WCOP (was: Boston Radio Studios)

markwa1ion@aol.com markwa1ion@aol.com
Wed Jun 2 12:04:03 EDT 2010

Maybe the choice of WCOP at Lincoln Lab rather than (boring old) WNAC 
in the late '50s had more to do with program content than signal.

I live about 7 or 8 miles due north of WWDJ ex-WCOP 1150 (and 3 miles 
north of WRKO ex-WNAC 680).

The night signal on 1150 has quite variable over the years.  For 
several years (early '80s) it was strong here and also good going 
around the compass a bit more to the west into Bedford.

Later on the signal became much weaker and CKOC from Ontario was giving 
it quite a bit of interference at night.

A friend of mine, Bob Isenstein (KN1A) said he did some consulting for 
the 1150 operation in the '80s because measurements were indicating 
that the nulls north and northwest weren't anywhere near as tight as 
they were supposed to be (though northeast, southwest, and due west 
still seemed reasonably suppressed).

The result of his investigation showed that parts of the ground system 
were corroded and, in some cases, completely disconnected.  How long 
this condition had existed I couldn't say (but maybe as far back as the 
'60s?).  After the necessary maintenance work was done, nulls became 
much closer to what they are supposed to be.

There are still some nights when the 1150 signal is stronger than on 
other nights here, so the null depth or azimuth is likely to be 
affected by water level at the site.  In general things have been 
fairly consistent since the 1470 diplex operation commenced: likely 
additional measurements and maintenance were done as part of that work. 
  When that effort was underway, 1150 went essentially non-directional 
at night for maybe a week and then the null was back.

V-Soft says that 1150 is 7.07 mV/m day, 1.55 mV/m night here or a 
reduction of about 13 dB.  This agrees reasonably close to what I am 
observing using Perseus and SDR-IQ "software defined receivers" with 
accurate signal strength metering.  The night signal usually overrides 
the co-channel stuff though I would only rate reception as 
"entertainment quality" about 75% of the time after dark.

At Lincoln Labs near Route 128 and the Lexington, Bedford, and 
Burlington border area I would have a hard time believing that 680 is 
not the strongest signal.  Even if they are nulling some that way, 
you're only about 3 miles from the towers.  Even out to the Route 2 and 
495 junction in Littleton, WRKO is reasonably playable at night with 
maybe just hints of 660 WFAN IBOC and snippets of co-channel Toronto, 
Raleigh, San Juan, Baltimore, etc. creeping into the background during 
audio pauses.  670 (Chicago / Cuba) and 690 (luckily no more Montreal) 
adjacents do not factor in to any degree.

WCOP seemed like the strongest signal where I was in Arlington from the 
'50s to the '70s with WNAC/WRKO a close second.  V-Soft for Arlington 
02474 gives WRKO the edge but that's based on the center of town, about 
a mile farther from 1150 than where I was on the southwest corner of 
Menotomy Rocks Park and a few hundred feet from Route 2.  There isn't 
any distance difference with 680, if anything Turkey Hill being more in 
the way on the route from where I was to Burlington (versus from the 
center of town to there) may have shaved a bit off their signal coming 
my way.

WCOP was very popular at the Brackett Elementary School where some kids 
would use "rocket radios" (that didn't need batteries) to receive its 
big signal by clipping onto metal classroom desks.  That was bad enough 
for the teachers then.  Today we have iPods and smartphones - no wonder 
teachers get frustrated!

WMEX and WBZ were of course also well-known then (ca. 1961) but WCOP 
ruled the after-school hours with the Ed Mitchell show.  He'd 
progressively slow down and "kill" songs he didn't like such as the 
weepy tragedy hit "Jimmy Love" by Cathy Carroll, where the teen girl's 
boyfriend gets zapped by lightning right before they were going to get 
married.  Mitchell inserted comedic Stan Freberg and Spike Jones audio 
clips liberally in his shows, along with sound effects - dogs, 
gunshots, trains, wolf-whistles, bedspring noises and so on - that 
seemed the same as those on a Radio Shack sound effects / stereo demo 
record I had.  How he pulled off all this sound-bite tomfoolery before 
computers and MP3 files I'll never know.  I wish I had some airchecks 
of his shows.  Ginsburg gets all the acknowledgements - and he is 
certainly due them - but few seem to remember Ed Mitchell of that same 
era.  Most likely this is because WCOP "went square" (as kids said) 
sometime in '62 or early '63 while WMEX prospered as "the" Top 40 
station with just more-adult-sounding WBZ as competition until the rise 
of 'RKO in 1967.  WHDH's Jess Cain and Bob Clayton didn't matter to 
kids much: way too much Buddy Greco, Lawrence Welk, etc. and virtually 
no soul / funk or anything too guitar-heavy such as '63 proto-punk / 
garage smashes "Louie Louie" and "Surfin' Bird".

WMEX ruled at the popular beaches - Nantasket, Revere, Wollaston, 
Nahant, Castle Island, Carson - where its signal from N. Quincy was far 
stronger than WCOP's.  "Temptation" by the Everly Bros., "The Mountains 
High" by Dick and DeeDee, "Dum Dum" by Brenda Lee, and quite a few 
other songs always bring back roller-coaster, arcade, swimming, and 
sunning memories of WMEX blasting out speakers at all the local beaches 
in the summer of '61.

A number of my classmates (and I) listened to out-of-town stations at 
night.  WABC, WINS, WKBW, and WPTR were the big ones.  NYC stations in 
particular played soul hits by James Brown, Rufus Thomas, Solomon 
Burke, Chuck Jackson, and others that seemed to be shut out of most 
Boston playlists other than WILD's.

On the subject of DJ's few remember, Chuck Stevens out of WPAW (550) in 
RI was at least as zany and way-out-there as the Wolfman, Arnie, 
Murray-the-K, and many of the other famous ones.  I have no clue where 
to find programming like this anymore, maybe on a web radio station or 
Sirius/XM?  Most "regular" radio now is a complete waste of time as far 
as any "fun factor" goes.

Mark Connelly, WA1ION
Billerica (Pinehurst), MA
South Yarmouth, MA

I worked at MIT Lincoln Lab on Wood St in Lexington (near Hartwell
Ave) from 1956 to 1958. That location is at the opposite end of
Lexington from the 1150 transmitter. The women in the lab had WCOP on
constantly; the signal was very strong, although it's hard for me to
believe that WNAC 680 didn't put an even stronger signal into that
location. WNAC was DA-1 back then using what is now the WRKO night
pattern. Could we have been behind the WNAC pattern? (Don't think so.)
I can't believe that WCOP put a really strong signal into Lincoln Lab
after sundown (the 1150 night pattern is much more restrictive to the
northwest than is the day pattern), but I don't recall trying to check
out my hyporthesis either. The obvious test would have been to catch
the pattern change on my car radio before I left the parking lot on my
way home.

Dan Strassberg (dan.strassberg@att.net)
eFax 1-707-215-6367

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