Revised on April 8th, 2008
OnDecember 29th, 1968 at 20 minutes past midnight Atlantic Time Disc Jockey ”CharlieBrown” looked out on the terrace behind the control panel in the WBMJ 11-90studio in the penthouse atop the San JuanDarlington hotel apartments, and loaded the cartplayer with PAMS’”Sonosational” News Jingle: ” WBMJ eleven-ninety:twenty twenty news is now!" He pressed the button for the morse bleepintroducing the first news story and announced: “Charlie Brown 20/20 news theseare the headlines after 12.”
Little would he know that on the other side ofthe Atlantic Ocean, a teenager had been glued to his radio all night triggeredby thefrequent Pams jingles and ”20/20” news bulletins introduced by that familiarjingle so well known from ”Radio London” the years before just over 50 kcs downthe dial.
After all, “Disc and Music Echo” and “SwedenCalling Dxers” that autumn had carried notes telling about a new offshorestation called “Radio Marina”, a project with a ready radio ship sitting inMiami said to be led by a certain John Dane, and the AM channel used was veryclose to that left by “Radio Caroline South” on 1187 kcs half a year before.Now another American voice was speaking there instead of the great “BudBallou”(Howie Castle)of Syracuse fame!
So the initial thought had been that this was anew pirate station. After many hours of listening
Yes,”Charlie Brown” and WBMJ made agreat impression on fans of the former offshore station (I was one) overChristmas 1968, as the two stations seemed to sound very similar. "BIGL" having closed in August 1967. WBMJ and Brown had been picked up out ofnowhere, as a new station of 1968 it was not listed anywhere, but I found outby listening to the ads!
WBMJ wasowned by Bob Hope’s Mid-Ocean Broadcasting Company, and set up by its excellentGeneral Manager, the late Bob Bennett in 1967-1968.
BobHope entertaining US airmen at Earls Colne AFB in the UK in 1943. Picture:Stars and Stripes?
Hereis the movie poster for the comedy ”Call me Bwana” starring Bob Hope and AnitaEkberg, 1963.
BobHope’s WBMJ has just gone on air in Puerto Rico and is picked up inScandinavia. And here he is at the same time again entertaining the troops, inPhu Cat, Vietnam, Christmas 1968. Picture: Clif Lines
WAPAand WBMJ had adjacent transmitting sites in Guaynabo as well as entries in theBroadcasting Yearbook, here is the 1969 edition.
I reportedthe station after the December 28th, 1968 reception, but did not have a reply.I did get a QSL card later, however, for a later report, posted in San Juan onOct.8th, 1971. I have no notes of this in my log, but I clearly remember alsothis reception on a "barefoot" (no external antenna) Tandbergtransistor!
Withits distinctive sound and top modulation the station was frequently picked upin Norway. QSL cards were firstsigned by Chief Engineer Manolo Perez, and later by Johnny…
Listento 4 of the PAMS ”Series 18” ”Sonosational” jingles
(Don’tforget to use the ”back” button after you’ve listened!)
Thecompilation is published here solely for historical purposes with the generoushelp of Norman Barrington
and thegenerous permission of Jonathan Wolfert of Jam Creative Productions Inc. ofDallas
protectedunder copyright by Pams Productions Inc. of Dallas
OlleAlm, of ArcticRadio Club, Sweden comments:
When old time DXer LarsRydén visited San Juan radio stations in mid 1967, Bob Bennett had left WKYN630 to become VP and Manager of WBMJ. At that time WBMJ, owned by Bob Hope, wasunder construction with studio space rented at Hotel Darlington, Santurce. AtWKYN Bob Bennett had served as Program Director. He was the one who signed myQSL for WKYN in January 1964. The station went on the air sometime in mid 1968,first European logs in September 1968, after that a regular catch.
DavidGleason,California, NRC-AM takes up the story.
WBMJsigned on in 1968 under general manager Bob Bennett, who continued to managethe station through 1980 when Bob Hope's Mid Ocean sold to record impresarioJerry Masucci.
From 1968to roughly 1972, WBMJ was an English language Top 40 station, with allannouncing and music in English. Spots were mostly in Spanish, though. In 1972,WBMJ switched to Spanish jocks and a mix of 90% English music with some Spanishpop hits, under the name of Radio Rock. Radio Rock became #1 very quickly,staying there through much of the rest of the 70's, challenged seriously onlyby WKAQ with its Spanish Top 40 and, later, WQII, with its Spanish Hot A/Cformat.
Thereasoning for the format was simple: all through Latin America, American musicwas popular. A really tightly done Top 40 with US hits would be an attractiveproposition. However, all advertising in PR tended to be in Spanish, so thespots were in Spanish. Even in 1968, there were less than 100,000"Continentals" living in PR; everyone else was a Spanish speakerfirst... Many knew English, though. The station, however, never got into thetop stations in ratings, usually registering around 7th or 8th.
