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June 12, 2006

WCAP's Cohen Honored for 55 Years

*No radio owner in MASSACHUSETTS - or pretty much anywhere else, as best we can tell - has been around longer than Maurice Cohen. With his brothers Ike and Ted, he put WCAP (980 Lowell) on the air June 10, 1951. Fifty-five years later, many of the radio people whose careers took them up the long staircase at 243 Central Street (your editor included) returned to Lowell for a combination reunion/anniversary celebration/salute to Maurice.

WCAP news director Gary Francis hosted the event at his Gary's Ice Cream shop in downtown Lowell, and former WCAP talk host Bill O'Neill anchored the four-hour live broadcast from the reunion, with Mark Watson at the control board and production pieces from longtime WCAP producer Dan Bourret.

That's Boston radio historian Donna Halper, above at left, presenting Maurice with a citation and plaque from the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association, honoring him for 55 years on the air (all, we'd note, from the same studio location and just two transmitter sites!)

Above at right is the reunion of WCAP's former morning team, Joe Corcoran and Casey Crane. He's now a bank manager on the North Shore, while she's now in the New Hampshire state legislature. At left is Julie (Stinneford) Sider, who's moved on from the WCAP newsroom to a big career in voiceover work. (She's the "Julie" whose automated greetings prompt you at Amtrak's toll-free line.)

In addition to current WCAP staffers (that's PD/play-by-play guy Ryan Johnston with Bill O'Neill and Gary Francis in the photo at right), the reunion brought together some long-ago veterans. Clark Smidt didn't actually work at WCAP anywhere in his long career, but he stopped by to offer congratulations and to say hello to Jim Reed, whose early days at WCAP led to his job today running Hall Radio's Connecticut stations. Other names from WCAP's earlier years included Fred Faust and Dan Gillette, and the long history of WCAP news was well-represented with Barry Pretzel (who's now at WRFR-LP up on the Maine coast), Dave Faneuf, Susan Czepiel, Bill Smith, Mary Blake - and no doubt many more I'm forgetting. (Four hours wasn't long enough for all the catching-up taking place at the reunion!)

Maurice also received honors from several Lowell politicos, including former mayor Rita Mercier, state senator Steve Panagiotakos - and a wonderful front-page mockup from Lowell Sun publisher Kendall Wallace.

A lot of fuss for one small-town radio station? You bet - but in an era when so many towns have lost their local radio voices (think of WJDA in Quincy, WESX in Salem and WCAP's Merrimack Valley rivals WCCM, WLLH and WSMN), a salute is in order to owners like Maurice Cohen, who've resisted lucrative purchase offers year after year in order to keep doing radio the way they learned it many decades ago.

(And all these years after first stepping behind the WCAP microphone, your editor finally got to see the WCAP transmitter the next morning. You'll see that - plus the studios, in all their historic glory - on Friday's Tower Site of the Week.)

STILL HERE - BUT NOT FOR FREE: If you're a fan of the national radio message-board sites, you're probably feeling a little disoriented lately by all the changes they're going through.

Here at NERW, we're now in our twelfth year of regular, uninterrupted service to our readers, and we're not going anywhere. Same address, same weekly columns, same old design. (OK, perhaps a few things could use some freshening this year.)

And if we've learned anything after all those years in the radio website business, it's this: good things don't come for free. Or at least when they do, they don't last forever. But thanks to our loyal subscribers and our growing fleet of advertisers, we've built a solid community here. We were here in 1994, we're here in 2006, and assuming there's still a radio dial to cover, we have every intention - with your support - of still being here in 2018. (I wish I could say the same about my hairline.)

If you still haven't subscribed yet for this year, do it right now at our Support page - and enjoy another exciting year of NERW, guilt- (and password-) free. And if you have become one of our many subscribers, thank you!

*Over in Springfield, Entercom has named a station manager for its soon-to-debut WVEI-FM (105.5 Easthampton). Jerry Hyland was previously market manager for Clear Channel's Springfield cluster.

There's a new address for the radio station at UMass/Dartmouth, too: on Saturday morning, WSMU (91.1) signed on its new, more-powerful signal, WUMD (89.3) on Saturday morning - and after a brief simulcast period, the WSMU programming (a variety of student and community shows) will move permanently to WUMD.

