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The new year 1990 brought WFEA a new network. On January first it switched from ABC to NBC, allowing cross-town rival WGIR to sign with ABC News. For WFEA listeners, it was "Good Day" to Paul Harvey.

But it also meant "Hello" to Bruce Williams and Neil Myers, hosts of NBC's syndicated Talknet; they filled the airwaves from 7:00PM-1:00AM.

NBC Talknet's Bruce Williams
Talknet's Bruce Williams

WFEA's Super Roving Radio
WFEA's Super Roving Radio

 

By 1990, an estimated 20 percent of all radio stations in the United States were programming all or part of their days with product created off-premises and delivered by reel-to-reel tape, compact discs (CDs), digital audio tape (DAT) or satellite.

WFEA started the morning locally with Ken Cail and Carl Cameron, followed by satellite-delivered adult contemporary music described as the most popular hits from the 60s through today, hosted by Don Murray, Carolyn Gracie and Mike Tanner. Talknet filled the evening with talk.

WFEA's Ken Cail
Ken Cail

WFEA's Carl Cameron
Carl Cameron

Don Murray
Don Murray

Carolyn Gracie
Carolyn Gracie

Mike Tanner
Mike Tanner

 

March 1990 brought a new general manager, but he wasn't a stranger. WFEA's former manager, Frank H. Adam, replaced Kathy Allen as general manager of both WFEA and WZID.

In October, George Silverman announced he was selling WFEA/WZID to Saga Communications of Grosse Point, Michigan. The sale was finalized April 16, 1991. Saga owned stations in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Virginia and had recently bought two stations each in Springfield, MA and Portland, ME. New owner Ed Christian appointed James Pidcock as general manager.

link to Saga Communications, Inc. web site

WFEA's Jim Pidcock
Jim Pidcock

1991 WFEA logo

In May 1991, WFEA made another major change in direction. Saga chose to implement a live, satellite-delivered nostalgia format featuring artists like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. The new on-air positioning statement was Great Songs, Great Memories.

Ray Charles ad

On May 5, 1991, Joe Maltais returned to WFEA with a Sunday morning French-language program.

Early 1992 resulted in more personnel changes. Ken Cail was replaced on the local morning show by Jim Riley, then Paul Belfay. And Jim Pidcock left for New Mexico; he was replaced in July by Ray Garon - the 6th manager in less than four years.

VOICES OF THE 1990s

Ken Cail
Bob Bascomb
Brett Mallard
Jim Riley
Carl Cameron
Mary Dymon
Bruce Williams
Neil Myers
Don Murray
Carolyn Gracie
Mike Tanner
Joe Maltais
Jeff Rollins
Chick Watkins
Ed Brand
Dan Armstrong
Dick Heatherton
Paul Belfay
Ed Brouder
Sally Dionne
Kevin Flynn
Dick Piper
Paul Pare
Tracy Caruso
Roger Lecerte
Nancy Robbins
Dick Osborne

 

The satellite syndication service that provided WFEA's music was called Transtar. In 1989 it merged with another syndicator to become Unistar. In 1993, Unistar merged with the Westwood One Radio Network. The product they sold WFEA was a format called AM Only. While most of the programs came from California, live via satellite, careful use of prerecorded station identifications and promos made it sound like the hosts were in Manchester.

AM Only's Jeff Rollins, Chick Watkins, Ed Brand and Dan Armstrong

 

WFEA achieved a network grand slam in 1992, dropping NBC for CBS. In addition to hourly newscasts from CBS, the station aired popular commentaries by Charles Osgood. Don Kent's weather forecasts were replaced by regular reports from Mike Ellis.

When news director Carl Cameron resigned in June to join WMUR TV, WFEA borrowed WZID's Dan Colgan to do morning news updates. A few weeks later Ed Brouder took over until the hiring, in September, of Sally Dionne as news director. Brouder stayed on with the stations, reporting WFEA's half-hourly morning news and WZID's traffic reports.

WFEA's Ed Brouder, Mike Ellis and Paul Belfay
Ed Brouder, Mike Ellis, Paul Belfay

WFEA's Kevin Flynn
Kevin Flynn

 

In May 1993, WFEA/WZID promoted former intern Kevin Flynn from part-time to full-time status, splitting his time between the news and promotions departments.

Though no longer an employee, Ken Cail maintained his relationship with WFEA by calling the play-by-play of the fall high school football schedule.

On March 8, 1995, Talknet disappeared from WFEA's airwaves, replaced by additional hours of AM Only from Westwood One.

June 2, 1995 was a happy day for fans of longtime French program host Joe Maltais. He returned to his Sunday morning broadcast after a two-month recovery from open heart surgery. But at the age of 77, Joe cited health considerations in retiring on December 31, 1995.

Monsieur Maltais' Franco American Hour aired on various Manchester stations for 45 years. On February 9, 1996 a reception in his honor was held at Manchester's Centre Franco-Americain. Paul Pare began hosting WFEA's new Sunday morning French show, Bravo!, on January 7, 1996.

 

Later that month, Kevin Flynn was promoted to news director upon the resignation of Sally Dionne, who became a special assistant to N.H. Congressman Bill Zeliff's. Tracy Caruso joined the news department, though she was primarily heard on WZID.

Each winter from 1993-97, WFEA sponsored a day-long event at the Center of New Hampshire celebrating the benefits and opportunities available to people over the age of 45. Originally called the Prime of Life Expo, the event evolved into WFEA's Lifestyle Expo. Thousands attended seminars, enjoyed displays on the convention floor, and enjoyed live entertainment by a big band and guest speakers.

WFEA general manager Ray Garon congratulates Joe Maltais on his retirement - February 9, 1996
Joe Maltais receives congratulations from
WFEA/WZID general manager Ray Garon
upon completing his 45 year career

96.5 The Mill - WMLL

On July 1, 1997 the Saga family grew. CEO Ed Christian announced the company had entered into a time brokerage agreement with Merrimack Valley Broadcasting Corporation, which owned WOXF (96.5MHz) licensed to Bedford, NH. On July 29th, the station's format switched from classic rock to oldies as COOL 96.5 (in early 2005 it changed again to WMLL, The Mill, featuring classic rock).

Saga Communications of New England managed and programmed the station while Merrimack Valley retained ownership. In August Saga bought WOXF for $3.3 million and changed the call letters to WQLL; the sale was consummated November 21, 1997.

 

At first, COOL continued to broadcast from its quarters in the former R.G. Sullivan 7-20-4 Cigar building on Canal Street in Manchester. But the entire operation moved to WFEA/WZID's quarters at 500 Commercial Street over Memorial Day weekend 1998. Later in the year Saga bought additional space, thus occupying three quarters of the fifth floor to house the three stations.

On January 25, 1998, Paul Pare discontinued Bravo!. On March 22nd, it was reinstated with new host Roger Lacerte who had experience hosting a French program in Lowell. Lacerte named the program Chez Nous.

WFEA's Roger Lecerte
Roger Lacerte

  The decade ended with a new beginning - a broadcast relationship between WFEA and the University of New Hampshire. An agreement was signed to bring UNH Wildcat football, hockey and basketball games to Manchester listeners featuring longtime UNH play-by-play man Dick Osborne.
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