Remembering the great CCM radio stations....
CCM Rewound plays the hits as heard on Christian music radio throughout the late 1970’s into the early part of the 21st century. With a few notable exceptions, contemporary Christian music radio has never been an extremely profitable format. Yet, in the era before mp3’s, Spotify and YouTube, visionary radio station operators took a leap of faith and began programming what was first known as “Jesus Music”, introducing listeners to the likes of Keith Green, Amy Grant and others, thereby giving us a wholesome and faith-filled alternative to mainstream top 40 radio.
On this page we pay homage to some of the classic CCM stations, and the awesome people that worked with them.
WWDJ, Hackensack NJ/New York City
Originally a top 40 outlet, WWDJ became a religious station in 1974. In 1977, the station began to feature two hours of contemporary Christian music each afternoon called “Sounds of Joy”. As the 1980’s unfolded, WWDJ began to expand the hours music played to weekday mornings, and by 1990 they were promoting themselves as “New York’s Christian Music” with extended music blocks Saturday & Sunday afternoons. WWDJ organized a major summer weekend music festival, “970 DJ’s “Big Splash” that was held for several years in Ocean Grove NJ, starting in 1987. “970 DJ” personalities over the years included Sharon Davis, George Flores, Frank Reed and Keith Stevens, all of which are still active in Christian radio.
As new ownership took over in the mid -90s, more and more block programming was added to the music hours. Then, after another New York area Christian station on the better-sounding FM band went all contemporary Christian music, it meant the end of music, and soon afterwards the WWDJ call letters. 970AM in New York City is now WNYM, and carries a conservative talk format.
Listen to a 970 'DJ aircheck from 1992 featuring Sharon Davis, and a youthful Brian Fisher!
KYMS, Santa Ana
Considered by many to be the very first contemporary Christian music station, KYMS debuted in 1975, and quickly became the radio voice of the Jesus Movement, the music and programming reflecting the culture of those new believers at the peak of the movement.
The station grew with the times, adapting tighter playlists and a more professional approach during the 1980’s, and KYMS became one of the most listened to Christian stations in America. Seeing the value of an FM signal in the #2 US radio market, owners Interstate Broadcasting sold KYMS to Multicultural Broadcasting in 1995, and the new owners quickly changed the format to an international format, bringing an end to the ground-breaking, 20-year run of KYMS.
In an interesting twist, the KYMS call letters were “resurrected” by Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa in 2008 (an active partner with the original KYMS in its early days) for its broadcast facility in Rathdrum, Idaho. Although Calvary Chapel has since sold the station, it continues airing a Christian format with the KYMS call letters.
This short aircheck is quite choppy, but will give you an idea what KYMS sounded like in its very early days....
WZZD was a contemporary Christian music station serving Philadelphia and southern New Jersey with a 50,000 watt signal at 990 on the AM dial. Originally known as Top-40 “Wizzard 100” in the 1970’s, they switched to a Christian format following the sale to Communicom in 1980. While WZZD aired some teaching programs, their focus was primarily music. One of the most memorable events that WZZD sponsored was "Philadelphia's First Festival of Contemporary Christian Music", held on the one-year anniversary of the new format featuring the top names in CCM, including Denny Correll, Leon Patillo, Mickey & Becki Moore, Glad, and Fireworks w/Marty McCall.
After the sale to Salem Media in 1994, The station initially kept the CCM format, but with the increasing migration of music listeners to the FM band, the writing was clearly on the wall for WZZD. Salem gradually began to fill the music hours with talk programming. Finally, in 2004, the “Wizzard” died, as all Christian programming was moved over to sister station WFIL, and 990 AM became conservative talker WNTP.
KYCR, Minneapolis - St. Paul
1570 AM, KYCR began its religious station run as KUXL, shortly after Program Director Bob Smith departed Minneapolis to become “Wolfman Jack”. It its early days, KUXL was known for its often embarrassing line-up of “dollar-a-holler” preachers. After an ownership change in 1988, new General Manager Larry Alford changed the call letters in order to distance the station from its sorid past. The new call letters, KYCR, stood for Your Christian Radio.
