WZZK-FM is a country music FM radio station licensed to Birmingham that serves northern and central Alabama broadcasting at 100KW on 104.7 FM, and as of January 3, 2007, is the flagship station of the Rick and Bubba radio network. It was the first FM station in Birmingham to switch to country music, and throughout much of the 1980’s and 90’s was the top-rated radio station in Birmingham. The station is owned by Cox Radio. Its transmitter is located atop Red Mountain.
The 104.7 frequency was originally put on the air as the sister station of WJLD-AM (1400). It signed on in 1948 as WJLN-FM and originally repeated the rhythm and blues music format of the AM station. By the end of the 1960’s, WJLN began playing progressive rock music at night, while continuing the daytime simulcast of WJLD.
In 1973, the call letters of WJLN were changed to WZZK. With the new call letters, WZZK became a full-time album rock station. The station’s main competitor in this format was WBPT-FM. However, the station failed to attract a significant listening audience. In 1977, WVOK-FM (K-99) made its on-air debut as an album rock station, forcing WZZK to abandon the format a year later.
In 1978, WZZK changed formats and became Birmingham’s first FM country music station, challenging long-time market leader WYDE-AM. Initially, the new WZZK was automated, with no live studio announcers. Morning show co-hosts Patti Wheeler and Doc Atkinson began their long-lasting partnership in 1979, establishing a personality-driven era of success. In 1982 competitor WYDE dropped their long-lived country format. Throughout most of the 1980s and 90s WZZK was ranked no lower than #3 in the Birmingham Arbitron ratings, despite challenges from other local stations.
In 1985, the first of two AM stations that had the WZZK call letters made its debut. Longtime Top 40 powerhouse WSGN-AM (610) was purchased, and began a simulcast that continued until 1998 when it switched to an urban gospel format. Also in 2002 Patti & Dollar Bill left the station for rival WDXB-FM and were replaced by the morning duo of Chuck and Debbie Johnson.
The most serious and successful challenge to WZZK’s dominance came in 1994, when WZBQ, a station licensed to Jasper that had previously targeted the Tuscaloosa area, moved its studios to Birmingham and relaunched itself as WOWC. The new competitor, by then having the new call letters WDXB, gradually began chipping away at WZZK’s audience, and in 2002 began broadcasting from atop Red Mountain in Birmingham, where most of the market’s FM stations have their broadcast towers located. As of 2006, WZZK and WDXB are the two dominant country music stations in Birmingham. Neither station has a significant ratings advantage over the other.
- WZZK website
- WZZK. (2007, January 3). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:30, January 3, 2007