WGST AM 640 ("Talk 640 WGST") is a radio station licensed in the city of Atlanta, Georgia. WGST is a Class B station operating on the frequency of 640 kHz with 50,000 watts of power during the daytime, and 1,000 watts of power during nighttime hours; a two-tower directional antenna is used, with differing patterns daytime and nighttime based from its transmitter site in West Atlanta. The station broadcasts from studios located at the Peachtree Palisades building in the Brookwood Hills district of Atlanta, and is owned by the iHeartMedia, Inc. subsidiary Citicasters Licenses (formerly part of Jacor Communications), and serves the Atlanta metropolitan area media market with a talk radio format.
The facility at 640 started with an application in 1981, with a construction permit granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1985, and the broadcast callsign WPBD issued in 1986. After a series of extensions to the six-month permits and finally a minor modification, it finally went on the air in February 1988. After an initial dismissal later that year, permission to transfer the station to Jacor was granted in 1989, and the WGST format was moved from what is now WGKA AM 920. The station's nighttime radiation pattern has a null toward the northeast.
An English-language station for the bulk of its history, WGST became an affiliate of ESPN Deportes Radio on September 28, 2012. WGST returned to a talk format on June 3, 2013 with an all-syndicated format broadcasting in English.
WGST's original broadcast license for 710 kHz was issued by the Federal Radio Commission March 17, 1922 (or March 19, 1922), with the call sign WGM. The station's origin pre-dates the 1922 date when the station went by the experimental radio call sign of "4FT". The owner was the Atlanta Constitution, responding to the rival Atlanta Journal 's new WSB. The FCC issued WGM's license days after WSB's March 15, 1922 grant on 740 kHz. The current WGST call sign was assigned to the station after the station was donated to the Georgia School of Technology (now Georgia Institute of Technology) in 1923 following the station going out of business in late July of that year. The WGM license was allowed to expire in August 1923, and new call signs issued to the school on January 13 (or 11) of 1924 as WBBF, later becoming WGST in 1925 when the station moved to 1110 kHz.
In 1930, WGST moved to 890 kHz. The station moved to 920 kHz after the 1941 NARBA treaty created the clear channels in the U.S. and the use of the 890 kHz frequency was given to WLS, Chicago. It was operated as a commercial radio station under a lease to Southern Broadcasting Company beginning in 1930, but the Georgia Board of Regents got back control of the station in 1946.
In the 1940s, it was located in the Forsyth Building in downtown Atlanta. In 1944, funds from the station financed Georgia Tech's new Office of Long-Range Development within its College of Architecture, which created a "Master Plan" for the Institute's development and expansion. WGST was a Mutual Broadcasting Company affiliate in 1949 and later became an ABC affiliate in 1950. Before joining Mutual, WGST was a CBS affiliate. The antenna was an unusual multi-strand horizontal between two supporting towers on the Forsyth Building, across from Georgia Tech's campus, for many years.
WGST was the first station to play rock 'n roll in Atlanta in the 1950s. Radio personality Paul Drew had his debut on WGST with a weekend show "The Big Record." Ray Charles' song "I Got a Woman" was recorded at WGST in the early 1950s. In 1956, WGST moved to a studio facility next to the Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the Georgia Tech campus. This facility was built on top of the Coliseum's locker rooms for the radio station, and it featured two large studios for live performances, complete with grand pianos, and remained in use by WGST into the 1970s. Starting in 1977 WREK occupied most of the original studios, including one of the two big rooms, until 2004 when they moved to their current studio in the Georgia Tech Student Center. During the 1960s, WGST was running a Top 40 radio format, but by the late-1960s had changed format to Easy Listening, in an attempt to cut-into WSB's audience.
