The tradition of local radio in Middleboro and Taunton began more than 60 years ago when John and Marguerite McGregor received a construction permit for an AM station in Taunton. On December 22, 1949, at 6 a.m., the region’s first local radio station, WPEP, 1570 on the AM dial, signed on from its studio at the historic Roseland Ballroom.
WPEP soon became the station of choice for the region. Tauntonians would tune in at sunrise, when the WPEP day began, to start their day learning the “need to know” news. The area grew up hearing Eddie Litchfield, the morning drive host known for his rich voice and quick wit. He would stay with the station into the early 1980s, hosting PEP Talk, the popular Trading Post, and announcing high school football games.
Much of the station’s early success is attributed to station manager Joe Quill. He managed WPEP news, programming, and finances while also hosting a children’s show under the moniker “Uncle Joe Quill.” Every noontime, he gave harried mothers a mid-day break, especially in the days before television. He was instrumental in changing the station’s status so it could broadcast fixed hours, not dependent on the sun’s rising and setting.
Over the station’s nearly 50-year run, the region was entertained by various personalities, including Tommy Walsh, Chuck Williams, John McCarthy, Larry Prado, June Cooper, Tom Starr, Tony Lopes, Ron Lancaster, Jim Dixon — who served as a manager in later years — and the McGregors’ daughter, Laurel.
In 1966, Quill and Robert L. McCarthy got a license for a Taunton FM station with the call letters WRLM. The station soon adopted an adult contemporary format, with breaks for Taunton news and high school sports. In 1980, Quill and McCarthy sold WRLM to the Outlet Company, which changed the call letters to WSNE. The station is still broadcasting today. It is now known as Coast 93.3.
John Cronan owned WPEP after the McGregors. After founding the New England Radio News Network, Cronan sold the station to Robert N. DiCroce. He appointed George Colajezzi station manager. On September 1, 1986, WPEP was granted authorization to broadcast at night and to transmit at 227.4 watts of power.
In January 1992, Tony Lopes began his popular “Hometown” talk radio program weekdays from 9-11 a.m. For five years, it was a staple of the broadcast day. When DiCroce put the station on the market, Lopes, along with Colajezzi, David Gay, and other investors, formed Silver City Broadcasting and purchased the station.
Shortly after Lopes left in 1997, the station was sold to J. Keating Willcox’s Willow Farm Broadcasting, an ownership group without local ties. Paul Giammarco was appointed general manager in 2002. When Giammarco left, staffer A.J. Nicholson was promoted to general manager. One of the highlights of the station was in 2004 when the first Boston Red Sox World Series championship season was broadcast on WPEP.
In 2005, two events affected the history of Taunton radio. First, Tony Lopes brought his “Hometown Talk” back to Taunton. Second, the station was sold to Anastos Media, which also owned WNSH in Beverly. Anastos Media wanted to increase WNSH’s signal to reach a larger audience. Since the two stations shared the same frequency, WPEP would be pushed off the air and go silent forever.
During WPEP’s final days, Steve Callahan approached Lopes with an offer to switch all of WPEP’s local shows to his station, WCEG, which had no original programming. WCEG first broadcast on March 31, 1992. Eight months later, Callahan sold WCEG to Metro South Broadcasting, who let it go silent for several years. Callahan repurchased it in 1996 and changed the call letters to WVBF, letters previously used by a top 40 station in Framingham. Ten year later, in 2006, the station became stronger as the signal was increased to 2,200 watts.
The deal kept local radio alive in Greater Taunton and Middleboro. The new station provided an increased, newly boosted, non-directional signal of 5,000 watts to reach a wide geographic area. The WVBF license is for Middleboro, with the station broadcasting out of Taunton studios. The signal reaches as far north as Randolph, south to New Bedford, east to Plymouth and the Cape, and west to Norton, Mansfield, and Plainville.
When Callahan put WVBF on the market in 2019, the future of Middleboro / Taunton radio again was in jeopardy until state Senator Marc Pacheco, under his company, MRP Communications and consulting LLC, bought the station, thus continuing the 70-year tradition of local radio in the Middleboro-Taunton area.
At the end of 2019, long-time host Tony Lopes retired. WVBF remains committed to local radio with shows hosted by local personalities: Chris Keach, Jim Dupont, Bob Newhall, Paul Lazarovich, Jim Larkin, Carol Doherty, Bob Folcik, Ed Sutka, Ed Miller, Jack Healy, Lauren Decker, and many others – all providing a wide range of viewpoints and political ideologies, making for a crackling day of local opinion and news.
When not airing local programming, WVBF broadcasts the Talking Information Center,TIC, out of Marshfield. TIC’s mission statement reads: “TIC’s staff and volunteers provide human voice(d) broadcasts of local news, articles, and items of interest to visually impaired and otherwise disabled listeners throughout Massachusetts to promote independence and enrich quality of life.” The network provides access to dozens of magazines and newspapers that would not be available without this service.
In 2020, WVBF moved into the historic Taunton Federal Credit Union building at 14 Church Green, where it still broadcasts today. The station intends to be aired for years to come and is expanding their reach once again through the internet. It’s new website can reach the entire world, streaming its signal, while making use of social media outlets.
WVBF is committed to local radio and the power of voice, to keep the region informed and entertained. Stay tuned!!