The station was started
by J. C. Bell. The calls were WBRC (Bell Radio Corporation). The station
was on 950 kHz and ran with only 10 watts. Both studio and transmitter
were in Bell's home in Fountain Heights. It was sold in 1928 to M. D. Smith,
Jr. for $2,000. In 1929 the transmitter was moved to a location behind
Birmingham Awning and Tent works at the corner of 12th Avenue
and 27th Street North. Power was increased to 500 watts and
the studios were moved to the Old Athletic Club. WBRC began operating 12
hours a day.
In 1931 WBRC increased
power to 5 kW and the studios were relocated to the mezzanine floor at
the Temple Theater. The all-glass studio was known as "The Crystal Studio".
The transmitter was moved to a remote location in north Birmingham, known
as "Kilocycle, Alabama". (!) The station was incorporated, with
J. C. Bell and Glen Marshal getting 25% stock each and M. D. Smith Jr.
and wife getting 50%. In 1932 the studios were moved to the Bankhead Hotel.
WBRC moved again
in 1935 to 19th Street and 2nd Avenue North due to
growth. The same year WBRC became affiliated with NBC. In 1937 M. D. Smith
Jr. died, and his wife, Eloise Haney Smith, took control of Bell Radio
Corporation. By 1939 Eloise Smith had bought out Glenn Marshal's stock.
By 1940, Mr. Bell died and Eloise Smith (soon to be Eloise Hanna by marriage)
bought Bell's stock.
In 1946 Mrs. Hanna received
a construction permit for WBRC-FM (106.9?). It came on the air with an
amazing power of 500,000 watts, making it the most powerful FM station
in the world. In 1947, the Smith's son, M. D. Smith III, became Vice President
after being in sales for WBRC-FM and AM. FM did not catch on as much
as everyone thought it would and in June of 1948, WBRC-FM was taken off
the air. Desipte this setback, Mrs. Smith borrowed $150,000 to put WBRC-TV
on the air on July 4, 1949.
Mrs. Hanna retired and
sold WBRC-TV/AM-FM to Storer Broadcasting for $2.3 million. That ends the
history provided by the WAAY-TV history page.
WBRC was basically a
middle-of-the-road station with some network programming. When the TV and
FM were sold seperately (around 1971?) the radio was forced to take a seperate
identity, settling with WERC because it sounds close to the original. The
station went Top 40 and gave WSGN a battle in the 70's. Later it settled
into the news-talk format where it has enjoyed longevity and sucess.