AM Technical Profile: WZGX

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Regional Mexican

Transmitter Location:
[map] [bird's eye] [street view] Jay Bird Road in Bessemer, just off 18th Ave. exit of I-20/59.

Power (ERP):
Day and Night: 1 kW

1 tower

Other Information:
0.5 mV/m Daytime Groundwave Service Contour from the FCC's Public Files



Owned by Autaugaville Radio

A new construction permit was issued in 1947 to Bessemer Broadcasting Company (led by former Bessemer mayor Jess Lanier, along with Staff Sergeant Jack Warden (!), Crawford Bass and Walter Petty, Jr.) for a 250 watt full time operation on 1450 kHz.  The station came on the air in early 1950 as WBCO (Bessemer Cut-Off) with a Raytheon RA-250-A transmitter.  It's not known what the format was at the very beginning; within a year of signing on, the station began catering to the area's black population with a Rhythm and Blues format.  Whites joked the calls meant, "Became Colored Overnight".  The studios were in downtown Bessemer at one point, but later moved to the transmitter site on what is today's Jaybird Road. 

In 1956 the station received a permit to relocate to 1480 kHz and boost power to 5 kW, but at the cost of becoming a daytime-only broadcaster.  The facility was never built out.  Two years later in 1958, the station was sold to Mississippi broadcaster John M. McClendon & Associates.  McClendon ran a chain of successful black-oriented radio stations all with "OK" in the call signs, including WOKJ in Jackson, Mississippi and KOKY in Little Rock.  Possibly due to Birmingham already having WVOK, the calls here became WENN instead.  WENN would later move to 1320 kHz and become one of the more famous stations in town.  After moving to 1320, the old calls from there — WEZB — were briefly left here, until the next owners came along and changed the format…

Trans-America Broadcasting (H. C. Young, president) bought the station in 1960 and switched the format to Country & Western music as WYAM.  In 1961, the station boosted power during the day to 1 kW, with an RCA BTA-1M transmitter.  The studios likely moved back to Jaybird Road at this time.  The ownership became WYAM, Inc., in 1969. 

Brandon-Robison Broadcasting Corporation acquired the station in 1972.  Mel Allen Broadcasting, Inc. acquired the station in 1976.  The format broadened out from just Country to Religious programming, Gospel music and some occasional Top 40 music as well.

The call sign changed to WSMQ in October 1980.  At this time the format was a mixture of Country, black-oriented programming and farm information, with studios moved to a spot next to the famous Bright Star Restaurant in downtown Bessemer.  The station was acquired in the fall of 1988 by Bessemer Radio, Inc.  They moved the studios back to their present location at the transmitter site. 

The Country music stayed put until the mid-90's, when they began phasing in Talk programming, and by about 1996 the station was all-Talk radio, hosting the B- and C-level talk shows that didn't make it on WERC or WAPI's schedules.  They also filled time with local high school football programming. 
With the pool of willing talk radio listeners on AM dwindling in the mid-2000s, the station was sold off to Hispanic broadcasters at Bar Broadcasting, who flipped the format to their mix of Tropical and Mexican Top-40 music.  The station's format at this time was being simulcast on WJHX in Lexington, Alabama and later Jasper.  Along with the format and ownership changes came the current calls, WZGX.  The station began simulcasting with Alabaster AM WQCR, as part of the "La 10 Q" regional Mexican format, along with WJHX and Jasper's WIXI, in January 2009. 

WQCR dropped out of the multicast in the fall of 2012.  Eventually the Jasper and Lexington stations left the simulcast, leaving WZGX alone as "La Jefa".  In June 2013, WZGX fell silent when the format migrated over to Birmingham's 1220 WAYE.  While silent, the format was supposed to have still been regional Mexican, but under the "El Patron" name; despite a banner hanging on the railing at the studios, it was not on the air, and the FCC deleted Bar Broadcast's licenses for both WZGX and WJHX in October 2014.
The license was re-instated a few months later, but it's unclear if the station immediately returned to the air.  It was only confirmed to be on air and airing the El Patron regional Mexican format in January 2017.

Red Mountain Ventures (Lee S. Reynolds) filed to acquire the station in June 2017.  As part of the deal, it was expected to be paired up with W256CD Fultondale, a translator that had been used to air a sports talk format via WDJC-HD3.  That deal was finalized a few months later, but proved to be a red herring with regards to the translator.  That translator wound up paired with an HD subchannel of another iHeart station, playing alternative music.  This station fell silent at the start of 2018, due to a fire in the transmitter plant.  The station finally returned to the air in January 2019, around the time the STA to stay on was set to expire. 

Red Mountain Ventures sold the station to Pedro Zamora in January 2019 in exchange for paying off the $200,000 note to Bar Broadcasting. Zamora is reported to own two other stations in the Midwest.  The station filed a Silent STA in April of 2019 and it appears the deal to Zamora never went through.

The station filed a voluntary license transfer back to Bar Broadcasting at the start of 2020.  The station filed a resumption of operations in August 2020. The station was noted to be off the air in early October 2020.  It has been sporadically on the air, according to reports, in late 2020 and early 2021.

In June 2023, the FCC dismissed the license transfer back to Bar Broadcasting due to a failure to complete the transaction. 

Despite apparently being off the air for long periods of time, the station's license renewal was granted by the FCC in February 2024.  That same month the station was reported on air with the Contemporary Christian "WAY-FM" music format, apparently a relay of WBHJ-HD3 Midfield, which is used to feed WAY-FM to area FM translators.  It is most likely on solely to keep the license active.  In mid-March 2024 it was announced the station was being sold to Roscoe "Killer" Diller's Autaugaville Radio, which owns several stations in Montgomery and the Pine Belt region of south Alabama.  The purchase price was $20,000. Ahead of the sale, Autaugaville Radio was scheduled to begin programming the station as of 12 March 2024.  In mid-April it was reported the station was relaying Autaugaville Radio's WALQ Carrville, with its Regional Mexican format.  The FCC approved the license transfer in mid-May 2024.