|City||St. Louis, Missouri|
|Broadcast area||Greater St. Louis|
|Branding||1430 AM KZQZ|
|Slogan||Hot Talk & Cool Oldies|
|Frequency||1430 kHz AM|
|First air date||1922 (as WEB)|
|Power||50,000 watts day
5,000 watts night
|Former callsigns||WEB (1922-1925)
WIL (1925–1991; 2005–2008)
|Owner||Entertainment Media Trust|
|Sister stations||KQQZ, KFTK|
KZQZ (1430 AM) is a commercial radio station, licensed to St. Louis, Missouri, which broadcasts a "Hot Talk and Cool Country Oldies" format. Although the current call letters only date back to 2008, the station is one of the oldest in the country, and was first licensed, as WEB, on April 5, 1922. It has had a variety of different call letters and formats during its existence.
KZQZ's four-tower transmitter site is located between Dupo and Cahokia in Illinois. It operates with 50,000 watts daytime, dropping to 5,000 watts at night. The station uses a different directional array for day and nights, employing two towers during the daytime, and all four at night.
Experimental broadcasts by The Benwood Company
KZQZ traces its founding to April 5, 1922, the date that WEB was first licensed to The Benwood Company of St. Louis. However, in the year-and-a-half prior to WEB's first license, this company and its owners had made several experimental broadcasts on an irregular schedule.
The Benwood Company was a small electrical firm, specializing in radio, that was named after its co-founders, the company's president William E. Woods, and vice president Lester Arthur "Eddie" Benson. On election night November 2, 1920, the two broadcast election results provided by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper, over a radiotelephone transmitter operated at Woods' home at 4312 De Tonty Street. (At least two other stations made election night broadcasts, both of which were more widely publicized: one by the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing company at East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania under a Special Amateur authorization, 8ZZ (now KDKA), and the other over the Detroit News' "Detroit News Radiophone" station, operating under an amateur station authorization, 8MK (now WWJ).)
Benson and Woods continued to work on developing radiotelephone equipment, and an early December 1920 newspaper article stated that they had successfully communicated with an automobile over a distance of 30 miles (48 kilometers). At the time, it was noted that "The wireless telephone will be the last word in luxury tourists", and it also could be installed on police department automobiles for emergency communication. The two also made a few additional experimental radio broadcasts, from a variety of sites and apparently under multiple station licenses, although details are limited. On January 29, 1922 it was announced that Woods was preparing a radio concert for the upcoming Friday evening featuring the City Club Quartet, to be followed at noon on Saturday by an address by Beatrice Forbes Robertson on the "Causes and Cure of Labor Unrest".
The St. Louis Star began working in conjunction with The Benwood Company, a partnership that would expand over the next few years. The newspaper arranged for Benson and Woods to conduct a broadcast on February 9, 1922 from the Benwood building located at 1110 Olive Street, and following its successful completion the effort was hailed by the paper as "the first elaborate program given by wireless in this section of the United States". A second Star-promoted broadcast was made two weeks later, on February 23. It was announced that a third concert would be held on March 16, 1922, transmitting on the standard amateur radio station wavelength of 200 meters (1500 kHz) from Benson's home at 4942 Wiesehan Avenue. However, this broadcast was canceled shortly before it was scheduled to take place, when L. R. Schmidt, in charge of monitoring the federal government's ninth Radio Inspection district, notified the participants that he had begun strictly enforcing a rule, adopted effective December 1, 1921, that banned amateur radio stations from making broadcasts intended for the general public.
The December 1, 1921 regulations mandated that stations wishing to make broadcasts now had to hold a Limited Commercial license that explicitly authorized the broadcasts. The Benwood Company filed the necessary paperwork, and on April 5, 1922 was issued a broadcasting station license with the randomly assigned call letters of WEB. The authorization included permission to use both wavelengths that had been set aside by the government for broadcasting stations: 360 meters (833 kHz) for "entertainment" and 485 meters (619 kHz) for "market and weather news".
WEB was the fourth St. Louis radio station to receive a broadcasting license, preceded by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's KSD (March 14, 1922, now KTRS), St. Louis University's WEW (March 23, 1922), and the Stix-Baer-Fuller department store's WCK (April 3, 1922, deleted November 30, 1928 as WSBF). At this time all broadcasters transmitted their entertainment programs on 360 meters, so the stations in a given area had to establish a time-sharing agreement specifying the time periods during which each would operate. A Benwood Company advertisement that appeared in early May listed WEB's schedule as 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings. In late April it was announced that WEB had installed a 300 watt transmitter — a high power for the time — consisting of six fifty-watt tubes.
In November 1924, ownership of WEB was transferred to the Benson Radio Company, and in January 1925 the station's call sign was changed to WIL. Shortly thereafter primary responsibility for the station's operations was taken over by the Star. A new studio was built on the eighth floor of the Star building, and the station licensee was changed to "St. Louis Star and the Benson Co." After a short series of tests, the newspaper announced that regular programming from the new studio would start on January 31, and the station's schedule would be 10 p.m. to midnight on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, and 9 p.m to 11 p.m. on Friday. WIL was now broadcasting on 1100 kHz, a frequency it shared with WCK. This arrangement lasted until early 1927, when the Benson Radio Broadcasting Company resumed as the sole operator, and the station's studios were moved to the Missouri Hotel Building.
