|City of license||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Broadcast area||Greater Philadelphia (Delaware Valley)|
|Slogan||Philadelphia's Classic Rock|
|Frequency||102.9 MHz (also on HD Radio)
102.9 HD-2 for Oldies
|First air date||1945 (as WPEN-FM)|
|Callsign meaning||"WMGK" from "MaGic" (former adult contemporary format)|
|Former callsigns||WPEN-FM (1945-1975)|
WMGK, known as "102.9 MGK", "Classic Rock 102.9 MGK", "Philadelphia's Classic Rock: 102.9 MGK" and "102.9 WMGK", is a classic rock formatted radio station which is broadcast in the Philadelphia area. The station features popular Philadelphia radio personality John DeBella and former Howard Stern Show censor Andre Gardner. WMGK is owned by Greater Media. Its transmitter is located in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, while studios are in Bala Cynwyd.
WMGK was known as WPEN-FM prior to 1975. First assigned a license in September 1945 on the newly moved FM band at 95.9 and later 99.5, WPEN-FM was one of the first two FM stations to be licensed for SCA (subcarrier) service in 1955. Their co-owned AM station had been WPEN since 1929.
At various times in the 1960s WPEN-FM either broadcast instrumental background music, was simulcast with WPEN, or played music similar to WPEN's middle-of-the-road format. By about 1972, WPEN-FM was simulcasting WPEN 50% of the time (the maximum allowed by FCC regulations in those years) and playing adult contemporary music without disc jockeys during non-simulcast hours. When Greater Media acquired the stations in 1975, the FM simulcast the AM's newly launched oldies format for almost six months while plans were made for stand-alone programming on FM.
On September 2, 1975, WPEN-FM changed its call letters to WMGK and adopted a soft adult contemporary format called "Magic Music". The first song aired under the new call sign was "Could It Be Magic" by Barry Manilow. The music was a blend of current adult contemporary songs with album cuts from singer-songwriters of the '60s and early '70s, presented in four-song blocks with minimal talk. The format was successful for a time, then lost listeners to WUSL ("US1"), which had implemented a somewhat similar format with a shorter playlist of more familiar songs. Eventually WMGK replied with an even tighter playlist and rebounded past WUSL in the ratings. The station was programed by the late Dave Klahr and signed on by its first morning host Peter Booker who later programmed Greater Media sister station WMJC, Detroit and is now CEO of Delmarva broadcasting Company.
By the early 1980s, WMGK had an adult contemporary format with a "Soft Rock" positioning. They were known as "Magic 103". They played artists like Billy Joel, The Beatles, Kenny Rogers, Eagles, Four Tops, Elton John, James Taylor, etc. They also played softer songs by artists known for harder rock (example "Waiting for a Girl Like You"/Foreigner from January 1982). As the 1980s approached artists like Hall & Oates, Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, George Michael, Chicago, and others were added. "Magic 103" was one of the pioneering stations in the adult contemporary format, and the concept was subsequently applied to stations in other markets (i.e. Greater Media-owned sisters WMJC 94.7 "Magic 95" in Detroit (now WCSX) and WMGQ in New Brunswick, NJ).
In the 1980s, Magic 103 leaned soft, but played several uptempo songs an hour. They also continued to play plenty of current product. They were a Straight but slightly downtempo AC station. In the spring of 1986, WMGK started a Contemporary Jazz show called Sunday Morning Jazz, later renamed Sunday Evening Jazz in early 1987. The show was hosted by Bob Craig and ended in October 1988 when Craig left the radio station, though Craig returned to the station in the spring of 1990, and again hosted a Contemporary Jazz show, this one running on both Saturday and Sunday nights from 7 pm to midnight. Along with the Jazz, some soft rock songs were mixed in as well. The show lasted one year and ended in the early summer of 1991, as Craig again left the station. This may have been the precursor to the introduction of the city's first full-time Smooth Jazz station, WJJZ 106.1, which made its debut in 1993, almost two years after WMGK's Contemporary Jazz show had ended.
They continued this approach in the 1990s. Over the years, their competition was WBEB. Easy 101 became Soft AC in 1989 and by 1993, they were more of an AC format. WEAZ (soon WBEB) dominated in the ratings. In the summer of 1994, with the feeling that Philadelphia could no longer support 3 AC stations, Greater Media opted to drop AC for an all-1970s format.
