|City of license||Charlotte, North Carolina|
|Branding||610 The Fan|
|Repeaters||104.7-2 FM WKQC-FM HD2|
|First air date||1941 (as WAYS)|
|Power||5,000 watts day
1,000 watts night
|Callsign meaning||W FaNZ(S)|
|Former callsigns||WAYS (1941-1984)
(CBS Radio Stations Inc.)
|Sister stations||WBAV-FM, WBCN, WKQC, WNKS, WPEG, WSOC-FM|
WFNZ signed on in 1941 as WAYS (AM). For much of the 1960s through early 1980s, it was Charlotte's top-rated Top 40 station under the moniker "61 Big Ways." The morning show was aired on both WAYS and sister FM WROQ, and among the WROQ/WAYS DJs to become major celebrities were Robert Murphy, later the WKQX Chicago morning host, and actor Jay Thomas. Larry Sprinkle, now a WCNC-TV morning weather personality, also worked at the stations. In 1984, it became WROQ (AM) and simulcast its then-FM sister station (now WNKS). In 1986, it changed its calls to WAES (a phonetic version of the old calls) with an oldies format, briefly bringing back its old "61 Big Ways" moniker. However, it failed to make much headway in the ratings. After 18 months of the Oldies Channel satellite format, WAES began airing the "AM Only" adult standards satellite format during the day, and talk show hosts Bruce Williams, Neil Myers and Larry King at night. It brought back the WROQ calls in 1990, playing an album rock format similar to the one its FM sister used in its glory days. In 1991, it became WGKL, simulcasting its FM sister's oldies format. Later in 1991, it became WAQS (another phonetic play on its old calls) while keeping the oldies format.
Finally, in September 1992, it became Charlotte's first ever all-sports station as "Sports 610 AM WAQS." Gerry Vaillancourt, formerly of WCNT, debuted the station's first local sports talk program on September 14. Another local host was Michele Tafoya, who was then known on-air as Mickey Conley. The format took a while to take hold, but it got an assist when it was sold to the owners of popular rock station WRFX and became known as WRFX-AM (Fox 610 Sports). When WRFX was bought by Clear Channel, AM 610 was sold to American Radio Systems and renamed WFNZ in 1995. The ARS deal reunited it with its former longtime FM sister.
In 2003, WFNZ added a semi-satellite, WFNA, on 1660 AM after the FCC expanded the AM radio band. It replaced CBS-owned gospel station WGIV (1600 AM), which left the air. (The WGIV call letters are now on a different station in the Charlotte area, under different ownership.) The two stations simulcast on weekdays and had separate schedules during nights and weekends. Now WBCN, the station began airing a talk radio format on September 14, 2009.
From 2006 to 2012 WFNZ has been the Charlotte-area home of North Carolina Tar Heels football and basketball. WBT sales director Steve Sklenar said the games pre-empted John Hancock's show and, during the ACC Tournament, Rush Limbaugh. WBT wanted the games, Sklenar said, because its powerful 50,000-watt signal brought the Tar Heels to most of the East Coast at night. However, the pre-emptions cost the station a lot of money. WFNZ had its second frequency, allowing the station to air Charlotte 49ers basketball even when there was a conflict.
For many years, WFNZ boasted the second-strongest signal in the Charlotte area, at 5,000 watts (which is stronger at 610 AM than it would be farther to the right on the AM dial). However, WCRU and former sister WBCN operate at 10,000 watts. During the day, it provides at least grade B coverage to 35 counties in North and South Carolina. However, it must power down to 1,000 watts at night due to a large glut of clear-channel stations on nearby channels. This makes WFNZ hard to hear even in some parts of Mecklenburg County and all but unlistenable in much of the South Carolina portion of the market. Due to its nighttime signal limitations, UNC signed up WFNZ's former FM sister WRFX to simulcast Tar Heel basketball games from 2008 to 2011, as well as any football games kicking off after 5 pm. WNOW-FM took over this duty for the 2011-12 season, after which the Tar Heels moved back to WBT full-time.
In November 2007, the station went through a scheduling change when the station lost its syndication of The Bill Rosinski Show after the Charis Radio Network cancelled the show. Instead of picking up syndication from Sporting News Radio or ESPN Radio, the station added a one hour show featuring Chuck Howard and added an hour to the "Mac Attack" show. On Wednesday, October 1, 2008, Howard announced that he was leaving the station to become the producer for NASCAR Media Group. A new show featuring former Carolina Panthers players Frank Garcia and Brentson Buckner began airing on October 6, 2008.
On September 14, 2009, WFNZ AM changed its branding from "The Franchise" to "The Fan", moving in some ESPN Radio programming from its former sister station (see above) and dropping Sporting News Radio programming. 1660 AM is now America's Talk 1660 (www.americastalk1660).
November 24, 2010 was the last day for Mark Packer, host of the station's most popular show "Primetime with the Packman", and a WFNZ host for 13 years. His show is still syndicated to 14 stations in markets that include Raleigh, North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina. Though Packer, son of Billy Packer, will continue his "Southern Fried Football" and "Packman on Sports" on the WJZY 10:00 newscast, he will be off Charlotte radio due to a non-compete clause until July 2011.
Current hosts and producers
- Chris McClain: Host of "The Mac Attack"
- Jim Celania: Co-host of "The Mac Attack"
- Frank Garcia: Co-host of "Bustin' Loose With Frank & Moose"
- Brett Jensen: Host of "On The Beat With Brett Jensen"
- Taylor Zarzour and Marc James: Co-hosts of "The Drive"
- Gary Williams
- Chuck Howard
- Ethan Horton
- Bill Rosinski
- Brian "Hayseed" Stroup
- Sandy Penner
- The B.O.C. with Shawn and Tony
- Tom Carey
- Jim Noble
- Steve Czaban
- Mark Packer
- Brentson Buckner
- Muhsin Muhammad
- Jeff Borden, "Disc Jockeys to Reunite Here," The Charlotte Observer, October 7, 1988.
- http://thatwasradio.com/ways.html, Retrieved on 2008/05/07.
- WROQ Changes WAYS - It's WAES Now," The Charlotte Observer, June 27, 1986.
- Jeff Borden, "Station Turns to Larry King, Oldies," The Charlotte Observer, June 18, 1988.
- Tim Funk, "WROQ Monkeys with Its Format," The Charlotte Observer, January 20, 1990.
- Tim Funk, "WPEG Pumps Up Its Power, The Charlotte Observer, February 15, 1991.
- David Poole, "AM Station to Go All-Sports," The Charlotte Observer, August 26, 1992.
- David Poole, "Charlotte Was Launching Pad for 2 Rising Stars," The Charlotte Observer June 7, 1995.
- David Poole, "Gerry Vaillancourt," The Charlotte Observer, March 8, 1996.
- Washburn, Mark (2009-09-03). "Talking back: CBS to take on WBT". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2009-09-05.[dead link]
- Washburn, Mark (2006-06-21). "Tar Heels could air on WFNZ". The Charlotte Observer.
- Washburn, Mark (2010-11-29). "Mark Packer is leaving WFNZ radio". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
- Washburn, Mark (2011-08-01). "Sports radio stations flip networks". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2011-08-09.
- WFNZ official website
- QCB's official page on WFNZ's website
- The Mac Attack visits WCCB
- History of the station
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WFNZ
- Radio-Locator Information on WFNZ
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WFNZ