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WGAR-FM
99.5 WGAR
City of license Cleveland, Ohio
Broadcast area Greater Cleveland
Branding 99.5 WGAR
Slogan Real Life. Set To Music.
Frequency 99.5 (MHz) (also on HD Radio)
99.5 HD-2 for Classic Country
First air date 1950s
(December 13, 1930
as WGAR-AM)
Format Country
ERP 50,000 watts
HAAT 152 meters
Class B
Facility ID 47740
Callsign meaning George A. Richards
(founder, original owner)
Owner Clear Channel
Sister stations WAKS, WMJI, WMMS, WMVX, WTAM
Webcast Listen Live
Website www.wgar.com

WGAR-FM is a commercial FM radio station in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, broadcasting at 99.5 MHz with a country music format. Studios are located at 6200 Oak Tree Boulevard off of Rockside Road in Independence, Ohio along with other local Clear Channel stations, and its transmitter is located in Parma.

Contents

History

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WGAR-AM

The history of WGAR begins with AM station WDBK, which signed on the air on May 15, 1924 with 250 watts of power. The station was owned by Stanley Broz in the name of the M.F. Broz Furniture, Hardware and Radio Co., and was located at 13918 Union Avenue in Cleveland. The station moved to Boltan Square Hotel on Carnegie Avenue in 1925, and was using the slogan, "Broadcasting from Cleveland." In September 1927, Broz sold the station to William F. Jones, and WDBK was taken off the air. The station relocated to the Akron Beacon Journal building in Akron, and resumed broadcast operations in November 1927 as WFJC, the new call letters being derived from the owner's initials. Sam Townshend was listed as co-owner, and the first two announcers were Cyril Jones and Jerry McKiernam.

Jones sold the station to George A. Richards of Detroit in September 1930, and Richards moved the station back to Cleveland. He obtained a new callsign based on his initials, and WGAR signed on the air on December 15, 1930. WGAR was part of the Goodwill Station group that included WJR and KMPC, both also owned by Richards.

In 1937 WGAR became Cleveland's CBS affiliate. On October 30, 1938 it broadcast Mercury Theatre's "War of the Worlds," and it was left to a young staff announcer named Jack Paar to go on the air and calm Cleveland listeners by telling them that the program was only a dramatization. WGAR produced some programs for the CBS network, one of the notable ones being Wings Over Jordan, a popular Sunday morning CBS show that had the widest audience of any African-American broadcast.

Originally at 1480 kHz, it switched to 1450 kHz on March 29, 1941 during the NARBA frequency shift, and then to 1220 kHz on June 4, 1944. On July 4, 1947, it increased its power from 5,000 to 50,000 watts during daytime hours. WGAR was the flagship station for Cleveland Browns broadcasts 1946–1949, 1954 and 1956–1961. In 1950, the Federal Communications Commission began an investigation of George Richards and the station group for bias in the news, (known to broadcast historians as "The Richards Case"). George Richards died before federal action could be taken, with his widow (who then gained control of the group), committing to the FCC that such conditions would never happen again. After Richards death in May 1951, WGAR was purchased in 1953 by People's Broadcasting Corp., a company that had been founded seven years earlier by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation to serve rural communities. People's Broadcasting became Nationwide Broadcasting, a subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance in 1954.

With the demise of network radio in the 1950s, WGAR tried various music formats, settling into an adult contemporary format in the 1960s. Don Imus did a stint at WGAR as a morning drive personality from 1970 to 1971 before moving on to WNBC in New York. (He returned to Cleveland in 1979 to do afternoons on WHK.) Imus was replaced in 1972 by John Lanigan who had a very successful run as the morning man until he left for a Florida station on February 9, 1984. (In 1985 John Lanigan returned to Cleveland and went to work at WMJI, using much of the material he developed at WGAR.)

WGAR abandoned its adult contemporary format for a country music format on July 15, 1984. It donated its entire collection of jazz recordings to WCPN, the new public radio outlet that was going on the air the following September.

WGAR soon simulcast the country music format with its FM sister station, WGAR 99.5-FM, starting in 1986. By 1990, WGAR was sold off to Douglas Broadcasting, and it changed its call sign to WKNR-adopting a sports/talk format-while WGAR-FM assumed the WGAR identity (as allowed by the FCC regulations at the time.) WKNR maintained studios at the 1220-AM transmitter site in Broadview Heights-which were used by WGAR (AM) since the early 1970s, while WGAR-FM moved to new studios in nearby Independence, Ohio.

