High Altitude High Frequency

102.7 WEQX’s Operations Manager Jeff Morad sounds off about the past, present and future of the legendary Southern Vermont alternative radio station


As you drive through hills and valleys of Southern Vermont, you may find yourself casually fiddling with the radio dial while taking in the breathtaking sights all around you. On a warm and beautiful day in the Green Mountain State, there’s nothing better than rolling the windows down, turning the volume up, and listening to some good music as a cool mountain breeze rushes past. Although Southern Vermont might not seem like the most obvious location for a nationally-renowned independent radio station, first impressions can be deceiving. One need only look towards the stately summit of Mount Equinox to find the transmitter tower of one of the most influential institutions in the history of alternative radio. Despite its fairly remote and rural location, music lovers would be hard-pressed to find a station that rivals the eclectic and satisfying listening experience provided by 102.7 WEQX. Over the past three-and-a-half decades, WEQX has carved a lasting niche for itself as an authentic and free-spirited beacon of broadcast excellence. In the process, they have garnered a loyal and dedicated following of both local and faraway listeners, who tune in both through live radio and their online streaming platform on WEQX.com.

Located in Manchester, Vermont, WEQX’s signal reaches four states and five regions: Southern and Central Vermont, Western New Hampshire, Northwestern Massachusetts, and New York State’s Capital Region. WEQX was originally founded by an ambitious and spirited entrepreneur by the name of Brooks Brown. Born in San Antonio, Texas in 1947, Brown was first exposed to radio technology when his third-grade teacher (who happened to be a veteran of the Army Signal Corps who served during World War II) showed him how to use an old-fashioned telegraph key to facilitate remote message transmissions. Brown went on to join a HAM radio club, learn Morse code, and build his own short-wave radio. Brown then graduated from high school in Houston, Texas, and subsequently attended Tarkio College and Oklahoma State University (OSU). Following his graduation from OSU in 1968, Brown moved to Aspen, Colorado, where he trained to become a ski instructor. After several years of working in the ski industry, Brown moved to Vermont full-time to work as a sales representative for a ski equipment manufacturing company. Soon after he arrived in Vermont, he attempted to place an ad for his business on a local radio station. After Brown was told that no such local radio station existed in Southern Vermont, the first seeds for the idea that would later blossom into WEQX were planted in his mind.

Over the course of his career, Brown had also worked for several radio stations: first at KIVY in Crockett, Texas, and then at KPYX in Albany, New York. Brown applied the lessons that he had learned during the time he spent at these radio stations towards the development of WEQX, and his hard work paid off when his fledgling radio station first hit the airwaves in 1984 after years of tireless planning. According to WEQX’s current Operations Manager Jeff Morad, Brown had to negotiate with the Carthusian Monks who live at the top of Mount Equinox to secure a lease for WEQX’s radio transmitter tower. “The monks who live on Equinox have all taken an oath of silence, and Brooks was always similarly silent about the details of their negotiation. I never heard the exact story of how he convinced them to lease the land where the transmitter is located on their property. I do know, however, that it is very important that we adhere to a moral code that is suitable to the monks’ way of life. That’s why we always play clean versions of songs on WEQX, and why we make every effort to be mindful of the things that we say on the station. We want to honor the monks and the unique privilege that they have given us.” Morad says that once Brown had acquired the land on top of Mount Equinox and constructed the transmitter, the first song that WEQX ever broadcast was Linda Clifford’s rendition of “If My Friends Could See Me Now.”

“Legend has it that Brooks chose that song as a tongue-in-cheek celebration of his successful establishment of an independent radio station,” Morad elaborates. “Brooks was a fiercely independent thinker. In the 1990s, when corporate acquisitions of independent radio stations across the country became increasingly common, Brooks really went above and beyond to make sure that WEQX never ‘went corporate.’ We like to think that same independent spirit is alive and well at WEQX today, and that it continues to influence our programming decisions and the way that we run our business. He passed away in 2013, but I still keep the glasses that Brooks used to wear into work every day on my desk to serve as a symbolic reminder of the importance of independent thinking.”

In the years that followed their first live broadcast, WEQX has continued to refine its musical offerings and expand its listener base. Boldly bucking convention, WEQX built a reputation for itself over the next several decades as a fearless and free-thinking radio station that was
unconstrained by industry norms and practices. By hiring DJs that were highly-knowledgeable connoisseurs and arbiters of alternative music, WEQX was able to appeal to the ever-changing tastes of their audience and keep their proverbial fingers on the pulse of the music industry. “Here at WEQX, we’ve always tried to stay true to the philosophy that it’s more important to play the music that we want to play than to play what’s on top of the charts,” says Morad. “We want to present our listeners with eclectic and compelling musical programming. We have a wide range of listeners, so our music reflects that. We like to jump around with what we play and keep them guessing. We might play Lou Reed and Billie Eilish back to back in the same set of songs, and then follow that up with a track by Liz Phair or The Strokes. It’s important to keep things fresh and interesting.”

