Washington, D.C. AM Station History

Thomas H. White -- January 1, 2014

This is a brief review of the AM (mediumwave) stations which have operated in the greater Washington, DC area, from 1921 to the first of January, 2014. Hopefully I've included every single station -- I would appreciate information about any mistakes or additions.
 
Sections


Background

First off, an overview of broadcasting over the last near-century years, and how it relates to the Washington area: 1912 to 1926 -- Beginning in 1912, radio was regulated by the Bureau of Navigation of the Department of Commerce. In the Washington area a number of government stations, including the Navy's NAA in Arlington, Virginia and NOF in Anacostia, D.C., and the Bureau of Standard's WWV plus the Post Office's WWX, both in Washington, were the first area stations to conduct pioneering experimental broadcasts.

In December, 1921 the Commerce Department formally established a broadcast service, with 360 meters (833 kilohertz) set aside for entertainment broadcasts, and 485 meters (619 khz) designated for official government market and weather reports. (In the Washington area only WIAY and WQAW ever received an authorization for 485 meters). The single entertainment wavelength meant that stations were supposed to negotiate timesharing agreements, to keep from interfering with each other. On at least one occasion this failed. During December, 1922 WDM and WJH started transmitting simultaneously on 360 meters on Sunday evenings, drowning each other out. The stations eventually settled their dispute, after receiving bad publicity nationwide for their lack of civic-mindedness.

The first broadcast station authorized in the Washington area was WJH, the White & Boyer Company, on December 8, 1921. WJH tied with four other stations as the nation's 11th to receive a broadcast licence. Both WDM, the Church of the Covenant, and WDW, the Radio Construction and Electric Company, received licences on December 22, 1921, tying for 25th place nationwide. I'm not sure which of these three stations was first to actually go on the air, although it may have been WDM, which began broadcasting church services on January 1, 1922.

In late September of 1922 a second entertainment wavelength of 400 meters (750 khz) was assigned for better quality, higher powered stations. Stations on the new wavelength were designated "Class B" outlets, while those on 360 became known as "Class A" stations. About thirty stations nationwide would eventually qualify to use 400 meters, although none was located in the Washington area.

On May 15, 1923 the broadcasting service was greatly expanded, with the designation of a band of frequencies, in 10 kilohertz steps, from 550 to 1350 kilohertz. 550 to 1040 were set aside for Class B stations. Under the initial allocation 640 and 690 khz were assigned for use by Washington area Class B stations--WCAP and WRC were assigned to share 640, while NAA got exclusive use of 690. Class A stations were assigned to frequencies from 1050 to 1350 khz, although existing stations were permitted to stay at 360 meters, as "Class C" stations. In November, 1924 the upper end of the broadcast band was extended from 1350 to 1500 khz, providing 15 additional Class A frequencies.

Although Washington was a major early center for broadcasting, the first stations to go on the air were operated primarily for publicity purposes, and had relatively short lifespans. None of the first eleven broadcast stations, licenced in 1921 and 1922, survived past 1925. However, four current Washington area stations can trace their origin back to the 1920s: WTEM-980 (established June, 1923 as WRC), WOL-1450 (December, 1924 as WRHF), WMAL-630 (October, 1925), and WFED-1500 (began September, 1926 as WTRC in Brooklyn, New York).

Until mid-1922 new broadcast stations received three-letter calls. After that, the Commerce Department generally assigned Eastern stations four-letter calls with first "A" and then "B" as the third letter. Later stations generally received specially requested calls, normally four-letter, although a few, including WRC and WOL, got three-letter ones.

1926 -- Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover knew his authority to regulate broadcasting was shaky under the 1912 Act, but despite his pleas Congress never acted to strengthen his powers. Finally, adverse legal opinions stripped away his regulatory authority. Scores of new stations took to the airwaves or jumped to frequencies of their own choosing. Chaos was reported nationwide -- although not in Washington. In the D.C. area no new stations were started up during this period, and only WMAL appears to have changed its frequency.

