On May 13th, 1959 the Federal Communications Commision granted a construction permit to Clement Lee Cockrel, Elmer Louis Hargan, Eugene Kenneth Hornback and Donald Gene Mason, doing business as Bowling Green Broadcasting Company, to build an AM radio station in Bowling Green, KY. It would be licensed to operate on 1340 KC at 250 watts daytime and nighttime with the call letters WBGN. The tower was located at the intersection of the Barren River and the L&N railroad. The height of the tower was 185' with an overall height of 192". The permit gave them until January 13th, 1960 to have the station built and on the air. WBGN began broadcasting November 24, 1959 and the FCC granted the official license on may 31st, 1960. The offices and studio were located on the second floor of the building at 913-1/2 College Street in Bowling Green.
J. Paul Brown was the original engineer and took over the station when the other owners bailed out of the operation. J. Paul gave half of the station to Robert L. (Bob) Proctor to operate the station since J. Paul had electronics knowledge and Bob had business connections. On September 24th, 1965 the FCC granted Robert L. Proctor and J. Paul Brown, doing business as Bowling Green Broadcasting Company, a change in remote control operations of the transmitter to the location of 837 Fairview Avenue. The offices and studio of WBGN were moved to 837 Fairview Avenue, at the intersection with High Street. Operations continued at 837 Fairview Avenue until 1988 when WBGN was bought by Hilltopper Broadcasting, which owned WBLG-FM and moved operations down the street to 900 Fairview Avenue.
WBGN began broadcasting country music and soon switched to the Top 40 format. One of the first DJs, Odis Blanton, was also the leader of the bluegrass group "Odis Blanton and the Blue Star Rangers".
In 1965 Bud Tyler moved from a management position at WLBJ-AM & FM to WBGN and worked with Bob Proctor broadcasting the football and basketball games played by the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers. Bob soon left the broadcasts and Bud became the "Voice of the Hilltoppers" for the many fans of WKU sports in the following years, until 1982 when WKU opted to license the broadcasts and allow only one station to broadcast the games. That contract was awarded to WKCT-AM and for the first time in many years Bud Tyler was not in the pressbox behind the microphone for WBGN.
Since Bowling Green was a college town with Western Kentucky University located within the city limits, it made sense that WKU students would find themselves on the air as DJs on WBGN as well as listening to the latest Top 40 music. WKU attracted students from all over the country and this put WBGN in a unique situation. In the mid 60s through the early 70s WBGN became known as a great "test market" for the music industry because of the varied population of WKU students who listened to WBGN. The Bowling green radio market was ranked near 200, making it what is known as a "small market" in radio terms. Top 40 radio stations around the country kept up with what other major market Top 40 stations were playing every week through weekly trade publications such as Billboard, R&R (Radio And Records) and The Gavin Report. Those publications didn't want to hear from "small market" stations because of their limited audience size. But WBGN was a different story. These weekly publications wanted input from WBGN.
There was something going on in Bowling Green during that time period and record companies noticed it. WBGN would receive copies of new records from the record companies before many other stations around the country. Most of the big hit records of that time were hits in Bowling Green while being played on WBGN before even being heard in other towns and cities around the country. When representatives of the record companies would call radio stations to push their latest releases to get them played on the air, they would claim "WBGN is on it, you should be, too". Since WBGN was one of the first stations in the country to play many Top 40 hits before they became hits across the nation, WBGN received 12 Gold Records as a result. That is no small feat for any radio station, especially when you consider how far the WBGN 1000 watt signal reached and the potential audience. WKU students were a big part of what made the "small market" WBGN audience special and of interest to the record companies.
In the early 80s most popular music was being played on FM stations in stereo. AM radio stations across the country were feeling pressure to do something to keep their audience and WBGN's format was changed from Top 40 to Top 40 Oldies in 1985. WBGN was sold to Hilltopper Broadcasting in April, 1988 and the format was changed to Country Music.
Chris Allen (current WBKO-TV Weather Director) was one of the new country DJs on "The Country Bear" as well as performing duties as Music Director. Hank Brosche moved from a sales position at WKCT-AM / WDNS-FM to the WBGN-AM / WBLG-FM operations and did some on-air announcing as well as working in the news department. The WBGN offices and studio were soon moved to the location of WBLG-FM at 900 Fairview Avenue. The Country Music format lasted for about two years. WBGN began playing Top 40 Oldies again from a satellite service known as "The Oldies Channel". The offices and studios of WBGN-AM / WBLG-FM moved again, this time to 948 Fairview Avenue. The Top 40 Oldies music format lasted until an ownership change to Forever Communications, Inc. brought sports to WBGN full-time as an affiliate of ESPN Radio.