Revised on April 8th, 2008
On December 29th, 1968 at 20 minutes past midnight Atlantic Time Disc Jockey ”Charlie Brown” looked out on the terrace behind the control panel in the WBMJ 11-90 studio in the penthouse atop the San Juan Darlington 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 bleep introducing the first news story and announced: “Charlie Brown 20/20 news these are the headlines after 12.”
Little would he know that on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, a teenager had been glued to his radio all night triggered by the frequent Pams jingles and ”20/20” news bulletins introduced by that familiar jingle so well known from ”Radio London” the years before just over 50 kcs down the dial.
After all, “Disc and Music Echo” and “Sweden Calling Dxers” that autumn had carried notes telling about a new offshore station called “Radio Marina”, a project with a ready radio ship sitting in Miami said to be led by a certain John Dane, and the AM channel used was very close 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 “Bud Ballou”(Howie Castle)of Syracuse fame!
So the initial thought had been that this was a new pirate station. After many hours of listening, in Norway it was now early morning, and as no headphones were used, the 17 year old youngster inevitably had kept his family awake for hours with the pop tunes of the day carried by the strong signals from 4000 kms away, like "Stormy" by The Classics IV, "Back in the USSR" by The Beatles, and "Stoned Soul Picnic" by the 5th Dimension. Of other material Brown also used a "horn" effect, similar to many US top 40 DJs at the time, and an ad for the Darlington.
Yes, ”Charlie Brown” and WBMJ made a great impression on fans of the former offshore station (I was one) over Christmas 1968, as the two stations seemed to sound very similar. "BIG L" having closed in August 1967. WBMJ and Brown had been picked up out of nowhere, as a new station of 1968 it was not listed anywhere, but I found out by listening to the ads!
WBMJ was owned by Bob Hope’s Mid-Ocean Broadcasting Company, and set up by its excellent General Manager, the late Bob Bennett in 1967-1968.
Bob Hope entertaining US airmen at Earls Colne AFB in the UK in 1943. Picture: Stars and Stripes?
Here is the movie poster for the comedy ”Call me Bwana” starring Bob Hope and Anita Ekberg, 1963.
Bob Hope’s WBMJ has just gone on air in Puerto Rico and is picked up in Scandinavia. And here he is at the same time again entertaining the troops, in Phu Cat, Vietnam, Christmas 1968. Picture: Clif Lines©
WAPA and WBMJ had adjacent transmitting sites in Guaynabo as well as entries in the Broadcasting Yearbook, here is the 1969 edition.
I reported the 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 on Oct.8th, 1971. I have no notes of this in my log, but I clearly remember also this reception on a "barefoot" (no external antenna) Tandberg transistor!
With its distinctive sound and top modulation the station was frequently picked up in Norway. QSL cards were first signed by Chief Engineer Manolo Perez, and later by Johnny…
Listen to 4 of the PAMS ”Series 18” ”Sonosational” jingles here:
(Don’t forget to use the ”back” button after you’ve listened!)
The compilation is published here solely for historical purposes with the generous help of Norman Barrington
and the generous permission of Jonathan Wolfert of Jam Creative Productions Inc. of Dallas
protected under copyright by Pams Productions Inc. of Dallas
All rights preserved.
Inputs on WBMJ
Olle Alm, of Arctic Radio Club, Sweden comments:
When old time DXer Lars Rydén visited San Juan radio stations in mid 1967, Bob Bennett had left WKYN 630 to become VP and Manager of WBMJ. At that time WBMJ, owned by Bob Hope, was under construction with studio space rented at Hotel Darlington, Santurce. At WKYN Bob Bennett had served as Program Director. He was the one who signed my QSL 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.
David Gleason, California, NRC-AM takes up the story.
WBMJ signed on in 1968 under general manager Bob Bennett, who continued to manage the station through 1980 when Bob Hope's Mid Ocean sold to record impresario Jerry Masucci.
From 1968 to roughly 1972, WBMJ was an English language Top 40 station, with all announcing 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 Spanish pop 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 only by WKAQ with its Spanish Top 40 and, later, WQII, with its Spanish Hot A/C format.
