: My Chemical Romance and Say Anything
- 2007: Avenged Sevenfold and Operator; Papa Roach and 10 Years; Against Me! and Sage Francis; Silversun Pickups, Triangle Forest and Steel Train; Cake and Detroit Cobras
- 2008: Shiny Toy Guns; Girl Talk and Senior Discount; Mindless Self Indulgence and Leathermouth
- 2009: Passion Pit; Monty Are I; AFI and Gallows; Silversun Pickups and Cage the Elephant
- 2010: Guster and Jukebox the Ghost; The Wandas; Neutral Nation; Motion City Soundtrack, Say Anything and Saves the Day; Matt & Kim and Javelin
- 2011: Matt & Kim, Young the Giant and The Naked and Famous
- 2012: Passion Pit, The Joy Formidable, Ra Ra Riot and The Rice Cakes
- 2013: The Neighbourhood, The Mowgli's, IAMDYNAMITE, Young the Giant, Torn Shorts and The Colourist
- 2014: Dirty Heads, Rome Ramirez, Knox Hamilton and The Rare Occasions 
- 2015: Cold War Kids, BØRNS, Coleman Hell and Public Alley 
- 2016: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats, Weathers and Le Roxy Pro 
WBRU has a full news department, with sports news and entertainment news divisions. For 2007 they won the Massachusetts/Rhode Island Associated Press awards in the college division for Best Web Site, Best Investigative Reporting, Best Breaking News, Best Feature Reporting, Best Continuing Coverage, Best Sports Program, and Best Use of Sound, and the award for News Station of the Year.
WBRU staff members have gone on to excel in a variety of areas. They include:
- Christiane Amanpour, CNN Foreign Correspondent
- Ralph Begleiter, former CNN correspondent and Distinguished Journalist in Residence, University of Delaware
- Chris Berman, anchor, ESPN and ABC Sports
- Jason Bordoff, Director, Center on Global Energy Policy and Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs, SIPA, Columbia University
- Lisa Birnbach, author
- Monica Brady-Myerov, radio news reporter WBUR
- Karyn Bryant, former MTV VJ, television personality, actress
- Andy Fisher, president of Cox Television
- Patricia Galluzzi, Director for Britain of Musicpoint, former Senior Vice-President, MTV
- Ben Harvey, TV and radio host, Here! (TV network) and formerly WXRK, New York city
- Stephen Hill, president of programming at BET 
- Tom Hunter, former president, MTV, Latin America
- George Hyde, RAB Executive Vice President
- Nancy Josephson, Co-President of International Creative Management
- Jonathan Klein, president, CNN/U.S.
- Josh Klemme, General Manager - Music, 19 Entertainment
- Bill Lichtenstein, Peabody Award-winnin journalist, filmmaker and president, Lichtenstein Creative Media
- Dan Maffei, United States Representative for New York's 24th congressional district
- Doug Mayer, producer, Car Talk on NPR
- Aaron Schatz, ESPN.com NFL analyst and founder of Football Outsiders
- Rachel Smolkin, Deputy Managing Editor of POLITICO
- Jane Spencer, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Wall Street Journal
- Alison Stewart, co-host, The TED Radio Hour on NPR
- Rob Tannenbaum, music editor of Blender magazine, co-author of I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, and creator of What I Like About Jew
- Peter Tannenwald, attorney
- Matt Wald, reporter, New York Times
- Ben Weiser, reporter, New York Times
- Dick Wingate, former SVP A&R PolyGram Records, SVP Marketing Arista Records, SVP Content & Programming Liquid Audio, Chief Content Officer, Nellymoser, Inc.
- ^ Mitchell, Martha. (2003). "WBRU." Encyclopedia Brunoniana.
- ^ Schwartzapfel, Beth. (January/February 2006). "Radio Heads." Brown Alumni Magazine.
- Carrier current transmissions had been used since the late 1910s for electrical companies to transmit telemetry and telephony over their high-voltage distribution lines, but this appears to be the first time it was used to set up a broadcasting station.
- "Dr. George Abraham, Ph.D" (collegebroadcasters.us)
- "David W. Borst" (collegebroadcasters.us)
- The Gas Pipe Networks: A History of College Radio 1936-1946 by Louis M. Bloch, Jr., 1980, pages 11-13.
- Bloch (1980), pages 14-29.
- "WBRU First to Play New Death Cab for Cutie Single". Archived from the original on 2008-06-03. Retrieved 2008-03-18.
- "Brown Student Radio Station BSR to Go Online-Only August 1".
- "Wendell | 95.5 WBRU". 95.5 WBRU.
- "WBRU back in its original groove". Retrieved 2008-04-03.
- Two Years of Rock Hunting. 95.5 WBRU/Big Bubble Records/Heartbreak Hits. c. 1986. p. back cover.
- "WBRU Concert Series Bands". Retrieved 2008-04-24.[dead link]
- "WBRU Birthday Bash Bands". Archived from the original on 2008-02-03. Retrieved 2008-04-24.
- "Associated Press announces broadcast awards for 2007". The Boston Globe. March 12, 2008.
- Ramirez, Erika (29 June 2015). "Rihanna Throws Money at BET's Stephen Hill at 2015 BET Awards". billboard.com. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/07/ AR2006120700580.html
- WBRU official website
- WBRU Alumni of the 1960s
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WBRU
- Radio-Locator information on WBRU
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WBRU
- Buddy FM audio—April fools prank
- List of FM stations in the U.S. in 1950
- List of FM stations in the U.S. in the summer of 1958