GM BobBennett was a veteran of US Top 40 radio when he moved to Puerto Rico andstarted building WBMJ. The station was simply another iteration of the provenTop 40 format from the mainland. Since the Island of Puerto Rico is a USterritory, it was natural to use mainland announcers and jingles and, ofcourse, follow religiously the Billboard record charts. Since the culture shockof living in PR was hard on the jocks, they seldom lasted more than a year. Onthe other hand, there were several totally bilingual Puerto Rican jocks whowere there for a lengthy period, speaking English on a station in Puerto Rico!
WBMJwas a sign on. It took nearly a year to get the directional pattern to work.Originally licensed at 10 kw day and night, they had to reduce power to 5 kw atnight to get the system to proof, since the site, still in use, is surroundedby rocky small mountains to the West of the towers, which are in a riverbed.The studios, from sign on in 1968 to 1980 were in the Penthouse of theDarlington (which often went bankrupt becoming the Borinquen, and later, GranBahía Hotel) in the Miramar section of San Juan with an impressive view of theSan Juan Bay and Old San Juan and the Condado hotel area. Beautiful.
Thisis where WBMJ came from: The San Juan Darlington Hotel. Photo: Unknown.
The adsfor the Darlington were part of the ads for the rent trade the station had. Thestation only moved when the hotel finally closed down and was shuttered around1980. The hotel was a tourist hotel, but it was not on the beach, not nearrestaurants, and across the street from the city's most famous bordello,
I onceinterviewed Charly Brown to work at WUNO; he was feeling underpaid at WBMJ andwas trying to learn Spanish… There have been so many Charly Browns in US radioI really doubt that anyone could figure out who he was now. Bennett died in theearly 90's, and the local English language jocks like Héctor Ortiz are also nowdead.
WBMJbecame a salsa oldies station in about 1981 as Exitos 1190 and then,eventually, became religious under the ownership of the operators of WIVV fromPuerto Rico's Vieques Island. It is religious now, mostly in English.
In theyears I managed stations in San Juan, I considered Bob Bennett both a friend anda worthy competitor. WBMJ, especially as Radio Rock, was a good station andbrought up the standards of radio on the Island.
Davidhas told more of his experiences in Puerto Rico here:
And thenit’s over to Patrick Crumhorn in Texas, who sent me a most informative email inSeptember 2004:
I justcame across your page on WBMJ 1190 and have a couple of pieces of data to add.
Ilived in San Juan as a teenager from late 1968 until January of 1974. Needlessto say, WBMJ was always on my radio for much of that period (along with whatwas then the Armed Forces Radio station from San Juan's Fort Buchanan army baseat 1030 kHz - long since replaced by a commercial broadcaster - WOSO).
I knewseveral of the personnel at WBMJ over the years: Charlie Brown, Davy O'Donnell,Junior Juncos, Bob Bennett and Bill Thompson. Thompson's mother owned"El Disco de Oro" in the late '60s and early '70s, a smallrecord store in Old San Juan that was the main place to go for"underground" and alternative music - what was later to be named"album rock" I suppose. I worked there briefly one summer.
"In1972, WBMJ switched to Spanish jocks and a mix of 90% English music
I'mpretty sure that switchover must have happened after January of 1974. Istill have clear memories of WBMJ continuing to be an English-language stationuntil after I left the island. I know that by the time of my first tripback, in the Summer of 1975, the station had switched to Spanish and become "Radio Rock," but thishappened later than Mr. Gleason says.
"Ionce interviewed Charly Brown to work at WUNO; he was feeling underpaid at WBMJand was trying to learn Spanish… There have been so many Charly Browns in USradio I really doubt that anyone could figure out who he was now."
Notsure what happened to Charlie (who was indeed one of the best jocks anywhere atthe time, I think), but if it helps, his real name was Tim Schafer (may havebeen spelled Schaffer). I know he worked briefly for a Virgin Islandsstation, too.
I alsowent to high school with Janet Luttrell, who now heads up the missionary radiocompany that owns WBMJ and WIVV. WIVV was already a religious stationowned by the Luttrells during the 1968-1974 period I lived there. It wasstrange to find out many years ago that WBMJ was now part of her operations and was doing full-time religiousbroadcasting. Quite a change from the good old days of Hendrix, the GuessWho, etc.
The jocksat WBMJ inspired me to get into radio, and I worked briefly in San Juan forWIAC-FM, who were experimenting with an English-language"underground" format - only lasted for 6 months or so before theywent back to simulcasting the AM station. I called myself "PatBrown" in homage to my inspiration, WBMJ's Charlie Brown. I went on tobecome the music director of KUT-FM in Austin, Texas (an NPR "public"radio station) before quitting and taking a clerical job with the TexasLegislature, where I still am today.
