Sag Harbor’s “Oldies Station” WLNG celebrates 50 years of community radio today, Tuesday, August 13.
Over five decades since it first hit the airwaves on this date in 1963, the venerable local radio station has become an integral part of the East End community fabric. It’s the place locals go for regional news, live high school sports, weather and traffic, event coverage and so much more. WLNG, 92.1 on the FM dial, celebrates our birthdays, it entertains and informs us during blizzards and hurricanes, helps find and protect our pets from harm and gives us a place to buy and sell old tools, cars and furniture—all while providing a classic-song soundtrack to our lives.
“The fact that we’re continuing the same format 50 years later speaks to our ability to be a partner with the community,” WLNG Assistant Vice President and Treasurer Chris Buckhout said. “I’ve answered half a dozen Pet Patrol calls already this morning.”
An employee at WLNG for the last 15 years, Buckhout was at the station when its beloved founder Paul Sidney died in April of 2009. “Paul was an incredible mentor,” he said, noting that Sidney was a “huge cheerleader” for him from the moment he showed interest in going on-air, and he continued to be incredibly supportive. “If you were willing to get on the microphone, Paul was a giant fan right from the start,” Buckhout said.
In the wake of Sidney’s death, WLNG is run by its current president Gary Sapiane, a longtime employee and on-air personality. He and Buckhout are just two of the regular voices locals have come to know and trust on WLNG. Others include longtime favorite Rusty Potz, local newsman Dan Duprey, Brian “The Cannon” Bannon, Chuck Mackin, Al Case, Bob Aldrich, Scotty Hart, Mark Edwards, Bill Thomas, Joe Ricker, Selina (host of “What’s Cookin’ In The Hamptons”) and weatherman Don Thompson.
WLNG began at 1600 on AM radio when former CBS executive Fitzgerald Smith launched the station as a retirement project in 1963, Buckhout explained, noting that Smith kept the station for several years before Sidney took the reigns. “That kind of set us up,” he said. “It was 1963, so a lot of the oldies we’re playing now were current.” Sidney told Buckhout, the station “mixed it up” and played various types of music in the early days, but it eventually became known as the East End’s “Oldies Station.”
The station moved to FM in 1970, though they kept the AM channel as well, until Sidney finally sold it in the 1990s. “We used to have to turn it off at sunset—the old rules,” Buckhout said, sharing more WLNG history. “4:30 p.m. in December and 8:30 p.m. in June.”
Today, WLNG is truly a vital part of the East End community, and something far greater than a place to hear music. “It’s what’s between the records that counts,” Buckhout said, sharing wise words from his late mentor. “We’re not just a jukebox—if we were, I don’t know if we would’ve made it all these years.”