||This article possibly contains original research. (June 2014)|
|City of license||Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|Broadcast area||Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|Branding||97.3 Radio Now|
|Slogan||Milwaukee's #1 for ALL the Hits!!|
|Frequency||97.3 (MHz) (also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||January 1961|
|Format||Top 40 (CHR)|
|Transmitter coordinates||43° 06' 41.00" N
87° 55' 38.00" W
|Callsign meaning||W-Radio NoW|
|Former callsigns||WISN-FM (1961-1978)
|Owner||Clear Channel Communications|
|Sister stations||WISN, WKKV-FM, WMIL-FM, WOKY, WRIT-FM|
|Webcast||"Radio Now" stream
WRNW (97.3 FM) - currently branded as 97.3 Radio Now - is a Top 40 (CHR) FM radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin which is located on the 97.3 frequency and is branded as "Radio Now". The station is owned and operated by Clear Channel Communications, and transmits from the WISN-TV tower in Milwaukee's Lincoln Park, while its studios are in Greenfield.
In January 1978, the station flipped to album-oriented rock as WLPX, using consultant Lee Abrams' "SuperStars" format. The station became an immediate success in the ratings, even pushing rival WZMF to tighten their format, and later drop it altogether for beautiful music. WLPX also sponsored future NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki on local racetracks.
In the summer of 1983, WLPX abruptly switched to Top 40 (CHR), first as "97X", then shortly after as WBTT ("B97").
Light adult contemporary became the format in April 1985 as "Light 97" with the WLTQ call sign. The station's DJ's, before the 1997 sale of WLTQ and WISN Radio from Hearst Communications to Clear Channel, often appeared on WISN-TV in various roles, including hosting telethon and remote programming, and programs involving the Wisconsin Lottery in order to keep the line between the Channel 12 newsroom and other station operations clear from impropriety.
WLTQ featured the popular syndicated Delilah program in the evening shift.
In 2003, Light 97.3's ratings started dropping considerably, and Milwaukee knew the end was near for the station one website joked "plays so much Celine Dion, it nearly violates the terms of the Geneva Convention".
97.3 The Brew
On September 17th, 2004, at Noon, Light 97.3 signed off with We Said Hello Goodbye by Phil Collins. WLTQ then began stunting with songs with the words "air" or "America" in the title, telling people "Milwaukee will be TALKing about 97.3" while airing clips of Al Franken, promoting to listen the following Monday at 6AM. Rumors abounded that 97.3 would join the Air America Conservative Talk format popularized in Madison. However, at the promised time, 97.3 announced their new format with this line: "you thought we said AIR? No, we said HAIR!" 97.3 then adopted an '80s-centric Classic Rock format as 97.3 The Brew, launching with (You Can Still) Rock in America by Night Ranger. 97.3's callsign was soon changed to WQBW to match the branding. The Brew's" initial slogan was "Rock of the '80s and More". The slogan eventually changed to "The Biggest Variety of Rock Hits". Their television and on billboard advertising featured an obese shirtless man named "Dancin' Kevin".
97.3 Radio Now
At 9 AM on May 28, 2010, immediately following the Connie & Fish morning program (and after playing "The Final Countdown" by Europe), the station ended "The Brew" format abruptly. It flipped to CHR with the branding "97-3 Radio Now", launching with "Tik Tok" by Ke$ha. The move was made quickly to preempt an expected format change by WJZX. A day earlier, WJZX ended its smooth jazz format and began a stunt format known as "Tiger Radio." The station's new format was likely to be Rhythmic Top 40 under the new callsign WNQW, which prompted Clear Channel to act quickly and claim the "Now" name and brand before WJZX owner Saga Communications could claim it. Radio Now had a DJ-free format, but eventually brought back the morning show, though the title changed to "Connie and Curtis" after "Fish" Calloway's departure a week after the format change (Calloway would later take the morning slot at WZEE's Rhythmic Top 40 rival in Madison, WJQM). On July 26, the station began to have DJ's, again with voicetracking from other stations.
On June 10, 2010, WQBW's call letters were officially changed to WRNW. These calls had previously been used from 1960 until 1982 for WXPK in the New York City suburb of Briarcliff Manor, the station where Howard Stern first came to the broadcasting industry.
WRNW's format change gives longtime top 40 powerhouse WXSS its first competition since its closest rival, adult Top 40 WKTI, converted to an adult hits format as WLWK in late 2008. WRNW's Top 40 musical direction favors a pop/rock approach, as it plays less Rhythmic/Hip-Hop than WXSS and most other large market Top 40 (CHR) stations. This musical direction both differentiates the station from WXSS and protects WRNW's once dominant Urban sister station, WKKV.
On August 31, 2012, Connie and Curtis was ended on both WZEE and WRNW, to be replaced with Clear Channel's internally syndicated Elvis Duran and the Morning Show on September 4. Ironically, that same week, WRNW picked up new competition from WZBK-FM, who, after WRNW beat them to the punch with the "Radio Now" format flip, finally made the switch to Rhythmic Top 40, this time as "Energy 106.9," (and new call letters WNRG) on September 7, 2012.
On April 25, 2006, Clear Channel announced that WQBW's HD2 subchannel will carry Radio Radio from their Format Lab, a format focusing on classic modern rock hits. It was later replaced by the Rock Nation feed from Format Lab, which features active rock.
On February 28, 2011, the format of WRNW-HD2 changed to another national Clear Channel iHeartRadio feed called "Spin Cycle," featuring remixed hit songs presented in a continuous mixshow format. Mixers include DJ Goofy WhiteKid and VJ Kidd Leow.
At the beginning of August 2012, the HD2 signal began to carry the audio of WISN; although their AM signal is also carried in HD Radio, it is severely limited after sunset. This returns what had began as WISN-FM to carrying their AM mother station in some form for the first time in decades.
- "Smooth Jazz, Brew and Radio Now Recap", Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (May 28, 2010)
- Ross, Sean (June 10, 2010). "Punch Wars #5 – Milwaukee's New CHR Battle". Radio-Info.com.
- "Saga Gives Milwaukee An Energy Boost" from Radio Insight (September 7, 2012)
- 97-3 Radio Now website
- "Connie & Curtis" website
- Audio and background of "The Brew's" sign-on
- "New format is going to party like it's 1989" (JSonline.com)
- "WLTQ-FM changed on its own, honest" (JSonline.com)
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WRNW
- Radio-Locator information on WRNW
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WRNW