Thanks to Jeff Lonto and the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting for information on this page
Also fondly known as "Wee Gee" to those who knew "her" in the prime top 40 years. But in 1923 when it went on the air it was the "Jewelry and Optical Station". Founded in late 1923 by George W. Young, an optometrist whose hobby just happened to be radio this station went on the air as KFMT at 1300 Kilocycles with a whopping 231 watts of power. In late December of that year its first broadcast originated from Dr. Young's livingroom "studio". About a year later KFMT moved to 1140 Kc. Call letter changes to WHAT and WGWY came about before WDGY was granted in 1926 and new studios at the West Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, then the Loeb Arcade building and promoted Dr. Young's optical shop. There were a number of more moves.
Still more shifts to different frequencies happened before WDGY finally moved to the 1130 spot on the dial in 1941 that most of us knew. Dr. Young died in 1945 and his estate sold it. The station increased power to 50,000 watts by day, 25,000 at night in 1949 changing hands a few times finally being bought in 1956 by Mid-Continent headed by Todd Storz and went to the "top 40" format. Transmitter was in Bloomington with studios downtown.
Quite a number a colorful disc jockeys came to "Wee Gee" (see "disc jockeys" page). Among them, Bill Deihl, Dick Driscoll with his "Count Dracula" character, Dan Daniel who would become a New York legend, Stan Mack, Don Kelly, Perry St. John, Jim Dandy and many more including Johnny Canton who is still on the air. Their photos on the backs of those weekly hit record surveys imortalizing them. In the mid-60's the studios were moved to Bloomington by the transmitter making it a rough trek for the younger teen yet to get a driver's license, or car, to see favorite personalities.
In the fall of 1977 this top 40 institution abandoned the format to go country. In the mid-80's it was purchased by Malrite Communications. By the early 1990's It gave up its legendary calls to former archrival KDWB who used them for their AM station at 630 Kc, and adopted the KFAN sign as a sports talker that it is today.
Sure you remember "my mommy listens to ...". If you grew up in Los Angeles you heard that too but for KFWB since they were owned by the same company. Not always.
KDWB started out in 1951 as something most would say "you gotta be kidding!" Three brothers founded this "thing" in South St. Paul at 1590 kc that one wanted to call WPIG, another hated the idea of farm animal calls but the other convinced the first two to take WCOW. Of course they would sign on with a cowbell and play "hillbilly" and "old time" music. Who's the wiseguy who thought classical would fit this. Anyway, owners the Tedesco brothers who had couple of other stations in smaller markets also wanted to get into TV and applied for a license on channel 17 in 1952 which makes as much sense as Hilton planning to build hotels in outer space. "Let's pile into the SUV, honey and..." Said this thing started off as as joke, who had UHF on their TV in the early fifties or for the matter even a TV for many.
Maybe some sense finally came over the guys and they changed the calls to WISK in 1957. In 1958 the FCC approved "wisking" to 630 kc but that and a format change didn't help this "klutz" of a station and it was sold to Crowell-Collier, who owned two very successful California rock n' rollers, KFWB, L.A. and KEWB, San Francisco. In early fall 1959 the new owners took the KDWB calls and the top 40 format that would slug it out with mighty "Wee Gee". This station was no longer a laughing stock.
"Channel 63" as it was also known featured a fun and crazy airstaff that saw names like Hal Murray (shown on the homepage starting to "drive" a nail into his head), Bob Friend, Lou Reigert, Don Duchene, Sam Sherwood, Bobby Wayne, Jim O'Neill, Charlee Brown, Dick Halvorson, True Don Bleu and others. Don French was the first program director. These guys knew how to have fun and make great radio. They all went to Chuck Blore's disc jockey school where they learned to entertain on radio. Chuck was Crowell-Collier's national program director. It was recalled that at "Wee Gee" it was more corporate, they wore the suits and ties, KDWB was less formal.
"The station that trouble followed". You could say that. Hit by a fine from the FCC for exceeding authorized nighttime power in the early 60's. A fire knocked the station off the air for a couple of days in the late sixties and in the mid-70's more hot stuff, this time in the form of a kissing contest brought charges against station personel. For more on this click here for "It Happened On The Air" by Jeff R. Lonto.
KDWB "lives on" as a current hit player in the Twin Cities though sounding nothing like in its AM heyday. It began on FM in 1976. The AM would eventually take an oldies format and aquire the WDGY calls that former rival on 1130 before going dark for a couple years in the mid-90's. There is a station on the air now at 630 using WDGY somewhere in the east metro and sadly enough...it's a sports talker. The successful FM is now owned by one of the biggest if not the, in the country. Scott Stevens, one of this site's survey contributors worked there in the 1980's.
Another station that by all that's heard couldn't seem to get out of its own way although it had promising moments did not have the luck of KDWB. Many formats were tried including oldies, twice. Possibly they may have had success if they could have stuck to something viable. I was even talking to them about coming to work there doing oldies but being out west at the time nixed that fortunately. They switched formats. After becoming radio "AHHS", the kiddie format and being "thumped" by Disney this station is now with God as part of a Catholic network. You can read the big story on WWTC in Jeff Lonto's book, "Fiasco at 1280 - The Rise And Hard Fall Of A Twin Cities Radio Station". For more info on this book go to "Links and Things" page.
A station and an unusual one at that deserving mention. Located at the upper end of the AM dial at 1570 it played Gospel music for much of the day switching to R&B/Soul in mid-afternoon. You didn't hear a whole lot of R&B locally and even less in the winter when this daytimer had to sign off before most people left work to go home. I heard KUXL on a visit here about 1965 and fell on the floor when I heard "Blueberry Sweet" (not "Hill") by the Chandeliers as an oldie. And Nic-o-Lake Records, an advertiser. Long gone.
WDGY Disc Jockeys
KDWB Disc Jockeys
Links and Things