Anyway,finding your page brought back many fond memories for me. Thanks forsharing it!
"San Juan Star" from July 26, 1970. Eugene Lisansky isin the second row on the right (circled). Note the photographer’s name!
And then from Scott Brady, WBMJ 1972-1974, whocontacted the editor in March, 2008:
Jack Curtiss(formerly of
Mylong-term contact in connection with radio stations aboard the ”Olga Patricia”off the UK in 1966-1967, Jack Curtiss, formerly of
“(Your)recent WBMJ)notes set off a nostalgiabinge... a flood of Puerto Rico memories and people whose names I've not seenin ages. Funny thing about Bob Bennett and start-up of WBMJ. He was the firstperson I contacted after reading about the station in a San Francisco newspaperand he told me not to come..that there were no jobs (one English station wasalready closing down and going Spanish) and that I'd hate the place and want toleave almost as soon as I got there. Naturally, I ignored his counsel, wentanyway in Dec. 1968, and within a few months, became program director ofWHOA-AM, the oldest English-language station in town. I must have arrived witha few days of you hearing that first BMJ broadcast from the Darlington. I ampuzzled how very little information is available on-line about WHOA (wheretalkhost Sally Jessy Raphael of NBC’s Talknet got her start) and its longtimeowner Carmina Mendez who managed to take control of that station and a relatedpermit to build a TV station from her American ex-husband in a divorce settlement.
I recall very clearly operating the board for a fewof Sally Jessy’s broadcasts.
I loved Puerto Rico, the pace and the tropicallifestyle. I did radio, TV, newsapers, magazines even became president of thecivic theatre and starred in a play. It was all so seductive I could see howeasy it was for other Anglos I knew to let their years there stretch intodecades but I was determined to move on. So in February 1974 I hopped the planeto Paris to rejoin my French bride and closed out five happy balmy years in theCaribbean.
Former “pirate”of Texan Radio in the UK, JackCurtiss, PD of WHOA-AM 870, San Juan, Puerto Rico, later of the San Juan Star.
Also in March, 2008, former listener Alan B.Bernier contacted us:
I read your very interesting information about theold WBMJ 1190 radio in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was a listener since 1969 tothat station. The old station was located on one of the penthouses and had oneof the most panoramic sights in Puerto Rico since the building was the tallest structureon the island at that time.
The current station (in its Christian format)transmits from today in the Santurce area of San Juan, not in Miramar.
Around 1980 or so WBMJ advertised they would hire someyoung people that had knowledge of Rock music. I was a student at theUniversity of Puerto Rico at that time and figured that having been a listenersince I was a kid, I would be perfect for the job, Well so did a few hundredothers that crowded the station lobby. The station people started passingaround a test/application form that included questions about DISCO and LATINmusic to general outrage of those present. Most of us were true rockers and didnot care for any other music. After a while the manager came out and toldus they has already chosen the people they were looking for and sent the restof us away with a gift of a car license plate with the station logo on it. Ithink I still have it somewhere.
It’s interesting to point out that some of thepeople on Gene Lisansky’s Cellar Creatures photo such as Raymond Broussard(Moonshadow), Emmanuel "Sunshine" Logrono, Luis Vigoreaux, MarianoArtau and Alba Raquel Barros are very well known in radio and TV in PuertoRico and the United States. And George McDougall just happens to be back as anewsman on the San Juan English language WOSO station these days!
Alan B. Bernier
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Rick D'Amico (Now on TV in Phoenix, Arizona)
Don Mariano Artau
Philip "Sanchez" Baker
BobBennett(GM), 1968-, deceased
Moonshadow (Raymond Broussard) now on mornings atWSKQ-FM in the New York City market.
George McDougall - News
BillJohnson, 1968- Commercial and Promotions Manager
BillThompson, 1968- the first Program Director
JuniorJuncos(Kris Kelly, Clayton Cox), 1970
GeneLindsey, 1970 (Eugene Lisansky)
Willie Lopez 1975(dj)
Jose Manuel 1975(Station Manager)
Mike Michaels - PD
ManoloPerez, 1968 (CE, Chief Engineer)
Rudy Rivas - Chief Engineer
Tom Sherwood - News (Later went over to the newWRAI)
JohnSimon, 1968 News Director
Heavy Dude - this guy was wild on the radio, funny,and could not speak English very well...but entertaining nonetheless.... Thisper Karl Phillips.
The Receptionist. Karl Phillips cannot remember hername but she also did some commercials and he says she was real nice.
And thenit’s over to Bruce Conti - Nashua NH, NRC-AM:
Ireceived a verification letter from 1190 WBMJ in 1999 in which it states,"WBMJ - We Broadcast the Message of Jesus... WBMJ, with 10,000 watts ofpower, was purchased in 1985 and changed to an all-Christian format in Englishand Spanish on September 29, 1986." The station is owned by Calvary Evangelistic Mission (CEM), Inc.
