The Boston Radio Dial: WAAF(FM)

Who, What, Where

Community: Westborough
Frequency: 107.3 MHz
Class: B
Ownership: Entercom Boston License, LLC
(Entercom Communications [NYSE: ETM]/Joseph M. Field)
Studio: 20 Guest Street
Brighton, MA 02135-2040
Transmitter: Stiles Hill
Cross Street
Boylston, MA 01505
Phones:
Office +1 617 779 5400
Studio 931 1223
Format:
Main Active rock
HD2 To be Live rock
Web site: waaf.com

Technical Parameters

WAAF transmits at 107.3 MHz with an effective radiated power of 9.6 kW (analogue) from a directional antenna 335 meters (1099 feet) above average terrain (480 m above sea level). The antenna is a custom two-level Shively, model 6810-2R-DA-SPL-CF, and is mounted 267 m (875 ft) above ground. The tower, located on Stiles Hill in Boylston, is owned by Entravision Communications and was originally constructed for WUNI (27 Worcester); it is the tallest tower in Massachusetts. Worcester public broadcaster WICN (90.5) also broadcasts from the Stiles Hill tower.

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

(This facility is technically still a construction permit operating under program test authority, as the license to cover was rescinded at Entercom's request to allow for operation at the WAAF's former Asnebumskit Hill, Paxton facility while coverage problems with the new facility were debugged.)

Station History

When WAAB-FM signed on with 1.4 kW at 107.3 on June 15, 1961, it inherited a legacy dating back to the very earliest days of FM radio in the United States. While the new license for WAAB-FM had no direct connection to the Yankee Network's pioneering W1XOJ, it used the same Mount Asnebumskit transmitter site in Paxton, and its AM sister, WAAB (1440 Worcester), had Yankee Network roots as well.

W1XOJ signed on from Asnebumskit in 1939, the result of a partnership between Yankee Network owner John Shepard and FM inventor Edwin Howard Armstrong to explore the potential of inter-city FM networking. Programs were fed from the Yankee studios in Boston to Asnebumskit, and were picked up from there at stations on Mount Washington, N.H. and in Meriden, Connecticut. Other programs were picked up at Meriden from Armstrong's W2XMN in Alpine, N.J. and carried through Asnebumskit to Mount Washington.

In 1941, W1XOJ became commercial outlet W43B, with 300 kW ERP (50 kW TPO) on 44.3, as a sister to Boston's WNAC and WAAB. Two years later, Yankee moved WAAB to Worcester to escape the FCC's new anti-duopoly rule. While WAAB and W43B were nominally sister stations, they were never operated jointly (W43B was treated as a "Boston" station and operated from Yankee's Boston studios), and Yankee soon sold WAAB to new owners.

W43B eventually took new calls WGTR, moving to the new FM band on 103.1 and then on 99.1. In October 1948, the Yankee Network moved its FM operations to Boston, on the new WNAC-FM 98.5. WGTR's license was transferred to Eastern Radio, which apparently operated the station with “Transit Radio”, providing programming heard in city buses. The 1951 Broadcasting Yearbook shows WGTR once again under the ownership of the Yankee Network, but operating from the same 34 Mechanic Street address as WAAB, by then under Olin Company ownership.

WGTR faded from the scene completely within a year or two, as WAAB flirted with television. (It held a never-built construction permit for WAAB-TV 20; in the meantime, TV came to Worcester in the form of WWOR-TV 14, which signed on in 1953 from the same Asnebumskit site WGTR had used.)

By 1961, WAAB was in the hands of Bernard Waterman's Waterman Broadcasting, and when its new FM signal signed on that fall, it was as a simulcast of the full-service AM station. The simulcast lasted until 1967, when WAAB-FM split off from the AM with a stereo beautiful music format. In 1969, WAAB-FM became WAAF, adopting a freeform rock format that later evolved into album rock under new owner Southern Massachusetts Broadcasters. A power increase in 1970, to 16.5 kW at 780 feet above average terrain, gave WAAF a commanding signal that could be heard across most of Massachusetts, as well as large portions of eastern Connecticut, Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire and southern Vermont.

