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|City of license||Fort Wayne, Indiana|
|Broadcast area||Fort Wayne, Indiana|
|Branding||News/Talk 1190 WOWO 92.3 FM|
|Slogan||Depend on it.|
|First air date||March 31, 1925|
|Power||50,000 watts (daytime)
9,800 watts (nighttime)
|Callsign meaning||"(Fort) Wayne Offers Wonderful Opportunities" (unofficial, was randomly assigned)|
|Affiliations||CBS Radio Network (1928-1995)
|Owner||Pathfinder Communications Corporation|
Located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, WOWO is an independent news/talk radio station transmitting on 1190 kHz at 50,000 watts during the daylight hours and 9,800 watts during the nighttime hours; they use a non-directional antenna daytime, and a three-tower directional antenna at night. WOWO, whose call letters are pronounced as a two-syllable word rhyming with go-go, has been broadcasting on various AM frequencies since March 31, 1925 and on 1190 kHz since March 29, 1941. WOWO was one of the first radio stations to broadcast in the Fort Wayne area. In 1930, WOWO was the first radio station in the world to broadcast a live basketball game. It is also considered to be the first station to broadcast live Indiana high school sports events and the first station to be wholly owned by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. WOWO was owned by Westinghouse Broadcasting from 1936 to 1982. The WOWO transmitter and its three towers are located along U.S. Highway 24 in Roanoke, Indiana, midway between Fort Wayne and Huntington.
Despite its sale by Westinghouse in 1982, WOWO still uses the distinctive Group W typeface for the call letters in its white on PF-152 red logo.
Established in 1925, WOWO began broadcasting at 500 watts of power on 1320 kHz on March 31, 1925 and was owned by Chester Keen of Main Auto Supply Company; the station was originally located upstairs of the Main Auto. The station's callsign was chosen to start with the letter "W" as required by the FCC for all stations in the United States at the time. During the 1920s, the FCC permitted either three- or four-letter callsigns, with three-letter call signs being preferred for brevity. By choosing WOWO for easy pronunciation as a two-syllable word, in some measure WOWO had a callsign that exhibited even more brevity than even the three-letter callsigns. Despite this, disk jockeys on WOWO were prohibited from calling the station "woe-woe" on the air until the late 1960s, when a contest was introduced to identify songs in which the "woe" sound appeared. The WOWO callsign was later backfilled as a tongue-in-cheek acronym: "Wayne Offers Wonderful Opportunities". In 1927, WOWO was made a pioneer station of CBS radio network and remained a CBS affiliate until 1956.
In 1928, Keen sold WOWO to Fred Zieg. In 1929, Zieg received FCC approval to move WOWO to 1190 kHz with a power of 10,000 watts and establish WGL on WOWO's former 1320 kHz. Until WOWO's purchase by Westinghouse Broadcasting in 1936, Zieg managed the advertising sales of both WOWO and WGL through WOWO-WGL Sales Service, Inc.
On July 4, 1929, the station's studio building caught fire. No casualties were reported, and operations were moved to a nearby location. Amazingly enough, the station's large pipe organ—a familiar sound on the station—was not damaged in the blaze. The WOWO pipe organ was later relocated to Gospel Temple in Fort Wayne.
During August 1936, WOWO was acquired by Westinghouse Broadcasting as its first owned and operated radio station. Westinghouse built new studios for WOWO at 925 South Harrison Street in Fort Wayne, which were completed on May 1, 1937. On that same date WOWO joined the NBC Blue radio network, while maintaining its CBS network affiliation, as multiple network affiliations were common for NBC-Blue affiliates. On March 29, 1941 Westinghouse completed the FCC licensing of WOWO's famous clear-channel broadcasting on 1190 kHz. During and after World War II, these clear-channel broadcasts made WOWO a popular radio super-station of sorts throughout the eastern United States. Although there were other radio stations in the eastern United States broadcasting on 1190 kHz during daylight hours, they were required by the FCC either to cease broadcasting at sunset or to reduce their transmitted power at sunset to make way for WOWO's clear-channel signal. WOWO's clear-channel license and resulting large audience permitted various owners over the years to consider WOWO their flagship station.
