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Title: Wbru  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: WHJY, WELH, Providence Radio, WLKW (AM), WWBB
Collection: Modern Rock Radio Stations in the United States, Radio Stations Established in 1948, Radio Stations in Providence, Rhode Island
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


City of license Providence, Rhode Island
Broadcast area Southern New England
Slogan Your Alternative
Frequency 95.5 MHz/Channel 238
First air date Frequency: May 10, 1948 (as WJAR-FM/95.5)
Format Alternative rock, Jazz, Hip hop
ERP 18,500 watts
HAAT 139 meters
Class B
Facility ID 7313
Callsign meaning BRUnonia
Former callsigns WJAR-FM (original 1948 callsign), WPFM (circa 1958)
Owner Brown Broadcasting Service, Inc.
Webcast WBRU Webstream

WBRU is a commercial radio station in Providence, Rhode Island that broadcasts on 95.5 FM. Its transmitter is located in Providence.


  • History 1
    • Beginnings 1.1
    • The '60s and '70s 1.2
    • Switch to alternative format 1.3
      • World premieres 1.3.1
    • Brown Student Radio (BSR) 1.4
    • Governance 1.5
    • Programming and formats 1.6
  • Buddy FM prank 2
  • Radio Schedule 3
  • Timeline of notable events 4
  • Concert Promotion 5
    • WBRU Annual Rock Hunt 5.1
      • Past Winners of the WBRU Annual Rock Hunt 5.1.1
    • WBRU Summer Concert Series 5.2
    • WBRU Birthday Bash 5.3
  • News department 6
  • Notable alumni 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10



Founded by David Borst and George Abraham, the first broadcast of the Brown Network was transmitted on November 30, 1936, from Abraham’s room. He originally conceived of the idea as a way to share his record collection and serve as a personal disk jockey for his friends. By the next year, he had installed wires through the trees on campus, assigning students in various dormitories to act as “section managers” who would receive the signal on their receiver and transmit it to the rest of the building.

The New England Hurricane of 1938 destroyed most of the wires in the trees and Borst and Abraham were forced to move the wires into the steam tunnels beneath the campus. In February 1940, the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System was formed by 13 colleges, and it held its first meeting at Brown.

The '60s and '70s

In 1962, the Brown Broadcasting Service (BBS) was established as a separate entity from the University and in 1965, the BBS was donated a commercial FM license (WPFM) from The Outlet Company, a local department store chain and licensee of Providence stations WJAR 920 AM and WJAR-TV channel 10 (NBC). BBR was then split into two stations: WBRU-AM and WBRU FM. WBRU-AM continued to broadcast locally as a carrier-current station (distributed through Brown's electrical system) and operated as the training station for WBRU FM.

During the 1970s, WBRU broadcast at 20,000 watts on 95.5 FM and established itself as the principal progressive rock (aka, album-oriented rock or AOR) station in Rhode Island and southern New England. Attempts to boost the signal to 50,000 watts with a transmitter on the Sciences Library failed because of the interference it caused to sensitive scientific equipment, but the station was making plans to move its transmitter to the WPRO-FM transmitter location and increase power to 50,000 watts. This could not be done until 2009 because public TV station WSBE-TV's analog TV antenna currently occupies the tower space where WBRU plans to put its broadcast antenna. WSBE is locating its digital antenna at the WJAR antenna tower in Rehoboth, Massachusetts.

Switch to alternative format

In 1988, WBRU switched its format to modern rock and has remained in that format ever since, although leaning towards playing newer artists and artists of the indie rock genre.

logo used from the early 2000s until late 2009

WBRU was also frequently named one of the best radio stations in the country by numerous trade magazines such as Billboard and Rolling Stone (which named it best radio station in the country in a medium size market three years in a row, the only radio station ever to achieve that).

The station is part of the Providence music scene, and has been instrumental in introducing to the area alternative bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Skrewdriver, Skullhead, and countless other important bands. It was among the first radio stations in the United States to play Ben Folds Five and Talking Heads. Kurt Cobain's last radio interview before his death was on WBRU.

