WMEX (AM)

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WMEX
City Boston, Massachusetts
Broadcast area Greater Boston
Frequency 1510 kHz
First air date October 18, 1934[1]
Format Full service adult contemporary (WATD-FM simulcast)
Power 50,000 watts (licensed)
2,000 watts (daytime, STA)
100 watts (nighttime, STA)
Class B
Facility ID 12789
Transmitter coordinates 42°23′10.00″N 71°12′01.00″W / 42.3861111°N 71.2002778°W / 42.3861111; -71.2002778 (WMEX) (licensed)
42°16′25.00″N 71°02′30.00″W / 42.2736111°N 71.0416667°W / 42.2736111; -71.0416667 (WMEX)Coordinates: 42°16′25.00″N 71°02′30.00″W / 42.2736111°N 71.0416667°W / 42.2736111; -71.0416667 (WMEX) (STA/CP)
Former callsigns WMEX (1934–1978)
WITS (1978–1983)
WMRE (1983–1987)
WSSH (1987–1989)
WKKU (1989–1990)
WSSH (1990–1995)
WNRB (1995–2001)
WSZE (February 2001)
WWZB (2001–2012)
WUFC (2012–2014)
Former frequencies 1500 kHz (1934–1940)
1470 kHz (1940–1941)
Owner Ed Perry
(Marshfield Broadcasting Co., Inc.)
Sister stations WATD, WATD-FM

WMEX (1510 kHz) is a commercial AM radio station licensed to serve the Boston media market. As of July 2018, the station serves as a simulcast of WATD-FM, a full service radio station in Marshfield. The station first began broadcasting in 1934 as WMEX, and after using various call signs since 1978, regained the original WMEX call sign on November 17, 2014.

WMEX formerly operated with the maximum power allowed by the Federal Communications Commission, 50,000 watts, but it used a highly directional antenna to protect Class A, 50,000-watt, WLAC in Nashville (which also protected WMEX). WMEX returned to the air on June 30, 2018 simulcasting sister station WATD-FM at low power. It has applied for a 10,000 watt daytime, 100 watt nighttime signal and anticipates regular programming of its own by the fall of 2018.

History[edit]

Early years[edit]

WMEX was founded in 1934 by Bill and Al Pote, with studios in the Hotel Manger, and was originally on 1500 kHz with 500-watt days, 100-watt nights.[2] It broadcast 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 WBIX) site in the Neponset River Valley. The station made its debut on October 18, 1934.[3] On April 5, 1936, WMEX moved its studio and offices to 70 Brookline Ave.[4]

After several unsuccessful attempts to move to 1470 with a power upgrade to 5,000 watts, WMEX finally made the move (and power increase) in 1941,[5] just in time for the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement to move that channel to its last frequency, 1510 kHz. Throughout this period, WMEX operated as an independent (non-network) station with a program schedule filled with such programs as live music remotes, horse racing, and 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.[6][better source needed] Legendary jazz critic Nat Hentoff got his start as a jazz deejay at WMEX in the 1940s.[7]

One early WMEX star was organist John Kiley, who in 1941, broadcast three daily programs.[8] One of them was titled Letter-Quest, on which listeners would write to Kiley in care of the station, requesting songs. The letter would be read by announcer Jay McMaster (who remained at WMEX into the top-40 era), followed by Kiley playing the requested song.

The top-40 era[edit]

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 disc jockey Arnie Ginsburg, whose nightly rock-and-roll broadcasts on 1600 WBOS (now WUNR) were very popular. The hit format lasted from 1957 until March 1975. Max Richmond was reportedly a challenge to work for, with his alleged micromanaging and abrasive personality, yet none can deny his uncanny ability to spot DJ talent, and to keep his station—despite a poor nighttime signal in many suburban locations—a major player and innovator for many years.[9][10][11]

Among Max Richmond's innovations was the hiring of Jerry Williams in 1957 to conduct a nighttime telephone talk show, with the caller's voice heard on the air, a revolutionary concept in the late 1950s. With the weekday-only Williams show beginning at 10 pm (after much of the young rock-and-roll audience was in bed), Richmond 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 played virtually every Beatles song available and fueled the already rabid Boston fans. In the early 1960s, personality Arnie (WooWoo) Ginsburg hosted a 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 saltwater marsh area provided the station with an excellent coastal signal. While the night signal could not be heard clearly inland at 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 water to the Boston city neighborhoods and the working class North Shore areas. The saltwater path nighttime transmissions reached 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" sound, 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.[12] The station was one of the first two major market stations along with its sister, WPGC in Washington, DC, to pick up American Top 40 with Casey Kasem and broke "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart nationally. 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 station.

