|City of license||Boston, Massachusetts|
|Broadcast area||New England|
|Branding||AM 680 WRKO|
|Slogan||"Boston's Talk Station"|
|Repeaters||WAAF 107.3 MHz HD-3
WKAF 97.7 MHz HD-3
|First air date||1922|
|Callsign meaning||Radio-Keith-Orpheum Corporation later RKO General.|
|Former callsigns||WNAC (1922-1967)|
|Affiliations||NBC News (1981-1995)
ABC News (1995-present)
|Sister stations||WEEI-FM, WKAF, WAAF, WEEI|
The complete history of WRKO, complete with airchecks and official reproductions, may be found at http://wrko.org.
Founded in 1922 and settling on 1230 kilocycles (kilohertz) a few years later, WNAC was founded by John Shepard III, a Boston businessman whose father John Shepard Jr. had a department-store empire throughout New England and saw the potential of radio to publicize himself and his stores enough to finance his son's venture. The previous month WEAN (another Shepard-owned radio station) went on air in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1927, WNAC became one of the sixteen charter members of the CBS Radio Network, and remained a CBS affiliate for the next decade.
In the 1920s, using a 100-foot antenna connected by a clothesline to the building's roof, WNAC arranged the first network broadcast in radio history with station WEAF in New York City. In 1929, WNAC moved to new studios inside the Hotel Buckminster, with the entrance on the Brookline Avenue side (21 Brookline Avenue), which would become the station's home for the next four decades.
Shepard also launched a regional network to serve radio stations throughout New England; called "The Yankee Network", it was also a pioneer in radio news coverage. For many years, the Yankee Network was considered one of the best local/regional radio news operations in the country.
Shepard also purchased a second Boston station, WAAB, which became an affiliate of the Mutual Radio Network in 1935, a year after MBS was fgormed. He also launched a second regional network, "The Colonial Network", with WAAB as its flagship station. Outside of Boston, Yankee and Colonial programming were usually heard on the same station; additionally, Colonial carried Mutual programming to its affiliates.
In 1937, WNAC became an NBC Red affiliate after losing CBS to WEEI. Four years later, WNAC's frequency changed to 1260 kilocycles (kHz). In 1942, to comply with FCC anti-duopoly regulations, WAAB was moved to Worcester. At the same time, WNAC lost NBC Red to WBZ and with WAAB having been moved, took over the Mutual affiliation. The Colonial Network was also shut down, with Yankee picking-up many of its programs. In other parts of New England, however, the only change for some former Colonial programming was in the time periods of such programming.
In December, 1942, announcement was made of the sale of Winter Street Corp., the holding company for Shepard family interests, to General Tire and Rubber for $1.24 million. Winter Street was the corporate parent of the Yankee Network Inc. which owned the Colonial Network and four AM and two FM stations. Winter Street was controlled by trusts set up for two of the children of founder John Shephard Jr., John Shephard III, general manager of WNAC and Yankee, and Robert Shephard, who managed the family's remaining department store in Providence. The transactions, and the closing of the Shepard Stores location in Boston, were viewed as a strategy to convert the elder Shepard's assets to cash. John Shepard III remained with the station as general manager under a five-year contract. Later that same month, the FCC approved the transaction after securing an affidavit from General Tire's president that "no better deal" would be offered the tire company to buy "time, facilities and services" on Yankee Network stations, and that General Tire would "never" use its ownership to gain an unfair advertising advantage over competitors. Some 40 years later, the company was forced to exit broadcasting for reasons including illegal reciprocal trade agreements. In addition to WNAC and the two networks. the sale included WEAN, Providence; WAAB, Worcester; WICC, Bridgeport, Conn. and experimental FM stations in Paxton, Mass. and Mt. Washington, N.H.
In 1947, the FCC denied a request to allow WNAC to move to 1200 kHz and boost its power to a directional 50,000 watt signal.
In 1953, General Tire bought 50,000 watt WLAW (licensed to Lawrence, Massachusetts, some 25 miles north of Boston, but with transmitter in Burlington, Massachusetts, which is much closer to Boston) and took over the 680 frequency that June, selling-off their old 1260 license to Vic Diehm and Associates, who renamed the station WVDA. At least until 1962, the station's legal station identification was "Boston-Lawrence," reflecting the city-grade coverage of the former WLAW, as WNAC was using the same WLAW transmitter, at its original location.
For a brief time in 1956 and 1957, WNAC was affiliated with both Mutual and NBC after WBZ dropped NBC programming. The station remained a Mutual affiliate until the network, of which General Tire was a part-owner, was sold in the late 1950s. WNAC lost NBC to WEZE (the station, ironically, that took over WNAC's original 1260 frequency) in 1957, and would lose Mutual as well.
After MOR music, a brief attempt at top-40, and a format featuring a variety of talk programs, major changes came to WNAC in March 1967. The station's call letters were changed to WRKO, the format to Top 40 rock and roll, and the Yankee Network ceased to exist.