In the era before KTIS became the region's dominant Christian music station, young, on-fire KYCR talent such as Rick Selin, Jonas Nelson, Scott Allen, Sylvia Harder, Glen Lewerenz, and Brian Fisher (CCM Rewound’s own) helped introduce Twin Cities listeners to the growing genre of contemporary Christian music. KYCR worked to maintain a high-profile in the community. Whether it was a concert, Northwestern Bookstores event, March For Life, and even the annual Sonshine Festival in Willmar MN.
“Today’s Christian Music” survived on KYCR in spite of bankruptcy and two ownership changes before the current owners decided that music was no longer a viable format on AM, and changed KYCR to an all-talk format in 1999. Since then, AM1570 has been home to leased-time Tropical (Spanish) music, conservative talk, and now business talk. Yet, its call letters remain KYCR.
A short aircheck of “The Morning Thing” with Scott and Sylvia on KYCR from July of 1994..
WLIX, Long Island
Originally a daytime-only station that covered a variety of formats in its early days, AM 540 WLIX converted to an all-Christian format in 1979 after a change in ownership. Lloyd Parker, a local Christian music DJ and concert promoter, was hired as the new Program Director.
Under his leadership, WLIX became one of the most listened-to, and nationally respected Christian music stations in the USA. In spite of its successes, a poor Long Island economy forced the sale of WLIX in 1995. The station became adult standards WLUX, then a business talk format with the call letters WLIE. Since then, 540 AM has had a number of formats, the most recent being a leased-time Spanish language Christian format called “Radio Adonai”. Lloyd Parker went on to work for the K-LOVE Radio Network, and is currently the Chief Operating Officer for the WAY-FM Network in Colorado Springs, CO.
Here is how Lloyd, and WLIX sounded in December of 1980!
The original WXRI was the flagship station of the CBN Radio Network. They evolved from an inspirational/middle-of-the-road format to full-time contemporary Christian by the 1980’s. CBN personality Ross Bagley was the morning host on WXRI for many years. Bagley also had his own weekly TV show on CBN, which featured in-studio performances by Stephanie Boosahda, Scott Wesley Brown, Farrell & Farrell and others.
By the middle part of the 80’s, CBN made the decision to focus more of their efforts on television production, and began selling-off their radio properties, with flagship WXRI the last to go in 1989.
During the “inspirational” era, WXRI had a weeknight show called “Bringing the Message”, which played the contemporary Christian music of the era.
Here is a rare, high-quality aircheck of that show on the original WXRI, as heard in October of 1978!
Atlanta radio executive Mike Sears had spent his entire career in broadcasting. When he purchased AM station WAEC in 1978, station ownership was simply the next logical step in his career. Shortly after the ink on the contract was dry, Sears came to know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. As a result of this, he converted the format of his newly acquired station to a mix of teaching/programs and contemporary Christian music, the first such station in the Atlanta to do so. Sears became an early leader in the Christian music industry, leading the charge to promote the Christian marketplace concept to mainstream businesses in order to help CCM-branded stations become less dependent on block-programming revenue.
Sears sold WAEC in 1982, yet more than 30 years and two ownership changes later, the Christian format continues on WAEC. The station is now known as "Love 860 - Atlanta's Inspirational Talk Radio".
KLTY, Dallas/Ft. Worth
The original incarnation of KLTY went on the air in 1985, but lasted only a year when the owner abruptly switched formats from Christian music to top 40. Marcos A. Rodriquez, a local entrepreneur, was a fan of KLTY and saw the potential in an all-CCM format. It took nearly three years to accomplish, but the KLTY we know today was relaunched in 1989. Well-known radio personality Jon Rivers was the morning show host and Vice President of Programming at KLTY from 1989 through 2001. Former WWDJ and WNBC great Frank Reed is currently the host of KLTY’s “Family-Friendly Morning Show”.
KLTY is the number-one Christian music station in America. According to a 2013 Arbitron survey, the station has well over a million listeners in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area.