The Boston Radio Dial: WBMX(FM)

Who, What, Where

Community: Boston
Frequency: 104.1 MHz
Class: B
Ownership: Hemisphere Broadcasting Corp.
(CBS Corp. [NYSE: CBS]/Sumner Redstone)
Studio: 83 Leo M. Birmingham Parkway
Brighton, MA 02135-1154
Transmitter: Prudential Tower
800 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02199
Phones: +1 617 746 1400
Format:
Main Hot AC “Mix 104.1”
HD2 Eighties hits “Boston's Eighties Channel”
HD3 Occult talk “The Psychic Network”
Web site: mix1041.com

Technical Parameters

WBMX transmits at 104.1 MHz with an effective radiated power of 21.0 kW (analogue) from the Prudential Tower upper master antenna. This antenna, which is shared with WZLX, WMJX, and WXKS-FM, is a six-bay ERI COGWHEEL 1084-6CP, a non-directional, four-around, circularly-polarized panel antenna system; its center of radiation is 235 meters (771 feet) above average terrain (258 m above sea level). A two-bay shared backup antenna is located elsewhere on the Prudential Tower roof, at 220 m above average terrain; WBMX is licensed for 1 kW ERP when using the backup.

WBMX transmits a digital signal using iBiquity Digital Corp.'s “HD Radio” system.

Station History

WBMX first took to the airwaves in May 1958 as WBCN, a standalone classical FM known as the “Boston Concert Network”. WBCN was part of a group of “Concert Network” stations, including WXCN 101.5 Providence (now WWBB), WHCN 105.9 Hartford, WRCN 103.9 Riverhead, N.Y., and WNCN 104.3 New York (now WAXQ). WBCN's studios were then located at 171 Newbury St. in Boston's fashionable Back Bay neighborhood.

By the late 1960s, WBCN began to feel the competition from other classical outlets, including WGBH 89.7 and WCRB/WCRB-FM. WBCN began leasing out time at night for ‘underground rock’ broadcasts, under the name “The American Revolution”. The first rock song heard on WBCN, on March 15, 1968, was “I Feel Free” by Cream.

Within a year, WBCN had become a full-fledged rock station, and classical music was history on 104.1. Early WBCN personalities included Peter Wolf, later to become famous as a member of the J. Geils Band, and “News Dissector” Danny Schecter, who brought a uniquely left-wing viewpoint to his newscasts.

WBCN's first few years found the station at the forefront of the underground FM music, as adventurous programmers experimented with playing longer album cuts and diverse genres of rock music. But by the mid-70s, WBCN had settled down to a more commercial approach, playing album rock from its new studios in the penthouse of the Prudential Tower. Several of the 1970s DJs, including morning man Charles Laquidara, were to stay with WBCN for decades.

The station came under the corporate ægis of Hemisphere Broadcasting in 1979, becoming the start of the Infinity Broadcasting empire. Shortly thereafter, in May, 1980, WBCN moved to 1265 Boylston Street, in the shadow of Fenway Park.

The 1980s saw WBCN continue on an album-rock course, outlasting longtime competitor WCOZ 94.5. By the early 1990s, WBCN began to feel new pressure, from stations such as WFNX 101.7 Lynn, that were playing more adventurous modern rock and drawing a younger audience, as well as from Cook Inlet's WZLX 100.7, playing the classic rock tunes that had made WBCN famous.

The changes at WBCN in the 1990s began with the addition of Howard Stern in evenings in 1993. Infinity's purchase of Cook Inlet that year brought WZLX into duopoly with WBCN, allowing WBCN to add more modern rock to its playlist.

In 1995, WBCN made a full break from its album rock format, switching to modern rock in direct competition with WFNX. Stern moved to mornings on April 1, 1996, sending Laquidara to WZLX after more than 25 years at WBCN. The addition of New England Patriots football with the 1995-96 season also helped draw more listeners to WBCN.

