Dave Patterson of Standish says people are tired of commercial radio and the lack of local influence on programming. Most FM stations are controlled by out-of-state megacorporations that own strings of radio stations, in effect monopolizing the airwaves.

“We’re all about community and giving the airwaves back to the people,” said Patterson, station manager of WJZF.

That’s right; the Lakes Region has its own community radio station. Tune your dial to 97.1 FM, WJZF, which broadcasts 24/7 out of Patterson’s Standish home. The transmitter is at the Standish Town Hall on a cell phone tower. January marked the station’s sixth year.

Community radio in America recently got a big boost. On Dec. 20, President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, and WJZF, whose signal is currently limited to parts of Standish, Gorham and Windham, now has a better chance of expanding into the Portland market.

“We’re going to radiate our signal via the Internet,” Patterson said. “A translator will broadcast WJZF programming to Portland in the near future.”

But anyone with an Internet connection already can get WJZF anywhere in the world at www.wjzf.org. The station has a diverse mix of programming: from country to classical, from rare unreleased rock to talk programming.

 

Mystery Train

From 9 p.m. to midnight Saturdays, Bob Reichers of Gorham operates “Mystery Train,” an eclectic show for real music lovers. “We run the gamut,” Reichers said, “everything from the ’50s through the British Invasion to country rock. I specialize in a lot of unreleased material.”

Reichers has been with WJZF since the beginning and did radio in Cape Cod before that. An avid record collector, Reichers pulls his rare and unreleased selections from his own music library.

“It’s a lot of fun, the listeners are great,” Reichers said. “We have a huge Internet audience. I’ve had e-mails from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.”

Many folks find Mystery Train through Internet forums where fans such as Rolling Stones enthusiasts spread the word that a rare or unreleased track is available for listening. Many of Reichers’ programs are archived on the Web. He also takes requests.

Like all of the DJs at WJZF, Reichers volunteers his time and receives no pay. Reichers said he’s glad to be at a station where he has plenty of freedom.

“I can play most anything,” he said. “It’s one of those last bastions of radio. We call it ‘Radio Free Maine.’“

 

Sunshine Girl

Another local radio personality at WJZF since the beginning is the “Sunshine Girl,” Kristie Doyle of Windham. Her show “Country Barn” runs from 7 to 8 p.m. Mondays and 5 to 6 p.m. Fridays. She got her start working with Gary Nelson, formerly of WPOR, now with WJZF.

“I started doing the oldies program with him,” she said. “He took me under his wing; we had a great time.”

Doyle also sings country and said it wasn’t long before she wanted her own country music show. Doyle is Patterson’s niece and like him has grown increasingly dissatisfied with local commercial radio.

“I was so sick of hearing the same songs all the time,” she said. “I got satellite radio in my car.”

She tries to keep Country Barn fresh by picking up new music whenever she can. But there’s one tried-and-true standard she has to play at least every other show: “Hell Yeah” by Montgomery Gentry.

“We crank it as loud as it goes!” she said. “It’s wicked fun; the show’s not about stress and crazy pressure. It’s all about going in there with a cup of coffee, chilling out and having fun.”

And like Mystery Train, Country Barn has followers all over the world. Doyle gets e-mail from UK listeners every week.

 

The Fred Miller Show

WJZF has a real radio veteran in its midst with Fred Miller. Miller, 69, began his broadcasting days down in Boston at age 7. He’s owned radio stations in the Portland area and taught broadcasting in Massachusetts.

Listeners can now tune in Saturdays from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sundays for the “Fred Miller Show,” offering nostalgia and oldies programing.

“We feature the big bands and crooners,” Miller said. “I enjoy it; I’m working on a number of projects for Dave (Patterson), including purchasing the translator so we can be heard in Portland.”

Miller has seen a lot go down in the Maine radio market over the years.

The current corporate consolidation happened in the 1990s.

In order to get FCC approvals for licensing, Miller says, stations have had to decide on and stick to a rigid “format” since the early 1970s.

However, in the middle of these two eras came President Reagan, who deregulated everything, allowing market forces to dictate who survived on the airwaves.

“Now there’s only one local radio group in Portland,” Miller said. “Atlantic Coast Radio, doing sports and WLOB. There’s very little not owned by the corporate giants.”

Getting WJZF off the ground and operating it for the past six years has been a struggle. Everyone involved says it never would’ve happened without the vision of Dave Patterson, who has poured much of his own money into the endeavor.

 

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at:

[email protected]