AM Technical Profile: WENN

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Frequency:
1320
Format:
Black Gospel
Transmitter Location:
[map] [bird's eye] [street view] Daniel Payne Drive near Corridor X area, just east of US 78.
Power (ERP):
Day: 5 kW
Night: 111 watts
Antenna:
1 tower, omnidirectional
Other Information:
0.5 mV/m Daytime Groundwave Service Contour from the FCC's Public Files
[FCC]
[FCCdata]
[Radio-Locator]
[Wikipedia]
[RDS] RDS display from the station's old FM translator on a GMC Yukon's radio from the Power 102.1 days.
[RDS] RDS display from the station's old FM translator on a GMC Yukon's radio from the 102.1 Y'all FM days.
Owned by J. S. Kelly, LLC
History:
An original construction permit was first issued to Voice of Homewood (Emory M. McElroy, Dorsey E. Newman) in the fall of 1952, for a new station broadcasting with 1 kW daytime-only on 1220 kHz.  That was quickly amended to 1330 kHz, and the WBHM call sign was initially assigned.  Before signing on, the frequency was changed again, this time to 1320 kHz.  When the station signed on in the summer of 1953, it was transmitting from a site on the banks of Shades Creek in Homewood, just east of (old) US-31, with studios in the nearby Hollywood Country Club, a social club located across from what is today Brookwood Village.  The call sign at launch was WEZB, and the format was Pop Easy Listening, or what we might call Soft Adult Contemporary in today's terms.  In 1956, the license was transferred to Gene Newman Radio, Inc.  In 1957, a permit was granted to move the transmitter site to "Adjoining Birmingham-Southern College" in Birmingham.  It was later amended to boost power to 5 kW with a directional system, and relocate the studios to the Tutwiler Hotel in downtown Birmingham. The permit relocating to near Birmingham-Southern was finished in 1957, but building the directional antenna took until 1959.  That same year, the station was sold to John McClendon & Associates. 

A few years prior to acquiring this station, McClendon had actually entered the market by purchasing 1450 WBCO in Bessemer.  There, he launched the black-oriented format he was known for in other markets.  McClendon had a chain of stations, all with "OK" in the calls KOKA Shreveport; WOKJ Jackson Ms; WOKS Columbus, Ga., etc.  Possibly due to there already being an "OK" call sign in Birmingham WVOK the Bessemer station instead launched its format as WENN.  With 1450's less than optimal signal for the growing Birmingham metro, he wound up purchasing 1320 and moving WENN and its format here.

A permit to go to non-directional service was approved in 1961, contingent on Houston, Mississippi's WCPC moving to 980 kHz first.  That took some time, and the directional system wasn't apparently decommissioned until 1968.  In the meantime, the license was transferred to Jomac Birmingham Corporation in 1967.  They moved the studios from the old Tutwiler Hotel to 1428 5th Avenue North and moved the transmitter site to its current location off Daniel Payne Drive (then known as the Pratt City-Sayreton Road).

The station's popularity grew through the 60's, and they launched WENN-FM 107.7 MHz in 1969.  It signed on atop Red Mountain.  That same year, John McClendon passed away, and ownership of the station changed to Hertz Broadcasting of Birmingham in 1971. 

By the 70's, the station was the dominant black station in town.  Famous hosts of this era include Tall Paul, Shelly "The Playboy" Stewart, Erskine Fausch and others.  In 1977, local prominent businessman A.G. Gaston bought the station and replaced the (white) GM Joe Lackey with Larry Hayes.  In protest, the entire air staff walked out.  They went to AM 900, WATV.  The staff had quite a following and all those people abandoned WENN, following them to the new station.  Under Gaston's ownership the station's calls changed to WAGG, with a Gospel format. WENN-FM began to gain traction with black audiences, being one of the few FM stations in the south (and the only one in Birmingham) targeting a black audience at the time.
 
WAGG and the Gospel format moved to 610 AM in 1999, to give the profitable Gospel format a better signal. 610's Big Band/Standards format and WEZN calls moved here. In the Spring of 2000, it switched to Gospel with the "Rejoice 1320" slogan and WRJS calls.  A 2002 addition to the schedule: January shows the debut of Spanish language programming in Birmingham, with a two hour program aimed at the community's large Hispanic population. It aired between 2 and 4 PM, weekdays. Sometime in spring 2002 the Spanish programming went full time, with programming from "La Sabrosita".  On 31 October 2002 the station switched formats from all Spanish to Classic Country from the 60's, 70's and 80's, with the new moniker "Country Legends 1320". The calls also changed to WZZK-AM.
 