WAAF and its sister AM station (which changed calls from WAAB to WNCR and then to WFTQ) were sold to Dick Ferguson's Park City group in 1978, which was in turn absorbed by Katz Broadcasting in 1981. Under Park City and Katz, WAAF's format began turning from “mainstream” album rock to harder-edged rock, with an emphasis on heavy metal, especially at night. Promotional slogans played off the station's distinctive calls, as the station called itself “The WAAF Air Force” and “The WAAF GirAAF”.

By then, WAAF was establishing a presence in the Boston market as well, aided by personalities such as morning men Tom Doyle and “Bob and Zip” (Peter Zipfel and Bob Rivers, who would go on to regional fame at Seattle's KZOK-FM). Other notable Boston names who passed through WAAF in those years included Harvey Wharfield, Annalisa and Chuck Nowlin.

In 1984, WAAF and WFTQ moved around the corner from the aptly named “Cocaine Realty Building” at 34 Mechanic Street (named for the family that owned it, not for the drug of choice among many of WAAF's core artists) to 19 Norwich Street. In 1989, Cleveland broadcaster Xen Zapis bought the stations, and in 1994 the station moved to new suburban studios at 200 Friberg Parkway, in a Westborough office park.

Among the personalities who called the Westborough studios home were morning man Greg Hill, whose “Hillman Morning Show” would become a WAAF fixture, John “O-Zone” Osterlind, who would later be a WRKO talk host, night host Liz Wilde, and a new afternoon team imported from Long Island, Gregg “Opie” Hughes and Anthony Cumia.

In the summer of 1996, Zapis sold WAAF and its AM sister, by then WWTM, to American Radio Systems for a reported $24.8 million. Little changed at WAAF, which retained its hard rock format and Westborough studios even as it once again came under common ownership with its Yankee Network ancestors, WRKO (ex-WNAC) and WBMX (ex-WNAC-FM).

On April 1, 1998, Opie and Anthony made national industry headlines with an April Fools stunt in which they announced the death of Boston Mayor Tom Menino. An enraged Menino asked the FCC to investigate the stunt, and ARS soon dismissed the afternoon hosts. (They would return to the Boston market in 2001 on Infinity's WBCN with a simulcast of their WNEW New York afternoon show, which itself ended in controversy the next year; the duo then moved to XM Satellite Radio, with a terrestrial simulcast over a network that included WBCN resuming in 2006.)

With the sale of ARS to CBS late in 1998, an antitrust settlement led to a $65 million spinoff of five of the ARS stations. WAAF, WWTM, WRKO, WEEI (850 Boston) and WEGQ (93.7 Lawrence) went to Entercom for $65 million. In 1999, WAAF left its Westborough studios, moving to the former WBMX space at 116 Huntington Ave. in Boston, then in 2001 to 20 Guest St. in Brighton.

In 2005, WAAF attempted to abandon its longtime transmitter site in Paxton (by then at 20 kW from 785 feet AAT) in favor of a new 9.6-kW/1100-ft directional facility on the WUNI (Channel 27) tower on Stiles Hill in Boylston, considerably closer to its target audience in Boston, and a new city of license of Westborough. The first attempt at the move was unsuccessful, resulting not only in a loss of WAAF's extended coverage to the south and west but also in multipath issues to the east. The station moved back to Paxton while tweaking the new antenna, then returned to Boylston for a more successful move in 2006.

In September 2006, WAAF afternoon jock Mistress Carrie traveled to Iraq to spend a week broadcasting from the war zone, where webcasts had made her show popular among U.S. troops.

By then, WAAF had found another way to address its signal deficiencies in Boston and its southern suburbs. Entercom's $30 million purchase of Radio One's WILD-FM (97.7 Brockton), soon renamed WKAF, inaugurated a new simulcast of WAAF, beginning August 22, 2006.

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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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