HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
Your Subtitle text
WSDK (WEXT)
1550 KHz AM, West Hartford/Bloomfield. 
Call Letters:WEXT (1963), WMLB (1977), WGAB (1985), WLVX, WRDM, WDZK (2000), WSDK (2011).

          WEXT’s first broadcast took place on Oct. 6, 1963. Licensed to the city of West Hartford, WEXT was owned by Grossco Corporation and operated on 1550 Khz with 1,000 watts of power, non-directional, daytime only. Grossco was owned by Julian Gross who had extensive broadcasting experience having put WKNB (now WRYM) on the air in 1946 and as the founder and first president of Ch 30 television.

          The WEXT studios and offices were located in the basement of the Butler Building at 998 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford and transmitter and tower were at 99 Grassmere Avenue in the same town.  The station’s format was popular music and Erwin Needles was the general manager. According to a newspaper article, WEXT was the first AM to utilize program automation equipment.  The same article said that the station played “New Adventure” music.

In March, 1964, J. Robert Hynes was appointed Program Director.  Elliott Booth was an announcer at the station in 1966 and Jim MacHardy joined the announcing staff in 1968. 

By 1964 the station had three full time newsmen and two radio-telephone equipped news cars.  Special programming included "News Specials" from 7-9 a.m. daily, political analysis by Courant staffer Jack Zaiman, Dan Sheay answered listeners questions on Saturdays 9-9:30 a.m., the "Binnie Montooth Show" with guest interviews on at 8 a.m. on Saturdays and the "Edith Napper Show" at 10 a.m. on Sundays.  Erwin Needles was the Executive VP and Bob Hines was the PD (Hines also did a daily show).
        In 1969 Grossco sold the station to Executive Broadcasting for the sum of $350,000. Executive was owned by Mike Schwartz and Don Wilkes, who also owned WAQY in Springfield, MA.

 


WEXT Big Band



1969 ad, courtesy of Ed Brouder



1969

WEXT Air Studio on Farmington Ave, 1970.
Photo courtesy of John Eppler.

Another view of the WEXT Air Studio on Farmington Ave, 1970.
Photo courtesy of John Eppler.

WEXT Production Studio on Farmington Ave, 1970.
Photo courtesy of John Eppler.

Another view of the WEXT Production Studio on Farmington Ave, 1970.
Photo courtesy of John Eppler

 

John Eppler:

“I was hired in 1969 to set up and engineer weekend remotes, primarily from the Holiday Inn in Meriden, a live polka show. (Bill Hart actually got me in the door; he and I worked together for a few months at Radio Shack and are still friends today)  From 1970 - 1977, I was an announcer, started doing engineering with Mark Anderson around 1971 and became Chief Engineer in 1973 when I passed my FCC first phone. In 1974 I also took on Program Director duties and held both positions until I left in summer of 1977.  One WEXT announcer, Bill Hart, aka Bill St. James, went on to become one of the premier voice over talents in the country, and has hosted the ABC radio Networks "Flashback" program for over 25 years.  He was a long time voice of  "Nick at Nite" and has done voice work for Discovery Channel, Showtime and the 2006 Winter Olympics.”

By this point in time the station had adopted a Country and Western format and used consultant Bill Hudson of Hudson and Associates of Nashville.  Bill St. James (Bill Hart) was one of the announcers.  Bill St. James joined the announcing staff in 1970.

In the early 70s the studio was moved to the third floor of the Culbro Building, 630 Oakwood Ave, in West Hartford.  The new facilities on the third floor consisted of an air and a production studio, an engineering shop, a reception area, and offices for the GM, the program director and for sales.

 

Above:  Because the site takes up ten acres it is hard to get all 6 towers in the shot.  The four towers on the left are the WDZK night pattern array, the three on the right are the day pattern array. The tower closest to the camera is common both day and night.

Above: New WEXT Air Studio on Oakwood Avenue, early 70s.
Photo courtesy of John Eppler. 

Above: Another view of the new WEXT Air Studio on Oakwood Avenue, early 70s.  Photo courtesy of John Eppler.