Between April 17 and April 21, 2006, WBRU played their entire music catalog by title from A-Z, starting at 5:30 p.m. with "About a Girl" by Nirvana on the 17th and ending around 11:15 on the 21st with "Zombie" by The Cranberries. The songs ranged from new music (by such bands as Panic! at the Disco and Zox), 1980s and 1990s pop rarely played by the station (such as Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy") and classic punk (i.e. Sex Pistols and New York Dolls).

On June 15, 2006, the station began streaming live online.

WBRU aired its first voicetracked break at 5:17 PM on November 15, 2010, during the Afternoon BRU with Corey and Cato.

World premieres

In 2006, WBRU was the first U.S. radio station to play "Supermassive Black Hole" by British band Muse and played the Beck single "Cellphone's Dead" before its release until Interscope Records filed a cease and desist order against the station.

In 2007, WBRU premiered the Smashing Pumpkins new single "Tarantula" only 15 minutes after KROQ-FM world premiered it, becoming only the second station in the country to play it and the first to play it twice when they played it a second time immediately afterwards.

In 2008, WBRU was the first station in the country to air "I Will Possess Your Heart" by Death Cab For Cutie, which it did at approximately 1:30 p.m. on March 18, 2008.[1]

In 2009, WBRU was the first station to debut Say Anything's new single "Hate Everyone." The single premiered at approximately 3:30 p.m. on August 17, 2009. The band's lead singer Max Bemis also premiered the song "Crush'd," playing acoustic in studio.[2]

In 2013, WBRU was the first station to play Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" as reported by Billboard Magazine. [3]

Brown Student Radio (BSR)

In 1997, WBRU's carrier-current AM station split off and became Brown Student Radio (BSR), broadcasting initially on WELH-FM (88.1), under a license owned by The Wheeler School and online [2]. In 2003, BSR added a community radio element to its mission, incorporating community members as programmers and volunteers alongside students. In August, 2011 BSR lost their air time on WELH and became an internet-only station.[4]


88 Benevolent St., the building from which WBRU broadcasts and is headquartered

WBRU-FM is operated and run on a commercial basis. Its current Program Director is Wendell Clough, who has been at the station for over a decade and its General Sales Manager is Jim Corwin, the former Vice President / Market Manager of Clear Channel Communications.

Programming and formats

Today, WBRU is known for playing alternative rock and hip-hop based programming with crossover artists on both formats (e.g. Lorde, Cee-Lo Green, Macklemore. The station's regular alternative format is flipped more urban on Sundays. The rest of the time is devoted to alternative rock, with a strong leaning towards indie rock music, which is often not played by larger market alternative stations.

Buddy FM prank

On March 29, 2006, WBRU claimed to be sold to Initech (a reference to the 1999 film Office Space) and changed the format of the station from alternative rock to "Buddy FM" - a variety hits format similar to the Jack format that had emerged at stations around the country.[5] WBRU "signed off" on 4:57PM March 31, 2006, cutting out 10 seconds before the end of what they proclaimed to the final song played by the station, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day and was replaced by dead air until 5:02PM, switching to "Buddy FM" with "The Sign" by Ace of Base. The hoax was complete with telling radio sweepers done in-studio. Some examples included: "Buddy FM: hits of the '70s '80s '90s and today... and the 1940s... and the 1850s...", and mentions that the station was "fun for the whole family" after which the station played "Me So Horny" by 2 Live Crew. Local network television affiliates WJAR and WLNE reported that WBRU had been sold without gaining confirmation about the story.

It was later found out to be an April fools joke, and, as of noon on April 1, 2006, WBRU had "regained" control of their radio station and began playing their normal playlist once again. Later that day, they confirmed that they were back to being WBRU, and that Buddy FM was no longer functioning.

This is not the first time that this April fools joke had been pulled at the station, but it was the first time it had been taken to this extent. Previous April Fools Days featured similar pranks by WBRU DJs, announcing that the station would be switching formats, but the joke was usually only kept up for a couple of hours.

