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1210 > 1240 > 580 AM WGAC
WAUG > WYMX > WZNY > WLTO > WEKL > WIBL > WLUB
WZNY Y105 Aircheck
WBIA Studios on Walton Way
WBIA studios 1962
Courtesy of Radio Daze / Flickr
1600 AM WFNL > WKZK
On air at WFNL (1973)
WFNL Top Gun Radio
Country Shindig Bell Auditorium 1973
WFNL Country Shindig with Dolly Parton and Porter Waggoner 1973
WAKN-FM > WKXC-FM
WKXC Kicks 99 Promotional Mailer
Featuring Air Staff 1992
WGUS-FM > WOPW-FM > WEKL-FM
Aircheck WGUS AM/FM Big Gus
Format change from WGUS-FM (Big Gus) to WOPW-FM (Power 102)
First minutes of format change for WOPW (formerly WGUS-FM)
Augusta Top 40 Battle: 1967-1972
(As remembered by Augusta market veteran Bob Raleigh)*
WBBQ had a tremendous lineup of people on air. In early 1967, they had Mike Dineen in the mornings, “Handsome” Harley Drew in middays, Bob Bolton in afternoons, and a maniac at night named Buddy Carr, who would later go on to become Q’s morning man and become a radio legend. In later years, other great talent found their way on air. Guys like Rob Collins, Mark Summers, Dickie Shannon, Bruce Stevens, and others. In addition to great talent, WBBQ also had a full-service news and traffic department. In fact, the station was owned by George Weiss, who drove around in Mobile Car 1 doing “on the scene traffic reports”. This station was one of the most listened to stations in the country at one time.
WBBQ’s chief Top 40 competitors were WRDW-AM, WAUG-AM, and WFNL-AM. WRDW-AM also had some great talent that eventually migrated over to WBBQ. WRDW also had reverb on its signal. Both the music and the DJs went through a reverb unit which gave everything a little more energy on air. WAUG-AM was originally a Soul/R&B station that flipped to Top 40. When it did, there was a minor backlash in the community with some protests outside the studios. But that soon vanished as the station eventually became the primary format competitor against WBBQ.
Finally in the Top 40 world was WFNL-AM. This station did what is known in the business as “wheel of format”. They changed formats regularly trying to get a foothold in the marketplace. It would embrace a certain format hoping to fill a hole only to find it couldn’t sustain itself financially and flip to a different format. To this day in almost every market, there is at least one station that just can’t seem to get out of the gate. The reasons vary. Poorly programmed, poorly managed, bad choice in format, underfunded for growth, no marketing, and on and on. In the case of WFNL, it was all the above plus a bad signal. WFNL was a 500-watt station at 1600 on the dial. Today the AM dial goes up to 1700 but in those days 1600 was the furthest spot up the dial. Also, the further up in frequency the more power you need to penetrate the airwaves. So, a station signal at, say, 540 on the dial with 500 watts would go further than one at 1600. On top of a poor signal, WFNL was also designated by the FCC as a daytime-only station. That meant it could only broadcast from sunup to sundown. Not so bad in the summer months but a death knell in the winter months when the sun didn’t come up until after 8am and went down at 5:15pm. By contrast, WRDW and WAUG were both 5000-watt stations and could broadcast 24 hours a day. WBBQ was only 1000 watts but because it was first in and the owner pumped a lot of money into it, it was able to stay on top for many years.
Around 1969 WFNL made another stop in its wheel of format and altered its Top 40 programming to play only “bubblegum” music. Bubblegum was a form of pop music that was aimed strictly at the very young end of the Top 40 demo. It was geared for those between the ages of 10-16. Artists included The Archie’s who were strictly a studio band that did the music for the TV cartoon show of the same name. It was also essentially one guy by the name of Ron Dante who was a session vocalist who later produced records and did backup singing on several big hits including “Mandy” by Barry Manilow. The Archie’s biggest hit was “Sugar Sugar” and it played in power rotation on WFNL. Other bubblegum acts were Lou Christie (“I’m Gonna Make You Mine”, “Lightning Striking”), The Lemon Pipers (“Green Tambourine”), 1910 Fruitgum Company (“1, 2, 3 Red Light”), Tommy Roe (“Dizzy”), and The Ohio Express (“Yummy Yummy Yummy”). The station was gaining a little momentum mainly because it was doing something different than WBBQ.
After its short-lived run with bubblegum pop music, WFNL briefly flirted with what was known then as “underground rock”—known now as AOR (album-oriented rock). When that didn’t work, the station was sold to George Beasley who had formed Beasley Broadcasting Group, now a major player in radio today with stations all over the country. WFNL was one of Beasley’s first stations and had switched the format to Country, competing directly with the mighty WGUS. WFNL used the slogan “Top Gun Radio” and attempted to make a serious run. Beasley then sold the station to buy WGAC. He sold it to the former General Manager of WGUS, Dick Warner, who kept the country format running for a few more years. The station was eventually sold again, changed call letters to WKZK, and launched a Black Gospel format, which it still airs today.
In the early 70’s the FCC changed its rules regarding AM and FM simulcasting and stations could now duplicate programming almost full time on both frequencies. WBBQ and WAUG were both putting their Top 40 formats on the FM band full time now. Both were in stereo by 1971, although WAUG-FM beat WBBQ-FM by a week in this race. WRDW-AM had switched to an R&B format after its purchase by the Godfather of Soul James Brown. The Hardest Working Man in Show Business was an Augusta native.
*excerpt from the book “Better Than Digging Ditches” by Bob Raleigh.
used by permission 2017 RMG Publishing ©.