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WHK (1420 AM, "News/Talk 1420 WHK") is the oldest radio station in Ohiomarker, and 15th oldest in the country still broadcasting. WHK is currently owned by Salem Communications and broadcasts on 1420 kHz with a news/talk format with programming provided by the Salem Radio Network, as well as being the Cleveland affiliate for The Mark Levin Show and The John Gibson Show.


Early years

WHK began on July 26, 1921 when experimental station 8ACS signed on under a license obtained by Warren C. Cox in the name of Cox Mfg. Co. He broadcast on a wavelength of 200 meters (which translates to a frequency of 1500 kHz) from his home at 3138 Payne Avenue.Only about 1000 listeners were able to hear the first broadcast, and most of them were members of the Cleveland Radio Association.By 1922, licensees were barred from broadcasting on 200 meters,so Cox applied for a commercial broadcasting license.

Warren Cox received a commercial license for his station on February 21, 1922 with the callsign WHK (the Commerce Department was still issuing mostly three-letter callsigns to commercial radio stations before April 4, 1922),and HK standing for the station's first vice-president and general manager, H.K. Carpenter.It was only the 52nd commercial radio license issued by the Commerce Department.

The station broadcast at a wavelength of 360 meters (a frequency of 833 kHz) which was the standard broadcast frequency for entertainment radio stations at the time. The station started broadcasting on March 5, 1922 from facilities located in the rear of a Radiovox store at 5005 Euclid Avenue. By 1924, WHK broadcasts had moved to 1060 kHz.

Warren Cox sold the station to Radio Air Service Corporation in 1925. In the following years, the station facilities underwent a series of moves, including 5105 Euclid Avenue, the Hotel Winton at 1025 Bolivar Road (later the Hotel Carter), the Standard Building at St. Clair and Ontario, the top floor of the Higbee Company on Public Squaremarker, and Carnegie Hall at 1220 Huron Road. By 1927, the station broadcasts were heard at 1130 kHz, and the station was broadcasting with 500 watts at night. By 1928, the station was located in the Engineer's Building at 1370 Ontario Avenue.

WHK became a CBS affiliate in 1930 and increased its power to 5000 watts for both day and night transmission. It was broadcasting on 1390 kHz. On March 9, 1931, the station moved to the Terminal Tower, and celebrated its move with the live broadcast of Faust from its auditorium.

United Broadcasting Company ownership

Radio Air Service Corporation sold WHK in 1934 to Forest City Publishing Company, the parent company of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Forest City then organized United Broadcasting Company as the station owner. WHK was broadcasting with a daytime power of 2500 watts and a nighttime power of 1000 watts. WHK broadcast a full season of Cleveland Indians baseball games in 1936, with announcers Jack Graney and Pinky Hunter. On October 30, 1936, United Broadcasting also purchased station WJAY, which had been broadcasting since January 5, 1927 at 610 kHz.WJAY's callsign was changed to WCLE, and its studios are relocated to the Terminal Tower to join sister station WHK.

WHK switched its network affiliation in 1937 from CBS to the NBC Blue Network and the Mutual Broadcasting System which had started three years earlier. In the 1940s WHK, like most Mutual affiliates, became a participant in network programming. Rhythm and Rhyme Time was a Saturday night band concert on Mutual that originated from the Terrace Room of the Statler Hotel through the WHK's facilities. In 1943, when the NBC Blue Network was sold to Edward Noble to eventually become ABC, the Blue Network switched its affiliation to WJW radio, leaving WHK with the Mutual affiliation. Mutual brought its popular Queen for a Day program to Cleveland Music Hall on April 5, 1946 for a two days of broadcast with local contestants chosen by WHK.

On March 29, 1941, WHK like most radio stations changed its frequency as a result of the North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement. WHK moved from 1390 to 1420 kHz, the frequency it occupies today.

In 1945 as the FCC began implementing a ruling limiting station owners to a single AM outlet in a market, United Broadcasting moved WCLE to Akronmarker and changed to callsign to WHKK and the frequency to 640 kHz. In turn, United moved the 610 frequency to Columbusmarker to create WHKC from WAIU (formerly WBAV) which had been broadcasting daytime only on 640.WHKC became WTVN in the 1950s. WHKK became WHLO in 1962.

