|Broadcast area||Greater Boston|
|Branding||590 AM The Word|
|Slogan||Boston's Christian Talk|
|First air date||September 29, 1924(license, as WEEI)|
|Callsign meaning||EZE = Easy|
|Former callsigns||WEEI (1924–1994)|
|Former frequencies||990 kHz (1924–1925)|
630 kHz (1925–1926)
800 kHz (1926–1927)
860 kHz (1927)
670 kHz (1927)
820 kHz (1927)
|Affiliations||Salem Radio Network|
|Owner||Salem Media Group |
(Salem Communications Holding Corporation)
|Sister stations||WROL, WWDJ|
The history of the 590 frequency dates back to September 29, 1924 as WEEI, owned by Edison Electric Illuminating (hence the call letters). In its earliest days, the station was a public relations vehicle for Edison. The station broadcast on various frequencies over the next several years, settling on 590 kHz in 1927. In 1926, WEEI became a charter member of the NBC Red Network and remained an NBC Red affiliate until 1936, when the station was leased by CBS and became an affiliate of that network. CBS bought WEEI outright from Boston Edison on August 31, 1942. An FM sister station, WEEI-FM (103.3 FM, now WODS), went on the air in 1948. Until 1960, WEEI, through CBS Radio, was the last Boston radio station to devote a large amount of its program schedule to "traditional" network radio programming of daytime soap operas, comedy shows, variety shows, and similar fare.
For the remainder of the 1960s, WEEI was New England's first talk radio station (though the station also played middle-of-the-road music) and home of such hosts as Howard Nelson, Jim Westover and of Paul Benzaquin, one of the most popular radio talk show hosts in Boston history. In the 1960s, the daily WEEIdea feature presented cleaning and cooking tips from housewives.
By May 1972, WEEI had six full days of call-in talk programming. On weekdays, morning drive time from 6 am to 10 am was hosted by newsman Len Lawrence (Leonard Libman), followed by Ellen Kimball from 10 am to 2 pm. Kimball was hired from WIOD in Miami, where she had replaced broadcaster Larry King after he was arrested on December 20, 1971. Ellen is believed to be one of the first women to host a daily, four-hour, call-in talk show, six days a week. Originally called Boston Forum with Ellen Kimball, the name was eventually changed to The Ellen Kimball Show. Later, newsman Ben Farnsworth took over the Saturday call-in segment from 10 am to 2 pm. Paul Benzaquin handled 2 pm to 6 pm weekdays.
Although its talk radio format was popular, the station went all-news in 1974, following the lead of several other CBS-owned stations. At first, WEEI was not 24/7 all-news; the station's late-night schedule featured the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, an attempt to revive radio drama, as well as a local overnight talk show with Bruce Lee (no relation to the martial-arts actor), a holdover from the previous format. But by the end of the 1970s, WEEI was all-news around the clock.
On December 27, 1977, while engaged in traffic reporting, a Hughes 269B helicopter operated by WEEI lost power and crashed into an apartment building in Quincy while attempting an emergency landing, killing pilot Richard Banks and reporter Chip Whitmore. A fire developed in the building following the crash.
WEEI was put up for sale in April 1983, after CBS reached a deal to acquire KRLD in Dallas–Fort Worth from Metromedia; that September, a deal was reached to sell the station to Helen Broadcasting; the company was owned by the Valerio family, who also owned Papa Gino's. Although Metromedia canceled the sale of KRLD after it was granted permission to own both the radio station and KNBN-TV in Dallas–Fort Worth, the sale of WEEI still went forward. Helen Broadcasting continued the all-news format. CBS retained WEEI's FM sister station until the 2017 sale of its radio division to Entercom.
The station was acquired by Boston Celtics Communications (a group that shared ownership with the Boston Celtics basketball team) on May 10, 1990; the Celtics also simultaneously purchased WFXT (channel 25) from Fox Television Stations. The Celtics initially pledged to continue the all-news format, hiring a new morning anchor and shifting the station to a 30-minute clock (it previously followed a one-hour clock); however, the CBS Radio Network's decision to shift its Boston affiliation to WRKO effective September 3, 1990 (ending a 54-year link with WEEI) for reasons that included WRKO having a stronger news commitment, which compelled WEEI to join the ABC Direction Network, led to speculation that the station was shifting to an all-sports format. Though this was played down by station officials, WEEI, which had already carried Celtics broadcasts since 1987, expanded its sports programming after the sale; WEEI became the flagship station of the Boston Bruins (replacing WPLM-FM) in 1990 (however, Celtics broadcasts were given priority, resulting in some Bruins broadcasts moving to WVBF or WMEX), and a nightly sports talk show with Craig Mustard was launched on August 20, 1990. WEEI also carried Sports Byline USA and CBS Radio Sports broadcasts not cleared by WRKO. The all-news format continued in other dayparts until September 3, 1991, when WEEI became an all-sports station. Following the format change, the station began simulcasting its programming on WVEI in Worcester to reach central Massachusetts.
