Have you been down in your basement lately and found yourself saying, “Hey, what’s that box with all those knobs and numbers on the front?”

If you have, it might be time to rediscover radio. Before the world listened to podcasts and Pandora, people got information and music through the magic of over-the-air radio. A local station played music there, put it out into the world through a big antenna, and it landed in your own little radio.

When we’re all working and commuting, the radio is often something we have on for just a few minutes at a time. But now that we’re all home, it might be time to listen a little longer and hear the variety of what’s out there.

Here is a sampling of some southern Maine radio stations you might not know about, and some of the quirkier programming on your radio dial. Most of the stations listed are small, non-commercial operations that accept listener donations to help keep them going.

WYAR in Yarmouth plays a huge range of early 20th century music. Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

WE WANT THE FUNK

WJZP in Portland calls itself “Portland’s Downtown Groove,” and it plays a variety of related musical genres that move the body and soul, including jazz, blues, funk, R&B and dance. On a recent morning, the station played the mildly funky Curtis Mayfield tune “Wild and Free” followed by the Ray Charles classic “Georgia on My Mind.” The station features the “Motown Lunch,” with the likes of Marvin Gaye and The Supremes, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with jazz and R&B afternoons and evenings, but more uptempo and dance tracks around the dinner hour. Friday and Saturday nights are party time, starting at 4 p.m. with an hour of tunes hosted by Cyclone Link Skywalker Jr. of the Maine funk band, Motor Booty Affair. That’s followed by ’80s dance classics and other funky stuff the rest of  each evening. The station can be heard around Greater Portland at 107.9 FM or online at WJZP.org.

HOME SCHOOLING MUSIC HISTORY

WYAR in Yarmouth was started more than 20 years ago by the late Gary King, a retired radio and TV engineer, out of his home. King had a huge collection of old 78 rpm records, and he wanted the station to help preserve and encourage traditional American popular music. It’s licensed as an educational station, but the lessons are musical, with a heavy emphasis on American Standards. So while tuning the station in you’re likely to hear a Louis Armstrong or Paul Whiteman tune from the ’20s, a Bing Crosby song from the ’30s or the Andrews Sisters in the 1940s. Or something even earlier, say a forgotten showtune from 1906. There are also forays into later recordings, including ’50s pop and more contemporary jazz. The station can be heard at 88.3 FM. For more information go to WYAR.org

Bob Bittner runs nostalgia-oriented stations in southern Maine, and does old country all day Saturday. Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff photographer

ONE MAN’S STATION

If you’ve ever wanted to run your own radio station and play and say what you want, you should listen to Bob Bittner’s three Maine stations, WLAM, WLVP and WJTO. Bittner lives in West Bath, near where two of the stations are located. He plays a blend of older, uplifting pop tunes mostly from the 1940s into the 1970s. His “Rock and Roll Fridays” include the rock of that era, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Bittner’s is also the sole voice on the stations, offering little commentaries and asking people to donate so he can keep the music playing. One really cool feature on WLAM and WLVP is “Country Memories” all day Saturday where you hear real old-school country, from Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams to Tom T. Hall or Buck Owens. Plus some ’70s and ’80s tunes. WLVP can be heard at 870 AM in the Portland area, WLAM is at 1470 AM in Lewiston and WJTO is at 730 AM, mostly heard from north of Portland to the midcoast. For more information, go to Facebook: The Memories Stations.

Portland community station WMPG sells its old records every year, but the music keeps on playing. Staff photo by Jill Brady Buy this Photo

ECLECTIC COMPANY

Eclectic is the word to describe the musical diversity at WMPG, the community radio station at the University of Southern Maine. Volunteer DJs, some who have been doing shows for years, bring their own passion, knowledge and records to the various programs. (Some DJs are doing their shows remotely, while other shows on now were recorded earlier this year). On Monday mornings, Lincoln Peirce, best-known for the “Big Nate” comic strips, hosts a jamboree of old country, honky-tonk and Western Swing on “South by Southwest.” Monday afternoons you can hear “Lagniappe,” a mix of New Orleans music, from DJ Eydie May. Tuesday afternoons Hope Rovelto spins “The Alternative Route,” which focuses on old and new indie bands. Friday mornings brings “Us Folk” where host Chris Darling plays roots and folk. There’s also rap, hip, rockabilly and lots of blues. WMPG can be heard in much of southern Maine at 90.9 FM or online at WMPG.org.

Toby Leboutillier hosts Down Memory Lane on Maine Public, a quirky mix of forgotten music and Maine history. Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

MUSE AND NEWS

For more than 40 years, Toby Leboutillier has been putting on a unique show on the airwaves of Maine Public, called “Down Memory Lane.” Leboutillier mixes his well-articulated readings of the top Maine newspaper stories of ’60 or ’70 years ago with whatever songs entered the pop charts that week. He’ll begin the show playing the song that entered the charts 100 years ago, 1920, then he’ll move up every 10 years until 50 years ago. For the years he can find them, he reads news stories from the Bangor Daily News in those years, and also adds little trivia tidbits about the songs and performers. A lot of his records are old and worn, and the fuzzy sound and pops are part of the charm.

The show airs Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m. and can be heard on the stations of Maine Public Classical, including at 104.1 FM in Portland. For more information go to mainepublic.org

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