AM Technical Profile: WAGG


Frequency:
610
Format:
Religious: Black Gospel
Transmitter Location:
[map] [bird's eye] Tower is located on the property of the Alabama State Fairgrounds in Five Points West.
Power (ERP):
5,000 watts day / 610 watts night
Antenna:
1 tower day & night
Other Information:
0.5 mV/m Daytime Groundwave Service Contour from the FCC's Public Files
[FCC]
[FCCData.org]
[Radio-Locator]
[Wikipedia]
[Facebook] For WAGG 610/100.1
[Airchecks] Historical pictures and airchecks from WSGN.
[Studio] Street View imagery of the building housing the SummitMedia studios off Highway 280 in Hoover.
Owned by J. S. Kelly, LLC
to be: // W261BX Birmingham
// WBHJ-HD3 Midfield
History:
This station was put on the air in 1926 by the R. B. Broyles Furniture Company.  It originally was a 100 watt station on 1310 kHz.  The studio (and likely, transmitter, too) were located at 2021 2nd Avenue in Birmingham.  In 1929 they requested to move to 1340 kHz, and increase power to 500 watts, but that move was denied by the then Federal Radio Commission.  Later that same year, the transmitter and studio moved to 305 23rd Street North in Birmingham.

The company attempted to move the station again in 1930, requesting to move 18 miles out of the city, and change to 1380 kHz with 1,000 watts, but like the previous attempt to change frequencies, this move was denied by the FRC.  In the summer of 1931, the transmitter site moved from downtown to 1628 Druid Hill Drive in Birmingham, just north of downtown.  One year later the studio location moved from the 23rd Street to the Tutwiler Hotel on 5th Avenue downtown.  The station tried to move for a third time in 1934; this time to 590 kHz with 1,000 watts. This too was denied.  Instead, the station (eventually) was able to increase its power to 250 watts during the day only, in 1935.  It's likely that the many attempts to relocate were due to interference issues on 1310 kHz; the license did specify that they could only operate their signal after local sunset barring interference to other licensed stations. 

The license was voluntarily transferred from the furniture company to Ormond O. and Mary Collett Black in February 1935, but was transferred back to R. B. Broyles (via his furniture store) in October of that same year.  The license was transferred again in 1936, this time to The Birmingham News Company.  Three years later in 1939, they changed the call sign to WSGN South's Greatest Newspaper, kind of a take off on Tribune's WGN being "World's Greatest Newspaper". 

The station tried again to move to a new frequency in 1938; this attempt was to 1290 kHz with 1 kW of power.  If granted, the transmitter would have moved to where WERC transmits from today near the intersection of Arkadelphia Road and Bankhead Highway (US-78) in East Thomas.  But, this too was denied.

The station finally got a boost in nighttime power to 250 watts in June 1940, when the studio moved to the intersection of 5th Avenue North & 20th Street North downtown and the transmitter site moved to 2200 4th Avenue North in downtown Birmingham.   That same year, in October, they finally were granted a permit to move to a new frequency of 610 kHz.  This included a power boost to 1 kW day and night (directional at night only), and a move of the transmitter from downtown to the Alabama state fairgrounds west of downtown.  That new facility signed on August 1941.  That year the studios moved to the Dixie Carlton Hotel, which was located at 3rd Avenue and 23rd Street downtown.  In the winter of 1942 they sought to increase power during the day to 5 kW.  That was granted and the increased power was on the air by July 1942.

The station attempted to switch frequencies again in 1946.  This would represent the sixth attempt to change to a more favorable dial position in the station's history, and it too was denied, due to a rules violation.  If granted, the station would have moved to 690 kHz, with 50 kW during the day.  [Instead, that allotment became WVOK a year later.]  The studios migrated to an unspecified location on Red Mountain in 1949.

A new transmitter was installed (RCA BTA 5G) in the summer of 1952.  The Birmingham News was sold to Newhouse Corporation in 1953, which was a problem for WSGN, as Newhouse already owned Birmingham's WAPI (among other stations).  This station was sold off to Jemison Broadcasting Company, Incorporated.  The new owners brought in a strong staff and flipped the format to a Top 40 music format.  Jemison also moved the studios to the Protective Life Building in 1953 (2300 block of 7th Avenue).  Jemison sold the station to Winston-Salem Broadcasting Company, Inc. in November 1955.  They added more rock & roll to the playlist to better compete with WYDE, which had been doing the same thing.  WYDE had been the market's leading pop station until around 1963, when a new Program Director and a presentation using "The Good Guys" allowed WSGN to take the lead.  The studios moved to the City Federal Building (2nd Avenue and 21st Street) in 1964.  In 1966, the company's name changed to Southern Broadcasting Company to better reflect the portfolio of stations scattered across the southern US.

WSGN continued to be the dominant Top 40 player in Birmingham until well into the late 70's, when FM competition (in the form of WKXX, formerly rocker WERC) began to take over the ratings.  WSGN help launch the career of Rick Dees!  The studios moved to the Twin Towers East building at 236 Goodwin Crest Drive in 1977.  In 1978, the license was transferred to Harte-Hanks Southern Communications, Inc, which became Southern Broadcasting Company (again) in March 1979. 

After holding out with a Top 40 format for as long as they could, Southern threw in the towel in 1982 or 1983 and flipped to an Adult Contemporary format.  Over the next couple of years, they tried Oldies, then Big Band/Standards.  Katz Broadcasting, owners of WZZK, bought the station in 1985 and began simulcasting WZZK's Country music format.  During this time the station was broadcasting in AM stereo and took on the WZZK calls.  Katz did not want to use the historic WSGN calls anymore, but did not want anyone else in the market to have them, either.  Therefore, they struck a deal with Gadsden Community College in Etowah County to use the call sign for their student teaching non-commercial station.

After thirteen years of being relegated to a simulcast of the much more popular WZZK-FM, new owners Cox Broadcasting (who acquired the stations in 1997) flipped the format on 1 January 1998 back to a Nostalgia/Standards format, as "Easy 610", with new calls WEZN.  The format enjoyed minor success in the ratings, as WAPI had dropped their nostalgia format for talk the previous year.  Roughly one year after the flip to Standards, Cox swapped formats with co-owned 1320 WAGG, bring their Black Gospel music format and call sign here and moving the Standards and WEZN calls to 1320 kHz. 

The City of Birmingham began doing extensive renovations of the Alabama State Fairgrounds starting in the winter of 2009.  It affected the grounding system for the #2 tower for the station, necessitating a Special Temporary Authority request to operate non-direction at night with just 250 watts from the #1 (daytime) tower.  The work dragged on through 2010 and into 2011.  On 27 April 2011, a wind event known as a derecho moved through the city and knocked down the #2 tower.  Cox continued operating at restricted nighttime non-directional power until they received a permit to make the non-directional status permanent, in January 2012.  That granted 610 watts at night, bring to a permanent end what had been the market's best nighttime AM signal. 

Ownership of the station (and other Cox properties) was sold to SummitMedia in a deal which closed in 2013. 

In October 2014 the station began being heard on FM for the first time, through the former "Y'all FM" translator W271BN at 102.1 MHz.  It was also reported on WZNN-HD3, as well.  It is most likely around that time that the station dropped its longtime slogan "Heaven 610".  The HD simulcast eventually migrated to WBHJ-HD3.  In March 2016 Summit shook up their portfolio of stations a bit, displacing the gospel from the translator W271BN at 102.1 MHz.  It moved to W261BX at 100.1 MHz, which is a smaller signal but still one that covers the main urban core.