The Boston Radio Dial: WEZE(AM)

Who, What, Where

Community: Boston
Frequency: 590 kHz
Class: B
Ownership: New England Continential Media
(Salem Communications [Nasdaq: SALM]/Atsinger and Epperson families)
Studio: 308 Victory Rd.
Quincy, MA 02171
Transmitter: 4068 Mystic Valley Pkwy.
Medford, MA 02155
Phones:
Office +1 617 328 0880
Toll-free +1 888 659 0590
Format: Religion
Networks: Salem

Technical Parameters

WEZE operates with 5000 watts day and night from transmitter facilities on Mystic Valley Parkway in Medford, Massachusetts (just west of WILD 1090 and WXKS 1430). WEZE uses the same directional pattern day and night, a tight north-south figure-8, nulled to the west to protect adjacent-channel WTAG 580 Worcester and co-channel WROW Albany. WEZE has two widely-spaced, 350-foot-tall (107 m) guyed towers, built in 1982 to replace two self-supporting towers that were original to the site in the 1930s.

Station History

The original 590, WEEI, signed on to the Boston airwaves on September 29, 1924, as one of New England's pioneer broadcasters. The calls stood for “Edison Electric Illuminating”, and served as a PR vehicle for the Edison company. The station started with 500 watts on 303 meters (989 kHz); in 1925 or 1926, WEEI moved to 860 kHz. By 1931, WEEI had settled on the 590 frequency, with 1000 watts. The station was then an NBC Red affiliate, operating out of the Edison building at 182 Tremont Street, Boston, on the edge of Boston Common. Between 1923 and 1928, WEEI had a mobile sister station, WTAT, which was set up at Edison's “Electric Community Fairs” to help demonstrate the wonders of electricity. (WTAT later became WATT, the callsign Edison had originally wanted, and remained so until the portable stations were all deleted en masse in 1928. WTAT/WATT had been licensed to Stoneham, not that this meant much for a portable station.)

After NBC leased the WBZ facilities for its Blue network in 1932, CBS—which was then carried by an affiliated station, WNAC 1230—decided that it wanted to eliminate the middleman and enter into a similar arrangement for its Boston station. In 1936, CBS signed a seven-year lease on WEEI, and soon after bought the station outright. The station became a CBS affiliate, and increased power to 5000 watts; WEEI would continue under CBS ownership for 42 years. In 1948, WEEI added FM service on 103.3 MHz, now WODS.

By the 1960s, WEEI was pioneering the talk radio format in Boston, with a format that mixed talk with middle-of-the-road music. In 1974, that format was scrapped and WEEI joined most of CBS's other owned AM stations with an all-news format, Boston's first. By that time, WEEI had moved out of Tremont Street and into new quarters on the 44th floor of the Prudential Tower.

The all-news format continued after CBS sold the station to Helen Broadcasting (owned by the Papa Gino's Pizza family) in 1982. Helen sold the station in 1990 to Boston Celtics Broadcasting. The Celtics kept the all-news format and built new studios in Charlestown. WEEI's network affiliation changed to ABC in 1991, when CBS moved to WRKO 680.

On Labor Day 1991, WEEI scrapped the all-news format to become Boston's first all-sports station. Dozens of newspeople were laid off, many of them eventually landing at WBZ 1030, which was becoming an all-news operation. Meanwhile, WEEI hired sports personalities including afternoon drive talker Eddie Andelman. A morning show featuring Andy Moes failed to catch fire, and WEEI picked up the Imus show in 1993. Under Celtics ownership, WEEI carried Celtics broadcasts (of course), as well as the Boston Bruins. With the start of the sports format, WEEI began leasing the entire broadcast day of AM 1440 in Worcester to boost the signal to the west; 1440's calls were changed to WVEI as a result.

In 1994, the Celts sold the station to Back Bay Broadcasting, a new group headed by Peter Ottmar of WARA Attleboro. That August, American Radio Systems pulled off a complex deal in which they acquired the call letters and intellectual property of WEEI, and moved the WEEI format in its entirety to AM 850, heretofore WHDH.

WEEI began operations on AM 850 on August 29, 1994. Simulcasts on 590 continued for more than a week, until the start of the new 590 format under the WBNW calls. (For a short period during the transition, the WEEI callsign disappeared completely from the Boston market, so that on the first day of the new 850, legal IDs consisted of “WHDH Boston, WBNW Boston, WVEI Worcester” whispered hurriedly.) This deal also gave ARS an option to purchase the station outright, should FCC rules be changed to permit it (as they eventually were).

WBNW became the first affiliate of the Bloomberg network, based at WBBR 1130 in New York City. That programming was supplemented with money talk, including the Money Experts and Bruce Williams shows that migrated from the now-defunct WHDH 850. Local news, weather, sports, and traffic inserts were provided by Metro Networks. The 1440 Worcester simulcast ended as well, as that station became a separate sports operation under the WWTM calls.

In late spring, 1995, the ownership of Peter Ottmar's other stations, WARA 1320 Attleboro and WWKX 106.3 Woonsocket, was consolidated under the Back Bay name, and WICE 550 in Pawtucket was added to the group. In July 1995, WICE returned to the air as WPNW, relaying WBNW with local inserts for spots, news, traffic, and weather (the last all still coming from Metro Networks in Boston).

The business news format came to an end in December, 1996, as Ottmar announced that he could no longer afford to keep the station. ARS had previously traded their option on 590 to Salem Communications, a large national religious broadcaster which also owned WEZE 1260, and Salem exercised that option to gain a second Boston property. At 11:59 on Sunday, December 15th, the business programming abruptly ended, and WBNW entered a simulcast of WEZE's religious programming. In February of 1997, the WEZE callsign moved to WBNW, and the old WEZE became WPZE “Praise 1260”. (1260 was later sold to Hibernia Broadcasting and became a Radio Disney outlet.)

In the years that followed, WEZE on 590 continued the religious teaching and talk programs that marked its earlier history on 1260.

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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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