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WKY (930 kHz) is a commercial AM radio station in Oklahoma City, owned by Cumulus Media. It airs a sports radio format which is simulcast from its sister station 98.1 WWLS-FM. The studios and offices are in Northwest Oklahoma City. WKY is the oldest radio station in Oklahoma and among the oldest in the nation. Even though Oklahoma is among the states using a "K" to begin its call signs, WKY dates back to the earliest days of broadcasting, when Oklahoma was in "W" territory.
|Broadcast area||Oklahoma City Metroplex|
|Branding||The Sports Animal|
|Format||Sports (WWLS-FM simulcast)|
Oklahoma City Thunder
|Owner||Cumulus Media |
(Radio License Holding CBC, LLC)
|KATT, KKWD, KQOB, KYIS, KWPN, WWLS-FM|
First air date
Call sign meaning
|None; assigned sequentially|
|Power||5,000 watts day|
510 watts night
WKY's transmitter and its single tower are located on NE 91st Street in Oklahoma City. The station broadcasts from the tallest AM radio tower in the country. WKY is powered at 5,000 watts by day, using a non-directional antenna. It once broadcast at night with a directional signal at 5,000 watts, using a multiple tower array. Ownership decided to go switch to a nighttime non-directional pattern, allowing WKY to only need one antenna after sunset. But that requires the station to drop to 510 watts at night.
5XT became the 87th licensed station in the United States, signing on the air on March 16, 1922. It was owned by the Oklahoma Radio Shop, owned by Earl C. Hull and H.S. Richards. The station was assigned the WKY call letters by the federal government and began broadcasting weekdays from noon to 1:00 p.m. and from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. On Sundays, WKY was on the air from 3 to 4 p.m. and 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
On November 1922, WKY announced a "silent night" policy, meaning the station would broadcast only four, and later three nights a week. This was so listeners could have a chance to tune into other stations in neighboring states.
Richards and Hull struggled to keep WKY on the air. In late 1925, Richards left the radio business, but Hull continued to keep WKY going by selling shares of the station to radio dealers in Oklahoma City. The dealers paid Hull a small fee to keep the station broadcasting. But over time, they decided the financial drain had become too much. In 1928, WKY was purchased by the Oklahoma Publishing Company, which also owned the Daily Oklahoman. The price was $5,000, about $75,000 today.
The formal opening of the new WKY was set for November 11, 1928, but the station went on the air several days earlier to carry the presidential election returns as Herbert Hoover won in a Republican landslide.
That December, the station became an NBC Red Network affiliate and began carrying the network's programs. During the "Golden Age of Radio" that included dramas, comedies, news, sports, soap operas, game shows and big band broadcasts. By the following year, WKY was attempting to operate like the powerhouse stations in the East. Aside from NBC network shows, everything broadcast by WKY originated locally.
WKY operated from the Skirvin Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City from 1936 to 1951, and was contracted to broadcast live from the Venetian Room from 11:00 to Midnight every evening. The opening night performance cost $15 a couple for dinner and dancing.
From November 1941, through June 1942, WKY broadcast its own original supernatural thriller series called Dark Fantasy (series). All 31 episodes can still be heard today.
WKY-FM and TVEdit
WKY-FM was launched on July 1, 1947, at 98.9 MHz (now sister station KYIS). The programming was mostly classical music. A strong effort was made to minimize the duplication of WKY AM programs and make WKY-FM a true second station. In 1949, WKY-AM-FM added a TV station, Channel 4 WKY-TV (now KFOR), the first television outlet in Oklahoma.
Few people owned FM radios in the early 1950s. By 1952, WKY management had to make a decision about keeping the FM station on the air or increasing the power of the company's new television tower. Since WKY-FM was not showing a profit, it lost out.
Top 40 YearsEdit
WKY has featured many formats over the years, including Contemporary Hits, Oldies, Country music, Adult Contemporary, Easy Listening, Christian talk and teaching, Talk, Hot Talk, Sports and Regional Mexican as a simulcast of then-sister station KINB.
Although KOMA was very famous outside Oklahoma City, due to its large nighttime signal, WKY was usually the ratings leader in the city itself. WKY continued to top many Arbitron ratings sweeps into the 1970s, even as young people began seeking hit music from the FM dial.
Ironically, WKY's top disc jockeys during that time, Danny Williams, Ronnie Kaye and Fred Hendrickson, later become "KOMA Good Guys" when AM 1520 flipped from an adult standards sound to an oldies format.
WKY changed its format to country music in the early 1980s, shortly after station owner Edward Gaylord purchased Nashville radio powerhouse 650 WSM-AM and the Grand Ole Opry. WKY simulcast live Grand Ole Opry broadcasts from WSM for a short time.
WKY dropped its country format to become an easy listening station on June 30, 1990, shortly after longtime FM easy listening station KKNG 92.5 moved to Soft Adult Contemporary music. Bus benches throughout Oklahoma City had the purple and white logo declaring "Easy Listening is back, 930 WKY."
Although it took a bit of time to grow the format, within a year 930 WKY had beaten KKNG 92.5 FM in the ratings. After getting beaten by WKY, KKNG took the "Soft & Easy" format to Mainstream AC as "Mix 92.5," which barely lasted a year.
Ironically, WKY's taking stewardship of the easy listening format ended up helping former rival KOMA, as its oldies sound took over the 92.5 frequency in the summer of 1992. Despite getting high ratings, the easy listening format on WKY had trouble getting advertisers to buy in. The easy listening format lasted about four years.
WKY switched to a talk radio format in 1994. In the process of flipping, it hired back many of the news staff it let go when it became an easy listening station in 1990.
