WAOK, News & Talk 1380, is an urban talk radio station that serves the Atlanta, Georgia market. WAOK operates on 1380 kilohertz with 25,000 watts of power during the daytime and with 4,200 watts of power with a directional signal at night from a transmitter in West Atlanta, and broadcasts from its studios at Colony Square in Midtown Atlanta. WAOK is Georgia's fifth-oldest continuously licensed AM broadcast station.
WAOK went on the air (with brand new call letters) on March 15, 1954, adopting a Rhythm and Blues and urban contemporary gospel music format. Featured performers included legendary R&B disc jockey Zenas "Daddy" Sears and local musician Piano Red, as well as early shock jock Alley Pat Patrick and singer Zilla Mays, the "Dream Girl", who broadcast sultry talk and soft music in the early-morning hours.
The studios were moved from 201 Henry Grady Building to a new facility at 70 Houston Street NE.
WAOK was acquired by The Atlanta OK Broadcasting Company (Stan Raymond, Zenas Sears, and Dorothy Lester each one third owners) in January 1956. (The AOK designation preceded the popular astronaut slang expression A-OK by many years.)
At a WAOK-sponsored concert held at Herndon Stadium in Atlanta on May 28, 1959, Sears used an Ampex monaural recorder and a single microphone to make one of the most famous live albums of all time, Ray Charles in Person (Atlantic 8039). The recording was unsolicited, but after Sears had listened to what he'd recorded, he sent the tape to Atlantic Records who paid Sears royalties that put his twins through college. The recording is famous not only as a documentary of Ray Charles's music before he became a crossover star, but also for its technical excellence, capturing the band, the crowd, and the singer in balance. The final song in the concert was the premiere of "What'd I Say". WAOK turned it into a hit even though there was no released version. Due to popular demand, Atlantic Records decided to release the live album and to send Charles to the studio immediately to remake "What'd I Say".
By 1957, the station was in operation 24 hours a day with an urban music format. The studios were moved again in 1959 to 110 Edgewood Road, NE, Atlanta, and the station's licensee name was changed to the WAOK Broadcasting Company. It was changed again in 1962 to The Atlanta OK Broadcasting Company.
On November 29, 1963, Stan Raymond and Zenas Sears became fifty percent owners of WAOK's licensee, acquiring the late Dorothy Lester's 33% interest for $57,786 from a local bank serving as Executor of her estate. Studios were moved to new quarters at 75 Piedmont Road, Atlanta.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted approval for the sale of the station on April 1, 1974 to Broadcast Enterprise Network, Inc. Ragan Augustus Henry, a Philadelphia attorney headed the new organization as President and 53% owner. He founded BENI (Broadcast Enterprises National, Inc.) in 1974 as a Black-owned business venture. BENI took control of the station May 14, 1974. In late May 1982, studios and offices were relocated to 401 West Peachtree Street, Atlanta.
WAOK was sold by the Atlanta OK Broadcasting Company on July 9, 1985 to the DKM Broadcasting Corporation. DKM (Dyson Kissner-Moran) sold Atlanta's WPLO (now WVEE) to buy WAOK on May 17, 1985. In the summer of 1985, WAOK revamped its programming format - it now aired an Urban Adult Contemporary music format while gospel programs were now heard from 5:00 a.m. until noon. Studios were then moved to 120 Ralph McGill Blvd.
On January 1, 1988, WAOK was sold, along with other DKM owned properties in Denver, Baltimore, Springfield, Lincoln, Akron, Dayton and Dallas, for $200 million to the Summit Communications Group, Inc. Also included in the sale was Atlanta's WVEE-FM, WAOK's sister FM station. WAOK was now a full-time gospel station.
In March 1995, Summit sold its interests in WAOK to Granum Communications, Inc. (Herbert W. McCord, Peter Ferrara, and Michael Weinstein). Also included in the sale was sister station, WVEE-FM.
On March 15, 1996, Granum Communications sold WVEE-FM and WAOK-AM to Infinity Broadcasting. On December 26, 2001, WAOK changed formats from urban contemporary gospel to News & Talk. Tony Brown was named Program Director of the New WAOK—The Voice of the Community.