Above: New WEXT Production Studio on Oakwood Avenue, early 70s.
Photo courtesy of John Eppler. 

Above: Another view of the new WEXT Production Studio on Oakwood Avenue, early 70s. Photo courtesy of John Eppler. 

Above:  999 Farmington Ave. in 2009, former home of WEXT.

John Eppler recalled that the station used an RCA-BTA1R1 transmitter and that all of the other equipment at the transmitter site in 1970 was RCA, including the frequency monitor, modulation monitor, limiter and remote control. 

Above: RCA BTA1R1 1,000 watt transmitter center, RCA equipment on either side. 1970. Photo Courtesy of John Eppler.
Above: View of WEXT tower and transmitter building (center, with satellite dish on roof) on Grassmere Ave in W. Hartford.  This photo is from 1979.  Photo courtesy of John Ramsey.

Above:  The same view but this time in 2009.  There is now a road where the transmitter building and tower used to be.


Above:  In the 90's 1550 became WRDM, with both Italian and Spanish programming.  This is a rare shot of their remote truck which was used to do live broadcast from around the area. 

 

John Eppler recalled that the following people worked at WEXT in the period from 1970 to 1977: Michael Blumberg-General Manager, Mort Roberts-Sales Manager, Lee Kaplan-Sales, Donna Lemieux-Receptionist and announcers Del Dixon, Rollie Dumas, Duncan Fyfe, Jimmy Dayle, Bill James, Sue Lemay,  Bob Martin, Don Marshall, Art Paige, Leslie Pearlman, Ken Richters, Mark Sowalsky and Ray Taylor.  

 

John Ramsey:

“I started as a weekend board operator in 1972, running the board and signing the logs for the numerous religious and ethnic shows that purchased air time on Saturdays and Sundays.  I’m still friends with Henrique Ribeiro who had a Portuguese show on Saturday (still going strong after 30+ years on the air, now on WWUH).  There was also a Polish show, a Latin show and on Sunday lots of religious shows.”

According to one newspaper account, in February, 1973, former owner Grassco Corp was fined $4,000 by the FCC for "repeated violations of FCC rules on logging the duration of commercials and failure to give the required sponsor identifications of 14 commercials."  Later the fine was reduced to $3,000.

Around 1974 Executive Broadcasting sold the station to R & S Communications, owned by Harry Reiner of White Plains New York.

In 1977 R & S Communications sold to 1550 Country Radio, Inc., owned by Marylou Chaiken, Louis Alfonso and Barry Chaiken. The call letters were changed to WMLB, which represented the first letter of the first name of each of the owners.

In 1978 Mark Anderson resigned as chief engineer and John Ramsey took over the position.

Personnel between 1978 and 1986 included Leonard Ackerman, Phil Burgess (GM), Donna Cameron, Frank DePachio, Santo Failla, Mort Fega, Ken Gilbert, Bruce Kampe, Dick Isgur (78 -86), Lou Morton, Aaron Osipow, Frank Pingree CE, Tom Saler, Dick Shuey and Leslie Perlman Tucker (Leslie Ellen) (78), Lou Terry and Geoff Wilbur.

In the early eighties the Chaikens bought out Mr. Alfonso.  Donna Cameron was the receptionist.

In 1983 WMLB applied to the FCC to increase the day power from 1000 watts to 5000 watts and to add nighttime service with 2400 watts.  Close to ten acres would be needed for the six towers required by the new facility and despite an extensive search a suitable site could not be found in West Hartford.  It took two years to find a suitable site in Bloomfield due to the station being sued by one of that town’s largest businesses who alleged that the proposed towers would adversely impact their operations.  The suit was settled out of court.  The move to Bloomfield meant that the FCC had to be petitioned to change the station’s “city of license” from West Hartford to Bloomfield since the proposed nighttime coverage did not cover at 80% of West Hartford as required by the rules.

A construction permit was issued in 1984 and construction started in the fall of that same year on the new facility which required no less than six towers.