The reasoning for the format was simple: all through Latin America, American music was popular. A really tightly done Top 40 with US hits would be an attractive proposition. However, all advertising in PR tended to be in Spanish, so the spots were in Spanish. Even in 1968, there were less than 100,000 "Continentals" living in PR; everyone else was a Spanish speaker first... Many knew English, though. The station, however, never got into the top stations in ratings, usually registering around 7th or 8th.
GM Bob Bennett was a veteran of US Top 40 radio when he moved to Puerto Rico and started building WBMJ. The station was simply another iteration of the proven Top 40 format from the mainland. Since the Island of Puerto Rico is a US territory, it was natural to use mainland announcers and jingles and, of course, follow religiously the Billboard record charts. Since the culture shock of living in PR was hard on the jocks, they seldom lasted more than a year. On the other hand, there were several totally bilingual Puerto Rican jocks who were there for a lengthy period, speaking English on a station in Puerto Rico!
WBMJ was 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 at night to get the system to proof, since the site, still in use, is surrounded by 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 the Darlington (which often went bankrupt becoming the Borinquen, and later, Gran Bahía Hotel) in the Miramar section of San Juan with an impressive view of the San Juan Bay and Old San Juan and the Condado hotel area. Beautiful.
This is where WBMJ came from: The San Juan Darlington Hotel. Photo: Unknown.
The ads for the Darlington were part of the ads for the rent trade the station had. The station only moved when the hotel finally closed down and was shuttered around 1980. The hotel was a tourist hotel, but it was not on the beach, not near restaurants, and across the street from the city's most famous bordello, the Black Angus.
I once interviewed Charly Brown to work at WUNO; he was feeling underpaid at WBMJ and was trying to learn Spanish… There have been so many Charly Browns in US radio I really doubt that anyone could figure out who he was now. Bennett died in the early 90's, and the local English language jocks like Héctor Ortiz are also now dead.
WBMJ became a salsa oldies station in about 1981 as Exitos 1190 and then, eventually, became religious under the ownership of the operators of WIVV from Puerto Rico's Vieques Island. It is religious now, mostly in English.
In the years I managed stations in San Juan, I considered Bob Bennett both a friend and a worthy competitor. WBMJ, especially as Radio Rock, was a good station and brought up the standards of radio on the Island.
David has told more of his experiences in Puerto Rico here:
And then it’s over to Patrick Crumhorn in Texas, who sent me a most informative email in September 2004:
I just came across your page on WBMJ 1190 and have a couple of pieces of data to add.
I lived in San Juan as a teenager from late 1968 until January of 1974. Needless to say, WBMJ was always on my radio for much of that period (along with what was then the Armed Forces Radio station from San Juan's Fort Buchanan army base at 1030 kHz - long since replaced by a commercial broadcaster - WOSO).
I knew several 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 small record 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.
David Gleason writes:
"In 1972, WBMJ switched to Spanish jocks and a mix of 90% English music with some Spanish pop hits, under the name of Radio Rock."
I'm pretty sure that switchover must have happened after January of 1974. I still have clear memories of WBMJ continuing to be an English-language station until after I left the island. I know that by the time of my first trip back, in the Summer of 1975, the station had switched to Spanish and become "Radio Rock," but this happened later than Mr. Gleason says.
"I once interviewed Charly Brown to work at WUNO; he was feeling underpaid at WBMJ and was trying to learn Spanish… There have been so many Charly Browns in US radio I really doubt that anyone could figure out who he was now."
Not sure what happened to Charlie (who was indeed one of the best jocks anywhere at the time, I think), but if it helps, his real name was Tim Schafer (may have been spelled Schaffer). I know he worked briefly for a Virgin Islands station, too.
I also went to high school with Janet Luttrell, who now heads up the missionary radio company that owns WBMJ and WIVV. WIVV was already a religious station owned by the Luttrells during the 1968-1974 period I lived there. It was strange to find out many years ago that WBMJ was now part of her operations and was doing full-time religious broadcasting. Quite a change from the good old days of Hendrix, the Guess Who, etc.