Upon the change to all-sports, WEEI featured the Andy Moes show and Glenn (Ordway) and Janet (Prensky), a short-lived experiment in bringing a "Bickersons"-type format to sports radio. Also part of the roster was Boston sports talk pioneer Eddie Andelman. WEEI also began to carry Boston College Eagles football in 1992, replacing WBZ. However, the change was followed by a dramatic drop in its ratings; additionally, the station struggled financially, at one point losing $80,000 a week, leading to rumors of a sale of WEEI. Still, WEEI improved its morning ratings after it became one of the earliest affiliates of Imus in the Morning from WFAN in New York City on July 12, 1993.
On March 16, 1994, the Boston Celtics reached a deal to sell WEEI to Back Bay Broadcasting; shortly afterward, the rights to Celtics broadcasts passed to American Radio Systems (ARS, which would shortly become part of CBS Radio), owner of WRKO and WHDH, effective with the 1994–95 season, while the Bruins signed a deal with WBZ to carry its broadcasts starting in 1995. Sister station WFXT was sold back to Fox Television Stations soon afterward.
ARS then announced on August 15, 1994 that it would purchase the programming and call letters of WEEI from Back Bay Broadcasting effective August 29 and move them to the 850 kHz AM frequency that was previously home to WHDH. This would become the modern WEEI (AM), WEEI's former home (AM 590) was simulcast with the new AM 850 for a week before the frequency was relaunched as the first iteration of business news station WBNW. On the other hand WVEI became a separate sports radio station for Worcester, WWTM, but was acquired by ARS in 1996 and gradually returned to a simulcast of WEEI, returning to the WVEI call sign in 2000.
As a business news station, WBNW's programming was mostly supplied by Bloomberg; the station was the first affiliate of Bloomberg Radio, which had previously only aired on its New York City flagship station, WBBR. Local news segments were outsourced to Metro Networks. WBNW's lineup also included a local talk show, The Money Experts, and Bruce Williams' syndicated talk show; both programs previously aired on WHDH.
WBNW also carried Boston Bruins games during the 1994–95 season; the games did not move with WEEI to 850 AM due to conflicts with Boston College basketball. In 1995, Peter Ottmar, who ran Back Bay Broadcasting, consolidated his broadcast holdings, which also included WARA in Attleboro, WWKX in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and WICE in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, under the Back Bay name; that July, WICE was relaunched as WPNW, which largely simulcast WBNW but featured its own Metro Networks-produced local inserts for the Providence market.
Move to Salem Media GroupEdit
American Radio Systems, which had held an option to buy WBNW since its launch, traded this option to Salem Communications in 1996 in exchange for KDBX in Banks, Oregon. While WBNW initially announced that "there will be no change of owner" and that "as far as Peter Ottmar is concerned, no one has an option on the station," Salem exercised its option in December 1996. Salem moved the religious programming and call letters of WEZE 1260 onto WBNW (which remains on the station to this day) on December 15 of that year, while 1260 became WPZE and was later spun off (and became WMKI).
The void left by WBNW's replacement with WEZE would soon be filled when WADN (1120 AM) started adding financial programming in 1997, eventually changing its format to business news/talk entirely to become the new WBNW. Incidentally, a format similar to WBNW's was installed onto 1260 AM, renamed WBIX, in September 2015 after Salem reacquired the frequency.
For more of the history of WEZE prior to its move to 590 kilohertz, see WBIX.
For a short period, Salem Communications operated WEZE-FM in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, billed as "Easy 104.7". Though unusual, FCC rules allow co-owned stations in different cities to share call letters between themselves. Salem purchased the Pittsburgh station as part of a strategic move to compete against a Christian-formatted AM/FM competitor, but would have to run another format until the contracts with the client ministries could be obtained. Salem chose to run an easy-listening format until the contracts were obtained in October 1991, when WEZE-FM evolved into WORD-FM.
- Halper, Donna; Wollman, Garrett. "The Eastern Massachusetts Radio Timeline: The First Fifteen Years". The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
- Boston Globe, article, "Edison Co Opens New Station, WEEI", September 30, 1924, page 6
- Halper, Donna; Wollman, Garrett. "The Eastern Massachusetts Radio Timeline: the 1930s". The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
- Halper, Donna; Wollman, Garrett. "The Eastern Massachusetts Radio Timeline: the 1940s". The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
- "The Boston Radio Dial: WEZE(AM)". The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. March 26, 2005. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
- "Helicopter Crash Kills Pilot, Reporter". Ellensburg Daily Record. United Press International. December 27, 1977. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- "CBS buys KRLD(AM) for $27 million" (PDF). Broadcasting. April 25, 1983. p. 30. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
- "Changing Hands" (PDF). Broadcasting. October 3, 1983. p. 94. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
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- "HENLEY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP II, Form 10-K, Annual Report, Filing Date Sep 28, 1995". secdatabase.com. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
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…the WVBF chief who has seen his B's spillover deal go to WMEX for the upcoming season…(pay content preview)
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