January 3-9, 2003
Cincinnati's WSAI 1530, Covington, Kentucky
always enjoy the opportunity, here at Site of the Week, to present
a site that ties in with the week's events, especially when there's
a big signal involved. So when we heard that Cincinnati's WSAI
(1530) was making the flip from standards to oldies on Friday
afternoon, the week's choice became obvious.
If you live anywhere in the east or midwest, you've certainly
heard this big 50 kilowatt signal near the top end of the dial.
If you've been DXing for more than a few years, you probably
still think of it by its original calls: WCKY.
Those calls come from "Covington, KentuckY," the
community across the river from Cincinnati that's long been home
to this big signal. WCKY signed on back in 1929, and by the thirties
had achieved high power (10 kilowatts, then) and a good dial
position (1490, just below the very top end of the dial) by making
the case that Kentucky needed more high-power allocations - never
mind that the station's market, even then, was across the Ohio
The NARBA agreement in 1941 moved WCKY up the dial to 1530,
where it shared the clear channel with just one other major station,
KFBK in Sacramento. To this day, 1530 doesn't flip to its night
pattern until Sacramento sunset.
In the fifties and sixties, WCKY was a major full-service
station in Cincinnati - and as a result of that big signal, for
much of the midwest as well - providing hefty competion for the
other big signal in town, WLW on 700. Later at night, when that
huge 1530 signal saturated the ether for a thousand miles, WCKY
leased out its time to preachers and baby-chick salesmen, a practice
that continues right up to the present day on 1530, in fact.
The 50 kW signal was modified somewhat in the late seventies,
when a fourth tower was added to the array, redirecting more
of the night signal to the north and east and a little less to
the south. By day (and for a few hours after sunset), WSAI is
non-directional, using the big Blaw-Knox square tower just east
of the transmitter building; at night; that's actually the only
original part of the array, since the other two original towers
were replaced during the night pattern change. (It's almost impossible
to see in the photo, but the Blaw-Knox tower now sports a second
set of guys near the top, added after a tornado damaged the tower
the growing Jacor group (which already owned WLW and another
heritage Cincinnati station, the former WKRC on 550, then operating
as a sister to WLW and using the calls WLWA) bought the intellectual
property of WCKY, which was by then doing talk, and moved those
historic calls down the dial to 550.
1530 became WSAI, another legendary Cincinnati callsign. The
original WSAI was itself a sister station to WLW in the years
before World War II, serving the local Cincinnati audience while
WLW programmed to the entire Midwest. By the nineties, though,
the WSAI calls had disappeared from their longtime home at AM
1360 and FM 94.1, where the station was once the city's big top-40
voice, and were available for reuse at the top of the dial. In
AM stereo, no less, the new WSAI became the adult standards voice
of Cincinnati, with veteran broadcasters Bob Braun and later
Nick Clooney (George's dad and Rosemary's brother) as morning
host. The WCKY calls eventually left 550 when Jacor's successor,
Clear Channel, restored the old WKRC calls there; they now reside
- very quietly - on 1360, which is known the rest of the hour
as sports station "Homer 1360."
The old calls stayed in place on the transmitter building,
though, on a bluff above the Ohio River west of Covington, not
far from the airport. (You can read much more about this site
at Jim Hawkins' excellent
transmitter pages, including some views inside the building.)
And as of today, WSAI now cranks out many of the same tunes from
this building that the old WSAI on 1360 once did.
Next week, we'll look at the other AMs of the Queen City...stay
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 fybush.com.
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
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