|Broadcast area||Birmingham metropolitan area, Alabama|
|Slogan||Birmingham's Real Talk|
|Owner||Cumulus Media |
(Radio License Holding CBC, LLC)
|WAPI, WJOX, WJOX-FM, WJQX, WUHT|
First air date
|1976 (as WVOK-FM)|
Former call signs
Call sign meaning
|W Z Rock and Roll (previous format)|
|HAAT||309 meters (1014 feet)|
|Repeater(s)||WAPI 1070 AM|
WZRR (99.5 MHz, "Talk 99.5") is an FM radio station licensed to Birmingham in the U.S. state of Alabama. It carries a talk radio format, simulcast with AM sister station 1070 WAPI. WZRR is one of several Birmingham-area radio stations owned by Cumulus Media, operating from studios in Homewood. WZRR's transmitter is west of Red Mountain, off Spaulding Ishkooda Road. WZRR broadcasts at 100,000 watts, the highest power permitted for non-grandfathered FM stations, from a tower more than 1000 feet height above average terrain.
WZRR and WAPI have local talk shows during the day, but at night they carry nationally syndicated shows from the Cumulus subsidiary Westwood One Network including Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Red Eye Radio and First Light. Most hours begin with national news from Westwood One News. WZRR and WAPI are among three talk radio AM-FM simulcasts in the Birmingham media market, the others being WERC-AM-FM, owned by iHeartMedia, and WYDE-AM-FM, owned by Crawford Broadcasting. WZRR and WAPI are the central Alabama affiliates of the Auburn Sports Network.
The station broadcasting at 99.5 FM in Birmingham first signed on on 6 December 1976 as WVOK-FM, sister station to WVOK (AM 690, now WJOX). "K-99", as the station was called, was Birmingham's first full-time album rock station. Previously, WJLN-FM (now WZZK) and WERC-FM (now WBPT) dabbled in that format on a part-time basis. K-99 played an eclectic mix of rock songs from artists of the 1960s and 1970s, and was a ratings success. When WVOK-AM was sold to Mack Sanders in 1978, the call letters of the FM station were changed to WRKK, but the K-99 handle was retained.
In 1981, WAPI-FM (now WJOX-FM) changed its format from easy listening to album rock, thus giving Birmingham two stations in the same format. This continued until the next year, when the new owners of WRKK changed the station's format to country music. The on-air name of the station was modified to "K-99 Country". Competing against market leader WZZK, the new WRKK was not successful. In an attempt to change K-99's fortunes, in 1984, the call letters were changed to WQUS, and the on-air name of the station was changed to "U.S. 99". Neither the new name nor the hiring of the popular Birmingham morning drive team of Tommy Charles and John Ed Willoughby improved the fortunes of the station.
In 1985, U.S. 99 dropped country music and changed its call letters to WLTB, "Lite 99", programming a soft adult contemporary format. At 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Day, 1988, the 99.5 frequency became the new home of classic rock in Birmingham, with the new call letters of WZRR and the new on-air name "Rock 99". The very first song that was played was "All Right Now" by Free. The station stayed true to that format for just over 23 years. In 1995, the on-air name of the station was changed to "Classic Rock 99.5". From 2002 until the next year, it was known as "99.5 the Buzzard".
In 2003, the name was changed again, this time to "Rock 99.5", using basically the same logo as it did in the late 1980s. In 2010, the name was once again shortened to "Rock 99" and the slogan heard most often on the station was "Alabama's Best Rock".
In April 2010, the station added the locally originated Mojo Morning Show. The rest of the on-air line-up included Lori Ray, Blazeman and Jason Mack. WZRR was one of Birmingham's two classic rock stations. Despite competition, it maintained a rock format for over twenty years. Citadel merged with Cumulus on September 16, 2011.
On New Year's Day 2012, at Midnight, Cumulus fired the local on-air staff and flipped WZRR's long-running rock format to Top 40/CHR, branded as "99.5 The Vibe." The final song played on "Rock 99" was "Girls, Girls, Girls" by Mötley Crüe, while the first song played as "The Vibe" was "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO. Cumulus already had two similarly-formatted and branded stations in addition to WZRR: in Kansas City on KCHZ ("95.7 The Vibe"), and in Toledo, Ohio on W264AK ("100.7 The Vibe"), which has since changed format. The "i" letter in the station's branding is similar to those of Cumulus' "i"-branded stations such as KLIF-FM ("i93") in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX.
On August 15, 2014, at Midnight, after playing Bang Bang by Jessie J, WZRR dropped its CHR format and began stunting with the songs "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd and "All Summer Long" by Kid Rock on a loop, while running liners advising listeners to tune in at 3 PM that day. At that time, WZRR flipped to traditional country, being one of the first stations to adopt Cumulus's new "Nash Icon" branding as 99.5 Nash Icon. The first song on "Nash Icon" was "Gone Country" by Alan Jackson.
On May 20, 2016, at 5 p.m., WZRR flipped to a hybrid Southern rock/Country format, branded as "99.5 The South". The first song on "The South" was "Southbound" by the Allman Brothers. The playlist included strictly artists from the Southern United States, with a focus on classic rock/adult alternative artists.
However, "The South" was revealed to be merely a stunt, as just four days later, WZRR began simulcasting WAPI's talk radio format. WZRR is now branded as the main station, under the moniker "Talk 99.5." Along with the simulcast came a revamped lineup. Matt Murphy and Andrea Lindenberg host from 6-10am, Woode & Vining = Ericka Woode and Valerie Vining from 10-12pm, Richard Dixon 12am-3pm, and Leland Whaley from 3-7pm. Syndicated hosts Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro, Red Eye Radio, and First Light round out the weekday lineup. WZRR and WAPI join a crowded talk field in the Birmingham market that already includes WYDE/WYDE-FM and WERC/WERC-FM.
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1977 pg. C-3
- South Stunt To Lead To Talk 99.5 Birmingham
- Thad Holt was a broadcaster who was instrumental in the expansion of FM radio in Alabama. His papers can be found at the University of Maryland Libraries
- Tribute page to K-99 FM, the original station on 99.5 in Birmingham
- WZRR in the FCC's FM station database
- WZRR on Radio-Locator
- WZRR in Nielsen Audio's FM station database