On a crisp afternoon in early February of 1971, on a fresh vinyl spinning at 33 1/3 RPM, The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” broke the long silence of the Tufts Radio community. After over a decade of trials and tribulations, pranks gone awry, and a record of disbandment, WMFO emerged in its current profile. The WMFO we know – the freeform community-centered station – came to life.
To do due diligence to the rich history of WMFO is to go back to the rocky crucible of its conception. WMFO, in its earliest form, aired as WTCR, Tufts Community Radio, over half a century ago, from a small room in Braker Hall. There, students first gained recognition as a campus organization and reached listeners campus-wide, bringing autonomous radio to the hill. While the small club tried to gain traction in the community, the leftover military equipment available for use left the students and staff involved without options and with various mysterious bouts of radiation leakages. With hazardous conditions and dwindling student involvement, the group crumbled in 1961.
The dream of a Tufts radio project was dormant until in 1967, when a group of students interested in revamping the club stumbled upon the unused body of funds left over from six years prior. The group of students, motivated by the funds, and their newly acquired digs in Curtis Hall, rebranded the radio station as WTUR, Tufts University Radio. They acquired new and better equipment. After two years of laborious work, The university granted these students $8,000. Finally, they were able to move their station from AM to FM, launching into an era of freeform radio liberty. It seemed that WTUR would finally fulfill the promising destiny students had battled so fiercely to create.
Endowed with a newfound sense of freedom and an eagerness to push WTUR to its limits, these students again drove WTUR into the ground. Just one year after WTUR incurred some initial success, the station was again disbanded after a group of students pulled off a prank, lacking in scruples what it made up for in spectacle. They harnessed the MBTA railway system’s resources as a makeshift antenna network and broadcasted WTUR via these rail lines as far as New Hampshire. While this elaborate prank was incredibly successful – their signal could be heard as far as Quincy, Massachusetts, 15 miles to the south, and as far north as Nashua, New Hampshire, more than 30 miles beyond the station’s permitted broadcasting limits – WTUR’s license was immediately revoked by the Federal Communications Commission and again the station lay silenced.
Tufts radio scene would not remain mute for long. Again rebranding itself, this time as WMFO, the station emerged once more in 1971, and resolved to stay. Withstanding a fire in 1977 that wiped out most of its vinyl collection and navigating years of resource and financial instability, WMFO eventually came to thrive for the years to come, morphing into the freeform station it continues to pride itself on being to this day.