Thursday, March 19, 2009

Call Letter Origins

You may listen to a radio station daily, but do you know what its call letters really mean? If not, try Call Letter Origins. Charming and no doubt occasionally fanciful bits of lore abound therein.

Some of my favorites:

CFLC: "Canada's Finest Little Community" (Brockville, Ontario).

KAND: Wolf Brand Canned Chili (Corsicana, Texas).

WLBB: "We Love Butter Beans" (Carrollton, Georgia). A Judge Tisinger, the station's first owner, liked his beans.

WMBD: "World's Most Beautiful Drive" (Peoria, Illinois). That drive would be Peoria's Grandview Drive.

WPLJ: "White Port and Lemon Juice" (New York, New York). I know that one from the Mothers of Invention recording of "WPLJ."

I'm surprised to learn that New York's WMCA (home of the Good Guys of my musical youth) is named for the Hotel McAplin, the station's first home. And New York's WOR? "World of Radio."

These stations all survive (CFLC as CFJR), most of them programming the syndicated stuff one can hear up and down the dial. (What dial?)

A related post
Five radios

comments: 8

JuliaR said...

Fun stuff! Thanks for the link. My mother was born in Brockville and her sister has lived there all her life.

Anonymous said...

Great post! The decoding of WLBB's call letters made me remember one of my favorite B-52s songs, "Butterbean." (The B-52s in the 1980s were an important part of the Athens, GA scene that spawned bands such as R.E.M and Love Tractor.) Here's a (lyrical)taste:

Gramps and grannies,
Kids in their teens,
Junkyard dogs and campus queens,
Yeah, Everybody loves butterbeans!

Michael Leddy said...

And here it is, on The YouTube.

There's also a "Butterbeans" by Little Jimmy Dickens, sung to the tune of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" (sic).

Michael Leddy said...

Alas, not on The YouTube.

Vicki said...

One in rural Alaska was KJNP, for King Jesus North Pole (I found that in John McPhee's book _Coming Into the Country_.

And New York's WINS is not, or not primarily, for the word, though they call themselves "ten-ten-wins" (the frequency is 1010 AM), but International News Service.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Vicki.

I was surprised how many stations have the name of Jesus in their call letters.

Ah, WINS. I like hearing the teletype whenever I'm back in NY/NJ.

Unknown said...

Thanks. I came across this and remembered listening to WOR, WLS and WOWO as a kid with a transistor radio hidden under my pillow. At night it was wondrous to listen to all those voices from so far away. It led me to interest an shortwave and amateur radio and the career I have today. Great post. Thanks, Chris

Anonymous said...

CFRB was named for the Reynolds Batteryless radio, wasn't it? I think I heard Gzowski mention that once.