WBCN acquired two more sister stations in early 1996, with Infinity's purchase of Granum's WBOS 92.9 and WOAZ 99.5. The biggest change of all came on June 20, 1996, when CBS/Westinghouse announced a $5 billion deal to purchase Infinity, putting WBCN and the other Infinity stations under the same corporate roof as WBZ, WODS, and WBZ-TV. CBS's merger with Viacom would later add to that WSBK-TV.

As the rock radio universe in Boston, and nationally, struggled with change in the nineties, WBCN struggled as well. While some veteran staffers, including PD Oedipus and jocks Bill Abbate, Albert O and Bradley Jay, remained with the station as it swerved first toward WFNX-style alternative rock and then toward WAAF-style active rock, others departed: middayer Ken Shelton in 1993, afternoon veteran Mark Parenteau in 1997 and music director Carter Alan in 1998.

In 2001, WBCN began tipping away from music entirely, following the lead of stations such as New York's WNEW, Philadelphia's WYSP and Washington's WJFK (all Infinity/CBS sister stations) in adding FM talk to its lineup. In addition to Stern's top-rated morning show, former WAAF afternoon hosts Opie & Anthony returned to Boston, at least until their WNEW show was cancelled in 2002 after the “Sex for Sam” on-air stunt that prompted numerous complaints.

WBCN's music programming began to include some classic hard rock in 2002, though the presence of Stern in morning drive continued to give the station a strong talk lean as well.

Early in 2005, WBCN left the Fenway area to share studios on Birmingham Parkway with WODS.

With Stern's exodus to Sirius Satellite Radio, most of his former CBS Radio affiliates went to a mostly-talk format under the “Free FM” nickname. While WBCN picked up the David Lee Roth morning show that succeeded Stern, it eschewed the “Free FM” branding and the rest of the syndicated lineup, retaining its music programming with jocks Adam-12, Hardy and Mark Hamilton.

The Roth show was short-lived, replaced in April 2006 by a simulcast of Opie & Anthony's XM Satellite Radio morning show. In June 2006, WBCN added talk in afternoon drive, hiring “Toucher and Rich” (Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb) from Atlanta's WNNX.

WBCN also added an HD-2 subchannel in 2006, playing new and indie rock as “Indie 104-1”. “Indie” would later give way to “Freeform 104”, a broad-ranging album-rock/blues format hearkening back to WBCN's earlier days.

On July 14, 2009, CBS announced format changes in Boston and Washington that would bring sports-talk formats to the FM dial in both markets. In Boston, “Mix 98.5” would become “Mix 104.1” on August 13, displacing WBCN's format and branding to an automated HD2 stream, with the new “Sports Hub” WBZ-FM launching the same day on 98.5. With Boston Bruins hockey and New England Patriots football play-by-play (moving over from WBZ and WBCN, respectively), the new format is expected to challenge the dominance of long-time dominant sports-talker WEEI, particularly in the western suburbs where WEEI's night signal is poor. Moving the Hot AC format to 104.1's Prudential Tower transmitter facility gives “Mix” better downtown office-building penetration, bringing it closer to signal parity with “Magic 106.7” WMJX for the in-office audience both stations target during the working hours.

After a four-day farewell featuring many long-time WBCN personalities, including former morning host Charles Laquidara and former PD Oedipus, “The Rock of Boston” finally came to an end at 12:07:27 AM on August 12, 2009. The last song played was Pink Floyd's “Shine On”, which was followed by a montage of historic WBCN audio clips and the last legal ID, after which, WBCN gave way to WBMX. Recorded “static” was played for most of the following two hours, and “Mix 104.1” programming began at 2 AM. HD2 and HD3 streams moved over from 98.5 a few hours earlier; at the same time, the “Freeform 104” HD2 service that had been on WBCN moved to WZLX-HD3, and a new WBCN-branded automated rock format started on WBZ-FM's HD2.

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This station profile was written by the editors of The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. We have no relationship with the station; please send any comments or questions about their programming directly to the station. Network connectivity courtesy of MIT CSAIL.

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