In 1971, WGST changed format from easy listening to Top 40, and was billed simply as "92". By 1972, the station had changed to a Solid-Gold Format. In 1973, it adopted a modified gold/current adult contemporary format. The station did fair in the ratings, and well at night, particularly in the male 25-49 demographics, boosted in part when WGST became the originating flagship station for the Atlanta Flames ice hockey broadcasts. The station continued with its long-running Georgia Tech Football Network and Georgia Tech Basketball broadcasts. By October 1977, WGST switched to an all-news format. In 1973, it was declared surplus property and was sold for five million dollars to Meredith Corporation in 1974, ignoring opposition from alumni, state legislators, and even the governor. However, interest from the trust fund created by the sale was used to upgrade Tech's student-run WREK (91.1 FM), which in 1978 moved to the Coliseum studios vacated by WGST in 1975. Meanwhile, WGST tried to compete with WSB by becoming a full service, top-40 station and hiring big name personalities such as Chuck Daugherty, Sam Holman from WABC, Tony Taylor from WNBC, and Skinny Bobby Harper, who was in Kansas City. But their ratings languished, despite the high-priced talent Meredith had assembled.
By the early 1980s, with its ratings on the decline, the station adopted its long running news/talk format. In 1989, the owners of WGST, Jacor Communications, saw the opportunity to purchase the new WPBD operating at 640 kHz. WGST was then moved to 640 kHz since the station could operate with 50,000 watts during the daytime and 1,000 watts at night, a substantial increase in daytime power and signal coverage area from the former 920 kHz. The license for 920 kHz was then sold to Focus on the Family, a Colorado Springs religious broadcasting group.
Sean Hannity replaced Neal Boortz—there were several hosts in that time slot between Boortz and Hannity—when Boortz left for WSB in 1992 and stayed until Roger Ailes offered Hannity a position on Fox News Channel in 1996. During his time at WGST, he was given the nickname "Hanni-Pie The Tin Man" by fellow host Kim Peterson. The station was also the home for Atlanta Braves baseball game broadcasts for 3 years, from 1992-1994. WGST was the station that carried Sid Bream's winning slide in Game Seven of the 1992 NLCS. In May 1994 the station was outbid for Braves broadcast rights by WSB, which had carried the games from 1966 until 1991. WGST was also the home of the Atlanta Hawks until 1995, after which the Hawks followed the Braves to WSB. WGST carried NASCAR races in 1996 and 1997. It was the home of the Atlanta Falcons in 1998 when the team made its only Super Bowl appearance.
2005 marked a year of change for WGST. Following the reacquisition of Atlanta Braves baseball radio rights, the station changed its moniker to "Braves Radio 640 GST" to reflect the new rights (the contract ended after the 2009 season). Subsequently, many out-of-Atlanta area fans complained about the change from WSB, noting WGST's signal was much weaker at night than that of WSB. To remedy the situation, WGST sister station WKLS-FM (96 Rock) began broadcasting Braves games. Also, as part of a Clear Channel corporate change, WGST switched to Fox News Radio as its news provider. On March 20, 2006, WGST's moniker became "Atlanta. Talk. Radio." In March 2005, WGST dropped Paul Harvey from its radio line-up.
On November 21, 2006, WGST announced that morning show host Tom Hughes had resigned, and that midday host Denny Schaffer, and afternoon drive talk host Kim Peterson (The Kimmer) and their staffs had been fired.
On February 5, 2007, it was announced that veteran Atlanta morning show hosts Randy Cook and Spiff Carner would be joining the WGST team for a new live and local morning show.
On September 24, 2007, it was announced that Glenn Beck would be returning to WGST in the 9am to noon slot on Thursday, September 27, 2007. The syndicated Glenn Beck Show was previously heard on WGST from 2001 to 2005. Beck took over Mike McConnell's weekday spot, though McConnell was still heard on weekends.
On October 9, 2007, morning co-host Spiff Carner was fired by WGST, after 8 months on the air. Randy Cook remained on the newly named "The Morning Drive with Randy Cook". Spiff was later hired to co-host the "Spiff and Fred" show on WYAY-FM. Clear Channel management did not renew Randy Cook's contract in July 2009. "The Morning Drive" was hosted by comedian Mike Stiles from July 13 to July 24, 2009, before being replaced by syndicated programming.
