Tag Archives: WMMM

Remembering Mark Graham

Mark Graham — native Westporter, former radio personality, and noted softball player — died this week. He was 64.

His many friends mourn the loss of a larger-than-life personality. With his father, Red Graham, he owned WMMM and Minuteman Travel. Mark spent many years on air, when 1260 AM was Westport’s local station.

Mark Graham

He was a longtime “BOSS” figure. It stands for Boys of Summer Softball, a long-running Sunday morning game behind Town Hall. Mark always stood out, in his St. Louis Cardinals uniform.

He was familiar too at the Fairfield County Hunt Club, wearing his Cards jacket and a cowboy hat.

“Mark was a gentleman, someone whose company I always enjoyed,” says Alan Neigher. “His stories of Westport in the 1950s and ’60s were unmatched for detail, humor and irony.

Neigher also calls him “a kind and generous man.” His Graham Family Foundation helped numerous local charities, in arts, education, physical disabilities and sports. The fund was started by his parents, Red and Peggy.

Dick Kalt spoke often with Mark about the “challenges and fun” of running a radio station in town. Dick calls him “a warm and committed person, with a great sense of humor.”

Mark studied speech, dramatic arts and journalism at the University of Missouri. After working at various radio stations in New York and Connecticut, he spent 1987-97 as co-owner and operator of WMMM. In addition to broadcasting, he worked in sales, and as general manager.

The Cardinals connection came about when he was overnight news anchor at KMOX in St. Louis. He was heard in 44 states, and throughout Canada.

Radio played a part in Mark’s marriage too. He met his wife Angela while broadcasting from Saugatuck’s Festival Italiano. They were married in 1990.

In addition to his wife, Mark is survived by his son Harrison, who recently graduated from New York University.

Funeral services will be announced later. To leave an online condolence, click here.

Looking Back At An Unsung Hero: Snow Day Edition

Alert “06880” reader and native Westporter Seth Van Beever writes:

The unsung hero of every child in Westport on a snow day was John La Barca at WMMM. We listened closely to the alphabetical school closings announcements.

A snow day was all about going to Birchwood Country Club to go sledding.

Oh yeah. I remember. Every 10 minutes or so, John would start: Ansonia, Amity Regional, Bethel…

It was an agonizing wait. Who cared about Our Lady of Fatima? Did it even exist?

But then — right after “Weston…” we would hear “Westport.”

And all would be right with the world.

In addition to Birchwood, Winslow Park (pictured this past March) and Greens Farms Elementary School are great sledding spots. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

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.)