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.