HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WHCN (W1XPW)

 (See also associated WHCN pages on left).


Rare image of the WHCN studio on West Peak in Meriden.  The station operated from this location, which is where their tower was, for a number of years in the '60s.  In the early 70s they moved on Hartford's High Street.  The station had an automated Classical music format prior to 1969.  When this photo was taken an announcer from their sister station in Boston, WBCN, is seen at the controls doing a live show while the automation system is being repaired.



One of twelve AM “Apex” high frequency stations, W1XSL was licensed in 1936 to Franklin M. Doolittle, licensee of Hartford, CT WDRC.  W1XSL was constructed in that year atop a site in the Meriden Mountains south of Hartford and was to use 1,000 watts of power on “the apex band”.  (Those stations were licensed for frequencies above 25,000 kilocycles for transmission of programs for the public’s reception on an experimental basis).  
In late 1938, the station changed call letters to W1XPW and was concurrently re-licensed to WDRC, Inc., Doolittle, president and majority owner.  This permit allowed 1,000 watt experimental operation on 40,300 kHz.

On May 14, 1939, W1XPW began over-the-air testing from it’s antenna on top of Meriden Mountain, where it’s 1,000 watt transmitter and 90-foot tall mast were located.  Programming began on a regular schedule, changing from AM “Apex” operation to Frequency Modulation (FM) operation effective October 2, 1939.  At the time, it was claimed at W1XPW was the fourth licensed FM station in the US (the others being the other Yankee stations in the Northeast and the Milwaukee FM affiliate of WTMJ).  In November 1939 the station was reassigned to operate on 43,400 kHz.

In September, 1940 W1XPW began a regular program schedule, from the WDRC studios in Hartford.  WDRC, Inc was granted a construction permit for a new FM station, to be operated on 46.5 MHz, in early December, 1940, and the license was forthcoming to that permit by the end of December.  W1XPW instituted commercial FM broadcasting on January 1, 1941.  In the summer of 1941, W1XPW changed call letters to W65H, new commercial call letters.  The FCC in August 1941 granted W65H an extension and Special Temporary Authority to use 46.5 MHz. with 1,000 watts of power.  The station Director was F. M. Doolittle.

W65H received its new license covering commercial FM broadcasting in mid-March, 1941.  At this time, the station was covering 6,100 square miles.  The call letters changed from W65H to WDRC-FM effective November 1, 1943.  Walter B. Hass was named station manager in 1945.  In late 1945, the FCC assigned the station high band FM operation on channel 232, 94.3 MHz. while still operating the 46.5 MHz in the low band.  By 1946 WDRC-FM was operating nine hours a day and eleven hours on Sunday from studios located at 750 Main Street in Hartford, mostly duplicating the WDRC (AM) CBS network program schedule.  By January, 1947, the station was licensed for both 106.3 MHz and 46.5 MHz.  In March, 1947 the station changed from 106.3 back to 94.3 MHz.  At this time it was operating from 3 pm to 9 pm daily.

WDRC-FM’s licensee name was changed to The Connecticut Broadcasting Company effective May 22, 1947, Walter Haase, station manager.  In 1947, the low band transmissions were dropped and WDRC-FM increased power to 7kw on 94.3 MHz.  In 1948, the FCC re-assigned the station to a new dial position, 93.7 MHz.  Mr. Haase was promoted to general manager in 1952.  Studios for the FM station were moved to the AM transmitting site at 869 Blue Hills Avenue, Bloomfield, CT.

The call letters were changed from WDRC-FM to WFMQ (FM) in early 1956.  The station was operating on 93.7 MHz with 7kw of power at this time.  In June 1956, WFMQ (FM) was acquired by the General Broadcasting Corporation (T. Mitchell Hastings, Jr. president and 53.7 percent owner), assignee and owner of WTMH (FM) Providence, R.I.
The sales agreement was filed with the FCC on April 4th and was granted on April 25th.  The cost was $10,000 paid to Mr. Doolittle and his partners along with one thousand shares of General Broadcasting stock.  William Meola became station manager and independent broadcasting began.  Power was increased in 1956 to 20kw.

In 1957 General Broadcasting was operating the “Concert Network”, which included WTMH Providence, WGHF Brookfield, CT and WNCN at New York City, all broadcasting Classical and fine arts programming.   Stations were linked by an FM radio circuit providing high fidelity transmissions.  Mr. Strawbreidge was named Asst. to the president of WFMQ in 1957.  The FCC granted WFMQ on April 22, 1957 a construction permit to change frequency to 105.9 MHz with a power reduction to 7kw.  The 93.7 frequency was turned over to a new FM Hartford FM station, WLVH, in March 26, 1958.

