|Broadcast area||Bangor area|
|First air date||December 1926|
|Power||5,000 watts day and night|
|Callsign meaning||The Dead ZONe|
|Former callsigns||WLBZ (1926–1981)
|Affiliations||CBS, Westwood One|
|Owner||The Zone Corporation|
|Sister stations||WKIT-FM, WZLO|
Along with sister stations 100.3 WKIT-FM and 103.1 WZLO, WZON is owned by The Zone Corporation, the broadcast company owned by authors Tabitha King and her husband, best-selling horror writer Stephen King. WZON operates at 5,000 watts, using a non-directional transmitter by day and a directional pattern at night to protect other stations on 620 kHz. It is one of Maine's oldest radio stations, first signing on the air in 1926.
WZON primarily broadcasts an oldies format, but airs a local afternoon talk show. Local newscasts from Bangor CBS affiliate WABI-TV 5 are carried in the early morning and in the early evening. Hourly national news is supplied by CBS Radio News.
WZON is one of the oldest radio stations in Maine. The station signed on in December 1926 as WLBZ, owned by Thompson L. Guernsey and operating from Dover-Foxcroft at 1440 kHz. It moved to 620 in 1928; the following year, the station moved to Bangor and was transferred to Maine Broadcasting Company, which was controlled by Guernsey. WLBZ was a CBS affiliate by 1930; in 1939, it switched to NBC. Guernsey first attempted to sell the station to the Rines family, owner of WCSH in Portland, in 1938; however, Guernsey did not complete the deal, leading the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to dismiss the application on June 18, 1940. However, in 1944, to help pay off an outstanding note, Guernsey was forced to sell WLBZ at auction to the Rines-controlled Eastland Broadcasting Company.
By 1973, WLBZ had a middle-of-the-road music format; three years later, the station adopted an all-news format via NBC's News and Information Service (NIS). After NBC closed NIS a year later, WLBZ returned to its previous format for a time before flipping to top 40 as "Z62" in 1978.
The Rines' broadcasting company, the Maine Broadcasting System, decided to sell their radio stations in the early 1980s to focus on their television properties (including WLBZ-TV, which the Rines had acquired in 1958); as a result, in 1981, WLBZ was sold to Acton Communications and became WACZ. Two years later, Stephen King purchased the station and implemented a rock format under the current WZON call letters. Though WZON attracted a loyal audience, it was financially unsuccessful, leading the station to begin operating on a noncommercial basis in 1988. Under this model, WZON began to ask for contributions from its listeners — similar to public radio stations.
King sold the station to Dr. John Tozer in 1990. Tozer returned WZON to commercial operation with a talk format (and was the first station in Bangor to carry Rush Limbaugh); however, it remained unprofitable, and after two years he sold the station to NEB Communications. Even after the sale, WZON's financial problems continued, with employees' paychecks bouncing and NEB falling behind on payments to both Tozer and King (who still owned the station's studios), and within months the station was forced into bankruptcy. In 1993, a bankruptcy court judge approved a sale of the station back to King, who began to shift WZON to an all-sports format that August; the last non-sports shows, including Limbaugh and Larry King, were dropped in January 1994.
WZON changed its format to progressive talk, simulcast with 103.1 WZON-FM, on November 1, 2010; this returned the station to political talk programming. The station retained its local sports broadcasts including Boston Celtics basketball. The morning show hosts were also retained, hosting an afternoon show on the AM side only, but were let go in May 2012 due to the station "losing too much money". Initially, the station carried CNN Radio newscasts; after CNN stopped providing radio newscasts on March 31, 2012, WZON switched to NBC News Radio, returning NBC-branded newscasts to the station for the first time in 13 years. WZON-FM dropped the progressive talk format in November 2012 (becoming WZLO), with the format continuing on the AM station. Outside of drive time, WZON's progressive talk format largely relied on nationally syndicated programs, including Thom Hartmann, Bill Press, Leslie Marshall, Marilu Henner, Clark Howard and Overnight America with Jon Grayson. After NBC News Radio shut down, WZON returned to its roots as an affiliate of the CBS Radio Network.
