Saturday, September 19, 2009

Radio is a sound salvation

WPCI logo from Greenville South.

One of the great treasures of upstate South Carolina is WPCI-AM, 1490 on your radio dial. I used to jokingly call it Audiodrome (after Cronenberg's Videodrome), since I had no idea where it came from. One day, I was fiddling with the AM radio dial and heard "China Cat Sunflower" clear as anything. What? Huh? I left it there, and it was followed by Jimmy Buffett, assorted reggae, oldies, jazz and classic country. Nobody said anything. No commercials. What the devil---?

Every now and then (as mandated by law), someone authoritatively announced "WPCI, the quality alternative"...and so I looked it up. Of course, it had no website either, no playlist (which I still wish was available!)... and at that time, there was no Wikipedia entry, no local media sources available to tell me where this magical WPCI came from. So, I just kept calling it Audiodrome.

Eventually, I learned that one Mr Randy Mathena owned WPCI, and just played his own records. Is that cool or what? (And how many of us diehard music fans have had that fantasy?):

Five and a half years ago, a dream came true for the Mathena family. Paper Cutters Inc. proprietor, and Furman University Grad, Randy Mathena, owner and operator of WPCI 1490 AM, left the business news broadcasting world behind, and switched to a non-commercial format, with a non-stop play list of over 10,000 songs. The only voices heard are FCC mandated interruptions every thirty minutes supplying call letter identifications. This all music format has put WPCI on the Greenville map, with a rapidly rising fan base. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week you can hear everything from reggae, jazz, soft-rock, and even classic rock. It is the first of its kind, a commercially licensed station that plays no commercials and whose mission is just that; to play nothing but music.
It was during college at Furman University where Randy Mathena first learned of his love for radio. Working at the university’s station Randy learned all he could about radio and had always sought after buying a station for himself. Randy set out looking for a station to prove to himself it wasn’t possible. That’s when he found WMRC, a station that was black and waiting for someone to come along and save it. In buying WMRC it was up to Randy to rename the station and claim the four acre plot of land that housed the station. His first two choices, WRMB for rhythm and blues, and WBCH for beach, were taken, so the station was named WPCI for Paper Cutters Inc. WPCI began with business radio until 5 ½ years ago when it’s all music format was ready to begin. With 10,000 songs non-stop, Randy has created a station unlike any other.

Nestled on four acres in Greenville, South Carolina’s West End district, WPCI 1490 AM currently operates at 1 Kilowatt. The newly renovated cherry wood building lies adjacent to the Reedy River downtown. The completed renovations coincide with the rebuilding of downtown Greenville and the historic West End, which is generating even more conversation about WPCI in the community.

Playing an eclectic variety of music, ranging from bluegrass to reggae and rock to R&B, this format has won high marks from Jimmy Cornelison, a journalist at Greenville News. A simple, yet extremely meaningful, “thank you”, Cornelison wishes to extend to Mathena for providing an alternative outlet for music fans with no commercials. WPCI was recently ranked 16 th out of the 36 South Carolina’s upstate stations. For no commercials, no profit, relying solely upon word of mouth, this is one of the greatest achievements WPCI has accomplished. Before any awards or recognitions, Mathena explains that he has fulfilled his dream and mission, “I bought the station for exactly what it’s doing today. That was the goal from day one; to play music. It is a dream come true. The dream of continuous music was not just Mathena’s, but rather the listeners’ dream as well 4. The unique format and Mathena’s passion for music made the choice clear for the [now-defunct, weekly newspaper] Greenville Beat to name WPCI 1490 as the best AM station in the upstate.

WE LOVE YOU, RANDY! You've done good. WPCI, with its trademark mix of connoisseur-level reggae, fabulous blues standards and wonderful beach classics, is a definite highlight of my day. Songs from WPCI have ended up on this blog more than a few times!

I hope that someday, a brave little website containing the elusive and ever-sought title/artist play-list will be available, because I do love WPCI and I feel the lack. Until this happens, I'll continue to scratch random lyrics on a pad of paper and look up the songs up later.

A small price to pay for continuous music, some of it almost forgotten, but timelessly marvelous.


Dennis the Vizsla said...

Wow, that's an awesome way to run a station!

thene said...

Could you write to the guy and ask for the playlist? It sounds fascinating.

sheila said...

Yes, that would be a dream of every single person I think! Very cool! I don't know if they'd do this, because it's probably a small station, but we've got a station here that...if you text them a request for it...they'll text you back the last 5 songs played.

LarryE said...

Just FYI, there is a station streaming on the web that is similarly eclectic and lacking in commercials:

It's streaming from Antarctica, which for reasons I can't really explain somehow makes it cooler - no pun - than it would otherwise be.

kikipotamus said...

Right on! I love jewels like that one. Maybe you could volunteer to create and maintain the blog...if he feeds you the daily titles and bands? Wow, still, that's a lot of titles if it's non-stop music 24/7! And PS Happy birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!

chris said...

sounds wonderful - music with no commercials. You are very fortunate

JoJo said...

I loved being on my high school FM radio station b/c I could play what I wanted. We had no commercials, only PSAs and we'd do the news at the top & bottom of each hour. Same with my college stations.

nettiemac said...

This is one of the coolest stations ever. I just wish they had streaming. I hate when I get out of range between home (next county west) and G'vegas. Kills me to lose 1490.

Kat said...

Hello. Where did you find the WPCI banner featured in the article? Seems like it'd make a neat bumper sticker.

Daisy Deadhead said...

Kat, I got it from the now-defunct "Greenville South" website.

I think it would make a GREAT bumper sticker! :)