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City Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Branding The Big 920
Slogan Milwaukee's Sports Station
Frequency 920 AM kHz (also on HD Radio)
First air date August 31, 1950 (1950-08-31)
Format Sports Talk
Power 5,000 watts (day)
1,000 watts (night)
Class B
Facility ID 63917
Callsign meaning "MIL-WOKY"
Former callsigns WEXT (1947-1950)
Former frequencies 1430 kHz (1947-1950)
Owner iHeartMedia, Inc.
(Clear Channel Broadcasting Licences, Inc.)
Sister stations WISN, WKKV, WMIL, WRIT, WRNW
Webcast Listen Live
Website thebig920.com

WOKY (AM920 "The Big 920") is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, radio station The station is owned and operated by iHeartMedia, Inc. and currently broadcasts a sports talk format. Its studios, which became the home of all of Milwaukee's iHeartMedia, Inc. (formerly Clear Channel Communications) stations in 2000 after a building expansion, are located in the Milwaukee suburb of Greenfield; the transmitter site is behind the studios.

Station history[edit]

Beginnings: WEXT[edit]

The history of WOKY can be traced back to WEXT (1430 AM), a 1,000-watt, daytime-only radio station in Milwaukee founded by Lee, David, Gerald, and Rosa Bartell (later Evans) which began operations on August 31, 1947. WEXT, the Milwaukee market's fifth radio station, did fairly well with a broadcast schedule that included popular music and ethnic programming, including a polka show hosted by local radio legend John Reddy. Gerald Bartell and Rosa Bartell met Ralph Evans II while the three worked at the University of Wisconsin, Madison's student station. Gerald and Rosa worked on programming, and Evans was an electrical engineering student.

The Bartell family had modest success with other stations in Wisconsin markets as LaCrosse and Sturgeon Bay. They also had a station near San Diego, California (El Cajon).

WOKY/The Mighty 92[edit]

In the wake of WEXT's success, the Bartell family applied for 24-hour broadcast operations, and the result was a move down the dial to 920 AM and a new call sign, WOKY ( the 1430 frequency was reassigned to WBEV in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin 50 miles northwest of Milwaukee in 1951). The new station launched in September 1950. WOKY initially aired a full-service variety format similar to WEXT's, including popular music shows and programs oriented toward housewives and children. In time, pop music became the primary component of WOKY's schedule, with disc jockeys choosing the songs they played based on the Billboard and Cash Box best-seller charts and on local record sales. WOKY soon became Milwaukee's second official Top 40 music station after WRIT.

WOKY served as the city's premier Top 40 station during most of the 1960s and 1970s, and was known for much of that time as the "Mighty 92". Along with Chicago-based giants WLS and WCFL, The station was also a favorite of teenagers in western Michigan who were beyond the signal reach of Top 40 stations in larger west Michigan cities such as Muskegon and Grand Rapids.

Popular disc jockeys on WOKY during the Top 40 years, from the 50's through the 70's, included Bob White, "Mad Man" Michaels, "Lucky" Logan, Mitch Michael, Sam Hale, Ron Riley (WLS Chicago), Bob Barry, Carl Como, Paul Christy, Michael Lee Scott (Z93 Atlanta, G98 Cleveland, KRBE Houston, NOW on the internet's thedoubleqq.com), Jim Brown, Pat McKay, Jack McCoy (KCBQ San Diego, "The Last Contest"), Ronnie Knight, Johnny Dark, Craig Roberts, Jack Lee, Robb Edwards, Gary Price, Gene Johnson, Barney Pip (WCFL Chicago) and the late Bob Collins (later of Chicago's full-service giant WGN). A popular station catchphrase during the early '70s was WOKY Plays Favorites.

WOKY is also noteworthy for being the first station in Milwaukee to broadcast traffic reports from a helicopter, courtesy of air personality Art Zander and his feature "The Safer Route." [1]

Adult standards era[edit]

Due to competition from FM stations, WOKY shifted to an adult standards format in 1981. It became a full-time affiliate of Al Ham's 'Music of Your Life' format, based in Connecticut.

To keep up with demographic trends, WOKY tweaked their format over the years, gradually shifting to a middle of the road/oldies hybrid that mixed uptempo 1950s-1970s oldies with classic and current adult contemporary music, with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond and The Carpenters being mainstays of the format. On Fridays, starting in 2005, WOKY began programming oldies for the entire day, complete with old jingles and other elements. For many years, WOKY was a success in the ratings, though many of its listeners were older than the demographics that many advertisers actively seek.

