|City of license||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Broadcast area||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Branding||The Big 870|
|Slogan||The News, Talk, and Sports Leader|
|First air date||March 31, 1922|
(Loyola University of New Orleans, former owner)
The Weather Channel
WWL is a U.S. radio station in New Orleans, Louisiana broadcasting at 870 kHz, a clear channel frequency on which it reaches large parts of the Gulf Coast in the daytime, and much of the United States at night. WWL is the dominant Class A station on 870 AM, and is regularly heard east of the Rockies every night, and sometimes as far west as California. In April 2006, it began a simulcast on WWL-FM 105.3 MHz in the New Orleans area. The station currently has a talk radio format and is an affiliate of the CBS Radio Network. WWL is now owned by Entercom Communications. The station's studios are located at the 400 Poydras Tower in New Orleans' downtown area, and the transmitter site is in Estelle, Louisiana.
Before the Jesuits at Loyola University New Orleans could operate a radio station, they had to receive permission from the Vatican. The station was originally created as a laboratory for wireless technology. WWL began broadcasting as a 10-watt station at 833 kHz from the Marquette Hall on the Loyola campus on March 31, 1922. A piano recital was the first program on the air. The first broadcast day also included a three-minute request to listeners to support the construction of a new classroom building on campus. By 1924, WWL had 100 watts of power at 1070 kHz, and a year later the station was at 1090 kHz. The station's frequency went up to 1220 kHz along with the power at 500 watts in 1927. WWL, now at 850 kHz, increased power to 5000 watts on March 31, 1929 following the installation of a new transmitter in Loyola's Bobet Hall. In 1932, the station was at 10,000 watts of power, and in 1937 it reached 50,000 watts. WWL-AM affiliated with the CBS Radio Network on November 1, 1935. By 1946, WWL was settled at 870 kHz.
In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, the station was famous for the live broadcasts of local Dixieland jazz bands, including such notables as Papa Celestin, Sharkey Bonano, Irving Fazola, Tony Almarico, and Lizzie Miles. WWL's television partner WWL-TV came on the air on September 7, 1957 and was also affiliated with CBS. The first WWL-FM at 101.9 MHz (now WLMG-FM) began in the 1960s with its own music format (on Oct. 21, 1960, WWL got a mention on the Route 66 TV series in the Episode, "The Swan Bed," in an opening scene when Todd and Buzz turn the car radio on and hear the announcer give the call letters). WWL's transmitter in Kenner, Louisiana on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain was moved to Estelle, Louisiana in 1975.
Starting on March 14, 1971, WWL became home to the long running overnight country music program aimed at truck drivers called The Road Gang. They claimed their frequency was "Interstate 87" and offered strip weather in major cites along the east-west National Defense Highways I-10, I-20, I-30, etc. Advertising was focused on long-haul truckers. It was originally hosted by Charlie Douglas. Later hosts included Dave Nemo and Big John Parker. The station helped popularize southern gospel by late-night broadcasts of the Mull Singing Convention.
Loyola sold WWL, WLMG-FM, and WWL-TV to separate companies in 1989 to build the university endowment. That same year, the university began broadcasting on WLDC within the university’s electrical grid. Keymarket Communications in Greenville, South Carolina became the new owner of WWL and WLMG-FM. Baltimore, Maryland-based company Sinclair Broadcast Group would assume ownership of both stations in 1996 and Entercom Communications in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania in 1999.
Loyola maintains its broadcasting legacy with Crescent City Radio, an internet radio station broadcasting from the Communications/Music Complex on the corner of Calhoun and St. Charles Avenue.
WWL has been "monogrammed" into the Internal Revenue Code. A section excluding certain types of income of nonprofit organizations from income tax mentions entities licensed by federal agencies (like the station's FCC license) and carried on by religious orders (like the Jesuits). The three subsections of this tax provision, 26 U.S.C. 512(b)(15), begin with W, W, and L, respectively. The exclusion was directed at WWL specifically, and the joke has been attributed to Senator Russell Long of Louisiana.
Role during Hurricane Katrina
During the immediate effects and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in late August 2005, WWL was for a time one of the few radio stations in the area remaining on the air. Announcer Garland Robinette for a time kept broadcasting from an improvised studio built in a closet after the studio's windows were blown out.
After the hurricane, WWL's emergency coverage was simulcast on the frequencies of numerous other radio stations. The broadcast was named "The United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans"; mostly WWL staff appeared on-air. The United Radio Broadcasters were a partnership between Entercom and competitor Clear Channel Communications. The WWL website was completely rebuilt in only one day by the staff of other Entercom stations. The company also dispatched staffers from stations throughout the country to help WWL, and to provide their own stations coverage from the hurricane ravaged New Orleans area. For some time after Hurricane Katrina, WWL was simulcast on shortwave outlet WHRI, owned by World Harvest Radio International.
In April 2006, WWL permanently returned to the FM airwaves, simulcasting on the station then known as WTKL 105.3 (WWL had been simulcasting on 105.3 upon its return to air in late 2005, WTKL had returned to its oldies format for just three weeks prior to the change to WWL-FM).
WWL-AM continues to cover the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region with local news and talk programming. Two syndicated radio programs are included in the program schedule: The Mutual Fund Show with Adam Bold and The Dave Ramsey Show, both of which deal with financial and personal investment topics.
As a secondary ESPN Radio affiliate (the full-time ESPN radio affiliate is its sister station "ESPN 1350" WWWL (AM), ESPN is aired each Monday night after Monday Night Football from Westwood One, ESPN Radio is broadcast 11 pm to midnight and Sunday nights from 11 pm to midnight right after Westwood One's coverage of every Sunday Night Football game. Selected times may vary on Saturdays during LSU football, basketball, and baseball seasons.
After Saints football season and LSU football and basketball seasons, times will still vary until after LSU baseball season and is broadcast during football off-season times vary during off season on Saturdays and Sundays.
In November 2006, The Big 870 expanded its programming to the former WSMB, now branded WWWL.
WWL has for many years been the flagship station for broadcasts of New Orleans Saints games, continuously since the 1995 season. Jim Henderson and ex-Saint Hokie Gajan have been the broadcast team since 2000. Prior to the 1998 NFL Draft, when son Peyton Manning was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, Archie Manning provided commentary on WWL's Saints coverage from his retirement as a player in 1985 through 1997.
- Fishman, J. & Schwarz, S. Nonprofit Organizations. New York: Foundation Press, 2006, page 684.
- "Saints Radio Network Stations". New Orleans Saints. Retrieved February 25, 2009.
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WWL
- Radio-Locator Information on WWL
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WWL
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