Maine Radio History, 1971–1996

by Scott Fybush

We'll check things out county by county, starting way up north with Aroostook County:

FM in 1971 consisted of just a handful of stations. Caribou's WFST was an AM daytimer on 600, with an FM simulcast on 97.7 broadcasting with a mere 220 watts from 185 feet. WFST(AM) is still there, but the FM is now a separate operation as WCXU, with a 20-kW signal on 97.7. In Houlton, WHOU was an AM-only operation on 1340. WHOU-FM made its debut in 1976 on 100.1. Today, the AM is gone, but the FM lives on, simulcasting WALZ-FM 95.3 Machias. In Madawaska, 1971's listings found just a single AM station, WSJR 1230. It and sister station WLVC 1340 Fort Kent had been off the air since 1991 when the FCC deleted both licenses in late 1996. Madawaska's on FM now, with the arrival in the 1980s of WCXX 102.3, simulcasting WCXU from Caribou. Fort Kent has FM as well, based at the University of Maine campus there. WUFK is the student station, which signed on in 1974 on 90.3 and later moved to its current 92.1 spot. And Maine Public Radio put WMEF (106.5) on the air up there in 1994.

The largest community in Aroostook is Presque Isle, where AM has all but disappeared since 1971, when the city's only stations were 950 WAGM and 1390 WEGP. The 950 license is gone, and 1390 is dark. On FM, WDHP signed on in 1973 on 96.9, and is now WBPW. 96.1 was WTMS for years, but is now hot AC WQHR. Maine Public Radio put WMEM 106.1 on the air in 1978, and the University of Maine at Presque Isle's WUPI signed on in 1973 on 90.3, later to be moved to 92.1. New in the 80s were WOZI on 101.7, and sister AM WOZW 710 Monticello, now known as WREM under separate ownership.

Down East Maine, we find a lot has changed in Washington County. In 1971, Calais had only WQDY (1230), which was joined in 1976 by WQDY-FM on 92.7, and in the 1980s by Maine Public Radio's WMED (89.7). Machias had a single AM in 1971, WMCS (1400). In 1978, WMCS added WALZ-FM on 95.3, and by the mid-80s, WMCS(AM) had become WALZ(AM). The AM is now dark, but the FM lives on. Eastport got a non-commercial FM at its high school in the 1980s, WSHD (91.7).

In 1971, Hancock County had but two stations, WDEA (1370) in Ellsworth, and simulcast WDEA-FM on 95.7. WDEA lives on, but the FM is now oldies WWMJ, targeted at Bangor. WKSQ arrived in 1982 as a class A FM on 94.3, soon upgrading to a full B on 94. Mount Desert Island got its FMs in 1994, WLKE on 99.1 and WMDI on 107.7, both licensed to Bar Harbor. And community outlet WERU debuted on 89.9 from Blue Hill in 1988.

It's no exaggeration to say that the radio dial in Penobscot County exploded in 25 years. In 1971, Bangor's three AMs and one FM were all co-owned with the city's three TVs. Maine Broadcasting owned WLBZ (620) and WLBZ-TV 2; Horace Hildreth's Community Broadcasting Service owned WABI (910), WABI-FM (97.1), and WABI-TV 5; and Melvin Stone owned WGUY (1250) and WEMT-TV 7. Maine Broadcasting never got into FM, and eventually sold off its radio interests in the early 1980s. WLBZ evolved into WZON, which was later purchased by Stephen King himself. WABI-FM became country WBGW, then country WYOU, and then in 1995 modern-rock WWBX, “97X”. It and WABI(AM) were sold off separately from the TV in the early 80s.

WGUY had the longest, strangest trip of all, moving from 1250 (where it was a daytimer) to 1200 in the late 1980s, after undergoing several call changes. In the early 1980s, it became WMLI, playing “Music of Your Life”, and by the time the frequency change was made, it was WKIT(AM), simulcasting its sister FM. That FM was born in 1979, as WGUY-FM Brewer on 100.9, with a mere thousand watts. In 1987, it changed calls to WKIT-FM, and moved down the dial to 100.3 and up to a full class B signal. WKIT(AM) also changed city of license to Brewer so it could get 10 kW day. In the early 1990s, WKIT(AM) became WNSW, running CNN Headline News, and by 1995 it was off the air entirely.