In the 1970s, owner Max Richmond died and FM radio began to overtake AM stations for music listening. WMEX decided to abandon top-40 hits in 1975. It briefly ran a middle of the road music format with some talk programming. Then WMEX captured the broadcast rights to Boston Red Sox baseball beginning with the 1975 playoffs. That led to WMEX becoming 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's 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 boost to 50,000 watts, with nighttime power remaining at 5,000 watts, a less-than-perfect signal in parts of the Boston area, especially at night. 1520 WKBW (now WWKB), with 50,000 watts in Buffalo, New York, right next door to WMEX on the dial, all but buried the weaker 5,000-watt WMEX after dark in the western Boston suburbs (such as Wellesley). On the other side of WMEX was an equally strong signal from 1500 WTOP (now WFED) in Washington, which, together with WKBW, put the squeeze on WMEX's signal at night. In 1981, WITS moved its transmitter to Waltham and was able to boost power to 50,000 watts day and night. While some areas did get an improved signal, others did not, especially at night. Not long afterward, WITS's owner at the time, Mariner Communications, suffered financial problems. The station lost the Red Sox and Bruins and had to abandon its talk format.

1983–2017: Multiple 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.[13] Other formats quickly followed, one after another. 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 (WSSH again), and as WNRB, brokered religious programming and then Spanish-language programming. It eventually settled on an all-sports format with the call letters WWZN. Most WWZN programming came from the One-On-One Sports Network, and from One-On-One's successor, Sporting News Radio (today SB Nation Radio). For a time, sports hosts such as Sean McDonough, Ryen Russillo, and Eddie Andelman were all heard on WWZN.

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 season.

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

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 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 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.[14] Carr's show returned to WRKO on March 16, 2015.

WMEX logo from November 17, 2014 through June 30, 2017

Programs on WMEX in early 2015 included Boston Herald Radio, The Glenn Beck Program, Michael Savage, The Sean Hannity Show, and Alex Jones. A Saturday-night oldies show debuted on March 28, 2015, hosted by Jim Callahan and Chris Porter, which was followed by Classic Rewind with Jimmy Jay. The program featured music from the classic WMEX rock-and-roll years, along with original station jingles from the era.

On June 2, 2015, WMEX shuffled its line-up. Renegade Radio moved to the mornings, followed by Emmy-winning journalist Joe Shortsleeve with The Shortsleeve Report, radio hall-of-famer and ex-Howie Carr producer Sandy Shack followed, then came former WTKK and WRKO host Michele McPhee. Syndicated shows such as The Capitol Hill Show with Tim Constantine and Michael Savage rounded out the lineup. Premiere Networks, which syndicates Hannity and Beck, also offered The Rush Limbaugh Show to WMEX after the show's longtime Boston affiliate, WRKO, announced its plan to drop the show; WMEX openly refused to carry the show, which prompted Premiere parent company iHeartMedia to take Limbaugh (as well as Hannity and Beck) to a lower-powered, co-owned-and-operated station, WKOX (1430).

On June 23, 2015, WMEX announced that Daly XXL Communications would be purchasing the station from Blackstrap for $175,000, pending FCC approval, which was granted in September 2015. The sale was completed on September 10.[15] On December 28, 2015, the station announced a new noontime show hosted by Nancy "Sandy" Shack, longtime producer of The Howie Carr Show, to begin on January 4, 2016. McPhee left the station on June 2, 2017, replaced by live airing of the Michael Savage show.