APRIL 27, 1927 -- The Federal Radio Commission, newly created by Congress to straighten out the broadcasting mess, began a year-and-a-half long process to reassign stations to non-interfering dial positions. During this period the FRC made some frequency changes in the Washington area, but overall this period was fairly calm and no area stations were threatened with deletion, unlike the more congested regions of the country.

NOVEMBER 11, 1928 -- The FRC finally implemented a nationwide reassignment of station frequencies, with stations now classified as Local, Regional, and Clear Channel. All five stations in the Washington area, except NAA, were assigned new frequencies. However, none was required to share its frequency, which was the practice in more congested areas.

MARCH 29, 1941 - In conjunction with the expansion of the broadcast band to 1600 khz, a major frequency reallocation was implemented nationwide. Four of the six Washington area stations were shifted up in frequency, by 30 and 40 kilohertz.

POST-WORLD WAR II -- The Federal Communications Commission greatly reduced interference and economic standards, which resulted in thousands of new stations nationwide, especially in suburban areas. This sparked a major increase in the number of Washington area stations, generally expanding from the inner to the outer suburbs. Over the years, format and ownership changes have resulted in many new call letters. In fact, today only three area AM stations still have the same callsigns they signed on with: WMAL-630, WFAX-1220,and WNAV-1430. The most call letters changes have taken place at Silver Spring's station at 1050 kilohertz--starting life as WGAY, it has subsequently changed call letters ten times, currently identified, at least for now, as WBQH.

EXPANDED BAND -- In the mid-1990s, ten frequencies were added to the AM band, which moved the upper limit from 1600 to 1700 kilohertz. No metro DC stations were directly affected by the change -- the nearest expanded band station is WPTX-1690 in Lexington Park, Maryland. However, WPTX's move to 1690 made its old frequency of 920 kilohertz available for the construction of WURA in Quantico, Virginia.


History Chart

DC Area AM Station Map


Above is a map listing the AM stations which have operated in the metropolitan Washington area -- defined geographically as west-to-east from Leesburg, VA to Annapolis, MD, and north-to-south from Laurel, MD to Quantico, VA -- from December, 1921 to January 1, 2014. Stations in the same city are listed chronologically by their first licence date. Red calls are the last ones used by a deleted station, followed by the years of the licence. Blue is used for the current calls of existing stations, followed by the year the station appeared. (Stations are listed by community-of-licence, not studio location).
METROPOLITAN  WASHINGTON  AM  STATION  CHARTS

The two charts below list the AM stations which have operated in the Washington, DC area, from December, 1921 to January 1, 2014. The charts generally follow frequency order. Stations sharing time on a common frequency are listed with periods separating their columns. A short review of each station follows immediately after the charts.

