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Radio Free Provincetown

The Former Center street home of WOMR

by Steve Desroches

WOMR Celebrates 40th Anniversary

It’s a quiet April day in Provincetown, gray and chilly. Daffodils newly in bloom brighten up a gloomy day in the East End near the Schoolhouse, home to Provincetown’s community radio station WOMR. The summer crush is still months away,
and to the seasonal visitor the town might seem like it just shuts down when they leave for the off season. But the voice of Provincetown is coming in loud and clear as the beloved independent 92.1 FM celebrates its 40th year on the airwaves and as a bedrock institution for the Cape tip, year round.

WOMR (whose call letters stand for Outermost Radio) sent out its first broadcast on March 21, 1982. The station celebrates with a variety of events this spring, starting with an open house on Sunday, May 1, from 12 to 4 p.m. for those interested in seeing
the Provincetown studio.

On this particular day, the station is filled with the music of Al Green as one of the 80-plus DJs, Mike Fee, enters the second hour of three for his Thursday morning show Road Trippin’. Fee’s show is like WOMR itself in that it’s hard to describe. There’s a whole lot of blues, rock, soul, and funk.  This morning he’s played everything from Rickie Lee Jones to Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros to Fountains of Wayne. And once the triple shot of Al Green is over Fee spins Jimmy Cliff, the Chambers Brothers, Little Feat, and of course, the Grateful Dead, a regular staple of his show. After hosting his own show for three years now, the smile on Fee’s face signifies he’s still thrilled with the opportunity, something he’s said he’s wanted to do for years.
And WOMR is the perfect place for him.

“Nobody tells you what to play,” says Fee. “It’s whatever you want to do. That makes it so exciting. This has been a lifelong dream of mine. Stations like this are hard to find these days.”

Perhaps that’s at the core of WOMR’s success. That the radio station taps into Provincetown’s ferocious sense of independence is a stellar example of the importance of independent media, which in today’s landscape is increasingly rare. And it’s far too easy to take for granted the numerous independent media outlets on the Cape tip. But it is vital to the preservation and continued growth of Provincetown’s culture, as WOMR has shared that with the broader region since 2010 when the station installed a repeater in Orleans, broadcasting on WFMR (Furthermost Radio) 91.3 FM, allowing the broadcasts to reach almost all of Cape Cod, over to Plymouth and as far as New Bedford on the South Coast. And it has an increasingly global reach online, says WOMR executive director John Braden.

“We definitely have worldwide fans,” says Braden. “We have listeners all over the world. We recently got a message from a man who lives on a small island off of Britain saying how we’ve become one of his favorite stations after discovering us on Radio Garden. The reach available is really remarkable.”

The late Joyce Johnson
WOMR executive director John Braden

Radio Garden is a Dutch nonprofit developed by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision that seeks to expand the reach of radio stations around the world, giving access to 8,000-plus broadcasts on its website and app. It’s just one of the ways that WOMR relays the voice of Provincetown globally. Shows like Tony Scungilli’s Squid Jigger Blend, Matty Dread’s Soul Funky Train, Kathy Tarr’s Brand New Day and Lady Di’s Leggs Up and Dancing are just a few long-time shows that have made the station so popular beyond Cape Cod, showing that there is a big demand for freeform radio and liberated DJs who can pursue any playlist or talk radio format they choose. There’s even a Lady Di fan club in South Korea.

The devotion to WOMR only grew during the pandemic. While live broadcasts were suspended for three months, the station figured out how to operate safely, and continued its live programming for their traditional 20 hours a day, seven days a week. Braden notes that messages from listeners thanked them for this dose of normalcy in an uncertain time.

The former Center street home of WOMR

It’s a stunning achievement to those who remember the early days, and to Braden, who started as a volunteer at WOMR in April of 1991. And as part of an effort to preserve that impact and creativity WOMR maintains a digital archive of most of their talk shows and some music programming. The 1.2-terabytes digital archive includes Positively Speaking, a program from the 1980s and 1990s about HIV and AIDS as well as The Sands of Time,  an oral history show hosted by the late Joyce Johnson that chronicled those figures who shape the Outer Cape. Though she passed away in 2014, WOMR still runs shows from the archive Friday mornings at 9 a.m. While radio can seem ephemeral and of the moment, WOMR is ensuring the history of the station, and the Outer Cape, is protected and available to researchers and historians.

As the bouncy rhythm of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” fills the Commercial Street studio with Fee bouncing along wearing a t-shirt with a squirrel in headphones operating a turntable, a mirrored disco ball hanging from the ceiling casts sunlit sparkles on the walls of record albums and CDs in WOMR’s library. Posters from past events and concerts dot the walls, as does an autographed photo of Patti Page, who made the song “Old Cape Cod” a hit in 1957, group portraits of past volunteers, and old signs that used to identify previous locations of the station. Over the course of the song the station’s phones ring, mostly with listeners making a pledge as part of the spring fundraising drive, illustrating the support WOMR has in the community and beyond. If you check in throughout the day, or a broadcast week, you’ll hear everything from bluegrass and opera to psychedelic and folk, as well as the occasional head-scratching tune that is nonetheless still compelling. It is an aural quilt of the Outer Cape, with patches being added everyday.

“We often say here that for every kind of person there is we have at least one of each here at the station,” says Fee. “That’s what makes me love it so much. It’s a mix of a little bit of everything, something for everyone.”

The Late John Perrone
Lady Di
WOMR volunteers in 1994

WOMR’s 40th anniversary open house is Sunday, May 1 from 12 to 4 p.m. at their studio in the Schoolhouse, 494 Commercial St., Provincetown. For more information visit or call 508.487.2619.

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Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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