The move to a top-40 rock format in March 1967 was an enormous success. For the next decade, WRKO was one of Boston's top-rated radio stations, and absolutely dominant among its target audience of listeners under the age of 35. Known to its listeners as "The Big 68" and a Top 40 station of considerable influence, WRKO was home to such well-known personalities as longtime morning man Dale Dorman, Joel Cash, J. J. Wright, J. J. Jeffrey, Shadoe Stevens, Frank Kingston Smith (who was known as "Bobby Mitchell"), Steve Anthony and many others. Mel Phillips, who replaced Bob Henabery as program director, served in that position from 1967 to 1972 before being replaced by Scotty Brink.
WRKO in 1967 even took a dig at market leader WBZ, a Westinghouse station that played pop music. In advance of WRKO's format change to top 40, WBZ tried to get in front of WRKO by adopting the slogan "Boss Radio" (used on famous RKO General top 40 station KHJ in Los Angeles). WRKO, in response, was rumored to have had their DJs reading a liner that said "WRKO, putting the Boss in the Restinghouse." WRKO did ultimately drive WBZ out of the top 40 format, but certainly didn't retire its competitor.
WRKO's other main competitor was WMEX (1510), which was Boston's original Top 40 station, having established themselves in that format in 1957. However, even though the stations were generally, equally matched in the city ratings, WMEX's highly directional signal did not effectively reach many of the suburbs, especially at night. WRKO (and the growing popularity of FM rock stations) eventually drove WMEX to a format change in 1975, with WRKO remaining Boston's sole AM Top 40 station.
By the end of the 1970s, however, rock and top-40 radio had begun to migrate from AM to FM. In a three-year period from 1978 to 1981, WRKO lost much of its audience. The station tried to compete with the surge in FM listening, first with a short-lived focus on album cuts and later by switching to more of an Adult Contemporary music format, featuring a morning program with market legend Norm Nathan. A switch to a country music format was also reportedly briefly considered. In 1980, WRKO began having talk programming during evening hours. On September 27, 1981, the station switched to an all-talk format: at 6pm on that date Justin Clark played the last song, "American Pie" by Don McLean. WRKO has been a news and talk station ever since.
After switching to the talk radio format, the station ran a number of service-oriented and general chat programs during the day. Moving to more issue-oriented talk, the station's popularity surged, with some of the most prominent talk-program hosts in the country such as Gene Burns, Jerry Williams, Ted O'Brien and Paul Parent. The station was often the highest-rated station in Boston during the 1980s and early 1990s. But while WRKO was growing and changing formats, its parent company, General Tire and Rubber, later renamed Gencorp, was under multiple federal investigations and ultimately under an FCC investigation due to its "lack of candor" for failing to disclose unlawful operations by General Tire. In the midst of the investigation into its parent company's problems, RKO General found itself under investigation for reciprocal trace practices involving several of its properties, and later for double billing by a radio network it organized, the RKO Network. The FCC license hearings culminated in the loss of the company's license to operate WNAC-TV, Channel 7 in Boston.
Several years later, the FCC denied renewal of all RKO General's broadcast licenses (with the exception of WOR-TV in Secaucus, N.J. which gained a permanent license by agreeing to relocate to New Jersey from New York City) and assigned the licenses to designated competing applicants. Gencorp appealed, but rather than be stripped of the valuable licenses without compensation, the company's broadcasting subsidiary, RKO General, entered settlement agreements with the competing applicants that allowed the sale of its stations to third parties by making settlement payments to the applicants that had been awarded the licenses. At the time, Gencorp was strapped for cash as the result of a hostile takeover bid, during which time the management decided to buy back the company's own stock to fend off the takeover. As part of the settlements worked out in Boston, New York, Memphis, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles and San Francisco, WRKO and its FM sister station, WROR, were sold to a neophyte broadcaster, Atlantic Ventures Corp., which was operated by a former cable television executive.
After several mergers, Atlantic Ventures (renamed American Radio Systems) decided that owning broadcast and cellular telephone towers was its preferred business and merged with CBS, Inc. WRKO was spun off to Entercom since the merger brought CBS over FCC ownership limits.
WRKO was, from 1986-1994, the flagship station for the Boston Red Sox. In 2006, Entercom (which also owns Sports Radio WEEI) inked a 10-year deal to make WRKO co-flagship station for the Red Sox Radio Network along with incumbent WEEI. WEEI once again became the sole flagship station on August 26, 2009.
WRKO carried Boston Celtics broadcasts from 2005-2007. Entercom assumed the broadcast rights in 2005 from WWZN and WRKO became the flagship station. Beginning in 2007, Entercom moved most of its Celtics coverage to WEEI. WRKO carries sports broadcasts when the Red Sox and Celtics play at the same time.
The station began streaming its broadcast online in April 2005.
Programming consists of local and nationally syndicated shows. In August 2012, The Rush Limbaugh Show and Coast to Coast AM programs returned to WRKO; they had appeared on WXKS, which is owned and operated by the shows' syndicator, until WXKS discontinued the talk-radio format.