From July 27, 2009 to November 12, 2010, the lineup has consisted of "The Wall Street Journal This Morning" from 5am to 6 am, Michael Smerconish from 6 am to 9 am, the Glenn Beck Program from 9 am to noon, The Rush Limbaugh Show from noon to 3, Dave Ramsey from 3 to 7, Mark Levin from 7 to 9 (11 to midnight during baseball season) and "Coast to Coast AM" with George Noory during the overnight hours. Flagship Atlanta Braves coverage is also broadcast during baseball season.
Since November 15, 2010, local radio personality Rob Johnson has served as morning drive host. On January 11, 2011, it was announced that the Savage Nation would join the WGST line up, one day after being cut by WSB in a schedule change. Beginning in early 2012, Atlanta local Dave Merlino joined Rob Johnson's morning show, now billed as "The Rob and Dave Show". The weekday lineup was The Rob & Dave Show (6 - 9 AM), Beck (9 AM - Noon), Rush Limbaugh (Noon - 3 PM), a local version of The Rusty Humphries Show (3 - 6 PM), Levin (6 - 9 PM), Savage (9 PM - Midnight), Noory (12 AM - 5 AM), and The Wall Street Journal report.
On September 26, 2012, it was reported by several major news outlets that WGST would be changing its format; Johnson, Merlino, and Humphries were terminated, Limbaugh's show was sold to WSB, Beck's show went to WCFO, and Savage ended up quitting his show at the same time, in a coincidental action. On September 28, 2012, at 3 PM, following Rush Limbaugh's program, WGST switched to ESPN Deportes Radio.
On April 23, 2013, less than eight months after switching formats, it was announced that WGST would return to a news/talk format beginning June 3, 2013, with all syndicated programming, including Glenn Beck (starting July 22 for contractual reasons) and Dave Ramsey.
In the early 2010s, WGST was simulcast on an HD Radio digital subchannel of sister station WUBL FM 94.9, and then also on W222AF FM 92.3. The station was in turn also carried on audio-only digital subchannel 32.21 of low-powered digital television station WANN-CD in Atlanta, as Clear Channel's other Atlanta holdings are. These three stations aired "Comedy 92-3" rather than WGST, beginning soon after the switch to Spanish. WUBL HD-3 and WANN-CA then again began carrying WGST after ESPN Deportes was switched to WWPW FM 96.1 HD-3, which also provides the required simulcast for W222AF.
Former WGST on-air staff
- Skinny Bobby Harper. One of the nation's top jocks during the 1960s and 70s, the late Bobby Harper ruled at WGST during 1971-72.
- Bert Parks. Parks won a singing contest and became an overnight sensation on WGST. Later he became famous as MC of the Miss America Pageant.
- Don Naylor, producer, announcer, singer, actor, and director (1936–1950)
- Sean Hannity, then a local midday host in the early 90s before joining Fox News Channel and WABC syndicated radio show can be heard on rival news/talk station WSB AM. A little known fact is that Hannity replaced Neal Boortz after Boortz left for rival station WSB.
- Tom "The King" Hughes, former morning show host, now retired.
- Kim Peterson, "The Kimmer", former afternoon show host, is back on the air on News Radio 106.7 in Atlanta with a daily talk show.
- Freddy Mertz, former afternoon drive host, replaced Brian Wilson, brought in from sister-station WFLA by former Jacor programming head Randy Michaels. Now freelance with CBS and at other local stations.
- Denny Schaffer, former midday host. Currently hosting mornings on WRNO in New Orleans.
- Sam Memmolo, former weekend host of "The Car Show". Currently hosts the nationally syndicated "Sam's Garage" on radio and Motor Head Garage television program on Velocity. Also hosts a local version of "Sam's Garage" on WGKA/920 in Atlanta, Saturdays 11:00am to Noon.
- Neal Boortz, now retired, was syndicated nationally by Cox Radio and the Jones Radio Networks including WSB (AM)
- Wayne No Offense, Kimmer's sidekick until 2006, was Morning Show Producer for Rhubarb Jones and Dallas McCade Morning Show on Eagle 106.7FM WYAY in Atlanta. Now working production for WKHX and WYAY.
