WGFN

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Classic Rock - The Bear
WGFN, WCKC and WCHY
City of license WGFN: Glen Arbor, Michigan
WCKC: Cadillac, Michigan
WCHY: Cheboygan, Michigan
Broadcast area WGFN: Traverse City, Michigan
WCKC: Cadillac, Michigan
WCHY: Cheboygan, Michigan
Branding The Bear
Slogan Your Home for Bob and Tom in the Morning and Genuine Classic Rock All Day
Frequency WGFN: 98.1 MHz
WCKC: 107.1 MHz
WCHY: 97.7 MHz
First air date WGFN: 1991
WCKC: 1985
WCHY: 2011
Format Classic rock
ERP WGFN: 21,000 watts
WCKC: 2,750 watts
WCHY: 3,400 watts
HAAT WGFN: 225 meters
WCKC: 147 meters
WCHY: 152 meters
Class WGFN: C2
WCKC: A
WCHY: C3
Facility ID WGFN: 10750
WCKC: 22183
WCHY: 189567
Former callsigns WGFN:
WMLB (10/12/88-5/22/92)
WQLZ (9/13/82-2/10/89)
WCBY-FM (?-9/13/82)
WCKC:
WYTW (2/1/85-9/24/91)
WITW (8/24/84-2/1/85)
WCHY:
WQEZ (2011-2013)
WJZJ (2/2013-5/2013)
WOEZ (5/10/2013-5/30/2013)
WJZJ (5/2013-6/2013)
Affiliations The Bob & Tom Show
Nights with Alice Cooper
Owner Northern Star Broadcasting
Sister stations WAVC, WCBY, WCHY, WGFM, WIDG, WMKC, WOEZ, WQEZ, WYPV
Webcast Listen Live
Website classicrockthebear.com

WGFN is one of three radio stations in the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan that air a classic rock format, with The Bob & Tom Show & Nights with Alice Cooper, called "The Bear". Those stations are:

While WGFN and WCKC are simulcast with each other, WCHY airs the same programming and playlist as the other two "Bear" stations, but is imaged separately, with different station identifications and commercial breaks.

Four other Michigan stations, 105.1 WGFM out of Cheboygan, 97.9 WIHC out of Newberry, 93.9 WAVC in Mio, and 94.5 WLJZ in Mackinaw City, had previously been part of the Bear network. WGFM became a partial simulcast of Glen Arbor mainstream rock station WJZJ ("Real Rock 105.1/95.5") in September 2009, and now airs a standalone mainstream rock format as "Rock 105" as of April 2013, following 95.5 FM's change to a soft adult contemporary format as WQEZ. WIHC stopped broadcasting in February 2010 in the aftermath of a major radio purchase in the Upper Peninsula by Sovereign Communications, and has since been sold and returned to the air with religious programming. WAVC and WLJZ (now WYPV) now simulcast a conservative talk format.

Beginnings: W-Gold FM[edit]

In 1989, longtime northern Michigan radio personality and engineer Del Reynolds and wife Mary purchased 100,000 watt CHR WQLZ (formerly WCBY-FM) in Cheboygan. Shortly afterward, he changed the station's format to classic rock with the WGFM call letters, meaning "W-Gold-FM". The station's main focus was classic rock, but also played new cuts from classic rock artists as well. The station was live/local 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. and aired Westwood One's Adult Rock format overnights. Del was the station's morning man.

In the 1990s, Del's radio empire grew when he acquired many other local stations and built new ones as well. He purchased WIDG 940 in St. Ignace, MI and WCBY AM in Cheboygan the station that launched his career in the late 1960s. He purchased 98.1 WMLB Glen Arbor, which had previously simulcast WUPS in Houghton Lake, and changed that to WGFN, giving WGFM a clearer signal in the Traverse City, MI area. He also took over 107.1 WCKC "Cadillac KC Country" Cadillac which was simulcasting his 102.9 WMKC "KC Country" St. Ignace, MI, but eventually changing to a WGFM simulcast.