There were numerous frequency shifts during the WIL's early history, until, in mid-1929, the station was assigned to part-time operation on a low-powered "local" frequency, 1200 kHz. It initially shared this frequency with two other St. Louis stations, WMAY and KFWF, but after both of these stations were deleted in the early 1930s WIL was able to operate fulltime.
A station advertisement in a 1933 issue of Broadcasting magazine claimed a number of "firsts" for WIL, including:
- first commercial station on the air in St. Louis
- first to broadcast police news
- first to broadcast election returns and
- first to have its own news-gathering organization.
In the 1930s, WIL branded itself as "The Biggest Little Station in the Nation". Under the provisions of the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement, in March 1941 it, along with all the other stations transmitting on 1200 kHz, was moved to 1230 kHz. In 1949, WIL received permission to shift to a "regional" frequency, 1430 kHz, where it and its successors have been ever since. This new dial position also resulted in a major power increase, from 250 to 5,000 watts.
Beginning in the 1950s WIL was the first station in St. Louis to air a popular music format, and it was an early career stop in the late 1950s and early 1960s for some personalities who later achieved success in New York City radio, including WABC's Dan Ingram and Ron Lundy. WIL's rating eventually shrank due to competition from Storz Broadcasting's KXOK AM, and the station tried a series of new formats in the 1960s, before settling on country music. It became St. Louis's top country music outlet, while featuring personalities such as Davey Lee.
In the mid-1970s, facing competition from startup country station WGNU-FM in Granite City, Illinois at 106.5, WIL's programs began to be simulcast over its FM sister station, WIL-FM at 92.3 mHz. By the early 1980s, WIL-FM was established as the top country music station in town, so the programming at the two stations was again separated, with the AM band WIL adopting a classic country format.
In early 1991 the station changed to an adult standards format and became WRTH, inheriting the format and call sign used for many years at 590 AM in Wood River, Illinois (now KFNS AM). Facing the aging demographics of the nostalgia format, the station moved to a short-lived 50s/60s oldies station dubbed "Real Oldies 1430" from July 2003 through mid-October 2004. Following a fifteen-month run with oldies, the station briefly returned to adult standards in late-October 2004,
In late 2005, the decision was made to revive the historic WIL call sign and classic country format.
On July 20, 2006, severe thunderstorms caused major damage around St. Louis, leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity, and knocking down one of WIL's transmitting towers. (At the same time, two of the KTRS AM 550 towers were toppled, and KSLG AM 1380 was knocked off the air as well.) WIL had to apply for a special temporary authority from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate non-directionally with reduced power until the tower was replaced.
In fall 2006, the station began serving as the St. Louis affiliate of the Missouri State University Basketball Network, airing broadcasts of the men's basketball games, which originated from KTXR radio in Springfield, Missouri.
On Thursday, March 6, 2008, "Country Legends 1430, WIL", was replaced by the current KZQZ, airing a combination of talk and oldies, branded jointly as "The First Amendment Station/The All-American Station, Hot Talk, Cool Oldies, 1430 AM KZQZ". The former classic country format continues on sister station 1190 KQQZ in De Soto, Missouri.
- 3 month Limited Commercial license, serial #604.
- "Wireless Phone Relays Returns of Post-Dispatch", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 3, 1920, page 3.
- "Screen, Radio Give Returns", Detroit News, November 3, 1920, pages 1-2.
- "Wireless Telephone for Autos Perfected", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 3, 1920, page 16.
- In the June 30, 1920 issue of Amateur Radio Stations of the United States, Benson is listed as holding a standard amateur license with the call sign 9KV, with Woods licensed as 9LC. In late 1920, Benson was upgraded to a Special Amateur license, with the call sign 9ZB. The June 30, 1921 issue of Amateur Radio Stations of the United States still has Woods as 9LC, with The Benwood Company now having its own standard amateur license, 9LA. These same two assignments also appear in the June 30, 1922 edition.
- "Three Club Speakers on City Club Program this Week", St. Louis Star, January 29, 1922, page 8.
- "Radio Association in St. Louis is Live Wire Organization", St. Louis Star, February 11, 1922, page 3.
- "The Star's Next Radio Concert on Thursday", St. Louis Star, February 21, 1922, page 3.
- "Wesley Barry on the Star's Radio Program Tonight", St. Louis Star, March 16, 1922, page 3.
- "St. Louis Radio Amateurs Take Examination for U. S. License", St. Louis Star, March 17, 1922, page 15.
- "Date First Licensed", Federal Communications Commission "History Cards" for WIL.
- Benwood Company advertisement, St. Louis Star, May 4, 1922, page 10.
- "1,000-Mile Set Installed by St. Louis Concern", St. Louis Star, April 23, 1922, page 2.
- "Tune in on The Star, WIL, Saturday Night", St. Louis Star, January 29, 1925, page 1.
- "First Radio Broadcast Here 8 Years Ago to be Repeated on Anniversary", St. Louis Star, February 3, 1930, page 8.
- History of WIL (route56.com)
- WIL Advertisement Broadcasting, April 15, 1933, page 5. (americanradiohistory.com)
- WIL Advertisement, Broadcasting, May 15, 1935, page 37. (americanradiohistory.com)
- KZQZ official website
- Query the FCC's AM station database for KZQZ
- Radio-Locator Information on KZQZ
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for KZQZ
- FCC History Cards for KZQZ (covering 1927-1981 as WIL)