WMEX goes silent[edit]

During June 2017, talk programming during the evening hours was replaced by local oldies music shows, but in the final days, rumors began circulating that the station would be going off the air on Friday, June 30.[16] The lease on their transmitter site in Waltham was due to expire. On the June 29th edition of an evening music show hosted by Jimmy Jay, the station confirmed that it was going to leave the air at 6:00 the following evening. On the 30th, the hosts of the Renegade Radio morning show did a special second broadcast from 3–6 p.m., pre-empting the syndicated Michael Savage show. The station then went silent.[17] The Waltham towers were dismantled in May 2018.[18]

In the interim, the station applied to the FCC for special temporary authority (STA) to remain silent for the time being if a new owner or funding is found. Based on its date of sign-off, it would have to return by June 30, 2018, in order to remain fully licensed under FCC regulations disallowing a station from remaining silent and licensed for more than 365 days.

WMEX returns to the air[edit]

On December 18, 2017, Ed Perry, owner of WATD-FM in Marshfield, announced that he would acquire WMEX for $125,000, with the intention of returning the station to the air with local news and sports for the area south of Boston.[19] The paperwork was filed with the FCC in January 2018; the WMEX call letters were not initially included in the deal.[20] The FCC approved the license transfer to Ed Perry's Marshfield Broadcasting on March 9, 2018;[21] the sale was completed on March 17.[22]

On June 6, 2018, the station was approved to diplex its signal from the broadcast tower of WBIX (1260) just south of Boston (right down the street from the station's 1940–1981 transmitter site) to temporarily broadcast daytime only at a power of 1,000 watts.[18] On June 15, WMEX applied to permanently diplex with WBIX, with a proposed daytime power of 10,000 watts and nighttime power of 100 watts, along with a city of license change to Quincy.[23] WMEX commenced on-air testing on the weekend of June 30, 2018, simulcasting WATD-FM, to keep its license alive; it intends to resume regular broadcasting in the fall of 2018 with oldies and South Shore-based news and sports. On July 3, 2018, the station applied for an STA to increase its temporary daytime power to 2,000 watts and implement the 100-watt nighttime signal.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Halper, Donna; Wollman, Garrett. "The Eastern Massachusetts Radio Timeline: the 1930s". The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. Retrieved December 28, 2011. 
  2. ^ Broadcasting Yearbook 1936 page 54
  3. ^ Greene, Lloyd (October 18, 1934). "WMEX Makes Its Debut". The Boston Daily Globe. Retrieved October 16, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Station Dedicates New Brookline-Av Home". The Boston Daily Globe. April 6, 1936. 
  5. ^ WMEX History
  6. ^ A Rare Live Recording of Billie Holiday
  7. ^ Nat Hentoff
  8. ^ Boston Post, July 7, 1941
  9. ^ WMEX Good Guys Music Survey 1965
  10. ^ WMEX Good Guys Music Survey 1966
  11. ^ WMEX Good Guys Music Survey 1966
  12. ^ WMEX 1971 Music Survey
  13. ^ Radio & Records January 9, 1987
  14. ^ "Howie Carr moving up the dial to WMEX 1510 AM". Boston Herald. November 15, 2014. Retrieved October 17, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Consummation Notice". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. September 10, 2015. Retrieved November 13, 2015. 
  16. ^ Radio Insight message board, retrieved June 29, 2017
  17. ^ "Imported Letter". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved October 17, 2017. 
  18. ^ a b https://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/forms/prod/cdbsmenu.hts?context=25&appn=101785220&formid=911&fac_num=12789 FCC Application For Special Temporary Authority
  19. ^ Dwinell, Joe (December 19, 2017). "Sale gives Quincy's WMEX a fresh start". Boston Herald. Retrieved December 20, 2017. 
  20. ^ https://radioinsight.com/headlines/122516/station-sales-week-1-19-pair-boston-ams-sold/
  21. ^ "Broadcast Actions" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. March 14, 2018. Retrieved March 24, 2018. 
  22. ^ "Consummation Notice". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. March 17, 2018. Retrieved March 24, 2018. 
  23. ^ "APPLICATION FOR CONSTRUCTION PERMIT FOR COMMERCIAL BROADCAST STATION". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. June 15, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2018. 
  24. ^ "Engineering STA". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. July 3, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2018. 

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