WDTW is a Detroit-area radio station, operating at 1310 kHz with 5,000 watts. The station is owned by Clear Channel Communications and airs mainly liberal political talk from the Air America Radio network.
Originating as WKMH in 1946, in 1963 it became known as WKNR, the legendary Top 40 "Keener 13" that served the Metro Detroit area in the 1960s and early 1970s. It has undergone a number of format and call letter changes since the end of 'Keener', variously being a simulcast AM source of WNIC, its sister station; a soul oldies station, WMTG; an all-children's station, WDOZ; a personality/oldies/classical station, WYUR; and a talk station of a number of formats.
AM 1310 began broadcasting in 1946 under the call sign WKMH. In its early years, WKMH was a typical suburban full-service radio station specializing in local news, information, sports, and mainly MOR-oriented pop music. WKMH's most popular personality was Robin Seymour, a pioneering rock and roll DJ in Detroit. Seymour's "Bobbin' with Robin" show featured a music mix that foreshadowed the birth of the Top 40 format in playing R&B and early rock artists like The Crows alongside mainstream pop stars like Patti Page. Seymour would stay on at the station as it became WKNR and later became the host of Swingin' Time, a popular local teenage dance show on CKLW-TV.
WKMH garnered some notice through personalities such as Lee Alan "On the Horn" and Dave "Sangoo" Prince, but the station was generally considered an also-ran in the Detroit market and a weak competitor of WJBK and WXYZ, which were Detroit's dominant Top 40 stations. Even WKMH was not a 24-hour Top 40 station; at night, the station featured a jazz show hosted by Jim Rockwell (later of WABX-FM). In addition, WKMH was briefly Detroit's CBS radio affiliate in 1960, after WJR dropped its CBS affiliation to add more local programming. Despite, or some might say because of, this unusual move, WKMH continued to flounder. In 1962 the station shed its CBS affiliation and became "Flagship Radio," an early adult contemporary format featuring a mix of softer current pop hits and MOR album cuts, but this format, too, was a failure.
Despite the power of WJBK and WXYZ and the 50,000-watt signal of CKLW, consultant Mike Joseph (perhaps best known for developing the Hot Hits format in the late 1970s) was convinced there was room for a fourth Top 40 station in Detroit and that 1310 AM could easily climb ahead of the competition. With WKMH owner Nellie Knorr, he developed the formula that ultimately became a smashing success.
One of the factors involved instituting a shorter playlist - only 31 records plus one "key song" of the week and a liberal sprinkling of oldies - than was typical for many Top 40 stations of the era. WJBK, WXYZ and CKLW all had very long playlists at the time, stretching to 80 to 100 songs at times. WKNR's shorter playlist ensured that they played more hits and fewer "stiffs" and that listeners would hear one of the top hits whenever they tuned in. WKNR also played the hits 24 hours a day, as opposed to the other hit stations in Detroit which were loaded with non-music full-service features (especially on weekends).
WKNR officially launched on October 31, 1963, with the "Battle of the Giants," an attention-grabbing promotion that invited listeners to call in to vote for their favourite oldies. The station quickly gained momentum, and until the spring of 1967, despite a weak signal which missed most of the east side of the metro area (especially at night), WKNR was the preeminent rock radio station in the Motor City. Competitors WJBK and WXYZ were badly hurt in the ratings by their new competitor, and both stations eventually were driven out of Top 40 and into MOR formats. It has been reported that the legendary Henry Ford himself was an avid Keener fan.
Keener featured popular personalities like Dick Purtan, Bob Green, Gary Stevens (later of New York's legendary WMCA), J. Michael Wilson, Scott Regen, Ted Clark and Jim Jeffries, and a mix of music that included a number of local acts including many of Detroit's Motown superstars. Scott Regen's "Motown Monday" features included live concerts from the Roostertail supper club, featuring Motown legends such as the Supremes and The Four Tops. Dick Purtan honed the wry, sardonic sense of humor that has made him a fixture on the Motor City airwaves for four decades, first on WKNR. The station's promotions, imaging, and jingles were noted for their wacky, offbeat sound and were imitated frequently by other stations across the country, including sister station WKFR in Battle Creek, Michigan, which was known as "Keener 14." Bob Green would later describe the Keener sound as being like "a 24-hour cartoon."
Keener 13's appeal to adult listeners as well as teens was cemented with the station's heavy news commitment, with "Contact News" at :15 and :45 past the hour every hour. WKNR's newscasts were straightforward and lacked the flash or sensationalism of CKLW's "blood-and-guts" "20/20 News" but were highly regarded. The station released a "Year in Review" album each year which was made available to area schools.
WKNR's dominance was challenged when CKLW-AM got a makeover courtesy of Bill Drake and Paul Drew in April 1967. With 50,000 watts behind it and a lightning-fast pace based on Drake's "Boss Radio" model, The Big 8 became the number one Top 40 station in the region, and some of Keener's top DJs, including Dick Purtan and Scott Regen, would eventually move over to CKLW. However, WKNR did not go down without a fight, continuing to battle the Big 8 for five more years despite dropping ratings. During this time, the station attempted to distinguish itself from CKLW by playing less bubblegum pop and more rock album cuts, and promoting itself as "Rock and Roll The American Way" (a jab at CKLW's location in Windsor, Ontario, and Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission-mandated "Canadian content" regulations imposed at the start of 1971).
Keener 13 is celebrated at Keener13.com, with an extensive history, an archive of air checks and a database of every WKNR Music Guide.
On April 25, 1972, "Keener 13" signed off to the sounds of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by The Byrds and changed to an easy listening format as WNIC, simulcast with its FM sister station. WNIC-FM changed to an adult contemporary format in 1976, a format with which it has been very successful since. AM 1310 simulcast for a short time until the decision was made in 1977 to revive the "Keener 13" brand name on its original frequency with an adult-oriented Top 40/Oldies mix and a new call sign, WWKR. The legendary "Keener 13" record survey, the "Keener Music Guide," was also brought back, but was published on a monthly rather than weekly basis. The second version of "Keener 13" did not have the success of the original, and by 1980, AM 1310 was back to simulcasting WNIC-FM.
Since late 1986, AM 1310 has tried several other different formats, none of which have attained lasting success, and has been in and out of simulcasting WNIC 100.3 between formats. Other formats heard on 1310 since 1986 include:
Today, WKNR's 1310 frequency is home to WDTW (AM), owned by Clear Channel Communications. The station features a news-talk format. The station's call letters temporarily changed to WWWW on July 24, 2006 as part of a station swap between Clear Channel Communications and Cumulus Media in the Ann Arbor and Canton, Ohio markets. On September 15th, 2006 the call letters were changed back to WDTW.
Nancy Skinner broadcasted a morning show on WDTW from January to December 2005.