WLLH Radio Origins Date Back to October 10, 1934

This item is a cross-post from my recent post on the Lowell Historical Society blog site here

I came across this newsworthy historical tidbit today. The first radio station of note in Lowell was known as  WLLH radio. Wikipedia and other sources tell us the story of the origins of WLLH and its current status.

On this day – October 10, 1934:

WLEY was a radio station operating in Lexington, Massachusetts until 1933 when it was purchased by Alfred Moffat, who moved the station to Lowell on October 10, 1934 and changed the call letters to WLLH. Moffat boosted the station’s daytime power to 250 watts from a transmitter and studio location at the Rex Center in downtown Lowell and then affiliated it with the Yankee Network. In 1936, the station also began an affiliation with theMutual-affiliated Colonial Network. He also began efforts to establish a second transmitter in Lawrence, which signed on the air temporarily with 100 watts on December 1, 1937 – a license for the Lawrence transmitter was issued on March 4, 1941. WLLH moved to 1400 kHz on March 29, 1941 under the North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement.

Johnny Carson’s well-known side-kick Ed McMahon – a Lowell High School graduate – began his career in 1942 as an announcer for WLLH. Local sports coverage was popular with listeners – from high school football to the Lowell Spinners in later days. Many will remember another popular radio figure – Tom Clayton and then in later years the late Paul Sullivan and his Morning Magazine show. Sullivan – also affiliated with the Lowell Sun – later starred on nighttime radio at WBZ-1030 AM in Boston.

The station that now operates as WLLH-1400 AM is quite different from its original format and is owned by Gois Broadcasting, LLC. The station airs in the Spanish language in a tropical music format.

12 Responses to WLLH Radio Origins Date Back to October 10, 1934

  1. John Quealey says:

    Marie, who sang when the moon comes over the mountain at 12 PM, followed by it’s 12:30 once again, Also in a booming voice (there’s no school in all schools in Lowell today), and who was the commentator at 7 PM.

  2. Marie says:

    “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain” – one of Kate Smith’s most popular songs.

    When the moon comes over the mountain
    Every beam brings a dream, dear, of you
    Once again we’ll stroll ‘neath the mountain
    Through that rose-covered valley we knew

    Each day is grey and dreary
    But the night is bright and cheery
    When the moon comes over the mountain
    I’ll be alone with my memories of you

    Can’t answer the other questions.

  3. John Quealey says:

    Tom Clayton at 12:30 in front of Newmans, previously in front of the Strand and no school today. Gabrial Heeter was the commentator at 7PM

  4. Chas S says:

    Always thought LLH was Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill. Also thought Tom Clayton’s Question Box for children was at the Rialto on Saturday Mornings

  5. Marie says:

    I don’t think the Haverhill link was ever made.
    When I was in the 7th & 8th grades at the Immaculate we had a long lunch time as so many kids went home – those who brought their brown bags would eat and sometimes run down East Merrimack to the old Rex/A&P area – now Middlesex CC parking lot – where Tom Clayton was broadcasting outside and try to get on the “Question Box.”
    (ps that was the 1955-1956 era)

  6. John Quealey says:

    i don’t recall the Children’s question box with Herbie Barber and Dennis McLaughlin at the Rialto,, but I do remember it across the street at Newmans.

  7. Ron Gitschier says:

    WLLH 1400 AM (FM 99.5 WLLH-FM, remember THAT, a straight simulcast of the AM), was a well-respected station in the industry as a Top 40 formatted station. They used PAMS “The Sound of Philadelphia” jingles, very tight, professional production. I credit the station on inspiring my current career as a Newsman (listening to Tom Clayton, Ron Gamache, Van Christopher, Dave Phaneuf, etc and of course Program Director/Morning Jock Jack Peterson. Bob Raymond mid days, Daniel T. Guy, Mike Baltoumas… what a lineup!

    A video of WLLH before they moved out of 4 Broadway… is on You Tube!


