WDGY celebrates 100 years on the air
LAKELAND, Minn. -- A family-owned radio station is entering its second century of local broadcasting.
At 100 years old, WDGY - one of the first commercial radio stations in the Twin Cities - is finding success with the format that originally made it famous.
The station started in1923 as hobby of its owner, optometrist Dr. George Young.
"He was kind of the ultimate showman. The self-promoter," said Brent Borgen, President of Borgen Broadcasting. "He had a Rolls Royce, and he would drive down Broadway blaring the music of his station."
The station enjoyed success in the golden age of radio in the 30s and 40s with a combination of music, news, women-only programming, and children's programming.
After Young's death in 1945, his estate sold the station. WDGY went through several ownership changes, and in the mid 1950s, it began playing rock and roll in a top-40 format. It gained popularity and a nickname, "Wee Gee."
"Maybe a guy got a wedgie or something. I have no idea," said Borgen.
The station topped listenership alongside WCCO & newcomer KDWB. In August of 1965, WDGY welcomed a hot new group taking the U.S. by storm for what would be their only trip to the Twin Cities - The Beatles.
Fast forward to the start of the cassette era of the 70s. Facing more competition from the FM dial, WDGY's top-40 days came to an end in September of 1977. The call letters remained until 1991.
After several ownership and format changes, Greg Borgen of Borgen Broadcasting brought WDGY back to the Twin Cities in 2008.
"It was because that was the station that he missed. That was the stuff he grew up with, this popular music. And there was just kind of a hole in the market," said Borgen.
He did it with the help of his three children: Brent, Danielle & Brooke.
"It was exciting because it was the music we grew up on too," said Brooke Willett, business development manager at WDGY.
Greg Borgen passed away suddenly in December of 2020. His kids carry his legacy into a digital future while sticking with what originally made WDGY a success.
"Live local radio where we're talking about the community. Community events, what's going on in the community," said Danielle Savage, operations manager at WDGY.
Now, WDGY broadcasts on AM 740 as well as two FM translators. One in Hudson and one in St. Paul as well as 107.1's HD 2 Channel and a worldwide live stream.
The station just pulled its largest audience with the WDGY call letters since 1987. It's also celebrating its centennial by adding long-time Kool 108 morning personality Jeff Olsen to afternoon drive.
"We are a club of music lovers from Minnesota. Everyone on the air lives here, we're from here. We know about the history of this radio station," said Olsen, WDGY's new 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. host starting next week.
"That's the awesome thing about WDGY. I'm playing music that I have in my record collection," said Olsen.
Back at the studio, Brooke had this to say about their dad's legacy.
"I think that it was family and that it's staying in the family. That's what he has always wanted. I know he is very proud of everybody at WDGY," said Willett.
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