|City of license||Boston, Massachusetts|
|Broadcast area||Greater Boston|
|Branding||Radio Disney AM 1260|
|Slogan||Your Music, Your Way|
|First air date||July 31, 1922 (license, as WNAC)
June 17, 1953 (as WVDA)
|Callsign meaning||MKI = Mickey Mouse|
|Former callsigns||WNAC (1922–1953)
|Affiliations||Radio Disney (1997-present)|
|Owner||The Walt Disney Company
(Sale to Salem Media Group pending)
(Radio Disney Group, LLC)
WMKI began broadcasting in June 1953 as WVDA, after WNAC purchased the 680 kilohertz frequency of WLAW, moved its programming there, and sold the 1260 frequency to Vic Diehm and Associates, Inc.
Most of WVDA's programming was from the ABC Radio Network, with some local programming. Among them were a few DJ shows, and for a brief time in the mid-1950s, a 3-hour morning news block. After just 4 years, the station was sold in 1957 to Great Trails Broadcasting Corp., owned by former Truman administration Commerce Secretary George Sawyer, for $252,000 and became WEZE, becoming an NBC Radio Network affiliate. The station carried most NBC Radio programs, and some local DJ shows featuring softer music.
On October 19, 1959, WEZE began a beautiful music format, branded as "The Wonderful World Of Music", that targeted older listeners. The station programmed music in uninterrupted quarter-hour blocks during the daytime hours (half-hour blocks at night), and continued to serve as Boston's NBC Radio affiliate until 1966, carrying hourly newscasts, some feature programs, special news events, but very little of the network's Monitor weekend service.
In his autobiography, comedian George Carlin describes his experiences as a D.J. at the station, until he was fired after taking the station's news station wagon to New York to buy marijuana (leaving the station unable to cover a prison riot). Carlin wrote that another future comedian, Jack Burns, also worked there as an announcer and newscaster at the station during this time. Although only 5,000 watts, WEZE was one of Boston's top-rated radio stations for most of the 1960s, until the beautiful music format made a big splash on the FM dial late in the decade.
For many years, WEZE's studios were located on the ground floor of the Statler Office Building near Boston's Park Square, with a picture window on the corner of St. James and Columbus Avenues, allowing passers-by to see the announcer at work in the studio.
During the "Wonderful World Of Music" days, there were live announcers, but they spoke only every fifteen minutes, to run down what had been played during the previous quarter-hour, do live commercials, and weather updates.
In the Fall of 1972, WEZE changed formats to a rock 'n roll oldies sound with live personality D.J.s, which was tweaked by mid 1973 by Program Director Steve Hunter and Consultant Kent Burkhardt to include current pop/rock hits as well. Now known as Z-1260, WEZE was now in direct competition with established Top 40 AM stations WRKO (680 AM), WMEX (1510 AM), and WVBF (105.7 FM, now WROR-FM). Perhaps the best-known announcer during this period was Alan Colmes, who replaced Chuck Kelly in the morning drive slot and who later co-hosted a talk show with Sean Hannity on cable's Fox News Channel. In March 1974, the format was modified again to a more MOR/personality approach.
From August 1975 until early 1977, WEZE tried "The Wonderful World Of Music" again (which was often branded "The Easiest Sound In Town" in newspaper ads, billboards, and television commercials). Since FM radios still weren't widespread in automobiles, station management hoped that people who would listen to easy-listening FM stations like WJIB (96.9 FM, now WBQT) at home or work would listen to WEZE on their AM-only car radios while driving to and from their jobs (or other errands). The revival met with very little success given that beautiful music listenership had pretty much migrated to the FM dial.
In early 1977, WEZE became one of the first stations to program what might now be called adult album alternative (or at least what would pass for such a format at that time). This format, promoted as "AlbuM 1260" (stylized to denote its frequency as "AM 1260"), continued until the 1978 sale of the station to New England Continental Media (an ancestor company of Salem Communications), which instituted a religious format.
Initially, WEZE's religious programming consisted of contemporary Christian music, Christian features, teaching, and preaching; half of the station's schedule was devoted to music. While a religious station, the station continued to operate commercially. By the mid 1980s, local Christian talk shows replaced some of the hours of weekday music programming. In later years, more teaching programs were added to replace the remaining weekday music hours; after 1984, WEZE only played inspirational music on weekends for a few hours.
Salem exercised an option to acquire WBNW (590 AM) in the fall of 1996, and began a simulcast that resulted in WEZE's call letters and programming moving to the 590 frequency that December. Following a simulcast on both frequencies, 1260 become WPZE "Praise 1260" in February 1997. The Praise 1260 format included programs that Salem lacked the time to air on WEZE, along with about 6 hours a day of rhythmic Christian music, which consisted of Upbeat praise and worship church music, gospel, and soft AC Christian cuts. However, in July Salem decided to sell the station, and it was sold to Hibernia Broadcasting, who switched the station to Radio Disney on November 21. (The Praise 1260 format was dropped earlier in that fall in preparation for the sale, and in the interim WPZE returned to simulcasting WEZE). The station changed its call letters to WMKI late in December 1999, and was sold in a group deal to ABC, Inc., the owner of Radio Disney, in 2000.
On August 13, 2014, Disney put WMKI and twenty-two other Radio Disney stations up for sale, in order to focus more on digital distribution of the Radio Disney network. Radio Disney had planned to end its over-the-air broadcasts on WMKI (and most of its other stations) on September 26, 2014, but ultimately decided to keep the stations on the air until they are sold.
On June 5, 2015, Radio Disney Group (the Disney subsidiary that held the station's license) filed to sell WMKI to the Pennsylvania Media Associates, Inc. subsidiary of the Salem Media Group. Salem bought the station for $500,000. The sale marks Salem's repurchase of the station, after having sold it to Hibernia Broadcasting in 1997. Upon retaking control, Salem will change WMKI's call letters to WBIX.
- Halper, Donna; Wollman, Garrett. "The Eastern Massachusetts Radio Timeline: The First Fifteen Years". The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- Halper, Donna; Wollman, Garrett. "The Eastern Massachusetts Radio Timeline: the 1950s". The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- WEZE Newspaper ad, Boston Globe, October 19, 1959
- WEZE Newspaper Ad, September 1, 1975
- WEZE promotion material given to potential advertisers, March, 1977
- Site of the Week EXTRA: WMKI 1260 Boston (and friends) - Fybush Media
- "Archives at BostonRadio.org". The Boston Radio Dial: WMKI(AM). Retrieved October 23, 2005.
- "Application for Consent to Assignment of Broadcast Station Construction Permit or License". CDBS Public Access. Federal Communications Commission. August 22, 2000. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
- Lafayette, Jon (August 13, 2014). "Exclusive: Radio Disney Moving Off Air to Digital". Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- "Radio Disney to Sell the Majority of Its Stations". Billboard. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
- Parties to the Application - FCC
- Salem Acquires Disney Stations in Boston and Dallas - Radio Insight
- "Media Bureau Call Sign Actions" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. July 1, 2015. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
- Radio Disney's website
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WMKI
- Radio-Locator Information on WMKI
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WMKI