Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Our destination for our long weekend road trip at the end of August 2022 was Virginia, to see some radio and some ballgames in Norfolk and Richmond, but what’s the fun of getting there the direct way when there’s meandering to be had?
After meeting up with RadioInsight‘s Lance Venta at WNAV in Annapolis, we jumped into his car and headed across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and down to Salisbury, Maryland – where we soon found ourselves in the midst of a torrential downpour that kept us holed up inside at dinner for rather longer than expected. (But when you’re at the Southern chain called Cook-Out, the food is plentiful and really inexpensive, so we made a feast of it.)
The storm cleared out to blue skies and sunshine the next morning, leaving us with most of the day ahead of us to get in some good meandering, starting with a stop just up the street from our hotel to check out the new signage at WBOC-TV (Channel 16), where Draper Broadcasting has added an entire radio cluster to what was just WBOC-FM (102.5) the last time we were through here a few years ago.
We could have just headed out south on US 13 down the peninsula toward Norfolk, but instead we headed east to see a few things on the way to the coast along US 50. Most of the FMs that serve Salisbury and nearby Ocean City are at a few tower sites in between the two cities, and we start at a site on Hall Road in Whaleyville that’s home to WQHQ (104.7 Ocean City), one of the oldest FMs in this market.
This station, now iHeart’s hot AC “Q105,” started out in 1964 as WBOC-FM on 94.3, a class A FM sister station to WBOC-TV, but by 1967 it had upgraded to a class B on 104.7 at this site, with a dual “Ocean City-Salisbury” city of license back when that was a difficult thing to obtain. Today, WQHQ shares this tower with WGBZ (88.3 Ocean City), which started out as WRAU, a satellite of Washington’s NPR station, WAMU (88.5), but has since been sold to DC Christian broadcaster WGTS (91.9) to relay that format to the coast. WGBZ’s antenna is the second from the top, between WQHQ’s main and aux antennas.
Continuing east on US 50 (and accidentally missing the tower just south of 50 that’s home to a newer Draper-owned station, WRDE 103.9 Berlin), we find another newer site near where MD 90 splits off from 50.
WKHI (94.5 Newark) only signed on in 2017 and has already shifted frequencies down from 94.9 to escape coastal interference. The classic hits station, owned by The Voice Radio Network, shares a tower with another classic hits outlet, Forever’s WAVD (97.1 Ocean Pines).
The other big class B signal around here is also an iHeart station, country WWFG (99.9 Ocean City). In the tangled way that these things go, this is where the WKHI callsign started out at the end of the 1970s, back when this market was so under-radioed that you could still put a new class B FM on the air. In the 1990s, 99.9 moved west from its original site on US 50 closer to Ocean City to this new tower near Bishopville, in the middle of an industrial park on the west side of Assawoman Bay across from Ocean City itself.
It’s a crowded tower these days, with four FM stations all combined into a master antenna up top: iHeart top-40 “Kiss” WKZP (95.9 West Ocean City), EMF “K-Love” WLBW (92.1 Fenwick Island DE) and AAA WOCM (98.1 Selbyville DE) all share this four-bay antenna, with a one-bay aux lower down for WKZP and WLBW.
Back down to US 50 and across the causeway into Ocean City itself, we take a left toward 65th Street, where the police building and its tower are home to WPSB-LP (99.9), half of a little LPFM network that provides public safety information to Ocean City. (The other half, WWOP-LP 100.3, serves the southern end of Ocean City from a site inland near Ocean Pines.)
And as we enjoy a little late-summer beach sunshine in Ocean City, we get more shots of a site we’ve seen before: at the Seacrets nightclub on 49th Street, there’s prominent signage for WOCM, which has its studios inside the club.
One of these days we’ll make advance arrangements to get inside and see “Irie Radio, Ocean 98”; the bouncer at the door wasn’t allowing any drop-ins on this late August afternoon!
From here, we really do start heading south – and you’ll see what we saw in next week’s installment.
CALENDARS ON CLEARANCE
If you don’t have your 2023 Tower Site Calendar yet, now is the perfect time to get it. Because we have lowered the price to just $14.
The calendar has great photos of broadcast sites near and far (everywhere from Navajo Nation on the cover to Boston to Toronto to Texas, and beyond), plus a lovely “centerfold” you can keep on your wall for 2024.
It’s still shipping regularly, and you can have yours in just a couple of days!
Order your copy and you’ll see what we mean.
If you have already ordered your calendar, make sure you check out the other items in the store, too!
And don’t miss a big batch of Delmarva IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Delmarva, from Pocomoke City to the Bridge-Tunnel