|Broadcast area||Johnstown, Pennsylvania
|Slogan||The Laurel Highlands' Rock Station|
|First air date||July 15, 1962 (as WEND-FM at 103.9)|
|Former callsigns||WEND-FM (1962-1972)
|Former frequencies||103.9 MHz (1962-1966)|
|Owner||Forever Broadcasting of Johnstown, LLC|
WRKW (99.1 FM) is a commercially licensed radio station, licensed to Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. The station is owned by Forever Broadcasting of Johnstown and maintains studios and offices at 109 Plaza Drive in Johnstown. WRKW operates at the federally assigned frequency of 99.1 Megahertz with an effective radiated power of 50,000 watts. A 175 watt subchannel W230BK is on 93.9 to serve Johnstown. There is a relation with WRKY in Altoona, Pennsylvania in that they are part of Forever Broadcasting.
For much of its existence, WRKW was known as WIYQ, first signing on the air as WEND-FM on July 15, 1962 from studios on Center Street in downtown Ebensburg, its licensed community. The station, along with its like-named AM sister station was founded by Cary H. Simpson, who also founded the Allegheny Mountain Network based in Tyrone just 11 years before. This station originally broadcast on the frequency of 103.9 FM, but moved to 99.1 in 1966, which brought a power increase to 10,000 watts.
Years later, as Johnstown's economy prospered, the station moved to 1240 Scalp Avenue in Richland Township, where it became more of a regional station serving West Central Pennsylvania.
Throughout its existence, WIYQ went through a series of different formats, from middle-of-the-road to a brief period of top-40 in the late-1980s programmed by John Harlow who also did mornings with Tor Michaels. Matt Swayne did middays, Brian Tercek did afternoons and Dave Snyder did nights.
What WIYQ particularly became well known for was a local polka show broadcast every Sunday afternoon.
"Jo-Jo's Polka Swing" debuted in 1972, and remained a staple of WIYQ's programming for twenty years, becoming one of the most successful programs on the station, with listeners calling in from as far away as Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs. Joe Vesnesky, a Glendale High School History Teacher by trade who also did sports play-by-play for another area station, hosted the show, gaining an especially strong following because of his mastery of the native Polish language and the powerful signal of WIYQ, which reached 27 counties in three states.
Air personality "Country Ron" took over the morning show at WIYQ in 1974 and soon developed a huge following among the areas Country Music fans and hosted several live broadcasts from the nearby Cambria County Fairgrounds. Ron Kauffman graduated from Glendale High School and had been a student of Joe Vesnesky. Ron once introduced Kitty Wells, the 'Queen of Country Music' to the stage at a local high school.
The End of an Era
After 31 years, the station's history as WIYQ came to sad end as the station was sold to TMZ Broadcasting of State College for $440,000. Gone were the popular oldies music and Jo-Jo's Polka Swing, which would resurface years later at a 5,000 watt AM radio station in Philipsburg.
WIYQ then became known as WQKK, or "Quick Rock", operating as a satellite of rocker WQWK in State College. The station was purchased by TMZ as part of a strategic move to increase its presence in Johnstown and Altoona. WQWK's weaker signal at 97.1 did not have the ability to reach Johnstown at all, while barely touching Altoona. The much-stronger 99.1 signal helped WQWK penetrate these areas. WQKK and WGLU would later swap frequencies, with WQKK moving to the much weaker 92.1 signal, while WGLU took over 99.1, branding itself "Power 99.1".
92.1 The Rock
After the move to 92.1, WQKK rebranded itself "The Rock", and played a mix of classic and new rock. WQKK aired specialty shows on weeknights such as "The '80s at 8", "Led Before Bed" (a three-song segment of Led Zeppelin airing weeknights at 9pm), and "Mandatory Metallica" at 11pm.
In 2005 both WQKK and WGLU were purchased by Forever Broadcasting (who along with a subsidiary company own most of the commercial radio stations in the Johnstown market) then reverted to their original frequencies so the CHR station could serve the populated areas, and 99.1 could reach a wider portion of the market and took its current call sign of WRKW from 92.1, and a new name, Rocky 99. At the same time the primarily rock based station then began a shift within its format, mostly playing 'classic' rock and oldies songs over 30 years old, while still occasionally playing newer rock, similar to the former 92.1 The Rock. This changed in November 2014 when the station began airing Westwood One Rock 2.0 mainly playing rock from the 90s to today while still occasionally playing classic rock and airing Alice Cooper at night. In June 2016 Rocky 99 became a full classic rock station with Westwood One Classic Rock Local providing the programming. However the station does have a live local morning and afternoon show with some weekend programming being local as well.
Sports on Rocky99
WRKW is a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network, carrying pre-game and post-game coverage along with the games themselves. The Steeler games are primarily run by legendary board-op, John Walko, of Windber. John has been running sporting events in the Johnstown area for parts of three decades. Also to note, John did mornings on WIYQ.
- WRKW official website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WRKW
- Radio-Locator information on WRKW
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WRKW