WCKC history[edit]

In 1985 Donald "Doc" Benson, then-owner of WMKC-FM/WIDG-AM in St. Ignace, obtained the CP (Construction Permit) for a new FM in Cadillac at 107.1. Cadillac previously had a WITW (now WLXV) and Doc reportedly believed he could capitalize on the "good will" of the other station's calls and came up with WYTW. It was called Y-107 and ran satellite adult contemporary music for a short period, but the station was unable to make enough money to pay its expenses. In 1989 WYTW changed to WCKC ("Cadillac KC Country") and simulcast with WMKC and WIDG. This continued until WCKC became a member of the "Bear" network. (See WMKC article for more information).

WAVC history[edit]

93.9 FM first signed on in 1994 as WCLX with an adult contemporary format, relaying the programming of "Sunny 100.7" WCLS-FM (now WWTH) Oscoda. The station soon went silent. In 1997, broadcaster Todd Mohr purchased WCLX, changed the calls to WAVC, and operated the station from a studio in Gaylord, returned it to the air with a satellite-fed adult album alternative format and the name "The River", presumably an imitation of CIDR-FM (also on 93.9) in Windsor, Ontario. Later that same year, Del Reynolds bought WAVC and began using it to simulcast WJZJ, which then aired Jones Radio Networks' smooth jazz format as "Coast FM" (WLJZ 94.5 in Mackinaw City also carried the format). Calibre Communications purchased "Coast FM" in 1998 and flipped it to "The Zone", and WAVC remained part of the "Zone" network until dropping the simulcast to simulcast WMKC in March 2001. The WMKC simulcast remained until March 2010.

WCHY history[edit]

The license for 94.5 FM was first issued in February 1985. The station's original call letters were WSSW (for the station's founder, Sonora S. Wray), which were first issued in October 1986. After a series of construction-related delays, WSSW first signed on at 94.3 in 1989 with an automated MOR format, but went dark not long after that. The station, while at 94.3, was initially assigned a Class A power output of 3,000 watts, which made the station all but unlistenable outside of the Mackinaw City-St. Ignace area, a seasonal, tourist-driven market barely able to sustain the competing radio stations that were already on the air and firmly established. WSSW's management thought that perhaps packing the station with tourist-related information for the local area would help reverse its fortunes. The station did improve, but not enough. Wray sold the station to Robert A. Naismith in February 1992.

Naismith returned the station to the air with a hot adult contemporary format as WFGE, known as "Fudgie 94" (as in Mackinac Island's famous fudge). Then in 1995, the station changed calls to WLJZ and changed its frequency to 94.5 with an increase in power, which increased its broadcast area substantially to include most of the northern tip of the lower peninsula, bringing a better signal to Petoskey, Gaylord, and Rogers City and reaching almost as far north as Sault Ste. Marie (though the station did, and still does, suffer from interference from co-channel WCEN-FM in the southern fringes of its listening area). WLJZ adopted Jones Radio Networks' satellite-fed smooth jazz format as "Coast FM," simulcasting with WAVC 93.9 FM in Mio and WJZJ 95.5.

In 1998, "Coast FM," suffering from low ratings, was dropped in favor of "The Zone." WAVC eventually dropped out of the "Zone" network to simulcast country sister WMKC. For more on "The Zone," see WJZJ.

In 2006, WLJZ also abandoned the "Zone" simulcast in favor of a standalone Hot AC format using Waitt Radio's "AC Active" package, taking the name "Star 94.5, Today's Best Variety." This left WJZJ as the only remaining "Zone" station.

On April 1, 2008, WLJZ changed to its current classic country format. The classic country package complements the "Big Country Hits" contemporary-country format on sister stations WMKC and WAVC.

In April 2010, WLJZ announced on-air that its classic country format would be moving to AM sister station WCBY AM 1240, displacing the adult standards format currently heard there. WLJZ's new format turned out to be a WGFN simulcast. According to the on-air announcements, the changes were due to low ratings and low advertising revenue for the classic country format.

The move returns the "Bear" format to the airwaves in the Straits Area and the eastern Upper Peninsula, as former "Bear" affiliate WGFM 105.1 in Cheboygan now airs a mainstream rock format simulcast with WJZJ 95.5 FM in Traverse City as "Real Rock 95-5 & 105.1," and WIHC 97.9 FM in Newberry, the "Bear" affiliate that served the Sault Ste. Marie market, has been taken dark.

