WWPT Rocks 40 Years: The Prequel

This morning’s post previewed Saturday’s WWPT-FM 40-plus anniversary celebration.

I noted a bit of the Staples radio station’s back story. But folks who were there have a much better perspective.

Mark Potts goes back to the summer of 1971. He writes:

I remember playing frisbee against a concrete wall with crappy 45s … the night we raised the FM antenna tower at the Bayberry Nike site by the light of car headlights … zillions of copies of albums in the record library (like Big Star) that later turned out to be major collectors’ items … learning to bleep out certain songs in exactly the right places … cutting classes to mess around in the studio in the basement of the 7 building … good, good times!

Dan Chenok says:

My introduction to WWPT was through my older brother Dave, the program director. The station was in a spacious suite on the southern end of campus, with direct entrance from the outside and a large common area. The fact that my brother played music that included ’70s complex rock like Yes, Traffic and of course the Dead made me want to follow suit when I got to Staples 3 years later.

Well, 3 years later was the middle of Staples campus reconstruction. The cool studio became a hole in the exposed wall of the cavernous fieldhouse, which was either cold or hot and a bit scary — especially for a 10th grade DJ given the Friday night 9-12 slot. Friends came by, but mostly I talked to the occasional caller. I was always amazed when listeners from across the station’s coverage area, who had no idea we were a high-school operation, called because they liked a song.

Things got a lot better when as a junior the construction was completed. PT moved into a new and (at the time) modern studio just off the front entrance of the building. I secured a sought-after spot in the weekly lineup, thanks to a friendship with the prior occupants. The renowned Marc Selverstone and Mike Walmark bequeathed it to me.

The next two years were phenomenal. Each show included a tour of ’60s-’70s-’80s music, but never disco, pop or other music deemed inferior. Regular guests included Todd Weeks, Greg White, and Rob Hagebak.

Dan Chenok, Greg White and Todd Weeks, the summer before senior year.

Consistent with the long tradition of Thanksgiving weekend marathons, I joined the ranks of the midnight-4 a.m. shift both weekends. There were visits from current and former PTers in those shows.

No recounting of PT in that era would be complete without a tribute to Chuck Elliot, the general manager and a good friend. Chuck was intensely talented as a radio person on and off the mike, no doubt inspired by his famous radio father Win Elliot. One evening Chuck called the station during my show to compliment the music and commentary, which I still remember as Chuck was not one to praise radio prowess lightly.

Tragically, Chuck developed cancer shortly after we graduated. He left a bottle of champagne to Todd, Greg and me on a visit shortly before he died. I still have it. He left WWPT a stronger station, and its success over the years since owes a great deal to Chuck.

At the end of 3 years at PT, the station management came to my last show — still recorded on cassette tape at our home in Bethesda, MD, along with the hundreds of albums from which the music came — with a goodbye cake and party.  It was a great way to go out. And it’s great that PT is still a place for music and memories, over 3 decades later.

This photo was on the Class of 1981 website. It has nothing to do with WWPT, beyond showing the kinds of students who were there then, listening to music — on the radio, and at outdoor concerts.

Jeff Ruden adds some more thoughts.

I started out at WWPT during my 1st year at Staples back in 1978. We were in a pretty poor space. The student leaders of the station at that time included Jay DeDapper, who went on to become a newscaster on WNBC in New York. One guy had a job at Baskin-Robbins. There were several station meetings “after hours” in the store’s back room.

During my sophomore or junior year, the station moved into a brand new facility at the front of Staples. as part of major construction at the school. The new space included a control room and several offices.

However, we were in need of some newer equipment. I was finance director. I cold-called Mortimer Levitt, requesting $20,000. We met at his house, and while he was not prepared to write such a large check, he had an idea for a show.

Mortimer Levitt helped Jeff Ruden with WWPT, and individually.

It was to highlight how the same two hands could produce amazing rock as well as classical music, contrasting one song against another. He wrote us a check for $5,000, and we produced a few shows. This led to long-term friendship with Mortimer. He provided me a summer job during my senior year and college breaks at the stores he owned, the Custom Shop.

We also got local stores to become “sponsors.” While many retailers wrote checks to sponsor shows, at times we bartered. The B&G Army Navy store housed the Ticketmaster outlet, which led to an opportunity for concert tickets.

Happy Anniversary to WWPT!



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