The WBLM trailer in Litchfield circa 1973. Photo courtesy of Town Square Media

Classic rock station WBLM is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and its two best-known voices succinctly summarized what it means to people.

“We’re a giant living room. Everybody’s hanging out in our giant living room,” said Celeste Baranyi. “And we’re the bartenders. Can we get you chips, can we get you a beer?” added Herb Ivy.

The pair, known on air as The Captain and Celeste, are the longtime WBLM morning show hosts.

When I started working for the Press Herald in 2011, I passed Ivy on the escalator in Portland’s One City Center where both of our offices were located, and the next thing I knew, I was popping in on Friday mornings to give a live report about upcoming concerts. This went on for a couple of years, and both he and Baranyi became friends of mine.

But when I realized that WBLM was hitting 50 this month, I knew I had to get myself back into that studio and spend an hour with the dynamic duo. There was much to celebrate and reflect on. I can’t imagine living in the state of Maine without knowing that the security blanket of BLM exists. Sometimes only a classic rock gem from the likes of Led Zeppelin, Heart or Aerosmith can scratch the musical itch that we all experience.

First, though, a little BLM history.


On March 1, 1973, the station went on the air, broadcasting from a trailer in Litchfield.

A few years later, it moved to Auburn and then, around 1988, settled into its home on the third floor of One City Center in downtown Portland where they broadcast with 100,000 watts of power and a signal that reaches almost to Bangor, into parts of New Hampshire and at least 100 miles out to sea.

By the way, BLM stands for “Beautiful Lewiston Maine.” I had no idea. Am I the last to know this?

A wall of vinyl records at the WBLM studio in Portland’s One City Center building. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Ivy was born in England, lived all over the U.S. and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1985 with a degree in government. But his real love was radio, born from his involvement with his college’s station, so after graduation, he sent out his resume and tapes all over.

WBLM’s then program director, Jose Diaz, offered him a position. Ivy has never looked back, and working at WBLM has been his only job. Technically, his title is director of content for New England at Town Square Media. But as far as I’m concerned, Ivy – The Captain – is the heart and soul of the station.

His morning show co-host Baranyi, a Saco native, joined him four years later in 1989. The two of them are living legends. Their on-air banter is comfortable and kind-hearted but also often hilarious. “It’s a sacred relationship,” said Ivy about Baranyi. “She sings to me when she comes in, and we hug each other every morning and share our lives,” he added. “We genuinely like each other,” said Baranyi.


Herb Ivy and Celeste Baranyi in the WBLM studio on March 8, 2023. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Ivy and Baranyi also really like WBLM’s listeners, and they’ve been in a long-term relationship, of sorts, with many of them.

“It’s kind of a strange concept to be really close to someone that you’ve never met face-to-face before, but we have listeners who call regularly, and we know how their health is, we know that they’ve changed jobs, we’ve been through a lot together,” said Baranyi.

From natural disasters to 9/11 and more recently the pandemic, as well as marriages, divorces, births, deaths and celebrations, Ivy and Baranyi told me they have heard it all from listeners, and they wouldn’t change a thing.

“I call it ‘friends I’ve never met.’ You’ve been sharing something, this powerful music and memories and our lives and their lives for so many years, and that’s rare in this business, and there’s no wall,” Ivy said about his relationship to listeners.

As for their favorite memories working at the station, Baranyi’s was in 2018, when she and Ivy interviewed singer Steve Perry, formerly of the band Journey. Perry, who called into the station, had just released his first album in 24 years and was doing his first round of interviews in two decades – and did the very first one of them with WBLM. I just happened to be listening that morning and remember Perry as charming, poignant and truly grateful for the chance to be able to talk about his music. For Baranyi, the significance was greater.

“I got to talk to one of my teenage idols, one of my biggest crushes, and Journey is one of my favorite bands,” she said. “Separate Ways” was her favorite Journey song, which she would listen to on the way to Biddeford hockey games in high school in her boyfriend’s car. “I just love Journey, and to talk to him and hear him say my name was hilarious.”


Ivy recalled the time, which he guessed was about 15 years ago, when Graham Nash and David Crosby visited the station. It was just the two singers in the studio with him and Baranyi. The song playing was “Our House” and rather than chatting while it was being aired, Nash and Crosby asked for it to be turned up louder. They closed their eyes and listened to their own voices. “To be present, even in the room, for stuff like that is a privilege you can’t even believe,” said Ivy. “To be able to sit down with these people who are part of your life and do something with them, that’s the coolest thing.”

Ivy said that WBLM has been online since the early 2000s, so people can tune in globally. Recently, a military veteran called to wish the station a happy anniversary and said that, while he was in Afghanistan and Iraq, he appreciated having access to a slice of home. That’s evidence of the staying power of radio, even with the advent of streaming platforms like Spotify, which Ivy doesn’t see as a threat.

“You can listen to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ in a myriad of ways but (with radio), it’s a communal thing, and you’re hearing it with people you know, and you have listeners calling in and talking about it. In that context, nothing can touch it.”

Ivy’s right, and because of that, I won’t be touching that dial anytime soon. There’s something magic and real about radio and few people do it better than The Captain and Celeste.

Keep on rocking in the free world, and happy anniversary to The Blimp.

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