|Broadcast area||Greater Cleveland (limited)|
|Branding||ESPN 1540 KNR2|
|First air date||June 1, 1947|
|Power||1,000 watts (daytime only)|
|Callsign meaning||Good Karma|
|Former callsigns||WJMO (1947–58)
Notre Dame Falcons
Ohio State IMG Sports Network
|Owner||Good Karma Brands
(Good Karma Broadcasting, LLC)
WWGK (1540 AM) – branded ESPN 1540 KNR2 – is a commercial daytime-only sports radio station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio, providing limited coverage to Greater Cleveland. Owned by Good Karma Brands, WWGK is one of two Cleveland affiliates for ESPN Radio; together, WWGK and sister station WKNR comprise a local sports radio duopoly known as ESPN Cleveland. WWGK also serves as a local affiliate for both The Jim Rome Show and the Ohio State IMG Sports Network, and the station airs local coverage of Notre Dame College of Ohio football. The WWGK studios and transmitter are located in Downtown Cleveland. In addition to a standard analog transmission, WWGK is available online.
WJMO (1540 AM)
The station's roots trace back to WJMO, which went on the air on June 1, 1947 licensed to Cleveland as a daytime-only broadcaster at 1540 kHz with studios at 2157 Euclid Avenue and a power of 1000 watts. The owner was Wentworth J. Marshall, formerly head of the Marshall Drug Co. chain, and the general manager was David M. Baylor. When it debuted, WJMO was the only Cleveland radio station without a network affiliation. As a result, the station specialized in recorded music. Early staff included Gene Carroll (mornings), Howie Lund (afternoons), and Billy Evans on sports.
In 1948 WJMO carried the football games of Western Reserve College Red Cats, both at home from League Park and on the road. In the first broadcast on September 25 Gil Gibbons called the action as Western Reserve met Western Michigan in Kalamazoo.
On June 5, 1952, in an attempt to emphaze music rather than DJs, Baylor issued an orders to play four songs every 15 minutes. As a result, a number of DJs chose to leave the station. Later than year, Wentworth sold the station on August 20 for $100,000 to Maryland-based United Broadcasting, headed by Richard Eaton. Ownership was later put in the name of Eaton's affiliated company Friendly Broadcasting of Ohio. An FM license was granted for the 106.5 MHz facility that was to take the WJMO-FM call letters, but it was slated to sign on by 1959.
Some of the Announcers at WJMO in the 1970s included Rudy Green, Wes Dickenson, Billy Black, Bill Taylor, Lynn Tolliver, John O'Day, J.L. Wright, Mike Payne, Mary Holt and Ken Hawkins to name a few.
WABQ (1540 AM)
Meanwhile, WSRS, which was founded by S.R. Sague on December 12, 1947, broadcast 24-hours a day on 1490 kHz licensed to suburban Cleveland Heights, and had an FM complement at 95.3 MHz. On January 14, 1959, WJMO bought WSRS (at 1490-AM and 95.3-FM) and exchanged respective callsigns, studios/facilities, and staffs. Both 1540-AM and 106.5-FM were sold off to Tuschman Broadcasting Company with the switch; the 1540 facility immediately became WABQ and the 106.5 facility instead signed on as WABQ-FM before switching to WXEN that next year, carrying an ethnic format.
Detroit-based Booth Broadcasting took ownership of WABQ and WXEN in the mid-1960s. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, both WABQ and WJMO focused on programming aimed at Cleveland's African American community, featuring mostly black on-air talent.
It was best known for a Top 40/R&B format as "Tiger Radio" in the late 1960s (Booth's WJLB in Detroit used the same "Tiger Radio" slogan at the time), featuring personalities like Lynn Tolliver and Ken Hawkins, Michael "The Lover" Payne and King Curtis Shaw, Jimmy O'jay, Jimmy Stephens, Jim Raggs and Eddie Edwards. Mike Dix, Rich Ford, Chuck Denson, Otis Rush and Duane Jones were just a few of the many news announcers the station featured during the late 1960s and early seventies. The station's popular "Ring-A-Ding" talk show featured Olympic gold medalist Harrison Dillard who also handled sportscasts. Gospel programming in the late weekday morning hours was presented by Cleveland's First Lady of Gospel, Mary Holt. Sundays featured wall-to-wall church programming with Denver Wilborn as host.
Throughout the late 1960s and into the early to mid-1970s WABQ and WJMO competed for listeners among Cleveland's African-American community with WJMO often enjoying a slight ratings edge due to its ability to remain on the air after local sunset.
In April 1968 WABQ received special temporary authority from the FCC to stay on the air overnight in an attempt to help inform and comfort the community following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The special authority to remain on the air 24 hours a day expired after just a day or two.
WABQ's heyday quietly faded into the 1970s and 1980s, and went through numerous format changes since. Booth Broadcasting sold off WABQ in 1984, and several different ownership changes followed as a result. Eventually, the station assumed a gospel music format and had local ownership for much of those years since.