       1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10   11   12   13   14   15   16
                ____                                              ____      ____
1922           . WDW.----.----.____ ____                         . WJH.____. WDM.____  1922
               . 833. WPM. WIL.WEAS.WHAQ.                        . 833.WIAY. 833. WMU.
                ----. 833. 833. 833. 833.                        .    . 833.    . 833.
1923                .    .    .    .    .                        .    .    .    .    . 1923
                     ----.    .    .    .     ____ ____   ----   |1140|    .    |1150|
                ----     .    .    .____.    |WCAP  WRC| |WABE|  |1100|    .    |    |
1924           | NAA|    .    .____.         |640 . 640| |1060|  |____|    |1280|    | 1924
               | 690|     ----               |    .    |  ----        |1100|    |    |
           ----|    |                        |    .    |               ----|1110|    |
1926      |WMAL|    |                        |-------> |                    ---- ----  1926
          |1410|    |                         ----     |
          |    |    |                             |    |
1927      |1020|    |                             |    |                               1927
          |1310|    |                             |    |
          | 990|    |                             |    |
1928      |1240|    |                             |    |                               1928
          |    |    |                             |    |
          |    |    |                             |    |
11/11     | 630| 690|                             | 950|                               11/11
1928      |    |    |                             |    |                               1928
          |    |    |                             |    |
1930      |    |    |                             |    |                               1930
          |    |    |                             |    |
          |    |----                              |    |
1935      |    |                                  |    |                               1935
          |    |                                  |    |
          |    |                                  |    |
3/29      |    |                                  | 980|                               3/29
1941      |    |                                  |    |                               1941
      ____|    |     ____ ____ ____               |    |     ____           ____
1945 |WQQW|    |    |WPIK|WARL|WASL|              |    |    |WGAY|____     |WANN|      1945
     | 570|    |    | 730| 780| 810|              |    |    |1050|WBCC|    |1190|
1950 |WGMS|    |    |    |    |WIPA|              |    |    |    |1120|    |    |      1950
     |    |    |    |    |    |WABW|              |    |    |    |WUST|    |    |____
1960 |    |    |    |    |WAVA|    |____      ____|    |    |WQMR|    |----|    |WAGE| 1960
     |    |    |    |    |    |WYRE|WLMD|    |WXLN|    |    |    |    |WHMC|    |1290|
1970 |    |    |    |    |    |    | 900|    | 950|    |    |WGAY|    |1150|    |    | 1970
     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WCTN|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
1980 |    |    |    |WPKX|WABS|    |    |    |    |    |____|    |    |    |    |    | 1980
     |    |    |____|WRMR|    |    |WILC|    |    |WWRC|WBZE|WNTR|    |WJOK|    |1200|
1990 |    |    |WREH|WPKX|    |    |    |    |    |    |1030|    |    |WMTG|    |    | 1990
     |    |    | 700|WCXR|    |    |    |    |    |    |WNTL|    |    |WMET|    |    |
     |WTEM|    |----|WCPT|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WKDL|    |    |    |    |
1995 |    |    |    |WBZS|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    | 1995
     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
     |WWRC|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WTEM|WWGB|    |    |    |WBIS|    |
2000 |    |    |    |WKDL|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WPLC|    |    |    |    | 2000
     |WTNT|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    | 
     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WFED|    |    |    |    |
2005 |    |    |    |    |WAVA|    |    |____|    |    |    |    |    |1160|    |    | 2005
     |    |    |    |WXTR|    |    |    |WURA|    |    |    |WTOP|    |    |    |    |
     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    | 920|    |    |    |WZAA|    |    |    |    |
2010 |WSPZ|    |    |WTNT|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WTOP|    |    |WCRW|1190| 2010
     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WBQH|    |    |----|WCRW|

       1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10   11   12   13   14   15   16


       17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31

1922                                                                              1922
                ____
               .WQAW.
1923           . 833.                                                             1923
               |1270|
               |    |
1924       ____|____|                                                             1924
          |WRHF|____
          |1170|WBES|
1926      |    |1350|                                                             1926
          |    |    |                                   ----
          |    |    |                                  |WTRC|
1927      |    |    |                                  |1250|                     1927
          | 940|1010|                                  |1460|
          | 930|1130|                                  |WTFF|
1928      |    |    |                                  |1480|                     1928
          |    |    |                                  |    |
          | WOL|WSMD|                                  |WJSV|
11/11     |1270|1310|                                  |1460|                     11/11
1928      |1310|____|                                  |    |                     1928
          |    |                                       |    |
1930      |    |                                       |    |                     1930
          |    |                                       |    |
          |    |                                       |    |
1935      |    |                                       |    |                     1935
          |    |     ____                ____          |    |
          |1230|    |WINX|              |WWDC|         |    |
3/29      |1260|    |1310|              |1420|         |1500|                     3/29
1941      |    |    |1340|              |1450|         |    |                     1941
          |    |    |    |              |    |         |WTOP|
1945      |    |    |    |____          |    |         |    |               ____  1945
      ____|    |    |    |WEAM|____     |    |         |    |              |WOOK|
1950 |WFAX|WWDC|____|WOOK|1390|WNAV|    |WOL |         |    |     ____ ____|1590| 1950
     |1220|    |WFCR|    |    |1430|    |    |---- ____|    |    |WDON|WPGC|WINX|
1960 |    |    |WEEL|    |    |    |____|    |WPRW|WQVA|    |    |1540|1580|1600| 1960
     |    |    |1310|    |    |    |WHRN|    |1460|1530|    |    |    |    |    |
1970 |    |    |    |    |    |    |1440|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    | 1970
     |    |    |    |WFAN|    |    |WOHN|    |    |WPWC|    |    |    |    |    |
1980 |    |    |    |WYCB|    |    |WVBK|    |    |    |    |    |WMDO|    |    | 1980
     |    |    |WDCT|    |WMZQ|    |WRHX|    |    |1480|    |____|    |    |    |
1990 |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WDAW|    |    |    | 1990
     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |1530|    |    |    |
     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WKDV|    |    |----|    |    |    |
1995 |    |    |    |    |WZHF|    |____|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    | 1995
     |    |    |    |    |WVPA|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
     |    |WGAY|    |    |WZHF|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WACA|    |WNNY|
2000 |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WKDM| 2000
     |    |WWRC|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WLXE| 
     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
2005 |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WTWP|    |    |    |    | 2005
     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WWWT|    |    |    |    |
     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WFED|    |    |WHFS|    |
2010 |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WNEW|    | 2010
     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |WJFK|    |

