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WFNX Goes Jockless Before Going Dark

BOSTON — Friday is the last day listeners will hear live DJs on WFNX-FM, Boston’s last independently owned radio station. DJs from WFNX’s 30-year past will man the mics before programming is automated at 7 p.m.

Neal Robert is one of them. He hosted afternoons in the 1980s and ’90s and the popular show “Asleep at the Wheel.”

“It’s a big honor, but it’s also somewhat daunting,” Robert said. “You know it’s a station I really grew up at and it’s very strange to be coming back to be shutting it off.”

Clear Channel bought WFNX’s signal in May for $14.5 million, shocking loyal listeners and musicians.

The station has been introducing new bands, including Nirvana, to Boston’s airwaves since 1983. WFNX gained a national reputation as an outlet with a knack for identifying the next cool thing.

“We were only a 3,000-watt station,” Robert recalled. He started as an intern in 1984. “I think a lot of people didn’t really give us much credit early on, but then people realized that this was something happening in Boston, and it was alternative rock before it was actually named alternative rock.”

Robert hasn’t worked at WFNX since 2000. He said he stopped working there after realizing how tough it is to make a living in the indie music radio marketplace.

“At one point we used to drop songs when they became too popular,” the former DJ said. “Which is really unusual for a radio station. In fact, it doesn’t really work well on the business side, but it was who we were.”

Most of WFNX’s most recent staff was laid off when the station was sold.

Jock-less programming on 101.7 FM will continue until Clear Channel initiates its own broadcasts.

After that, WFNX will continue as a fully automated, Web-only streaming station.

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