WHK, Cleveland's pioneer radio station, was one of the first 6 broadcasting stations in the nation. Started under the call letters 8ACS in 1921, it was owned by Warren R. Cox and operated from his home at 3138 Payne Ave. to serve as a hobby for the members of the Cleveland Radio Assn. The station was first broadcast via W8ML, owned by Frank Murphy, before Cleveland had a broadcast station. When the U.S. Dept. of Commerce in Feb. 1922 made it unlawful to broadcast any information from amateur radio stations without a limited commercial license, Cox immediately applied for one, and soon afterward 8ACS became WHK. Assigned the frequency of 1,420 kilocycles, the new WHK aired for the first time on 5 Mar. 1922, from the rear room of a Radiovox store at 5005 Euclid Ave.
By 1925 Cox sold the station to the Radio Air Service Corp. Increased in power to 5,000 watts for both day and night operations, WHK joined CBS in 1930. Its original program format of largely recorded music was changed and expanded into one that included speeches, sermons, news, concerts, interviews, and weather reports. Purchased by the PLAIN DEALER in 1934, WHK became a part of FOREST CITY PUBLISHING CO. By the 1940s, WHK had switched its network affiliation to the Mutual Broadcasting System. Forest City sold WHK in 1958 for approx. $750,000 to the Metropolitan Broadcasting Corp. (Metromedia). In 1972 it was purchased by the Cleveland-based Malrite Communications Group, Inc., which also owned local station WMMS-FM. Long located at 5000 Euclid Ave., WHK moved to studios in the STATLER OFFICE TOWER in 1976 and to Tower City's Skylight Office Tower in 1992, when it adopted a news-talk format.
In 1993 WHK and WMMS were sold to Shamrock Broadcasting Inc., which in turn sold them to OmniAmerica within less than a year. OmniAmerica attempted to revive the struggling WHK by moving toward a sports-only format but sold the station in 1996 to Salem Communications, a California-based religious broadcaster. In its first year of ownership, Salem relocated WHK to the Summit 4 office building in INDEPENDENCE and set about improving the station's radio tower and equipment. The new WHK emphasized Bible-teaching and Christian-talk programming.