|Broadcast area||Greater Cleveland
|Branding||Newsradio WTAM 1100|
|First air date||September 26, 1923|
|Power||50,000 watts (unlimited)|
|Callsign meaning||AM band|
|Former callsigns||KYW (1956–1965)
|Former frequencies||750 kHz (1923–1926)
770 kHz (1926–1927)
1070 kHz (1927–1941)
|Affiliations||City Club of Cleveland
Cleveland Cavaliers Radio Network
Cleveland Indians Radio Network
Fox News Radio
Fox Sports Radio
Total Traffic and Weather Network
(Citicasters Licenses, Inc.)
|Sister stations||WAKS, WGAR-FM, WHLK, WMJI, WMMS|
WTAM (1100 AM) – branded Newsradio WTAM 1100 – is a commercial news/talk radio station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio, serving Greater Cleveland and much of surrounding Northeast Ohio. Owned by iHeartMedia, Inc., WTAM is a clear-channel station with an extended nighttime range, often identifying itself as The Big One. WTAM serves as the Cleveland affiliate for Fox News Radio, The Glenn Beck Program, The Rush Limbaugh Show, and Coast to Coast AM; the AM flagship station for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians radio networks; and the home of radio personality Mike Trivisonno. The WTAM studios are located in the Cleveland suburb of Independence, while the station's transmitter resides in nearby Brecksville. Besides a standard analog transmission, WTAM had also broadcast over a single HD Radio channel (HD Radio transmission off air since 2013) and is available online via iHeartRadio.
The station first carried the WTAM call letters from 1923 to 1956; assigned sequentially by the FCC, the letters were later treated as a backronym for "Where The Artisans Meet." The station re-adopted the same call letters in 1996 to reinforce the station's position on the AM band; station management considered the historical tie "a nice bonus, but... more incidental than anything else."
WTAM began broadcast operations on September 26, 1923. It was one of several stations that started between 1922 and 1923 with a call sign assigned sequentially by the Commerce Department with "W" as the first letter and "A" as the third. It was originally owned by S.E. Lawrence and Theodore Willard, in the name of the Willard Storage Battery Company. Initially the station only offered three hours of nightly programming, but soon expanded its on-air lineup. Studios were located in the Willard factory on Taft Avenue at East 131st Street. By June 30, 1924, WTAM was broadcasting with 1000 watts and sharing the 770 kHz frequency with WJAX.
WJAX had signed on earlier in 1922, owned by the Union Trust Co. In 1924 it was known as the "Wave from Lake Erie." Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. purchased WJAX in 1925 and changed to the callsign to WEAR. Finally, Willard Battery purchased WEAR to have control of shared frequency allocation.
WTAM was the first radio station to broadcast coverage of a political convention when it covered the 1924 Republican National Convention at Cleveland's Public Auditorium on June 10–12, 1924. The station's power increased to 2500 watts in 1925 and to 3500 watts in 1926, as the studios moved to the Union Trust Building (now the Huntington Building). By June 30, 1927, WTAM and WEAR broadcast on 750 kHz with WTAM broadcasting with 3500 watts. The January 31, 1928 Radio Service Bulletin of the Commerce Department listed WTAM broadcasting with 3500 watts at night and 5000 watts during the day.
After Willard Battery threatened to close the station, WTAM and WEAR were purchased by the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (now part of FirstEnergy) and the Van Sweringen brothers on May 31, 1928. In a statement announcing the purchase, the new owners declared, "Recognizing the fact that this radio station is a civic asset to the Greater Cleveland district and that the cessation of its operation would be a real loss, the Van Sweringen interests and the Illuminating Co. entered into arrangements to continue it. Every effort will be made to maintain the station on a plane which will make it of maximum value to the community."
When the new Federal Radio Commission instituted General Order 40 after the passage of the Radio Act of 1927, WTAM along with sister station WEAR (at that point absorbed into WTAM entirely) claimed the clear channel frequency allocated to Cleveland, and on November 11, 1928 it began broadcasting at 1070 kHz with WTAM broadcasting at 50,000 watts. In 1929 the station built two broadcast towers in Brecksville, Ohio, each 200 feet high.
