Steve Sawyer, 1390 WCAT Orange, MA | March 28, 1983 classic radio airchecks

Date of Recording: 03.28.83
Station: 1390 WCAT Orange, Massachusetts
Featured Air Talent: Steve Sawyer
Contributor: Steve West
Airchexx Entry: 1,426


In Radio years, 1983 really wasn’t that long ago. But that was your webmaster’s 3rd year on the radio, and I was less than six months into my first full-time radio job. All at the same place, mind you. I’m truly amazed at how much my voice changed from then when I was all of 19 years old to later, when I got to Memphis, Tennessee and the ole pipes were about two octaves lower.

WCAT, in little Orange, Massachusetts, a little town some 75 miles west of Boston, was in an Un-Rated area. We didn’t ‘live and die’ by the book, but rather on the sales ability of Owner Dick Partridge, who created his hodgepodge Middle-Of-The-Road format on what his advertisers told him they were listening to. One of our advertisers was Fleetwood Nursing Home. The station was on in the lobby and in patient’s rooms. Guess what kind of music we played on a regular basis? Big Band. And then there was the local Country & Western dance club & bar who advertised regularly. So we got to throw in the Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson records. Some of the local bars bought time and a couple of places where younger people went.. so we got to also throw in the current stuff like Rick Springfield and the like. It wasn’t exactly Oldies, Country or even traditional MOR as programmers knew it. The station’s slogan was “The HITS of Your Life”, a take on the trademarked, Standards format “Music of your Life”.

In addition to the music format, WCAT was the home for Mahar Regional and Athol-Royalston Regional School district HS Football play-by-play. We were also an affilliate of what was then known as “Campbell Sports Network” for Boston Red Sox baseball, based out of what was then 1510 WITS Boston – the former and current WMEX and later WMRE, among others. Being a daytimer, the station only aired day games… a few times when there were late afternoon games in the Spring and Autumn, the station would go off the air in the 7th inning, leaving listeners having to tune to another station (usually WTIC Hartford) to finish hearing the game! This was just the nature of small market radio back in the early 1980s and going back through the years of radio history.

The station’s signal on 1390 was just 1,000 watts. Were it 1kw on the lower end of the dial the signal would have travelled further, but at this frequency, the station was listenable for about 10 miles in all directions, and that was it. Get near an un-insulated power transformer and you’d hear just a 60hz hum underneath WCATs signal! Add to what was annoyance for us air staff folks was the fact that the station had NO audio processor! Its hard to believe, but Dick Partridge would regularly march into the station and quip, “Keep the needle out of the RED!!!”. We took transmitter readings via the indirect method since one or two of the voltage meters didn’t work and we had to calculate plate voltage for the transmitter logs (who does that anymore?!!)

But despite the obvious (by today’s standards) shortcomings, we had fun. We played all the music from turntables. We had three custom made with a remote switch – literally, the engineer wired up a light switch to the turntables which, while it worked so we didn’t have to stretch our arms like an octopus, made an audible CLICK on the air when you turned the damn thing on!! So we had to slip-cue everything. All our commercials were played from Carts. We had three single play Gates Cart machines, which the play heads regularly got gummed up. Special programs, such as Church services and public service programming usually was submitted in Reel to Reel form, and we had an old Ampex Reel player in the studio for those.

As for this aircheck, I’m sure you’ll agree, I was HORRIBLE as a jock. But being 20 years old doing what I loved doing (like the geek that I was) was worth it, even if the music stunk back then. But showing how tastes change as one gets older, I’m 52 now and some of that music isn’t all that bad to me now. Looking back, it was a fun time in my life that I’d do over in a minute.


  1. Dave Arnold

    Wasn’t Dick Partridge @ WNEW Am 1130 NYC?

  2. Dave Arnold

    Dick Partridge also @ WNEW 1130 NYC.

    • Yes he was. Dick Partridge was my mentor… at 16 years old, that he allowed me, a KID to come in and operate his radio station! He never dwelled on or bragged about his years at WNEW. I’ll tell you something. Looking back, I think the man was very humble, given the task of trying to drum up advertising for his little station with it’s tiny signal and tinny sound. He always paid the bills and my checks never bounced. If I could go back and do it all over again as 52 year old lover of radio instead of a cocky 16 year old knowitall, I’d go in a heartbeat. The things he could teach me!

      Not sure he’s even still alive. He was 55 in 1981. That would make him 90 this year. I would so love to talk to him today.

  3. Chip Taylor

    Your equipment reminds me of when I enter the radio field as a young jock at 18. A 5 KW day/1 KW night Gates transmitter that had been in operation since 1949. When the transmitter would give off an audible low pitched hum, there was an “X” circled on the transmitter panel where you were directed to kick it which always cured the problem! A pair of large transcription-like turntables with heavy tone-arms and cue burns on almost every record to boot. Between the Gates and TapeCaster cart machines I’m not sure which ones had to have their tension adjusted the most!!! Those were the “good old days.” I spent 10 years in radio and moved on to other things in 1981 (just in time for radio de-regulation) but always enjoyed that time of my life.
    Got to work with some great people at some great stations in Sarasota, FL, Tampa-St. Pete, Fl and Cocoa/Cocoa Beach, Fl. Covering and experiencing the very first Space Shuttle launch was a memory I will never forget.

    • Portable munchies! Hahaha who was the script writer? The advertiser, of course!

      About that. I think that there were a couple of sales people in the building prior to 1983 and even during. One guy really knew how to sell. His name was Jack Nothardt. Then, there were others who TRIED. I even remember one guy’s name. John O’Gorman (don’t ask me how I can remember his name I can’t remember what I had for supper last night!). John got a few contracts but he came and went like so many others. It was and likely still IS nearly impossible to do radio sales in that small town today! Which is why I respect Dick Partridge so much. You really had to hustle up there. And he did! The stop sets were usually full, the station was in the black and even landscaped!

      Live copy… Well, after the older staff got let go between 1981 and by the time I took over mornings right out of high school in June, 1982, we didn’t really have anyone to proofread copy. Partridge usually wrote all the copy himself unless the advertiser insisted on doing it himself. Except agency spots, of course. But, “Portable Munchies”? Hahaha the absurdity of that one makes me laugh even today. How the hell did that get by us??

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