Meet the DJs at WEQX: The last alt-independent radio station in the country


By Gordon Dossett, Vermont Country Magazine.

MANCHESTER — Marilyn Monroe, faced with the scandal of having posed nude for a calendar, retorted: “It’s not true that I had nothing on. I had the radio on.”

Given a fleeting image of a naked Marilyn Monroe, our first thought might not be about radio — and that seems precisely the point. Radio, like the air that carries sounds to our ears, is present, simultaneously everywhere and seemingly nowhere.

And in Southern Vermont and beaming out past Albany and Williamstown and Keane, no radio is more present than WEQX 102.7, blasting its signal 50,000 watts strong from Mount Equinox. With the app, the reach is worldwide.

With the closing Feb. 1 of WWCD, CD 92.9 in Columbus, Ohio, WEQX has attained a distinction, according to Jeff Morad, EQX program director: It is the only independent alternative radio station in the country. No other privately owned broadcaster in the country has one station dedicated to alternative music.

While most stations typically have five new songs in rotation, Jeff says EQX currently has 69.

The guiding principle is simple: “If it’s good, we play it.”

Its independent ethos goes back to its founder, Brooks Brown. In 1984, he launched the station. After a foray into adult contemporary music, WEQX switched to adult album and grunge, settling on its identity as the Real Alternative, its catchphrase today. Brown deflected advance after advance to sell to larger communication companies. In a 2009 article in the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union, he said he told interested buyers, “It’s not very complicated: How deep are your pockets? Send me your first born as a nonrefundable down payment, and we’ll go from there.”

He never sold.

Jason Keller is pictured with the singers of Say She She, backstage at Lark Hall in Albany, Oct. 13, 2023.  He introduced the band on stage. Photo provided by WEQX.

When Brown died in 2013, according to the Rutland Herald, then longtime radio host Donna Frank called Brown “a god among men.” She said, “He made the world about a thousand times more interesting. Thank you for EQX, and for teaching us the very definition of independence.”

Brown’s widow, Mimi, decided to honor Brown by broadcasting his funeral live from the family’s backyard. She called on hosts Jeff Morad and Jason Keller, and even though they had never gone to a location without any setup and broadcast live, they pulled it off.

Mimi Brown continues as owner to this day. And in Brooks Brown’s quirky, independent spirit, she was the one who kindly greeted me upon entering the EQX building to interview hosts, but later declined a request for a photo or interview for this story.

Fortunately, several DJs who continue to shape WEQX agreed to speak about themselves and the station. Part of the charm of looking into the operation is its haphazardly organized offices inside a Victorian house and its website, where you’ll find one DJ’s top songs from 2021, another’s from 2022.


Jeff Morad hosts Early EQX, Monday to Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. On Thursday evening and Saturday morning, he hosts Jam N’ Toast. He’s off the air on Sunday.

Jeff began broadcasting at Gannon University in Pennsylvania and earned his first paycheck spinning songs on Cape Cod. He worked at a station in Denver before starting at WEQX.

Favorite memories of his time at the station include an in-house concert by Weezer in 2017.

Jeff Morad in his office at WEQX. Gordon Dossett — Vermont Country Magazine. 

It came about because the band manager called and asked what it would take for the station to play, “Feels like Summer.” Jeff said, facetiously, an in-house concert. The next day, he got a call: Is there an airstrip nearby?

Weezer ended up flying into Albany and putting on a little Manchester show, posted on the station’s website. The station, in turn, started playing “Feels Like Summer.” (Fun test: Play the song and see if the station’s first impulse was right.)

Jeff remembers a Noah Kahan concert. Just as he was starting what Jeff called Kahan’s “insane rise to fame,” Kahan committed to a concert at Village Garage Distillery. He ended up filling Boston Calling — 40,000 people May 27; four days later, he honored his commitment and played an EQX concert — for 100 fans.

Another highlight for Jeff is a personal one. After he’d worked at the station a couple of years, Brooks Brown asked if he wanted to trek out and have a look at the transmitter. Brooks was known for helping build it and tinker on it; Jeff felt honored to be asked.