       17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31


Individual Station Reviews

Below is a short review of each AM station which has operated in the Washington, DC area. The number listed in parentheses, after the callsign, refers to the column number for the station listing in the charts above.

Eighteen Stations No Longer With Us

  • NAA [3], was built as a radiotelegraph station in 1913, and located next to Fort Myer in Arlington, VA. It was operated by the U.S. Navy. In the mid-twenties NAA started to transmit on the broadcast band. Although its broadcasts occasionally included band concerts and speeches, it was most famous for its nightly time signals.

    Five stations, all located in Washington, spent their entire lives on 360 meters (833 kilohertz):

  • WDW [3] was owned by the Radio Construction and Electric Company, at 542 Irving Street. At best it had only a limited career, since its only licence was a 30-day authorization which was never renewed.

  • WPM's [4] owner was Thomas J. Williams, an electrical supplier, who had put WDM on the air, and was located at 1324 New York Avenue, NW.

  • WIL [5] was operated by the Continental Electrical Supply Company, at 808 Ninth Street, NW.

  • WEAS [6] was one of two Washington stations operated by a department store -- in this case the Hecht Company at Seventh and F Streets, NW.

  • WHAQ [7] was owned by the Semmes Motor Company, located at 613 G Street, NW.

    Five Washington stations began on 360 meters (833 kilohertz) in 1921 and 1922 and later moved to Class A frequencies:

  • WJH [13] was owned by the White & Boyer Company at 812 Thirteenth Street, NW

  • WIAY [14] was operated by the Woodward and Lothrop department store, which was located four blocks west of the Hecht Company department store, at Eleventh and F Streets.

  • WDM [15] was owned by the Church of The Covenant, a Presbyterian church located at 18th and N streets, NW. In the sixties the church was torn down and replaced by an office building. This building is currently occupied by the National Association of Broadcasters.

  • WMU [16] was owned by the Doubleday-Hill Electric Company at 715 Twelfth Street, NW (Doubleday-Hill also had a store in Pittsburgh, PA, which operated KQV)

  • WQAW [19] belonged to Catholic University on Michigan Avenue in Northeast Washington.

    The final stations that are no longer around, or, in a couple of cases, never got beyond the Construction Permit stage, are:

  • WREH [3] was issued a construction permit for Reston, VA, but was never built.

  • WCAP [9], owned by Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, 725 13th Street, NW, which along with WRC (see below) shared time on 640 khz, a Class B frequency. WCAP and WRC represent a struggle for the domination of broadcasting which occurred between American Telephone and Telegraph and the Radio Corporation of America.