In the mean time, Bangor was blessed with many more FMs. Penobscot Broadcasting's WPBC debuted on 92.9 in 1976. It's now soft AC WEZQ, co-owned with WDEA/WWMJ in Ellsworth. On the non-comm front, Husson College's WHSN (89.3) came on in 1974, the Bangor Baptist Church's WHCF (88.5) made its debut with a full class C signal in 1981, Maine Public Broadcasting's WMEH (90.9) signed on in 1970, and up in Orono, the University of Maine's WMEB (91.9) bowed in 1988. Over in Brewer, country WQCB (106.5) took to the airwaves in 1986. The 1990s brought more new signals, including WSNV (103.9) in Howland with talk and news programming, WBZN (107.3) in Old Town with 70s rock, and WGUY (102.1) in Dexter, reviving the heritage calls with oldies.

In northern Penobscot County, Millinocket's WMKR on 1240 evolved into today's WSYY(AM). Its sister FM, now WSYY-FM on 94.9, began life in 1978 as WKTR as a class A on 97.7. The WSYY calls came along in the mid-80s, and the frequency shift to 94.9 and upgrade to 24 kW came in the late 80s. Lincoln's WLKN (1450) sprouted WLKN-FM on 99.3 in 1975. The FM briefly took the WGUY calls in the late 80s, then became WHMX in 1989, moving to 50 kW on 105.7 a year later. The AM changed calls to WTOX in 1989. Both have been dark for several years, and are now being sold to Bangor Baptist Church.

Our next stop south is in Waldo County, where there was just one station in 1971, little 250-watt WBME on 1230 in Belfast. WBME died a few years ago, but in its stead there are now two FMs, both of which target Bangor listeners. WWFX (104.7) signed on in Belfast in 1986 as CHR “The Fox”; in 1996 in flipped to country “The Bear”. WBYA in Searsport signed on just a few years ago on 101.7, and after flirting with AC for a while, is now simulcasting classical with WAVX in Thomaston, down the coast.

There was only one station in Piscataquis County in 1971, Dover-Foxcroft's WDME. There's still only one, and it's still WDME. The only difference is that back then, WDME was on 1340 AM (and a relative newcomer; it signed on in 1967). WDME-FM signed on in 1980, as a simulcast on 103.1 A few years later, both stations moved into a converted railroad car, and not long after that, the AM vanished from the airwaves. Today, “D-103” makes a big deal out of its exotic studio location, with IDs that feature train sounds underneath.

Next door in Somerset County, it's all changed since 1971, when the only sounds on the dial were Skowhegan's WGHM AM/FM, the former a daytimer on 1150, and the latter a little class A newcomer on 107.1. The AM changed calls a few years later to WQMR, and then made a nice move up the dial in the mid-80s, going to 1160 with 10 kW day and 1 kW night, and changing calls to the present WSKW. The FM pulled off an even more spectacular upgrade in the early 70s, moving to 105.1, and becoming a full class C. The new calls reflected the new transmitter location: WTOS stands for “Top of Sugarloaf”, as in the Sugarloaf/USA Ski Area, from which “The Mountain of Pure Rock” has held forth ever since, with a signal that reaches out as far as Bangor and even Portland on a good day. Skowhegan's second FM, WHQO 107.9, was a 1989 newcomer that now simulcasts WSKW. The rest of Somerset County'radio stations are equally new to the air: WIGY (97.5) in Madison signed on about a year ago, simulcasting WGUY Dexter; WCTB (93.5) in Fairfield signed on last year as a duopoly partner to WTOS/WSKW; and WPBC (99.5) in Pittsfield is a yet-to-be-built CP.

Further east in Franklin County, the only station on the air in 1971 is now gone. WKTJ(AM) was a little 1-kW daytimer on 1380. WKTJ-FM popped up on 99.3 in 1973, and has stayed there ever since, while the AM went silent in the early 90s. WUMF(FM) in Farmington is at the University of Maine's campus there; it went on the air in 1972 on 91.9, and later moved to its current 100.5 spot on the dial, after a brief stint on 92.3.

Oxford County was all-AM in 1971, with Rumford's WRUM on 790 and South Paris' WKTQ on 1450 the lone broadcasters. Both are still there, but WRUM sprouted an FM in 1975 on 96.3. WRUM-FM became WWMR in the early 80s, upgrading eventually to a mighty 100-kW signal that serves almost all of Central Maine. Owner Melvin Stone, who also owned WEMT-TV/WGUY-AM-FM in Bangor, eventually sold out, and both stations now belong to Boston religious broadcaster Ken Carter. WKTQ also went religious in the 1980s, after a stint as top-40 WXIV. 1450 was known as WOXO for a few years in the 1980s, parallelling its sister FM in Norway, Maine, before returning to the WKTQ calls in 1986. As for WOXO-FM in Norway, it signed on in 1970 on 105.5, moving to 92.7 a couple of years later to accomodate WTOS in Skowhegan on 105.1. WOXO's been on 92.7 ever since, now as a country outlet. It's simulcast on WTBM in Mexico, Maine, which made its debut in 1987 on 100.7 and has been there ever since.

