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WHKW logo.png
CityCleveland, Ohio
Broadcast areaGreater Cleveland
Northeast Ohio
Frequency1220 kHz
BrandingAM 1220 The Word
SloganCleveland's Christian Talk
AffiliationsBowling Green Falcons
Cleveland State Vikings
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
OwnerSalem Communications
(Salem Communications Holding Corporation)
First air date
May 15, 1924 (1924-05-15)
Former call signs
WDBK (1924–27)
WFJC (1927–30)
WGAR (1930–90)
WKNR (1990–2001)
WHKC (2001)
WHK (2001–05)
WHKZ (2005)
Former frequencies
1450 kHz (1924–41)
1480 kHz (1941–44)
Call sign meaning
Artifact of previous WHK (1220 AM) call sign
Technical information
Licensing authority
Facility ID14772
Power50,000 watts (unlimited)
Transmitter coordinates
41°18?26.00?N 81°41?21.00?W / 41.3072222°N 81.6891667°W / 41.3072222; -81.6891667
Translator(s)96.9W245CY (Cleveland)
Public license information

WHKW (1220 AM) – branded AM 1220 The Word – is a commercial Christian radio station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio, serving Greater Cleveland and much of surrounding Northeast Ohio. Owned by Salem Communications, WHKW is a flagship station for Cleveland State Vikings men's basketball[1] a local affiliate for the Salem Radio Network, and the Cleveland outlet for Bowling Green Falcons football and Notre Dame Fighting Irish football.[2] The WHKW studios are located in the Cleveland suburb of Independence, and the station transmitter resides in neighboring Broadview Heights. Besides a standard analog transmission, WHKW is available online.


Early years

WHKW began as WDBK on May 15, 1924, broadcasting with 250 watts of power. The station was owned by Stanley Broz, in the name of the M.F. Broz Furniture, Hardware and Radio Co., and was located at 13918 Union Avenue in Cleveland. The station moved to Boltan Square Hotel on Carnegie Avenue in 1925, and was using the slogan, "Broadcasting from Cleveland." In September 1927, Broz sold the station to William F. Jones, and WDBK was taken off the air. The station relocated to the Akron Beacon Journal building in Akron, and resumed broadcast operations in November 1927 as WFJC, the new call letters being derived from the owner's initials. Sam Townshend was listed as co-owner, and the first two announcers were Cyril Jones and Jerry McKiernam.[3][4]


Jones sold the station to George A. Richards of Detroit in September 1930, and Richards moved the station back to Cleveland.[5] He obtained a new callsign based on his initials, and WGAR signed on the air on December 15, 1930. WGAR was part of the Goodwill Station group that included WJR and KMPC, both also owned by Richards.

In 1937, WGAR became Cleveland's CBS affiliate. On October 30, 1938, it broadcast The Mercury Theatre on the Air's The War of the Worlds, and it was left to a young staff announcer named Jack Paar to go on the air and calm Cleveland listeners by telling them that the program was only a dramatization. WGAR produced some programs for the CBS network, one of the notable ones being Wings Over Jordan, a popular Sunday morning CBS show that had the widest audience of any African-American broadcast.

1970s station logo as WGAR

Originally at 1450 kHz, WGAR switched to 1480 kHz on March 29, 1941 during the NARBA frequency shift, and then to 1220 kHz on June 4, 1944. On July 4, 1947, WGAR increased its power from 5,000 to 50,000 watts[6] during daytime hours. WGAR was the flagship station for Cleveland Browns broadcasts from 1946 to 1949, 1954, and from 1956 to 1961; during the Browns' last run at the station (as WGAR), Bill McColgan provided the play-by-play commentary, while Jim Graner served as color commentator.[7] Richards died in May 1951, and WGAR was purchased in 1953 by People's Broadcasting Corp., a company that had been founded seven years earlier by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation to serve rural communities. People's Broadcasting became Nationwide Broadcasting, a subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance in 1954. WJR itself was sold to Capital Cities Communications and KMPC was purchased by Gene Autry.[8]

With the demise of network radio, the rise of television, and the emergence of Top 40 powerhouses like KYW, WERE and WHK in the 1950s, WGAR had to try various music formats as a result. The station settled into a middle of the road (MOR) format throughout this whole time, with literary professor Tom Armstrong in the morning slot for much of this period. Joe Black and Sid Andorn were also popular longtime personalities. The station's news director was Charlie Day. The station broadcast from studios in the penthouse suite of the Statler-Hilton Hotel on Euclid Avenue, downtown.

FM installations at 99.5 MHz were launched in 1948, but WGAR-FM never saw more than a few hours of operation per week. By the late 60s, the FM broadcast automated easy listening music from 6 AM to Midnight from a few tape reels behind the master control room.

