|City of license||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Broadcast area||Greater Cleveland
|Slogan||Cleveland's R&B Leader|
(also on HD Radio)
|First air date||May 26, 1963|
|Format||Urban adult contemporary
HD2: Urban gospel/talk
|Affiliations||Cumulus Media Networks|
(Blue Chip Broadcasting Licenses, Ltd.)
|Sister stations||WENZ, WERE, WJMO|
WZAK (93.1 FM) – branded 93.1 WZAK – is a commercial urban adult contemporary (urban AC) radio station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio. Owned by Radio One, WZAK is the Cleveland FM affiliate for The Tom Joyner Morning Show, and sole affiliate for D.L. Hughley's nationally syndicated show. Besides a standard analog transmission, WZAK broadcasts over three HD Radio channels. Its studios are located along the Euclid Avenue Corridor in Cleveland's eastside, and its transmitter tower is in Brecksville.
WZAK began as an ethnic radio station, signing on the air on May 26, 1963. The Ohio Music Corporation, the local franchise for MUZAK, had the original construction permit to build the station. Ohio Music Corporation, Xen & Lula Zapis, Joe & Betty Bauer and Bob Stumpf formed Trans World Broadcasting to put WZAK on the air.
Zapis and the Bauers had been previously involved with WXEN, an earlier ethnic programmer in Cleveland, which Zapis also was associated with (and which had call letters derived from Zapis' first name). WZAK was Cleveland's first full-time ethnic radio station, presenting programming in 17 foreign languages, including programs in Hungarian, German (hosted by the Bauers and a second show hosted by Bob Stumpf), Italian, Slovenian, Greek (hosted by Zapis and his wife Lula), Irish, Arabic, Lebanese, and Hindi. Some groups had multiple different programs; there were, for example, five different programs offered in Spanish and five different German programs.
Most programs were brokered, that is, the program producers were not station employees, but independent producers who put the program on the air determined program content, and sold the advertising for the program. Although the program content varied, most programs primarily featured music from the homeland, along with some news or discussion. Although foreign languages seemed to dominate, English was actually used about half of the time during the station's broadcasts. Owing to this practice, one of the more popular programs that aired on WZAK was not ethnic at all, but was an early progressive rock show hosted by Barry Weingart and Steve "Doc Nemo" Nemeth in 1967.
WZAK's only competition in the Cleveland market came from WXEN which also featured ethnic programming for a portion of its schedule. WZAK was the city's only full-time ethnic station – and its last. By 1979 the station, then owned by Trans World Broadcasting Corp. of Cleveland whose president was Zapis, found it difficult to maintain its ethnic format. The number of listeners was declining, several of the program hosts had died or retired, and the overall financial situation was discouraging. In 1980, Zapis bought out his partners to become the majority owner of the station, forming Zapis Communications. The station began straying from its all-ethnic format, as Wayne Mack began programming beautiful music on the station.
On March 2, 1981, at 6 AM, the station adopted a black-oriented urban contemporary format, continuing its ethnic programming only on Sundays (for a while). Ratings improved with the arrival in May 1982 of program director and DJ Lynn Tolliver, Jr. and general sales manager Mike Hilber. Several controversial promotions also drew media attention to the station. Over the next few years, the station's ratings climbed, and it finished first in the Aribtron ratings on April 5, 1990. Critical opinion also improved. In 1993, for example, it won three Billboard magazine awards. Zapis Communications purchased and operated radio stations in Atlanta, Boston (WWTM, WAAF), Akron and Youngstown (WPAO, WICT, WWSY). WZAK faced stiffed competition from Beasley Broadcasting's "Disco 108" (WDMT), which at the time played club mixes and more disco and urban music in Cleveland.
In 1997, the station replaced its popular Three's Company morning show with the syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show. The January 16, 1997 and January 15, 1998 Arbitron ratings again showed WZAK to be the number one station in Cleveland.
On August 12, 1998, Chancellor Media Corporation of Texas announced its purchase of WZAK from Zapis Communications, along with its purchase of five other Cleveland radio stations, WZJM, WDOK, WQAL, WRMR and WJMO, for $275 million. It was, at the time, the largest radio deal in Cleveland broadcasting history. On July 13, 1999, Chancellor Media merged with Capstar Broadcasting to form AMFM Inc., at that time the nation's largest radio station owner with 465 stations. AMFM sold WZAK to Radio One on July 20, 2000 as part of a required divestiture when AMFM merged with Clear Channel Communications.
WZAK features nationally syndicated hosts Tom Joyner and D.L. Hughley in morning and afternoon drive respectively (both via Cumulus Media Networks). Local DJs include Sam Sylk middays, and Kym Sellers during the evening with The Quiet Storm request/dedication show. The HD2 digital subchannel simulcasts the urban gospel/talk format of sister station WJMO. The HD3 subchannel simulcasts the news/talk format of sister station WERE.
- Olszewski, Mike (2003). Radio daze: stories from the front in Cleveland's FM air wars. [Kent, Ohio]: Kent State University Press. pp. 4–7. ISBN 0873387732.
- Adams, Deanna R. (2002). Rock 'n' roll and the Cleveland connection. [Kent, Ohio]: Kent State University Press. p. 103. ISBN 0873386914.
- "Company News; Chancellor Media To Buy Six Cleveland Radio Stations". The New York Times. August 13, 1998.
- "Station Guide: Cleveland, OH". HDRadio.com. HD Radio. 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
- Official website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WZAK
- Radio-Locator information on WZAK
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WZAK
- Encyclopedia of Cleveland History: WZAK
- Cleveland Broadcast Radio Archives: WZAK timeline