General comments on Puerto Rico AM Radio late 60s/early70s
I rememberWUNO “Radio Uno” 1320 well, with many more receptions than WBMJ, indeed almost everymorning when “sunrise” dx was discovered in the early 70s.
This wasactually as WNEL one of the big DX stations for Swedish DXers in the 40s.
APuerto Rico AM station made impression in Europe. WBMJ Grafitti from 1969.
Also WQIIGuaynabo 1140 the "Once Q" managed for a time by David Gleason heardon Dec. 24th, 1975 which he sentme a QSL letter for. Many other PR stations did make it over here, WLUZ RadioLuz 1600, WXRF 1590, WRSJ 1560 ”Radio San Juan” in Spanish, WRAI R Aeropuerto1520, WMDD R El Conquistador 1480, WVOZ ”R Voz” 1400, (I heard this localstation with good strength several times. I notice those call letters are nowused further down the dial.)WISA Isabela 1390, WIVV 1370, WBQN 1160 many timesall. WOSO El Oso in English 1030 just once, so WMIA R Mia 1070. Also WHOA 870,WAPA 680, WKAQ 580 and surely others I forget now.. Oh yes, WNEL 1430. Owing tothe salt-water path often good strengths. As to WBMJ, I remember also The RadioRock and the later REL format. (Heard only once in early January, 1986 withWLIB New York, NY on the old pattern and CJMR Missisauga, ON(old frequency) ona sunset opening, with also WOWO and CHTN(old frequency) in there.)
WBMJ is licensed to the capital city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, andhas a power output of 10,000 directional watts on AM 1190 KHz. WBMJ covers theSan Juan Metroplex, adjacent cities, and the Central and North-Eastern portionsof the main island of Puerto Rico. The US Territory population of WBMJ'scoverage area is 2,175,500. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United Stateswhere English is spoken as a second language. Its site is near Guaynabo, in
WIVV islocated on the Island of Vieques, PR, has a power output of 5,000omni-directional watts on AM 1370 Khz. WIVV covers the far-Eastern andSouth-Eastern areas of Puerto Rico, the US and British Virgin Islands, and mostof the Leeward Island of the Lesser Antilles. WIVV's coverage area includesRoosevelt Roads Naval complex. The US Territory populatio of WIVV's coverageares is 1,340,604. Most programs on "The Rock" Radio Network aresimulcast on both stations. CEM intends to increase its number of stations fortotal coverage of Puerto Rico.
And thenBert Johnson, K0BKB, former Operations Managerof WBMJ-WIVV Radio gives this input in July, 2004, on what might be theEarliest church-owned radio station in the Lesser Antilles to go on the air. WIVV(West Indies Voice of Victory) was the first missionary radio station and thefirst full-time Christian station in the West Indies. First broadcast daywas December 8, 1956. WIVV is located on the Puerto Rican Island ofVieques. WIVV covers all of the Lesser Antilles and the Eastern half ofPuerto Rico. It is owned and operated by Calvary Evangelistic Missionlocated in San Juan. WBMJ, in San Juan, started broadcasting withChristian programming on September 29, 1986. It used to be, before then called"Radio Rock" and was owned by Bob Hope. Now it is "TheRock" Radio Network.
WBMJ-AM(1190 kHz), part of The Rock Radio Network:
WBMJAM-1190, San Juan • WCGB AM-1060, Juana Díaz/Ponce • WIVV AM-1370, ViequesIsland
CalvaryEvangelistic Mission, Inc. 1409 Ponce de Leon Ave., 4th Floor, San Juan, PR00907-4023.
POBox 367000, San Juan, PR 00936-7000. Tel: (787) 724-1190 Fax: (787) 722-3595.Jacqueline Rodríguez, Radio Office Coordinator. The radio stations broadcast18-20 hours daily touching lives in Puerto Rico and the Lesser AntillesIslands.
For a coverage map you may also want to look up
for more information.
Ruth Luttrell(middle), President of Calvary EvangelisticMission with her daughters Nita(l) and Janet(r), the present VP of the RockRadio Network. Ruth Luttrell workswith WIVV, WCGB and WBMJ Radio in Puerto Rico, and The Bible CorrespondenceSchool of the Caribbean as part of CEM. She co-founded CEM with her latehusband, Donald, who has since gone home to the Lord, in 1953 as anevangelical, interdenominational, Bible-based, non profit, faith ministry.
Beautifuldowntown Old San Juan, PR.
Santurcearea, San Juan, PR from present WBMJ roof.
WBMJtransmitter site in Guaynabo, PR.
WBMJpresent transmitter setup.
WBMJtower is painted.
Bambootrimming at the WBMJ transmitter site.