    RCA kept finding itself playing catch-up in the first half of the twenties. First rival Westinghouse set up a series of stations which pioneered the commercial broadcasting industry. Then AT&T developed network broadcasting, using its telephone lines to connect a "chain" of stations. (In 1921 AT&T envisioned setting up 38 of its own stations nationwide. As it turned out, Washington was the only city besides New York where AT&T built a station.) WCAP was the Washington affiliate for the nation's first radio network, carrying programs that originated at AT&T's WEAF in New York. RCA countered with a small chain of its own, including WRC, crudely connected by telegraph wires to RCA's New York station, WJZ.

    Finally, In 1926 RCA bought out all of AT&T's broadcasting interests. As a result the "WEAF Chain" became the "NBC Red Network", while the "WJZ Chain" formed the core of the "NBC Blue Network". In addition, WCAP was deleted, allowing WRC to became a fulltime station.

  • WABE [11] operated by the Young Men's Christian Association in Washington, at 1736 G Street, NW.

  • WCRW-1190 [15] Annapolis, MD. This station spent most of its life as WANN. It used the call WBIS during a period when it had a "Business" format. The station was assigned its final call for only a couple weeks before expiring, making way for a new WCRW, in Leesburg, VA, to move to this frequency from 1200.

  • WBES [19] ("Bliss Electrical School") was located in Takoma Park, MD, using equipment purchased from Woodward and Lothrop when the department store discontinued operation of WIAY. In the middle of 1928 WBES was sold and moved to Salisbury on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where it became WSMD, expiring the next year.

  • WRHX [23] Herndon, VA, never used its last calls, was off the air for more than a decade and no longer had a studio or antenna site at the time it finally was deleted, effective February 9, 1997, according to a provision of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which requires licence cancellation for stations off the air longer than one year. The station's original call of WHRN referred to its community-of-licence, while WOHN stood for the "Radio One" slogan it used before going under.

  • WDAW [28] which was issued a construction permit for Haymarket, VA, but never made it to the airwaves.

    Twenty-seven Current Washington-area AM Band Stations

  • WSPZ-570 [1] Originally WQQW, this station for decades was WGMS, "Your Good Music Station", featuring a classical music format, which was eventually transferred exclusively to its FM sister station. The station was originally in Washington, but moved in the early '60s to Bethesda. It later became WTEM ("Team") with a sports format, then, in 1998, swapped calls with WWRC, in 2001 became WTNT, heralding its "dynamite talk", then went back to sports in 2010 as WSPZ.

  • WMAL-630 [2] This station's original owner, the M. A. Leese Optical Company at 712 Eleventh Street, NW, was the inspiration for its callsign. WMAL is currently the oldest surviving Washington area station. (There were eleven DC broadcasting stations which preceded WMAL on the air, but none of these stations survived beyond 1925).

  • WTNT-730 [4] in Alexandria, VA, which started life as WPIK, and then has gone through a variety of call letters and formats, including spending a period of time as WPKX ("Kix Country"), then a few months as WRMR ("Remember Radio"), and for an even briefer period as WCXR ("Classic Rock") simulcasting its FM sister station, followed for a time as WBZS, "Business Radio", then WXTR, and finally inherited the WTNT call and "dynamite talk" format from 570.

  • WAVA-780 [5] Arlington, VA (both WARL and WAVA commemorate the station's community-of-licence), which is claimed to have originated the term "Country Music", growing out of WARL's "Town and Country" program. In the early sixties WAVA was one of the first stations to have an all-news format. It has had a religious format since it became WABS, standing for the "Washington-area Bible Station".

  • WYRE-810 [6] Annapolis, MD. The earlier call letters WABW reflected its desire to claim listeners in "Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington".

  • WILC-900 [7] Laurel, MD. The station's original callsign, WLMD, stood for its community-of-licence.

  • WURA-920 [8] Quantico, VA.

  • WCTN-950 [9] Potomac-Cabin John, MD. WXLN was an early attempt at a "nostalgia" format---after the change to WCTN the station has had a religious format ("Christ To the Nation")

  • WTEM-980 [10] originally WRC, named after its owner, the Radio Corporation of America. This station's transmitter was initially located atop the Riggs Building at 3308 Fourteenth Street, NW. In 1984 RCA sold WRC, and the station became WWRC, although it still called itself "WRC" except for the hourly legal ID. In 1998, the station swapped calls with WTEM ("Team"), and currently has an all-sports format.

