WDMJ AM 1320 and WDMJ FM 95.7* (1965-1971) by Joe Hutchens
I worked at WDMJ in the 60s while in high school
and college. I worked part-time until I graduated from high-school, then worked full-time for about
two years while in college. One of my many jobs at the station included playing records at the Bishop
Baraga Friday night dances. (I also worked with Mike Aisner at WNMR radio and TV on the NMU campus
during this time.) I resigned and went into the service in late 1968.
The station was owned by Frank Russell, who also owned the local newspaper, The Daily Mining Journal. The station was located on the second floor of the newspaper building on Washington street in downtown Marquette. (See "Upper Peninsula Radio History" below.)
Here are some old photographs taken in the late 60s of me at WDMJ. On the left, I'm in the FM studio. On the right, I'm with Jim Amross and Paul Donovan in the AM studio.
Original 1968 WDMJ Letterhead
(Many pictures courtesy of Dale Leslie.)
The Voice of WDMJ, Eldon Wallace - Yes, fist-a-cuffs and body-slams by the players at the Palestra during a hockey game!
During one fracas, the action continued into the parking lot, so Eldon took his play-by-play microphone outside to follow the fight.
Joe Hutchens in the AM Studio - Photographs for the High School Newspaper - Bishop Baraga Dance Turntables
Mel Strughold and Nancy Emblem - Dale Leslie - Mike Aisner - Jim Amross
Paul Anick, Chief Engineer and Brian Yaroch, Announcer - The 3 Tower AM Transmitter Site
(Right photo: April, 1968 - Duluth, MN - NMU Speech Competition)
Far left, Steve Repola, WDMJ. Far right, NMU faculty members Mrs. Laurin and Byron Renz. (Mr. deep, deep voice.)
Local Media Hits
MARQUETTE, MI - The Mining Journal - September 22, 1971
Back row: David Sullivan - announcer/engineer, Robert Sands - national/local sales manager, Robert Luke -
general manager, Jim Amross - announcer, Jim Anthony - program director, Gil Heard - NMU sports
announcer, John Burke - announcer, Robert Manning - NMU audiovisual director, Joe Gagliardi - regional
sales manager, Rev Arthur C DeVries - religious program director, Paul Anick - chief engineer
Front row: Leo Fleury - bookkeeper, Darryl Kahnke - announcer, Eldon Wallace - station manager, Judy Carpenter - announcer/sales, Nancy Emblem - traffic/continuity, Patricia Nord - continuity, Michael Bar - announcer
MARQUETTE, MI - The Mining Journal - September 22, 1971
MARQUETTE, MI (WLUC TV6 - Upper Michigan's Source)
The Gates control board used at WDMJ from the late 1940s to 1980s. Jim Gleason, a former employee of the radio station, got the board back in the 90s to restore it, and in 2016 he decided to donate it to the Marquette History Center.
In Memory Of
This is a photograph of the late Paul Donovan and me taken at the old Bonanza Steakhouse in Marquette in 2008. It's been a few years since we worked together in real radio.
Here is a recording of Paul Donovan on WDMJ from 1970. YouTube Link
In memory of those who have moved on to that big radio
station in the sky!
Eldon Wallace (1912-1972)
Brian Yaroch (1946-1981)
Gary Bourgois (1947-2005)
Mel Strughold (1922-2006)
Jim Anthony (1938-2011)
Lynn Kovarik - Pat Kelly (1943-2013) Photo right
~WDMJ, WCAR, WKNR, WXYZ and WOW
Jim Amross (1945-2014)
Paul Donovan (1935-2016)
Leon Stalberger - Lee Steele (1939-2017) Photo far right
~WDMJ, WLUC-TV, WJMN-TV and WFRV-TV
Upper Peninsula Radio History
WDMJ began broadcasting as WBEO in the summer of
1931 on 1310 kHz, and it was owned by Lake Superior Broadcast Co. However, a temporary authorization
was given 9 years earlier, in 1922, to Northern State Normal School to operate a Marquette station using the
call WBI, but it may have been on-the-air for just a couple days in March.
The first stations to actually begin broadcasting in the Upper Peninsula appear to be the following: KFLB owned by Signal Electric Mfg. Co. in Menominee (1923-1925), WRAK established by Julius Flath and operated from the basement of Economy Light Co. in Escanaba (1926-1932), WLBY owned by Aimone Electric in Iron Mountain (1926), and WHDF founded by A.L Burgan, Charles C. McLeod and Paul Tinetti, utilizing their ham radio equipment on the third floor of Herman Brothers Jewelers in Calumet (1928-1978).
As youngsters in the 60s, most of us listened to
top-40 station WJPD in Ishpeming (now WIAN), but at night the station could not be heard in Marquette.
We quickly tuned to WLS or WCFL in Chicago as soon as the sun went down. We grew up listening to many
of the personalities on these two stations including Dick Biondi, Barney Pip, John Records Landecker and
WDMJ played top-40 for two or three hours each night in 1967 and 1968, and would broadcast live from the Bishop Baraga dance on Friday night. The remainder of WDMJ's broadcast day was devoted to adult easy listening.
On weekdays, WDMJ carried Don McNeill's Breakfast Club from ABC in Chicago. I can remember hosting "Hits for the Missis" from 11:30 to noon followed by thirty minutes of weather, news and sports. The weather was broadcast live from the weather bureau office on top of the federal building downtown on Washington Street. Eldon Wallace usually did state, local and national news. Lee Steele did sports.