He recalls PearlPalooza from 2018. WEQX sponsors the annual “free, all-ages” event on North Pearl Street in Albany. That year, the headliner pulled out at the last minute. Casting about, Jeff couldn’t believe his luck: Portugal the Man agreed to step in, forgoing a second concert date in New York City to help out PearlPalooza. In appreciation, the station arranged for balloons to be distributed — and when the band played “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue,” hundreds of purple, yellow, red and blue balloons drifted skyward.


While on the job, Joy Proft artfully lined up songs, announced titles and answered my questions. She probably could have queued up some Future Island or new Depeche Mode and juggled a chainsaw, too.

Joy trained in radio and communication at Syracuse University. Her long career in music includes a stint with Universal, where her sales position led her to tout, among many acts, an up-and-coming 15 year old who wrote her own songs — Taylor Swift.

Although Joy Proft’s broadcasts sound effortless, she prepares notes for each show, some of which she displays here. Gordon Dossett — Vermont Country Magazine. 

She became senior vice president at Universal, but left when restructuring occurred in 2009, and she felt the tug of Vermont. Here she ran a clothing store in Manchester, sold it, and returned to radio when a midday spot opened up.

Her LinkedIn profile lists her as a certified bra fitter and substitute pastor. On air she talks of gardens and birds (and listeners in turn send her coasters and mugs with birds on them). The exuberant flow of words may seem effortless, but Joy daily writes notes about events and people that might engage listeners. In short, effortlessness takes effort. (Or as Jason Keller tells me later about DJing: “there is a craft to being effortless.”)

I asked Joy about memorable moments at the station, and just thinking of one moves her to the verge of tears. Manchester is the unlikely home of a nonprofit, The Kenya Drylands Educational Fund (KDEF). For years, co-founder Sarah Hadden has been raising funds for an area in Kenya hard-hit by drought. When the floods hit Vermont last August, a community in central Kenya raised funds by selling goats and donated the money, $400, to those suffering from flooding in Londonderry. People living 7,000 miles away in great poverty wanted to help those suffering here in Vermont.

Joy read about the donation in the Manchester Journal. Moved by the gesture, she told the story on air. Similarly moved, a listener donated $500 to KDEF, to return the gesture of goodwill. And it is that completion of the circle, compassion among strangers, that causes Joy to shake her head in appreciation months later.

Everyday, Joy takes requests for the Retro Lunch. ”Making someone’s day if it’s their birthday or they request a song. I love that … I am listening to music each day with people. Each day is a new day.”


Jason Keller, the EQX afternoon host for 10½ years, started off at the Plattsburgh State College radio station, eventually running things. “And then you’re back on the couch and there’s nothing.” After numerous cold calls, he got his first paying job at 106.7 WIZN in Burlington as a fill-in host.

In the arts, “you need someone to open that door.” He credits Steve Cormier, his first program director, who now is in Vermont’s broadcasters hall of fame.

Jason Keller in the studio where he records commercials and other segments in his role as production director. Gordon Dossett — Vermont Country Magazine. 

He was on the air at The Edge 103.9 in Albany, where he followed Howard Stern, which he called “great — and terrifying at first. I hadn’t seen the daylight too much as an on-air host. I’d been buried in the open-mic nighttime slots.” He regrets that up-and-coming DJs today don’t have the opportunity to “be bad — but still be believed in. The opportunities (today) are just getting smaller and smaller to cut your teeth.”

“I think part of the on-air world that is the tough part … is to do it day in and day out, to dream up content. You’re constantly thinking, ‘Is this entertaining? Is this informative?’ … Oftentimes, I’ll ditch out on things I was going to say 10 seconds out. You develop a sense: [is the audience] going to tune out after three seconds?’”

Keller (it’s hard to call him Jason since he’s Keller on air) tells a story from early in his career, when he had the graveyard shift. The morning host would come in, “the most disheveled guy I’ve seen, and … he would hit the on mic, and he was the smoothest man I’ve ever heard … And I thought: ‘how does he even do that?” And now after years behind the mic, he knows how. He doesn’t even think of the large, silent, invisible audience. He thinks, “If it makes sense to me, it will make sense to others.”

One of the hardest things is to become yourself because it is an artificial environment to be in a room essentially by yourself and sound like “we’re talking … You are yourself or some version of yourself.” Keller sees his on-air self as an extension of himself: “me but a little louder or projected.”

