In this season of giving thanks, here is my shout-out to Maine’s two volunteer-run community radio stations, WERU in the Midcoast and WMPG in Portland. During the darkest days of the pandemic, they helped me see the light.

Like just about everyone else on the planet who lived through the COVID-19 lockdown, I felt disoriented by the loss of my daily routines and I longed for the companionship of colleagues and friends. Zoom gatherings helped to a point, but they rarely added joy to my life.

The DJs, podcasters and other volunteers at WMPG and WERU helped fill that void. I brightened up on Monday mornings when I remembered that I had my choice of two excellent shows – vintage country music on WMPG’s South by Southwest, or Cousin Phil’s folk music show on WERU. Better yet, I could listen to both by finding the shows later online.

Both DJs are very knowledgeable about their chosen genres and they put a lot of thought into each day’s line-up. WMPG host Lincoln draws on an incredible collection of his own vinyl, 45s and CDs. He’s curated shows featuring African-American country music, gospel country and famous duet partners such as Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. Every year, he devotes a whole show to the music of Johnny Paycheck and another to Hank Williams. During Women’s History Month, he plays a vast line-up of women country singers.

Cousin Phil often chooses a theme for his shows, then finds songs from the early 1900s to the present on that theme. It could be songs about autumn or civil rights, gun violence or maple sugaring. What other station plays a song in mid-November about the frustrations of waiting in line for a Thanksgiving visit with a loved one who’s in prison?

That’s just Monday morning. The rest of the week is just as rich on community radio. I tune in for shows featuring scat singers, Celtic tunes, Jewish music and much more.


Some of the songs that I’ve heard on WERU, in particular, have become part of the soundtrack of my life. Songs like Nora Jean Struthers’ cheerful tune, “Goin’ on a Bike Ride”, or Adie Grey’s recitation of her grandfather’s driving advice, in a song cowritten with Dave MacKenzie:

“They’re all jerks! When you’re out here on your own,

Just assume that everybody else is half-asleep or stoned,

They’re all jerks! Not a one knows how to drive,

So you gotta pay attention to make it home alive,

I’ll give you my philosophy, I guarantee it works,


Repeat it after me, kid: They’re all jerks!”

WERU and WMPG offer a lot more than music shows. Their podcasts give advice about everything from pet care to astrology. Their beautiful spoken word pieces alert us to happenings in the natural world unfolding around us. The DJs announce local concerts and events geared to specific groups such as the LGBTQ+ community. For years, WMPG’s public affairs shows included an outstanding homelessness marathon, broadcast all night long on the December equinox.

Both stations operate on a shoestring budget, with a handful of staff and lots of volunteer labor. The pandemic presented a big challenge, since volunteers couldn’t go into the station to broadcast live. Undaunted, they mastered new technology to record shows at their homes.

So, a big thanks to the crews at WERU and WMPG. You helped keep us sane in a global pandemic by giving us groovy music every day. You reflect the best of Maine — its small-town friendliness, artistic flair and heart.

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