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Author Topic: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them  (Read 28581 times)

roadman65

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Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« on: January 31, 2015, 02:15:53 PM »

As we all know the FCC controls what part of the radio dial (the frequency) a radio station is to broadcast at as well as the range and area it is to be covered.  Stations west of the Mississippi River are to begin with the letter "K" and those east of it are to begin with "W."

However, the rest of the lettering is determined by the person applying for the radio station license upon availability.  Two stations cannot have the same exact call letters as they are identification codes rather than for listeners.  In Florida there are two WFLA stations, however one is officially WFLF and states it at the top of the hour when all radio stations and TV broadcasters are required by law to state their licensed call letters.

Did anyone ever give a thought to where the stations obtained their call letters for their license?

Well in Dover, NJ WDHA came up with it as an abbreviation for the company that originally owned them: Drexel Hill Associates.

WPLJ, the long defunct Rock Station now American Top 40, actually used the phrase Pure Lemon Juice.

WVNJ, now Z100 in NYC, was based in Verona, NJ which is where the letters came from.

WPAT, the station that all the pre WWII born generation listened to that the baby boomers and the rest of the generations coined as "Sleepy elevator music" that died  in Northern, NJ after most of the generation that supported it passed away, was obviously named for the city it broadcasted from which was Paterson.

In Melbourne, FL WDMC is a Catholic Radio Station for the Space and Treasure Coast listening area in Florida and is named for the Divine Mercy, a name given to a vision that was seen by a Catholic nun several centuries ago, plus the last "C" is for "Catholic."

I believe the defunct WDIZ in Orlando got its name from Disney.

Then we know that WABC and KABC got their names from the network we call "The American Broadcasting Company."

Any other stations in your area that you know of how they obtained their call letters for the FCC?
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kendancy66

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2015, 02:30:14 PM »

I heard that KFWB is acronym for Keep Filming Warner Brothers
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bing101

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2015, 02:49:43 PM »

WABC once stood for Atlantic Broadcasting Company back in the 1930-1940's in New York before CBS had to change 880am to WCBS to prevent confusion with 770 AM.
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pianocello

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2015, 02:51:11 PM »

There has to be quite a few call letters that are based on their location. A few that come to mind are WQAD in the Quad Cities and WLNS in Lansing, MI. KWQC in the Quad Cities also has makes regional sense (I don't know if this is true, but the K and W seem to represent the two sides of the Mississippi and QC stands for Quad Cities).

Apparently, a lot of the older ones are based on acronyms, like WGN (World's Greatest Newspaper) and WLS (World's Largest Store, referring to Sears) in Chicago, and WOC (Wonders of Chiropractic) in Davenport. Actually, the wikipedia pages for a lot of radio stations give meanings, but I'm not sure how many of them are actually true.
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bing101

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2015, 02:59:08 PM »

KFOG San Francisco got its name from the weather.

KIIS Los Angeles got its name from 1150 am.

KGO and KNBR got their names from their original owners NBC and GE.
Interesting enough though KGO was NBC Blue for San Francisco  and KNBR was NBC Red San Francisco in their initial years until there was an order that KGO and KNBR need to go to different owners due to laws FCC had to enforce in the 1940's. KGO went to ABC, Disney, Citadel before Cumulus in 2011. kNBR went to NBC then there were other owners before Cumulus got to KNBR.

Cumulus is the only group that I could think of that reunited the Former NBC Red and NBC Blue stations KGO and KNBR in 2011 via Citadel takeover.

KCBS San Francisco and KCBS Los Angeles from CBS inc
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PurdueBill

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2015, 03:11:58 PM »

A few I know of:

WEWS in Cleveland comes from E.W. Scripps, founder of the station's parent company.

WCVB in Boston stands for Channel V Boston (they were on analog channel 5).  Not even the only one with Roman numerals in town....WLVI's LVI is for its analog channel number, 56.

WGBH in Boston refers to Great Blue Hill (where the original TV transmitter was and the radio transmitter still is; God Bless Harvard is an urban myth).
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Pete from Boston

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2015, 03:18:56 PM »


WPLJ, the long defunct Rock Station now American Top 40, actually used the phrase Pure Lemon Juice.

Nope.  "White Port and Lemon Juice," a Four Deuces song, repeated the letters "W-P-L-J."  Zappa covered it, and made it cool to the FM rock crowd, WPLJ's audience. 

Nothing defunct about WPLJ, just the rock radio format (whose audience is the modern equivalent of the dying/dead easy-listening crowd you cited).  Not many stations have kept a consistent format as long as PLJ has, close to 35 years. 
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jemacedo9

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2015, 03:19:52 PM »

Stations west of the Mississippi River are to begin with the letter "K" and those east of it are to begin with "W."

I always wondered how KDKA in Pittsburgh and KYW in Philadelphia got K call letters.
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3467

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2015, 03:34:21 PM »

KDKA is the oldest radio station I think and got its K before the rule. Others were WOC Davenport and the still WHO in Des Moines

Chicagos all news WBBM was We broadcast better music
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Pete from Boston

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2015, 03:40:45 PM »

From Wikipedia:

"The KDKA callsign was assigned sequentially from a list maintained for the use of US-registry maritime stations"
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Pete from Boston

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2015, 03:45:49 PM »

The best station in all of Massachusetts, WMBR, is named for its location in the basement of the MIT building Walker Memorial: 

Walker
Memorial
Basement
Radio.