Keller especially likes championing new music. He gave an example of the station taking up a band from, say, California, not being played by another station in the area, the band having no local roots. The band performs locally “and they have people singing back their songs,” which shows the station has reached the audience. “We see it — that’s really gratifying,” Keller says.

A band he singles out is Say She She, which “really hits some heights over the last year.” The band’s “discodelic” sound was featured on CBS Mornings two months ago, but had previously been in a WEQX-sponsored concert in Albany in October and been in heavy on-air rotation.

At WEQX, in addition to being on the air, Keller is the production director, which means he has the vital, yet thankless job of producing advertising and other spots for the station. Sometimes that means nudging local business owners to voice their own ads, which helps contribute to the station’s quirky independence. Keller doesn’t mention it, but I think of Indian Ladder Farms (whose commercials, I confess, I actually enjoy. One day I’ll have to go there).


Asked to name up-and-coming bands, night DJ Luke Gelheiser is quick to cite three: Yune (from Denmark: “Cake” just dropped), NewDad (from Ireland), and Bolis Pupul (from Belgium). Constantly scanning Bandcamp.com and many other sources, Luke stays up to the minute with bands. “There’s so much cool stuff out there,” says Luke, who has been at EQX since 2016. “I get a lot out of the hunt. I enjoy tracking down something I didn’t know I needed to hear.”

Luke Gelheiser, host of “Going Underground,” is constantly searching for new music to bring to the station. Gordon Dossett — Vermont Country Magazine. 

With Keller and Jeff (and occasionally Joy), Luke guides the station’s playlist, selecting songs for heavy, medium and light airplay. Often, Luke’s role in the group’s weekly meeting is to be the cutting edge, arguing for music that the audience might not be immediately like, pushing listeners beyond their comfort zone. “I have much more niche tastes” than other DJs at the station. “The real power in music, especially in this streaming age, is in curation. “Even if you don’t like it, there’s another song coming right up.”

These weekly meetings are crucial. The group strives for just the right balance: pushing listeners to consider music it doesn’t know, challenging them at times, without sending them elsewhere.

Luke comes from a musical theater background. For his turn to radio, he credits Tim Foley, who taught video production at Mount Anthony High School in Bennington until his retirement in 2019. Foley liked Luke’s distinctive voice and suggested using it in his career.

Another quirky high school connection: a former classmate got in touch with him after he began talking up the indigenous metal group Blackbraid. The woman is married to Jon Krieger, the solo artist behind the band.

Are you on the radio?

All DJs have voice recognition stories.

Keller recalls being on the phone trying to get medical coverage for a particular medicine when the operator paused and asked, “are you Keller on the radio?”

“Yes,” he said.

She still would not give him coverage.

Joy was in a bar in Saratoga with her friend and a guy started looking at her and checking his phone, Joy guessed to find WEQX’s website. “And finally on his third Piña Colada — he was drinking frozen Piña Colada coladas with whipped cream — it was one of those days in Saratoga that’s a good time — and he says, ‘Are you Joy from EQX?’ … and that started a thing down the bar — and then it was like an EQX reunion … I’m part of their party and they’re part of my party …. We’re all part of this EQX thing.”


In this part of Southern Vermont, we are lucky to have anchors to enhance our culture and our lives, for example: Burr and Burton Academy, the Equinox and Taconic Hotels, Northshire Bookstore, Hildene and Dorset Playhouse. To this list, many of us would add WEQX.

Sometimes, we don’t appreciate the importance of something until it is gone. Consider this comment, from a listener of WWCD, CD 92.9 in Columbus, Ohio, the second-to-last independent alternative radio station: “As CD92.9 goes off the air I feel like we’re losing the soundtrack to our city.”

Driving rural roads or lounging at home, we may think we have nothing on, but many of us have WEQX on, our soundtrack, invisibly championing our fierce Vermont spirit.

Gordon Dossett traded the traffic and urban ugliness of Los Angeles for the Green Mountains. He lives with his teenaged children, a cat and a dog, packing urban sprawl into one home. He likes making to-do lists and losing them.

Vermont Country magazine

Vermont Country has a hyperlocal focus on the Green Mountain lifestyle, its personalities, events, attractions and culture. The magazine appears six times a year, designed to complement the state and four-season living. VtCo magazine is a Southern Vermont publication of Vermont News & Media.

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