Tuesday, March 13, 2007

1490 History

This is my first Knoxville AM station history.

To begin, let's look at the history of Knoxville's 1490 which once was WROL-AM with a progressive rock format as "W149":

1490 History

The history of AM 1490 began on September 1, 1960 as WROL-AM. The WROL-AM call letters were previously heard on WNBJ-AM 1310 (now WRJZ-AM 620). In the early 1970s, the station became "W149" and progressive rock as their format. The station was mainly heard across the UT-Knoxville campus with city of license located in Fountain City. This was to protect a daytimer on 1470 in Alcoa. The station was put on the air by Johnny Pirkle who was in charge of programming and Dick Sterchi who was in charge of sales. This was during the time Pirkle was waiting for his 100.3 application to go through.

When "W149" died in 1976, the station became "15Q" with WKVQ as their new calls. Many of the DJs including Rockin' Ron Baptist and Kim Carson would work at the station. The station was a hot rockin' top 40 that would last less than a year. The station would drop CHR for MOR.

The MOR format was short-lived when in the late 1970s, WKVQ became WITA and the format became religious. The religious format at 1490 WITA continues to this day.

The information about "W149" and WITA comes from radioranch, a Radio-Info member.


James said...

W149 was THE rock station for Knoxville during the early 70s. Sadly, the stronger Knoxville FM stations did not pick up "progressive rock" except for WUOT's "Till Two" show from midnight to 2 a.m. WQUT, 101.5 out of Johnson City, had a decent but unreliable signal in Knoxville, leaving W149 to fill in the gap.

W149 gave away a lot of beer, thanks to the Pabst Blue Ribbon distributing company out on Middlebrook Pike. Some friends of mine were rock music trivia geniuses and would win those kegs. I think they won 6 in all.

I was sad when W149 transitioned to 15Q. I think that killed the station. Knoxville did not get "progressive rock" until WIMZ filled the void.

Unknown said...

yeah, that was the most rockin' am station I have ever heard. I lived there in the 70's and listened to it a lot. Wish I could remember some of the DJ names. I still have two large magnificent pictures that one of the DJ's had taken from the civic coliseum. Johnny Winter and Gregg ALlman. They hang on my wall today. I am very grateful to him.

Steve Howard said...

One of the DJs was a female jock who went by Leslie Shelor. Lo and behold when I moved from Knoxville back to my native Kingsport in 1981, I learned her name was Peggy and she had married one of my early radio mentors, Carl Swann. Carl is now one of the morning hosts of the show "Thinking Out Loud" on WJCW-910 am in Johnson City TN. Leslie/Peggy has continued doing voice work in the Tri-Cities market over the years.

Unknown said...

We drank two of those kegs in Reese Hall.

Steve Howard said...

I got this story straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak, in the fall of 1980:

One of the flagship jocks on the new 15-Q was Bob Kaghan. Bob had been the PD in Asheville NC at 1310-WISE ("Big Wise"),which was owned by Rick Jorgensen's Basic Media, Ltd. This was the ownership that, in 1976, would buy 620-WETE and re-write that period of Knoxville radio history as "The New 62, WRJZ."

I had never gotten to know Kaghan, as he resigned at 'RJZ in the spring of 1980 to take the PD-ship of 107.9 WBCY in Charlotte, taking several 'Z jocks with him. John-Boy and Carrington Thompson were among them. I was, I believe, the first hire by Bob's replacement as PD at the 'Z, Fred Story.

I had heard, for the years that 'RJZ had existed, that Bob Kaghan had left WISE and had gotten his jock job at 15-Q as a plot, or ploy, between himself and Rick Jorgensen for Bob to "learn the Knoxville market" for the purpose of PD-ing and launching 'RJZ when the time came. Everybody discussed this rumor, but as far as I knew, rumor it was and rumor it remained.

I finally got the opportunity and the nerve, at the same time, in the fall of 1980 to ask Bob when he came by the 'RJZ studios the day Tennessee played Georgia at Neyland Stadium. Bob had ridden a bus from Charlotte to Knoxville, I was riding the board for the Vol Network on the Z, and I loaned him my car to drive to and from the game. Afterward, as a payment gesture to me, he bought dinner at Ramsey's Cafeteria. During the meal, I asked him point-blank if the rumor was true. He grinned and said something to the effect of "if I tell you that, I'll have to kill you." He then winked and said yes, that was what had "gone down."

I asked him what the big secret had been. He replied that, had the plan been advertised, Ron Baptist would have never hired him at 'Q. He said that 'Q knew WETE was for sale, but that 'Q considered 'ETE as no threat. If 'Q had known how serious the new ownership of 620 had been, and how the whole thing was going to play out, 15-Q's view of 620 would have been completely different. Bob said that, besides, he respected Ron Baptist and didn't like the idea of hurting his and Ron's friendship. But, with Kaghan gone lo these many years (RIP, Bob!), it's now a story for the telling. ☺

TheCzarsOf45 said...

1490 first signed on in 1948 as WATO-AM, first licensed to Oak Ridge, TN. The Oak Ridge, TN 1290 signed on in the early 1950's as WOKE-AM. Charlie Weaver, WOKE's owner sold the station to the owner of WATO, then WATO was moved to 1290 due to having 1,000 watts daytime, 500 watts night. This is when the 1490 frequency was moved to Knoxville and became WROL in 1960.