He was inspired by KBCO, a station in nearby Boulder, Colo., that played new music with the energy of old radio.
"I've had this love of both radio and music my whole life," he says. "I considered both businesses 'magical' and never even dreamed I might work in either. You needed some sort of special talent or something, right?"
Vaughan wondered if he could replicate something like KBCO in Columbus, where, he says, "radio sucked."
"I ... convinced myself that Denver and Columbus were similar demographically, that a radio adventure like this could both sound unique and be profitable and that I should try to do this," he says.
WWCD -- then CD101 -- went on the air in 1990.
Randy Malloy was there almost from the beginning. He moved to Columbus from college in New Jersey in the late 1980s, started at the station as an intern and worked his way up.
At 49, Malloy looks like an older version of Crispin Glover's grown-up McFly character in "Back to the Future": blond hair with bits of gray, lank and long on the sides and back, as if he'd gotten in an argument with his barber halfway through a haircut.
He talks fast and thinks faster, his voice a Mel Brooksian rasp trying to keep up with all the possibilities in his brain.
He's a one-man chamber of commerce for his adopted hometown.
On a gray winter's day he drives up High Street -- the Ohio capital's main drag -- and proudly points out sights: the reborn downtown, the once-dead Short North neighborhood, the Ohio State hangouts. He talks about the city's plans to get rid of the one-way boulevards that shuttle people to the suburbs; he praises the homes in German Village and hopes for growth in the nearby Brewery District. It's a gentrifying but still patchy area south of downtown by the Scioto River, the kind of place where you'd imagine an alt-rock broadcaster to take up residence.
Localness used to be the point of radio. It may have attracted its audience through the music, but it kept them by keeping them informed -- being a "trusted friend," as Malloy says.
Syracuse's Wright puts it more succinctly: "The greatest social media is radio broadcasting."
Wright remembers his godmother advising him on the importance of community. She hosted a popular midday show on WRAP in Norfolk, Virginia, that played music, conducted interviews and provided information.
"She told me, if you're ever really serious about putting a radio station together, you want your air personalities to become so integrated into the total sociological fabric of the audience that you're serving, that when they're in trouble, they'll call the disc jockey at the station before they'd call the police," he recalls.
"You've become part of the family. They feel they know you."
"It blows a hole in the radio When it hasn't sounded good all week ..." --The Clash, "Hitsville UK"
It took a lot of effort after Andyman died, but WWCD stayed on the air.
Vaughan plowed in more money. Malloy sank his 401(k) into buying a majority interest. The station redoubled its marketing efforts, particularly partnerships with a local music promoter and Columbus' pro hockey team, the Blue Jackets. Everybody took pay cuts and multitasked, with DJs doing promotions and interns doing everything.
WWCD is a throwback. It's one of just a handful of independent, major-market commercial music stations left in America. It's run like a throwback, too, with a strong focus on new music and community service.
Indeed, the station flaunts its indie credibility like a bold tattoo. "We're not Clear Channel," trumpets the station's on-air IDs -- a shot at its powerful competitor, which owns six Columbus stations, including the market leader. A CD file drawer in the studio sharpens the point with the bumper sticker "Clear Channel Kills." "Rock local," adds a banner on its website.
There's a lot of bad blood between Clear Channel and others in the industry, thanks to the former's tactics in the early 2000s. Malloy and the Vaughans talk about Clear Channel's dominance with an attitude bordering on disgust; Wendy Vaughan says the company offered $15 million for the station at one point.
WWCD's studio and offices form a ramshackle warren of rooms in the basement of a renovated restaurant and reception hall in the Brewery District. Fittingly, the dominant feature is a large bar complete with an ice-cream freezer. ("We're a bar with a radio problem," Malloy jokes.)
Decorations around the studio window wish patrons a happy holiday -- changing with the season. Inside the studio are wooden slat seats from the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. A mannequin wearing a skull mask and black robes keeps watch over an equipment closet. There are about a dozen employees ambling about, some dressed so casually it's hard to tell the veterans apart from the college-student interns.
The station van, an old ice-cream truck, is parked outside. Malloy, a DIY-type guy who drove an ambulance to put himself through college, has been spotted covered in motor oil from trying to get it started.