In August 1946 WHK received one of the earliest experimental FM licenses, under the call W8XUB, broadcasting at 107.1 MHz. Upon receipt of a commercial license, the station became WHKX at 100.7 MHz, eventually WHK-FM, and finally in 1968, WMMS.

WHK would also obtain a construction permit for television station WHK-TV on Channel 19,but the station never made it on the air, due to the problems at that time of launching a UHF station in a VHF market such as Cleveland. Ironically, the channel 19 position was later occupied by WOIOmarker, which was purchased in 1985 by WHK's eventual owner, Malrite Communications.

WHK moved its studios in 1951 to 5000 Euclid Avenue, a location that it would continue to occupy for the next 26 years, and presently the site of the Agora Theatre and Ballroommarker.

Metromedia ownership

United Broadcasting sold WHK in 1958 to Metropolitan Broadcasting Corporation, which became Metromedia two years later. The new owners soon adopted a rock and roll Top 40 format. Morning man Ernie Anderson was let go because he did not fit into the new format. Ironically, Anderson would later find local fame with his Ghoulardi character that would have been ideally suited as an early rock DJ. Pete "Mad Daddy" Myers, another early iconic rock DJ, was lured away from rival WJW for a successful stint in WHK's early rock-and-roll years, before he left for New York.

WHK Centaur interview at the Space Power Chamber (December 1963)
By the early 1960s WHK was Top 40 powerhouse, adopting the slogan "Color Radio" and "Color Channel 14." The station soared with fast-talking deejays like Johnny Holliday, who broadcast from "the glass cage" at 5000 Euclid, and dubbed the station's echo-chamber reverberation its "stratophonic sound." The "Action Central" newsroom included young reporters Tim Taylor and Dave Buckel. When The Beatles made one of their North American tours in 1964, WHK outmaneuvered rival KYW-AM to sponsor the Beatles appearance at Cleveland Public Auditorium on September 15, 1964. In the mid 1960s, the WHK DJs adopted the name the "Good Guys" and included Joe Mayer. On the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album, a doll wears a sweater emblazoned with "Welcome The Rolling Stones" and "Good Guys", a possible reference to the WHK DJs.

Late in 1967, WHK stopped rocking to become "The Good Life Station," with easy-listening music and phone-in shows aimed at older listeners. Possibly the biggest reason for the format change at WHK, was the pressure put on the station by newcomer WIXY, an AM station at 1260 which started playing top 40 music in 1966. From 1968 through 1985, WHK was the flagship station of the Cleveland Browns radio network.

In 1968 the FCC mandated that FM sister stations could no longer duplicate their AM sister's programming, and WHK-FM adopted a new progressive rock sound, one of a handful of commercial stations in the country to try that format. The callsign of WHK-FM was changed to WMMS on September 28, 1968.

Malrite years

Metromedia sold WHK and WMMS in 1972 to Malrite Broadcasting of Ohio (later Malrite Communications), and Malrite moved its headquarters to Cleveland. WHK dropped the beautiful music and tried the Top 40 format briefly again in 1973, but ended up settling on a country music format in 1974 featuring controversial morning show talk host Gary Dee.

Another notorious personality, Don Imus, also returned to Cleveland in 1978 to do afternoon drive on WHK- one of the few times that he would ever host a non-morning drive position in his entire career. Imus had previously had a morning show on WGAR for 1½ years ending in 1971, and lasted until September 1979 when he returned to WNBCmarker in New Yorkmarker.

On February 14, 1977, WHK and WMMS moved their studios from 5000 Euclid Avenue to the Statler Office Tower near Playhouse Square. WGAR, which signed on there in December of 1930, had moved to the suburbs at their transmitter site in Broadview Heightsmarker.

Seeking to recapture its past glory again, WHK returned to a nostalgic 1950's and 60s Top 40s music on April 24, 1984 using the designation "14K WHK Solid Gold", becoming the first "oldies" formatted station in Cleveland. During this period, the Program Director was Bill Stedman, and the lineup featured Chip Binder (6-10am), Dennis Day (10a-3pm), John E. Douglas (3-7p), and Bill Schiel (7pm-Midnight). With others that would grace the format til in ended [November 1988]: Barbara Lincoln, JD Harlan. [1988]], when WHK adopted a news/talk form aimed heavy on business news using the name "AllNewsPlus." Even still, the "14K" format was partly the inspiration for WMJI's conversion into a full-time rock-and-roll oldies outlet in 1991.