In 1970, Jack Thayer (later of the NBC Network all news station format) was brought in to manage WGAR, and both the AM and FM stations made several dramatic moves. Long only on the air for pure technical purposes, WGAR-FM then went to a 24-hour operation as WNCR, (Nationwide Communications Radio) and adopted a progressive rock format that was tapped two years earlier by WMMS. The AM side saw a format shift to adult contemporary and several MOR personalities, including "Emperor Joe" Mayer, Bob Vernon (Cosart), Chuck Collier (who remained with WGAR-FM until his death in September 2011),[9] and Norm N. Nite were retained for the new AM format by newly hired Program Director John Lund. The first announcer under the new format was a part-time/summer relief employee, Les Bagley, a student at Ashland College. Ron Parks was also soon hired, but the station's most noteworthy hire of this era was morning host Don Imus. John Lund soon left for New York City, and took Vernon, Nite, and Imus with him. They all moved to WNBC in New York (though Imus returned briefly to do afternoons on WHK after being fired from WNBC in 1977), he was replaced by John Lanigan. Lanigan, who himself was nearly as controversial as Imus, had a very successful run in mornings until he left for a radio station in Tampa prior to resurfacing at WMJI in 1985. Other air personalities included: Dave "Fig" Newton, The Real Bob James ( Pondillo), Kevin O'Neill, and Steve "Boom Boom" Cannon.

WGAR abandoned adult contemporary for country music on July 15, 1984. The station soon donated its entire collection of jazz recordings to WCPN, the new public radio outlet that was going on the air the following September. By 1986, WGAR was simulcasting with its FM sister station, which again carried the callsign WGAR-FM; the FM station broadcast under different callsigns from 1970 to 1984.

WGAR received the George Foster Peabody Medal "for distinguished service among regional stations during the year 1940."[10]

WKNR (1220 AM)

Station logo as WKNR

In 1990, WGAR was sold to Douglas Broadcasting and Cablevision Systems Corp. WGAR-FM (99.5 FM) continued on with the country format, and began identifying itself simply as "WGAR" without the "-FM" ending (note that the FM station officially remains WGAR-FM per FCC records). Meanwhile, the callsign for the 1220 AM facility was changed to WKNR, a callsign previously used by stations in Detroit and Kalamazoo. A five-minute sendoff produced by several WGAR (AM)/WGAR-FM staffers, including tributes by Don Imus and Jack Paar, aired on 1220 AM just before the changeover took place at Midnight on July 13, 1990.[11] Immediately after the tribute aired, the new WKNR briefly picked up a satellite-based oldies feed.

Starting in January 1991, WKNR soft launched an all-sports format by assembling several blocks of locally-based sports talk shows, recruiting Geoff Sindelar (from WWWE) for late afternoons, Greg Brinda (from WERE (1300 AM)) for early afternoons, Paul Tapie (from WNCX) and Thor Tolo for mornings, Bill Needle for late mornings, Reggie Rucker for evenings, and carrying Sports Byline USA in the overnight hours. Branded as "SportsRADIO 1220 WKNR", the station emulated the program lineup and even imported the jingles from New York City's WFAN, the first all-sports radio station in the United States, and like WFAN, also had sports updates every 20 minutes billed as "20/20 Tickers."

In 1992, WKNR became the flagship station for the Cleveland Indians Radio Network, taking over for long-time flagship WWWE. For several years in the mid-1990s, WKNR was home to the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns (in a split arrangement with WDOK) and Ohio State football and basketball broadcasts.[12]

The fortunes of WKNR, however, started to sour when the Cleveland Browns relocated after the 1995 NFL season. Despite a successful outcry by the community and competing sports stations WKNR, WHK and WWWE, the intellectual property of the team was to lay dormant for three years, leaving a void in WKNR's play-by-play lineup. WKNR was left to carry Cincinnati Bengals football from 1996 to 1998. The station was then forced to overbid to beat WTAM (the former WWWE) into a renewal of its Cleveland Indians contract, effective with the 1997 season. While this allowed WKNR to air the World Series run of the 1997 Indians, the deal put financial strain on WKNR – Cablevision's lone radio property.

On August 19, 1997, Jacor announced the purchase of WKNR from Cablevision Systems Corp.[13]Jacor, which also owned WTAM, moved the Cleveland Indians broadcasts back to WTAM beginning with the 1998 season and the Cleveland Browns rights transferred to WMJI and WTAM for the 1999 season, leaving significant holes in WKNR's programming. Jacor swapped WKNR with Capstar Broadcasting's WTAE in Pittsburgh in 1998 as part of a Justice Department settlement involving Jacor's purchase of Nationwide Communications, who had sold WGAR (AM) in 1990 and still owned WGAR-FM.[14] On July 13, 1999, Chancellor Media merged with Capstar Broadcasting to form AMFM Inc., at that time the nation's largest radio station owner with 465 stations. AMFM sold WKNR to Salem Communications on July 20, 2000 as part of a required divestiture when AMFM merged with Clear Channel Communications.[15]

2001 "frequency swap"

On July 3, 2001, WKNR was one of seven Northeast Ohio radio stations involved in a complex exchange between three radio companies. Although generally reported as a "frequency swap", in reality these seven radio stations mostly traded callsigns along with their respective formats and staffs – all to facilitate the transfers of ownership of four of the seven stations. As part of this complex exchange, Salem Communications changed the WKNR callsign to WHKC; changed the station's format to Christian radio; and rebranded the station as "AM 1220 WHK: The Word". On August 3, 2001, Salem changed the new WHKC callsign to WHK. In effect, this new WHK (1220 AM) licensed to Cleveland became the successor to the previous WHK (1420 AM) licensed to Cleveland.[16]