On July 10, 1994, WMGK officially dropped the long time AC format and changed it to an all-70s format with all types of 1970s music ranging from classic rock to disco to easy listening to Pop/Rock to R&B. By 1995, the station added a few big 1960s and 1980s hits that were mostly of the Classic Rock-leaning Pop type. They also moved away from disco and Easy Listening. By the Fall of 1995, WMGK was more of a Classic Hits station. They had dropped the "Magic" name as well. They played mostly Classic Rock with some rock-friendly Pop hits thrown in, but not much of the harder material.
In 1997, Greater Media would acquire WMMR and 95.7 FM. At that point WMGK continued to position themselves as a Classic Hits station. A couple of years prior, they began to call themselves Classic Rock and eliminated the non rock pop hits. Still, with rocker WMMR in the cluster, WMGK leans softer than most classic rock stations.
On Friday, November 17, 2006, at 6 p.m. EST, the former WTHK (97.5 FM) became "The New Smooth Jazz 97.5 WJJZ", an allusion to the fact that WJJZ was once a popular smooth jazz station broadcasting on 106.1. This made WMGK the Philadelphia region's only classic rock station. The 106.1 frequency is now occupied by the Rhythmic AC-formatted WISX ("My 106.1"). The 97.5 frequency, which has since been flipped to Mainstream AC, then to Hot AC (as "Now 97.5"), and finally sports, and occupied by WPEN (as "97.5 The Fanatic"), is now owned by Greater Media, thus making it a sister station to WMGK.
WMGK had three major competitors. In Philadelphia, there was WYSP, which changed from active rock back to classic rock on August 25, 2008, with a harder sound than that of WMGK. However, WYSP switched to SportsRadio WIP on September 2, 2011. From surrounding markets, there is also competition from WCHR-FM, and WODE. WCHR-FM 105.7 The Hawk competes with it from the Lower Bucks County area to the Jersey Shore. WODE-FM 99.9 The Hawk, based in Easton, Pennsylvania, competes in the Lehigh Valley area and the northern Philadelphia suburbs. The station also received competition from WFKB of Reading, Pennsylvania (licensed to Boyertown), known as "107.5 Frank FM". WFKB, which is now known as WBYN-FM with a Christian Radio format, competed with WMGK anywhere from Reading to the northern Philadelphia suburbs and the Lehigh Valley region until March 30, 2009, when the call sign and format were changed.
WMGK can be heard with a reliable signal as far as central Monroe County, Pennsylvania to the North, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, to the West, New Jersey Shore to the East, and well into Delaware and Maryland to the South.
Every Memorial Day Weekend, 102.9 MGK hosts the annual Philly 500, which is the top 500 classic rock songs of all time, as voted by the MGK At Work Network. Every year, the countdown begins on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend at 3:00 PM with DJ Andre Gardner playing song number 500. The countdown continues throughout the weekend, and the number one song is played every year by DJ Bubba John usually around 2:30 PM on Memorial Day. Below are previous number one songs.
|Year||Artist||#1 Song||Runner Up Artist/Song|
|2008||Led Zeppelin||Stairway to Heaven||Aerosmith/Sweet Emotion|
|2009||Pink Floyd||Comfortably Numb||Kansas/Carry On Wayward Son|
|2010||Led Zeppelin||Stairway to Heaven||Kansas/Carry On Wayward Son|
|2011||Led Zeppelin||Stairway to Heaven||The Beatles/A Day in the Life|
|2012||Led Zeppelin||Stairway to Heaven||AC/DC/You Shook Me All Night Long|
|2013||Led Zeppelin||Stairway to Heaven||Lynyrd Skynyrd/Sweet Home Alabama|
|2014||The Beatles||A Day in the Life||Led Zeppelin/Stairway to Heaven|
The following songs are consistently in the top ten:
- Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
- Carry on Wayward Son by Kansas
- Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith
- Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Hotel California by Eagles
- Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
- You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC
- Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
- WMGK official website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WMGK
- Radio-Locator information on WMGK
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WMGK