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In 1968 Sam Kopper arrived back in Boston after graduating Syracuse University, taking a sales job at WBCN. “Selling [time on ‘BCN] was not hard,” he revealed. “[The station] was coming out of every window in Back Bay, so places like head shops and record stores totally got it.” Even so, Kopper hated selling, lasting only two days in the department. Fortunately, he got a shot as a DJ one night in May, filling in for Joe Rogers. Kopper’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Within days, ‘BCN began programming rock 24/7 and the station went on the hunt for jocks to fill out the expanded schedule. Kopper was added to the first full-time lineup, doing mornings.
Steven Segal, a brilliant DJ, was brought in from the west coast to be program director, but his chaotic personal life indicated that he might not be the best choice to lead the air staff, so Sam Kopper assumed that role. “When Steven arrived, he was the ‘John Lennon’ of our station. I basically exercised and made real his visions.” Kopper became the point person in programming for his first few years at WBCN.
He remained at the station for a decade, developing his talent as a broadcast engineer and facilitating many on-air concerts. In 1978, when new program director Charlie Kendall arrived, things started to sour. Kopper, who was driving his ‘Crab Louie’ recording bus around the East Coast to engineer as many as three live broadcasts a week for several radio stations, took the hint. “He wanted me to leave and I was so busy anyway, we decided I would resign.” Kopper got a bigger bus, stuffed it with recording gear, renamed his company ‘Starfleet’ and went on to continued success. He’d return as the keeper of WBCN’s heritage after it went off the air in 2009. But the call-letters of ‘WBCN,’ through its 40+ years of rich history, will remain a legendary part of America’s radio story forever.
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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.