- Steve Getty is now selling cars in metro Atlanta and doing voice overs.
- Jim Gossett formerly worked with Mimi Gentry on "The Spiff and Fred Show" on True Oldies 106.7 as well as other stations in syndication. He's back on with the Kimmer on News Radio 106.7.
- Kari Dean, former morning news anchor, is now a writer and weekend news producer at Fox 5 in Atlanta.
- Denis O'Hayer is now on WABE-FM in Atlanta.
- The Regular Guys were fired from WKLS in 2006.
- Stu Klitenic freelances.
- Wade Medlock, former news director, is now retired.
- Jennifer Perry, former news anchor for The Kimmer and Rusty Humphries shows, now News and Program Director at WYAY News Radio 106.7 in Atlanta.
- Jim O'Neill (Jim Atkinson) is now a Television Engineer at WAGA Fox 5, the Fox O&O in Atlanta.
- Bill Edge is now spokesman for Georgia Public Service Commission.
- Bill Caiaccio is now with WSB Radio.
- Jack Kennedy, former sports show host.
- John Lisk, former WGST news reporter and CNN radio news anchor, now mid-day news anchor at WYAY News Radio 106.7 in Atlanta.
- Keith Kalland traffic reporter during the 1980s and 1990s, died in 2002.
- Michael King (weekend morning anchor 1997-1999) is now a producer and reporter at WXIA-TV
- Sam Lake has returned to WGST and is doing traffic and news.
- Connie Cummings, former WGST reporter, now a reporter at WYAY News Radio 106.7 in Atlanta.
- Brad Nessler, former sports reporter, is now an analyst on ABC/ESPN's college football coverage.
- Kirk Dorn, former morning anchor Georgia Radio News Service (Georgia News Network), weekend anchor WGST
- Spiff Carner, retired.
- David Hull, former AM Atlanta news anchor, does fill-in work at WYAY News Radio 106.7 in Atlanta.
- Andy Rose, former AM Atlanta news anchor, is morning anchor at WYAY News Radio 106.7 in Atlanta.
- Matt Stewart, former sports reporter, is now on Comcast Sports in Atlanta
- Steve Holman, play by play man of the Atlanta Hawks now heard on 790 the Zone.
- Clark Howard, syndicated consumer advisor, is now heard on rival AM 750 WSB.
- Matt McClure, former morning show producer, anchor and reporter is now an anchor for Wall Street Journal Radio Network and NY1.
- Wendi Grossman, former morning reporter, is now with WIOD-AM in Miami, FL.
- Andy Rose, former morning anchor, is now with WYAY News Radio 106.7 in Atlanta.
- Dave McBride, former co-host of The Car Show, died in April 2007 from complications due to cancer.
- Mike Rose, and program director, is now a Senior Loan Officer with Starkey Mortgage.
- Dave Michaels, former CNN & WXIA-TV Anchorman, worked at WGST writing news and reporting while serving at Ft. McPherson - Third Army Headquarters PIO in 1959 until he got out of service in March, 1960.
- Brennan Price (occasional reporter and anchor, 1997–2000) is Chief Technology Officer of the American Radio Relay League.
- Mike Jones is now a country/bluegrass songwriter with several charted hits.
- Nathan Roberts, former morning DJ and newscaster-sportscaster 1965-68.
- Pete Konenkamp, former anchor and ND, Georgia Radio News Service (Georgia News Network)
- Maria Boynton, Georgia News Network, General Assignment and Legislative Reporter 1987-1994; former freelance Writer WCBS-AM New York; former News Anchor WOR Radio New York; former Award-Winning News Director at Radio Stations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania; former Anchor, Editor and Supervising Producer at the CNN Radio Network. Currently overnight anchor on WYAY News Radio 106.7 in Atlanta.
- Weather reports from the late 70s through the early 90s were handled by Weather Services Corporation of Bedford, MA. On-air staff included Joe Zona, Bonnie Cameron, and Todd Glickman.