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Debbie Ullman became WBCN’s first female DJ in 1969 after she had volunteered to help transport the station’s voluminous record library from Newbury Street to its second home on Stuart Street and then worked in the Sales Department. “I liked her voice, intelligence and spirit,” program director Sam Kopper mentioned. He was also impressed when she took the initiative to pass the FCC radio license exam, which was unusual, at the time, for a woman. Then, as Ullman worked in the sales area one afternoon, the jocks arrived for an air staff meeting. “That usually meant that someone would play long tracks on the radio while they met,” she recalled. “Someone said, ‘We’re going to have a meeting in ten minutes; if you can learn the [air studio] board, you’re on.’ Apparently, I didn’t fumble things too badly!”
Debbie Ullman mused about WBCN: “The ‘programming’ of the music was definitely about fun…and hedonism and all of that. But there was also a very strong visionary sense. We actually saw the civil rights movement come to some degree of fruition, we were in the process of bringing the Vietnam War down…there was a tremendous sense that we could change the world.”
In 1970 Ullman was considered for a full-time shift, but after a summer of fill-in work, she flew the coop. “I was under the spell of Woodstock and had the urge for going; I was ready to get into somebody’s car and drive to California with my dog.” However, she was soon persuaded to return and take over the morning show. With the hiring of Maxanne Sartori to do afternoons, WBCN had female announcers in both the morning and the afternoon shifts by the spring of 1971. She would remain with the station for two more years and has lived on Cape Cod for most of her life as a therapist and the Editor and Co-director of GestaltPress.
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(by Carter Alan)
Carter Alan is a former WBCN DJ now heard on WZLX-FM in Boston. He is the author of Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN (University Press of New England, 2013), available here as well as from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.