WCNX, 1150 AM, Middletown, signed on the air for the first time on December 12, 1948 under the ownership of two longtime Middletown residents, Richard and Bill O’Brien and the local newspaper, the Middletown Press. In the mid-1950’s the O’Brien brothers, who initially conceived the idea of a radio station for Middletown, bought out the newspaper’s half-interest. The two brothers operated the station for 30 years, first from studios on Main Street in down town Middletown and later from a building specifically designed for broadcasting, constructed at the station’s tower site on River Rd. That building, constructed in 1956 remains in use today as the studios of WMRD, successor to WCNX.
In 1978 the O’Briens decided to retire and sold WCNX to a broadcaster from Vermont, David Parnigoni. In 1981, Parnigoni sold the station to Berkshire Broadcasting, a firm headed by a well known broadcaster from North Adams, MA, Don Thurston. Thurston’s son, Cory became the President and General Manager of WCNX.
In 1984 the Thurston family decided to concentrate their efforts on their small group of stations in Western Massachusetts and sold WCNX to Jan Peek Communications, a firm headed by Edward Creem Jr., President and General Manager.
The station continued to use the call letters WCNX through each of the changes of ownership until the station was purchased in 1993 by a retired CBS Executive, Don DeCesare who decided that WCNX would henceforth be known as WMRD. Subsequently, DeCesare also purchased WLIS in Old Saybrook and for the last several years the two have operated as one with the same programming simulcast on WMRD and WLIS.
For most of its life, WCNX was a daytime only station, signing on at sunrise and signing off at sunset in order to protect other stations in the US and Canada, operating on the frequency 1150 AM, from nighttime interference. That changed in the fall of 1987 when a new treaty with Canada was signed and WCNX along with 1200 other daytime only stations were authorized to operate fulltime, with reduced power at night.
NOTE: For a brief period prior to becoming WMRD, the facilities of WCNX were leased by a group that attempted unsuccessfully to create an ALL TRAFFIC Format. The only programming was Traffic Information and Weather for the New Haven and Hartford Markets, both of which are reached by the station’s signal. The concept apparently was to test the format, work out the kinks and then franchise the format to other markets.
1977 WCNX Ad