The jocks at WBMJ inspired me to get into radio, and I worked briefly in San Juan for WIAC-FM, who were experimenting with an English-language "underground" format - only lasted for 6 months or so before they went back to simulcasting the AM station. I called myself "Pat Brown" in homage to my inspiration, WBMJ's Charlie Brown. I went on to become the music director of KUT-FM in Austin, Texas (an NPR "public" radio station) before quitting and taking a clerical job with the Texas Legislature, where I still am today.
Anyway, finding your page brought back many fond memories for me. Thanks for sharing it!
"San Juan Star" from July 26, 1970. Eugene Lisansky is in the second row on the right (circled). Note the photographer’s name!
And then from Scott Brady, WBMJ 1972-1974, who contacted the editor in March, 2008:
Jack Curtiss(formerly of twin stations Radio England/Dolfijn-Britain Radio) writing for the San Juan Star in the Summer of 1972 on San Juan radio ratings.(Clipping submitted by Karl Phillips.
My long-term contact in connection with radio stations aboard the ”Olga Patricia” off the UK in 1966-1967, Jack Curtiss, formerly of Radio Visionbroadcast Int’l (trading in the UK/Holland in 1966/67) and now living in Australia has given a very valuable input on that operation, but he also says he was in Puerto Rico from late 1968 to early 1974 and remember the Bob Hope station WBMJ very well:
“(Your)recent WBMJ)notes set off a nostalgia binge... a flood of Puerto Rico memories and people whose names I've not seen in ages. Funny thing about Bob Bennett and start-up of WBMJ. He was the first person I contacted after reading about the station in a San Francisco newspaper and he told me not to come..that there were no jobs (one English station was already closing down and going Spanish) and that I'd hate the place and want to leave almost as soon as I got there. Naturally, I ignored his counsel, went anyway in Dec. 1968, and within a few months, became program director of WHOA-AM, the oldest English-language station in town. I must have arrived with a few days of you hearing that first BMJ broadcast from the Darlington. I am puzzled how very little information is available on-line about WHOA (where talkhost Sally Jessy Raphael of NBC’s Talknet got her start) and its longtime owner Carmina Mendez who managed to take control of that station and a related permit to build a TV station from her American ex-husband in a divorce settlement.
I recall very clearly operating the board for a few of Sally Jessy’s broadcasts.
I loved Puerto Rico, the pace and the tropical lifestyle. I did radio, TV, newsapers, magazines even became president of the civic theatre and starred in a play. It was all so seductive I could see how easy it was for other Anglos I knew to let their years there stretch into decades but I was determined to move on. So in February 1974 I hopped the plane to Paris to rejoin my French bride and closed out five happy balmy years in the Caribbean.
Former “pirate”of Texan Radio in the UK, Jack Curtiss, 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 the old WBMJ 1190 radio in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was a listener since 1969 to that station. The old station was located on one of the penthouses and had one of the most panoramic sights in Puerto Rico since the building was the tallest structure on 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 some young people that had knowledge of Rock music. I was a student at the University of Puerto Rico at that time and figured that having been a listener since I was a kid, I would be perfect for the job, Well so did a few hundred others that crowded the station lobby. The station people started passing around a test/application form that included questions about DISCO and LATIN music to general outrage of those present. Most of us were true rockers and did not care for any other music. After a while the manager came out and told us they has already chosen the people they were looking for and sent the rest of us away with a gift of a car license plate with the station logo on it. I think I still have it somewhere.
It’s interesting to point out that some of the people on Gene Lisansky’s Cellar Creatures photo such as Raymond Broussard (Moonshadow), Emmanuel "Sunshine" Logrono, Luis Vigoreaux, Mariano Artau and Alba Raquel Barros are very well known in radio and TV in Puerto Rico and the United States. And George McDougall just happens to be back as a newsman 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
Alba Raquel Barros
Philip "Sanchez" Baker
Bob Bennett(GM), 1968-, deceased
Scott Brady(Karl Phillips)1972-1974
Charlie Brown, 1968-1974
Moonshadow (Raymond Broussard) now on mornings at WSKQ-FM in the New York City market.
