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December 12-19, 2002

The AM Towers of Dayton, Ohio

Last week, we visited WCTM, a wonderfully quirky little one-man operation in Eaton, Ohio, about 25 miles west of Dayton.

It wouldn't be fair to deprive you of a look at the rest of the AM dial in the Dayton market, would it? Thought not...

We'll start about 40 miles north of Dayton on I-75, and about four years ago. Fall 1998 found us heading from Fort Wayne to Dayton and Cincinnati for a couple of quick days of tower hunting, with a handful of stops on the way. First up was WMVR in Sidney, a pleasant town halfway between Lima and Dayton, playing a live and local hot AC format on 105.5 FM and, from all three of those towers at left, 1080 AM.

It's a good thing we got there and took this picture when we did; last year, WMVR (the calls stand for "Miami Valley Radio," by the way) turned off the AM transmitter for good as part of a deal that will allow WOAP (1080 Owosso MI), 180 or so miles away, to move south to the Lansing market. The FM is still going strong from the tower closest to the building; we're told the other two towers came down when the AM went dark for good.

Our next stop, 20 minutes or so later, was in Piqua (say it "Pih-KWAH"), home to another AM/FM combo of some note. WPTW (1570) boasted "AM Stereo" on the sign out front, and meant it, though our noontime stop found the station doing death notices instead of music. It's a traditional small-town full service station, and it's still at it four years later (although in mono these days, I hear.)

As for the "WCLR" on the other side of the studio door, that's 95.7 FM, the former WPTW-FM. By 1998, it had found its way into the Cox cluster of media that dominates Dayton, including WHIO (1290), WHKO (99.1), WHIO-TV (Channel 7), the Dayton Daily News and the nearby Springfield News-Sun. It was playing oldies then, simulcast with WZLR (95.3) in Xenia, southeast of Dayton; later it would switch to an 80s format as WDPT, "The Point." (Xenia also flipped, becoming WDTP, but this year returned to the WZLR calls with classic rock.)

The WPTW tower was out back, behind the studio, but the sun was at a terrible angle for on we went to Dayton that day.

Dayton is an easy city for tower hunters, with most of the important facilities clustered in tight proximity. All the city's TV stations (we'll see them in a later installment) are within a couple of miles of each other southwest of downtown, while most of the FMs (except Cox's WHKO) were on a collection of towers just southeast of downtown. Since that 1998 visit, Clear Channel has consolidated four of its FMs in the market at a single master FM site, the old WTUE (104.7) tower on a ridge just east of I-75 and just south of downtown.

Also on that ridge is a tower that was home to WMMX (107.7), which has since moved to the master site, but which remains home to 107.7's former sister station, WDAO (1210), an urban-formatted daytimer. I didn't get close enough for a good picture then, and in any event the AM antenna is nothing but a set of wires strung partway up the FM tower.

Dayton's other three AM stations are all close neighbors in the suburb of Kettering, southeast of the city. Two of them even share the same street: David Road, which runs for about a mile east of Ohio 48. Heading east along David Road, the first stop is at number 717, shown above, which is home to both the studio and transmitter of WING (1410), which was once the major top-40 AM station here.

WING was doing CNN news in 1998 and is now mostly satellite sports; it's now owned by Radio One, which also operates top 40 station WGTZ (92.9 Eaton - the original WCTM, if you were paying attention last week!) and urban WDHT (102.9 Springfield.)

About a mile east of WING are the three towers of Cox's WHIO (1290), the oldest and probably the best AM signal out of Dayton (with WONE close behind); about half a mile southwest of WING are the four-in-a-square of WONE, Dayton's standards station on 980.

WONE's full-service heritage is reflected at Clear Channel's studio complex downtown, at 101 Pine Street in the historic Oregon neighborhood of Dayton. In addition to the neon letters on the facade of this 150-year-old building, check out that funky old WONE sign hanging off the side, a relic of an earlier studio location!

