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WOWO NewsTalk1190-107.5-97.3HD2 logo.jpg
City Fort Wayne, Indiana
Broadcast area Ft. Wayne Metro
Branding News/Talk WOWO 1190 AM/107.5 FM
Slogan Fort Wayne's News Talk - Depend on it.
Frequency 1190 kHz (also on HD Radio)
Translator(s) 107.5 W298BJ (Fort Wayne)
Repeater(s) 97.3 HD2 (WMEE)
First air date March 31, 1925
Format News/Talk
Power 50,000 watts (daytime)
9,800 watts (nighttime)
Class B
Facility ID 28205
Transmitter coordinates 40°59′46.3″N 85°21′6.1″W / 40.996194°N 85.351694°W / 40.996194; -85.351694
Callsign meaning "(Fort) Wayne Offers Wonderful Opportunities" (unofficial, was randomly assigned)
Former frequencies 1160 kHz (1929-1941)
Affiliations Premiere Networks
Fox News Radio
Owner Federated Media
Sister stations WBYR, WFWI, WKJG, WMEE, WQHK
Webcast Listen Live

WOWO (1190 kHz) is a commercial AM radio station in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It is airs a news/talk radio format. The call letters are usually pronounced as "Wo-Wo," rhyming with "go-go." WOWO is licensed to Pathfinder Communications Corporation, a subsidiary of Federated Media, a company that owns about a dozen radio stations in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. The studios and offices are located along Maples Road in Fort Wayne, while its transmitter is found along Hoosier-Heartland Highway (U.S. Highway 24) in Roanoke, midway between Fort Wayne and Huntington.[1]

The station transmits with 50,000 watts during daytime using a non-directional antenna, the maximum power permitted for commercial AM radio stations. But at night, to protect 1190 WLIB in New York City, it drops to 9,800 watts, using a three-tower directional antenna.[2] WOWO broadcasts a hybrid (analog plus digital) signal.[3] To allow listeners in Fort Wayne to hear the station on FM, programming is simulcast on a translator station, W298BJ at 107.5 MHz.[4]

WOWO was the first radio station in the world to broadcast a live basketball game and the first station to be acquired by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation subsidiary, Westinghouse Broadcasting, which owned the station from 1936 to 1982.


Early years[edit]

On March 31, 1925, WOWO began broadcasting with 500 watts of power on 1320 kHz. It was the second radio station in Fort Wayne, after WGL signed on the year before.[5] WOWO was put on the air by Chester Keen, the owner of Main Auto Supply Company. The studios were located upstairs from Main Auto at 215 West Main Street.

During the 1920s, the government permitted either three- or four-letter call signs, with three-letter call signs being preferred for brevity. By choosing WOWO for easy pronunciation as a two-syllable word, in some measure WOWO had a call sign that exhibited even more brevity than even the three-letter versions. Despite this, disk jockeys on WOWO were originally prohibited from calling the station "Wo-Wo" on the air until the late 1960s, when a contest was introduced to identify songs in which the "woe" sound appeared. The WOWO call sign was later backfilled as a tongue-in-cheek acronym: "Wayne (as in Fort Wayne) Offers Wonderful Opportunities".

In 1927, WOWO was made a pioneer station joining the CBS Radio Network and remained a CBS network affiliate until 1956. During the Golden Age of Radio, WOWO carried the CBS schedule of dramas, comedies, news, sports, soap operas, game shows and big band broadcasts. In 1928, Keen sold WOWO to Fred Zieg, who also owned WGL. In 1929, Zieg received government approval to move WOWO to 1190 kHz with a power of 10,000 watts and to move WGL over to WOWO's former 1320 kHz. Until WOWO's purchase by Westinghouse in 1936, Zieg managed the advertising sales of both WOWO and WGL through WOWO-WGL Sales Service, Inc.

On July 4, 1929, the building housing WOWO and WGL caught fire. No casualties were reported, and operations were moved to a nearby location. Amazingly enough, the station's large pipe organ, a familiar sound on the station, was not damaged in the blaze. The WOWO pipe organ was later relocated to Gospel Temple in Fort Wayne.

In 1930, WOWO was the first radio station in the world to broadcast a live basketball game. It is also considered to be the first station to broadcast live Indiana high school sports events.

Westinghouse purchase[edit]

In August 1936, WOWO was acquired by Westinghouse Broadcasting as its first purchase of a radio station it did not put on the air. WOWO joined original Westinghouse outlets KDKA in Pittsburgh, KYW in Philadelphia, WBZ in Boston and WBZA in Springfield, Massachusetts. Westinghouse built new studios for WOWO at 925 South Harrison Street in Fort Wayne, which were completed on May 1, 1937. On that same date WOWO joined the NBC Blue Network, while maintaining its CBS network affiliation, as multiple network affiliations were common for Blue affiliates.