George McDougall - News
Bill Johnson, 1968- Commercial and Promotions Manager
Bill Thompson, 1968- the first Program Director
Junior Juncos(Kris Kelly, Clayton Cox), 1970
Gene Lindsey, 1970 (Eugene Lisansky)
Emmanuel “Sunshine” Logrono,
Willie Lopez 1975(dj)
Jose Manuel 1975(Station Manager)
Mike Michaels - PD
Hector Ortiz, deceased
Manolo Perez, 1968 (CE, Chief Engineer)
Rudy Rivas - Chief Engineer
Tom Sherwood - News (Later went over to the new WRAI)
John Simon, 1968 News Director
Heavy Dude - this guy was wild on the radio, funny, and could not speak English very well...but entertaining nonetheless.... This per Karl Phillips.
The Receptionist. Karl Phillips cannot remember her name but she also did some commercials and he says she was real nice.
And then it’s over to Bruce Conti - Nashua NH, NRC-AM:
I received a verification letter from 1190 WBMJ in 1999 in which it states, "WBMJ - We Broadcast the Message of Jesus... WBMJ, with 10,000 watts of power, was purchased in 1985 and changed to an all-Christian format in English and Spanish on September 29, 1986." The station is owned by Calvary Evangelistic Mission (CEM), Inc. A brief history of CEM and 1370 WIVV is described; "WIVV - West Indies Voice of Victory... On December 8, 1956, WIVV went on the air with 1,000 watts of power (upgraded to 5,000, September, 1970)." The earliest reference to WBMJ that I have is in the NRC Domestic Log, 5th Edition, 1978-79, indicating location at the Penthouse, Borinquen Hotel, San Juan, with a Spanish pop format and slogan "Radio Rock." 1190 WBMJ is not listed in the Summer 1958 Jones station listings, so it's a relatively new AM station.
General comments on Puerto Rico AM Radio late 60s/early 70s
By Svenn Martinsen
I remember WUNO “Radio Uno” 1320 well, with many more receptions than WBMJ, indeed almost every morning when “sunrise” dx was discovered in the early 70s.
This was actually as WNEL one of the big DX stations for Swedish DXers in the 40s.
A Puerto Rico AM station made impression in Europe. WBMJ Grafitti from 1969.
Also WQII Guaynabo 1140 the "Once Q" managed for a time by David Gleason heard on Dec. 24th, 1975 which he sent me a QSL letter for. Many other PR stations did make it over here, WLUZ Radio Luz 1600, WXRF 1590, WRSJ 1560 ”Radio San Juan” in Spanish, WRAI R Aeropuerto 1520, WMDD R El Conquistador 1480, WVOZ ”R Voz” 1400, (I heard this local station with good strength several times. I notice those call letters are now used further down the dial.)WISA Isabela 1390, WIVV 1370, WBQN 1160 many times all. 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 to the salt-water path often good strengths. As to WBMJ, I remember also The Radio Rock and the later REL format. (Heard only once in early January, 1986 with WLIB New York, NY on the old pattern and CJMR Missisauga, ON(old frequency) on a sunset opening, with also WOWO and CHTN(old frequency) in there.)
WBMJ is licensed to the capital city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has a power output of 10,000 directional watts on AM 1190 KHz. WBMJ covers the San Juan Metroplex, adjacent cities, and the Central and North-Eastern portions of the main island of Puerto Rico. The US Territory population of WBMJ's coverage area is 2,175,500. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States where English is spoken as a second language. Its site is near Guaynabo, in Gurabo County, Puerto Rico. Coordinates: Latitude: 182100N Longitude: 0660650W. The site is near to that of WAPA-680 and WIAC-FM, and relatively near WQII-1140. Chief Engineer is Eugenio Figueroa, also used by WOSO-1030.
WIVV is located on the Island of Vieques, PR, has a power output of 5,000 omni-directional watts on AM 1370 Khz. WIVV covers the far-Eastern and South-Eastern areas of Puerto Rico, the US and British Virgin Islands, and most of the Leeward Island of the Lesser Antilles. WIVV's coverage area includes Roosevelt Roads Naval complex. The US Territory populatio of WIVV's coverage ares is 1,340,604. Most programs on "The Rock" Radio Network are simulcast on both stations. CEM intends to increase its number of stations for total coverage of Puerto Rico.
