But Lou Reed walked through those doors. Billy Joel stopped by to debut a song he'd just recorded. Carly Simon felt compelled to come in and talk to listeners immediately after 9/11. John Mayer's early career path led right down that dirt road and into the studios inside.
Unassuming? Certainly. But also earthy, like the surrounding woods, and authentic, like the people who have made the music and programming come alive over the last three decades. In short, mvyradio is one of the last independent, old-school radio digs left on the airwaves.
As mvyradio attempts to steer in a new direction by becoming commercial free and listener supported, its story is one of change, innovation and, above all, deep loyalties.
It all started in the most local way. In the mid-70s, a group of Islanders first went on the air with WVOI, "The Voice of the islands", a short-lived community radio station. Starting in 1981, an automated reel-to-reel contraption spun pre-programmed music on 92.7FM.
But the radio station listeners recognize today came alive in 1983, when real, live, music-loving DJs grabbed the mike, intent on representing under-appreciated music as well as the spirit of Martha's Vineyard over the air.
Jeff Damon was the station's first Program Director, and he set the template. For Islanders and visitors alike, 92.7 sounded like Martha's Vineyard. It had a casual vibe, personable manner, and a ramshackle feel that belied a more sophisticated core.
Before the radio world codified a format called Adult Album Alternative, Damon's crew was spinning an uncommon blend of singers and songwriters and critically acclaimed artists just outside the mainstream, all aimed at an audience passionate about music. Personalities like Ken Goldberg, Sarah Owens, and Pete "Fly By Night" Sawyer connected the dots between the music, and the Vineyard's news, sports, culture and community.
In 1993, midday DJ and Music Director Barbara Dacey took over as WMVY's Program Director. With her clear vision and ear for detail, it all came into sharper focus, featuring a more consistent sound and a steadier musical flow. Under Dacey's guidance, WMVY's path-less-taken approach spawned industry followers across the country who created stations based in part on the MVY blueprint.
Joe Gallagher of Newport, RI, had been a longtime fan and listener, and in 1998, Gallagher's Aritaur Communications purchased WMVY. Gallagher's background in technology led MVY to be one of the first broadcast stations to stream its programming on the Internet. The move coincided with the boom years of the Clinton Presidential summer vacations. Suddenly, thousands more were coming to the Island, and thousands more were staying connected after they left via WMVY's stream.
In 2005, WMVY went through some important internal shifts. Gallagher became more involved in the day-to-day operations of a rebranded "mvyradio". Dacey became Director of Worldwide Programming, a clear nod to what was fast becoming not just a regional, but a national and international audience online. DJ PJ Finn became the Program Director, and assembling a team geared toward creative growth, Gallagher brought in radio veteran Gary Guthrie.
In rapid succession, mvyradio launched a series of fun, music-fan oriented programs and "adventures." The 'On the Road' series headed out to festivals and conventions to capture, broadcast, and archive concerts and interviews from mvy-favorites and up-and-coming artists.
DJs passionate about The Grateful Dead, The Beatles, and Sixties & Seventies folk music created distinct, intelligent, weekly shows. Specialty streams were created to celebrate Christmas or Bob Dylan's birthday. The archives swelled with episodes of 'The Blues at 8,' 'Uncharted Waters,' and 'The Local Music Café.' And mvyradio went mobile, developing a smartphone app to make programming available anywhere, anytime.
Commercial advertising revenue - always a struggle in a resort community - collapsed in the wake of the recession. The non-profit Friends of mvyradio was created in 2007, to give those listeners most devoted to the station, a way to support the streaming efforts. In essence, there were now two business models: a commercial operation for broadcast, and a listener-supported, non-profit for the online and streaming enterprise.
Even this innovation couldn't stem the red ink. And that finally led to the sale of the 92.7FM signal to WBUR in Boston. The sale (subject to FCC approval) clears the way to not only save mvyradio, but to give listeners a commercial-free broadcast and move fully into a listener-funded model through Friends of mvyradio.
Under the plan, mvyradio will would continue its internet stream and be available to listeners via computers, internet radio devices, smartphones, and tablets while simultaneously trying to find a solution to return programming to the FM dial.
But to reach the next era of mvyradio will require significant private funding. To secure the first year of programming will require donations of $600,000, and all of it must be raised by the end of January, 2013. As a result, Friends of mvyradio has launched a capital campaign drive and is asking fans and listeners to make a pledge to keep this unique broadcasting operation alive.
The mvyradio family is pinning its future and very existence on the broad community of listeners, many of whom grew up with this eclectic, creative format in the background. WMVY has literally been Martha's Vineyard. Like the Island itself, the station reflects a unique mix of homegrown charm and worldwide appeal, big-city high-rise sophistication and down-a-dirt-road accessibility. Once only available in the region, mvyradio is now heard across the country and around the world.
You can make a difference. Pledge your support to Friends of mvyradio. Get us to this ambitious goal. Spread the word. Engage your friends and your community. Save mvyradio.