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Although an application for a radio station in Granite City, Illinois had been filed two years earlier and a second company followed suit, it was the third application, from Tri-Cities Broadcasting, that was eventually granted. Local disc jockey Chuck Norman, attorney George Moran and businessman John Karoly received permission to build their 500 watt AM station in May of 1961, and the frequency was set at 920 kHz.

WGNU was a daytime station in the beginning, having signed on December 1, 1961, and management set out to serve the immediate area, which is the northernmost part of the St. Louis Metro region. In 1980 authorization was received for 24-hour operations. Studios and offices were moved into St. Louis early in 1989.