Before there was WBAM, there was WBAM, Inc…
In 1940, the radio station owned by the Birmingham News, WSGN, operated on 1340 kc. Before the wartime license freeze went into effect, WSGN was awarded a construction permit and license to change its facilities to the more familiar 610 kc. This reassignment would open up 1340 kc to a new licensee.
On April 15, 1941, WBAM, Incorporated applied for a license to operate on 1340 with 250 watts of power once WSGN had relocated to 610 kc. Within a short period of time, there were two more competing applications from George Johnson, Jr. and Jefferson Broadcasting, Inc. The FCC designated all competing applications for hearing at the end of October 1941. All parties petitioned and were granted an extension for filing additional amendments to their applications for hearing purposes. Consolidated hearings for 1340 were opened on March 5, 1942.
Complete records on the hearing, which took place during wartime, are incomplete. The outcome, however, was clear. In June of 1944, the FCC issued a construction permit to Alabama Broadcasting Company to operate on 1340 kc. The license was not issued for Birmingham, but for the station to be the first to serve Sylacauga, Alabama – about 40 miles outside of the Magic City. A majority (51%) interest in the station was held by local businessman Earnest E. Forbes. The balance of the station was owned by WAPI-AM engineer Opal E. Johnson (24%)and another engineer James E. Smith (24%). The final one percent was held by J. Mallory Forbes who was the secretary-treasurer for the radio station. The call letters which were issued to the station were WFEB.
In the early 1940’s, not only was FM budding and new, the broadcast band itself was different from that which we know today. Radio station W71NY was licensed in February of 1940 as the FM affiliate of AM powerhouse WOR in New York City. The station operated in the old FM band at a frequency of 47.1 mc. By 1943, the station would take on the call letters which were representative of the stations ownership the Bamberger Department Store. The station would be known as WBAM-FM. This assignment would now make these call letters un-available to any of the prospective licensees of the competing Birmingham applications for 1340.
With the shift in the FM allocations to the frequencies we know today, the FCC would first propose assigning WBAM-FM to 96.9 mc. By late 1945 the station would settle on the more familiar 98.7 mc. The station would retain the WBAM-FM call letters until 1949 when it would pick up the use of WOR-FM.
Deep South Broadcasting was the licensee of WBAM-AM, 740 kc with 50,000 watts daytime in Montgomery. Deep South was incorporated in late July of 1950 with a capitalization of $60,000. The original investors in the company were William J. “Bill” Brennan, Billy Benns (Jr.) and Mrs. Luella B. Aldridge. A license for the station was issued in 1952. One year later the ownership structure of Deep South had transformed to Mrs. J. F. Richardson (10%); Vice President, William E. Benns Jr. (40%), Secretary-Treasurer, William J. Brennan (40%), Frances U. Brennan – Bills wife – (5%) and Cyril G. Brennan (5%).