Everyone is an expert on something.
The Rain Man knew that Qantas never crashed.
I’m the world’s greatest authority on the history of Staples High School.
And Bill DeFelice knows WMMM.
Back in the day — before XM, before iPods, before even WWPT-FM — there were things called “community radio stations.” People tuned in to a local frequency for music, news, sports, weather, local happenings — whatever.
Westport’s station was WMMM. A dinky 1000 watts, it signed on for the 1st time in 1959 (1260 on your AM dial). That moment is now immortalized by DeFelice on the web — ironically, one of the new forms of media that helped kill local radio — at a site called CTRadioHistory.org.
DeFelice — a former chief engineer for WMMM, who listened to that station and its companion, WDJF-FM, as a youngster — was there when WMMM gave up the ghost in 1997. Having been given a collection of reel tapes, along with the station’s scrapbook from the late ’60s through mid ’90s, he created the tribute site a dozen years ago.
In its day, WMMM was something. From the Save the Children radio auction to Great Races; from Festival Italiano to the Oyster Fest; from the Italian House Party to John LaBarca’s trips (as Santa) to deliver holiday gifts to the Southbury Training School, DeFelice remembers it all.
His website is a labor of love. Geeks will go gaga over his description of control boards, turntables, cartridge tape decks, compressors, microphones and transmitters.
Old Westporters will chuckle at his list of format changes — remember “comedy radio” in 1986? (The shelf life of the 3 Stooges and George Carlin was not very long.)
And in 1989 the “business radio” format flopped when the syndication service — the Financial Broadcasting Network — went, yes, bankrupt.
Normal people can appreciate DeFelice’s website too. There — on page after page — is the history of both American broadcasting, and one small suburban town.
WMMM is no longer (though the FM station lives on, as 50,000-watt WEBE 108). WMMM’s last owners — the Graham family — donated WMMM to Sacred Heart University. In 2000, the call letters were changed to WSHU-AM.
But thanks to CTRadioHistory.org, memories of WMMM will never die.
(Fun fact: The call letters WMMM stood for “Westport’s Modern Minute Man” — in honor of the famous statue near Compo Beach.)