Heading back towards more populated areas, we find plenty of change in Kennebec County, home to Augusta, the state capital. Back in 1971, Augusta radio consisted of three AMs and an FM. WRDO was the old-timer, with a mighty 1 kW day/250 watts night on 1400. WFAU was another heritage AMer, with similar power on 1340, and the city's only FM license, WFAU-FM on 101.3. And Gardiner-licensed WABK was a relative newcomer, on 1280. FMs began sprouting in the 1970s and 1980s, with WABK-FM bowing in 1974 on 104.3, and WRDO's FM making its debut in 1981 as WSCG, a little class A on 92.1. WFAU-FM went country as WKCG in the early 80s, upping power to 50 kW from 2.2 kW. WSCG became WRDO-FM shortly thereafter, moving to 92.3 with 50 kW, and then in 1986, WRDO-FM/AM was reborn as WMME-FM/AM, hit radio “92 Moose”. The WMME(AM) calls inexplicably changed to WEZW last year, but the simulcast remains. Last year's other big move was the duopolization of WFAU/WKCG and WABK, in which WFAU's old 1340 facility was sold off to become religious WMDR (“Words and Music for Daily Rejoicing”), and the WFAU calls and nostalgia format moved down the dial to take over WABK(AM)'s 1280 spot. WABK-FM dumped its AC format for oldies, and everyone moved into WABK's Gardiner studios (except WMDR, which settled in at the old WFAU digs on Bangor Street).

Up the road a bit in Waterville, there were two stations in 1971, WTVL AM/FM at 1490 and 98.3. The FM moved to 98.5 in 1986, briefly using the WDBX calls before going back to WTVL-FM. In 1993, it upgraded to 63 kW, as country WEBB, “B98.5”. WTVL now simulcasts the FM, but keeps its own calls. For the last few years, WTVL/WEBB have been duopolized with WMME/WEZW in Augusta. Later additions were WMHB “Mayflower Hill Broadcasting” at Colby College, which started in 1974 as a 10-watter on 91.5, then moved to 90.5 in the early 80s to make way for Maine Public Radio's WMEW on 91.3.

Heading out to the coast, we double back to Knox County, where Rockland was the only radio town in 1971, with WRKD on 1450 and WRKD-FM was a simulcast class A on 93.5. WRKD-FM changed calls to WMCM (“Mid-Coast Maine”) in the mid-70s, and did the upgrade thing in 1989, jumping to 103.3 with 20.6 kW. A year later, WMCM embarked on an ill-fated era as a classical outlet, later moving to the current country format. WRKD(AM)'s still there, still on 1450, too. Over in Camden, 102.5 WESK debuted in 1985, changing calls a year later to the current WQSS, “Coast 102”. And Thomaston's WAVX signed on in 1990 on 106.9, taking over the classical mantle from WMCM.

Lincoln County's one and only radio outlet, WCME 96.7 Boothbay Harbor, signed on in 1984 as an easy-listening outlet. It's been simulcasting 95.5 from Topsham (about which more later) for the last couple of years, first as country, and now as classic rock/oldies “Golden Eagle”.

In 1971, there were just two stations in Sagadahoc County, WJTO in Bath on 730 and a construction permit for WJTO-FM on 95.3, which signed on in June. The FM soon became WIGY on 105.9, which was well-known as one of Maine's top rockers for a decade, before hitting financial problems that knocked it off the air for a brief time in 1990-91. It re-emerged as WKRH, a classic rocker, and then became religious WBCI with its sale in 1995 to Blount Communications. The AM remains WJTO, under separate ownership. The 95.3 frequency was later used for WMOS at Morse High School in Bath, a 10-watter that left the air around 1990. The only other station licensed to Sagadahoc County (although all its facilities are in Cumberland County) is WXGL, 95.5 in Topsham. This station was a construction permit as WLLB, before signing on in 1993 as WPME, simulcasting country WCME in Boothbay Harbor. In 1994 it picked up the WXGL calls abandoned in Lewiston, and became an oldies outlet.

