`Captain Jim' to sign off after long radio career

Sale of station to end 25-year stint at WAMD

November 30, 2003|By Amanda Angel | Amanda Angel,SUN STAFF

On May 1, 1978, James V. McMahan Jr. broadcast his first morning radio show on a small-market radio station in Aberdeen. The Bel Air native and broadcaster on the daytime station WVOB was two-thirds owner of Mackk Broadcasting, which had just purchased the larger WAMD (970 AM) for $195,000.

"It had double the power of WVOB, and it was a full-time radio station," said McMahan, better known to some as "Captain Jim," the morning radio host on the 500-watt oldies station WAMD.

McMahan's 25-year tenure as WAMD part owner, vice president and general manager is coming to an end: He has sold WAMD, pending Federal Communications Commission approval, to Dallas-based Big D Broadcasting LLC for $150,000, according to Big D Broadcasting spokesman Fred Stern. Documents of the sale were filed with the FCC on Nov. 17, McMahan said.

Ron Unfeter, chairman and chief executive officer of First Broadcasting, founded Big D Broadcasting last year with the intention of buying local AM radio stations around the country and upgrading them to HD radio, which allows stations to broadcast digitally as well as via conventional analog signals.

Stern said that the company would not change WAMD's oldies programming.

McMahan, 65, was looking to relinquish his ownership of the station when he learned of Big D Broadcasting's interest.

"I had reached the point in time where I was amenable to an offer," said McMahan, who is also a Bel Air town commissioner, an honorary board mem- ber of the Boys & Girls Club and a longtime member of the Bel Air Fire Company.

McMahan began his broadcasting career in his early 20s at WTTR, a Westminster radio station. After serving in the military, he worked at WBAL in Baltimore as a news reporter, he said. He spent 10 years doing daytime programs before buying WAMD.

"It has been my life. I've been broadcasting 35 [years] or more," McMahan said, "That morning show is my family."

The FCC says it takes 60 to 90 days to process a request for the transfer of a license, meaning the station will most likely change hands early next year, McMahan said.

McMahan, who was also the president of the Ripken Museum in Aberdeen for seven years, will focus on the construction of a community arts center in Bel Air. He is also looking forward to more normal hours.

"I usually get up at 3:30 a.m. to do the morning broadcast, so I'll have the pleasure of turning the alarm clock off," he said.

McMahan doesn't have any plans for his farewell on the station, but he believes WAMD will do something to commemorate the 25 years it operated under Mackk Broadcasting.

"Somewhere down the pike there'll be my final broadcast, and I'm sure that it will probably be one of the most difficult days of my life," McMahan said. "But it will be akin to a rebirth -- I'm looking forward to the future. I just hope that over my 35 years in broadcasting and last 25 at WAMD that I've made some contribution to the community."

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