First Listen: “Z62” WZON Bangor, Maine

620 The Pulse Retro Radio Z62 WZON BangorI’ve been in a lot of Facebook and e-mail group discussions about KQV Pittsburgh. A month after going dark, KQV has been sold and will likely return to the air, but from a new transmitter site, which will make it essentially a suburban AM in its own market. That led to a recent group discussion about how few AMs have the footprint within a sprawling market to be anything more than a rimshotter. Then we started talking about the possible demise of the aircheck site, and the unlikelihood that anybody younger than us would care about the demise of ‘60s/’70s top 40 culture. It was not a cheerful discussion.

But don’t get all existential yet. A few hours later, news broke that WZON Bangor, Maine, the liberal talk station owned by author Stephen King, had gone into one of its regularly scheduled Oldies weekends and never come out. King, who bought former heritage Top 40 WLBZ at a time when AM music was mostly petering out elsewhere in the ‘80s, had shown himself to be somebody who would do something contrarian as a labor of love. (And we’ve already had a few of those in the last year or so—KONO-AM San Antonio, WGH Norfolk, Va., WTOB Winston-Salem, N.C.

When I listened on the evening of Super Bowl Sunday, Z62 was hosted. The change was sudden enough that TuneIn thought they were still running a radio drama show called, ironically, “When Radio Was.” Musically, the station was mostly ‘60s—calling-card enough for some readers—with a handful of early ‘70s that tended more to the AC’ish side. But these were the first hours. And there aren’t a lot of broadcast radio stations where the music teaser begins with, “Coming up, we’ve got the Critters.”

Having just written about Little Steven’s Underground Garage, I’m inclined to think the greatest potential for somebody doing Oldies on AM can think beyond a local franchise. A station operated by Stephen King, with jocks, doing old-style CHR formatics that just happens to be in Bangor, Maine has potential—depending on how it evolves, and just how contrarian its owner feels. (Besides the challenges of operating any news/talk station, WZON had also just lost local rights to the Red Sox, which likely made Oldies the easier move.)

Here’s the station, which is now running its ‘80s CHR jingles again, just before 9 p.m.:

  • Seals & Crofts, “Summer Breeze”
  • 1910 Fruitgum Company, “Simon Says”
  • Wayne Fontana & Mindbenders, “The Game of Love”
  • Sam & Dave, “Hold On, I’m Coming”
  • Gary Lewis & Playboys, “Sure Gonna Miss Her”
  • Captain & Tennille, “Love Will Keep Us Together”
  • Righteous Brothers, “Unchained Melody”
  • Gary Wright, “Dream Weaver”
  • Stevie Wonder, “For Once In My Life”
  • Critters, “Mr. Dieingly Sad”
  • Beatles, “All You Need Is Love”
  • Association, “Along Comes Mary”
  • Billy Joel, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)’
  • Dorothy Moore, “Misty Blue”
  • Byrds, “Mr. Spaceman”
  • Yardbirds, “I’m A Man”
  • Herman’s Hermits, “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”
  • Three Dog Night, “Out In The Country”
  • Neil Diamond, “Shilo”
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  1. rickb says

    This looks like they mashed up a station centered on 1966-67 with a ’70s format. Nothing from 1969-71 except the Three Dog Night (not exactly a defining song of the era) and the Neil Diamond (a hit in ’70 but written and first recorded earlier). Seems like an uneasy blend. Maybe it’s just the small size of the sample.

  2. Bob Walker says

    When I was a kid growing up in Central Maine, Z-62 (WLBZ) was my favorite radio station. Late 70’s/Early 80’s flame-throwing Top 40 and later I remember the 66 WNBC jingles with the chimes (WLBZ is the call-letters of Bangor’s NBC-TV station so it made sense).

    It gets dark so early in Eastern Maine, that they would drop power before 4pm in Dec/Jan. Our school bus driver would have to change the station when they dropped out … to country (nooooo!) 🙂

    1. Charles Everett says

      “Out in the Country” and “Shilo” were good-size hits in New England, so props to Z62 for not just relying on national charts.
      And yes, it does get dark very early in Maine during the winter. Bangor AMs go to night pattern at 4 PM in December and 4:15 PM in January.

  3. Theater of My Mind says

    I’m pretty sure I have some WZON TV spots from the 80s on VHS tapes somewhere, right after Stephen King bought it. The used to advertise on a late night music video show aired weekends on Bangor TV that I got on cable. I remember the logo had blood dripping off the call letters and ‘ZON’ represented King’s most famous novel at the time , the ‘Dead Zone’. Format was top-40 and/or rock on AM. Hmm, I’ll have to dig through the basement to see if I can find them.

  4. borderblaster says

    Worth a listen. I tend to get my 60s oldies fix from iHeart (I know, I know)’s Real Oldies Channel based in Cincinnati but I’m always looking for something new to listen to at work.

    Hey there’s WZON and the famous Bangor Maine Police Department Facebook Page (and the Duck of Justice). Maybe 2 good things out of Maine.

  5. mrradioguy says

    They’ve been doing oldies on the weekend for he last 2 years, so someone over at ‘ZON needs to get Tune-In to update the schedule, so there was nothing sudden about the format change. When their overnight show (Jon Grayson) ended national syndication, they replaced it with the oldies format. The only thing different about going music full time is they dropped American Top 40 the 80s version & dropped all the 70s classic rock & 80s cuts, since they already have direct competition from WGUY. There’s absolutely NO press about this in the local media, so that should tell you what the market thinks of the change. They just lost the Red Sox broadcasts & dropped 3 national shows, it was so bad they were rerunning Thom Hartman in the evenings. Stephen King seems to be getting bored with radio…..

    1. Charles Everett says

      Here’s what Stephen King owns through The Zone Corporation: Classic Rock on a full-market FM with a double-digit share. Adult Alternative on a rimshot FM plus in-town translator. Then the AM that’s now Oldies full-time.
      It’s not the 1960s where every owner was restricted to one station per market.

  6. northernexposure says

    Can you make one post without an insult? I’m sure anyone posting on this website can see what the current year is and is aware that Mr. King is allowed to own more than one station to a market.

    1. elcartero says

      But who knew King owned more than one station? I didn’t (or I had forgotten). Remember, he bought AM 620 more or less on a lark back in the ’80s, to have a station where he could hear his favorite AC/DC songs.

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