The Sordid History of WIDR

WIDR began in a trailer in 1952. Then it was Western Inter-Dormitory Radio, an AM station available only to WMU residents. It broadcasts through the pipes of WMU; campus residents could listen by placing their radio antenna on metal fixtures in their dorm rooms. It was a humble beginning.

In the '60s, WIDR went on the air for real, on the AM dial. In 1969 Campus Media, Inc. described WIDR as "one of the finest campus stations in the country." Our staff is aware of the accolades that the radio station has received and strive continually to maintain that level of quality programming.

On July 7, 1975 at 8 a.m., WIDR-FM went on the air, as what was then known as a "progressive" or "underground" station. John McGuiggan was the first FM production director and first disc jockey. The first song on WIDR FM was "Rocky Mountain Way" by Joe Walsh. With a mix of Frank Zappa and John Coltrane, Led Zeppelin and Muddy Waters (and much more), WIDR-FM became the #1 station in Kalamazoo. This was a time when there were few FM stations in the area, but still, this was an important feat. This was also the era of WIDR's massive music festival known as Kite Flite, the precursor for the Barking Tuna.

Throughout the 1980s WIDR continued to evolve. Its power was boosted to 100 watts, covering most of Kalamazoo County. It was "alternative" long before that label became a buzzword used by the music industry. WIDR was, and still is, an alternative to commercial radio. The station was the first in the area to play rap, punk, grunge, etc., beating out all area commercial stations and MTV. When the rest of the world was ignoring new bands like U2, Nirvana, and REM, WIDR gave them many a spin. WIDR has historically put an emphasis on variety with an eclectic mix of rock, rap, R&B, experimental, folk, blues, jazz, world music and genres not yet named.

WIDR continues its Radio Evolution and is still the only true alternative listening source in Kalamazoo. Its listeners recognize the educational and entertainment value of the station by sending their donations during the annual WIDR Week every February, as well as by attending WIDR Events.


Click here for a list of past WIDR General Managers.
Click here for a list of WIDR Rangers who are no longer among us.
Click here to read an article about WIDR from the December, 1970 Journal of College Radio
Click here for a more complete history of WIDR (1949-1985)
Click here for legends of the Barking Tuna
Click here for a 2002 Western Herald Article on WIDR Funds
Click here for a 2004 Western Herald Editorial on WIDR & letter to the Editor from GM Ben Lando
Click here for a story about a WIDR News reporter who was ejected from the 2004 GOP convention
Click here for a compilation of WIDR pages from the WMU Yearbooks 1953-1975 (PDF - 60 mb)

If you have stories or photographs to share with other WIDR Alumni, please send them to widralumni@gmail.com