Radio Schedule

The station runs several different features on the station. Some of them include:


  • "BRU Breakfast" - 6:00AM-9:00AM WBRU's morning drive program
  • "BRU Ticket Window" - 9:05AM - 4:05PM. Listeners call in for a chance to win concert tickets, entry to sports games, and valuable gift cards
  • 95 Minutes Commercial Free - 1:00PM.
  • The Retro Lunch - 12:00PM. 60 minutes of alternative rock of the '80s, '90s, and early '00s.
  • "Afternoon BRU" - 4:00PM-7:00PM. WBRU's afternoon drive program.
  • Home BRU'd. Weekdays at 9:00PM. Features Six songs by bands from Rhode Island and the neighboring area. Formerly aired 12:00 AM, Monday through Wednesdays


  • Smash or Trash - 6:00PM. A listener curated battle-of-the-bands between two brand new songs.
  • Exposure - 11:00PM Monday through Thursday. an hour of approximately 11-12 indie rock or electronica songs not currently on the WBRU playlist and personally selected by the DJ currently on shift.[6] In early August 2010, this program was expanded from Wednesdays to Monday through Thursday and merged with the similar Nine O'Clock News program.


  • 12 Cuts Above the Rest - 5:00PM.

Retired Features

  • The List, 7:00PM, Monday through Thursday. A themed countdown of songs, such as Top 50 Warped Tour Bands or Top 95 One Hit Wonders.
  • Album of the Day

Timeline of notable events

  • 1936 - First broadcast of the Brown Network
  • 1940 - The newly formed Intercollegiate Broadcasting System holds its first meeting at Brown
  • 1948 - WJAR-FM signs on (May 10)
  • 1950 - According to the 1950 Broadcasting Yearbook, WJAR-FM broadcasts at 20 kW
  • 1950s- 95.5Mc. is home to WPFM, a classical music station
  • 1962 - Brown Broadcasting Service (BBS) is established as a corporation independent from Brown University
  • 1963 - The first BBS/WBRU constitution is written
  • 1966 - Brown University buys WPFM & signs on WBRU (February 21)
  • 1969 - WBRU is the first progressive rock station in the market
  • 1971 - Attempts to broadcast at 50,000 watts failed due to interference with sensitive scientific equipment
  • 1974 - WBRU is granted tax-exempt status
  • 1975 - First paid professionals are hired
  • 1976 - Station receives first Gold Record for airplay of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run."
  • 1979 - WBRU moves its studio from Faunce House to 88 Benevolent Street, its current location
  • 1981 - (October) Competitor WHJY signs on
  • 1982 - Due to low ratings, WBRU abandons its free-form format and hires the consulting firm of Burkhart, Abrams, Michaels, Douglas to institute a tight playlist of approved songs that "test well" with the station's intended demographic.
  • 1984 - Elvis Costello stops by with a box of records and plays DJ for an hour
  • 1988 - WBRU adopts a modern-rock format, called "The Cutting Edge of Rock"
  • 1992 - Student station members reverse a decision which would turn WBRU into an NPR affiliate
  • 1993 - WBRU wins first place in the Rolling Stone Readers' Poll for best medium-sized market
  • 1994 - WBRU wins first place again in the Rolling Stone Readers' Poll
  • 1995 - (June) WDGE signs on and becomes a direct competitor with WBRU
  • 1995 - WBRU wins first place again in the Rolling Stone Readers' Poll
  • 1999 - WDGE officially signs off (due to WBRU's dominance in the market) and is replaced by WHKK
  • 1999 - Station members vote unanimously against a joint sales agreement with Capstar Broadcasting Company
  • 2000 - WFNX, a Boston station, extends into Providence to compete with WBRU
  • 2002 - Competitor WKKB signs on in Middletown, RI
  • 2004 - WFNX signs off in Providence
  • 2004 - WKKB becomes a Spanish station
  • 2006 - As a three-day April Fools' Day hoax, WBRU pretends to be bought-out by "Initech" who change the station's format to "Buddy FM"
  • 2006 - On June 15, WBRU begins to stream live on the web
  • 2006 - The station plays its entire catalog from A-Z
  • 2007 - As its annual April Fools' Joke, the station was stuck in a time warp - 1995; and all music played was recorded before the date.
  • 2008 - Station plays its entire catalog from A-Z again.
  • 2008 - Red Sox games air live on WBRU when WEEI broadcasts Boston Celtics playoff games instead

