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|Broadcast area||Baltimore, Maryland|
|Branding||CBS Sports Radio 1300|
|First air date||June 8, 1922 (as WEAR)|
|Callsign meaning||New JerZ (Jersey); Original call letters of what is now WABC in New York.|
|Former callsigns||WEAR (1922–1924)
|Affiliations||CBS Sports Radio|
(sale to Entercom pending)
(CBS Radio WLIF-AM, Inc.)
|Sister stations||WJZ-FM, WJZ-TV, WLIF, WDCH-FM, WWMX|
WJZ ("CBS Sports Radio 1300") is a sports radio station operating on 1300 kHz and licensed to Baltimore, Maryland with transmitter operations in Windsor Mill. Established in 1922 as WEAR, the station is owned by CBS Radio and broadcasts the CBS Sports Radio network full-time.
History of the WJZ call letters
The WJZ callsign was first used on what is now WABC in New York City. The original Westinghouse Electric Corporation, whose broadcasting division is a predecessor to the current broadcasting unit of CBS Corporation, launched WJZ in 1921, and was located originally in Newark, New Jersey. WJZ was sold in 1923 to the Radio Corporation of America, who moved its operations to New York, and on January 1, 1927, WJZ became the flagship station for the NBC Blue Network. (In the 1929 movie The Cocoanuts the station was name-checked by Chico Marx in a sequence of running gags between Chico and Groucho: Chico uses the station's call-sign as the punchline of a punning joke based on his confusion over the meaning of the word "radius", which he confuses with 'radios', leading to the mention of the station's call-sign.) NBC Blue would become the American Broadcasting Company in 1942. ABC later established WJZ-FM and WJZ-TV at the same time in 1948.
In 1953, ABC merged with United Paramount Theatres, and changed the call letters of their New York area stations to WABC, WABC-FM (now WPLJ) and WABC-TV. Four years later, Westinghouse Broadcasting acquired Baltimore television station WAAM (channel 13) and changed its call letters to WJZ-TV, which remained an ABC affiliate until 1995, when the station switched to CBS.
The 1300 kHz frequency has a long history in Baltimore. The station signed on June 8, 1922 as WEAR, owned by the Baltimore American. WEAR's inaugural program, which included a speech from mayor William F. Broening and musical performances, is considered to be the first regularly-scheduled broadcast in Baltimore; WCAO had been issued a license in May 1922, but did not go on the air until September. Shortly after going on the air, on June 14, 1922, Warren G. Harding's speech at the dedication of the Francis Scott Key memorial at Fort McHenry was broadcast by the station; this is generally considered to be the first time a President of the United States had given a speech over the radio.
In 1924, the 5th Regiment, Maryland National Guard acquired WEAR's equipment and applied for a new license, which was issued on November 3, 1924. The station's call letters became WFBR, which stood for "World's First Broadcasting Regiment"; its studios were located at the Fifth Regiment Armory on Preston Street. In 1927, WFBR was sold to The Baltimore Radio Show, a group of investors majority-owned by the the Maslin and Barroll families. Arthur Godfrey started his radio career at WFBR in 1930. On August 29, 1931, the station became an affiliate of the NBC Red Network, switching to the Mutual Broadcasting System in October 1941 and to ABC in 1945. By the 1960s WFBR had a CBS affiliation and was a Top-40 music station with a solid news department and extensive local sports coverage. The station had its studios on E. 20th Street in Baltimore City, and a transmitter on the south side of the mouth of the Patapsco River off Waterview Avenue.
In the 1970s, WFBR's on-air talent featured popular personalities such as "The Flying Dutchman" Pete Berry; Ron Matz, and his fictitious alter-ego, "Harry Horni"; Johnny Walker, a wildly popular morning DJ who was "cutting edge" for his time; "The Coach", Charley Eckman, a former NBA basketball coach and referee, who later became a Baltimore sportscasting legend; and a young but versatile, broadcaster named Tom Marr who pulled triple duty as the station's news director, morning news anchor, and reporter, while also working as a sportscaster for the CBS Radio Network. For years, WFBR marketed itself as "Mad Radio 13". In 1974, the station began broadcasting in AM stereo.
In addition to sports and music, WFBR had an award-winning news team. One of its most popular news programs was a weekday afternoon panel discussion known as Conference Call, which aired from 1962 to 1988. The award-winning program covered news topics of local, state, and national interests and was moderated by longtime newsman Ken Maylath. Regular panelists included WFBR's general manager Harry Shriver, along with newsmen Tom Marr and Ron Matz, and program director Norm Brooks. Additionally, local politicians from throughout Maryland were often invited as guest panelists.
From 1979 through 1986, WFBR was the radio flagship station for the Baltimore Orioles. The team had previously aired its games on WBAL. Under the leadership of Shriver, WFBR promoted the O’s to new levels and to a younger audience, and created what became known as "Oriole Magic".
From 1979 through 1982, the O's radio broadcast team featured longtime O's announcers Chuck Thompson and Bill O'Donnell, along with WFBR veteran broadcaster Tom Marr. O'Donnell left the broadcast team early in the 1982 season due to an illness from which he eventually died later that year. After the 1982 season, the Orioles moved Chuck Thompson from the radio booth to do the TV broadcasts full-time on WMAR-TV, with Brooks Robinson. Once Thompson left the radio booth, WFBR's general manager Harry Shriver replaced him by hiring the now legendary Jon Miller to team up with Marr on the radio broadcasts. Overnights during this period was Al St. John.
