HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WLAT (WRCH-AM) Memories
Submitted by Eric (Marenghi) Johnson:

    "AM 910 and later 100.5 FM were owned by Aldo DeDominicis and his nephew Enzo DeDominicis.  WHAY had been a middle of the road station with personalities.  Easy Ed Harrigan was  representative of that free-wheeling era.  WHAY also aired an Italian show in prime time weekdays featuring Enzo himself, first billed as Enzo Romano, then later using his real name.
     "The stations were licensed to New Britain.  Enzo said that he had a talk with New Britain advertisers, asking them if they would really support a New Britain station. The alternative was to re-position AM 910 as a Greater Hartford station and not provide localized service to New Britain.  The latter course was chosen.
     "WRCH AM 910 began airing the mostly orchestral instrumental Beautiful Music format in the early 60s, with considerable success.  Mantovani and Percy Faith were representative artists.  Vocals aired on a limited basis. 
     "The feel of the station was elegant, formal, reserved and classy.  WRCH did not invent this format but they did it very well.  It was a mood format with powerful stationality and fans who did long-hour listening.  Unlike other formats of that day where announcers talked in and out of most songs, the music on WRCH was generally segued in sweeps of 4 or 5 songs with very little or no talk.
     "I was a high school kid at the time and I loved it.  I also listened to WPOP and WDRC, but I was captivated by the sheer elegance, formality and class of the WRCH format.  I knew other teens who listened to it, too.  Some considered it good music by which to do homework.
     "I wanted to work there when I grew up, and I did.  I was News Director for 4 years in the 70s.  The lineup then was Alan Ford in the morning, Fred Swanson in early midday, Dick Ellis later midday, Lou Terri in afternoon drive and Bob (Bart Marx) Mazzarella at night. 
     "Fred Swanson had stayed on from the old WHAY.  His style was most typical of the format and when I hear the station in my head today, I hear Fred.  Dick Ellis had a phenomenal, rich voice and was also Program Director.  The music was all done locally at that time with a format Dick Ellis devised.  The relationship between songs, the mood their progression created, and the way they flowed into one another were all key elements.
     "Van Saunders was the most recognizable news voice of the station for many years. His trademark signature on the air was "Good Day".  His name and on-air delivery evoked the impression of a rather stiff old WASP-Yankee persona.   Actually he was a volatile, intense Italian named Salvatore Piacente. 
     "By the mid 70s, FM was becoming a more serious factor.  WRCH-FM 100.5 aired a syndicated version of the format.  A fellow named Fred Constant had bought WKSS-FM and put the format on it with some success.  In the end, WRCH-FM prevailed and morphed from old beautiful music into the light AC that keeps it a market leader to this day.
     "The most striking feature of the station was the tone of its ownership.  Aldo and Enzo DeDominicis conducted themselves so differently from  today's corporate radio owners.  They made money, a lot of it, but their whole attitude toward the station was one of pride, old world Italian family pride.  They were just great to work for.
    "WRCH AM 910 did not originate the Beautiful Music format in Hartford.  WRYM did it first.  WRCH moved in and did it 24 hours (WRYM was a daytimer then) and WRCH soon dominated. 
     "WRYM continued at least partial airing of the format into the mid to late 60s.  I worked there and hosted an early evening program called Limelight in the summer of 1967.  By then, though, WRYM had begun airing more ethnic Polish and Italian programming.  Spanish came later.  Within a few years, the station was entirely ethnic. 
     "I visited WRYM  around 2003, found it in the same building on Willard Avenue in Newington, with what appeared to be much of the same equipment I had run about 35 years earlier.  Another remarkable continuity: the station was still in the same family.  I was greeted warmly by a man whom I believe was the son-in-law of the 1967 owner,  Lou Sodakoff.
     "The Polish National Home Sunday remote broadcast still airs on WRYM, last I heard.  I used to listen to it more than 50 years ago.  I believe they claim it is the longest running continuous remote radio broadcast in the country."

Bob Radil writes: "The  original WHAY studios were near downtown New Britain, just off of West Main St. I seem to recall the call letter change from WHAY to WRCH happening in 1965 (April?) along with the new format. The "RCH" stood for "Rich". "Rich Music" was the slogan and beautiful music was the format with smooth, deep voiced announcers speaking over harp sounds, having little if any personality.   In (1968?) WRCH-FM went on the air. The license aquired from WRYM. The AM and FM were simulcast. In the fall 1974 they split. The AM became WRCQ with an oldies format with live DJs that became more AC in future years."

Lee P. Steele:  To the best of my knowledge WHAY was started in 1949 by Hillis Holt and some New Britain folks.  Hillis purchsed the land on Birdseye Rd. (then Farmington Bypass Road) and built the transmitter building at the end of a dead end road off of Birdseye. I worked there part time in 1961/62 for Hillis.
    The transmitter was an RCA 1D 1kw driving an RCA 5C, 5,000 watt water cooled amplifier.
    Hillis bought this equipment used and repaired it. He probably used the 1D for the RF proof initially.
     The station initially was a 5kw, DA2, 5 tower array.  The night pattern was a 4 tower end-fire as it is today.  The day pattern was a 2 tower cardioid pattern.
    When I was Chief Engineer in the 80's we changed the day to non-directional using the offset tower day and the 4 in-line towers night. 

Jack Borden:  I worked at WHAY from 5/1952 to
6/53. Was fired. They HAD to fire me.  I deserved it--big time. From there to to WONS--(later WPOP) --then WTHT--CH 18--WHCT which become a CBS O &O --one of only 2 CBS-owned
U's --in its history. Then to WTOL-TV Toledo.  Back to (then indie) Ch 18 HFD again-- Then to WBZ-TV Boston for 20 yrs.
Then to WCVB-TV (in those yrs WHDH-TV) and finally to a year with CNN doing the DuraCell-sponsored "Hi Tech House".
From '84 til they bury me--founder & head cloud of forspaciousskies.com.
   

John Ramsey: I was chief engineer of 910 WLAT from 1997 - 2004. Mega was the owner when I first started there and they has studios nearby on Rt. 6.  Later we moved them to Cedar St in Hartford (along with WNEZ) and in 2000 I built five new studios for them at 330 Main Street in Hartford where they operated along with WNEZ and WKND.  The transmitter facility was showing its age when I was there and we undertook some upgrades to replace the wiring going out to the towers to make the pattern switch more reliable.  We also added a sixth tower(!), not for the AM station but to for a cellular company so that we could generate some revenue.  That monopole was closer to the center of the directional array than some of the actual towers so detuning it was a real chore.  By then time I got involved with 910 the old transmitter building out behind the towers was in terrible shape. After the new Birdseye Rd facility was built in 1967 the old shack was a rental apartment but that arrangement ended sometime in the '90s.  By the early 2000s vandals had severely damaged the structure so we had to have it demonished.


      
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