|City||Albany, New York|
|Broadcast area||Capital District|
|Frequency||107.7 MHz (also on HD Radio)|
|Translator(s)||W235AY (94.9, Albany, relays HD3)|
|First air date||December 5, 1973|
|Format||FM/HD1: Country music
HD2: WJIV simulcast
HD3: Sound of Life
|HAAT||300 meters (980 ft)|
|Callsign meaning||W Good News Albany (tag of aborted launch format)|
(Townsquare Media of Albany, Inc.)
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WGNA-FM (known on-air as 107.7 WGNA) is a country music-formatted radio station licensed to Albany, New York and serving New York's Capital District. The station is owned by Townsquare Media and broadcasts at 12,500 watts effective radiated power from the Helderberg Mountains tower farm in New Scotland. WGNA holds the distinction of having the longest unchanged format (in terms of commercial stations) in the Capital District, having been a country music station since its launch in November 1973 It is also one of three commercial Albany FM radio stations to have never changed their call letters (WQBK-FM and WFLY are the others).
WGNA-FM has also been the #1 station (12+, 25-54 adults) in most ratings trends and books in the Albany market though WGY, WFLY, and WYJB have all unseated WGNA from this position on various occasions. Despite attempts by competitors, such as WCDA/WPTR-FM (96.3 FM) in the mid-to-late 1990s, Galaxy Communications' WEGQ (93.7 The Eagle) from 2004 to 2005, Pamal's simulcast of WFFG-FM (Froggy 107.1) on its Albany 104.9 FM signal in 2005, and most recently, Pamal's second attempt at a country format (also on 104.9 FM, as The Cat), WGNA-FM has faced little significant direct competition on the country music front.
Though a beacon of stability in Capital Region radio, WGNA originally was not slated to take the country format it has dominated. The 107.7 frequency had been awarded to the then-owners of Christian formatted WHAZ and it was due to sign on with a Christian format itself with the GNA in the calls standing for "Good News Albany". These plans went on hold when WHAZ's owner died several weeks prior to the planned sign-on of WGNA and, in a pinch, his children took over the station. The station signed on with a country music format on December 5, 1973 at 6:00pm. For 5 days the music played uninterrupted with announcers beginning their shifts on December 10 at 6:00am. Going against WOKO, WGNA became a success and made the format permanent with WHAZ eventually being sold off and, in 1978, WOKO leaving the format. In 1988, then-WGNA owner Barnstable Broadcasting purchased WOKO and turned it into an AM simulcast of WGNA (with the FM taking the WGNA-FM calls as a result) with some breaks for sports coverage.
In 1990, the late Fred Horton became program director at WGNA, leading the station to become #1 in almost every Arbitron book since then. Around this time, Barnstable sold WGNA to the radio group headed by Merv Griffin who in turn later sold the entire group to Capstar Broadcasting in the mid-1990s; two years later, the WGNA stations ended up as part of AMFM, Inc.
After AMFM merged with Clear Channel Communications in 2000, WGNA AM/FM was sold with WPYX, WABT and WTRY-FM/WTRY-AM to Clear Channel Communications which, in turn, sold WGNA AM/FM, WABT, WQBK-FM, WTMM and WQBJ to Regent Communications (now Townsquare Media) in the aftermath of the sale due to market concentration concerns (and, in WGNA's case, revenue share concerns as well). In February 2002, the AM simulcast ended when Regent sold the station to ABC Radio (now Citadel Broadcasting) which used it to bring its Radio Disney format to the Capital Region under the calls WDDY.
WGNA has enjoyed a fairly stable air staff, as most of WGNA's on-air talent have been a part of the Country 107.7 team for more than 10 years, including:
- Sean McMaster and Richie Phillips of the "Sean & Richie" morning show
- "Brother" Lou Roberts of the nightly show "Cryin', Lovin', or Leavin'"
- John Stanley on Saturday middays. John also holds the distinction of being with WGNA continuously since 1974
Notable departures from the on-air staff include:
- Former midday host and music director Bill Earley in April 2007 after having been with the station for 19 years
- Longtime midday host Kevin Richards in July 2014 after having also been with the station for 19 years
Recent additions to the on-air staff include:
- Bethany to the "Sean & Richie" morning show in September 2013, after a successful 5-year stint co-hosting the morning show on WPIG in Olean, NY
- Heather Davis in October 2014 to fill the midday position
Recognition and influence
At the time of its launch, WGNA was one of the first FM country music stations in the Northeast and with its powerful signal was able to reach and even rate in markets far from the Capital District where country music was either nonexistent or on low-power AM stations. As Baby Boomers who grew up with Rock and Pop in the Northeast moved into their mid-30s and early 40s, bought homes in the suburbs and raised families, they discovered that they could relate to the stories told in country music. It wasn't just for people who grew up on farms and in rural areas. Country music stations in Glens Falls, Utica, the Hudson Valley and even Springfield, Massachusetts owe some debt to WGNA's success and/or influence in those areas.
Nationally, WGNA has been a nominee several times for the "Medium Market Station of the Year" award at both the Country Music Association Awards and by the Academy of Country Music. R.E. "Buzz" Brindle was nominated in 2005 for Radio & Records Magazine's "Country Program Director Of The Year" award. In terms of air talent, afternoon personality Kevin Richards was the winner of the CMA's 2006 Medium Market Personality of the Year award. As well as morning show hosts, Sean McMaster and Richie Phillips winning the CMA Personality of the year award in 2000, and a couple New York State Broadcasters Awards for Personality of the year.
Every year, most recently at the Altamont Fairgrounds in Altamont, New York WGNA hosts a major festival known as the WGNA CountryFest which attracts a crowd of nearly 30,000 Country music fans. Previous CountryFests have been at the Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs. Prior to the late 1990s, artists and their managers presumed that there weren't many country music fans in the Northeastern US but they were so impressed by the crowds that WGNA CountryFest was consistently drawing that they began to route their Summer tours through New York and New England to take advantage of the growing country fan base.
|2004||Brad Paisley, Craig Morgan, Keith Urban, Sherrié Austin, Terri Clark|
|2005||Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Trace Adkins, Montgomery Gentry|
|2006||Gary Allan, Blake Shelton, Neal McCoy, Josh Gracin, Jamie O'Neal, Keith Anderson|
|2007||Bucky Covington, Jason Michael Carroll, Darryl Worley, Joe Nichols, Josh Turner|
|2008||Trisha Yearwood, Phil Vassar, Billy Currington, Eric Church, James Otto, Ashton Shepherd, The Back 40 band|
|2009||Montgomery Gentry, Jason Michael Carroll, Heidi Newfield, The Lost Trailers, Sarah Buxton|
|2010||Blake Shelton, Jason Michael Carroll, Gretchen Wilson, Chuck Wicks, David Nail, the JaneDear girls|
|2011||Miranda Lambert, Randy Houser, Chris Cagle, Sunny Sweeney, Brett Eldredge, Joanna Smith|
HD Radio operations
WGNA-FM has been licensed for HD Radio operations since 2006, operating HD-2 and HD-3 sub-channels. The HD-3 sub-channel is leased to the Sound of Life Radio Christian radio network for their translator, W235AY.