City of license WLDR-FM: Traverse City, Michigan
WARD: Petoskey, Michigan
Broadcast area WLDR-FM: [3] (Nighttime)
Branding Sunny Country 101.9
Slogan Today's Country & The Legends
Frequency WLDR-FM: 101.9 MHz
WARD: 750 kHz
First air date WLDR-FM: 1966
WARD: June 18, 2000
Format Country
Power WARD: 1,000 watts (Daytime)
330 watts (Nighttime)
ERP WLDR-FM: 100,000 watts
HAAT WLDR-FM: 192 meters
Class WLDR-FM: C1
Facility ID WLDR-FM: 24974
WARD: 79338
Callsign meaning WLDR-FM: Long Distance Radio
WARD: according to an article in the Northern Express newspaper, Roy Henderson named the station after his son, but since he traded 1210 AM Kingsley - now WJNL - for this station, he might have named this station in honor of what is now WPCW (see article)
Former callsigns WLDR-FM:
WLDR (1966-8/13/01)
WLDR (05/04/07-04/03/08)
WWKK (12/8/99-5/04/07)
WJNL (12/20/96-12/8/99)
Owner Fort Bend Broadcasting
Website wldrradio.com

WLDR-FM 101.9 Traverse City, MI, simulcast on WARD 750 Petoskey, MI, is a station that airs a country music format as "Sunny Country 101.9". The stations are owned by broadcaster Roy Henderson, who is WLDR's third owner in its 40-year history.


WLDR-FM signed on in 1966 by Rod Maxson, a well-known businessman in Traverse City along with Robert L. Greaige who was the one with the knowledge of the radio biz. Maxson was the owner of Grand Traverse Auto, the city's Ford dealership. Even though they're country today, WLDR carried some sort of adult contemporary format for its first 38 years. The station's call letters stood for "Long Distance Radio", suitable since they broadcast at 100 kW.

In 1972, Maxson sold a majority of WLDR to one of his salesmen, Don Wiitala, who owned the station for more than 30 years. Wiitala was a beloved broadcaster known for giving the station a home-spun image. WLDR was a station that has many aspects of many full-service stations; the station, although licensed to broadcast 24 hours, signed on in the morning and signed off at night, aired local high school sporting events, had a "tradio" show – Wiitala even sold his old house on the show – and played music Wiitala found suitable for his audience.

Maxson also sold a minority of WLDR to his son, Dave Maxson, who served as the station's news director. He remains with WLDR to this day though he sold his stake in the station years ago.

Throughout the 1970s, WLDR was coined "Stereo 102". Some say that Wiitala was frugal in the way he ran WLDR; he would go to the local Giantway (a now-defunct grocery/retail outlet with a chain of stores in central and northern Michigan) in Traverse City (now Tom's Food Market and Dunham Sports Outfitters) and buy 45s cheap off the rack. The same tactics were employed in the purchase of LPs. Only obscure record labels would suffice along with artists from a bygone era. The syndicated John Doremus show aired 4 hours each day. Northern Michigan's first call-in talk show, "Listen to the Mrs." aired weekday afternoons.

In the 1980s, WLDR changed its name to "Sunny 102" to update the station's image.

Throughout the 1990s, WLDR was part of a dying breed: one-station owners. Also, in the age of 24-hour formats, the station signed on at 5 a.m. and signed off at 1 a.m. Although the station promoted a 'family-friendly' image, the station would play a few alternative rock artists, such as Red Hot Chili Peppers and even U2. However, the station was losing major ground to Trish MacDonald-Garber's WLXT/Lite 96. Starting in the late 1990s, Wiitala, who was in his sixties, was taking offers for WLDR. In 2000, he sold WLDR to Roy Henderson and his Fort Bend Broadcasting Group, who maintained WLDR's AC format, but changed the station's named from Sunny 102 to Sunny 101.9.

Before he sold WLDR to Henderson, Wiitala finally allowed WLDR to remain on the air 24 hours, thanks to a new automated hard drive system. The station also started airing the syndicated Delilah show.

When Henderson purchased WLDR, he also purchased several other stations, such as WOUF 92.1 Beulah, MI which simulcasts WLDR-FM, WBNZ 99.3 Frankfort, MI and WCUZ 100.1 Bear Lake, MI with the intention to move the stations closer to Traverse City and boost their power. The move would also allow Henderson to develop new formats for northern Michigan radio, like he did in Texas with his popular "Texas Rebel Radio" format. Because of objections from other broadcasters, many of the moves never happened, although WOUF has moved to 92.3 and boosted power to 50 kW.