Morad says that because WEQX’s sonic range encompasses a wide spectrum of genres, moods, and musical styles, there is a good deal of planning, listening, and discussion that goes into their programming choices. “Our Music Director, Luke Gelheiser, really puts a lot of effort into finding the right bands. We want to live up to our tagline, ‘The Real Alternative’, and play as much music from as many talented independent artists as possible. At corporate radio stations, DJs get call after call from major labels telling them to play certain songs. That’s not the way it works here at WEQX. We keep our ears peeled in our respective circles and pay attention to the artists that our favorite artists are listening to. We have a weekly music meeting where we gather together and play each other those new and exciting songs that we come across. We then have lively debates about whether we should play them in WEQX’s regular rotation. It’s a fun and engaging process that really allows us to maintain a deep sense of connection with the music.”

One of Morad’s favorite things about working for an independent radio station is the flexibility and adaptability of their programming. “I’ve worked at corporate radio stations, and you have to wait until a song hits the charts before it ever gets on the air,” notes Morad. “It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break, especially from an artist’s point of view. Here at WEQX, we want to break that cycle, and also help artists break through the monotonous and slow corporate boardroom culture that prevents them from finding breakout success in the music industry.”

Morad reveals that over the years, WEQX has played a pivotal role in the careers of several well-known artists. “We were one of the first radio stations to play Phantogram, and it’s been incredible to see them take off. They’re actually from Greenwich, New York, right across the Vermont border. They were performing at local venues when we first came across them. A little-known fact about Phantogram is that before they changed their name, their original stage name was ‘Charlie Everywhere.’ We were also the first radio station to ever play Matisyahu, and the first radio station to play the Spin Doctors in heavy rotation. We actually started playing the Spin Doctors as background music for one of our promotional commercials, but people liked the commercial so much they kept requesting the background music. It’s so funny how those small moments of listener connection can end up having so much impact on a band’s reach, but we’re glad that we were able to help make a positive difference in their careers.”

WEQX’s celebrated show EQXposure (which airs on Sundays from 7PM-9PM) has also provided a platform for independent artists to broaden their audiences. Local artists and bands submit their songs for consideration, which are then reviewed and chosen by a talented host and musician named Pearson Constantino. “Pearson really goes to great lengths to listen to as much of the submitted music as possible, but it’s impossible to listen to it all. There is an astonishing amount of fresh submissions that come in every week. Not all of the musicians who submit their work are right for our station, but we make every effort to greet each submission with fresh ears and open minds. At the end of the day, we want to help artists grow their audience, and use our station as a launching pad for talented musicians to build their brands.”

In addition to EQXposure, Morad says that there are many other memorable and captivating shows on WEQX. “All of our shows are great, because our DJs put an incredible amount of work into them. Our Music Director Luke Gelheiser is also the host of ‘Going Underground,’ which is an incredibly exciting new show that airs every Sunday and Tuesday from 9-11PM. People have really been responding
to it positively. Luke has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, and he really knows how to put a good show together. ‘The Coffee House,’ hosted by Nikki on Saturday mornings from 7AM-9AM has become very popular as well. It’s a great acoustic music show. People love it because it’s a wonderful way to start the morning. I host a jam-band show called ‘Jam & Toast’ which airs twice a week, once on Saturday from 9AM-11AM, and once on Thursday from 9PM-11PM. Vermont has an incredibly devoted community of jam-band music enthusiasts, and I’m really passionate about that type of music, too. It’s really resonated with my listener base. I like to think that WEQX has a show for everyone, and that our DJs really know how to build shows that appeal to a wide variety of tastes and preferences.”

Morad takes pride in his work as Operations Manager at WEQX, and says that the best thing about the job is the personal connection that he has with the work. “Here at WEQX, we’re a small crew of dedicated and hard-working people that love what we do. We’re not just in it for a paycheck – we’re in it for the fulfillment and pride of ownership that comes from working for an independent station. I’m not just a DJ. I don’t just oversee all of the programming and sales and promotion here at WEQX. I take out the trash and I clean up around the office at the end of the day. I like to think that the reason that WEQX has lasted so long is that we all feel such a profound sense of attachment to the station and the values that it represents. I think that sense of attachment shines through in the work that we do with our shows and content programming. Moving forward, we want to continue to provide quality content and music for our listeners. We want to keep on growing and adapting with the times, but we still want to make sure that we retain the approachability, authenticity, and independence that WEQX is so well known for. It’s a lot of work – and there’s never a dull moment – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”