WSMU will then change hands, becoming the Bay State's newest outlet for the fast-growing "K-Love" religious network based in California.

Veteran Boston jock Stella Mars has a new address, too: she's moved from WBMX (98.5) to WMJX (106.7), where she's now doing weekend and swing work.

Out on Cape Cod, the FCC hits WKPE-FM (104.7 Orleans) with a $4,000 fine for problems with its public file - but it does renew the station's license, clearing the way for an eventual sale by Charles River Broadcasting. (And no, there's nothing at all new to report on that front.)

And we close our Massachusetts report this week with the death of Malcolm Soll, the DJ better known as "Austin of Boston." Soll began his career on Long Island, working at WLIR (92.7 Garden City), then moved into New York radio at WLIB (1190) and WKHK (106.7) before moving to Boston in 1987 to work at eclectic rocker WMRQ (103.3). When WMRQ became "Oldies 103" WODS the next year, Austin became its morning man, remaining there for a decade. He later worked at WROR (105.7), then spent seven years in morning drive at WSRS (96.1 Worcester).

Soll, who was just 56, died June 5 of complications from a blood clot. He's survived by his wife, Grace, and three children.

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*A further update to the evening talk shuffling taking place in RHODE ISLAND: with Jay Severin replacing Sean Hannity in the 7-10 PM slot on WPRO (630 Providence), Hannity moves to the 10 PM-1 AM slot there. That displaces Michael Savage, who moves up the dial to Clear Channel's WHJJ (920 Providence), knocking ideological opposite Randi Rhodes and local host Geoff Charles off the late-night lineup.

We should also note that WALE (990 Greenville) is back on the air with its "SuperMax" Spanish programming, after several months of silence.

*The Clear Channel stations in CONNECTICUT, VERMONT, and parts of NEW HAMPSHIRE and western MASSACHUSETTS have a new regional vice president, as the company promotes Tom McConnell from his current post as market manager in Springfield. McConnell adds the Clear Channel stations in Hartford, Burlington, Randolph, Vermont and Lebanon, N.H. to his portfolio as he takes on the new role.

There's a new community radio station in southern New Hampshire: Rick Ganley's put "Radio Derry" on the air from his home just outside downtown Derry. Operating as a "part 15" unlicensed broadcaster on 1700 kHz, Ganley (who's also the morning guy up at WPNH-FM in Plymouth) says his goal is to offer information on local events and low-cost ads for local businesses. Sounds good to us...

Connecticut's Fox affiliate, WTIC-TV (Channel 61), has a new news director, as Bob Rockstroh moves up from assistant ND to replace Paul Lewis in the big chair.

*A NEW YORK talk host is moving to national satellite radio. Andrew Wilkow began as a part-timer at WABC before landing his current gig in afternoons at WGY (810 Schenectady). Now he's leaving WGY, effective July 14, to get ready for the August 1 launch of a new national show on Sirius.

More Radio (and TV) People on the Move: "Broadway" Bill Lee is out in afternoons at New York's WKTU (103.5 Lake Success) after a long run there, and rumor has it that Hollywood Hamilton is on his way back to New York (after a short run in mornings at KRTH in Los Angeles) to pair up with ex-KTU morning man Goumba Johnny in afternoons. (Could Goumba's former morning partner Baltazar be headed back to Boston?)

Also out at WKTU - voluntarily - is late-night jock Jewelz Lopez, who's moving over to "Mega" WSKQ (97.9 New York).

Down the street at sister station "Z100" (WHTZ 100.3 Newark), evening guy Romeo gets to add "music director" to his title, taking on some of the duties from Paul "Cubby" Bryant, who's headed to KTU to do mornings with Whoopi Goldberg.

On Long Island, Astra moves up from weekends/swing at WBLI (106.1 Patchogue) to the evening shift, while in the Hudson Valley, Frankenberry and newscaster Corin have departed the former "Frankenberry and Reno Morning Show" at WPDH (101.5 Poughkeepsie).

All the way out at the extreme western edge of upstate New York, there's a format change at WBKX (96.5 Dunkirk), which flipped from AC to country on May 25. Owner John Bulmer tells NERW that the station faced tough competition from two Buffalo AC stations - powerful WTSS (Star 102.5) and its dial neighbor WJYE (96.1).