The morning drive show is hosted by Jeffrey Kuhner, followed by the brokered time "Financial Exchange". Rush Limbaugh airs at noon, followed by The Howie Carr Show (WRKO is the flagship station of the Howie Carr network), The Mark Levin Show, The Savage Nation, and Coast to Coast AM.
Saturday programming includes syndicated shows The Doug Stephan Weekend Show, Money Talk with Bob Brinker, and shows by Larry Kudlow and Dennis Miller; and a two-hour local show hosted by Avi Nelson. Sunday programming includes "Garden Sense," the syndicated "Unconventional Wisdom," "Senior Financial Focus," and "The Pat Whitley Restaurant Show." Some weekend slots are filled with repeats of weekday programs and with infomercials.
In recent years, talk shows have been hosted by investigative reporter Michele McPhee, former U.S. Representative Peter Blute, and local talk hosts John "Ozone" Osterlind, Scott Allen Miller, and Todd Feinburg. (The morning drive duo of McPhee and Feinburg were let go on October 31, 2012 in favor of additional hours for Kuhner.) WRKO has also aired nationally syndicated shows by Laura Ingraham and Michael Savage.
On January 11, 2007, former Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran replaced Miller as the morning drive-time host. Feinburg was added as a co-host on January 5, 2009. The end of Finneran's five-year run on WRKO was announced on May 29, 2012, and took effect two days later.
Past news and traffic services
On November 16, 2006, all on-air news anchors were fired. WGBH's Beat the Press reported that they were informed individually and received severance pay. WRKO hired Metro Networks to provide hourly news updates, including traffic and weather, during the day. WRKO said in announcing the decision that the station's local news and issues would be driven by the talk show hosts, instead of the news anchors. Former news director Rod Fritz can now be heard on rival WBZ in Boston, after spending a year in New York at Fox News. Metro's Bruce Adams is now the lead anchor.
Aerial traffic reports were named "Skyway Patrol" by the old WHDH radio in 1961. When Entercom moved WEEI's call letters and programming to the old home of WHDH radio, it moved Skyway Patrol to WRKO. Since the layoff of the news department in November 2006, Metro Networks has provided traffic reports, still styled "Skyway Patrol," with reporters Malcolm Alter, Bruce Adams, Joe Stapleton, Steve Hartman, Scott Pike, Mike Riley and Lisa Jackson.
Massachusetts state trooper Grant Moulison, who for 21 years reported to WRKO listeners on the morning and afternoon drivetime situations, left in April 2006 after retiring from the force with 32 years of service behind him. Matt Hillas reported for "Skyway Patrol" from May 1999 to June 2006.
- Radio Digest, September 1927, quoted in: McLeod, Elizabeth (September 20, 2002). CBS—In the Beginning, History of American Broadcasting. Retrieved on 2007-01-01. The other stations were WOR in Newark; WADC in Akron, Ohio; WAIU in Columbus, Ohio; WCAO in Baltimore; WCAU in Philadelphia; WEAN in Providence; WFBL in Syracuse; WGHP in Detroit; WJAS in Pittsburgh; WKRC in Cincinnati; WMAK in Buffalo-Lockport; WMAQ in Chicago; WOWO in Fort Wayne, Indiana; KMOX in St. Louis; and KOIL in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
- Boston Hotel Buckminster, "About Us"
- Grahm Junior College Memorial Page
- Marquard, Bryan (2007-12-11). "Fred B. Cole, 92; mouthpiece of big-band era". The Boston Globe.
- Broadcasting Magazine, Jan. 1, 1947, p.50
- Ira Kantor (2012-10-31). "WRKO taps Kuhner for morning drive, nixes Feinburg & McPhee". Boston Herald.
- Report: Tuning in to Tommy: Finneran’s ‘RKO deal set The Boston Herald, January 11, 2007. Retrieved January 11, 2007.
- http://bostonherald.com/business/media/view.bg?articleid=1061135000 Tom Finneran to Leave WRKO
- "WRKO and Tom Finneran agree to part ways". WRKO. 2012-05-29.
- WRKO's Newest Talk Host Has Wild Resume The Boston Herald, December 19, 2007. Retrieved December 19, 2007.
- The Greater Boston Blog » Blog Archive »
- Boston Radio Watch - May 2006 (see May 16)
- WRKO official website
- The Big 68 Remembered - A retrospective of WRKO's history as the most popular Top 40 music station in Boston
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WRKO
- Radio-Locator Information on WRKO
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WRKO
|Radio Home of the
Boston Red Sox
(split with WNAC, 1942)
|Radio Home of the
Boston Red Sox
(as WNAC; split with 1440 WAAB, 1942)
|Radio Home of the
Boston Red Sox
(split with 99.1 WPLM-FM, 1983–1989)
|Radio Home of the
Boston Red Sox
2007–August 25, 2009
(split with WEEI)