WATV-AM (AM-900), broadcasting as 900 Gold, is an 845-watt Class B AM radio station broadcasting an "urban oldies" format from studios at 3025 Ensley Avenue near Five Points West. It is owned by attorney Courtney French, and its tower is located off of Sheridan Road in Pratt City.(map).
Formerly known as WLBS-AM, the CBS-affiliate founded in 1946 had become known as a moribund soft-music and talk station when manager Joe Lackey negotiated a deal for a revamp. He had been fired from powerhouse urban station WENN-FM when A. G. Gaston bought it out of receivership after the death of its founder, Gordon McLendon of Mississippi. WATV's owners approached him, but resisted changing the format to "black music". Lackey convinced them to let him operate the station at his own expense for 90 days. He brought engineer Joe Dentici and most of the well-known on-air personalities from WENN with him to the station's makeshift studio in a 20th floor room at the Thomas Jefferson Hotel.
In one long night, Lackey and Dentici overhauled the aging 1000-watt transmitter and went on the air the next day. Deejay Tall Paul played Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From" as the first song on the new WATV. The station, despite its low power and daylight-only broadcast hours, was an immediate success. Publicity from the walk-out of WENN's stars helped put public sentiment on the side of the "underdogs" and the contemporary format appealed to white youth as well as blacks in the city. Other personalities on WATV included Erskine Faush, Maurice "Thin Man" King, Weldon Clark and Shelley Stewart.
Over the course of the 1980s, as hip-hop began to dominate the pop charts, WATV stuck with the same format, seeing it evolve from pop to "urban adult contemporary" and then "urban oldies". Stewart and Faush purchased the station after it was forced out of the hotel and operated it from studios on Ensley Avenue.
- weekday mornings: "Open Mic" talk show with Ron January
- weekday mid-mornings: "Gospel Cavalcade" with Erskine Faush
- weekday late mornings: old school music
- weekday mid-day: "Mid Day Cafe" with Vanessa
- weekday afternoons & early evening: "Afternoon Ride" with Michael Christopher
- weekday evenings: "900 Gold After Dark" romantic classics
- Saturday mornings: BeBe Winans Show
- Saturday mid-mornings: "O Zone Sports Show" with Brett Oates and Kendall Allen, featuring a report from the Birmingham Athletic Partnership
- Saturday mid-day: "Mid Day Cafe" with Vanessa
- Saturday afternoons & early evening: "Afternoon Ride" with Michael Christopher
- Saturday evenings: "900 Gold After Dark" romantic classics
- Sunday mornings: gospel music
- Sunday afternoons: jazz and old school with CC Scott
- Sunday evenings: "900 Gold After Dark" romantic classics
- WATV 900 Gold website