|City||WGFN: Glen Arbor, Michigan
WCHY: Cheboygan, Michigan
|Broadcast area||WGFN: Traverse City, Michigan
WCHY: Cheboygan, Michigan
|Slogan||Northern Michigan's Classic Rock|
|Frequency||WGFN: 98.1 MHz
WCHY: 97.7 MHz
|First air date||WGFN: 1991
|ERP||WGFN: 21,000 watts
WCHY: 3,400 watts
|HAAT||WGFN: 225 meters
WCHY: 152 meters
|Facility ID||WGFN: 10750
|Callsign meaning||WGFN: W-Gold FM (previous branding, similar to WGFM)
|Affiliations||The Bob & Tom Show
|Owner||Black Diamond Broadcasting|
|Sister stations||WCBY, WGFE, WGFM, WMKC, WQEZ, WTWS, WUPS|
WGFN and WCHY are radio stations in Northern Michigan that air a classic rock format under the branding of "The Bear", as currently owned by Black Diamond Broadcasting. WGFN is based out of Glen Arbor, Michigan, airing at 98.1 FM to the Traverse City market, while WCHY is based out of Cheboygan, Michigan and airs at 97.7 FM. WGFN has been the flagship station of the Bear network of classic rock stations that have aired in Northern Michigan since the early 2000s, which peaked with 4 regional stations from 2002-2009 and 2010-2012. The only other surviving Bear station in the region is WCHY, which airs the same programming and playlist as WGFN, but features differing station identifications and commercial content for its market. Both stations air the popular syndicated morning radio program The Bob & Tom Show, as well as Detroit Tigers baseball games.
Until 2009, WGFN was joined by 97.9 WIHC in Newberry, 105.1 WGFM in Cheboygan, and 107.1 WCKC in Cadillac in Northern Star Broadcasting's then-Classic Rock: The Bear network. WGFM became a partial simulcast of Glen Arbor mainstream rock station WJZJ in September 2009, and continues to broadcast the format under the Rock 105 branding. In February 2010, WIHC was taken dark by Northern Star in the wake of their sale of most Upper Peninsula radio stations to Sovereign Communications, before being sold to new owners and relaunched as the religious simulcast Strong Tower Radio in 2012. Fellow Upper Peninsula stations WUPK & WIMK (which shared the Classic Rock: The Bear branding but were otherwise not linked) were also sold to Sovereign Communications in 2010.
Northern Star replenished the four station Bear network in 2010 by converting two then-country stations into Bear affiliates, replacing WGFM with 94.5 WLJZ (later WOEZ) in Mackinaw City, and adding 93.9 WAVC in Mio to the network, but both stations were transferred to Michigan Broadcasters in separate deals in 2012 & 2013 to become Your Patriot Voice talk radio stations, with WCHY (formerly WQEZ) changing formats in 2013 to effectively replace WLJZ in the Mackinaw City region. WCKC in Cadillac was ultimately sold to Up North Media in 2016 and re-imaged as 107.1 The Drive during Northern Star Broadcasting's sale of their remaining radio stations, though it retains a classic rock format.
Beginnings: W-Gold FM
In 1989, longtime northern Michigan radio personality and engineer Del Reynolds and wife Mary purchased 100,000 watt CHR WQLZ (formerly WCBY-FM) in Cheboygan. Shortly afterward, he changed the station's format to classic rock with the WGFM call letters, meaning "W-Gold-FM". The station's original format was an oldies/classic rock mix, and also played new cuts from classic rock artists as well. The station was live/local 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. and aired Westwood One's Adult Rock format overnights. Del was the station's morning man. In 1992, WGFM/WGFN flipped to the current classic rock format, after competing station WAIR was doing better with the oldies format.
Throughout the 1990s, Del's radio empire grew when he acquired many other local stations and built new ones as well. He purchased WIDG 940 in St. Ignace, MI and WCBY AM in Cheboygan the station that launched his career in the late 1960s. In 1992, he purchased 98.1 WMLB Glen Arbor, which had previously simulcast WUPS in Houghton Lake, and changed that to WGFN, giving WGFM a clearer signal in the Traverse City, MI area. He also took over 107.1 WCKC "Cadillac KC Country" Cadillac which was simulcasting his 102.9 WMKC "KC Country" St. Ignace, MI, but eventually changing to a WGFM simulcast in 1996.
93.9 FM first signed on in 1994 as WCLX with an adult contemporary format, relaying the programming of "Sunny 100.7" WCLS-FM (now WWTH) Oscoda. The station soon went silent. In 1997, broadcaster Todd Mohr purchased WCLX, changed the calls to WAVC, and operated the station from a studio in Gaylord, returned it to the air with a satellite-fed adult album alternative format and the name "The River", presumably an imitation of CIDR-FM (also on 93.9) in Windsor, Ontario. Later that same year, Del Reynolds bought WAVC and began using it to simulcast WJZJ, which then aired Jones Radio Networks' smooth jazz format as "Coast FM" (WLJZ 94.5 in Mackinaw City also carried the format). Calibre Communications purchased "Coast FM" in 1998 and flipped it to "The Zone", and WAVC remained part of the "Zone" network until dropping the simulcast to simulcast WMKC in March 2001. The WMKC simulcast remained until March 2010.
In June 2011, broadcast veteran Del Reynolds applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a construction permit for a new broadcast radio station. The FCC granted this permit on August 8, 2011, with a scheduled expiration date of August 8, 2014. The new station was assigned call sign "WQEZ" on August 16, 2011.
After construction and testing were completed, the station began broadcasting on November 5, 2011, with a Christmas music format, stunting as "Santa 97-7". The station was granted its broadcast license on December 6, 2011. On December 26, 2011, the station debuted its regular soft adult contemporary music format, branded as "Easy 97-7".
On April 1, 2013, WQEZ swapped call letters with WJZJ 95.5 FM, and the two stations began simulcasting the "Easy" format, displacing 95.5 FM's former "Real Rock" format.
On May 10, 2013 WOEZ split from its simulcast with WQEZ and changed their format to classic rock, simulcasting WGFN 98.1 FM "The Bear" Glen Arbor, Michigan. The "Easy" format moved to 106.3 FM licensed to Onaway, Michigan, which had previously been WYPV with a conservative/Christian talk format. The WYPV calls and talk format are now on 94.5 FM in Mackinaw City, which had been the former home for "The Bear" simulcast. The station changed their call letters to WJZJ.
The Bear debuts
In 1998, Reynolds sold his stations to Calibre Communications for $7 million. As a result, the station would remain classic rock, but under a new moniker, The Bear, and Reynolds would leave the morning show host position. When Calibre asked Reynolds who should replace him, he suggested Bob and Tom. It was a wise decision on the station's part since they would pry album-oriented rock (AOR) stalwart WKLT from the Arbitron #2 spot all the way down to #5, while in many books, The Bear is in the top five. Bob and Tom - whose radio career started at WJML in the late 1970s - are now one of the most-popular morning shows in northern Michigan.
Also, WGFN was made the flagship of The Bear stations, even though most of their operations are in Cheboygan, partially due to Traverse City being the biggest city in northern Michigan.
Unfortunately, the deal between Calibre and Reynolds failed, though a new company, Northern Star Broadcasting, was formed to take over Reynolds' stations. Although no longer owner, Reynolds remained as the station's engineer.
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WGFN
- Radio-Locator information on WGFN
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WGFN
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WCHY
- Radio-Locator information on WCHY
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WCHY