WBMX, known on-air as "Mix 104-1," is a radio station with a hot adult contemporary format in Boston, Massachusetts. The format started at 98.5 FM on February 9, 1991, and moved to 104.1 FM, replacing WBCN, on August 12, 2009, to allow for the launch of WBZ-FM at 98.5 the next day. Its studios are located in Brighton, and its transmitter is atop the Prudential Tower.
The call letters WBMX (standing for Black Music EXperience) were originally assigned to 102.7 on the FM dial in Oak Park, Illinois (serving Chicago) from 1973 to 1988. (That station frequency is now home to R&B station WVAZ). The call letters were then assigned to 640 AM in Zeeland, Michigan until 1991, when they were transferred to 98.5 FM in Boston to reflect the station's "Mix" branding.
Origins at 98.5
The WBMX intellectual property originated on the 98.5 FM frequency, which signed on in October 1948 as WNAC-FM under the ownership of the Yankee Network division of General Tire and Rubber, which also owned WNAC (then at 1260 AM, now occupied by WBIX; moved to 680 AM in 1953) and WNAC-TV (channel 7, now occupied by WHDH). The station originally transmitted from WNAC-TV's tower in Medford, using a transmitter originally used for the Yankee Network's FM station on Mount Washington (which was originally considered a Boston station, but was eventually refocused to Portland, Maine), which operated from December 18, 1940, to September 1948 (when it signed off due to increasing costs and a lack of listener interest). As at most FM stations, WNAC-FM initially served as a full-time simulcast of WNAC. The station, along with General Tire's other broadcast holdings, came under the General Teleradio banner in 1952; the division became RKO Teleradio Pictures in 1955 and RKO General in 1959.
By December 1958, even though the station was still simulcasting WNAC, the call letters were changed to WRKO-FM, as RKO Teleradio sought to keep the WRKO call letters out of the hands of its competitors. While separate programming was inaugurated for half of the broadcast day in 1963 due to then-upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations prohibiting AM and FM stations from simulcasting for more than half of the day, this programming was initially a middle-of-the-road format identical to that of WNAC. A year later, WRKO-FM, along with WNAC-TV, moved to a new tower in Newton.
On October 12, 1966, WRKO-FM dropped its simulcast of WNAC (by then predominantly a talk station) and introduced a top 40 format reliant on automation. Playing the top hits of the day (including the number-one song in Boston every hour on the hour) and using recorded announcing altered to sound like a robot (since the station was positioned as "R-KO [pronounced "arko"], The Shy But Friendly Robot"), WRKO-FM quickly became the most popular FM radio station in the Boston area. As a result of this success, when WNAC dropped its talk format in favor of a live top 40 format on March 13, 1967, RKO General changed its call letters to WRKO. Its programming was then simulcast on WRKO-FM from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the "R-KO" programming continuing for the rest of the day.
WRKO-FM's top 40 programming came to an end in November 1968, when it joined sister stations KHJ-FM in Los Angeles and KFRC-FM in San Francisco in airing an automated soft rock format from Drake-Chenault Enterprises, "Hit Parade '68", which incorporated both current music and oldies. Along with the new format came a new call sign, WROR, as part an effort by RKO General to give their FM stations a distinct identity from their AM sister stations.
WROR switched to another Drake-Chenault format, "Solid Gold Rock and Roll", on November 1, 1970, evenly splitting the oldies and current music; in early 1973, the station went to a full-time oldies format (still playing a new song per hour and a couple recent hits an hour), eventually parting ways with Drake-Chenault later that year and adopting the name "The Golden Great 98" (Drake-Chenault's services were later utilized by WCOP-FM, now sister station WZLX, which competed with WROR in the oldies format from 1973 to 1974). Starting in March 1977, WROR gradually began to position the station as an AC station rather than oldies, and by September 1978 was more of a gold based adult contemporary station, leading to its branding changing to "The Great 98" and then "98-and-a-half." Station management felt that there was a hole in the market for an FM AC station to compete against WBZ and WHDH (now WEEI). Still, the station was mostly oldies from the 1960s, playing a couple currents and a couple recent hits an hour plus a couple of pre-1964 oldies as well.
After RKO General lost its license to operate WNAC-TV in 1982, WROR was forced to move to another tower in Newton, as the new owners of channel 7 (renamed WNEV-TV) did not lease space on its tower. However, in the wake of the loss of the license, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced in February 1983 that it would solicit competing applications for RKO's remaining stations, including WROR. In 1988, the station, along with WRKO, was acquired by Atlantic Ventures for $27.7 million, split between RKO and the challengers for the licenses.
