WHVY-FM is coming up from the underground with plans to be the alternative hard rock radio station "from the streets."
WHVY -- which has been on the air nights and weekends for the last three years as 97 Underground, sharing its tiny 10-watt signal with Essex Community College -- has acquired for an undisclosed price the license of WBEY-FM (Bay Country 103), a 3,000-watt station in Grasonville, just across the Bay Bridge.
WHVY, which had its last broadcast at 96.7 FM last Saturday, will debut as "103 -- The Underground" April 1, with offices in Annapolis, according to co-owner and program director Derek Alan.
Mr. Alan, 25, who co-founded 97 Underground in 1987, said his more powerful, round-the-clock operation would reach more listeners but promised to continue to play the kind of music that gave its progenitor a strong following among hard rock and heavy metal fans able to pick up its limited signal.
"We will be playing pure rock all day -- Whitesnake, Black Crowes, Metallica," he said. "It will a rock alternative. In my opinion, AOR [album-oriented rock] pacifies its audience. Pure rock stimulates. We will be playing bands that people actively respond to. We will be the station from the streets."
WHVY's debut at 103.1 FM will come a week after Bay Country goes off the air. "Better a week of darkness than coming off Willie Nelson to Guns & Roses," Mr. Alan said.
Despite a signal with just a fraction of the 50,000-watt power of the stations that dominate the area AOR rock market, 97 Underground managed to record a 1.3 share of listeners aged 18-34 in the 7 p.m. to midnighttime slot as recently as last spring, according to the Birch radio ratings.
Mr. Alan believes WHVY's new 3,000 watt signal, which he says can reach Baltimore and Washington, will enable the station to increase its audience significantly. "There's obviously a market for it," he said.
Three of the volunteer disc jockeys from 97 Underground have been joined by recruits from Las Vegas, Louisville, Ky., and Atlantic City, N.J., to form the core of the on-air staff, he said.
Mr. Alan is joined in the venture by Tom Pless, an industrial arts teacher at Dundalk High School and the other co-founder of 97 Underground, and four Philadelphia investors.
The company, Vision Broadcasting, also bought WYRE-AM (810) in Annapolis, a 250-watt daytime adult contemporary station, but plans no changes in its format, Mr. Alan said.