On January 30th 2006, the station changed to WPSB (People's Station Birmingham), with a mix of black-oriented News/Talk programming.  On January 29th 2007, only a year after the flip to black-oriented talk, the station began stunting by playing Santana's Oye Como Va non-stop. On January 30th the station flipped to a Regional Mexican format, with information and talk bits interspersed with the music.  The Spanish-language stuff lasted just over two years, when in late March 2009 the historic WENN calls found their way back to 1320 after a 26 year absence.  Cox simulcasted WBHK, "Kiss FM" on the station until March 31st 2009 when the station apparently went silent for a short period of time.  The station came back on shortly thereafter, simulcasting but also with some Urban Talk for the second time. As of late April 2009 the station is full-time Urban Talk and has announced plans to take on the Atlanta Braves baseball broadcasts as well.  Observed in late September 2009, the station is again simulcasting WBHK (Kiss 98.7)'s programming.
 
In mid-February, 2010, the station began rebroadcasting via W270BW, a translator licensed to Haleyville, on 101.9 MHz.  The station began airing what it calls "Neo Soul" as "101.9 WENN".  In July 2010 reports are that the AM is off the air, while the FM and online streaming remain active. Later that summer the translator moved to 102.1 MHz.  The AM was reported on the air again in October, and off again the first of November 2010.  Ten days into November and the station's back on and reported stronger than before.  In May 2011 the station was observed to be silent again.  It's unclear if this is due to more technical troubles or because of damage from the late April 2011 tornado outbreak that sent an EF-4 close by the AM transmitter site.
 
Although WENN was once again off the air, around 21 September 2011 it was noted the station changed from Neo Soul to Classic Hip-Hop and R&B as "Power 102.1".  The AM was heard on again at the end of the month.  In August 2012 it was announced that Cox won the rights to ESPN sports programming; ESPN was heard on WZNN (FM) except when local shows are on. WENN began relaying ESPN's national feed 24/7, as of 30 August 2012.  This will not include the W271BN translator, which will continue airing the "Power" urban format via WZNN's HD subchannel.  WENN instead began being heard on W297BF, a move-in translator from Calera.  After being sold from Cox to Summit Media, the station underwent some changes. At the start of July 2013, Summit ditched the full time ESPN feed and again linked WENN-AM to the "Power 102.1" Classic Urban format, also going back to being heard on translator W271BN.
 
In mid-November of 2013 it was announced that the Classic Urban was being bumped for the cheeky Variety Hits "Y'all 97.3" from sister station WZNN, which was to change formats later that month to soft adult contemporary.  In October 2014 the Variety Hits format was dropped from the W271BN translator, which began relaying Gospel "Heaven 610" WAGG instead.  Just prior to this switch, WENN was reported off air for a long period, and only recently returned (still with Variety Hits) around the time the translator changed formats.  In November 2014 the format changed from Variety Hits to Soft Adult Contemporary, picking up the music format dropped by FM companion WEZZ when it flipped to Christmas music at the comically early date of "mid October".  The station went back to Variety Hits after WEZZ ended its Christmas music event.  In late April 2015, the station was back to being heard on FM, this time on translator W256CD, on 99.1 MHz.  A few days later, it also was reportedly heard on a newly constructed translator, W261BX, on 100.1 MHz.  That translator (and WENN itself) were reported off the air in the second week of May, 2015 and on again by early June.  The 100.1 translator went off again shortly thereafter, likely due to issue interfering with WQJJ-LP in Jasper, which is on the same channel.  That translator was again reported on air on 13 July 2015. The format as of this time continues to be a wide-ranging Variety Hits format, but no other presence for the station is online or on Facebook.  The station flipped to Christmas Music on 25 September 2015, over a month before any stations flipped last year.
After Christmas, the station flipped to a mellow Contemporary Hit Radio type format (I'm calling it Hot AC until someone gives me a better name) with computerized liners calling the station "All The Hits 100.1", and around the turn of the new year, the name changed slight to "Commercial Free Hits 100.1" with more or less the same tiny rotation of songs.  That lasted until Summit blew up the Soft AC format at 97.3 (then WEZZ) and put in CHR/Top 40.  The Soft Adult Contemporary moved to WENN.  At this time WENN changed from being heard on W261BX to W271BN.  The slogan is now "Easy 102.1".  The move was made to give the adult contemporary format the bigger of the two translator signals.  Like the previous year, the station flipped to Christmas again a few days before Halloween, because reasons.
This station has a history of being off the air for long periods of time since being acquired by Summit Media, and was off as recently as April 2017.  During this off-period, SummitMedia arranged a swap with Educational Media Foundation, where EMF got the 102.1 translator that had been paired with this station and Summit got the translator that is relaying Birmingham Mountain Radio.  Shortly after the swap was announced, the Easy 102.1 format disappeared from the translator, replaced by contemporary Christian Air1 programming from EMF.  WENN was off the air during this, then on the air with a dead carrier, then by May 4th, it was back on with Soft Adult Contemporary again.  The format fell silent again in July 2017, and was shortly thereafter replaced with a simulcast of "Kiss 98.7" WBHK Warrior.  That simulcast gave way to a simulcast with WAGG and its Gospel format sometime later.