About US

Before Midwest Communications

It all began with a young boy, Duke Wright, who at the age of three would sit for hours in his family’s living room mesmerized by the console radio.  It was there that he fell in love with music and the possibilities that radio possessed.  Reflecting on those days, Duke said, “You couldn’t see it, you couldn’t feel it, but you could hear it, and I thought that was pretty neat.”  Growing up with parents, Duey Sr. and Julia Wright, who owned a local music store in Wausau, Wisconsin, Duke was surrounded by music.  As his love of music and fascination with radio grew, he started disassembling and reassembling old tube radios that were around the house, eventually building his own radio station with a signal that could only reach a few miles away.

The Beginning

In 1958, as Duke’s high school teacher persuaded him to pursue business at the University of Wisconsin, Duke’s vision for the future became crystal clear, radio!  Duke could combine his love of music and engineering with his business knowledge to capture a career in radio.

When Duke learned local radio station, WSAU’s original frequency was potentially for sale due to FCC licensure changes, he contacted the owners, Wisconsin Valley Television Company, in hopes of starting his radio career.  They initially declined his offer, but two weeks later, they agreed to sell the station to the Wright Family for $54,000.  Without the support of his parents, today’s Midwest Communications would not have been possible.  Wisconsin Valley Television Company would keep the WSAU call letters, but the Wrights officially took over 1400 AM.  On August 1, 1958, WRIG signed on the air playing Top 40 music.

At the time of WRIG’s sign on, his parents were also building their new home with legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  Today, this beautiful home is included on the national registry of historic places and serves as Midwest Communications’ corporate offices.

Early Years

In 1964, stereo FM radio was just getting started. Duke believed that FM would one day be the dominant radio medium of the world and decided to expand with the construction of 101.9 FM.  WRIG FM was the first FM station in Central Wisconsin and was broadcast as a simulcast of WRIG AM.

By 1966, after convincing a few other area radio stations to opt-in and contribute to a ratings book, the first big ratings book ever in Marathon County was released, showing that WRIG was number one! From there, Midwest Communications continued to expand and grow into many markets.

 

Expansion

In the early 90s, when station ownership rules changed, Duke had three options: sell at an all-time premium, go public and expand with the use of shareholder monies, or make his own way.  Duke chose the latter and strategically expanded, becoming the largest privately owned radio company in America.  Back home in Wausau, Duke bought WIFC FM and WSAU AM and thought, “I won.” Duke said, “It wasn’t the biggest deal we had ever done, but it was special. I bought my original competition from 1958.”

Duke’s vision is to provide the communities he serves with the best programming, and the best technical facilities, led by the best broadcasters. It is that love and passion for creating the best and providing excellent service for our clients, that extends into everything Midwest Communications does.

Timeline

of Midwest Communications

Aug 1, 1958
Aug 1, 1958

First Station

Top forty-formatted WRIG signed on the air in Wausau, WI after the acquisition by the D.E. Wright family of a 1400 KHz, 250 watt AM facility.

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1961
1961

Power was increased to 1,000 watts

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1964
1964

WRIG-FM signed on

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Nov 1965
Nov 1965

Duke took over the company from his parents under the Midwest Communications brand with a staff of six people.

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1971
1971

Northeast Wisconsin

WROE (now WYDR) was built in Neenah-Menasha, Wisconsin for $56,000. Midwest Communications had officially expanded to a second market, Appleton-Oshkosh.

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1975
1975

Midwest purchased WBAY-AM and FM in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Due to FCC rules at that time, WROE was sold. The Green Bay call letters were changed to WGEE-AM (now WTAQ-AM) and WIXX-FM

Fun fact about WBAY: the station started out as a physics project at St. Norbert’s College in 1923.

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1980s
1980s

Multi-state expansion

Midwest Communications acquired KIOA/KMGK in Des Moines, Iowa, WKKQ/WTBX in Hibbing, Minnesota, and KLMS/KFMQ in Lincoln, Nebraska. In addition WRIG moved to 1390 KHZ and increased power to 5000 watts day and night.

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1990s
1990s

Consolidation

There were radical changes in FCC ownership rules, and Midwest took advantage of the changes by consolidating in the Green Bay-Appleton/Oshkosh and Wausau-Stevens Point markets. The consolidation brought about the sale of the Des Moines, Lincoln and Hibbing stations and the acquisitions of WROE, WOZZ (now WGEE), WLTM (now WDKF simulcast of WGEE), WNCY and WNFL in Green Bay-Appleton/Oshkosh and WSAU, WIFC, WOFM (now WOZZ) and WIZD (simulcast of WSAU) in Wausau-Stevens Point. In addition four stations WTVB, WNWN AM (now WTOU), WNWN FM and WFAT (now WZOX) were acquired in the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Michigan market.