On April 30, 1952, WOWO's studio and offices were relocated to the upper floors of 128 West Washington Blvd. It was here that the station began its famous "fire-escape" weather forecasts, involving obtaining weather conditions from the fire escape ledge. In 1977, WOWO's studios moved to the fourth floor of the Central Building at 203 West Wayne Street in Fort Wayne, where it would remain for the next fifteen years. When the station relocated to the Central Building, the old fire escape was cut into small pieces, encapsulated in lucite and distributed as a promotional paper weight.
Programming for the station changed several times. After dropping its network affiliations in 1956, the station played modern (for the time) music. During its heyday, WOWO was one of North America's most listened-to Top 40 music stations. WOWO continued playing the hits until 1988, when the station resumed playing oldies. In 1992 the format changed to adult contemporary, and then in 1996, the station switched to a news-talk format which remains to this day.
Fort Wayne being equidistant from Chicago, Detroit and Cincinnati, clear-channel WOWO competed with WLS, WJR, and WLW for the agricultural market. Farmers would have the radio turned on in the milking parlor; research seemed to indicated that it relaxed the cows and produced more milk. In an era when live music was the rule, rather than the exception on the radio, WOWO's Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers proved popular with rural audiences, and eventually WLS, WJR and WLW surrendered the rural audience to concentrate on their urban audiences, leaving WOWO unchallenged for the hinterlands, and giving them the largest audience of any Fort Wayne area station for decades, until FM stations largely displaced AM stations. WOWO could be heard as far away as Florida, especially early in the morning and late at night and many snowbirds listened to WOWO year-around. They shut down the transmitter on Sunday nights, giving Philadelphia station WCAU at 1210 AM a slight ratings boost as sleepless WOWO listeners sought something to listen to.
Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers' "Little Red Barn" was used as a theme song for Bob Sievers' daily show, and when recorded music became the norm for the station, they continued to have a live show called "Little Red Barn" on Saturdays featuring Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers. Nancy Lee was the wife of Sam DeVincent, music librarian for the station.
WOWO as a former clear-channel
From 1941 to 1995 WOWO was well-known, in both Indiana and areas to the east, as one of the clear-channel AM stations. This was due to the station broadcasting continuously at 50,000 watts of power both during daylight and nighttime hours. From sunset to sunrise, WOWO's directional antenna was configured to protect only KEX, Portland, Oregon. The nighttime broadcasts were branded as WOWO's Nighttime Skywave Service, the "voice of a thousand Main Streets". During the 1970s, the station's hourly ID (required by the FCC) stated: "50,000 watts on 1190, WOWO, Fort Wayne, Group W, Westinghouse Broadcasting."
Jay Gould spoke to many community organizations, relating the history of WOWO. Initially, the leading station in Detroit (WJR), Chicago (WLS), and Cincinnati (WLW) all competed for farmer listeners with agricultural reports. WOWO, almost equidistant between those three stations eventually captured that demographic, with the other three stations focusing on their urban and suburban areas. This benefitted WOWO as national advertisers saw WOWO as a regional station that would reach well into the backyards of those larger metropolises.
WOWO's clear-channel license permitted WOWO's radio personalities to gain some degree of fame throughout the eastern United States. Announcer Bob Sievers, Farm Director, commentator and folk-philosopher Jay Gould, News Director Dugan Fry, meteorologist Earl Finckle, the "In a Little Red Barn (on a farm down in Indiana)" de facto theme song of WOWO, the Penny Pitch charity fund raisers, sports director Bob Chase's Komet Hockey broadcasts, the weather reports from WOWO's personnel taking a smoking break out on its studio's "world-famous fire escape", and husband-wife hosts of The Little Red Barn Show, music director Sam DeVincent and wife Nancy of "Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers", all were listened to by a total of millions of people from the Great Lakes to the United States' East Coast over the years from the 1940s to the 1990s. Other memorable on-air personalities include Ron Gregory, Chris Roberts, Jack Underwood and Carol Ford.
WOWO broadcast 24 hours daily except for Sunday nights, when they nominally shut down for maintenance between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. At that time, there were few other clear signals with music available in the Fort Wayne local area. Philadelphia's WCAU, at 1210 AM, was nominally a clear-channel station, but its signal, weak and static-laden as it was, seemed to be the best option.
