common / Crossroads Weekend

Behind the Mike at Max 92.9

When Morgan County’s own FM radio station 92.9 changed format back in March of this year, becoming Max 92.9—"Max" for Maximum Music!—it was a leap of faith on the part of station staff. After all, changing from a contemporary country music station to classic rock is a big change, one that listeners could have easily rejected. But not only did listeners not reject the change, they’ve fully embraced it and the radio station and its growing legion of fans are, well, rockin’ and rollin’!

            That’s due in large part due to the staff, starting with station manager Stacy Drake. Part of what went into the decision to change formats, says Drake, was putting thought into what kind of music local folks could relate to. Station manager Stacy Drake and "Sassy Sammy" behind the mike.Station manager Stacy Drake and "Sassy Sammy" behind the mike.“We also wanted to be positive and uplifting. Ever notice how many classic rock songs are love songs?” Still, he says, they thought about making the change for almost a year before actually doing so.

            Drake has been in the radio business for 40 years, he says with a smile, noting that, “Forty years is a long time.” He came to Berkeley Springs three and a half years ago. What brought him here?

            “The station here was owned by an individual,” he said, “and not a corporation. That’s starting to be a rare situation.” The station has been owned by Emmett Capper since 1995.

            After so many years in the radio business, Drake has an encyclopedic knowledge of music and musicians—ask him about his favorite music and you’re in for a trek down memory lane—and clearly loves the music they play on the station these days. The new format also allows for “deeper” play: instead of the best known five songs by this or that artist or band, Max 92.9 plays through the entire song list. As always, requests can be called in to the station (see below).

            Sam Gray's warm personality shines through when she's on the air.Sam Gray's warm personality shines through when she's on the air.Sandra Gray, a.k.a “Sassy Sammy,” or just “Sam” to her friends and fans, is another key part of the station’s success with her warm humor and bubbly personality. Gray is always smiling and somehow that comes though on the station; you can hear her smile as she shares funny tidbits in between songs.

            She has been at the station off and on for the last 13 years. “A friend told me I ‘ought to go down to that station and ask for a job’ all those years ago, “ she says. “So I did and this this where it took me.” Ironically, her very first day on the job was 9/11, as the phones rang off the hook with people seeking information, and she saw how important a local information source was to people.

            Even though she’s not formally trained in the radio business, it’s clear she’s a natural, chatting as if the listener is a friend just sitting across the kitchen table. That ability to connect with people is one of her gifts and what she enjoys most about the job. “I like giving back,” she says, “and this job lets me do that with folks that call in, some almost every day, to connect. We also have the chance to touch a lot of people in a positive way.” Lately, that’s been through the station’s “Awesome Blossom” program that lets people nominate some local individual worthy of an accolade. Persons selected receive a surprise floral arrangement delivered to their place of work.

            The third part of the Max 92.9 team is Gary “The Cowboy” Kendall—easily identifiable off air by his (at least!) 10 gallon cowboy hat—who is the station’s program director as well as an on-air personality. Originally from Hedgesville, Kendall picked up the"The Cowboy" Gary Kendall in his trademark hat."The Cowboy" Gary Kendall in his trademark hat. cowboy moniker in Wyoming where he lived for a time.

            In what might seem like a completely different career from radio, Kendall worked for years as a park naturalist in Michigan. But he says it’s not that much of a leap from those days to his radio job now: “You talk to people and try to connect with them in a similar way.”

            Kendall says what he likes best about his job is “that I get the opportunity to play the music I like for people.”

            Saturday mornings, Kendall hosts “The Best of the Sixties” show, while Drake adds special memories of artists and the times. The show has developed a loyal following of fans that like to spend time in “the groovy decade.”

            With upgrades to the transmission system, Max 92.9 can now be heard all the way to What Drake, Gray and Kendall "drive" while they're on the air. It takes a while to learn all the controls that make the radio station live.What Drake, Gray and Kendall "drive" while they're on the air. It takes a while to learn all the controls that make the radio station live.Hagerstown and Martinsburg, but the focus is still Morgan County. You’ll see and hear Max 92.9 on remotes around the county, often to promote a good cause like Children’s Miracle Network or local events like the Mother’s Day Plant Fair and the Apple Butter Festival.

            That makes the fact that the format change has been so well received all the sweeter for the team at Max 92.9. It’s always especially rewarding when it’s your friends and neighbors recognizing your value to the community.


Max 92.9

WDHC Radio

440 Radio Station Lane

Berkeley Springs, WV 25411


For song requests, call 304-258-9342

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