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|City of license||Richfield, Minnesota|
|Broadcast area||Minneapolis-St. Paul|
|Branding||980 The Mission|
|Slogan||Twin Cities' Christian Voice|
|First air date||October 18, 1949 (as WPBC)|
|Format||Commercial; Christian talk|
|Callsign meaning||Minneapolis-St. Paul|
|Former callsigns||WPBC (1949-1972)
|Sister stations||KYCR, WWTC|
KKMS (980 AM) is a Salem Communications-owned radio station licensed to Richfield, Minnesota, United States and serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Studios are located in Eagan, Minnesota. They are co-owned with WWTC and KYCR.
The station programs a Christian-based religious format primarily featuring ministry personnel and preachers such as John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, James Dobson, J. Vernon McGee and Tom Shrader. Other individuals may also lease air time on the station. Other hosts such as Hank Hanegraaff and Janet Parshall provide more interactive programming. The station produces its own afternoon show, The Word of Truth which is hosted by Pastor Brad Brandon. This show has replaced "KKMS Live! with Jeff and Lee." Several other shows are locally produced, such as Understanding the Times with Jan Markell and The Christian World View with David Wheaton.
After two years of wrangling and obtaining start-up funds, WPBC officially signed on the air on October 18, 1949. The station was owned by the People's Broadcasting Company, founded by former WCCO announcer Bill Stewart and his wife Becky Ann. In contrast to WCCO and KSTP, WPBC carried no network programming, and were live and local all day. The station in the early years played a variety of middle of the road pop music and standards, and was even considered an innovator in the concept of singing jingles.
As they were limited by their then-daytime only license at 980 AM, they started up WPBC-FM at 101.3 MHz in August 1959, simulcasting the AM station.
The Stewarts sold the station in 1972 to Fairchild Industries for $1.5 million. Fairchild subsequently dismissed the entire staff and overhauled both stations. On November 3, 1972, the AM station was relaunched as WYOO, picking up an oldies format (with rock and roll included). A few days later, WPBC-FM became WRAH and programmed an automated album oriented rock format. When the oldies format of WYOO started to slide in the ratings, more MOR music was added, but ratings slid even further. Fairchild contemplated selling the station. The general manager and program director, both hired from established Top 40 station KDWB, felt a major change needed to be made.
The decision was made to change to a Top 40/hard rock format, in contrast to what they saw as the rigid, bland presentation of other similar stations in town. They kept the WYOO call letters, to avoid the hassle and long process of changing call letters with the FCC. After being rebuffed in their planned use of "Y100" as the station's moniker, the new station was christened "U100." An interesting note was the placement on the dial. The AM broadcast at 980, and the FM at 101.3. Management reasoned that back then, all radios were analog, and it seemed like the only number shown on that part of the dial was a big "100", so it was close enough to 980 and 101.3, close enough to "100" as far as they were concerned. The dial position was promoted similarly by WPBC, as "near 10 or 100 on AM or FM".
The changeover occurred on August 26, 1974 during a remote broadcast from the Minnesota State Fair. The new U100 quickly became the topic of conversation throughout the area with its rowdy, outrageous mix of Top 40 and hard rock.
During the next two years, U100 quickly became the most talked-about radio station in town. Competition was fierce in rock 40 radio at the time, and compared to U100, WDGY, KDWB and KSTP seemed a bit tame in their on-air presentation. As an added advantage, U100 was the first Twin Cities top 40 station to broadcast on the FM dial in stereo (in addition to 980 AM).
WAYL and the Entercom years
In early 1976, Fairchild Industries decided to put both stations on the market. The owner of easy listening (beautiful music) station WAYL was interested in the AM operation, to simulcast WAYL's signal and expand coverage in parts of the metro area. Since one company could not own more than one AM or more than one FM station in the same market at the time, they needed to find a buyer for the FM station, and sought out the owners of various AM stations in the area. Doubleday Broadcasting, owner of KDWB, wasn't actively seeking an FM station at the time but offered to buy 101.3 FM in February 1976 after they were offered a rather generous deal for $750,000 that included WYOO-FM and the building in Eagan that housed both stations.
U100 signed off for the last time at midnight on Wednesday, September 15, 1976. The following Monday, 980 AM came back on the air as WAYL.
WAYL (whose mascot was a whale) simulcast easy listening music on both 93.7 FM and 980 AM until 1982, when they briefly switched the AM station to lite rock, first as KKSS, and then to adult standards as KMFY in 1984. The AM station's somewhat eclectic format was unsuccessful and it returned to simulcasting WAYL by 1988. By this time, the two stations were owned by a larger company, Entertainment Communications, later known as Entercom.
From easy listening to hard rock
As the mid-1980s approached, the easy listening format was fading rapidly in popularity. While it had long been a strong ratings draw across the country, advertisers began to shun the older demographics of its listeners. In 1988, WAYL-FM finally dropped easy listening and switched to classic hits as KLXK. WAYL's call letters and format remained on 980 AM, before completely giving up on beautiful music and switching to a simulcast of the FM station.
In December 1990, the AM station branched off from its FM sister. The station picked up the full-time syndicated network called "Z-Rock," following their departure from KZOW (950 AM). The new call letters became KMZZ and the music full-time hard rock and heavy metal. As the Z-Rock network itself later shifted to a more mainstream rock presentation, KMZZ dropped them on January 1, 1993 and began programming an in-house automated hard rock format as "Mega Rock". Mega Rock did not last long, and the following May, 980 AM returned to simulcasting their FM sister station, now active rock KRXX (93X).
When Entercom sold 93X to Capital Cities/ABC in 1994, the AM station was not part of the deal. As a buyer was being sought, 980 was still owned by Entercom (though programmed by local ABC station KQRS-FM through a local marketing agreement) and continued to simulcast 93.7 FM until a buyer could be found. Upon taking control of KRXX in March, ABC immediately changed the format of KRXX-FM to modern rock as KEGE ("The Edge"). AM 980's call letters would remain KRXX until finally picking up the KEGE call letters later that year.
Sale to Salem
After more than two years on the market, the AM station was finally sold in December 1996 to a religious broadcaster and the call letters switched to the current KKMS. Eventually, Salem Communications, a company that grew by buying less desirable AM stations around the country, acquired the station. Today, Salem, which programs both Christian and secular formats, is one of the biggest radio station owners in the industry, and they currently own two other AM stations in the Twin Cities market. All three stations are based at the same Eagan studios that housed 980 AM and its broadcast facilities through its many incarnations.
- KKMS official website
- Query the FCC's AM station database for KKMS
- Radio-Locator Information on KKMS
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for KKMS
- Right on Super U! Recalling U100
- Rob Sherwood's reflections of U100
- Radiotapes.com, featuring historic airchecks of WPBC, WYOO and other Twin Cities stations
- Pavek Museum of Broadcasting page on WPBC