Last Memorial Day, an obscure local radio station played Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” for twenty-four straight hours on Nantucket, thus marking the beginning of 97.7 ACK-FM. A year later, ACK-FM dominates the island’s airwaves with an eclectic playlist and an entertaining lineup of local disc jockeys. The creation of radio tycoon Jeff Shapiro and his parents Robert and Lois, ACK-FM has become a soapbox for the Nantucket community, spreading word about everything from missing pets to emergency storm information. Now transmitting online, the station can be heard worldwide, and its audience continues to grow. In celebration of their first anniversary of being on the air, we take a look at some of the faces behind ACK-FM with disc jockeys DC, Sandy, Melissa and Kate.
DC: Let’s start with the basic essentials for a radio station. The running joke still is that when we started we had a stapler with no staples, we had a white board with no markers, and we had just three hundred songs in our playlist. The first five or six days you were hearing the same song probably once every six hours. So we’ve built that up to almost fifteen hundred songs that we can now flip in and out. From David Bowie to Dave Matthews, Grateful Dead to Grace Potter, we play it all. When I first came on air from the city, I was used to giving traffic reports, you know, “I-95 is backed up because of a five-car pile up,” or something like that. I never thought I’d be giving a traffic report about a whale in the harbor with boats being backed up. There have been a lot of firsts for me with this radio station.
Sandy: The station literally started from the ground up: The studio is in a basement on Old South Road. I might complain about it in the morning because I don’t see the sun when it comes up, but what’s beautiful is that it creates a really safe, unintimidating place for guests to come. The guests want to speak, they want the community to get to know them, but they might also be really nervous. Our studio is cavernous, and guests can almost forget that people are listening. They are able to open up one-on-one with the DJ on the air. It’s a conversation. We’re not trying to be NPR. I’m not trying to be Terry Gross. I am just curious. That’s what I like to have come across in the morning with the morning guests: “Tell me what’s going on? What do you bring to the community?
Kate: I’ve worked for big, huge radio companies and everyone sits around and talks about who they think their audience is, and nobody really knows the individuals they’re talking about. We’re in this amazing position where we know our audience personally. We know they are smart and that makes us up our game. I don’t want to be a big radio yahoo. I want to be a real person on the radio. So when I’m asked, “Are you different behind the mike than from your normal self?” really the only difference is that I am watching my language. I swear like a sailor in real life. I am deeply grateful for how this station has just been embraced by the island. The response has just been so generous and so positive.
Melissa: Nantucket is such a creative environment and our local music reflects that. I’ve had more than a dozen local bands on my local music show at this point. People are just so into the local music scene here; they love it. And the bands themselves are just amazing. We’ve got everything from country and kind of blue grass sound, up to the gypsy bands and pop. It’s amazing the range out here. As for ACK-FM, Nantucket needed its own voice, and I think this definitely filled the slot