Its earlier call letters were purchased by some redneck from Atlanta for the price of a station equipment overhaul.  Guess the dude thought "WTBS" (Technology Broadcasting Service when at MIT) had a future. 
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roadman65

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2015, 03:47:10 PM »


WPLJ, the long defunct Rock Station now American Top 40, actually used the phrase Pure Lemon Juice.

Nope.  "White Port and Lemon Juice," a Four Deuces song, repeated the letters "W-P-L-J."  Zappa covered it, and made it cool to the FM rock crowd, WPLJ's audience. 

Nothing defunct about WPLJ, just the rock radio format (whose audience is the modern equivalent of the dying/dead easy-listening crowd you cited).  Not many stations have kept a consistent format as long as PLJ has, close to 35 years. 
Since I graduated high school WPLJ has been the way it has.  1983 when I went away to Florida for vacation right after graduation to be exact. You are right that they kept their format as long as they did as many die out within a decade or two.
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Jardine

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2015, 04:40:06 PM »

KFAB:

Fine
Automobile:
Buick
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jeffandnicole

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2015, 05:00:08 PM »

I want to say WPVI is Philadelphia (P), Channel 6 (Roman Numeral VI).

WPHL - Which one would correctly assume is a Philly station, goes to a rather low-key channel: Philly's Channel 17, now a MyTV network.

I always wondered how...KYW in Philadelphia got K call letters.

I think they moved from another city and were permitted to transfer the call letters.
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1995hoo

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2015, 05:21:54 PM »

Down in Charlottesville, WUVA and WTJU are obvious.

In the DC area, WAVA refers to "Arlington, Virginia," as that's where the station is based. WTOP took those call letters because it used to be at the "top" of the AM band; it no longer is, but the brand was well-established. WAMU is affiliated with American University. WFED, which has WTOP's old AM slot, is "Federal News Radio." WHUR is affiliated with Howard University ("R" denoting "Radio"). WRQX (used to be Q-107) apparently means "Washington RoQX"; they later went to one of those annoying "Mix" formats but kept the call letters, and now apparently they are Top 40 again (I haven't listened to them in years). WMAL refers to its founder's initials.

WINC-FM is based in Winchester and its call letters reflect that.
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nexus73

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2015, 05:27:25 PM »

Coos Bay OR (and Coos County) got their first commercial AM radio station on 1230 Khz in 1924.  The callsign reflected that: KOOS. 

Rick
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bandit957

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2015, 06:13:47 PM »

Radio stations these days have such stupid names.

In the '80s, Cincinnati got WWNK, which meant Wink 94.1. I have no idea why they called their station Wink 94.1, because they should have known everyone would call it Stink 94.1.
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hbelkins

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2015, 09:24:00 PM »

Many in this area are geographically based.

WCBJ stands for Campton, Beattyville, Jackson.
WJSN is in JackSoN
WMOR in Morehead, Ky.; WMKY is the Morehead State University public radio station.
WVLK is the Voice of Lexington, Ky.
WIRV is in Irvine.
I've heard that WLAP is for Lexington And Paris.

The radio station (and now TV station) in my town is religious-based. Its call letters are WLJC, for Wonderful Lord Jesus Christ (or alternately, We Love Jesus Christ).
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #18 on: January 31, 2015, 09:27:54 PM »

KQRS Minneapolis/St. Paul - Quality Radio Station
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kkt

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #19 on: January 31, 2015, 09:44:15 PM »

KSFO San Francisco, from the city
KING Seattle, from King County
KQED San Francisco from QED the end of a formal proof
KUOW Seattle, from Univ. of Washington
KPLU Seattle, from Pacific Lutheran Univ.
KPFA Berkeley, from Pacifica Radio the owning chain
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dfwmapper

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #20 on: January 31, 2015, 10:20:18 PM »

Pretty much every station in the US has the origin of its callsign listed in its Wikipedia article, usually right in the infobox at the top.
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vdeane

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #21 on: February 01, 2015, 12:02:24 AM »

Clarkson's student-run radio station is WTSC, from Thomas S. Clarkson, the man the university is named after.
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bing101

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #22 on: February 01, 2015, 12:26:52 AM »

WNET New York stands for the former Public TV Network now known as PBS

WNYC New York City initials are given.

WNEW Washington,DC stands,for New York

KPBS San Diego stands for Public Broadcasting System but its really owned by San Diego state university and they have not only TV 15 but also  have the NPR newstalk feed for San Diego.
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bing101

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #23 on: February 01, 2015, 12:30:04 AM »

KDKA is the oldest radio station I think and got its K before the rule. Others were WOC Davenport and the still WHO in Des Moines

Chicagos all news WBBM was We broadcast better music

CBS has 2 radio stations that hold the claim first radio station in america KCBS San Francisco from its previous owner of 740 am San Francisco KQW-AM by,Doc herrod in 1909. And KDKA in 1920.
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bing101

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Re: Radio Station Call Letters- Where did they come up with them
« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2015, 12:39:28 AM »

WQED Pittsburgh,Pa has the same meaning as KQED and they are both public broadcasters in their markets

KCSM San Mateo College of San Mateo

KPCC Los Angeles (Pasadena City College) currently owned by American Public Media.

KRAK Sacramento that used to exist but 1140am Sacramento is now known as KHTK am
KRAK does not sound good these days.

KOIT an entercom station in San Francisco stands for Coit Tower in the city.

KXJZ Capital Public Radio stands for excellence in jazz but its really a Public News  talk station for Sacramento.
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