  8. Ken Desmarais (professional name Jackson) says:

    I’m LHS Class ’50 which I suspect makes me a tad older then
    some of your other writers. Tom Clayton definately was the
    man who inspired me to pursue a career in broadcasting.
    On those rare occasions when I couldn’t personally attend
    a Sunday afternoon LHS game, I could always hear it on
    WLLH. I can still remember the first time I saw him in person doing his Question Box in front of Newmans. He
    didn’t look as I had envisioned him…a phrase I have heard
    many times during my long 55 year career. If you answered
    correctly, you won a “wrinkle-proof” Newmans tie and two
    tickets to the Strand Theater. On one occasion, when I
    actually was on the program during my Emerson College
    days, he kindly wished me well. It was appreciated. In 1960 I met Ed McMahon (in Philadelphia) and we spent a
    good hour talking about the old hometown and people we
    knew. Turns out he knew one of my brothers who was also
    a WWII veteran. Small world. And yes, I definately recall,
    with great fondness, hearing those magical words: There’s
    no school in all schools today. By the way, the local news
    broadcast, just before Tom Clayton’s program, was once
    sponsored by Brockleman’s Food Market, located on the
    corner of Merrimack and Bridge Streets in Kearney Square.
    Enough of my warm memories of another time in my life.
    If any other LHS ’50 classsmates read this…I’d love to hear
    from you. Maybe we can grab a coffee and English at the
    Epicure. My treat.

    Ken Desmarais (Professional name: Ken Jackson)
    WYPR 88.1 (NPR)
    Baltimore, Maryland

  9. chris parker says:

    WOW!…L’m Chris Parker,chrisrjqparker@gmail.com , 1958-1962 chief engineer at WLLH…big moment came with the BIG FIRE AT THE REX !!!about 1963(any tighter date?) we were on the second floor…remember leaning way out the window, right next door; with fire engine right under the window…all the flaims were pritty exciting, but, looking staight down!…bolling pins… thrown on the top of the engine!…TOM CLAYTON was still, very-much there,I was in the controlroom switching “the feed” to him, off him. While looking out the front window,above where THE QUESTTION BOX took place, I saw my first,and last, PRAYING MANTUS ! IF, you ever see one, you will never forget the moment !1951-52, 15min.noontime “BOB AND RAY SHOW”,sign-off quote: “WRITE IF YOU GET WORK”……..Chris

  10. Steven Greenberg says:

    My father recorded many commercials for his drug store, Jones Pharmacy, for broadcast on WLLH. Any chance that those ads are in an archive somewhere?

  11. Dianne. Abell. ( Martin ) says:

    I am looking for info on my grandfathers radio show for WLLH His stag name was Bill Martin he played guitar . Maybe in the 1950 s. his real name was Joesph Henery Martin I am his granddaughter from his first son

  12. PAUL T. SULLIVAN says:

    Some may not realize it but there were two Paul Sullivans who worked at WLLH. I began working there while at Lowell High School and continued through college. I was a news reporter. This creates some confusion as the other Paul Sullivan, who passed away, worked for WBZ and, believe it or not, I also covered news for that Boston station during my high school and college years. The two of us oddly ran parallel in so many other areas as well. We both were graduates of Lowell’s Sacred Heart School and we both also did work for newspapers, he for the Lowell Sun and I wrote for The Boston Globe. We also taught at the college level, he at Middlesex Community College and I at The University of Massachusetts and U Mass Boston. Whenever we ran into each other, which was quite a few times, I told him I was “The original Paul Sullivan” as we followed the same paths with me about ten years earlier than he. He stayed in the media but I left to work in the fields of education and law enforcement. Every once in a while I’ll run into somebody from my past who will look at me and appear somewhat shocked as they had believed it was I who had died. I am now retired and keep busy walking the beach near my home here, in Hampton, boating or skiing at my lakeside home in the mountains of Maine, spending spring down at Tybee Island, GA or visiting the relatives in Ireland.