To the east, we find Androscoggin County, whose oldest station is 1240 in Lewiston, which in 1971 was known as WCOU. Its sister FM station on 93.9 was WCOU-FM, later known as country WAYU, and then as oldies WXGL. 1240 became WXGL(AM) for a time in the late 1980s, before being sold off separately as WTME. The FM was sold as well, becoming a simulcast of Biddeford's WCYY under the WCYI call letters. Lewiston's other AM station in 1971 was WLAM on 1470, which eventually added an FM outlet in 1975. WWAV in Auburn began as a 3-kW station on 100.1, later moving to 99.9 as a class B outlet. In 1988, WWAV changed calls to WKZS, becoming today's “Kiss FM”. The AM, meanwhile, changed calls in 1991, becoming WKZN and sending the WLAM calls to its new sister station in Gorham. The calls changed again in 1994, as 1470's owners grabbed the WZOU calls from Boston to warehouse.

Auburn's AM outlet was Pineau Broadcasting's WPNO on 1530, later WRXV, and still later WTME, a simulcast of WKTQ in South Paris. In 1990, WTME's owners bought the 1240 in Lewiston, moving the calls and format there and turning off 1530. Over at Bates College in Lewiston, little WRJR was a 10-watter on 91.5 that evolved into today's WRBC. And finally, there's the 107.5 frequency in Lewiston that signed on in 1973 as rocker WBLM, the very first station ever owned by Fuller-Jeffrey. WBLM grew and grew, until in 1989 it was able to pull off a coup: The station traded its 107.5 frequency to a Portland station, WTHT, in exchange for WTHT's 100-kW signal on 102.9. WTHT arrived on 107.5 as a rocker, then experimented with oldies before becoming a country station. It's now co-owned with WZOU and WKZS.

On to Cumberland County... Starting the AM dial, then and now, was 560 WGAN. Back then, it was a Guy Gannett station (hence the call letters), and co-owned with WGAN-FM (102.9), WGAN-TV (13), the Portland Press Herald, the Portland Evening Express, and the Maine Sunday Telegram. It was sold in 1983, to Taylor Communications, and again a few years later, to current owner Saga Communications. 970 was next on the AM dial of 1971, back then as Maine Broadcasting's WCSH(AM), co-owned with WCSH-TV 6. Maine Broadcasting sold off its radio properties in the eighties, and WCSH found new life as WYNZ(AM), simulcast with WYNZ-FM (100.9), about which more in a moment. The nineties saw 970 breaking free from the simulcast, as hot-talk WZAN, now under common ownership with WGAN. At 1310 we found WLOB back in 1971, owned by Portland Broadcasting, and with an FM outlet on 97.9, WLOB-FM. The rocker of 1971 ended up as a religious outlet (AM-only) a quarter-century later, before being destroyed in the floods that ravaged Portland this past fall. WLOB may yet return; stay tuned.

At 1440 back then, Cumberland County listeners heard Westbrook's WJAB, the mighty top-40 voice of the Portland region. By 1980, the station had become WJBQ, and had acquired the 97.9 FM facility from WDCS, making it WJBQ-FM. In later years, 1440 would become an all-news outlet as WMER, then WWGT(AM), simulcasting the FM in its WWGT-FM phase, then (in the early 90s) Z-rock affiliate WLPZ, and still later all sports as WLPZ. In 1971, WPOR was country on 1490, simulcast with 101.9; and that's what it remains today, albeit now under Saga Communications' control. The dial was silent above 1490 back then, but it would soon light up at 1590, with the advent of Dirigo Communications' WDCI in Gorham, later known as WASY, and then (under common ownership with WLAM/WKZS Lewiston-Auburn) under the heritage WJBQ calls. In 1988, WJBQ abandoned 1590 for 870 on the dial, and later changed calls twice more, first to WKZN, and then to the current WLAM. The 1590 frequency was reborn briefly as WPNN, a CNN Headline News outlet, but later went dark and lost its license.

On the FM side of the dial, April 1974 saw the debut of Maine Public Radio's WMEA (90.1) in Portland, with a massive 100-kW signal. In September 1973, the University of Southern Maine debuted WMPG (90.9) in Gorham. Sunshine Broadcasting put WMGX (93.1) Portland on the air as “Magic” in June 1977. Ten years later, Sunshine added WGAN(AM) to the combo, and a few years later WGAN and WMGX were sold again, under the Saga umbrella. Today, WMGX is a classic rocker. We've covered 97.9's early days as WLOB-FM; WLOB sold the station in the early 1970s, and new owner Dirigo Communications took it classical as WDCS. In 1980, WJBQ swapped its FM, WJBQ-FM 106.3 Scarborough (which had signed on in the early 70s) and some cash for 97.9. The WJBQ-FM calls moved to 97.9 and the full 50 kW signal, and WDCS's classical format moved to 106.3. In 1986, 97.9 took on the WWGT calls and became legendary CHR “Great 98”. The greatness didn't last forever; in the 90s, the station became WCSO, as AC “Coast 98”, hot AC “Ocean 98” and later “The Ocean 97-point-9”, and then returning to CHR in 1996 as “Q 97-dot-9”.

