Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Nestled in the burbs of Boston

WBRS 100.1
at only 25 watts very few people outside Waltham, Massachucetts know of their greatness.
My current current favorite show: "Jarring transitions"

They take the primary fault of college radio and make it into a tractable theme. Ignoring the traditional radio goal of having listeners, the DJ transforms their two hour time slot into a personal mixtape. The brave listener must stumble from song to song awkwardly tying to keep the thread. Its's brazen and arrogant. Obviously they are headed for the big time.

WBRS started originally in 1968 as a radio club as a carrier current signal available on campus-only. In the early 1970's WBRS obtained a "Class D FM" 31 watt license from the FCC on 91.7 FM. As was the case with all Class D stations, they were forced to change frequencies to 100.1 by the FCC in 1979.

Anecdotally I can also contributed to the actual definition of the class "class D" license: With the help of local Boston engineer Dana Puopolo, WBRS received a waiver from the FCC in 1995 to run at 25 watts TPO to maintain the 25 watts ERP. The differnce being that of the remaining four antenna bays, the top two are for the primary transmitter. The bottom two are for a backup transmitter. Minor for certain but an interesting historical footnote,. if it is true.


  1. I have a show on WBRS.

    It's nice to know someone noticed us.

  2. thanks for listening to us! always welcome to call up and who knows, ask for a t-shirt!

  3. Jesse Richman4:53 PM

    as a former WBRS DJ, let me just say you'd be surprised as to how many people might actually be hearing that little 25 watt signal. Things have changed over the last few years with the advent of a commercial station broadcasting at 100.1FM in Worcester, but prior to that (thanks to the direction our antennas were transmitting and the fact that they're located on one of the highest points in the metro Boston area) WBRS could be heard (and occasionally still can be) throughout Boston proper. Legend has it that about 15 years ago we were actually hit with a heavy FCC fine for interfering with the radio tower at Logan Airport.

    WBRS also has (or at least so I was told a few years back) the largest library of vinyl in New England, as well as an archive of live recordings that goes back thirty years and includes rare early performances of groups like G Love and Special Sauce. (We can also proudly say we had our studio smeared with feces by GG Allin during one of those performances ;)

    Still, perhaps WBRS' biggest contribution to college radio has been that of two of our former DJs who, upon graduation from Brandeis, headed down to NYC and founded perhaps the most important organization in college radio, CMJ.

    over my 4 years as a BRS DJ, I had the pleasure of hosting (at one time or another) shows dedicated to new Rock, Country/Bluegrass, African music, Eastern European folk music, Reggae, Israeli/Jewish traditional music and more, as well as a number of our infamous All-Genre-All-Nights, 4 hour blocks from 2 to 6 AM that I usually filled with full album sides, old punk 45s, and whatever other oddities I found languishing on the shelves. "Something For Everyone" indeed!

  4. I would love to hear more about the founding of CMJ. Are you refering to Bobby Haber? Please email me more details, I'd love to post about that.

  5. Jamie K. Branson12:41 AM

    Jamie K. Branson here. I have done a show on WBRS since 1999. I do 2 - 6 AM on Thursday morning. Not quite what you'd expect on a college station, as my show is Top 40. But the variety rivals any commercial station. Just recently, "Mike" and "Jack" formats have been appearing in cities. I have been doing thatr format for years!