In 1992 studios were moved to the Skylight Office Tower, and on August 10, 1992, popular talk show hosts Merle Pollis and Joel Rose left WEREmarker and joined WHK, but weren't there for long.

Later years

Unable to service its growing debt, Malrite exited the radio business by selling off all their stations to Shamrock Broadcasting (Roy Disney's family-owned broadcasting company) in 1993.Shamrock in turn spun off WHK and WMMS to OmniAmerica, headed by former Malrite executive Carl Hirsch, on April 1994. Shortly thereafter, on May 16, 1994,WHK adopted a sports talk format featuring Tom Bush, Les Levine, Tony Rizzo and Pat McCabe, and dubbed itself "The Sports Voice of the Fan." WHK's programming was highly regarded by many listeners, and it slowly developed a devoted following. In its latter days under this format, WHK simulcast sister station WMJI's "Lanigan, Webster and Malone Show" in morning drive.

The station was sold to Salem Communications in 1996—while WMMS was sold to Nationwide Communications, marking the first time in fifty years that WHK and WMMS were no longer affiliated. Salem Communications eliminated all local programming during the transition, and adopted a religious format as "The Word" in August of 1997. Studios were moved to Independencemarker, joined by Akron's WHLO and Parma's WCCDmarker.

On July 3, 2001, Salem Communications and several other radio license owners in Cleveland swapped frequencies, and WHK moved to 1220 kHz, previously occupied by WKNR which moved to 850 kHz. The 1420 kHz location was occupied by a new AM outlet of WCLV, and took the WCLV calls.While WCLV-AM was intended to simulcast programming from WCLV 104.9-FM, it instead picked up an adult standards format previously held on WRMR 850-AM. Jim Davis (again doing programming and on-air duties) along with Ted Hallaman, Carl Reese, Bill Rudman and eventually John Simna, Bill Randle and Ted Alexander hosted the music shows.

WCLV (later rechristented as WRMR on January 1, 2003) failed to find establish a young enough audience to attract major advertisers, and the frequency was sold back to Salem. The call letters were restored to WHK on April 5, 2005 and introduced a conservative talk format that it still airs. Small reminders of WRMR remain on the station, such as "Jerry Quinn's Irish Radio", Sundays from 10am to noon.

The religious programming at 1220 kHz was continued, and the call for that station was changed to WHKW.

Local news is provided by Metro Networks, with veteran Cleveland broadcaster Terry Groden.

WHK's transmitter facility, heavily renovated under WCLV/WRMR ownership, has been in Seven Hills, Ohiomarker since 1937, and still contains many historical artifacts from previous decades.

Current Programming

Program Host Time
Bloomberg Morning News (Bloomberg Radio) 5 a.m. - 6 a.m.
Morning in America (SRN) Bill Bennett 6 a.m. - 9 a.m.
The Mike Gallagher Show (SRN) Mike Gallagher 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
The Dennis Prager Show (SRN) Dennis Prager 12 p.m. - 3 p.m.
The Michael Medved Show (SRN) Michael Medved 3 p.m. - 6 p.m.
The Hugh Hewitt Show (SRN) Hugh Hewitt 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
The Mark Levin Show (ABC) Mark Levin 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Kelly and Company (Local) Tom Kelly 11 p.m. - 12 a.m.
12 p.m.

- 3 p.m.

Paid Programming 12 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.
The John Gibson Show (FOX) John Gibson 12:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.
The Michael Medved Show (SRN) Michael Medved 3 a.m. - 5 a.m.
The Sports Fix (Local) Vic Cortez, Nick Kubik, Kevin Welsh, & Drew Dodson 10 p.m. - 12 a.m. (Sat.)
Inside the Great Outdoors (Local) Reno "Jay" Reda, Jim Peters, & Bob Fabor 8 a.m. - 10 a.m. (Sun.)
Jerry Quinn's Irish Radio (Local) Jerry Quinn 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. (Sun.)

Sports coverage

(*) - shared with sister station WHKW


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