In January 1998, WKNR was sold to Jacor Communications, but were forced to spin it off to Capstar that very same August as a condition of the Jacor-Nationwide Communications merger - which ironically took WGAR-FM under the Jacor umbrella. Then, Capstar merged with Chancellor Media-who owned six other stations in the market-to form AMFM, Inc. in 1999.

When AMFM merged with Clear Channel in August 2000, WKNR was spun off again, this time to Salem Communications. And then, Salem moved WKNR to 850 kHz - formerly home to WRMR and earlier, WJW (AM) - in the July 2001 Great Cleveland Frequency Swap. WHK's programming and call letters moved to 1220 kHz in that same swap, but changed again to WHKW in 2005 when the WHK calls moved back to 1420 kHz following Salem's re-acquisition of that frequency.

Following the move, WKNR still broadcast from their studios at the former WGAR (AM) transmitter site (currently in use by WHKW), which were officially vacated on October 29, 2007, ending 30 years of near-continuous use.

WGAR-FM

The FM outlet began broadcasting in August 1952, simulcasting the AM programming as most FM stations did at the time. Hours of operation were very limited, usually at the bare minimum of two hours per week. By 1970, however, WGAR-FM underwent several massive changes. It started broadcasting in stereo that April 1, and became WNCR (which stood for either Nationwide Communications Radio or North Coast Rock) on July 2. WNCR adopted a progressive rock format, similar to what WMMS had attempted two years earlier. While a considerable success at first, conflicts between management and staff prompted key members of WNCR's on-air staff - including Program Director Billy Bass and personalities Martin Perlich, and David Spero - to jump over to a new WMMS.

On January 1, 1973, WNCR gave up the progressive rock format and changed to an automated country format. In 1975, the format was changed to beautiful music/easy listening using Jim Schulke's format. A few months later, the call letters changed to WKSW and the station's slogan became, "WKSW, FM 100. All music. All the time." For a brief period, no local announcers were used. Instead, recordings of Philadelphia announcer Nelson Hobdell were used for all station breaks. Eventually, WKSW went to all local personalities, including David Mark (who had the highest ratings the station ever achieved), Tom Mart, Jim Field, and Ted Lux. With the lone exception of David Mark, whose ratings in Cleveland were bested only by Cleveland Indians baseball on WWWE and rock music on WMMS, the station was never quite able to equal or better the ratings at competitors WQAL and WDOK, and the format was switched back to country by 1980.

On July 15, 1984, it switched its calls to WGAR-FM. It has continued its country music format since then. For a time around 1986 before WGAR (AM) was sold off and became WKNR, its country music programming was simulcast on the AM outlet.

WGAR-FM was sold to Jacor Communications in 1997 as part of a $620 million purchase of Nationwide Communications and its 17 stations by Jacor. In May 1999, Clear Channel Communications completed its $6.5 billion purchase of Jacor and its 454 stations, including WGAR-FM.

The WGAR morning show stars longtime WGAR personality Jim Mantel, with producer/sidekick Captain Tony, and news/traffic anchor Laurie Hovater.

WGAR-FM also broadcasts with an HD-2 side channel that plays classic country. In addition to the morning show, the on-air staff includes the legendary Marconi Award winning Chuck Collier, whose broadcast career extends 4 decades with WGAR. In March 2009, Chuck Collier was inducted into the Country Radio Hall Of Fame in Nashville, one of only 60 personalities in the history of country radio to achieve this honor. Collier is the music director as well as afternoon host from 2-7pm, while Michael J. hosts WGAR from 10am-2pm. Kat Jackson is the evening announcer from 7pm-Midnight. Chris Miller is the program director. Overnight & weekend programming includes "After Midnite with Blair Garner", "The Big Time Saturday Night with Whitney Allen", "Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40" and "Rick Jackson's Country Hall Of Fame."

Before Clear Channel's ownership, WGAR was programmed live 24 hours a day. Now a great deal of its programming is delivered by satellite or delivered by an unmanned computer using "voice tracks" like many of its Clear Channel sister stations.

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