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NOV 15, 1999
NOV 15, 1999

Digital Era

Midwest Communications starts the Digital Operations department to support both station and client marketing needs.

EARLY 2000s
EARLY 2000s

Sheboygan and Duluth

Midwest Communications continued its expansion program with the acquisition of WHBL, WWJR (now WHBZ) and WBFM in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and WHTC and WYVN in Holland, Michigan as well as the Duluth Minnesota/Superior Wisconsin market stations KDAL AM/FM, KRBR (now KDKE), WDSM, KTCO and KXTP (now WDUL).

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JUN 30, 2004
JUN 30, 2004

Hibbing, MN

Midwest Communications, Inc. acquired an additional six (6) stations in the Hibbing, Minnesota market, WNMT, WMFG AM/FM, KMFG, WTBX and WUSZ which operates in concert with the six (6) stations already owned in the Duluth, Minnesota market.

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JUN 14, 2005
JUN 14, 2005

Terre Haute, IN

Midwest Communications, Inc. acquired WMGI in Terre Haute, Indiana.

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DEC 16, 2005
DEC 16, 2005

Midwest Communications, Inc. added WACF (now WWVR) and WPRS (now WIBQ) licensed to Paris, IL to the Terre Haute Indiana market.

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JAN 6, 2006
JAN 6, 2006

Midwest Communications, Inc. expanded in the Sheboygan Wisconsin market with the addition of WXER.

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MAY 1, 2006
MAY 1, 2006

Midwest Communications, Inc. acquired three (3) additional properties in the Kalamazoo, Michigan market, WKZO, WQLR (now WVFM) and WQSN (no longer active).

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JUL 2010
JUL 2010

Lansing, MI

The company continued to grow by adding stations in the Lansing market, 94.1 FM WVIC (now WWDK), 106.1 FM WJXQ and 92.9 FM WLMI.

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NOV 1, 2012
NOV 1, 2012

Sioux Falls, SD

Midwest Communications acquired six (6) additional radio stations in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Those stations included 103.7 FM KRRO, 95.7 FM KQSF, 92.5 FM KTWB, 101.9 FM KELO-FM, 1320 AM KELO-AM and 1230 AM KWSN.

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MAY 1, 2013
MAY 1, 2013

Fargo, ND

Midwest Communications, Inc. aquired six (6) more radio properties in Fargo, North Dakota. 101.9 FM KRWK, 104.7 FM KMJO (now simulcast of KFGO), 93.7 FM WDAY (now KOYY), 740 AM KVOX (now KNFL), 99.9 FM KVOX and 790 AM KFGO “The Mighty 790”.

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SEP 1, 2014
SEP 1, 2014

Southern Expansion

Midwest Communications expanded to three new markets with the acquisition of stations in the Nashville, Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee and Evansville, Indiana markets. In this acquisition Midwest added nine more radio properties. In Nashville, Tennessee, Midwest acquired 96.3 FM WCJK and 92.9 FM WJXA. In Knoxville, Tennessee, 103.5 FM WIMZ, 97.5 FM WJXB and 95.7 FM WVRX (now WDKW). The Evansville, Indiana stations include 93.5 FM WLFW (now WLYD), 107.5 FM WABX, 96.1 FM WSTO and 104.1 FM WIKY.

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JAN 23, 2014
JAN 23, 2014

Midwest Communications, Inc. purchased WBCK (now WFAT) in Battle Creek, MI

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MAY 31, 2016
MAY 31, 2016

Midwest Communications, Inc. acquired WNFN in Nashville, TN

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JAN 1, 2017
JAN 1, 2017

Midwest Communications, Inc. added classic rock station 95 KQDS in Duluth, MN. In addition, it added Adult Contemporary 97.9 FM WEVE and Classic Country 96.1 KGPZ (now WDKE) in Hibbing MN. As part of this acquisition, the Company was required to sell Hibbing, MN based KMFG-FM.

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JAN 30, 2017
JAN 30, 2017

Midwest added Country 99.9 FM, WTHI to its Terre Haute, IN lineup.

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APR 30, 2019
APR 30, 2019

Peoria, IL

Midwest Communications acquired seven (7) radio stations in Peoria, Illinois. Those stations included 1470 AM WMBD, 1290 AM WIRL, 93.3 FM WPBG, 102.3 FM WNGY (now WKZF), 104.9 FM WXCL, 106.9 FM WSWT and 95.9 WPBG-HD3.