While WBKX keeps its "96 Kix FM" nickname, it's publicizing its return to country heavily, with a campaign that includes newspaper advertising (and a front-page article in the Dunkirk Observer), postcards and more. There's a lesson here for other small-market radio owners, we think - in this age of multiple media choices, you can't assume that your audience knows who you are or where to find you without lots of publicity.

Way up in the Adirondacks, there's now a set of calls for the 94.1 construction permit in Old Forge: it's WZNY, at least for now.

One bit of upstate TV news: Steve Dawe replaces Chuck Samuels as news director at WHAM-TV (Channel 13) in Rochester. Dawe was news director at Fox affiliate WUHF (Channel 31) at one point, and has been serving as WHAM's promotions director for the last few years.

*One format change in western PENNSYLVANIA: WUBZ (105.9 Phillipsburg) ditched its rock format early Friday morning, replacing "The Buzz" with country as "Joe FM" and sending "Chris and Jim in the Morning" packing, replaced by the syndicated Big D and Bubba show. Afternoon jock Jason "Fish" Miller is out as well.

*In CANADA, Aboriginal Voices Radio now has a frequency on which to operate in Montreal. The oft-delayed station originally wanted to use 100.1, but that channel was denied. Instead, AVR will operate on 106.7, with 320 watts of power.

And, yes, we're delaying our look at single-A baseball on the radio for another week - in part because the season doesn't start for another week, and in part because we're on the road again. Next week, we promise!

From the NERW Archives

(Yup, we've been doing this a long time now, and so we're digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five and ten years ago this week, or thereabouts - the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as "New England Radio Watch," and didn't go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997. Thanks to for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

June 13, 2005 -

  • ALPINE, N.J. - It may have taken more than half a century, but if the crowd at the Armstrong Tower here Saturday was any indication, a certain sort of cosmic justice has now prevailed where the legacy of Major Edwin Howard Armstrong is concerned. It's hard to imagine dozens of people baking in the hot sun for an afternoon to honor the memory of David Sarnoff or Lee deForest, as they gladly did for this event honoring the man who may be the greatest inventor radio will ever know.
  • WINS (1010) anchor Judy DeAngelis emceed a live one-hour panel discussion that featured the few living veterans of the Armstrong era - Ren McMann, who worked at Alpine in his youth and later at CBS Laboratories; Henry Dietz, who worked for early FM equipment maker REL; Jerry Minter, who was at Alpine for the March 31, 1954 sign-off of Armstrong's KE2XCC; and Armstrong relative Robert Brecht.
  • Doug Lane's sale of WWDL (104.9 Scranton), WICK (1400 Scranton) and WYCK (1340 Plains) to Bold Gold Media won't close the legal case against Lane, who was convicted of child molestation earlier this year and now awaits sentencing. It will, however, end the uncertainty that surrounds the stations - if it's approved. Bold Gold, whose principals include Bob Vanderheyden (the first PD of oldies WCBS-FM, years ago, and now serving as the stations' general manager), began operating the stations under an LMA last week. While details of the sale haven't been released, the deal reportedly won't yield any profit to Lane, with proceeds from the stations instead going to Lackawanna County (for a victims' restitution fund) and to non-profit groups.
  • Clear Channel is spinning off one station in MAINE, as Stony Creek Broadcasting pays $800,000 for WNSX (97.7 Winter Harbor). Behind the new ownership are a pair of well-known names Down East - Mark Osborne and Natalie Knox, who owned WKSQ (94.5 Ellsworth) WLKE (99.1 Bar Harbor) and WBFB (104.7 Belfast) until selling to Clear Channel five years ago. WNSX has been simulcasting classic rock "Fox" WFZX (101.7 Searsport), but Osborne tells NERW that this time, "there WILL be personnel and format changes!"

