WBCK Turns 71
WBCK went on the air July 9th, 1948, the third station in Battle Creek. WELL-AM had been on the air since the mid-1920’s and WELL-FM had just gone on the air a few months earlier. WBCK, a 1000-watt directional AM station at 930 on the dial was built right after World War II, as materials finally became available again. The Holmes brothers, Robert and David, formed Michigan Broadcasting Company, and it went on the air at 8pm on Friday, July 9th, 1948. After some comments from local dignitaries the owners and the staff, the station went into a Detroit Tiger broadcast. WBCK was an affiliate of the Mutual Broadcasting System.
The station was built just east of the Battle Creek Saddle and Hunt Club, but broadcast from the Security National Bank Building in downtown Battle Creek until fire destroyed the studios in 1958. After the fire, WBCK relocated to the transmitter site at 390 Golden Avenue. Also after that fire, WBCK added a fourth tower and increased to 5000 Watts Day/and remained at 1000 Watts Night. WBCK moved to FM 95.3 in 2008.
The Original 1948 Staff
Chief Engineer Charlie Dewey built the station. Bud Cooper, formerly of WFDF, Flint was program manager, and the announcing staff included Don Callen, Will Carlson, Ed Grennan, Dom Quinn and Jack Severson.
Dewey lived most of his life in Battle Creek, working for FEMA. He built WKMI, Kalamazoo in 1947, and was well-known among Ham Radio enthusiasts. Dewey recalled that the Holmes brothers looked at several sites for WBCK’s transmitter and towers, including the land across from Harper Creek High School and Riverside Elementary. He says they chose 390 Golden Avenue because of its close proximity to downtown Battle Creek, and the fact that the high ground would be good to locate an FM or TV station. Dewey passed away in 2014.
Callen started at WWJ in Detroit and worked at WXYZ there, and also at WFDF in Flint.
Carlson, a Toledo native, started in Lima, OH and after the military he worked in Rapid City, SD and Toledo.
Grennan started in broadcasting as an entertainer in the radio sound booth in the military in Guam. He went on to a long career in Chicago radio at WLS and WGN. Before coming to WBCK, he worked at Percy Jones General Hospital in broadcasting. He passed away in 2000.
Quinn started a storied radio career at WBCK, and worked at big stations in Chicago (WIND), New York (WINS and WMCA) and Philadelphia (WCAU). He passed away in 1996.
Severson was from Battle Creek, and graduated from Battle Creek Central in 1942. He was a talented sax player, but he had a passion for radio and he found work with WKZO and WKPR in Kalamazoo before settling in Holland where he worked for WJBL. Severson played with some pretty notable bands back in the 40’s, including Raymond Scott. He also acted on stage throughout his life, including work with the Battle Creek Civic Theater in the 40’s. He passed away in 2016.
Others on that first WBCK staff in 1948 included Gene Cahill, Jeanne Parsons, Florence Jonkowski, Barney Doyle, Arthur Lyon, and James Hanson. Cahill’s wife Molly was also involved with the station.
Many hundreds of people have worked for seven different owners in the 70 years, including Larry Collins, Ray Turner, Dave Eddy, Tom McHale, Chuck Wiseman and Bill Gray, just to name a few. The Holmes Brothers eventually sold WBCK to Nat Sibbold, who later sold to Bob Liggett. Since then, large companies Patterson Broadcasting, Clear Channel, Cumulus and Townsquare Media have owned WBCK.
If you have any knowledge of any of WBCK’s history, former employees, or great moments, please let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out these photos, including a late 50's aerial view showing the "Hunt Club" and early excavation of the Chapel Hill Drive neighborhood just south of WBCK.
WBCK Radio Photos
(Tim Collins is the current WBCK Morning Show Host and Operations and Brand Manager and has been with WBCK since 1989.)