At 100.9 we find a station that began life in 1976 as WLOB-FM, the second to bear that name. It was sold to Buckley Broadcasting in 1983, and joined with the former WCSH 970 to become WYNZ AM-FM. Originally an AC outlet, the FM (which was and is licensed to Westbrook) became an oldies station in the early nineties. It too is now owned by Saga. 101.9 was WPOR-FM in 1971, playing country...and that's what it is now, too. 102.9 was the grandfathered 100-kW WGAN-FM signal in 1971. When Guy Gannett sold off WGAN AM-FM in 1983, new owner Taylor kept the beautiful music on 102.9 for a few years. The calls were changed to WTHT in 1987, when WGAN(AM) was sold, and the new format on FM became hit radio. WTHT swapped facilities with WBLM (107.5 Lewiston) a few years later, and WBLM's promotions proudly claimed a “Bangor to Boston” reach for the album-rock format on 102.9. At 106.3, we find a quirky little station in Scarborough, which debuted in 1974 as WJBQ-FM, sister to WJBQ 1440. As we noted above, a frequency swap in 1980 made 106.3 classical WDCS under Dirigo Communications (which used the cash from the swap to build WDCI/WASY 1590). In 1988, the station was sold, becoming WPKM, but keeping the classical format.

Eastern Cumberland County has a radio history of its own, mostly centering on 900 AM and 98.9 FM in Brunswick. In 1971, these were simulcast WCME AM/FM, and for the next quarter-century the station experimented with numerous formats, including oldies, and (under the later WCLZ AM/FM calls) classic rock. Today, WCLZ(AM) is home shopping and WCLZ-FM is a nifty AAA. Bowdoin College's WBOR (91.1) in Brunswick has been around all along. And at 91.9, Brunswick High School ran 10-watt WBHS in the 1970s and 80s. The frequency became home to religious WMSJ Harpswell in the 1990s.

And finally, we'll leave Maine by way of York County, which had two stations back in 1971, WSME (1220) in Sanford and WIDE (1400) in Biddeford. WIDE-FM debuted on 94.3 in 1972; in later years, it became WBYC, then (in 1985, under new owner Gold Coast Broadcasting) AC WYJY, then AC WSTG, and still later was upgraded to higher power to serve the Portland market as WCYY, today a modern rocker. WSME-FM made its debut in October 1975 on 92.1; it later changed calls to today's WCDQ. Nowadays it's a nifty little rocker called “Mount Rialto Radio”. The town of Saco took to the airwaves in July 1982, with Vacationland Broadcasting's country WPIG on 95.9. The “Pig” was roasted two years later, becoming hit radio WHYR (“Y-96”), and then WRED in the mid-90s. On the non-comm dial, Biddeford's University of New England was home to WBSF (91.7), a 10-watter that debuted in April 1972 and survived into the late 80s under the ownership of St. Francis College. WBSF disappeared around 1989. In Sanford, religious WSEW (88.5) made its debut in the early nineties.

A few more new FMs finish off our overview of York County radio: York Center's 95.3 turned up in 1987 as WQMI, serving the Portsmouth NH market. It, and co-owned AM 1380 in Portsmouth, became WCQL, “Cool 95.3”, in 1989. The oldies format on the FM lasted until 1996, when it became hit radio WXHT, “Heat 95.3”. Kennebunk and adjacent Kennebunkport joined the FM dial in the early 90s, with the debut of classical WBQQ (99.3) Kennebunk (née WKME) in 1991, followed by sister AC WQEZ (nee WXPT) on 104.7 in 1995. And lastly, we have the lone Maine FM with its transmitter in another state; 105.3 licensed to Kittery, the southernmost town in Maine. Granted a construction permit in 1988 as WKCD, the station later had the WHIM call, before debuting in 1993 as WXBB with country. A few years later, it was sold to country giant WOKQ (97.5) Dover, moving to the WOKQ studios and changing formats to classic rock as “Arrow 105.3”.

And that's it; 25 years of radio in Maine.


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