WZON dropped the progressive talk format in February 2018 and returned to the "Z62" branding with an oldies format; the station retained its afternoon talk show and simulcasts of WABI-TV newscasts. Prior to the format change, the station had been running "Z62 Throwback Weekends", offering a similar mix of music to the full-time oldies format.
In the past, WZON broadcast many high school sporting events, American Legion baseball games, Husson University athletic events, Boston Celtics basketball, Boston Red Sox baseball, as well as some Westwood One programming and other local events (such as the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race). Since the launch of WEZQ as a sports station in 2013, Celtics basketball, Husson University sports and Westwood One programming has moved to that station. In 2018, WEZQ acquired the rights to the Red Sox; following this move, Stephen King told the Bangor Daily News that "We had the rug pulled out from under us," and said that WZON was "never included in any negotiations with the Red Sox." WZON also has reduced its local sports broadcasts since the launch of WEZQ.
WZON was the long-time home of University of Maine sports until the summer of 2007, when the broadcasting rights were reassigned by the University of Maine and its media contractor Learfield Sports to WVOM and WGUY.
WZON often runs contests for local listeners, usually giving away tickets to upcoming professional sports events. Prizes often include Boston Red Sox playoff tickets, Boston Celtics playoff tickets, NASCAR event tickets, and more. In addition to these major contests, the local WZON shows include regular trivia segments with less valuable prizes, including pizzas and T-shirts.
WZON participates in the Jimmy Fund radio telethon and auction each summer. The station gathers local and national sports memorabilia and auctions it off to the highest bidder. Listeners have contributed thousands of dollars to the Jimmy Fund through this fund-raising mechanism over the years.
The station also brought Red Sox broadcasters and ESPN personalities to Bangor for special forums.
- Nelson, Bob (May 10, 2010). "Call Letter Origins: The List". Oldradio.com. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
- "WZON Facility Record". United States Federal Communications Commission, audio division.
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- Broadcasting/Cable Yearbook 1989 (PDF). 1989. p. B-132. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 10, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
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- Taylor, Page, ed. (October 1939). Radex (PDF). Teaneck, New Jersey: The Radex Publishing Company: 65 https://web.archive.org/web/20110514174444/http://www.davidgleason.com/Archive%20Radex/Radex%20132%20October%201939%20All.pdf. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 14, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2010. Missing or empty
- Thompson, Frederic L. (2005). "William Henry Rines and Images in the Ether". The Rines Family Legacy. Arcadia Publishing. p. 98. ISBN 0-7385-3882-5. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- "BANGOR DECISION OF FCC APPEALED" (PDF). Broadcasting. July 15, 1940. p. 63. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
- "WLBZ Transfer Granted Eastland Broadcasting" (PDF). Broadcasting. February 7, 1944. p. 14. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1974 (PDF). 1974. p. B-93. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 8, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1977 (PDF). 1977. p. C-92. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1978 (PDF). 1978. p. C-95. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1979 (PDF). 1979. p. C-97. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
- Fybush, Scott. "Maine Radio History, 1971–1996". Archives @ BostonRadio.org. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
- Broadcasting/Cablecasting Yearbook 1983 (PDF). 1983. p. B-107. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
- "Stephen King buys Maine radio station". Sun Journal. Lewiston, Maine. Associated Press. March 12, 1993. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
- Rogak, Lisa (2008). "The Long Walk". Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King. Thomas Dunne Books. p. 161. ISBN 0-312-37732-0. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
- Brown, Ron (August 25, 1993). "Dale Duff to head expanded sports coverage at WZON". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
- Neff, Andrew (October 18, 2010). "WZON is making a lineup change". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
- Fybush, Scott (May 7, 1999). "Rhythmic Oldies Claim Hartford, Rochester FMs". North East RadioWatch.
- Stephen King pulls plug on WZON sportscasters Dale Duff, Clem LaBree
- Venta, Lance (February 4, 2018). "WZON Flips To Oldies". RadioInsight. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
- Clark, Ernie; Warner, Pete (January 19, 2018). "'It was shabby treatment': Stephen King unhappy after Red Sox broadcast rights in Bangor awarded to 92.9 The Ticket". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved January 23, 2018.