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Steve Sawyer, 1390 WCAT Orange, MA | March, 1983

Twenty-Nine years ago this March, I recorded this cassette on a skimmer in the studio of the old WCAT. In doing the research to find one of the old station logos, I was shocked to realize that there’s no logo, no graphic, picture or anything left of the station that I got my start in radio. One would think that something survived, and yet, even though P&S Broadcasting finally sold out in the 1990s, One can’t find ANYTHING on the original facility in Orange, Mass.

With that background, I’ll do the till-now unthinkable, and violate the six-degrees-of-separation rule. I mean, why not? This whole website is about the history of radio and what’s more historic than telling the story about a long lost, forgotten AM station – one which is so telling about where radio that we remember went.

WCAT first signed on the air in 1956, on 1390 kHz. Just 1,000 watts, daytime only. As most visitors to this site know, 1390 is one of the old ‘graveyard’ frequencies. At least, here in North America. For much of the station’s existance, FCC rules wouldn’t allow a power increase, although had there been a market for it, by 1983 WCAT could have added a rediculously small powered night service at something like 50 watts. That was not economically feasible, and the station remained a daytimer. Sometime, I believe without checking, WCAT got approval to move to 700 AM in 1985. I had always wondered why 700? Talk about a move guaranteed to keep the station on daylight-only hours forever, since they would have to protect WLW Cincinnati at night. The station was authorized 2500 watts on 700. The desired effect was a greater coverage area, and to that end, the move was a huge success, with the signal coverage going from what was about 6-10 miles in any direction on 1390 to a coverage area that began as far north as White River Junction, VT, west to about the foot of the Berkshires, East to Interstate 495 just outside of Boston and South to between Springfield and Hartford, CT. The signal was simply amazing.

The format, however, was not, depending upon who you talked to.

But looking back, a MOYL-based Standards format wasn’t such a bad thing in the 1980s, as many AM stations had chosen to simply abandon music altogether. In 1983, as you’ll hear on this aircheck, the station is still on 1390, and the format is Full-Service Middle of the Road, in the truest sense. We played everything from Rick Springfield to Frank Sinatra (and yes, even dead segues with those musical extremes), Willie Nelson and Hank, Jr.

I was the morning jock. I did EVERYTHING, News, Music, Saturday morning ‘Trading Post’, and sometimes even hosted the daily “Opinion” show, which was a one hour talk program. The morning show started at local sign on to 12 noon. At noon, John Lester was host until local sign off. He had the same responsibilities… did it all, News, music… you name it. And between John and I, and owner Dick Partridge, we all did commercial production.

WCAT 1390 Orange Mass, not to be confused with today’s WCAT ESPN 1390 in Burlington, VT.. was a station that you could have heard in virtually any small town in America up until the early 80s. This is the ONLY known recording of it – as all my old aircheck tapes of it are long gone (I found this one by mistake, thinking it was an empty cassette).

Frankly, I think I stunk as a deejay here. If I didn’t love radio so much as a kid and stick with it, I would have and probably should have thrown in the towel a long time ago. But I present this aircheck of the Steve Sawyer morning show as an historical document, so that those of you who weren’t around to hear radio back in the days before everything moved to FM, and syndicated morning shows weren’t the norm will get to understand what small market radio REALLY sounded like.

And you know what? It’s not as bad as I remember. How do you feel about it? Please… comment below.

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19 Comments


  1. You and I are in the same boat Steve! I have airchecks from college radio WNYT and my first “real” job, WGLI and I can now admit that while I thought then I was the next big thing, listening to any of those airchecks now makes me cringe!

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    • Gawd Matt, you listened? lol. Yeah, I thought I was all that and a box of chocolates back then, but you know what? That aircheck was of me doing morning drive, a gig that I got one week after High School graduation. So what, I sucked. but I stuck with it. Radio has been my whole life. And now there’s not much left of radio, but this proves that local was IT and on AM. Most young people don’t even understand the concept of what’s now an FM format on AM. Oh, by the way, I didn’t think you were all that bad on WGLI. Remember, I mastered your cassette about 10 years ago!