The station stumbled out of the starting gate and struggled to compete against Clear Channel Communications' KTOK 1000 AM. KTOK already has the top names in syndicated conservative talk on its schedule, including Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Often WKY had to choose lesser national talk hosts to compete with KTOK for ratings. In its first year, WKY failed to cover its operational costs. In 1995, OPUBCO turned over operation of WKY to Clear Channel. That company operated the station through a local marketing agreement (LMA), after several continued months of operating in the red.
Finally, in 2002, OPUBCO sold the station to Citadel Broadcasting after 74 years of ownership. WKY, along with WSM-AM-FM in Nashville, had been the last vestiges of the once-vast Gaylord broadcasting empire, which at its height included eight radio stations and seven television stations.
From 1994 to 2002, WKY was a talk station. It flirted with an all-sports format, with two local sports talk shows in the drive time periods. "SuperTalk 930 WKY" was launched in March 2003. The format featured local-oriented talk shows throughout the day with some syndicated talk during the evening and weekend.
WKY en españolEdit
"SuperTalk" ended in January 2006. In an effort to target Oklahoma City's growing Hispanic population, WKY began airing a simulcast of KINB "La Indomable 105.3 FM". Because KINB was divested as part of the Citadel–ABC Radio merger, the simulcast on WKY was dropped June 12, 2007 and the station began stunting for several days.
On Wednesday. June 20, 2007 at 9:01 a.m., WKY made a change. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, a former sports, and later news anchor on KOCO-TV, signaled the start of "JOX 930 WKY." It was the fifth station in the market with a sports radio format.
After struggling in the ratings, WKY announced on December 22, 2008, that it would change formats from sports programming. On January 7, 2009, WKY flipped back to "La Indomable." From February 2017 to September 8, 2019, WKY was a full-time affiliate of ESPN Deportes Radio, offering all sports programming in Spanish. After that network ended operations, WKY returned to sports in English, simulcasting sister station 98.1 WWLS-FM. WKY also became the home of Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School Football.
Sale to CumulusEdit
On March 10, 2011, Cumulus Media announced that it would purchase Citadel Broadcasting. After receiving conditional regulatory approval from the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission, the deal was approved by Citadel shareholders on September 15, 2011.
The merger of the two companies closed on September 16, 2011, and Citadel became an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Cumulus Media.
- CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite (1916–2009) served as play-by-play commentator for University of Oklahoma football games during the 1937 season.
- Frank McGee (1921–1974) Co-Anchor, NBC Nightly News, NBC's Today Show.
- TV Show host Mike Douglas (1926–2006) started his career as a staff singer on WKY before joining the Navy during World War II and serving on a munitions ship.
- Danny Williams (1927–2013) Program Director during WKY's years as a Top 40 station. Williams began the Oklahoma portion of his career in 1950, and would stay at WKY until his first "retirement" in 1979. At the age of 81, he retired from 92.5 KOMA-FM on August 29, 2008, after spending 16 years as the morning drive personality.
- Phil Boyce, Program Director, Salem Communications.
- Kevin Metheny (1954–2014) using the name "Kevin Michaels" during his 1971 stint at WKY, was portrayed by Paul Giamatti under the name Kenny "Pig Vomit" Rushton in the movie Private Parts, starring Howard Stern. Metheny was the program director at WNBC-AM 660 in New York City during the early 1980s. He went on to work at MTV as Vice President for Production and Programming. At the time of his death, Metheny was Program Director for Cumulus Media in San Francisco.
- Syndicated disc jockey Steve Goddard
- Jimmy O'Neill (1940–2013) Host of ABC's Shindig! TV program from 1964–66; longtime DJ in Los Angeles.
- Ernest Istook, a former Republican member of the United States House of Representatives for the 5th District of Oklahoma. Istook was a member of the Appropriations and the Homeland Security committees. He was the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2006, running against incumbent Democrat Gov. Brad Henry. Istook lost the gubernatorial race. During the 1970s, Istook worked as a radio news reporter at WKY. Istook also worked at KOMA.
- Jack Mildren (1949–2008) All-American Quarterback at the University of Oklahoma from 1969–1971. During that time, he earned the title of "Godfather of the Wishbone." Mildren played in the NFL from 1972 through 1974 for the Baltimore Colts and the New England Patriots. In 1990, Mildren became the 22nd Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma. In 1994, he ran unsuccessfully as a Democratic candidate for Governor of Oklahoma, losing to Republican Frank Keating. In addition to his drive-time show on WKY, Mildren was also a regular contributor on sister station WWLS.
- Russell Pierson (1911–2015) farm broadcaster from 1959–1983 and was known for closing every program with a rhyme.
- Chuck Dunaway, Houston native who worked his way to Oklahoma City and eventually landed in New York at WABC 770. He had two stints at WKY and went on to own radio stations in Lexington, Kentucky, and Joplin, Missouri.
Oklahoma City Cumulus sister stationsEdit
- "Oklahoma City, part III". fybush.com. Archived from the original on March 25, 2006. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
- Cindy Anderson. "Need to Stay in Touch Keeps State's Communication Industry Humming." (Oklahoma City) Daily Oklahoman, November 14, 1982, Section 4, p. 4.
- "Williams, Danny - Voices of Oklahoma". voicesofoklahoma.com.
- WKY in the FCC's AM station database
- WKY on Radio-Locator
- WKY in Nielsen Audio's AM station database
- 1969 WKY Aircheck
- Website of former WKY personality, Danny Williams
- WKY Described
- WKY's former transmitter building and studios
- Voices of Oklahoma interview with Danny Williams. First person interview conducted on June 18, 2009 with Oklahoma broadcast legend, Danny Williams. Original audio and transcript archived with Voices of Oklahoma oral history project.
- FCC History Cards for WKY