(Almost) live, from Lisbon Falls: Local men launch Internet radio station

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LISBON FALLS — When the Rick & Abbey Morning Wake Up Show debuts Wednesday, a mix of oldies and friendly, funny banter, hosts Rick and Gwen Rioux will be behind their desks in finance and billing at Central Maine Medical Center, all business.

They’re recording material and working it around tunes the night before. Everyone at WQRY 106 does, not that listeners can tell.

The station was born six months ago after friends and former disc jockeys Rick Rioux and Dan Philbrick agreed they both missed radio, then realized they didn’t have to.

Not with the power of the Internet.

Philbrick, the station manager who uses the radio name Kevin Daniels, and Rioux, the station owner known as Rick Alan, secured the website, software and streaming bandwidth to accommodate 150 listeners at a time. Philbrick said they average 80 a day.

They play a mix of music from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

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“We still kind of cringe that the ’80s are now considered oldies,” said Philbrick.

Back in the actual ’80s, both worked for WLAM, a popular local AM station.

“I have loved the idea of radio since I was 10,” said Rioux. As a kid he built a small station in a spare bedroom, outfitting it with record, cassette and 8-track players. “I had a collection of over 700 45-records by the time I was 14.”

Last year at an informal WLAM reunion, Rioux said engineer Bob Perry told him about big leaps in the quality of Internet radio. They launched WQRY106.com May 22. This summer, it became the official station of the Moxie Festival and pulled off semi-live reports from the big PAL Hop concert at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, recording snippets on scene then fitting them between music.

During that broadcast, Philbrick said they received a call in the studio — Rioux’s computer room — from a woman in Florida.

“She used to attend the PAL Hops when she was a teenager in Lewiston,” Philbrick said. She loved their broadcast. “When she called it was, ‘Oh wow, this is really working.’”

He said it takes a half-hour the night before to record all the material for his regular weekday radio shift, working one-liners around the playlist.

“We can talk up the song like we’re pressing the button,” Philbrick said. “It’s what we really enjoyed doing when we worked at the radio station but without the job end of it.”

All of the regular DJ talent is volunteer. Rioux and Philbrick, who works at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn campus in marketing and public relations, pay web and music licensing fees.

Weather updates are provided by another former WLAM’er, Richard Paul. A two-hour live sports show on Sunday nights, Locker Room Talk with Coach Ram and Coach Rid, is the only regular segment so far with advertising.

Rioux said listeners have been supportive, suggesting songs he hadn’t thought of yet.

“You’ll hear us say around the bottom of each hour that we’re broadcasting worldwide and in over 100 countries,” Rioux said. “It’s absolutely true. My last count was over 130.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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