June 4, 2001 -

  • A station sale in CONNECTICUT: Candido Carrelo gets $425,000 for Bridgeport's WDJZ (1530) from Peoples Broadcasting Network. Peoples runs religion on WJSS (1330 Havre de Grace MD) and KTLD (1110 Pineville LA), so a format change from ethnic on WDJZ seems likely.
  • Up in VERMONT, Steven Silberberg adds WFAD (1490 Middlebury) to his station group, paying Kathryn Messner's Lakeside Media $180,000 for the station. Silberberg also owns WXAL (93.7 Addison) nearby, as well as stations in Montpelier (WNCS/WSKI), Royalton (WRJT), Manchester, N.H. (WKBR) and Haverhill, MA (WXRV).
  • South central PENNSYLVANIA is getting its first full-time commercial Hispanic station. All Access reports "Radio Omega," which has been running a micropower operation in Harrisburg, is now leasing WPDC (1600 Elizabethtown), replacing sports on the station midway between Harrisburg and Lancaster.
  • Speaking of Harrisburg, there's word that Clear Channel will soon try again to replace the oldies on WWKL-FM (99.3) with its CHR "Kiss" format. The last attempt, last summer, was quashed by Citadel, which sued to enforce a non-compete that accompanied its purchase of established CHR WNNK (104.1). That agreement is apparently near expiration, so we're expecting to hear "Kool" on 99.3 for the last time when we drive through next weekend.

New England Radio Watch, June 17, 1996

  • The local radio industry thoughtfully waited to drop the latest bombshell until after your Radio Watcher had returned and unpacked, and it looks like this: After more than three years of tooth-and-nail fighting over Boston's country listeners, the war between Evergreen's WKLB (105.7) and Greater Media's WBCS (96.9) is about to come to an end. Just a few weeks after closing on the purchase of WKLB from Fairbanks Communications, Evergreen is trading the station to Greater Media in exchange for Greater Media's AC WEBR 99.5 Washington DC (the station known for years as WGAY-FM) and talker WWRC 980 Washington. The companies are announcing this as an even trade of the FMs, with an extra $22.5 million being added for WWRC. Greater Media says one of the Boston FMs will drop country after Labor Day, and odds are it will be WKLB, since WBCS still has a standing offer to pay a million dollars to the first listener to call in if they drop country before the end of 1996. WKLB general manager Bennett Zier exits after just a few weeks in town, to run Evergreen's new Washington operations.
  • Here's where it leaves both groups: Evergreen keeps its prize Boston properties, CHR WXKS-FM ("Kiss 108"), CHurban WJMN ("Jam'n 94-5"), and standards WXKS 1430. In Washington, WEBR and WWRC get added to Evergreen's existing group, all-news WTOP 1500 and AC market leader WASH 97.1. (I'll leave it to Max Cacas and Bob Smith to speculate about whether Evergreen can finally turn around years of decline at WWRC...) Meanwhile, WKLB joins Greater Media's existing Boston stable, which includes WBCS, AC behemoth WMJX ("Magic 106.7"), and WMEX 1150, which is LMA'd to a foreign-language broadcaster. Assuming Greater Media keeps WBCS and drops country on WKLB, they'll have to look hard for a new niche format for 105.7. Unlike the situation a few years ago, when major format holes were a dime a dozen (no urban on FM, no country, no smooth jazz), the format plate is pretty full in Beantown at the moment. And of course, both Evergreen and Greater Media have been rumored repeatedly as targets of takeovers by fatter broadcasting groups like CBS/Westinghouse and Infinity. This ought to be a hot summer; stay tuned.

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*Didn't find a Tower Site Calendar 2006 under the tree/menorah/Blaw-Knox diamond tower model of your choice over the holidays? Our supply is running low, but we have a few still available at special clearance prices!

We've got to say, we're especially proud of the way this year's calendar turned out. Once again, we bring you more than a dozen images from the collection that have never seen print before, including that nifty nighttime view of New York's WMCA that graces the cover. You also get to see WSB, KTAR, Mount Wilson, CBV and many, many more, plus all those fun dates in radio and TV history, civil and religious holidays, a handy full-page 2007 calendar, and the always-popular hole for hanging.

And we do it all with no increase in price, for the fourth year running!

You can get one free with your 2006 subscription to NERW at the $60 level, or order the calendar (plus other goodies) at our brand new Store! We think you'll like this one - and as always, we thank you for your support.

NorthEast Radio Watch is made possible by the generous contributions of our regular readers. If you enjoy NERW, please click here to learn how you can help make continued publication possible. NERW is copyright 2006 by Scott Fybush.