Concert Promotion

WBRU Annual Rock Hunt

The radio station holds a battle of the bands, the WBRU Annual Rock Hunt, which began around 1980 and was held most years since:

Past Winners of the WBRU Annual Rock Hunt

  • 1980: The DC Tenz
  • 1981: The Mundanes (featuring band member John Linnell, later of They Might Be Giants)
  • 1982: The Schemers
  • 1983: Critical Few
  • 1984: no competition
  • 1985: MX [7]
  • 1986: The Dames[7] (featuring band member Gail Greenwood, later of Belly and L7)
  • 1987: Coat of Arms
  • 1988: That'll Learn Ya
  • 1989: Bop Harvey
  • 1990: Jungle Dogs
  • 1991: Superbug
  • 1992: The Phobics
  • 1993: Angry Salad
  • 1994: John Monopoly
  • 1995: Blairs Carriage
  • 1996: unknown
  • 1997: unknown
  • 1998: The L.U.V.'s
  • 1999: no competition
  • 2000: no competition
  • 2001: M-80
  • 2002: Monty Are I
  • 2003: Zox
  • 2004: The Lingo
  • 2005: Sasquatch and the Sick-A-Billys
  • 2006: The Sleazies
  • 2007: Triangle Forest
  • 2008: It Was The Best Of Times
  • 2009: Fairhaven
  • 2010: The Wandas
  • 2011: VulGarrity
  • 2012: The Rice Cakes
  • 2013: Torn Shorts
  • 2014: The Rare Occasions
  • 2015: Public Alley

WBRU Summer Concert Series

Every summer the station puts on the WBRU concert series. The shows usually feature a popular band and a few local acts opening up. Initially, there were about 10 shows per year which were free to the public and paid for by sponsor booths, but in recent years the station has started charging for these concerts and has reduced the number of shows to 3 per year. In 2010, the station resumed free single artist Summer Concert Series concerts in addition to the multiple band for-pay concerts. Past concert series [8] include:

WBRU Birthday Bash

The station also has their Birthday Bash concerts in November to celebrate the station's anniversary. From 2007 to 2010, the Birthday Bash was split from one concert to multiple concerts throughout November. Previously, the only time it was split was in 2001 where two concerts were held. Past Birthday bashes include:[18]

News department

WBRU has a full news department, with sports news and entertainment news divisions. For 2007 they won the Massachusetts/Rhode Island Associated Press awards in the college division for Best Web Site, Best Investigative Reporting, Best Breaking News, Best Feature Reporting, Best Continuing Coverage, Best Sports Program, and Best Use of Sound, and the award for News Station of the Year.[25]

Notable alumni

WBRU staff members have gone on to excel in a variety of areas. They include:


  1. ^ Mitchell, Martha. (2003). "WBRU." Encyclopedia Brunoniana.
  2. ^ Schwartzapfel, Beth. (January/February 2006). "Radio Heads." Brown Alumni Magazine.


  1. ^ "WBRU First to Play New Death Cab for Cutie Single". Archived from the original on 2008-06-03. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Brown Student Radio Station BSR to Go Online-Only August 1". 
  5. ^ "WBRU back in its original groove". Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b Two Years of Rock Hunting. 95.5 WBRU/Big Bubble Records/Heartbreak Hits. c. 1986. p. back cover. 
  8. ^ "WBRU Concert Series Bands". Retrieved 2008-04-24. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "WBRU Birthday Bash Bands". Archived from the original on 2008-02-03. Retrieved 2008-04-24. 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Associated Press announces broadcast awards for 2007". The Boston Globe. March 12, 2008. 
  26. ^ Ramirez, Erika (29 June 2015). "Rihanna Throws Money at BET's Stephen Hill at 2015 BET Awards". Retrieved 16 October 2015. 
  27. ^ AR2006120700580.html

External links

  • WBRU official website
  • WBRU Alumni of the 1960s
  • Query the FCC's FM station database for WBRU
  • Radio-Locator information on WBRU
  • Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WBRU
  • Buddy FM audio—April fools prank
  • List of F.M. stations in the U.S. in 1950
  • List of F.M. stations in the U.S. in the summer of 1958
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