  • WWGB-1030 [11] Indian Head, MD originally was WBZE, honoring WBZ-Boston, which is on the same frequency (WBZE's sign-off message suggested staying tuned to the frequency and listening to WBZ overnight). For many years its call was WNTL, for "International". The current calls reflect the station's owners -- "Good Body Media".

  • WBQH-1050 [12] Silver Spring, MD has gone through a variety of calls and formats. An earlier callsign, WZAA, reflected its association with the Air America talk network. It has twice been WTOP, which had historically been used on 1500, where it stood for "Top of the Dial". Before that, the station was WFED, with a "Federal News Radio" format, which was transferred to 1500 when the station became WTOP for the first time. Earlier identities included WNTR ("News Talk Radio"), and WQMR ("Quality Music Radio"). This station was originally WGAY. It was later purchased by a local DJ, Connie Gay, who wanted to own the station that was his namesake -- in other words, contrary to popular belief the station was not named after Gay, it already was WGAY when he bought it. [On September 12, 2004, I received a e-mail from Robert Z. Goldberg of Annapolis, Maryland, who reported: "I recall a college field trip in the early 60's to WGAY. We were told that the station started out broadcasting gov't. job openings, and that the call letters meant: 'Government And You.'"]

  • WUST-1120 [13] in Washington, named for its studio on "U Street", which earlier was WBCC in "Bethesda-Chevy Chase".

  • WMET-1160 [14] Gaithersburg, MD, ("Metro"), whose earlier WMTG call reflects its location in "Montgomery County", while WJOK ("Joke") commemorates an innovative but unsuccessful attempt at an "all comedy" format. [From a February 18, 2005 email from Ed. Rodriguez: The original calls were WHMC, which stood for the "Heart of Montgomery County," the motto of Gaithersburg, the station's Community of License.]

  • WCRW-1190 [16] Leesburg, VA. Originally on 1290 kilohertz, this station was WAGE for most of its life. It took advantage of the breakdown of the clear channels to move to 1200 kilohertz, later moving to 1190 as WCRW, eliminating the station in Annapolis, MD on that frequency. [From a February 18, 2005 email from Ed. Rodriguez: "I have always been told that Arthur Godfrey was the original owner of WAGE and that 'A-G-E' stood for Arthur Godfrey Enterprises. (anecdotal)"]

  • WFAX-1220 [17] Falls Church, VA was the first Washington area station to adopt an all-religious format.

  • WWRC-1260 [18] This station's facilities date back to the original WOL, but in 1950 WOL swapped calls with WWDC, whose owners had bought out WOL's frequency. In 1999, the station became WGAY, and two years later it became WWRC.

  • WDCT-1310 [19] ("D.C. Talk"), Fairfax City, VA [From a February 18, 2005 email from Ed. Rodriguez: My late friend and co-worker, Jules Henry, was on the 1955 sign-on staff. He said that the WFCR calls stood for "Fairfax Circle Radio." In 1962, the calls were changed to WEEL for a contest called "Wheel-O" that the station ran for at least one year.]

  • WYCB-1340 [20] Washington ("Your Community Broadcaster") which took over after WFAN lost its licence. [From a February 18, 2005 email from Ed. Rodriguez: This station began life as WINX in the late thirties and was owned by the Heller Brothers, then the Washington Post, then by Richard Eaton. Mr. Eaton moved the WINX calls to a startup daytimer at 1590 in 1950 licensed to Wheaton MD. (See below.) 1340 became WOOK, one of the first "all Negro" programmed stations in America.]