In early 1958 WFMQ changed call letters to WHCN (FM) (for Hartford Concert Network), T. Mitchell Hastings, president, held 41.72 percent of the Concert Network stock by 1959.  12 percent belonged to Clement M. Burnhome. Former station manager William Meola was chief engineer by 1961.  Licensee of the classical-formatted station was reorganized on Oct. 11, 1962m with stock transferred from T. Mitchell Hastings, Jr (now 49 percent owner) doing business as Concert Network, Inc., to WHCN Inc, (same principals).  In early 1964m Coleman J. Nee was named general manager.  At this time WHCN was broadcasting from studios located at West Peak, site of the station’s tower (offices were in Hartford) and was on the air from 6:55 am to 1:00 am with a “concert hall” music format.

Mr. Taylor became general manager in 1966, the year Bryant Michaud became station manager.  Replacing them both in 1967 was Leonard A. Cohn, who became vice president and general manager.  R. R. Riepen was named as WHCN’s general manager in 1968.  A music shift took place with the station ending it’s “beautiful music” format on May 12, 1969 - - a new “underground rock” music format was inaugurated.  The FCC on December 4, 1969, granted WHCN a modification of its license to change studio location to 100 High Street, Hartford and to operate its transmitter by remote control.  The move to High St. was carried out in 1970.  Also in 1970 R. R. Riepen became president and Randall Meyer was named general manager.  On November 11, 1970, the station received FCC permission to change studio location to 60 Washington St in Hartford and to increase power from 7.0 to 7.3 kW and reduce tower height.  Studios were moved in 1971 to 60 Washington St... In 1972 Mr. Mayer succeeded Mr. Riepen as president, retaining his post as general manager until 1973 when Dick ? was appointed vice president and general manager.

WHCN was acquired from WHCN, Inc. by Beck-Ross Communications, Inc, (Martin F. Beck, president) for $560,000 in August 1974.  On October 9, 1974, WHCN was granted permission to increase power to 19kw (horizontal) and 15.5kw vertical.  The change to the new power levels was made in 1975 with an antenna height above average terrain of 740 feet.  Jay I. Mitchell succeeded Mr. Paisley as vice president and general manager in 1976.  Martin Beck continued as president and co-owner.

In 1977 WHCN affiliated with the ABC FM radio network.  A. William Lee became vice president and general manager in July 1977.  Studios were moved to 1039 Asylum Avenue in Hartford in 1979.  On October 14, 1981 the FCC authorized a power level of 16kw from a new antenna height of 867 feet.  Boyd Arnold was appointed vice president and general manager in September, 1984.

  

     By the middle sixties the classical format was being play from reel to reel tape from an automation system located on West Peak in Meriden, the site of the station's transmitter.
        In 1969 some of the folks where were instrumental in putting WWUH on the air the year before at the University of Hartford were able to switch the WHCN format to progressive Rock.  The late Randy Mayer was one of them, along with others (names needed).
    In the early sevenites the studios were moved to 100 High Street in Hartford.  Several years later the station moved to the 6th and 8th floors of 60 Washington St.  Later they moved to the first floor of that building.

    George Taylor Morris was PD from 1974-76.  Other staff in the early to mid seventies included Fred Moore(who helped build the new studio at 60 Wash and was on the air as well), Jim Cameron, News Director '76-'77, “Rex” (J. Shanahan/Shannon) ‘72-’78, Bill Papoosha '72-'78, Country Paul (Payton), Gabby, (Rick) Allison, Charlie Hotpartz, Steve Capen, 
Jack Richard late '73 - early '76 and Marcia Simon.

     
The "5:44" was some of the best non-music radio ever put on the airwaves.
     
The format was flipped to main stream album rock, in late 1976. Known as "106-WHCN", it was very successful in the 1970s and the 1980s. It was home to the morning show Picozzi and The Horn, up until the mid 1990s. Other announcers during this period included Kim Alexander, Maryanne O'Hare and Diane Kelly.


Jack Richards on the air in 1975

Wierd Al and Gary Lee Horn, 1980s



Irv Goldfarb, Gary Lee Horn, Phil Kyszyc, and Eddie Haskell - 1980s


    WHCN switched to Classic rock in the mid 1990s to compete for the older rock audience that grew up with WHCN, but changing owners would signal changes at WHCN as well.
     The station became "105-9 WHCN" and adapt a harder-edged classic rock sound billed as "Classic Rock that really rocks!". 
    WHCN was purchased by Liberty Broadcasting and then SFX Broadcasting/Capstar, then AMFM and then Clear Channel Communications in 2000.