On March 29, 1941, Westinghouse completed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensing of WOWO's famous clear-channel signal on AM 1190, making it a Class I-B station, operating around the clock at 50,000 watts. During and after World War II, these clear-channel broadcasts made WOWO a popular radio superstation of sorts throughout the Eastern United States. Although there were other radio stations broadcasting on 1190 kHz during daylight hours, they were required by the FCC either to cease broadcasting at sunset or to reduce their power at night to make way for WOWO's clear-channel signal. For instance, WLIB went on the air in New York in 1942 at AM 1190. It was required to sign-off at sunset time in Fort Wayne, so it would not interfere with WOWO's broadcasts.

On April 30, 1952, WOWO's studio and offices were relocated to the upper floors of 128 West Washington Boulevard.[6] It was here that the station began its famous "fire-escape" weather forecasts, involving obtaining weather conditions from the fire escape ledge. In 1977, WOWO's studios moved to the fourth floor of the Central Building at 203 West Wayne Street in Fort Wayne, where it would remain for the next fifteen years. When the station relocated to the Central Building, the old fire escape was cut into small pieces, encapsulated in Lucite and distributed as a promotional paper weight.

Programming for the station changed several times. As network programming shifted from radio to television in the 1950s, WOWO's network affiliations were discontinued in 1956. The station switched to playing popular music, along with news, sports and talk. In the 1960s and 70s, WOWO was a popular Top 40 music station, not just in the Fort Wayne area, but after sunset, around the Midwest and Eastern U.S.

Agricultural broadcasts[edit]

With Fort Wayne being roughly equidistant from Chicago, Detroit and Cincinnati, clear-channel WOWO competed with WLS, WJR and WLW for the agricultural market. Farmers would have the radio turned on in the milking parlor. WOWO executives claimed it relaxed the cows and produced more milk. In an era when live music was featured on radio stations, WOWO's own "Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers" proved popular with rural audiences, and eventually WLS, WJR and WLW surrendered the rural audience to concentrate on their urban audiences, leaving WOWO unchallenged for the rural market. Some Midwesterners who had listened to WOWO in their youth continued to pick the station up when they retired to Florida and other warm-weather states in the east.

Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers' "Little Red Barn" was used as a theme song for Bob Sievers' daily show. When recorded music became the norm for the station, WOWO featured a live show on Saturdays called "Little Red Barn" with Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers. Nancy Lee was the wife of Sam DeVincent, music librarian for the station.

Westinghouse sells WOWO[edit]

In 1982, Westinghouse sold WOWO to the Wayne Broadcasting Corporation.[7] Despite the sale, WOWO still uses the distinctive Group W typeface for the call letters in its white on PF-152 red logo. In 1994, the station was bought by Inner City Broadcasting, based in New York.[8] Inner City paid $2.3 million for WOWO and its sister station in Huntington, 102.9 WOWO-FM (now WJCI). In 1997, Inner City sold WOWO to its current owner, Federated Media.[9]

In the 1980s, music listening shifted to FM and WOWO saw its ratings as a Top 40 station fall. At 7:30 a.m. on December 16, 1988, WOWO switched to a 1950s-thru-70s oldies format. In 1992 the format changed to full service adult contemporary, and then in 1996, the station switched to a news-talk format which remains to this day. In September 2014, WOWO was won a Marconi Award as the Medium Market Station of the Year by the National Association of Broadcasters.[10]

WOWO as a clear-channel station[edit]

From 1941 to 1995 WOWO was well-known, in both Indiana and areas to the east, as a clear-channel AM station. WOWO broadcast with 50,000 watts of power both during daylight and nighttime hours. From sunset to sunrise, WOWO's directional antenna was configured to protect the other Class I-B station in the U.S., KEX in Portland, Oregon. The nighttime broadcasts were branded as WOWO's Nighttime Skywave Service, the "Voice of a Thousand Main Streets." During the 1970s, the station's hourly legal identification (required by the FCC) stated: "50,000 watts on 1190, WOWO, Fort Wayne, Group W, Westinghouse Broadcasting."

Jay Gould spoke to many community organizations, relating the history of WOWO. Initially, the leading station in Detroit (WJR), Chicago (WLS), and Cincinnati (WLW) all competed for farmer listeners with agricultural reports. WOWO, almost equidistant between those three stations eventually captured that demographic, with the other three stations focusing on their urban and suburban areas. This benefitted WOWO as national advertisers saw WOWO as a regional station that would reach well into the backyards of those larger metropolises.