  • WZHF-1390 [21] Arlington, VA, originally was WEAM. [From a February 18, 2005 email from Ed. Rodriguez: "This station began life in 1948 as WEAM. The calls stood for 'Ellen Ann Miller,' the original licensee's daughter."] This station for many later years was named after its sister FM station, WMZQ. [On March 8, 2005, I received the following in an email from Bill Figenshu: "In your Washington DC pages you note that the call letter origination for WMZQ was the phonetic use of the word 'music'. As the person who selected and created WMZQ as a country music station, I must tell you the real reason. I was charged with creating the format. I was sent to research successful (at the time) country music stations in northern cities. One of the most successful of the day was WMAQ in Chicago. In addition, at the time, there were many stations using the 'Q' moniker as a contemporary approach to station identification. As you may remember, in 1977 the FCC required all stations changing call letters to inform other stations in the area of a call letter change. in order to 'throw off' the competition into thinking the station would be a 'top 40' station we selected WMZQ. (I thought - WMAQ? - WMZQ, it's available and easy to remember.) On June 22, 1977 we changed from WMOD 98FM (middle of the dial) to 98MZQ playing country music. At the time the 'top 40' approach to country music was rare and the contemporary feel of the MZQ call letters gave us an edge. (we thought). The station continues today as 'the' country music station in DC."] The "HF" in the current callsign stands for "Health & Fitness".

  • WNAV-1430 [22] Annapolis, MD, home of the "Naval Academy".

  • WOL-1450 [24] traces its history back to WRHF ("Washington Radio Hospital Fund") initially located at 525 Eleventh Street, NW, which was set up to broadcast to hospitalized veterans. It later became WOL. In 1950 WOL swapped calls with WWDC, whose owners had bought out the WOL's facility.

  • WKDV-1460 [25] Manassas, VA for most of its existence was WPRW, referring to its location in "Prince William" County.

  • WPWC-1480 [26] Dumfries-Triangle, VA also has a call standing for "Prince William County" (WQVA comes from WPWC's original community-of-licence of Quantico, VA)

  • WFED-1500 [27] has an unusual history -- it turns out to be a carpetbagging Northerner. During the breakdown in broadcasting regulation in 1926 the "Twentieth Assembly District Regular Republican Club, Incorporated" put 50-watt WTRC on the air in Brooklyn, New York. Someone may have felt they would have more political clout if the station increased power and was located closer to Washington, for in late 1927 the station moved to Mount Vernon Hills, VA, and was now rated at 10,000 watts. The calls became WTFF, for "The Fellowship Forum", and later WJSV, for publisher John S. Vance. A few years later the station moved to Alexandria, VA and a couple of years after that it made it to Washington. For many few decades, the station was WTOP -- the call letters promoted the station's location near the top of the radio dial. For a brief time the station became WTWP, reflecting its programing conducted by The Washington Post newspaper, then WWWT, and its most recent incarnation is as WFED, with a "Federal News Radio" format that was transferred from 1050.

  • WACA-1540 [29] is located in Wheaton, MD. Its current call honors its present owner, AC Acquistion. For many years it was WMDO, "Radio Mundo"--in its original incarnation as WDON it was for many years a Country and Western station, followed by a short-lived stint as "Disco D-O-N".

  • WJFK-1580 [30] for John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the nation's 35th president. The station's original call, WPGC, commemorated its community-of-licence, Morningside, MD, in "Prince George's County". For a couple years it sported yet another historic callsign, WHFS, which for many decades had been on the FM band, where it stood for "Hi-Fi Stereo", then was used to "park" the WNEW callsign pending its use on the FM band for an all-news station.

  • WLXE-1600 [31] closes out the dial in Rockville, MD. For most of its life, this station was WINX. [From a February 18, 2005 email from Ed. Rodriguez: "The WINX calls were moved from 1340 in Washington (see above) in 1950 to the new daytime station in Wheaton. The only way to get a full time authorization was to move the City of License to Rockville and the frequency to 1600. WINX was also the first Washington area station to broadcast 24 hours EVERY day of the week, followed closely by WWDC / 1260 (c.1964)."]



    Following are the major sources used for compiling the charts:
    The format used in this review was originally developed by Bob Harrison, for his Metro New York Call Letter History.