The Power of Great Radio Stations

I remember the first radio station that saved my life. It was probably around 1975, and I distinctly remember hearing it on an old beat-up radio in the farm office where I was put to work in the summer on my parents’ and grandparents’ organic farm. I think the long-haired farm worker who “turned me on” was named Steve. But I know the radio station was WSAN, progressive rock radio. It was an AM station…can you believe it? Back then, I’m not sure FM was even invented. But that’s where I first heard Todd Rundgren, Yes, Pink Floyd, and all sorts of music that made me feel not so alone. I felt different from other people, but WSAN made me feel like there were other different people out there like me. (That was the year I learned to drive a tractor.)

Then, when I proved to be a little too different for my parents and was sent to boarding school in Massachusetts, I found WSLE, an FM folk station out of Peterborough, New Hampshire. That’s where I got my foundational music education and learned about Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Stan Rogers (<3), Mary McCaslin, and Priscilla Herdman. Not only did that station save me multiple times but it also led to one of my most favorite moments when the hottest teacher in the school and I were sitting across from each other at a table on a sailboat in the Caribbean, and we both realized that we had relied on WSLE for our survival at the school. Eric G., are you out there? What are you listening to now?

Then in college there was my college station WMUH , which was pretty damn good and had a cast of crazy characters. The Mr. Mark Show was one of my favorites (God rest his weary soul). But it wasn’t consistent in its sound—too many ethnic music hours to be reliable. However,  that’s where I first heard U2 and Crowded House. Years later, when I first met my husband and he asked me if there were any good radio stations in town, I knew exactly what he meant, and I answered WMUH.

When I moved to Washington DC, it was WHFS. My sweetheart at the time gave me his WHFS T-shirt, and I kept it for years, just to smell his smell and remember both him and the music we loved together—Van Morrison and Jackson Browne.

Years later, I discovered WXPN out of Philadelphia. In fact, I remember I was in a clothing store, which is no longer in business, and I heard a song on the radio and knew right away it was my kind of station. I asked the person behind the counter what station it was and that led to many years of happy listening. I still listen to WXPN, but it was satellite radio that led me to country music.

I had always said that the person who figured out how to make radio static free would be a billionaire. I was wrong about that, but satellite radio is as static free as it gets. And what’s awesome is that it TELLS you the song that’s playing so that if you hear a song you like, you don’t have to wait around for someone to tell you who it is. That’s where I discovered Kenny Chesney. But I also discovered Coldplay and the Avett Brothers. Satellite radio is a veritable moveable feast of music. And it keeps me awake and alive on my trips back and forth into New York City for work. My favorite stations are the Highway (Country), XMU (alternative college radio), and the E Street Channel, which is all Bruce Springsteen all the time. Honestly, I don’t know why Bob Dylan doesn’t have his own channel. And even more honestly, one day I would love to have MY own channel!

My musical tastes, as you can see, lean toward the eclectic and alternative. Before there was social media, the only way to connect with other freaks like me was through music and radio. These days there are a plethora of ways for kids to connect to one another or to connect to the world to find their tribe. But I hope radio never stops to be that beacon of life and hope and love and comfort—the bringer of music to soothe that savage beast in all of us.




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8 Responses to The Power of Great Radio Stations

  1. LVCI November 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    WSAN was owned by Bud Mussleman at that time. Harvey (a DJ) was his son. Bud told me that he changed the format (from top 40) so Harvey would quit wasting his time shooting pool at the tables at the Rainbow pool hall on Hamilton St. in Allentown and do something with his life. 🙂

    A move that he questioned because at the time if a radio station played certain drug related songs they could receive fines and WSAN got fined a couple of times for it. I think in their particular case it was for nothing more then airing Cheech and Chong.

    Ross was Harvey’s pool shooting buddy who later also came to WSAN. This was all before Z95 dominated the ratings because they had a FM license which produced a better sounding audio quality.

    WSAN did have an FM license but sold it to WAEB which is today’s B104. Bud wanted to kick himself in the butt because for years FM languished and went nowhere until after he sold it and it was too late.