      Reply

  2. Not as bad as some of my first airchecks from WFGL/WFMP from 1981 to 1983-ish! Those will never be published!

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    • Well…. I’ll be. The mighty Bat Mite speaks! Dude, I think I was the worst there in ’83-’84. Just ask Wayne B. West. Now, just think of all the war stories we could talk about, not the least of which that bloopers reel you produced for one of our staff meetings. I coulda died laughing. Or the night our engineer, Paul Andrews and I went up to the transmitter when we went off the air – the blinding blue arc we saw upon opening the transmitter shack door was pretty impressive. Yeah, what fun we had. I don’t have even ONE aircheck from my days there, however. Bad as I was, what a shame. The old ‘M104’ shall not be resurrected.

      Reply

      • Steve,
        I didn’t produce that bloopers reel. I forgot who did. But I DO have a copy of it! Still as funny today as it was back then.

        Reply

  3. I also got my start in radio at WCAT back in 1977-78. Paul Marshall was the program director. I worked along with Sally Zink, Dave Reffsin, Jerry Beaudette and Charlie?, who did news and sports. The format was very contemporary, but on Sunday afternoons I broke format and did my own thing by playing oldie and rock. Had the phone ringing off the hook for requests. All went well until Dick Partridge called and changed the programming to Christmas music. I left the station the following week. Dick knew how to make money but didnt know crap about running a radio station.

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  5. Hey Steve, I happen to have the original hand painted 28″x48″ wcat sign with the cat on it.could send a photo if you would like, let me know if interested. good day to ya!

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  6. Just a few comments to tie in some memories of people mentioned above. Paul Marshall, ‘Marshall in the Morning’ – Paul came along after Jay Deane left for WHAI in 1979. I was first hired by Paul, technically speaking, although by the time I went on the air, he was gone and never replaced. Marshall, real name was Mazica or something close, he went to WFGL/WFMP as PD. Left the biz in ’83 and last I knew owned a flooring company in Leominster. Charlie Gilber was the man you were referring to above who did news with a gravelly voice. Had health problems back then and I have no idea what became of him. Jerry “b” – he did weddings and 50’s dances as a mobile DJ. I worked with him for a few years in the early 80s. Dave Refson- he went on to be one of the first group of owners of the Orange Trading Co. Dropped out of sight after I went in the Navy in 1984. That’s what I remember.

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  7. Steve…I SURE HOPE there is NO TAPE of ME at W C G R Canandaigua, N.Y….where I got MY first break ! I hope Russ & George Kimball (WCGR Owners) don’t have any “evidence” either ! Someone…anyone…PLEASE… steal my EARLY Identity…It’s OK !

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  8. Not bad at all Steve.

    Sure beats my start. Starting on morning drive is starting … at the top.

    Tony

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  9. nailed that ann murray post… hey this kids got a future… LOL!!!

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  10. Just moved to Orange and wondered if there was any history of it left. Very glad to see this post. If it’s the same Paul M who was at WARE, I think his name is Macek. I remember driving through the area when I was a kid, hearing and seeing signs for “The Cat with the Kilowatt Meow.” Back then, the signal was nearly unlistenable by the time we got to Gardner.

    Reply

    • Actually, I think it’s Maizek… but yes, thats the same guy. Paul went to WFGL/WFMP Fitchburg after WCAT, ended up Ops manager before leaving radio. A VERY long time ago, he owned a carpet store in Leominster, but I’ve long ago lost track of Paul. Hell of a guy, I really looked up to him. Its nice you remember. And yep, that miserable signal faded on the other end of Templeton to the east and went about as far west as Erving Paper Mills just as you got on the old windy section of Rt. 2 off the bypass. Good memory!

      Reply

    • I worked with Paul Marshall (Maizek) at both WARE and WCAT where he was program director. I haven’t seen him in many years. Also worked at “CAT with Gerry B, who is now a police officer in Ware, and also works at Lowes. He is still doing DJ work on the road.

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      • Jerry B is still doing DJ work? Wow. I played his roadie a few times. Paul’s too way back in the day. And you… I remember your name, Bob. What shift did you do? Paul was Morning drive after Jay Deane left. There was also a guy named Dave Refson on staff. And after all you guys left, in 1981, Bob Martin came in from WNNZ before the freq/power change down in Westfield and was News and PD. John Lester, too. John and I became good friends before I left for the Navy in 1984. This brings back so many memories.. Wow.

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  11. ….actually Paul’s last name was Mazaika.

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