On December 5, 2012 WLJZ changed their call letters to WOEZ.

On May 3, 2013 WOEZ changed their call letters to WJZJ.

On June 6, 2013 WJZJ changed its call sign to WCHY. These calls were formerly used for a station in the Madison, Wisconsin market from 2005 to 2012; this station is now WMHX.

The Bear debuts[edit]

In 1998, Reynolds sold his stations to Calibre Communications for $7 million. As a result, the station would remain classic rock, but under a new moniker, The Bear, and Reynolds would leave the morning show host position. When Calibre asked Reynolds who should replace him, he suggested Bob and Tom. It was a wise decision on the station's part since they would pry album-oriented rock (AOR) stalwart WKLT from the Arbitron #2 spot all the way down to #5, while in many books, The Bear is in the top five. Bob and Tom - whose radio career started at WJML in the late 1970s - are now one of the most-popular morning shows in northern Michigan.

Also, WGFN was made the flagship of The Bear stations, even though most of their operations are in Cheboygan, partially due to Traverse City being the biggest city in northern Michigan.

Unfortunately, the deal between Calibre and Reynolds failed, though a new company, Northern Star Broadcasting, was formed to take over Reynolds' stations. Although no longer owner, Reynolds remained as the station's engineer.

Recent news[edit]

Playlist tweak[edit]

For a time, The Bear experimented with an updating of its classic-rock playlist to include more hit AOR and alternative rock tracks from the 1980s and 1990s, from artists such as White Zombie, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Live, Stone Temple Pilots and Depeche Mode. The Bear has since dropped most of those artists and returned to the straightforward classic rock format it aired previously.

Affiliate gains/losses[edit]

In September 2009, 105.1 dropped out of the Bear simulcast and started simulcasting a Mainstream Rock format with WJZJ 95.5 out of Traverse City called Real Rock 105.1/95.5. 105.1 continued to carry Bob and Tom until August 2010, when it was replaced by The Free Beer and Hot Wings Show, which was already the morning show on WJZJ. Bob & Tom is still available for area listeners, on The Bear's Mackinaw City feed at 94.5 FM.

In February 2010, Northern Star Broadcasting fired staff and sold off all of their stations in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (including stations in the Sault Ste. Marie, Marquette, and Iron Mountain areas) to Sault Ste. Marie company Sovereign Communications, except for WIHC, which had been operating at a loss. It wasn't part of the sale to ensure that Sovereign's ownership concentration in the area did not exceed FCC limits. Rather than keep the station on air, Northern Star decided to take the station silent later that month. WIHC was sold for $150,000 to West Central Michigan Media Ministries in November 2011, returning to the air as Strong Tower Radio under a Christian talk format in March 2012, simulcasting from WGCP out of Cadillac, Michigan.

In April 2010, WLJZ 94.5 FM in Mackinaw City flipped from satellite-fed classic country to a simulcast of WGFN, thus returning the format to some of the northern Michigan real estate formerly covered by WGFM 105.1 and WIHC 97.9. At the same time, WAVC 93.9 FM in Mio also joined "The Bear" network, changing from a simulcast of country sister WMKC "102.9 Big Country Hits." In May 2013, these two stations began to simulcast a conservative talk format branded as "Your Patriot Voice," with 94.5 FM changing its call letters to WYPV. At that time, "The Bear" programming moved to the Cheboygan-licensed 97.7 FM signal, which adopted the calls WCHY on June 6, 2013, after a series of call letter and format swaps between 94.5, 97.7 and 106.3 (now WOEZ) in Onaway.

WCHY's signal covers the Straits of Mackinac region, providing a rimshot signal to Petoskey and reaching as far south as Gaylord and almost as far north as Sault Ste. Marie.

[edit]

Wgfnlogo.jpg ("Bear" logo included former 105.1 and 97.9 frequencies)

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°49′16″N 85°59′46″W / 44.821°N 85.996°W / 44.821; -85.996