Please note: The "Texas Rebel Radio" format was developed by Jayson Fritz and that phrase was first uttered on the radio December 16, 1991 on KFAN fm 107.9. The name and logo are trademarked by J & J Fritz Media.

Changes in 2000: Acquisition of WLDR-AM

In 2000, Henderson also purchased what is now WLDR-AM 1210 in Kingsley. The station was part of a massive overhaul in the Michigan AM dial when Bell Broadcasting increased the power of their WCHB 1200 in Detroit. In order to do so, they purchased two AMs in the Saginaw area: WKNX 1210 Saginaw (signed on in 1947) and WXOX 1250 Bay City (which had been dark since 1993) and moved WKNX to 1250 (now WHHQ) and moved 1210 AM to Kingsley in 1997. However, they moved the station's aging transmitter to a toxic waste dump near Kingsley, creating transmission troubles. Not to mention the fact that they wanted to sell 1210, now with the call letters WJZZ, since they didn't want to broadcast in a smaller market out of their footprint. WJZZ had a full-time automated jazz format, but when Bell sold to Radio One, they decided to keep WJZZ off the air as much as possible with a few short-lived stints as urban oldies. Radio One finally sold WJZZ to Henderson who quickly renamed the station WLDR-AM for a mere $225,000, despite the fact that they now were the most-powerful AM station in the daytime at 50 kW.

In 2001, Henderson finally gave 1210 a permanent format as talk from the Michigan Talk Radio Network. For a while, he changed the station's call letters to WWJR after a Sheboygan, Wisconsin station gave them up in December 2001 during a rebrand to WHBZ, as a probable stab at Detroit's WWJ and WJR. Rumors of a possible lawsuit by one of the two stations may have led to a change in the call sign back to WLDR-AM.

In 2004, Henderson flipped WLDR-AM from talk to satellite-fed "Country Classics" from Waitt Radio Networks, identifying as "Real Country 1210" (not to be confused with ABC Radio's satellite-delivered format also called "Real Country"). A year later, in 2005, he once again shocked and awed the northern Michigan radio audience by flipping WLDR-FM to country.

WOUF and WCUZ soon began to simulcast each other with an automated "traditional" country format called "The Wolf". It was similar to Texas Rebel Radio, playing everything from Waylon and Willie to some of the most popular alt-country artists of today. "The Wolf" has since disappeared. WOUF (now broadcasting with 50,000 watts at 92.3) and sister station WBNZ 99.3 FM in Frankfort swapped frequencies in July 2009, with WOUF retaining the "Wolf" name on 99.3 but shifting to a rock format while WBNZ's AC format moved to 92.3 as "EZ Rock 92.3." At last report, WCUZ was simulcasting 99.3 WOUF.

Recently, Henderson traded WLDR-AM to Stone Communications in exchange for WWKK-AM 750 in Petoskey, MI. AM 1210 is now WJNL and simulcasts with Stone Communications' 1110 WJML. WWKK took on the WLDR call letters and dropped its talk format to simulcast WLDR-FM. The station has since changed calls to WARD but continues simulcasting WLDR-FM. Much of WLDR-FM's programming is now delivered via satellite using Waitt Radio Networks' "Country Today" format. Sunny Country is also the Traverse City area affiliate for University of Michigan sports and Traverse City Beach Bums baseball.

HD Radio

In 2008, WLDR-FM became the first northern Michigan radio station to broadcast in HD Radio. As of August 2013, WLDR's HD Radio channel lineup is as follows:

  • WLDR-HD1: simulcast of analog programming with slight delay
  • WLDR-HD2: Smooth Jazz as "The Vineyard" (airing the "Smooth Jazz Network" programming from Broadcast Architecture)
  • WLDR-HD3: True Oldies Channel
  • WLDR-HD4: simulcast of WCUZ News/Talk 100.1


  • Michiguide.com - WLDR-FM History
  • Michiguide.com - WARD History

Red Kingman, personality announcer once worked there in 2003 where he charmed the listeners every morning with his observational humor, characters, and original comedy.

External links

  • Query the FCC's FM station database for WLDR
  • Radio-Locator information on WLDR
  • Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WLDR
  • Query the FCC's AM station database for WARD
  • Radio-Locator Information on WARD
  • Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WARD

Coordinates: 44°46′12″N 85°41′42″W / 44.770°N 85.695°W / 44.770; -85.695

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