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JUN 4, 2019
JUN 4, 2019

Midwest Communications purchased WNFZ in Knoxville, TN

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Duke Wright

Our Founder

When Duke was 14, he was blown away by a Frankie Yankovic performance at the Rothschild Pavilion.  He tagged alongside his parents when they couldn’t find a babysitter.  While he was technically inclined, it was at this concert that Duke felt his place in this world as a professional musician.  The next day, he signed up for accordion lessons, which during this time was the number one musical instrument that people were learning to play.  He started his own band and would play on a show broadcasted by the local TV station.  Yankovic ended up being signed by a major label, Columbia Records and sold some two million records.  The next time Duke saw Frankie Yankovic, they played on stage together.  They would go on to play together many times, with the last time being at the Pulaski Polka Days in 1993. Duke was inducted into the Polka Hall of Fame in 2010.

When Duke graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he enlisted and served in the Army Reserves for eight years, entering as a First Class Private, and leaving as an Army Captain.  Duke would attribute his ability to work with people and the tremendous amount of business savviness he gained to his commanding officer, Dale Earlerson.

Duke’s other accolades include being inducted into the The Wisconsin Broadcasters Hall of Fame in October 1989, receiving the Conclave Rockwell Lifetime Award in July 2016, and was on Radio Ink’s 40 Most Powerful People in Radio numerous years.

Radio Runs in the Family

I started working at the radio stations when I was 10 pulling records. There were bins and bins and bins of 45s. You would take yesterday’s records, put them back in the bins, and then you’d look at the music list for that day and you’d pull the records they were going to play and organize them into stacks. It was tedious but I loved it because I enjoyed making money and felt very entrepreneurial.

We also used to play “radio”. Dad had all of this old radio equipment at home that I used to create “my own” radio station – WGNE. Why the name WGNE? I changed one letter from WGEE – it wasn’t very creative. But we would be the DJs and record ourselves on cassette tapes, adding in music and breaks, the whole deal.

Michael Wright

I remember going into the stations and it being so much fun. We used to go in and play around on the typewriters and pretend that we worked there when we were little. In the 70s, at the radio stations, we had a news department that used an AP news wire, made up of networks all over the country that fed all of the latest breaking stories. We used to sit in front of the AP news wire and watch all of the news come in. There was no internet back then, so we felt like insiders getting all of the celebrity news first. Sometimes the DJs would let me record commercials when they needed a kid’s voice and it always made me feel cool. The old WBAY building in Green Bay had a bowling alley and a bar in the basement, after work everyone would go downstairs to have food or a drink. Dad always said that’s where real business got done because people were more unfiltered after hours when they were hanging out and having a beer.

Mary Kay Wright

As a child, whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always the same, “I want to be Duke!” I’m blessed to have Duke as a life teacher, mentor, and proud to call him my Father. Car rides would turn into radio, business and life lessons. Duke would punch from one radio station to another asking if I could tell the difference in the technical superiority. We would listen to sales training tapes, motivational tapes, anything to gain knowledge.  I watched in amazement how Duke handled so many issues with a smile, fairness and common-sense logic. Duke often shared with me his philosophy, beliefs, visions and the importance of being honest and reputable. Those qualities have served me throughout life. Midwest Communications is an outstanding company because of everything Duke has taught me and all the long-term employees who have also learned from him.

Jeffrey Wright

Q & Awith the Family

What makes us special for clients to work with?

We have a variety of products and brands, each with their own individual imprint that provides the largest reach at the best value for our clients. We approach our clients as friends within the community, from one local business to another. It all comes together as great entertainment for our listener base and great value for our client base.
– Michael Wright

What is the secret to balancing evolving technology and human interaction?

The big secret is maintaining our relationships. As new tech is introduced, we need to stay well informed so we can teach our clients, and listeners how to use it wisely. They trust us to guide them through all the new fads, gizmos, and gadgets so they can keep up with the ever-evolving world..
Jeffrey Wright

What is an advantage to being in business a long time?

We’ve spent years learning how to do it right. We’re not perfect, like any other company, we’ve made mistakes, we’ve learned from them, grown, and figured out how to do it better.
– Michael Wright

What do you want MWC to be known for?

The company that cares about everybody from our listeners, to our advertisers, and our employees.  They are all family to us.
Jeffrey Wright

What makes you proud of MWC?

I’m very proud of the way that our company has supported the communities we work in during times of great need, whether it’s disaster relief or non-profit work.
Mary Kay Wright