“The Wetland Commission required that we install the towers during the winter months since some of the towers were situated in or near wetlands.  This made the work extremely difficult by the spring of 1985 we began testing with full power and night service from the new location.  Over the next few months no less than 3,000 field measurements were taken to satisfy the FCC.” 

Needless to say the 5000 watt day signal was a huge improvement over the old signal with daytime coverage extending into Waterbury and Springfield.  Having night authorization meant that the station no longer had to sign off at sunset which was as early as 4:15 pm in December.

Above:  Six Tower WDZK transmitter facility built in 1985 changed the station from 1,000 watts, daytime only to 5,000 watts day and 2,400 watt night. (2008 photo courtesy of John Ramsey).




In the spring of 1985 the station adopted a talk format. Dan Yorke was hired as the program director.  Dan’s excellent morning show along with syndicated shows such a Dr. Joy Brown and Larry King helped the station build an audience.

It was around this time that Mr. Chaiken sold the station to Vanguard Broadcasting out of Long Island, Lenny Ackerman, President.

By the fall of 1985 the Commission issued a license for the new Bloomfield facility and the Grassmere Ave site was decommissioned. 

        On March 1, 1986 the call letters were changed to WGAB.
         
In late 1986 the station was shut off for financial reasons and it remained “dark” for close to two years.

          Living Communications out of Long Island, owners of WLIX, purchased the station and put it back on the air in September, 1988 as  WLVX with a contemporary Christian format.  Studios were moved to the Wintonbury Mall in Bloomfield.  John Bennett was an engineer and Al Kim was Program Director.

          Living Communications sold to Channel 13, Lucho Ruzzier, General Manager in August, 1993.  The call sign was changed to WRDM which represented the first initial of each of the three principal’s last names, and the studios were moved to 880 Maple Avenue in Hartford.

          In 1998 the station was sold to Hibernia Communications and the studios were moved to Franklin Ave in Hartford and the call letters changed to WDZK.

          In 2000 Hibernia sold to Radio Disney. 

In 2003 the studios were moved to 160 Chapel St, Manchester.

Paul Robertson was hired as general manager in 2007, the same year the station started broadcasting in HD.

 

Additional notes:

Formats Over the Years Included (dates needed):

Popular

C & W

Easy Listening

AC

Relig/Country

Talk

Religious

Italian

Disney

Above:  Towers being installed for the new 1550 5kw, full time directional antenna system in Bloomfield in 1985.


February. 1970 Schedule

1971 Hartford Times Article.

Courtesy of Ed Brouder

Above:  Letter received in 1968 from WEXT in response to a reception report.

Above: WDZK transmitter facility in 2008.  Phasor on left, AM and HD transmitter system on right.


1970


1971


1977 Article


Above:  Shortly after this station changed its city of license to Bloomfield, Ct they adopted a talk format with the call letters "WGAB".  In the process of looking for studio space in Bloomfield I came across Gabb Rd in that town which we thought would make a great location for WGAB.  Unfortunately it was not zoned for business and anyway the numbers didn't go high enough, 1550 Gabb Rd. didn't exist.  We moved into the Wintonbury Mall instead.   John Ramsey.

Above: After going dark for a good part of a year, Living Communications purchased the station, changed the calls to WLVX and moved the studio not to Gabb Rd, but to Bloomfield's Wintonbury Mall, about a mile away from the tower site. 2009 photo.

WRDM operated out of this building at 880 Maple Avenue in Hartford along with co-owned channel 13 television. 2009 photo.

Hibernia moved the WRDM studios to this building on Franklin Ave in Hartford. 2009 photo.

The Culbro Building at 630 Oakwood Avenue was the location of the studio from 1970-1988.  The building was demolished in the late eighties and as you can see in the picture above school buses are parked where the building used to be.


WDZK's Air Studio in Manchester, 2006


WGAB Logo, 1985

1

1550 Transmitter in West Hartford, 1984


1981 Transmitter Plant

-
WDZKs 6 towers in Bloomfield


On March 19, 2011 1550 came back on the air as WSDK.


The new WSDK air studio, 12 hours before the station signed
back on the air after being silent for close to 6 months.

Website Builder