Radio Station Will Try to Fill the All-Disco Vacuum

Westerly, R.I., Radio Station Will Try to Fill the All-Disco Vacuum
Cynthia Needham. Knight Ridder Tribune Business News. Washington: Jan 20, 2004. pg. 1

Copyright 2004, Providence Journal, R.I. Distributed by KnightRidder/Tribune Business News.

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Jan. 20--WESTERLY, R.I. -- Disco fever is stayin' alive in South County, at least that's what Chris DiPaola would like you to think.

On Feb. 7, DiPaola will sign on a new all-disco-all-the-time radio station -- WCTD 96.9, "The Party" -- to a low-power FM frequency that can be heard in parts of southwestern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut.

If that combination doesn't attract a few listeners, the tagline's got to get them: "You're always invited to our party."

DiPaola promises that he's not an aging disco addict; at 30, he's too young anyway. And truth be told, if he had his way he would have gone the classic rock route.

But the disco market was wide open and begging for a beat, DiPaola said.

"There are already enough stations in South County doing classic rock," he said. "I wanted to do a format that no one else is doing, something that will give people a reason to listen."

As far as DiPaola knows, "The Party" will be the only 24-hour disco station anywhere in the Northeast. A number of stations do disco shows, mostly on Saturday nights, he said, but none commit themselves to the groove on a full-time basis.

With 15 years in the business, DiPaola, owner of another Westerly- based station, WBLQ, is a radio veteran. DiPaola started working after school at a radio station in Hope Valley when he was 15 years old. Experience, he said, has taught him that success comes when you listen to your listeners.

WBLQ for example specializes in soft rock, news and sports talk, programming that's popular with the senior set, who often rely on the radio for news.

Though "The Party" will share space and equipment with WBLQ, the new station will target an entirely different audience, he said -- the 30-55 group, which will likely include out-of-state tourists who flock to the South County beaches in search of summer sunshine and a little Barry White.

When it debuts at noon on Feb. 7 with a four-hour show from My Mary's Restaurant on Route 1 in Westerly, it will broadcast most clearly in Westerly and Hopkinton where it's antenna is located. It will also come in through parts of Charlestown, Richmond and Stonington, Conn., and has a potential of reaching 50,000 people, he said.

Then again, he added, he'll be happy with 8,000.

That kind of reach doesn't come cheap. DiPaola said he convinced My Mary's owner Bob Lucey to help foot the cost of new equipment, including a new transmitter and mixing board, once costs climbed into the thousands.

With financial details now in place, DiPaola said it's all a matter of sitting back and letting the music do its thing.

Saturday Night Fever, look out. It's party time.

Credit: Providence Journal, R.I.