ESPN 1540 KNR2
In July 2006, the station was sold by D&E Communications (headed by Dale Edwards) to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin-based Good Karma Broadcasting, LLC., headed by Craig Karmazin, for $2.5 million. Just before the sale closed, WABQ switched call letters with Painesville, Ohio station WBKC 1460-AM - owned by Radio Advantage One, LLC, a sister company to D&E Communications - on October 24, 2006.
Four days later, WABQ's programming officially moved to 1460, and the 1540 facility relauched as "ESPN Radio 1540" with a sports/talk format. The station temporarily kept the WBKC call letters before adopting the WWGK callsign that November 7.
WWGK's new format at 1540 first carried the entire ESPN Radio daytime lineup on its daytime only broadcasts, much like Good Karma-owned Milwaukee station WAUK. Speculation focused on plans to purchase nighttime clearance on WERE in order to have a 24-hour network clearance. Moreover, a companion "1540 Days - 1300 Nights" logo on WWGK's website had confirmed this, though it was since removed. There was never any official word that such an arrangement was ever attempted.
On December 4, 2006, Crain's Cleveland Business reported that Craig Karmazin's Good Karma Broadcasting was to purchase WKNR for $7 million, eventually combining both stations under one facility at The Galleria at Erieview.
On February 23, 2007, it was made official that WKNR would regain its former ESPN Radio affiliation, while WWGK would take the branding AM 1540 KNR2, (a play on ESPN2) in keeping with its sister station. In April 2010, the station began branding itself as ESPN 1540 KNR2. Today, WWGK and WKNR are often promoted on-air jointly as ESPN Cleveland.
The new schedule also made WWGK the Fox Sports Radio affiliate in Cleveland, but still retained ESPN Radio shows hosted by Colin Cowherd and Dan Patrick (whose time slot was eventually taken over by current midday host Scott Van Pelt), and the final hour of Mike and Mike in the Morning - all of which WKNR is unable to air otherwise. The station also started a 24-hour streaming audio service on its website.
On August 29, 2011, WKRK-FM 92.3 switched from alternative rock to a sports talk format, and (at the time) became the new Fox Sports Radio affiliate in Cleveland. AM 1540 then replaced FSR with further ESPN Radio programming.
WWGK mostly airs syndicated programming from ESPN Radio, including Mike and Mike in the Morning, The Dan Le Batard Show, and Russillo and Kanell with Ryen Russillo and Danny Kanell; in addition, WWGK airs The Jim Rome Show via Westwood One.
During football season, ESPN Cleveland personality Mark "Munch" Bishop hosts Falcon Football Weekly, a show focused on Notre Dame College of Ohio football. WWGK also airs: The Urban Meyer Call-In Show, a weekly update with the Ohio State football head coach via the Ohio State IMG Sports Network; and Varsity Chalk Talk, a nightly high school football oriented show.
The station airs a range of play-by-play programming from ESPN Radio, including MLB and NBA games, as well as coverage of NCAA football and men's basketball. KNR2 also airs play by play from Westwood One - including the NCAA Tournament, and The Masters.
WWGK also airs local coverage of Notre Dame College of Ohio football (although WWGK is a daytime-only station, the WWGK online feed continues to stream games into the night). The station also shares coverage of the MAC men's and women's basketball tournaments with sister station WKNR.
- "Cleveland update". RBR.com. Radio Business Report, Inc. December 6, 2006. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
It turns out that the station Craig Karmazin already owns in the market is WWGK 'ESPN 1540', so he will be creating a Sports/Talk duop with his acquisition of WKNR-AM...
- "WJMO in Cleveland Started Yesterday" (PDF). Broadcasting. June 1, 1947. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- AM 1540's Early Years (Case Western Reserve University)
- "ESPN Radio Schedule". ESPNRadio.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
- Press release (July 18, 2013). "The New Cleveland Browns Daily". ESPNCleveland.com. Good Karma Brands and ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
... ESPN Cleveland will move the Jim Rome Show to ESPN 1540 KNR2 so that all three hours of the show will air contiguously.
- ESPN Cleveland staff (October 10, 2014). "Brian Windhorst to join ESPN Cleveland's Cavaliers Coverage". ESPNCleveland.com. Good Karma Brands and ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
- Press release (July 23, 2013). "ESPN Cleveland Extends Partnership with Ohio State IMG Radio Network". ESPNCleveland.com. Good Karma Brands and ESPN Internet Ventures. Archived from the original on September 17, 2013. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
- Hare, Steve (July 13, 2013). "Varsity Chalk Talk to air live on ESPN Cleveland". OhioVarsity.com. Ohio Varsity. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
- "KNR2 Weekly Broadcast Schedule". ESPNCleveland.com. Good Karma Brands and ESPN Internet Ventures. 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
- Snow, Skip; Barch, Andy (July 10, 2010). "Letter-perfect: NDC on ESPN". NotreDameFalcons.com. Notre Dame College Athletics. Retrieved November 10, 2014.