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|Slogan||El Ritmo de Philly|
|Translator(s)||99.9 W260CZ (Philadelphia)|
|First air date||1926|
|Format||Spanish language music|
|Power||1,000 watts unlimited|
|Callsign meaning||a question prefix|
|Owner||Aztec Capital Partners, Inc|
Founded as WHAT (1922–1944)
On October 17, 1922, a new Philadelphia radio station was authorized by the government to the Lennig Brothers Co, a radio supply company headed up by Frederick Lennig at 827 Spring Garden Street.
Ownership of the station changed twice within a two-year span. In 1939, the Bonwit Teller department store replaced The Evening Ledger newspaper as owner; in July 1940, J. David Stern, who published The Philadelphia Record newspaper bought the station from Bonwit Teller. At that time, WHAT operated with 100 watts of power.
Banks ownership (1944–1986)
On February 12, 1944, former WIP salesman William Banks purchased WHAT for $22,500 from the Philadelphia Record and became the station's new President. His sister, Dolly Banks, became program director and expanded on the ethnic format while ending time-brokered programming.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, WHAT was known for innovation. "In 1945, WHAT became the first U.S. radio station to hire a full-time black announcer, the first to program a regular show featuring a black woman as hostess and the first station in the city to hire black newscasters. It also was the first in the nation to feature a black as host of a daily talk show."
In 1954, the station moved its studios and transmitters to a new structure at 3930-3940 Conshohocken Ave in Wynnefield Heights and was dubbed "The WHAT Radio Center."
In October 1986, Reginald N. Lavong and Miller Parker, owners of Main Line Communications purchased WHAT from Independence Broadcasting for $625,000. The sale included the station's office building and 4.5 acres of land on Conshohocken Ave. Former sister station WWDB-FM was sold to lawyer Ragan A. Henry around the same time. In 1989, the station, now running an African American-oriented talk and Nostalgia format, was sold to Philadelphia radio veteran Cody Anderson. Anderson had been general manager of WDAS-AM-FM and his company "KBT Communications" paid $1.65 million to obtain WHAT. Anderson moved the WHAT offices and studios on North 54th Street near City Line Avenue in nearby Wynnefield.
In 2007, WHAT was sold to Marconi Broadcasting, who ended the station's longtime African American-focus. Known for years as the "Voice of the African American Community," all station employees, including hosts Albert Butler, Elmer Smith, and Mary Mason were let go.
New formats (2007–present)
Initially, Marconi Broadcasting programmed an alternative format called "Skin Radio" which was the first such format in Philadelphia radio since Y100. The format was short-lived and by August 2007 switched to an adult standards format reminiscent of the old WPEN, albeit with a more diverse playlist and more 70s music. Originally called "Martini Lounge Radio" but now billing itself as "The Greatest Music of All Time," the station features legendary Philadelphia radio talents including Bill "Wee Willie" Webber, Bob Craig, and Mike Bowe.
WHAT programmed an "urban talk" format until 2007. From 2004 to 2006, they were an affiliate of Air America Radio and carried several shows from the network. The station was sold in 2006. On January 19, 2007, after stunting with a variety of music ranging from classical pieces to modern hits, the new owners programmed an alternative rock music format called "Skin Radio". Skin Radio also featured many local musicians and poets. It was seen as a replacement to Y-100, a former modern rock station in Philadelphia. Though no longer on-air, Skin Radio continues, but as an internet-only radio station. skinradio.com
WHAT flipped formats to an adult standards "Martini Lounge" format on August 31, 2007, beginning with a month of Frank Sinatra's music. According to their website The All-Sinatra format aired throughout the month of September. After September 30, the station started an Adult Standards format featuring artists including Michael Bublé, Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall and their format predecessors like Tony Bennett and Peggy Lee. Many have considered it the successor to WPEN's format from 1979 to 2004, even hiring former station D.J.s like Bob Craig and Mike Bowe. On November 17, 2008, WHAT dropped the "Martini Lounge Radio" branding but continued with a similar format.
On August 1, 2011, WHAT ceased broadcasting without any announcement, leading to speculation that the station had been sold. One month later, on September 12, 2011 at 12 P.M., WHAT changed their format to Spanish-language music, branded as "El Zol 1340 AM". On September 3, 2018, the station rebranded itself as "Z99.9".
- Official website
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WHAT
- Radio-Locator Information on WHAT
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WHAT