     After years of declining ratings, the 33-year run of WHCN would come to an abrupt end in March 2002 when WHCN became known as "The River 105.9", surprisingly retaining most of its on-air staff in its infancy from the previous classic rock incarnation.  The playlist was different and much more diverse than other stations in the market and the station shot up in ratings from 13th place to 5th place within a year. "The River 105.9" targeted listeners of WRCH and WTIC-FM by launching its current hot adult contemporary format, which was a blend of classic rock hits of the 1970s and 1980s with recurrent and current hits of today.
     WHCN also carried the nationally syndicated "John Tesh Radio Show".
    The station appeals to baby boomers and Generation X listeners with various programming such as the "High School reunion" at 6pm, focused on a specific year and the "Eighties at Eight", which is an hour of Eighties music starting at 8am.
     The station carries a "deep tracks" format on its HD Radio HD-2 subchannel.


Above: South end of original W1XPW building on West Peak in Meriden, CT.  In the foreground of this picture is the original W1XPW 70' tower.  The orange tower to the right is currently used by WHCN, the tower on the far left supports the WDRC-FM antenna.  2008 Photo.

Above:  The base of the original W1XPW tower in 2008.


Above: These are the stairs in the W1XPW (WHCN) shack leading upstairs to the kitchen (L) and old studio area (R).

Above:  Kitchen area on the south side of the second floor of the W1XPW building. Note hand pump to right of sink.  Water was from a rooftop rainwater collection system is still operational!  Radio magaines from the early '40s were found here in the late seventies by WHCN CE Rick Walsh.  Window on right was blocked off years ago for security purposes but must have provided a spectacular view to the NW when Major Armstrong and then Doolittle operated at the site.  In the late sixties WHCN's studio occupied the room next door to the kitchen.  2008 photo.

Above: This room on the south end of the 2nd floor of the original Armstrong building on West Peak is where the WHCN studio was located in the late sixties and early seventies, prior to the move to High Street.  The actual broadcast console was in the right rear corner. If you look closely under the cardboard box you can see how worn out the floor is from the DJ's chair!  Having a studio this close to a relatively high power FM antenna on a short tower can be a problem as the RF gets into the audio gear.  In this situation they minimized the problem by stapling window screen to the inside of all of the walls. Most has been removed but some was visible on my last visit.  Until recently this area contained the NOAA weather radio transmitter.  Currently it is used as a storage area.
     Back when the room housed the WHCN studio the building ended where the yellow caution tape is and there was an exterior window which much have had an excellent view to the south although there are reports from people who were there that it was "perpetually dirty."  On a clear day Long Island Sound can be seen from that elevation.  MCI added onto the building in the late seventies so the area beyond the yellow tape is used for storage.

Above:  W1XPW's original tower taken at sunset in 2008.


1962


Above:  Stationary from WHCN when it was part of the Concert Network, 1967. Courtesy of Rick Walsh.


Above:  Rare WHCN "Peace Sign" stationary from 1969.  Note "Radio Mountain" address including zip code!  Did they really delivery mail up there on West Peak?  Courtesy of Rick Walsh.

Logo from WHCN envelope from the eighties.  Courtesy of Dan Hayden.

In the seventies WHCN experimented with Quadraphonic broadcasting, transmitting four-encoded audio channels somewhat similar to surround-sound.

Courtesy of Dan Hayden

In the late sixties and early seventies WHCN engineer Larry Titus devised a way to broadcast live from The Shaboo Inn concert venue in Willimantic, pictures above in its former life as a mill.


1968




1969


1971


February, 1970


1972


1039 Asylum Ave, winter 1982.


Picozzi and the Horn segments from the '80s


In the early eighties MCI erected a new tower for WHCN.  In this 1985 shot you can see the MCI microwave dishes on the side and the three bay WHCN directional FM antenna on the pole on top.


WHCN Walrus Logo used in the late '70s and early '80s.


Paul Harris in the WHCN air studio, 84/85.


News studio, 1986.


Early WHCN studio sketch provided by Rich Walsh.

Celebrating 16 years of rock in 1986.

(L to R) Bob Smith, Dan Hayden, Kenny White, Paul Harris, Andy Gellar, Marianne O’Hare, Bob Bittens, Kim Alexander, Phil Kirzyc, Bob London, Phyllis Paryzek.


August 4, 1988 WHCN Concert at Hammonasset Beach.


Joe Show -

Photo from the early eighties showing the old WHCN tower with three bay directional antenna on left next to the new "MCI" tower on the right.  The pole to support a new WHCN antenna has yet to be installed on the new tower.  The original WHCN building can be seen prior to it being added on to by MCI.  Photo courtesy of Daniel Francis Hayden.


Gary Lee Horn and Barefoot Bob


Aerial photo of WHCN rock concert.

 
Dan Hayden and Chip Triest



Trans-Am Giveaway winner (seated) shaking hands with PD Day Hayden.  Promotions director Terry on right.


The studio of "the River" 2010.


Production studio, 2010.



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