All WMMM, All The Time

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.

Westport’s station takes its place alongside other legendary Connecticut stations, including Bridgeport’s WICC, and WDRC and WPOP in Hartford.

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.)

18 responses to “All WMMM, All The Time

  1. Don Willmott

    I certainly remember the Bicentennial Quiz, in which John La Barca asked trivia questions about American history before school and encouraged kids to call in to win. I won on the question “What was George Washington’s mother’s maiden name? The prize: a ceramic minuteman statue which I can see from where I”m sitting right now!

  2. WMMM…we huddled around the kitchen radio to listen to the only source that I can recall for the news of a snow day! They covered a lot of towns…the wait could be long. Joel Barlow always seemed to get lucky on WMMM. Thanks Bill and Dan!

    • Those were the days. I think snow-day cancellations on the radio are the only reason anyone has ever heard of Our Lady of Fatima School.

  3. I was a WMMM regular listener. Mark Graham, a gentleman and radio pro, appeared in “Talk Radio”, a show I directed in Westport.

  4. …it has been said, but I get the warm fuzzies the minute I hear the name WMMM: it was the clarion call of freedom on Snow Days… and I just really figured out where ‘Joel Barlow’ was after all these years!

  5. John McCarthy

    John LaBarca reading the Westport School lunch menu was as entertaining and appetizing as anything on the Food Network today. If the food was only half as good as he made it sound!

  6. Dennis Jackson

    Note that WWPT actually preceded WMMM in 1959. When WMMM came on, WWPT was already operating at 1160 on the AM dial from the late Stuart Soroka’s house on Wake Robin Rd.

    A timer started a tape with a recorded show as soon as Staples let out so Stu and friends could drive home and take over “live” before the tape ended and there was “dead air.”

    In 1961, WMMM and WNLK staffers were helpful to the group that operated 1160/WWPT at Compo from studio in the “Y” and a newsroom in the basement The Westportter Herald/Town Crier, manned by News Director Gordon Joseloff.

    When WWPT(FM) was started in 1973, the students chose those call letters to honor their “pirate” forbears.

    See the WWPT page on Facebook for more history.

  7. Bob Lasprogato

    WMMM was one of the great local stations, and one of the few that I never worked at. Mark Graham and I were on the air together at WSTC/WJAZ Stamford. Great guy and a real pro. I worked at WNLK, WICC, WJAZ, WLAD, WREF and WNAB, and to this day I miss the local radio. format

  8. Gary Singer

    Hey Bob, is there an AM station at which you didn’t work? And didn’t I see you on the jury of a recent Law & Order – SVU? And when are you coming to Sarasota again?

  9. Where is Dennis Jackson’s autobiography?

  10. And whatever happened to the Swingin’ Rhythm King from WNLK?

    • so he wasn’t a figment of my imagination after all. can’t find anybody else who remembers Rhythm King!

  11. There was never a better time in my life than the 10 incredible years of Westport AM radio … a loooong list of “characters”, everyone of them! Not quite the last of the Mohicans, but we were close … long live AM 1260 WMMM.

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  13. Leo Motyka (Lee Moore "the duke of DooWop)

    I worked at 12 different radio stations from El Paso TX. to Springfield Ma. Worked locally at WNLK,WLAD, WNAB,WREF WDRN-FM AND WMMM. I never had more enjoyment than when I worked at WMMM, and its cast of chracters from JLB to Lenny Kerr and all those in between. As the song goes those were the days, my friend. Unfortunetly they did end. I played the oldies when they were newies. A big hello to Bill Defelice. Long live rock and roll.