(We had a chance to tour this building recently; Clear Channel's engineers have done a nifty job of fitting eight stations into three floors of the facility - and yes, WONE's studio is right next to the WONE sign. Dayton-savvy readers will note that this picture is clearly from the 1998 visit; "The Beat," WBTT 94.5 Englewood, seen on the facade and on the remote truck at right, has since become a "Kiss" station under new calls WDKF.)

That's it for Dayton proper - but we'll give you the grand tour, filling out our 1998 photos with some more recent (as in last month) images of the stations in several small towns east of Dayton.

Springfield is a sizable community about half an hour east of Dayton on I-70 (and US 40, the old National Road), and in addition to Radio One's WDHT (102.9) mentioned above also boasts two AM stations with some unusually close ties.

The tower at left is WIZE (1340), the graveyarder that was once the radio voice of Springfield and kept playing the hits well into the 80s. Today, WIZE is part of Clear Channel, simulcasting WONE and filling in some gaps in WONE's signal to the east (where it protects 980 facilities in places like Washington, D.C. and Troy, N.Y.)

But there's still life in the building at the base of the tower, high on a hill north of downtown Springfield: it's home to the studios of talker WULM (formerly WBLY), which was once involved in an LMA with WIZE before Clear Channel took over.

WULM operates on 1600 from a separate site west of US 68 (also home to the WDHT antenna, and just a mile or so from the studio and tower of religious WEEC 100.7.)

Head south from Springfield on US 68 (or east from Dayton on US 35) and you pass through the Dayton suburb of Fairborn before arriving in the city of Xenia, Ohio. And if you head into Xenia on the US 35 business route, one of the first things you'll see is the three-tower site of WGNZ (1110), the religious station licensed to Fairborn. When we photographed WGNZ this November, the preachers and station IDs sounded just a bit odd, with almost a warble to them; we later learned that the station has been having STL problems and the audio we heard was coming from WGNZ's Webcast, which was doubling as a studio-transmitter link!

The more interesting spot on the Xenia radio dial, though, is AM 1500, the daytime home to WBZI. Tune in to WBZI and you'll hear country music - but not of the Shania Twain/Brooks and Dunn variety.

No, sir: WBZI plays country music - and Western, too - made by people named Hank and Merle and Johnny and such, and you can thank owner (and bluegrass star) "Moon" Mullins, sitting at the board doing afternoon drive, and his son Joe (rear left) for keeping it that way, live and local all day long. And yes, that thing behind Moon is a record player and it's playing an actual LP record!

Business is good at WBZI, we're told, with plenty of positive response to the classic country format that's been running for a few years now. (So good, in fact, that the Mullinses opened up a retail store next door to the station to provide an outlet for the kind of music they play, which is hard to find at the big chain stores in Dayton!)

And now you've seen pretty much everything of interest on the AM dial in and around Dayton. Head south of here by just a few miles and you're in the northern fringes of the Cincinnati market; in fact, it's only half an hour or so on the road to get from the Dayton AMs to the legendary WLW site in Mason, and it's no wonder that WLW always does very well in the Dayton market - but we'll get down to the Queen City another time.

In the meantime, we'll mark the birthday of one of the radio industry's most important inventors next week in a Tower Site special - and if you still need more steel, we're pleased to announce that the Tower Site Archive index has been fully updated, so you can find the sites you've missed over the last few years.

Want to see more neat sticks all year round? Nashville's WSM (at left) is one of the more than a dozen Tower Site images featured in the 2003 Tower Site Calendar, coming this fall from Tower Site of the Week and

If you liked last year's edition, you'll love this one: higher-quality images (in addition to WSM, this year's edition includes Providence's WHJJ; Mount Mansfield, Vermont; Buffalo's WBEN; KOMA in Oklahoma City; WTIC, Hartford; Brookmans Park, England; WPAT, Paterson; Four Times Square, New York; WIBC in Indianapolis; WWVA in Wheeling, W.V.; WGN Chicago and more), more dates in radio history, a convenient hole for hanging - and we'll even make sure all the dates fall on the right days!

This year's edition is back from the printer, and shipping is underway. Orders placed by December 15 should arrive in time for Christmas! And this year, you can order with your Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express by using the handy link below!

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