Remember radio legend Paul Harvey? Every afternoon we would hear, "Hello Americans...standby for news!" In addition to, "And now, the rest of the story." I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at NMU and meeting him afterword. Truly a great broadcaster.
WDMJ would also broadcast local hockey, high school and college sports, and Detroit Tiger baseball. Yes, radio the way it was meant to be!
*WDMJ FM is no-longer licensed in Marquette. Here is FCC Data from the
Construction permit for new FM Broadcast Station 7/17/1964. Granted 7/14/1965.
License to cover CP 11/30/1965. Granted 3/3/1966
~I suspect this is when the station went on-the-air.
~My memory isn't THAT good and I was there!
~I remember "FM only" Zenith radios being handed out by the station as a promotion.
Modification of license to remotely control transmitter 3/19/1966. Granted 4/20/1966.
Voluntary assignment of license to Gospel Opportunities (WHWL) 10/6/1075. Granted 3/5/76.
I am interested in hearing from you if you can supply additional photographs and historical facts about WDMJ and its former staff. Please contact me at the AJ8MH email address on the bottom of this page, and I'll add to this site.
Northern Star Broadcasting
Country "Big Country"
Classic Rock "The Bear"
Oldies "Oldies 99.5"
02/08/2010 - Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan based Sovereign Communications has reached an agreement with
Northern Star Broadcasting to purchase their Upper Peninsula radio stations. The eleven station,
multi-million dollar acquisition will give Sovereign a total of seven radio stations in the Sault Ste.
Marie and Newberry area, five stations in Marquette and three in Iron Mountain.
02/08/2017 - Sovereign Communications continues to expand in the U.P. with the acquisition of WYKX-FM (104.7) and WDBC-AM (680) in Escanaba. Sovereign will have a total of seventeen stations in the Upper Peninsula.
My Short-lived Broadcast Career
I have always had an interest in broadcasting
since my days at our basement radio station in north Marquette with Greg Hill. Guess I was lucky to
get a job at WDMJ when I was just 15 years old. As mentioned, I worked at WDMJ in the 60s while in
high school and college. I worked part-time until I graduated from high-school, then worked full-time
for about two years while in college. I also worked at WNMR radio and TV on the Northern Michigan
University campus during this time.
I also worked part-time in 1970/71 for the American Forces Thailand Network in Nakhon Phanom, "The City of Hills" in Northeast Thailand.
I've added some MP3 recordings to this site from my short-lived broadcast career, and the first is from WROA in Gulfport, Mississippi.
I worked part-time for the station while in the service in 1970 playing Adult Standards / Middle of the Road music, and when I retired from the Air Force in late 1972, they offered me a full-time job. The station was in the process of increasing power to 5KW after adding an 8 tower directional antenna system.
The format also changed to Top-40 music with Bob Marshall as program director and morning personality. The staff also included Rob Aubert, Dennis Wayne, Ray Zoller, Gary Thieman and me. It was the last full-time job I ever had in broadcasting! (Sorry for the AM radio quality, but that's the way it was.)
I have also included a recording of Gary Thieman doing WROA's Lucky Number contest, and I can be heard in the studio! I produced the contest promo that's at the end of the recording. I was 24 years old.
Next, are recordings from the 80s when I was in Austin, TX. I was working at the Motorola Service Center and decided to try and land a job with Bob Cole at KOKE FM. To my surprise, he called me in for an interview and gave me a chance to do some part-time work. More like part-time fun! I really liked this format...
It seemed like every time I walked in the door, the station changed its image...and call-sign. When I left the station it was KKMJ - Majic 95 FM, and so far it's lasted for over twenty years. I didn't much like the music mix when we first went on-air, but it sounds like it has changed over the years. The reason for leaving the station was because my new real job with McCaw Communications required more attention.
Left are two pictures taken in 2009. The first is of me at WDMJ/WIAN and the second is me in the WJPD FM studio.
After retirement from AT&T Mobility in 2008, I moved back home and worked part-time for a year and a half at Northern Star Broadcasting as a board operator/announcer. Of course, I was paid near minimum wage. I even vacuumed and swept the floors, and it seemed forever before they would let me start voice-tracking on WJPD FM. It was something I had never done before!
(Voice-tracking is when a disc jockey prerecords his on-air show. It is then combined with songs, commercials, and other elements by computer to produce a product that sounds like a live air-shift. Voice-tracking is very, very common on many radio stations. It's a way for station owners to economically get, use and maximize good on-air talent. In fact, some of the announcers you hear on-air locally are nowhere near Marquette.)
1) The Rock of America WROA Gulfport
2) WROA Lucky Number Contest with Gary Thieman and Joe
3) KOKE FM Austin
4) Austin's Lite FM
5) Austin's Lite FM Cut 2
6) KKMJ Majic 95 FM Austin
7) Big Country WJPD FM Marquette
What are air-checks? Every time you pulled a shift, you always placed a cassette in the recorder, and every time you turned on your microphone, the tape would start recording. After your on-air shift, you would drop the cassette in the program director's inbox. Now, during your weekly or monthly meeting with the boss, you would have something to talk about. Either, "You're doing great." Or, "You'd better find another job!"
The Austin air-checks sound rather repetitive, but you have to remember that we played a lot of music and really didn't talk very much.
Joe Hutchens (AJ8MH)
On-air name: Joe McKay
Email address below.