The NBC years
With its national prominence as a clear channel giant established, WTAM became a valuable radio property. NBC purchased WTAM on October 16, 1930, and the studios were moved to the Auditorium Building. The station became a major link in the NBC Red Network, contributing some programming to the network. Around 1930, Gene Carroll and Glenn Rowell brought their vaudeville humor to WTAM with the Gene and Glenn show. The duo became famous for their characters "Jake & Lena". WTAM originated the program for nationwide broadcast on the NBC Red Network and it aired six days a week for five years.
NBC began to make substantial investments to station facilities in the 1930s. In 1937 a new tower was built in Brecksville which was 480 feet tall. That tower is still in use today by WTAM and FM stations WAKS, a WTAM sister station, and WZAK. In 1937 or 1938, the station moved to 815 Superior Avenue, and the building was renamed the NBC building. (The building is known today as the Superior Building.) On March 29, 1941, with the implementation of NARBA, WTAM moved its broadcast frequency from 1070 to 1100 kHz, maintaining its clear-channel status.
During the 1940s, the station continued to contribute some programming to the NBC radio network. On March 19, 1946 Bob Hope brought his Tuesday night 10 pm Pepsodent radio show to Cleveland along with Jerry Colonna, Frances Langford and the Skinnay Ennis Orchestra for a broadcast on the NBC radio network. Guests included Ohio Governor Frank Lausche. Recordings of this program are still available from collectors of old radio programs.
WTAM also broadcast the 1948 World Series games of the Cleveland Indians against the Boston Braves, with announcers Jim Britt and Mel Allen. In 1951, WTAM originated an NBC Radio Network broadcast of the Cleveland Orchestra.
NBC also expanded its broadcasting interests in Cleveland beyond AM radio. On October 31, 1948, NBC launched a sister television outlet, WNBK, on channel 4. A few weeks later, on December 6, 1948, sister station WTAM-FM began broadcasting on 105.7 MHz, simulcasting the AM programming.
The broadcast tower for WTAM AM-FM and WNBK was moved to Parma, Ohio in the early 1950s. The AM radio outlet continued to use the Parma tower until 1974, when transmissions were moved back to the original broadcast tower in Brecksville.
KYW: The Westinghouse years
In late 1955, NBC persuaded Westinghouse to trade its Philadelphia stations, KYW radio and WPTZ television (now KYW-TV) in return for NBC's Cleveland properties and $3 million in cash compensation. NBC had long wanted to own a station in Philadelphia, the nation's third-largest market at the time. The swap went into effect on January 22, 1956.
Westinghouse wanted to keep the historic KYW callsign, which had been Chicago's oldest radio facility before being transferred to Philadelphia on December 3, 1934. Therefore, on February 13, 1956, the Cleveland stations became KYW-AM-FM-TV; the Philadelphia stations became WRCV-AM-TV. The WTAM callsign was later picked up by WGLS in Atlanta, Georgia.
In the early 1960s, under Westinghouse ownership KYW, known on-air as "KY11," became a Top 40 powerhouse with disc jockeys Jim Runyon (the "weeeellll" voice of the Chickenman series), Jim Stagg, Jay Lawrence, Jerry G., and the morning duo of Harry Martin and Specs Howard. Its main Top 40 rival in the Cleveland market was "Color Channel 14" WHK, at 1420 AM.
Almost immediately after the trade was finalized, Westinghouse complained to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Justice Department about NBC's coercion. It was discovered that Westinghouse only agreed to the trade when NBC made implications that it would pull its television programming from WPTZ and Westinghouse's other NBC affiliate, WBZ-TV in Boston. In 1964, after a protracted legal battle, the FCC ordered the swap of stations reversed without NBC realizing any profit on the deal. NBC regained control of the Cleveland stations on June 19, 1965 and changed their call letters to WKYC-AM-FM-TV, which kept the popular "KY" slogan and identity Westinghouse brought into Cleveland.
To this day, the KYW stations insist that they "moved" to Cleveland in 1956 and "returned" to Philadelphia in 1965. However, the two stations' facilities remained the same.
WKYC continued as a Top 40 outlet–the only such-formatted station under NBC ownership-with DJs Harry Martin, Specs Howard, Jay Lawrence and Jerry G holding over from KYW/Westinghouse. When Program Director Ken Draper left for Chicago's WCFL in early 1965 (prior to the ownership change), both Jim Stagg and Jim Runyon wasted no time following him. Bill Winters came in about this time. Jim LaBarbara was wooed away from a 3-day stint at WIXY to do evening prime time. Chuck Dann and KLIF's morning duo Charlie and Harrigan signed on. Jim Gallant was doing overnights.
In late 1966, popular afternoon DJ Jerry G (Jerry Ghan) also decided to follow Draper to WCFL. He was replaced by WIXY's evening man Jack Armstrong, who then decided to call himself Big Jack. LaBarbara was moved to overnight to accommodate Armstrong's installation as the evening jock.
In early 1967, the on air staff consisted of: LaBarbara, overnight; Charlie and Harrigan, morning drive; Bob Cole, late morning; Jay Lawrence, mid afternoons; Chuck Dann, afternoon drive; and Big Jack in the prime time slot.
WKYC "Radio 11" was a large record-selling influence as far away as New York City and Miami. However, its main local competition in those days was WIXY 1260 "Super Radio". Unlike WIXY, WKYC – being an NBC owned-and-operated station in a situation not unlike WRC in Washington – was obligated to carry all NBC Radio programming such as the weekend Monitor, as well as all top-of-the-hour NBC Radio newscasts. The NBC Radio afternoon daily network news feed was also based from WKYC's studios and anchored by Virgil Dominic, who also served as WKYC-TV's lead news anchor.
On February 1, 1968, at 3:05 pm, following an NBC Radio newscast, the station altered its presentation to "Power Radio", a derivative of the Drake-Chenault-created "Boss Radio" Top-40 format, programmed for WKYC by Hal Moore. The new sound emphasized "more music" with less chatter between songs and a tighter playlist. Personalities at that time included Charlie & Harrigan (Jack Woods and Paul Menard), Bob Shannon, Chuck Dunaway, Lee 'Baby' Sims, Fred Winston, and Buddy Harrison.
It remained a Top 40 station until early 1969, when WKYC went, for a short time, to "Heavy 11" which focused on acid rock artists Iron Butterfly, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Janis Joplin, and the like – an oddity for a powerful AM station. In short while, WKYC eventually went back to a more adult-friendly MOR format. The FM station at 105.7 varied between automated easy-listening formats of the time.
By 1972, NBC left radio in Cleveland again – this time for good – by selling WKYC-AM-FM to Ohio Communications, owned by sports franchiser Nick Mileti and broadcasters Jim and Tom Embrescia.; NBC ended up retaining ownership of WKYC-TV until 1991.
The AM radio station's call letters were changed to WWWE (for Embrescia, though Mileti was 1100's majority owner) and WKYC-FM became WWWM (for Mileti, though Embrescia was 105.7's majority owner), both on November 7, 1972. The FM station took the "M105" on-air persona, while the AM station adopted the "3WE" brand. Mileti also owned both the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Cavaliers; the radio broadcasts for both teams were moved from WERE (1300 AM) to WWWE.
Pete Franklin also moved from WERE and took over an evening sports call-in show called Sportsline. The program aired from 7 pm to 12 midnight every weeknight, and followed the Indians and Cavaliers games. Franklin became a legend, bragging that his station’s nighttime signal could be heard "over 38 states and half of Canada" (a claim still stated on-air by hosts on WTAM to this day), and he soon developed a listenership throughout the country. Franklin stayed with the station until 1987, when he left for WFAN in New York.
In addition to Franklin, the daytime lineup included at one time or another, Jim Runyon, Larry Morrow, Phil McLean, Jim Davis, Jack Reynolds, Tony Matthews, Jeff Elliot, Johnny Andrews, Lanny Wheeler, Ted Alexander and Bill King. During the 1970s and 1980s, formats included AC, oldies, country, and MOR. Ownership of "3WE" also changed hands numerous times, having a succession of owners. In 1977, the station was sold to the Pacific & Southern Co. (where it again dropped its NBC network affiliation) and the Gannett Co. (ironically, the current owners of WKYC-TV).
The station had a new generation of listeners who only knew it as "3WE," while the historic WTAM callsign ended up being used by the 102.3 facility in Gulfport, Mississippi. WWWM passed over into separate ownership in 1975, and was paired with WBBG in the late 1970s. "M105" changed to "Majic 105.7" as WMJI with a soft AC format in 1982.
Lake Erie Broadcasting (owned by Art Modell and Al Lerner) purchased the station in 1985. The station became "Radio 11 WWWE" with a news/talk format, adopting a popular news/talk format from the former WJW-AM, which Lake Erie had sold to buy WWWE (and became WRMR in the process). Talent on the "new" WWWE included news director John O'Day, and news staffers Ed Coury, Lisa Meyer, Bruce Kamp, Jim Bellis, and talk hosts Merle Pollis, Joel Rose, John McCullough, among others.
WWWE was sold to the Independent Group Ltd. (owned by Tom Embrescia, Tom Wilson and Larry Pollock) on November 30, 1987, where it once again became "3WE" – the home to popular local "shock jock" Gary Dee in afternoon drive. However, the station continued to go through numerous talent turnover regardless. At one point or another, Fig Newton, ""Dancin" Danny Wright", Beth Fisher, Bob Henderson, Lee Kirk, Geoff Sindelar and Bruce Drennan would all appear on WWWE during this time.
In 1990, WWWE was purchased by Booth American Co., based out of Detroit. WWWE became affiliated with ABC Radio, and its news department was taken to a 24-hour operation. Studios were moved to the Western Reserve Building on West Ninth Street overlooking the Flats. Ed Coury, former newsman, was brought in from Washington, D.C. to host the morning news program, and later, to be the station's News Director. WWWE added both Paul Harvey (dropped from WGAR-FM) and Rush Limbaugh (dropped from WERE) to its schedule, but ended its radio contract with the Cleveland Indians following the 1991 season. After ending its contract with the Indians, WWWE signed Craig Carton an evening sports-talk host, paired with local sports journalist Mike Snyder. Carton currently co-hosts the morning show on WFAN in New York, while Snyder continues at WTAM.
In April 1994, Booth merged with Broadcast Alchemy to form Secret Communications LP, which owned the station through the remainder of its tenure as WWWE. It was at this time Gary Bruce was hired away from WIOD in Miami as program director, and soon began making sweeping changes to the lineup.
Two new hosts were brought in from WIOD; first Chuck Meyer for morning drive, followed by "shock-jock" Jaz McKay from 9 am to noon. The former WMMS morning team of "Jeff 'n Flash" (Jeff Kinzbach and Ed "Flash" Ferenc) were reunited in afternoon-drive with "Rock 'n Roll Talk Radio," and former "Sportsline" caller Mike Trivisonno – dubbed "Mr. Know It All" derisively by Pete Franklin – took over as host of "Sportsline" in the 6 pm–11 p.m. slot.
Eventually, Rich Michaels joined WWWE in May 1995 in the midday position, and Jaz McKay moved to the 11 pm to 2 am slot. Unfortunately, WWWE itself would make news on January 23, 1996, when its traffic plane hit a cellular phone tower and crashed in Highland Hills. Traffic reporter James Endsley (who was known on-air as Fred Wesley) and pilot James McVeigh were killed.
In 1996, ownership decided to replace the WWWE call letters. The station was temporarily branded as "Newsradio AM 1100" during this time, and in searching for a new "AM"-related callsign, it found that the original WTAM call was available. On July 26, 1996, the station once again became WTAM, forty years after having dropped the call letters. The WWWE call sign was later assigned to a 5000 watt daytime station in Atlanta (which coincidentally also broadcasts on 1100 kHz).
On April 25, 1997, Jacor Communications announced the purchase of WTAM along with WLTF from Secret Communications LP. Then on August 19, Jacor also announced the purchase of WKNR from Cablevision Systems Corp. WKNR had the rights to Cleveland Indians baseball, which Jacor moved to WTAM beginning with the 1998 season. Jacor then was forced to swap WKNR with Capstar Broadcasting’s WTAE in Pittsburgh that August as part of the Justice Department settlement when Jacor purchased Nationwide Communications. WTAE was then quickly spun off to ABC Radio. In May 1999, Clear Channel Communications completed its $6.5 billion purchase of Jacor and its 454 stations, including WTAM (reuniting the station with its former 105.7 FM counterpart, now named WMJI).
As the Indians flagship station, and picking up some popular nationally syndicated talk shows, such as Dr. Laura Schlessinger (who replaced Rich Michaels) and Coast to Coast AM, WTAM began to build – and sustain – an audience. Unlikely success was found with Mike Trivisonno in 1996 after he was moved into the afternoon-drive shift and eventually became a lead-in to the Indians and Cavaliers broadcasts.
In 1998, Bill Wills was brought in from sister station WLW in Cincinnati and was paired with long-time Cleveland radio veterans John Webster and Casey Coleman to host Wills, Webster and Coleman in the Morning – a morning drive news show patterned after Wills' show on WLW. (Webster retired in 2001, and the morning shows' title was shortened to Wills and Coleman).
Glenn Beck replaced Dr. Laura Schlessinger in the 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. daypart, which she aired during from 1997 to 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Then, Beck was replaced in March 2005 with Jerry Springer's mid-morning show. On March 2006, WTAM replaced Springer with a local program hosted by Bob Frantz, coming over from Clear Channel sister station WSPD in Toledo. Beck's show was then brought back on November 3, 2008, bumping Frantz to evenings (Frantz has since left the station).
Studios for all of Clear Channel's Cleveland stations, including WTAM, were consolidated into a new facility in Independence, Ohio by July 2002. WTAM canceled its fifteen-year affiliation with ABC Radio in August 2005, picking up Fox News Radio in a nationwide deal that involved other Clear Channel talk stations, but continued to run ABC Radio's Paul Harvey until August 12, 2006.
On November 27, 2006, Casey Coleman, who was co-host of the popular Wills and Coleman morning show, and sideline reporter on the station's coverage of the Cleveland Browns, died following a fifteen-month bout with pancreatic cancer at the age of 55. Sports director Mike Snyder was brought into the morning slot to succeed Casey, and the program was renamed Wills and Snyder.
The station was one of 10 stations awarded the 2007 Crystal Radio Award for public service awarded by the National Association of Broadcasters. Winners were honored at the Radio Luncheon on April 17, 2007, during the NAB Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Longtime WTAM personalities Bill Wills and Mike Snyder host Wills and Snyder weekday mornings, which is then followed by The Spew, an hour-long debate between longtime Cleveland radio personalities John Lanigan and Mike Trivisonno. Middays include conservative talk shows The Glenn Beck Program and The Rush Limbaugh Show, both via Premiere Networks. Local program The Mike Trivisonno Show airs weekday afternoons, which Talkers Magazine ranked 72nd in its 2015 "Heavy Hundred" list. Station sportscaster Nick Camino hosts an evening sports talk show. Paranormal/conspiracy theory oriented programs Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis, and Coast to Coast AM with George Noory air late evenings through the overnight hours, both via Premiere. WTAM also airs drive time weather updates via WKYC.
WTAM airs several weekend talk programs, including: At Home with Gary Sullivan; The Mutual Fund Show; Somewhere in Time with host Art Bell; and Live on Sunday Night with host Bill Cunningham. In addition, John B. Wells and George Knapp host Saturday and Sunday nights editions of Coast to Coast AM, respectively (all via Premiere). WTAM also airs Fox Sports Radio programming on weekends, and satisfies public affairs programming on Sunday mornings with the City Club of Cleveland's Friday Forum.
Cavaliers Radio Network programming features The Cavs Insider Radio Show with Mike Snyder Monday nights during the season. And from the Indians Radio Network, Tribe Talk with Jim Rosenhaus airs year round Saturdays.
WTAM airs local pregame and postgame shows for Cleveland Indians broadcasts. Tribe Insider (airing 30 minutes prior to the network pregame show), is hosted by Nick Camino. Extra Innings with Nick Camino airs for 90 minutes following the network postgame show. Extra Innings will not air after weekday day games or games that have a start time of 9 p.m. ET or later on weeknights (in those cases, regular programming resumes following the network postgame show).
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