WREY (630 kHz AM, "Radio Rey") is the market leader for over 29 years in Spanish-language radio stations with studios located on Lake Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is currently licensed to the neighboring city of Saint Paul, Minnesota, although it had been licensed to Hudson, Wisconsin, prior to 2005. It is a full market coverage radio station of Minneapolis/St.Paul.
The 630 kHz frequency is perhaps best known as the longtime home of KDWB. For almost two decades, they were a heated rival of the original WDGY, located at 1130 kHz. When WDGY dropped their call letters to become KFAN, KDWB's owner adopted the abandoned WDGY call sign for 630 kHz, where they have remained since.
See also KDWB
For many years, 630 kHz was home to Top-40 powerhouse KDWB, from 1959 until 1985, the last few years simulcasting its FM sister. They briefly returned to a simulcast in the early 1990s, by which time the frequency carried the WDGY call letters.
KDWB's origins started on the AM dial in 1951, at 1590 kHz. The station began as a collaboration between three brothers who named it WCOW ("WPIG" or "KPIG" was apparently rejected), which was an odd station playing country and old-time music. Vic, Nick, and Al Tedesco, who had previously put together a station in Stillwater, Minnesota, attempted to get into television on channel 17 the next year, but financial backing fell through. The channel 17 allocation was taken by Twin Cities Public Television in 1965. In the early days, WCOW signed on with a cowbell.
WCOW was not very successful, so the station transitioned to being a female-oriented station with the call sign WISK in 1957, and the frequency was changed to 630 kHz the next year. Again, the format was not popular, and the station was soon bought out by Crowell-Collier Broadcasting Company, who owned KFWB and KEWB in California. The top 40 format of those stations was brought to Minnesota as the new KDWB was launched on October 1, 1959. It quickly became a major competitor to WDGY, which had been playing a pop music format for a few years by that point. With the 630 kHz frequency, KDWB called itself "Channel 63" and the station began its long uninterrupted run as a pop music station.
KDWB may be the first station to have been fined by the Federal Communications Commission. They apparently had to pay $10,000 because of repeated willful violations of nighttime broadcast power restrictions when it was broadcasting on the AM band. A fire at the station knocked it off the air for a few days later that decade.
KDWB and WDGY were fierce rivals throughout the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1970s, both stations gained even more competition, as KSTP and WYOO (U100) picked up the format. In 1976, Doubleday Broadcasting, then owner of KDWB, desired to purchase a station on the rapidly growing FM dial. They found a willing seller in the owner of U100, which at the time was the only Top 40 station simulcasting on both AM and FM. In February 1976, Doubleday announced it would purchase 101.3 MHz, with the intention of simulcasting KDWB. On September 16, 1976, with the sale official, KDWB signed on their FM simulcast with morning personality True Don Bleu at 6 AM.
A few years later, their Top 40 rivals gradually dropped out of the format. U100 was gone in the sale of their two stations. WDGY flipped to country music in 1977, and KSTP was slowly evolving into its present-day news/talk format. By the end of the decade, KDWB was the only true Top 40 station in town.
With the major competition gone, and the FCC mandating a breakup of AM/FM simulcasts, KDWB-FM split apart from the AM station's Top 40 simulcast in September 1979 and became a pop/rock hybrid as "K101." K101 soon morphed into "Stereo 101," an album oriented rock station designed to go up against KQRS-FM, which had recently dumped their free-form rock presentation and adopted a stricter playlist. "Stereo 101" proved to be mildly successful, even topping KQRS in the ratings several times. During the four year run of Stereo 101, new Top 40 stations began appearing on the FM dial, first with WLOL in 1981, which quickly became one of the most successful stations in the market and later an attempt by WCCO-FM, which was not nearly as successful. Both moves crippled 63 KDWB's longtime dominance of the format, since they were at a disadvantage against more powerful FM stereo signals. The massive top three ratings success of WLOL, combined with rapidly falling ratings for the AM station, resulted in Stereo 101 ditching AOR in Fall 1983 and returning to Top 40 as "101 KDWB", this time as the dominant station in the AM/FM combo.
