Thursday, September 09, 2010

WMAZ and Professor Fountain

I first read about WMAZ because of a claim that they aired the first soap-box derby on the radio in 1937.I could not corroborate that tale, but the rest of the story was still interesting...

WMAZ first appears in White's Radio log in their 7th revised edition published in 1925 at 100 watts, at 1150 kc. This station started out as 4XL an experimental radio station at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia in 1910. The United States. Dept. of Commerce lists it in a 1915 directory. They note it's wavelength as "variable." I cant confirm the 1910 date from their own biography. but it is certain that station became WMAZ in 1922.  It was supervised by Professor C.R. Fountain.  The National University Extension Association published a list of college radio stations in 1925, they list C.R. Fountain. It's my only corroboration for his existence. Mercer University lists Josiah Crudup as helping build its original radio tower in 1923.  Both were physics professors. Fountain is not mentioned at all on the Mercer University website, but Crudup wrote a paper that at least records his role in the founding of the station. It's early broadcasting schedule, even after 1922 was described as erratic.
"WMAZ first went on the air during the earlier part of June 1921 to broadcast the commencement exercises of Mercer University with a 10-watt set. The station was silent from then until the following October, when its power was increased to 50 watts, and programs were again sent out...  and on June 7, 1922, once again the commencement exercises of the University were broadcast... The general routine work of the operation of the station was done by Ernest Hulsey and Josiah Crudup, under the direction of Dr. Fountain."
But the one-sheet but Crudup contains errors. It dates the 4XL license to February of 1923.  That's a full 13 years later than the Dept of Commerce listed the calls. He does later cover the conversion of the station from college station to commercial station.
"During the summer and fall of 1926, WMAZ did not go on the air. During the fall of 1927, the Junior Chamber of Commerce of Macon took ownership of the property and moved the studio to a new location in the business district of Macon. The transmitter was left in the chapel building on the Mercer campus. Since that time, the station has been leased to a local broadcasting company and has continued to operate as WMAZ."
Whoever Professor C.R. Fountain was, he was gone by 1927. The transmitter stayed on the Mercer campus until 1935. Still a daytimer in 1937, it became a CBS Radio affiliate.In the 1930s it went stereo and went to 10,00 watts.  In 1947, they launched a TV service, WMAZ-TV on Channel 13 which simulcast much of it's programming on WMAZ-AM. They carried the Hayloft Jamboree in those days, hosted by gene "Uncle Ned" Stripling and his Combo. the simulcast put neds face in the living-room and his band on the car stereo.  Ned had previously been on WSB. In the 1960s 50,000 watts and it launched The Georgia Radio Monitor Program. More here.
In 1996, the call letters were changed to WMWR (callsign to have stood for Macon-Warner Robins), but a year later, the station was sold as part of a group purchase by U.S. Broadcasting. At that time, the station changed to its current callsign (WMAC). In 2002, U.S. Broadcasting sold this station as part of a group purchase by Cumulus Media, and to this day maintains its News/Talk format. the WMAZ callsign after a long tenure in Chicago, are presently available.