Because WOWO's Nighttime Skywave Service caused WLIB, also 1190 kHz, in New York City to cease broadcasting at sunset each day and resume broadcasting at sunrise, Inner City Broadcasting bought WOWO in 1994 so that they could reduce WOWO's Class A clear-channel license to Class B, and WLIB, owned by Inner City Broadcasting could thereby increase its class from Class D to Class B. This reduced WOWO's potential audience—referred to as WOWOland—from much of the eastern United States to a much smaller local region in northern Indiana, northwestern Ohio, and south-central Michigan. Before the power reduction, when WLIB signed off at night, WOWO's air signal came booming through the speakers into the WLIB air studio.
1971 Emergency Broadcast System false alarm
On February 20, 1971, NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado was ready to broadcast a normal required weekly test of the Emergency Broadcast System. However, AT&T reported that the United States Air Force used the wrong tape for the test by accident, and initiated an Emergency Action Notification, normally issued by the Office of Civil Defense or the President. This prompted all stations in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, area by order of the FCC to operate under emergency procedures and feed the broadcast from WOWO through their radios. Bob Sievers was at the microphone at WOWO at the time, and he, along with everyone at the studio, had no idea what was going on. When he heard the message from the Air Force, you could hear in his voice that he was very relieved that it was only a mistake.
The WOWO recording is used in the song "Cold Call" by American progressive rock band OSI on their release Fire Make Thunder. The song that played before the EBS was "Doesn't Somebody Want to Be Wanted" by The Partridge Family.
WOWO currently has studios in a broadcast complex on Maples Road, on the south side of Fort Wayne. It has a three tower directional antenna on U.S. Highway 24, just northeast of Roanoke, Indiana. WOWO was the first Fort Wayne station to transmit in AM stereo; it later became the first Fort Wayne AM station to transmit with HD Radio technology. The station streams its programs over the Internet. Local newscasts are written and anchored by Kayla Blakeslee, Krista Miller, Ryan Wrecker, and Dean Jackson. Morning traffic reports are anchored by Kylie Havens. The WOWO news staff also provides morning news updates for sister stations WMEE-FM and WQHK-FM (K-105). Casey Hendrickson broadcast from the Mishawaka studio of sister station WTRC, where he also hosts a morning program. Hendrickson was brought on following the controversial May 2012 firing of afternoon host Pat Miller; as a result of new management, Miller resumed the afternoon drive slot on January 2, 2013.
Weekend programming includes The Mutual Fund Show with Adam Bold, encore programs from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, "The Kim Kommando Show" and locally produced programs.There are newscasts every 30 minutes, at the top and bottom of the hour, featuring local, national and international reports. Mitch Craig does station imaging. WOWO utilizes ABC and FOX news services, as well as the Associated Press. In 2006, WOWO became a partner with Indiana's NewsCenter, which produces newscasts for two Fort Wayne television stations, WPTA-TV (Channel 21) and WISE-TV (Channel 33). There are regular weather reports from WPTA-TV, as well as weather bulletins from the National Weather Service.
WOWO also broadcasts the Fort Wayne Komets hockey games and the Indianapolis Colts football games. Bob Chase announced his retirement as Sports Director of WOWO after 56 years behind the mic, effective June 5, 2009. The 83-year-old Chase remains as the voice of the Fort Wayne Komets heading into his 57th season.
WOWO began to simulcast on 92.3 FM on March 28, 2012 at noon. This frequency was previously occupied by classic rock station WFWI. Previous incarnations of WOWO-FM operated from 1940–1953 on several frequencies (and was known as W49FW until 1943) and 1988–1994 on 103.1 and 102.9 FM (now WGL-FM).
- Emergency Broadcast System - False Alarm of 1971, YouTube
- Leininger, Kevin (December 6, 2012). "How is WOWO's Pat Miller like Capt. Kirk?". Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
- Penhollow, Steve (March 15, 2012). "FM simulcast of WOWO to replace ‘The Fort’". The Journal Gazette. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WOWO
- Radio-Locator Information on WOWO
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WOWO
- History of WOWO site
- 1971 Emergency Broadcast System MP3 Audio