The Boston Radio Dial: WXKS(AM)

Who, What, Where

Community: Everett
Frequency: 1430 kHz
Class: B
Ownership: AMFM Radio Licenses, LLC
(Clear Channel Communications)
Studio: 99 Revere Beach Parkway
Medford, MA 02155-5124
Transmitter: 99 Revere Beach Parkway
Medford, MA 02155-5124
Phones: +1 781 393 7710
Format: Spanish tropical // WKOX
Web site: wkoxam.com

Technical Parameters

WXKS uses two 195-foot (60 m) guyed towers behind its studio on Revere Beach Parkway (Route 16), adjacent to the Wellington MBTA Orange Line station. By day, WXKS operates with 5,000 watts non-directional, while at night the station uses both towers and 1,000 watts, protecting co-channel WENE in Endicott, N.Y. and WNSW in Newark, N.J., and thus throwing a null to the southwest that cuts out most of Boston's western suburbs.

WXKS transmits a digital signal during daylight hours using iBiquity Digital Corp.'s “HD Radio” system.

Station History

The story of AM 1430 in the Boston area begins just after World War II, as new AM allocations sprouted all over the nation, many of them in fast-growing suburban areas and small towns. Among the many startups was a daytime-only station in Medford, north of Boston, called WHIL. The station signed on in January, 1952, operating from the same location on Revere Beach Parkway it uses today, but not on the 1430 frequency at first.

WHIL made its debut as a 250 watt daytimer on 1540 kHz, a frequency which immediately drew interference complaints from WMEX 1510, whose Quincy transmitter site enjoyed a direct salt-water path to WHIL in Medford. Soon after its debut, then, WHIL moved to 1430 and doubled its power to 500 watts, then increasing to 5000 by the end of the decade.

WHIL (and WHIL-FM, which arrived in 1960) were owned by Sherwood Tarlow as part of the “Tarlow Association”, which included WARE in Ware, WLOB in Portland, and several stations down south.

For decades, WHIL languished near the bottom of Boston's ratings, playing a blend of beautiful music that changed little through the sixties and seventies. One program that was noticed on 1430: daily racing calls from nearby Suffolk Downs!

In the early seventies, WHIL and WHIL-FM became WWEL and WWEL-FM, retaining the beautiful music and their spots in the ratings cellar. In 1979, the stations were sold to Hawaii Congressman Cecil Heftel, who installed a talented programmer named Richie Balsbaugh on the FM side, taking the station from “worst to first” as Kiss 108, WXKS-FM. The AM side changed calls to WXKS as well, but instead of disco, it took on a new format called “Music of Your Life”.

The new format brought the pop standards of the forties and fifties back on the airwaves, and a promotional push brought 1430 some of the best ratings it would ever have.

In the 1980s, Balsbaugh took ownership control of WXKS and WXKS-FM, focusing more attention on the FM side than on the AM. One major change to the AM operation did come to pass in the late eighties: the addition of night operation with a second tower and 1,000 watts. Under the rules then in effect, WXKS had to change community of license, since the null in the 1430 night signal made it impossible to cover the old city of license, Medford. As “WXKS Everett”, 1430 continued to play standards—albeit off a satellite feed—through the nineties.

In June 1995, Balsbaugh's Pyramid Broadcasting was purchased by Evergreen Communications, which was itself sold to Chancellor in 1997. While WXKS continued to run satellite standards in off hours, its morning drive hours became home to business talk in the late 90s, in a simulcast with WPLM (1390) in Plymouth. Early in 2002, a new live morning program was inaugurated featuring music and talk with host Bill Wightman.

(Chancellor merged with Capstar in 1999 to become AMFM, which then merged with Clear Channel Communications in 2000.)

In 2004, along with many other of Clear Channel's underperforming AM stations around the country, WXKS picked up the fledgling Air America network, in a simulcast with Framingham's WKOX. In addition to Air America's programming, the two stations also broadcast shows from Jones Satellite Networks and from Clear Channel's own Premiere Radio Networks division, all with a political orientation somewhat left-of-center.

With no local hosts, limited promotion and a weak night signal, the progressive talk format never achieved ratings traction in the Boston market. On December 21, 2006, Clear Channel relaunched WKOX and WXKS as “Rumba 1200, Orgulla Latino”, with PD Raffy Contigo at the helm of the Spanish tropical format.

Construction of the new WKOX transmitter facility in Newton finally got underway in late 2006, and when the new signal is on the air sometime in 2007, WXKS is expected to drop the simulcast for a new format.

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This station profile was written by the editors of The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. We have no relationship with the station; please send any comments or questions about their programming directly to the station. Network connectivity courtesy of MIT CSAIL.

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