Over the next few years, both stations aired similar formats and continued to simulcast from time to time, until the AM station split off on its own in 1985 with an automated syndicated oldies format from Unistar as "K63", meeting with mild success.
See also KFAN
The original WDGY was founded in 1923 by Dr. George Young, an optometrist who dabbled in radio as a hobby. It was one of the first radio stations in the Twin Cities area. The original call letters were KFMT, located at 1300 kHz. The following year, the station moved to 1140 kHz. After several call letter changes, including WHAT and WGWY, Young settled on WDGY, which was based on the his initials. The WDGY call letters remained on the station from 1925 until 1991, first at 1140 kHz, then to its longtime home at 1130 kHz in 1941. Following his death in 1945, Young's estate sold the station.
The station went through several ownership changes until 1956, when they were purchased by Todd Storz' Mid-Continent Broadcasting, an Omaha-based owner of a five-to-seven-station group (the maximum number allowed in those days). Storz quickly changed the format to Top 40, taking advantage of the early rise of rock and roll music. The station was often nicknamed "WeeGee," and dominated the local ratings for many years.
In 1959, WDGY gained a formidable challenger when KDWB arrived on the scene. From KDWB's sly introduction to Twin Cities radio by way of a teaser ad campaign in newspapers and on other Twin Cities radio stations as "Formula 63" (for 630), WDGY and KDWB seesawed back and forth in ratings supremacy for area teen and young adult audiences throughout the raucous 60s and 70s. The competition, sometimes friendly, sometimes not at all, resulted in some of the best merchandising promotions and concerts ever sponsored by local radio stations.
Generally, WDGY came in a regular second in overall audience ratings (everyone came in second to market-dominant, clear-channel WCCO-AM back then). WDGY seemed to appeal to slightly older teens and the 18-35-year-olds while KDWB held a fair share of the teen audiences - considered hot properties during this period.
WDGY's longtime Top 40 format came to an end in 1977 when, faced with much stronger competition on the FM dial, they adopted a country music format, which they continued well into the 1980s, prior to a flip to a news/talk format and finally, the adoption of sports talk as KFAN in 1991. Ironically, the abandoned WDGY call letters were quickly picked up by their former rival at 630 kHz.
In 1991 630 AM picked up the WDGY call letters after 1130 abandoned them to become KFAN. The new WDGY adopted a classic country music format, similar to what had been aired on 1130 kHz throughout the 1980s. Ratings for the country format did not meet up to expectations, and in September 1992, they temporarily returned to a simulcast with KDWB (The legal ID at the top of the hour identified both KDWB and WDGY, and Arbitron listed them as KDWB/WDGY).
WDGY switched to an adult standards format in March 1993, which gave it a respectable boost in ratings. As Midcontinent Media, then owner of KDWB, were looking to sell WDGY, the owner of WMIN, Borgen Broadcasting, agreed to lease the station through a local marketing agreement. This did not last long, as Midcontinent decided to sell and commercially redevelop the property in Woodbury that was home to the station's six-tower array. Hence, on April 18, 1994, with no transmission facility available and demand for AM radio very low, 630 kHz went dark.
The owner of WMIN bought the silent WDGY in October 1996, as plans were made to return the station to the air. WDGY returned in January 1997 as a Hudson, Wisconsin-based entity with a new owner and the same call letters, airing a talk radio format that featured hosts like Don Imus, G. Gordon Liddy and Don and Mike, with oldies from 6 PM to 6 AM. In February, 1998, syndicated sports talk replaced oldies during those hours.
A group of local Hispanic broadcasters had leased weekend time on WMIN for several years as "Radio Rey." On January 1, 1999, WMIN went full-time Radio Rey, broadcasting from a grocery store on the west side of St. Paul. Recently, WDGY moved its tower closer to the Twin Cities area. Radio Rey flipped back and forth between WMIN and WDGY for several years before finally settling on WDGY for good in July 2001. For most of 2005, WMIN ran a complementary regional Mexican format, "La Nueva Ley," also programmed by the Radio Rey group.
WDGY eventually returned to the metro area, as it boosted its power, moved its city of license to St. Paul and relocated its transmission facilities.