WDAF changed its call letters KCSP on September 23, 2003, after moving the longtime country music format to the FM. Entercom still maintains the WDAF-FM call letters at 106.5, despite a total reimaging. This site will continue to refer to the station in its historic context as WDAF.
WDAF was started by the Kansas City Star in 1922. The official starting date is open to dispute, because the Star's broadcasting activities pre-dated WDAF.
On February 16, 1922, the Star used WOQ, the station of the Western Radio Company, to broadcast what the newspaper described as a "wireless telephone concert". The Star had just constructed radio studios at its building at 18th and Grand. In that evening's newspaper, the program appeared on the front page:
THE STAR'S PROGRAM, BROADCAST BY
RADIO TELEPHONE, BEGINS AT 8.
For an Hour Musical Selections Will
Be Sent Out as an Experiment to
Amateur Receivers--All Within
100 Miles Should Hear.
The Star's Wireless Telephone
Concert for Tonight.
8:00 o'clock -- The Deep River Jazz Orchestra.
8:10 -- Solo, Mrs. Raymond Havens.
8:20 -- The House of David Band of twenty pieces appearing at Pantages this week.
8:30 -- Yellen and Olman, popular song composers, at the Royal theater this week.
8:40 -- Duet, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Havens.
8:50 -- Lyons and Yosco, musicians at the Mainstreet theater this week.
9:00 -- House of David Band.
In the previous evening's Star, the newspaper did whine a bit about interference from another station:
Of course, the success of the venture hinges upon the absence of static in the air and that the amateur sender at Independence will refrain from broadcasting phonograph records during the concert.
That reference may have been to amateur station 9XAJ, a predecessor of KMBC (now KMBZ).
The next day's Star contained accounts from listeners on western Missouri and eastern Kansas farms, as well as a report from the Ashland Theater at 24th and Elmwood in Kansas City, where the radio concert was piped in. The theater's owner, W. L. Shelton, had rigged up a radio apparatus in the theater for general listening, telling the Star, "Yesterday morning we heard all your experimental work over there at the Star. Today we picked up a message from a ship somewhere on the Atlantic".
After the first "concert", the Star announced plans for weekly concerts from the newspaper's radio studios. Eventually, the Star founded its own station, WDAF. Department of Commerce records show the station as licensed May 16, 1922. The Star claimed an official start on June 5, 1922.
Its most popular program quickly became the Nighthawks Frolic, a late-night musical program hosted by Leo J. Fitzpatrick, the newspaper's radio editor. The program frequently broadcast remotes from Kansas City's then-swinging jazz nightclubs, as well as from the historic Muehlebach Hotel. Thanks to WDAF's signal and its late-night hours, the remotes were heard as far away as Hawaii, London, and Panama. Fitzpatrick went on to Detroit in 1925 to manage WJR, then owned by the Jewett Radio Co. and later by G.A. (Dick) Richards.
WDAF began at 730 kHz with 500 watts, sharing time with WHB. It briefly broadcast at 680 kHz during the 1924 Democratic National Convention, then moved to 820 kHz later in 1924, and increased its power to 1 kW on September 25, 1925. It continued to share time with WHB unitl 1927. It also had become the westernmost affiliate of the NBC Red Network. WDAF retained its NBC affiliation well into the 1960s.
Despite being a dominant station, WDAF's history after the 1920s was one of a typical network affiliate with less local programming than independent stations such as WHB.
Through its association with a powerful newspaper, WDAF seemed to have many fewer legal problems than other Kansas City stations. Once it settled down on 610 kHz in the November 11, 1928 national reallocation of radio frequencies, there it stayed. WDAF did have to share time with WOQ after the 1928 reallocation (WDAF had 6/7 of the time; WOQ, the remaining 1/7), but was able to get fulltime authorization for 610 kHz on November 30, 1929.
WDAF quietly went about its business, judging by an undated 1935 Kansas City Journal-Post article about "showmanship" awards conducted by Variety:
Kansas City Star has WDAF under Dean Fitzer's direction. Station corrals a considerable audience and participates in the competitive picture dignifiedly but with effect. Its presence is strongly felt both on the fan side and the trade front.
After the Star moved its transmitting facilities to Johnson County, Kansas in 1937, the landmark twin towers atop the Star building, built in 1924, remained until World War II, when they were taken down for scrap as part of wartime iron salvage efforts.
Also during World War II, WDAF's new tower was damaged by a tornado that bent the top half of the square tower over the bottom half. However, the tornado hit the tower just after the station left the air at midnight, June 19, 1942. Kansas City Power & Light crews helped station engineers rig a temporary antenna between two 80-foot telephone poles overnight and the station returned to the air at 6 am with no loss of air time. The next day, the Kansas City Times reported,
Reports during the first day of broadcasting from a temporary aerial, set up to replace WDAF's transmission tower which was damaged in the storm early yesterday, indicated there was satisfactory reception, for the most part, within the Greater Kansas City area.
Listeners within a 200-mile radius said reception was clear but volume was reduced somewhat in some quarters. The temporary antenna will serve until the damaged tower can be repaired.
The Star's ownership of WDAF was doomed in 1957, when the newspaper lost a restraint-of-trade case and signed a consent decree to sell WDAF and WDAF-TV. The stations were sold to National-Missouri TV, Inc. May 18, 1958, and susbequently to Transcontinental TV Co., July 13, 1960.
WDAF-AM/FM/TV were sold to Taft Broadcasting Co. of Cincinnati on February 19, 1964. In the 1990s, Taft changed its name twice, first calling itself the Great American Radio and TV Co., and then renaming itself Citicasters.
The radio stations were separated from WDAF-TV by the sale of the TV station to New World Communications on September 11, 1994. Channel 4's network affiliation changed to the Fox network on September 12, with NBC's affiliation going to former Fox affiliate KSHB-TV (channel 41). Contrary to media reports in 1994, this was actually the second network affiliation swap in Kansas City TV history! The first swap, in 1955, involved KMBC and KCMO, swapping both radio and TV affiliations.
On February 13, 1996, Jacor Communications of Cincinnati announced its intent to purchase all the Citicasters stations, including WDAF and KYYS(FM), for $770 million. After a review by the U.S. Justice Department, Jacor was able to complete the sale and acquire control of the Citicasters stations, including WDAF and KYYS(FM), on September 18, 1996. Randy Michaels, chief executive officer of Jacor, was operations manager at WDAF in 1977 and was credited with installing WDAF's long-running successful country-music format.
In 1997, Jacor decided to leave the Kansas City market, trading KYYS(FM) to American Radio Systems and WDAF(AM) to Entercom, which already owned KMBZ and KCMO. American Radio Systems, which later became a division of CBS, assumed control of KYYS on September 18, 1997, dumping the longtime KYYS album-rock format in favor of a "modern adult contemporary" format on KOZN, "The Zone". Entercom revived the format a month later on KLTH(FM), the onetime KMBC-FM and later KMBR(FM).
On January 5, 1998, Entercom took control of WDAF(AM), giving it control of three of the four AM stations in Kansas City with the best coverage. On August 22, 2003, WDAF began simulcasting on FM at 106.5 MHz. The FM station adopted the WDAF-FM calls while Entercom prepared to flip the AM frequency to sports-talk, with new call letters KCSP. Per FCC records, Entercom had to wait for a station in Casper, Wyoming to change the calls. The call letters were changed to KCSP on September 23, 2003.