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WIZM-AM marks 100 years on the air



Not many radio stations in the U.S. have been on the air for 100 years, but La Crosse has one of them.

Long-time WIZM president Dick Record, standing with satellite dishes (photo: Viterbo University)

WIZM-AM has begun its second century of broadcasting, having signed on as WABN in January of 1923. The station at 1410 AM shortly changed its call letters to WKBH, and it was known by that name until 1971, when it became WIZM. 

Dick Record came to WIZM from Madison as general manager at that time, and the station changed its programming.

“They had farm material on, they had hillbilly bands, they had classical music, all kinds of things,” Record said, “and we sort of pared that down to make it a pop station.”

In its early years, the radio station was based on the 400 block of Main Street, as part of a music store which stood near the State Bank.

Jack Martin did almost everything on the air at WKBH and WIZM during a 41-year career.

WKBH was La Crosse’s only radio station for about 25 years, until competitors like WKTY and WLCX signed on.  WKTY is now a sister station of WIZM, among six local signals owned by Mid-West Family. 

From the 1950s to the early 70s, when it was owned by the Dahl family, WKBH was housed on 6th Street with its TV affiliate, WKBT.

Over the years, the station has had local stars such as Duane Moore, Bill Mann, Ken Allen, and Jack Martin.  Record says Martin made a big impression, during 41 years on the air, starting in 1932.

“(Jack) was on every morning, and everybody listened to him and everybody believed him,” Record said. In his later years, Martin became known for playing Bozo the Clown on Channel 8.

One of the station’s best known deejays was Lindy Shannon, and he occasionally spoke with stars passing through La Crosse, interviewing Elvis Presley when the singer played at the Sawyer Auditorium in 1956.

WIZM-AM is now one of six stations in the La Crosse market operated by Mid-West Family, including Z93, WKTY, 95.7 the Rock, Classic Hits 94.7, and KQ98 country.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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  1. Bob Johnson

    January 30, 2023 at 10:28 pm

    Congrats to 100 years on the air in La Crosse!
    I’m curious if there are photos of the early 20s studio, equipment and antenna still around
    It’d interesting to note the station never changed frequency but only call letters
    I suppose the transmit power and antenna pattern did change over the years. Do old program schedules exist from early days?

    It’s very interesting that La Crosse had a station so early in the 20s
    Loyal Listener

  2. Rick Charles

    January 31, 2023 at 8:33 am

    Congrats to MidWest Family on WIZM’s centennial celebration. How many other La Crosse businesses have been around 100 years?

    I’ve seen the station undergo 3 complete metamorphosis in my lifetime; the original WKBH with Jack Martin, the Hayshakers band on in the noon hour, Man on the Street with Ken Allen in the 50s, Duane Moore’s and Lindy Shannon’s radio shows in the 60s. Then Dick Record and Bill Mann came to town in about 1968, changed the calls to WIZM and went with their smooth pop music format and high powered sales staff. Z-93 came along later to take over the music and WIZM went News/Talk (You know, the format Mitch Reynolds called “toxic” as he sought a higher calling). Same self-supporting AM towers on Gillette street in the marsh. Well done, folks. The local politicians should be making more of a fuss over it.

  3. john gouldin

    January 31, 2023 at 11:02 am

    “II’m–uhhh Dick Record.” This guy consistently had interesting and relevant observations on his little morning comments. Dick Record was a radio man.

  4. Janice gerling

    February 15, 2023 at 6:09 am

    Congradulations! We are in our eighties and listened to Wkbh regularly. Do you have any information about bill mann, one of our favorite announcers? thanks

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