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Theodore Mitchell Hastings Jr. was the eccentric engineering genius who sparked up WBCN-FM’s transmitter on April 24, 1958, becoming owner and President of what was, originally, a classical music radio station. After World War II, the Harvard graduate became fascinated with the commercial possibilities of the largely untouched FM radio band. He invented an FM radio for the car and an early pocket FM transistor radio before jumping into the world of radio station ownership himself. He formed the General Broadcasting Corporation, later to be known as Concert Network Inc. Hastings acquired, then changed the call letters to: WNCN New York City; WHCN Hartford; WXCN Providence; WRCN on Long Island and WBCN Boston.
T. Mitchell Hastings possessed personality quirks that often challenged those around him. “[He] was a whack job, and I don’t mean that meanly; but he was just a very strange guy,” WBCN Program Director, Sam Kopper, revealed. Hastings and his wife Margot were regular acquaintances of clairvoyant Edgar Cayce and sat with the famous seer to gain glimpses into the future. Some of these predictions formed the basis of Hastings’ shaky business decisions. Eventually, a financial crisis at Concert Network forced the owner to sell off his radio properties until only WBCN remained. After the famous March 1968 radio experiment ushered the counterculture in at the station, Hastings remained general manager and owner.
After a brain operation, Hastings still proved to be as unpredictable as ever, moving WBCN to the top of the Prudential Tower in 1973 and designing state of the art studios with five layers of soundproof glass and springs to “float” the floors. He sold the station to Hemisphere Broadcasting in 1979, sparking the infamous WBCN Strike in February of that year. T. Mitchell Hastings passed away on September 27, 1994.
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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.