And then Bert Johnson, K0BKB, former Operations Manager of WBMJ-WIVV Radio gives this input in July, 2004, on what might be the Earliest 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 the first full-time Christian station in the West Indies. First broadcast day was December 8, 1956. WIVV is located on the Puerto Rican Island of Vieques. WIVV covers all of the Lesser Antilles and the Eastern half of Puerto Rico. It is owned and operated by Calvary Evangelistic Mission located in San Juan. WBMJ, in San Juan, started broadcasting with Christian programming on September 29, 1986. It used to be, before then called "Radio Rock" and was owned by Bob Hope. Now it is "The Rock" Radio Network.
WBMJ-AM (1190 kHz), part of The Rock Radio Network:
WBMJ AM-1190, San Juan • WCGB AM-1060, Juana Díaz/Ponce • WIVV AM-1370, Vieques Island
Calvary Evangelistic Mission, Inc. 1409 Ponce de Leon Ave., 4th Floor, San Juan, PR 00907-4023.
PO Box 367000, San Juan, PR 00936-7000. Tel: (787) 724-1190 Fax: (787) 722-3595. Jacqueline Rodríguez, Radio Office Coordinator. The radio stations broadcast 18-20 hours daily touching lives in Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles Islands.
For a coverage map you may also want to look up
for more information.
WBMJ Photo Series©
Ruth Luttrell(middle), President of Calvary Evangelistic Mission with her daughters Nita(l) and Janet(r), the present VP of the Rock Radio Network. Ruth Luttrell works with WIVV, WCGB and WBMJ Radio in Puerto Rico, and The Bible Correspondence School of the Caribbean as part of CEM. She co-founded CEM with her late husband, Donald, who has since gone home to the Lord, in 1953 as an evangelical, interdenominational, Bible-based, non profit, faith ministry.
Beautiful downtown Old San Juan, PR.
Santurce area, San Juan, PR from present WBMJ roof.
WBMJ transmitter site in Guaynabo, PR.
WBMJ present transmitter setup.
WBMJ tower is painted.
WBMJ southern tower.
Bamboo trimming at the WBMJ transmitter site.
 Extract of listening log: ”Back in the USSR w the Beatles. (Honk) ”That’s the Beatles from the Beatles album Back in the USSR, 9.09 WBMJ time, the Charlie Brown show. Ad w catchy Spanish tune, plus ad for ”everybody this holiday season-The San Juan Darlington Hotel.” Into "California Soul" by the 5th Dimension. (Honk) ”WBMJ time…, the Charlie Brown show.” PSA for ”…memorial hospital.” Music by Tommy James&Shondells(”Crimson and Clover”) and Sly&the Family Stone(”Everyday People”) 0220 ”You’re hearing things(2x)on WBMJ 11-90” 0420 …”take you on to headlines w "Stormy" by The Classics IV on the Imperial label…” ”WBMJ time now 20 minutes after 12pm” ” WBMJ eleven.ninety:twenty twenty news is now!" News sounder.”Charlie Brown 20/20 news these are the headlines after 9” Top story abt ”Chmn Russell Long of Louisiana.”… Music by Status Quo ”Ice in the Sun.” Diana Ross&Supremes/Temptations: ”I’m gonna make you love me.”…”It’s one minute after 1 o’Clock on the new WBMJ San Juan, Puerto Rico, welcome to hour no.4, babies.”
 With the aid of Scott Brady(Karl Phillips)and Alan B.Bernier.
 On April 6th, 1975, Lopez, at work in the WBMJ studio heard three knocks on the window of the terrace atop the Darlington. Nobody could get out to the terrace without using the door from the studio a few feet from the disc jockey, and Lopez had seen no one use it. Curious, he went to the window and saw outside a "glowing figure" that ran to hide behind one of the parapets. Nervous, he called the station manager in the hotel. Lopez then went back to the window and saw, close by, a luminous large object, performing a rocking motion in the air. Going back to the control desk, he stunned cut into the music to describe to the listeners what he had seen. When the station manager arrived at the studio; the dj was in shock and had to be taken to the hospital. http://ufoinfo.com/
 Used by permission of EM and JM, serving God through the Radio Planting mission of HCJB World Radio: