|Broadcast area||Marion-Carbondale, Illinois|
|Branding||TAO Rock 105|
|First air date||1970|
|HAAT||94 meters (308 ft)|
|Former callsigns||WTAO (1969-1982)|
|Sister stations||WDDD-FM, WFRX, WHET, WMIX, WMIX-FM, WVZA|
WTAO-FM (105.1 FM, "TAO Rock 105") is an active rock music formatted radio station licensed to Murphysboro, Illinois, and serving the Carbondale, Illinois, Arbitron market. Formerly owned by Clear Channel, it is now owned by Withers Broadcasting. Prior to Clear Channel's ownership, WTAO-FM was owned by Cumulus Media.
WTAO was established in 1970 for $14,000 by Bill Varecha as a freeform format FM station serving mainly the Carbondale market. The WTAO studio and broadcasting tower were located on "Fiddlers Ridge" in Murphysboro, Illinois, broadcasting on 104.9 FM. Varecha first pioneered FM rock radio at KNAC FM Long Beach California in 1967 and CHOM Montreal before bringing the new rock formats to WTAO FM and his collage graduation site. He later founder KKCO TV NBC Grand Junction, Colorado and other stations.
From 1970 until December 1981, WTAO played mainly deep album rock but aired an eclectic variety of music and other programming including jazz, bluegrass, folk, country rock and jazz fusion as well as serialized radio theater such as The Fourth Tower of Inverness In addition to syndicated programming such as a broadcast version of the Mother Earth News and the King Biscuit Flower Hour. Live performances by local musicians were sometimes aired as well. In the early 1970s, early Sunday morning broadcasting included recordings of lectures by Baba Ram Dass. In later years, Sunday morning religious programming included "Jesus Solid Rock". Varecha, who currently owns Colorado station KRYD, sold WTAO for $700,000 in 1981. To the disappointment of many longtime listeners, programming changed overnight from free format album rock to a much more limited format that included current hits.
According to station personnel from that period, before the sale, new albums were made available to DJs with suggested songs. Songs played from those albums were tracked to avoid playing any song more than once on the same day. For the bulk of any shift DJs were free to play whatever they wanted from the station's extensive album collection. These radio personalities often curated theme-based broadcasts in response to current social and weather conditions as well as audience requests. After the format change, there was a card file of "soft album rock" songs mixed with current hit songs. DJs played through the songs on the cards and nothing else was allowed on the air.
WTAO-FM and sister station WVZA (92.7 FM) swapped frequencies in 2009 to accommodate WVZA's Southern Illinois University sports broadcasts. On July 23, 2018, it was announced that the stations would return to their original dial positions, effective August 1, 2018.
- "Broadcast & Cable". Retrieved 2008-05-01.
- "Cumulus Media". Archived from the original on February 12, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
- https://issuu.com/thespotmag/docs/august_2010/10?ff=true Page 23
- unpublished interview with WTAO staff from the early 1980s
- "Withers Swaps WTAO & WVZA In Southern Illinois Again - RadioInsight". RadioInsight. 2018-07-31. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WTAO
- Radio-Locator information on WTAO
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WTAO