WHK (1220 AM)

Logo as WHK


Salem Communications repurchased what had become WRMR (1420 AM) on July 6, 2004, initiating a format switch for WRMR to conservative talk branded as "News/Talk 1420 WHK" that July 12.[17] WHK (1220 AM) retained the existing "The Word" branding and Christian radio format, but began to formally promote itself as "AM 1220 WHKW: The Word", using the call letters of WHK (1220 AM)'s partial simulcast, WHKW (1440 AM) licensed to Warren and serving the Youngstown market.

Despite these changes, the callsigns for WRMR, WHK (1220 AM) and WHKW (1440 AM) were unchanged until April 5, 2005, when Salem changed WHK's call letters to WHKZ (WRMR's call letters were concurrently changed over to WHK). Eight days later, on April 13, 2005, Salem changed the new WHKZ callsign to WHKW, and WHKW (1440 AM) became WHKZ. Programming on all three stations were unaffected otherwise.

WHKW continued to have a partial simulcast over WHKZ up until 2019; scheduling deviations on WHKZ included airing Warren native Hugh Hewitt's talk show, which is syndicated by Salem Radio Network, in the evening hours. Salem sold off WHKZ to Immaculate Heart Media, Inc. on August 15, 2019 as part of a multi-station purchase;[18] the deal was consummated on November 14, with WHKZ dropping the partial simulcast of WHKW and switching to Relevant Radio programming.[19][20]

FM translator

Current programming

WHKW is a flagship station for Cleveland State Vikings men's basketball (shared with sister station WHK),[1] the Cleveland affiliate for Bowling Green Falcons football and Notre Dame Fighting Irish football.[21][2]


  1. ^ a b CSU radio - CSU Vikings.com
  2. ^ a b WHKW sports schedule - The Word Cleveland.com
  3. ^ http://www.cleve-radio.com/index2.htm#WDBK-AM
  4. ^ http://www.cleve-radio.com/index2.htm#WFJC-AM
  5. ^ "Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:WGAR". Case Western Reserve University.
  6. ^ "WGAR's Power Output Is Boosted to 50 KW" (PDF). Broadcasting. July 7, 1947. Retrieved 2014.
  7. ^ "The voices of Browns games past". The Plain Dealer. The Plain Dealer Publishing Co. November 10, 2002. p. J6 - Sunday Arts. The Browns' primary radio announcing teams: 1955-60: Bill McColgan and Jim Graner...
  8. ^ http://www.cleve-radio.com/index2.htm#WGAR-AM
  9. ^ http://www.wtam.com/cc-common/news/sections/newsarticle.html?feed=122520&article=9150872
  10. ^ "(WGAR advertisement)". Variety. April 2, 1941. Retrieved 2015.
  11. ^ Phillips, Paul. "LAST MOMENTS OF THE MIGHTY 1220". 440 International.
  12. ^ http://www.cleve-radio.com/index2.htm#WKNR-AM
  13. ^ "Jacor: Acquires Sports Leader WKNR, Cleveland". Corporate Financials Online, Inc. August 19, 1997. Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved .
  14. ^ "U.S Department of Justice". U.S. Department of Justice. August 10, 1998. Retrieved .
  15. ^ "U.S Department of Justice". U.S. Department of Justice. July 2000.
  16. ^ Quinn, Jim (June 29, 2001). "It's time to reset your radio dial: Seven stations will get new frequencies Tuesday". Akron Beacon Journal. Beacon Journal Publishing Co. p. B1 - Entertainment.
  17. ^ Davis, Denise (July 7, 2004). "Salem Communications to Acquire WRMR-AM, Cleveland; Station Will Broadcast as WHK-AM in News/Talk Format". Salem Media Group. Retrieved 2019.
  18. ^ Venta, Lance (August 15, 2019). "Immaculate Heart Media Acquires Nine More Stations In Eight Markets From Salem". RadioInsight.com. RadioInsight. Retrieved 2019. The Catholic "Relevant Radio" operator will add presently unknown stations from Salem in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, San Antonio, and St. Louis as well as "The Word" 1440 WHKZ/107.5 W298CX Youngstown OH. Following the closing of these deals, Immaculate Heart Media will have a national reach of 220,000,000 people over 163 owned or affiliated stations including 22 of the top 25 markets.
  19. ^ "The Word 1440 AM WHKZ - Cleveland, OH". November 14, 2019. Retrieved 2019. As of November 14, 2019, WHKZ-AM is no longer broadcasting as The Word in the Warren, OH area. We invite you to listen to some of our other Salem stations in Cleveland.
  20. ^ "Relevant Radio Stations". Relevant Radio. November 14, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  21. ^ Falcons Radio Network - 13abc.com (WTVG Toledo)

External links

FM translator

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