    Side Notes:
    Mickey Cooper News woman) left WAEB for WSAN
    So did Dick Zeigenfuse leave WAEB (radio engineer)

    So did Johnny Mike.. who changed his (Johnny Michaels) to settle a legal contract dispute with WAEB. (His real name was Bill S.).

    I don’t want to disclose personal relationships, but Jay Sands (not his real name), program director at WAEB, his daughter (Diane) would also hang out a WSAN.

    Bud would flip out when certain people would force a dime into a toggle switch to increase power on the transmitters. You see at sunset they had to switch power.

    It took a long time to wait for the transmitter, so by wedging a dime, they wouldn’t have to stand there and hold it. BUT too often they’d forget and the power would shoot over the top and melt the copper straps affixed to the $200 final power stage vacuum tubes (which there were 3).

    Bud also bought used cart tape machines from WABC in NYC. He tried to automate them (unsuccessfully) through use of old news teletype machines. In fact some of the machines still had WABC’s jingle carts inside. More then once a DJ would play one of them just for a hoot. sssh, don’t tell anybody 🙂

    Bud did manage however be the first to computerize the program logs before any other radio station in the LV. And FCC questionable hang Christmas lights on all three towers.

    WSAN’s studios at the time on Mickley Road formerly housed only the transmitter. The studios were originally located at 10th & Linden and were affiliated with NBC.

  2. Tony November 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Radio static is awesome. It’s direct reverberations from the Big Bang. I’m sure Bob Dylan doesn’t mind having his songs subtly accompanied by the sound of the birth of the frickin universe …..

  3. Sharon November 16, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    The recorded howl of Wolfman Jack…felt so renegade listening to something that came from Ciudad Acuña in Mexico. I can remember the fad in and out, the static and late night after a date was the only time you could receive him…We did not need to know other than what they announced and they told you after each song played…he loved the music that he played and he made sure that you knew who was playing the sounds! Thanks for the memory!

  4. Paula November 18, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    Thank you for singing the praises of radio! As a kid in the sticks in Wisconsin I would listen to AM radio from Chicago (!) at night (WLS – no longer the station it used to be). Later as a student in Madison I listened to listener supported WORT which always offered something new along with epic (and funny) pledge drives. That Wisconsin has great public radio is something I discovered later when I started listening to Whaddaya Know? and Tent Show Radio and of course A Prairie Home Companion (a Minnesota import, but still…) Another super station that I listen to whenever I’m in the neighborhood is WOJB from the La Courte Oreilles community (waking up to Bill Miller flute music is the best way to start the day). All these stations are partly or completely listener supported and I urge everyone who listens to great small stations to give as much as they can. A music world dominated by Top 40 and various “Superstar” winners is unthinkable!

  5. Laura K November 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    I love radio! Now especially WXPN. So many moments of my life were punctuated by radio. I never drove a tractor though.

  6. John A. Kube November 19, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    KMVR Nevada City CA. listener supported radio. 30 years or so.

  7. Judi Hendricks November 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    What a nostalgia trip. I used to iron all the clothes for my mother because the radio was in the kitchen and I could listen to my (evil) rock ‘n’ roll as long as I was gainfully occupied! Robin Luke, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Elvis…When I was thirteen we moved to Chicago. I got a transistor radio for Christmas and I listened to WLS–Dick Biondi, the Wild Eye-talian–at night under the covers, holding the radio to my ear. Little Eva, the Shirelles, Roy Orbison, Sam Cooke, Dion and the Belmonts…sigh. Thanks for the great memories!

  8. LVCI November 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

    Judi Hendricks says: “We moved to Chicago.. I listened to WLS–Dick Biondi
    Then perhaps you were also familiar with Barney Pip on WCFL?

    Barney died in June of 1994. How his life ended would have made for a movie tale of tragedy for those afflicted with bipolar disorder (maniac depression).

    Rather then go into details, if anyone’s interested CLICK HERE for a brief biography

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