In the 1980s, WROR during the week continued as a gold based AC station. The station played one to two currents an hour that were huge hits. They played several 1980s songs an hour, and several 1970s songs an hour. Nearly half the songs played were from the 1960s along with a pre-1964 oldie an hour. Weekends the station played strictly oldies mostly from the 1960s with a couple early-1970s songs an hour, plus several pre-'64 oldies as well. For a few months late in 1987 and early in 1988, WROR ran a smooth jazz/new-age music show in the evening. In 1989, WROR modified its oldies/AC format to "Bright Adult Contemporary" and changed its on-air identity to "ROR-FM." They stopped the oldies weekends, began playing more currents, eliminated nearly all pre-1964 oldies, and focused on 1970s and 1980s music. For a while, they continued their Saturday Night oldies show. However, after finding that listeners continued to perceive WROR as an oldies station, Atlantic Ventures decided to relaunch the station under a new identity. At Noon on February 8, 1991, after playing Roy Orbison's "It's Over", the station became "Mix 98.5" and shifted closer to a hot adult contemporary format heavy on Motown oldies and hot AC currents. The first song on "Mix" was "I Can't Help Myself" by The Four Tops. A few weeks later, the station took the WBMX call letters from an AM MOR station in Zeeland, Michigan which had been using them since signing on the previous year; this AM station received the WROR calls in return, but would drop them in 1993. The WROR-FM call letters are now used on a classic hits station in Boston at 105.7 FM owned by Greater Media.
Atlantic Ventures merged with two other radio groups, Stoner Broadcasting Systems and Multi Market Communications, on June 5, 1993, to form American Radio Systems. In the following years, like many hot AC stations, WBMX began to emphasize more modern rock music to the exclusion of the remaining oldies, and was considered one of the first "Modern Adult Contemporary" stations in the country.
American Radio Systems announced a merger with CBS Radio in 1997; WBMX was the company's only Boston station to be acquired by CBS in the deal, completed in June 1998, owing to CBS' existing presence in the market (ARS' other Boston stations were required to be sold off by either the FCC or the Department of Justice). CBS' radio stations, including WBMX, were spun off into a new public company, Infinity Broadcasting Corporation, in 1998; Viacom announced its acquisition of the publicly held stake in Infinity on August 15, 2000 (shortly after it merged with CBS Corporation), a transaction completed on February 21, 2001 (though Viacom, and CBS before the merger, had always held a majority stake in Infinity). When Viacom split into two companies on December 31, 2005, Infinity became part of the new CBS Corporation and reverted to the CBS Radio name.
In 2005, WBMX, along with WZLX and what was then Oldies 103.3, were rumored to flip to Adult Hits as "Jack FM"; had WQSX (now WEEI-FM) not flipped to the format as "93.7 Mike FM" on April 14, WBMX might have flipped to the format the next day as 98.5 Jack FM.
Switch to 104.1
On July 14, 2009, CBS Radio announced that WBMX would move from 98.5 FM to 104.1 FM, replacing WBCN (which signed on in 1958 as a classical music station but had been a rock station since 1968); these moves were made to launch a sports talk station, WBZ-FM, at the 98.5 frequency. As a result, the station added the "-FM" suffix on July 29, allowing CBS to temporarily place the WBMX call letters on the former WFNA (1660 AM) in Charlotte, North Carolina; additionally, during "Mix"'s final week on 98.5, it used the WBZ-FM call letters intended for the new station. WBCN's rock format moved to 98.5's HD2 subcarrier. WBCN's programming on 104.1 ended after midnight on August 12, 2009; WBMX then moved to 104.1 two hours later (the WBCN call letters were then transferred to the Charlotte station), with WBZ-FM launching the next day. The final song "Mix" played on 98.5 was "Move Along" by The All-American Rejects, while the first song "Mix" played on 104.1 was "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon.
Mix 104.1 (and the previous Mix 98.5) is one of the most honored radio stations in the country, and has earned more major radio awards than any other Hot AC station in history. The station was named "Hot AC Station of The Year" 9 times from 1997 through 2009. Former Program Director Greg Strassell was named "Hot AC Program Director of The Year" 9 times; Long time Music Director Mike Mullaney earned "Hot AC Music Director Of The Year" 5 times; in 2010, new morning team Karson & Kennedy were named "Hot AC Morning Show of The Year" of 2009 by FMQB magazine.
HD radio subchannels
|1||Mix 104.1||Hot Adult Contemporary||Simulcasts the main analog signal.|
|2||The 80s Channel||'80s hits|
|3||Mercy Rock||Christian Rock|
|4||The Sky||New-age talk|
WBMX-HD1 simulcasts the analog signal of WBMX as Mix 104.1.
WBMX-HD2 runs an all-1980s format as "The 80s Channel."
WBMX-HD3 airs "Mercy Rock", a Christian Rock format.
WBMX-HD4 airs CBS's "Sky Talk", a new-age talk format featuring psychics, life coaches et al.