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History of WCCO Radio

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

A Short History of WCCO Radio

Larry Haeg talks to a Former WCCO General Manager about the Birth of WLAG and WCCO in the 20′s


first radio studio History of WCCO Radio

(credit: CBS)

WCCO began broadcasting in the region on September 4, 1922 as WLAG, known as “the Call of the North”, from a hotel near Loring Park, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. However, the station soon landed in financial trouble and closed down in 1924. Washburn Crosby Company, forerunner of General Mills, took over the station and renamed it to WCCO (for Washburn Crosby COmpany), and broadcasts resumed less than two months later on October 2, 1924 from its current transmitter site in Coon Rapids (then known as Anoka Township). But for that brief interruption, WCCO would be the oldest station on the air today in Minnesota. It originally broadcast at 710 AM.

WCCO Radio 30th Anniversary Broadcast


network broadcasting History of WCCO Radio

(credit: CBS)

In the early days of radio, WCCO was a powerful force in the development of better and more powerful transmitters. On November 11, 1928 with the implementation of the FCC’s General Order 40, WCCO changed its frequency to 810 kHz and was granted clear-channel status. It signed on with 50,000 watts for the first time in September 1932. In the 1930s, two additional 300-foot towers were added to increase the range of the station’s signal, allowing it to be picked up as far away as Hawaii and the Caribbean Sea when atmospheric conditions were right. Later in 1932, CBS bought WCCO from General Mills, and it remains affiliated with the CBS Radio Network to this day.

WCCO activated a new 654-foot tower in Coon Rapids in 1939 This is the same tower used today, although the broadcast frequency was changed to 830 kHz as a result of the 1941 North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement.

WCCO Transmitter

503 wcco transmitter site old car 2 History of WCCO Radio

(credit: CBS)

Due to the tower’s height and power, as well as Minnesota’s mostly flat landscape, WCCO boasts one of the largest coverage areas in the country. During the day, it provides at least grade B coverage of almost all of Minnesota (as far north as Duluth and as far south as Rochester), plus large portions of Iowa and Wisconsin. Under the right conditions, it reaches into portions of North and South Dakota. At night, the station’s signal typically reaches across many U.S. states and Canadian provinces. Certain conditions can make the signal stretch much farther— legendary station personality Howard Viken says that he once picked up the station while he was stationed at Guadalcanal in 1943! In 2005, WCCO began broadcasting in the High Definition.

WCCO Radio 40th Anniversary Broadcast


WCCO Radio 50th Anniversary Broadcast Part 1


WCCO Radio 50th Anniversary Broadcast Part 2


Cedric Adams, the Twin Cities first “Media Star”

During those early days, WCCO broadcasters were substantial celebrities across the Midwest. Perhaps the greatest of them all was Cedric Adams who first appeared on WCCO in 1931, and broadcast on the station until his death in 1961. Pilots flying over the upper Midwest reported watching the lights go out all over the region each night when Adams finished his 10:00pm newscast. Howard Viken, Maynard Speece, Charlie Boone and Roger Erickson, Jergen Nash, Joyce Lamont, Randy Merriman and many others were so well known and loved that when distinguished broadcaster Steve Cannon “the Iron Ranger” and his cast of charactors, including Backlash LaRue and Ma Linger arrived at WCCO in 1971, he was still thought of by many listeners as the “new guy” nearly until his retirement 26 years later. WCCO Radio is known in its home market by its call letters, the phrase “Minnesota’s 8-3-0″ or the nicknames “‘ CCO” or “The Good Neighbor”, and plays a news and talk-oriented format, with a strong news element, opinion and a number of shows throughout the day. The format also included a broad mix of music, which leaned MOR until the 1980s, when the playlist shifted more toward adult contemporary. The music was gradually phased out by the early 1990s, when the format was changed to all news/talk.

WCCO has also had a longtime reputation of being the station to tune to for emergency information, especially severe weather. Listeners would call in during severe weather events and describe what they see in their locations, supplementing information from the National Weather Service. For many years, they were famous for their “klaxon” alert tone for tornado warnings, which was a purposely irritating, terrible sound designed to alert even the drowsiest listeners of impending danger. This sound was created by putting a metal tape reel on a bulk eraser and pushing the erase button, creating a foghorn-like tone, which was then recorded for subsequent use.

For several years, WCCO has hosted a weekly radio show with the governor of Minnesota. Jesse Ventura had a show while in office as did successor Tim Pawlenty.

WCCO Radio 60th Anniversary Broadcast


Dave Lee

img2130 ed2 History of WCCO Radio

(credit: CBS)

WCCO personalities include longtime Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman, morning show host Dave Lee and Meteorologist Mike Lynch, Chad Hartman, John Williams, Mike Max, John Hines and Al Malmberg.

John Williams

johnwilliams 002 History of WCCO Radio

(credit: CBS)

The WCCO Radio Newsroom includes Adam Carter, Susie Jones, Edgar Linares, Chris Simon, Colin Smith, Laura Oakes and News Director Daphne Adato.

1962 Rose Bowl

1962 rose bowl History of WCCO Radio

(credit: CBS)

WCCO is the new home for Minnesota Timberwolves Basketball and University of St. Thomas Football.

To see a photo gallery of WCCO Radio through the years, click here!

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