Steve Sawyer, “Country Jukebox”, 97.7 WINQ Winchendon MA | August 5, 1990
And now, the story of a Country music show that may have lead to the eventual Country format of WINQ, a station that today is at 98.7 in Keene NH.
Back when 97.7 first went on the air, it was what eventually would be called Adult Standards. Non-Rock vocalists from the 1940s and 50s with a few instrumentals thrown in… kind of a cross between Beautiful Music and Standards. That was 1983. After trying an Adult Contemporary format for a couple of years, the station was sold to Larry DeHaan and some partners… I believe the company was Quality Communications, or something like that. My friend David Bickford knows. At any rate, when DeHaan got WINQ, he flipped the station to Automated Oldies. At some point in either 1989 or early 1990, there was a live Saturday night request show done live-assist via the production studio as an event in the Harris Automation system that the station had been using since going on the air in ’83.
I arrived for part time, tape-changing duties and full-time sales in late 1989. When it was apparent that the station was in financial trouble and DeHaan sold his shares (or so I was told) of the station to the other partners, I became friends with one of them… Arnold Goldstein (who did some news on the station as Arnold Gould). I approached Arnold, in August of 1989, about doing a live Country show, after hearing some of my sales clients complain about a lack of Country music in the Worcester and Franklin County area of Mass and Southwestern NH area. To my surprise, I got a ‘yes’ to my request after several weeks of asking. At that point, I had a problem. The station’s music was supplied by whomever leased the format and elements. I’ve long since forgotten what company that was. All the music was Oldies, on Reels. I, however, had a decent supply of Country – since I was into the genre. But not nearly enough to do a show. My brainstorm was to call someone I knew was doing Country, although I didn’t know him personally or professionally, but just because I thought I could do it, I called the then Music Director of WWYZ Hartford. That station had flipped to Country in 1988, and John Saville was their night personality.
John was so very gracious in helping out. We had never talked before, but he was willing to put me in touch with the various Country record labels – RCA. MCA… etc., and those label reps did the unheard of. After I called each one, they sent me a format starter package! Within a week I had tens of albums, 45’s copies of autographed artist photos. You wouldn’t believe it outside of my telling you that John “Cadillac” Saville must have put in a good word for me at the labels.
The first Sunday night in September, 1989, I started “Country Jukebox”. The whole show was my creation. Out of format on an automated Oldies station, at 6pm I put the computer in manual and ran a live, vynl and cart show out of the production room studio. I took live callers for requests and interviews. Even had a guest artist with his guitar and all… with no delay, no phone hybrid… essentially no tools at all. And it was probably the most fun and most freedom I ever had on the air up to that point.
This aircheck is from August of 1990. One of my last shows, since I handed it off to another host because I went back into the U.S. Navy for a few more years of Active Duty. With radio on the side.
Many thanks to those who helped me out with this show all those years ago. Arnold Goldstein, Jack Nothardt (an old sales guy who helped me with sales for the show), Ben Parker, who was doing the live Saturday Night Oldies show on WINQ and helped with studio things… Parker and I were both mobile DJs and went to high school together, he’s now doing news at WBZ NewsRadio 1030 Boston. John “Cadillac” Saville, who is back on the air at WWYZ “Country 92-5“, and a motivational speaker. Greg Vine who helped me learn the equipment and production. And I’ve probably left somebody out. I just thought that after all these years, this little-known story of WINQ should be told.