WOKY was briefly the Milwaukee outlet for the syndicated Delilah love songs show, previously heard on the late (and Clear Channel sister station) WLTQ. Delilah was later heard in Milwaukee on WMYX-FM.

The station was famous for pioneering marathons of Christmas music beginning on Thanksgiving Day and continuing through the holiday season, beginning in 1993.

WOKY also carried Milwaukee Panthers basketball game broadcasts from 2003 to 2007 when they moved to sister station WISN. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's basketball games can be heard on WOKY.

WOKY's Mighty 92 logo from 2007-2008, patterned after a former logo the station used in the 1960s.

The Mighty 92 returns[edit]

On January 2, 2007, after concluding their Christmas holiday programming, WOKY came back with a new approach, an oldies format emphasizing hit songs from the 1960s and 1970s. The "Mighty 92" name returned full-time, as did many of the classic jingles the station played in its Top 40 heyday. On nights and weekends, the station used Dial Global's satellite-delivered "Oldies Channel" (now Kool Gold) service.

With the new format, and to keep up with the baby boomers, WOKY did not flip to all-Christmas music in 2007. Instead, like sister WRIT, they played a few Christmas tunes every hour.

AM 920 The Wolf[edit]

The station changed on September 18, 2008, after playing Hello, Goodbye by The Beatles, to a classic country format,[2] which was transferred from sister station WMIL-FM (106.1)'s HD Radio subchannel as an automated station to one featuring several of WOKY's airstaff.[3] The combined classic-current country stations were sub-branded as MIL-WOKY, Milwaukee's Country Connection.

On December 1, 2011, the station was announced as the Milwaukee home of NASCAR radio coverage from all three NASCAR radio networks and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network for the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400, replacing WAUK, which days before announced the removal of all auto racing programming to focus on solely on traditional sports. In September 2012, the station also added nationally broadcast college football and NFL from Westwood One, including the NFL on Westwood One. Additionally, the station carried several Wisconsin Badgers football games in the 2012 season sub-contracted from WTMJ due to programming conflicts.

The former Mighty 92 format can currently be heard in Milwaukee on WRIT 95.7-HD2.

The Big 920[edit]

On January 2, 2013, Clear Channel Milwaukee announced that WOKY would drop its classic country format and adopt a sports talk format on January 7,[4] although in reality the branding launched on January 5 during the station's broadcasts of Wild Card Weekend games from Dial Global. Branded as "The Big 920," the new WOKY schedule is a near simulcast of its Madison sister station, WTSO ("The Big 1070"), featuring Madison-based local shows hosted by Brian Posick, Mike Heller, and Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas; national shows featuring Jay Mohr Sports, The Dan Patrick Show, and NBC Sports Radio, along with live event broadcasts that have been airing previously on WOKY, notably football, NASCAR, and the UW-Milwaukee Panthers.[5] The move makes WOKY the third English-language all-sports station in the Milwaukee market, joining WAUK, WSSP and WRRD (an ESPN Deportes affiliate), with news/talk-formatted WTMJ containing both sports talk and Milwaukee and Green Bay's major league team play-by-play calls.

On December 2, 2013, Learfield Sports and the University of Wisconsin–Madison announced that WOKY would become the Milwaukee affiliate of Wisconsin Badgers broadcasts in 2014, replacing longtime affiliate WTMJ, effectively making the team exclusive to iHeartMedia in the two largest cities in Wisconsin; iHeartMedia's WIBA-AM-FM in Madison act as the flagship stations of the Badgers. As part of the deal, the station will air all Badgers sports broadcasts. Football and men's basketball will be simulcast with sister station WRIT-FM due to WOKY's weak nighttime signal, while the Badger Daily Show segment being shared with WISN.[6]

HD Radio[edit]

WOKY broadcasts in AM HD Radio.


  1. ^ Bartell Broadcasting History
  2. ^ WOKY Goes Classic Country- September 17, 2008
  3. ^ Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel-WOKY drops oldies, switches to country today-September 18, 2008
  4. ^ "Format Changes". Your Midwest Media. 2 January 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  5. ^ "WOKY-AM changes to all sports talk format," from Milwaukee Journal, 1/2/2013
  6. ^ Kirchen, Rich (December 2, 2013). "Wisconsin Badgers games move to AM 920, Oldies 95.7". The Business Journal. Retrieved December 2, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°58′32″N 88°03′56″W / 42.97556°N 88.06556°W / 42.97556; -88.06556