WQDY DJ Brings Experience and Flair to Downeast Radio

Photo: Brandishing a characteristic smile, Lupe Soto brings his listeners all the best of today's classic hits and breaking news from the booth at WQDY. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

There’s a new voice riding the airwaves in Downeast Maine, though if you’re a regular listener of WQDY radio station, then you’re likely already familiar with it. Lupe Soto has been the full-time DJ at the station since December of 2016, bringing a wealth of radio experience and a unique perspective to a place that he says immediately felt like home. 

To be clear, Washington County, Maine, is not Soto’s place of birth. He’s from West Palm Beach, Florida, a place he describes as having been primarily farms and rural country when he was growing up. “Palm Beach was like another world,” said Soto, describing how the wealth of the highly affluent Palm Beach area was distinctly separate from West Palm Beach, despite being relatively close in proximity. “I grew up picking fields and working farms.” Over a short amount of time, though, the rural area that Soto appreciated became urbanized and crowded. “It was a lot like Pembroke,” Soto said, referring to where he now lives, “but it just grew up so fast. So many people came in.”

When the opportunity arose for Soto and his family to move to Maine in the summer of 2009, they leapt at the chance. A family member living in the area had passed away, and the Sotos recognized that it was a good time for them to start a new chapter in their lives since their son was about to enter high school. They had visited Maine briefly in 2004 as a family, and had loved the area and the people. “For me, I always say it was like coming home,” said Soto. “I’m just an old country boy.”

Coming around full circle to living in a rural area hasn’t been the only significant life loop that Soto has completed as a result of his transition. As a young boy, he remembers fondly listening to Wolfman Jack and other DJs “acting crazy on the radio” and thinking that he’d like to be a DJ someday. “Every once in a while, I’ll hear a song now and remember hearing it when I was a child and thinking that I wanted to be playing it on the radio someday,” Soto said with a smile.

After graduating from high school in Florida, Soto joined the Marines. Once back from his service in the Corps, he worked in construction – not an easy feat in the Florida heat. “That was rough down there,” Soto shared in a modest understatement. At that point he embraced his dream to get into radio, and enrolled in broadcasting school. One of his teachers, who also happened to work at the number one AM station in the county, recognized his passion and hard work, and Soto immediately got a job working at the station. Within a short time, he became morning show producer. “That was good experience because we had some big-time talkers,” said Soto. “A lot of them were actually from the Northeast.” Soto recalls one fellow that would always mention Moxie, a reference he never understood until he moved here. 

At one point, Soto was able to meet his childhood hero, Wolfman Jack. “He didn’t do the voice, though,” Soto lamented, referring to the broadcaster’s famous gravelly voice. “He was getting more into politics at the time, and that’s why we had him on.” About six months after meeting Soto, Wolfman Jack sadly passed away from a heart attack.

In his years working for the AM station in Florida, Soto became adept at organizing, coordinating, and producing shows of all kinds, though he never really did much broadcasting himself. He would frequently coach newcomers, stock brokers, and real estate agents in the techniques of broadcasting for paid programming shows, utilizing what he had learned at broadcasting school. By the late 1990s, Soto recognized that radio had changed, becoming more corporate rather than independent – a shift he wasn’t entirely comfortable with.

Jumping ahead to 2015, having fully settled in Maine and taken a job preserving foreclosed properties, Soto saw the opportunity to reenter the radio field at WQDY – a station that continued to champion the values he himself promoted. “There are not a lot of stations like this where the owner-operators are here every day,” Soto said. “This is very local, the owner is here, normally every day, working right alongside of us, doing whatever needs to be done.” Soto praised station owner Bill McVicar as one of the best he’s known in his career. “He’s grinding it out with us, which you have to do here in Downeast Maine. And that’s how it was when it was when I was a kid in Florida.”

Aside from the welcome similarities in rural lifestyle, Soto sees other parallels between Maine and Florida. Growing up in Florida in the 1980s, he remembers how pervasive crack and cocaine were in his rapidly growing neighborhood. He found his refuge from the drug epidemic in wrestling, which he said prevented him from “going off the deep end.” Soto said that any sport can be a good focus for a young person with the right role models. “The time it takes and the commitment – if you get the desire to get really good at it – then you won’t have time to think about things that kids shouldn’t be getting into.” These days, Soto is the wrestling coach for Washington Academy. “I wish kids here would get more involved with sports… If you’re trying to accomplish something, you don’t have time for garbage.”

While being the full-time broadcaster at WQDY is exactly where Soto wants to be for now, in the future, he hopes to continue to teach his knowledge of broadcasting to the next generation. Soto’s enthusiasm and understanding of the business make him a clear natural teacher, evidenced by his description of what makes a quality broadcaster. “When you listen to the greats, it sounds like they’re talking directly to you, and only you. That’s how radio should be.” 

Tune in to WQDY, 92.7 FM, Monday through Friday to hear Soto broadcasting the station’s signature mix of classic rock, news, and weather throughout the day.