Musically, WFBR evolved from Top 40 in 1980 to more of an adult contemporary format by 1982. The station began to also move from a music intensive approach to more of a full service approach. The station began to add evening talk shows by 1984. After the 1986 baseball season, WFBR was out-bid on the Orioles broadcast rights by rival station WCBM. By that time, Miller was under contract directly with the Orioles and stayed with the team, while Marr was under contract with WFBR and remained at the station to start a successful career as a radio talk-show host. WCBM held the broadcast rights for just one season before its ownership went bankrupt and defaulted on their financial obligation. By this time, WFBR switched to a "news/talk-radio" format; in addition to Tom Marr, hosts on the station during this period included Alan Christian, Les Kinsolving, Joe Lombardo, former Baltimore TV anchor Frank Luber, and Stan "the Fan" Charles. Despite strong ratings, the station was not as profitable under this new format as it was when it held the Orioles broadcast rights.
In 1988, WFBR was sold to Infinity Broadcasting (owners of crosstown WLIF), switched to an oldies format, and let go all the on-air personnel from the previous ownership. This format played only music from 1955 to 1965, excluding British Invasion artists. This station focused on artists like Elvis Presley, Everly Brothers, Crystals, Fats Domino, Ricky Nelson, Frankie Lymon, The Drifters, Jackie Wilson, Roy Orbison, early Motown music, and others. After the sale and format switch, most of WFBR's former on-air personalities moved to WCBM which was under new management at the time, and adopted most aspects of WFBR's news/talk format. Ratings for the reformatted WFBR were very low as of the summer of 1989. The station would then switch to a business news format, which only lasted for a brief time, and station management eventually changed its call letters, thus successfully killing one of the great radio stations in Baltimore history.
On January 29, 1990, WFBR dropped the business news format, and began simulcasting WLIF, which was about to switch from Beautiful Music to Soft Adult Contemporary. WFBR became WLIF, a move that required the FM station to become WLIF-FM for several years. The WFBR callsign has since been used by two stations: 95.3 WFBR-LP of Mt. Washington, Kentucky; and 1590 WFBR (AM), formerly known as WJRO, in Glen Burnie, Maryland, which coincidentally, was the home of the late Charley Eckman.
On October 1, 1991, the station split from the WLIF simulcast and was renamed WJFK. WJFK was originally simulcast with WJFK-FM, a talk radio station that serves the Washington metropolitan area. This change was precipitated by WJFK-FM's addition of Howard Stern, which was also on Infinity's stations in New York and Philadelphia. This simulcast brought Stern to the Baltimore market.
When the Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens, WJFK (AM) was named as the team's radio flagship station, with games simulcast on WLIF, and later, WQSR. Longtime WMAR-TV sports anchor Scott Garceau was named the lead play-by-play man, with former Baltimore Colts running back Tom Matte as the color commentator. WJFK held the broadcast rights for the Baltimore Ravens from 1996 through the 2005 NFL season. WJFK's status as a flagship station for the Baltimore Ravens football franchise ended after the 2005 season; those rights were acquired by WBAL. To fill the gap in the team's coverage, WJFK and sister station WHFS aired Baltimore Gameday Uncensored throughout the 2006 season; the show is hosted by former Ravens announcers Scott Garceau and Tom Matte.
On March 10, 2003, the same day WXYV flipped from urban to hot talk, WJFK dropped the simulcast with WJFK-FM and flipped to a full-time ESPN Radio affiliate as "AM 1300 The Jock." WJFK promoted itself as "Baltimore's only all-sports radio station"; however, the station's weekend schedule at the time included infomercials, and WNST also offered a sports radio format, which launched three years prior to WJFK's format change. In 2004, the station rebranded as "ESPN Radio 1300".
WJFK changed its callsign to WJZ, while WHFS changed its call letters to WJZ-FM, on November 3, 2008, with the FM flipping to local-oriented sports programming, and the AM retaining its full-time affiliation of ESPN Radio (with some limited local weekend programming). Additionally, the callsigns of all three of Baltimore's major-affiliate TV stations have now been used on the city's radio stations; the WMAR call letters were once used on what is now WWMX. WJZ also carries University of Maryland, College Park sporting events, whose rights were previously held by rival station WBAL. On December 10, 2012, ESPN Radio was dropped for a simulcast of sister station WJZ-FM. The station became a full-time affiliate of CBS Sports Radio on January 2, 2013.
- Rasmussen, Fred (June 1, 1997). "WEAR was radio pioneer Media: It was expected that the new communications device would boost newspaper circulation and advertising.". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
- "Call Sign History: WJZ". Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
- Cox, Jim (2008). This Day in Network Radio: A Daily Calendar of Births, Debuts, Cancellations and Other Events in Broadcasting History. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-3848-8. P. 5.
- Belanger, Brian (August 2001). "Baltimore's Radio Stations" (PDF). News of the Radio History Society. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
- Hyder, William (May 14, 1972). "50 Years Ago, Baltimore Got its First Radio Station". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
- "WFBR (WJZ) history cards" (PDF). CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
- Kaltenbach, Chris (June 15, 1997). "Alumni of 'Mad Radio 13' gathering for reunion WFBR: A few hundred former employees will meet Saturday to reminisce about the late, great station.". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
- Goldstein, Alan (2007-07-05). "Remembering Eckman". Press Box. Baltimore, Maryland: Word Smith Media Ventures, LLC (2.27).
- Klingaman, Mike (June 29, 2003). "In tune with sports". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
- Zurawik, David (June 21, 2012). "CBS to launch national sports radio network - Baltimore's WJZ-FM and AM key players". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 22, 2012.