WOWO's clear-channel license permitted WOWO's radio personalities to gain some degree of fame throughout the eastern United States and Canada. They included Bob Sievers, the station's farm director, commentator and folk-philosopher. Also heard was Jay Gould, News Director Dugan Fry, meteorologist Earl Finckle, the "In a Little Red Barn (on a farm down in Indiana)" de facto theme song of WOWO, the Penny Pitch charity fund raisers, sports director Bob Chase's Komet Hockey broadcasts, the weather reports from WOWO's personnel on its studio's "world-famous fire escape," and husband-wife hosts of The Little Red Barn Show, music director Sam DeVincent and wife Nancy of "Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers", all were listened to by people from the Great Lakes to the United States' East Coast and Eastern Canada. Other memorable on-air personalities include Ron Gregory, Chris Roberts, Jack Underwood and Carol Ford.

WOWO's nighttime skywave service required WLIB in New York City, which also broadcasts at 1190 kHz, to operate during daylight hours only. But if WLIB could operate at night, it would become much more valuable to its owner, Inner City Broadcasting. So in 1994, Inner City bought WOWO, even though nearly all its other holdings were radio stations serving African American listeners. Inner City's intention was to reduce WOWO from a Class A to a Class B, giving up its clear-channel status, reducing power to 9,800 watts after sunset. This move permitted WLIB to broadcast around the clock, no longer needing to sign off to protect WOWO's nighttime clear-channel signal. This reduced WOWO's potential audience to a much smaller local region in northern Indiana, northwestern Ohio, and south-central Michigan. Before the power reduction, when WLIB signed off at night, WOWO could often be heard on the speakers in WLIB's studios.

1971 Emergency Broadcast System false alarm[edit]

On February 20, 1971, NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado was ready to broadcast a required weekly test of the Emergency Broadcast System. However, AT&T reported that the United States Air Force accidentally used the wrong tape for the test, and initiated an Emergency Action Notification, normally issued by the Office of Civil Defense or the President. This prompted all stations in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, area by order of the FCC to operate under emergency procedures and feed the broadcast from WOWO through their radios. Bob Sievers was at the microphone at WOWO at the time. Sievers and everyone at the studio had no idea what was going on.[11]

The WOWO recording is used in the song "Cold Call" by American progressive rock band OSI on their release Fire Make Thunder. The song that played before the EBS was "Doesn't Somebody Want to Be Wanted" by The Partridge Family, and the song played during and after the EBS was "The Theme From Love Story" by Henry Mancini.

WOWO today[edit]

WOWO currently has studios in a broadcast complex on Maples Road, on the south side of Fort Wayne. WOWO was the first Fort Wayne station to transmit in AM stereo. It later became the first Fort Wayne AM station to transmit with HD Radio technology. The station streams its programs over the Internet.

On weekdays, "Fort Wayne's Morning News," is hosted by long time market veteran Charly Butcher. Pat Miller, who had broadcast on Saturday mornings starting in April 2001, moved his program to the weekday afternoon drive time spot in May 2010. Nationally syndicated shows fill the rest of the weekday schedule: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Buck Sexton, Clyde Lewis and Coast to Coast AM with George Noory.

Weekend programming includes tech expert Kim Kommando, Dana Loesch, Bill Cunningham and Todd Starnes, as well as encores from Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity. There are also locally produced programs on money, health, cars, home improvement and agriculture, many of which are paid brokered programming. WOWO airs newscasts every 30 minutes, featuring local, national and international reports. Fox News Radio supplies world and national news updates. WOWO partners with ABC affiliate Channel 21 WPTA-TV for local weather and news.

WOWO broadcasts the Fort Wayne Komets ECHL hockey games and is the Fort Wayne home of the Indianapolis Colts football team. Bob Chase announced his retirement as Sports Director of WOWO after 56 years behind the mic, effective June 5, 2009. Chase was the voice of the Fort Wayne Komets until his death in November 2016 at the age of 90.[12]

FM simulcasts[edit]

Several FM stations over the years carried the WOWO-FM call letters. From 1940 to 1943, WOWO experimented with FM broadcasts as W49FW. WOWO-FM operated from 1943–1953 on 96.1 MHz. From 1988–1994, WOWO-FM in Huntington (now WJCI) broadcast at first on 103.1, then shifted to 102.9. The two stations aired an oldies music format.

On March 28, 2012 at noon, WOWO's news/talk format began to simulcast on 92.3 FM, with that station taking the WOWO-FM call letters. The station was previously classic rock WFWI.[13] The WOWO simulcast moved to newly launched translator station 107.5 W298BJ Fort Wayne, on December 14, 2015. 92.3 stopped simulcasting WOWO on January 1, 2016 and switched to a classic hits format, returning to the WFWI call sign.


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