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Boston’s Radio Scene – WERS Reigns

March 7, 2014

“WERS is my new river, River!”

Map of greater Boston

I’ve spent nearly all of my life in the greater Boston, Massachusetts area.

I’ve been listening to Boston radio stations since the late ’60s. As a teen, my friends and I listened to WRKO and WBCN, which had a reputation for the “underground” sound – whatever that meant. I think it was hard rock and cutting edge attitude. I remember that Charles Laquidara, who was a dj at BCN, was one of a kind. Perhaps Howard Stern got his inspiration from Laquidara.

In the ’60s and ’70s, there was also a radio station in Lawrence that we all listened to – WEEI. I think it was talk radio most of the time. But maybe on certain nights they played rock and roll and, as I recall, there was a call-in line for song dedications, you know, dedicated to the one you loved.

103.3 on our dial captured “the oldies” – tunes from the ’50s and ’60s and later, the ’70s. It was a constant in my life for 35 years. It had a great show Saturday nights, especially.

And during my 3rd and 4th decade in this life, I could count on the River, at 92.5 on the dial, to play the best music of any time. It was a mix of classic rock and new stuff that would become classic. They were the first to play a bunch of great new artists, including John Mayer. They had the best sound in the city for probably twenty-five years. And, their shining jewel was the Sunday morning show, Brunch By The River with Lisa Garvey, who adeptly controlling the turn-table. I don’t believe there was a more knowledgeable person in the whole of the Boston area than Lisa, when it came to modern jazz, rock and soul.

The Boston radio scene has changed dramatically in the last two years. And it’s killing me! It’s not that I don’t have other sources of music – I do. I have a six-cd player in my car that I use most of the time. And I listen to Pandora through my phone when I workout.

But when I want radio, I want good radio. And I’ve had to make major changes in my listening to achieve that – because Boston has totally changed its radio music.

First, the River (WHAT were they thinking?) got rid of Lisa Garvey. This stunned me and the station lost me as a fan.

Then, with no warning, 103.3, the oldies station, changed its whole tune and, overnight, began playing my least favorite kind of music – the nightclub vibe of pulsing synthesized music(?), with the whiney-on-the-verge-of-orgasm singing voices that are the now-a-day hip and hot club sound. When this happened, I thought I died and landed on Mars – where the terrain is barren. It was, emotionally, a very sad day for me…!

At the same time, the River changed its tune and now plays way too much vanilla. There is little of interest at that station. The quality of their music is unreliable, for the first time in decades. It’s a mixed bag and really hit or miss, with a lot of miss. It used to be pretty constant with its hits, especially in introducing new artists. (Many artists visited The River and would do live recordings of their hit songs, which The River would then add to their playlist. Great, great recordings.)

Now, believe it or not, all my hope for Boston radio hangs on the Emerson College radio station, WERS, at 88.9 on the Boston area dial, where college students resurrect the best of the oldies (Dylan, Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bob Marley, etc.). And they play the best talent of today, especially independent artists. It is what the River used to be, at least in part. And it’s become my favorite station in Boston.

Now and then I flip to North Shore Music at 104.9 (out of Gloucester, Mass.) where oldies from the ‘6os, ’70s and ’80s are played. It’s not the same at all as 103.3, but it’s a small consolation.

I don’t know if WERS has modeled itself on the former River on purpose or even if they are conscious of filling a huge void in Boston radio music. But they are doing a great job of it and I couldn’t be happier.

What I have to say to the River is, ” WERS is my new river, River!”

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